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Posts Tagged ‘drama’

And she shall make posters too…

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on December 18, 2009 at 1:42 am

Well, I’ve been working on our poster art for In the Company of Jane Doe, opening at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica January 14th… (BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!)  And these are the two I came up with- I’m just waiting to hear which the director/producer/artistic director all like best.

What do you think?

On the topic of new play “Readings”

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on November 25, 2009 at 10:20 am

There are a lot of “development” opportunities out there for playwrights.  Sometimes you hook up with a theatre and they do all the work for you- others turn over some space and say “Go for it!” – but always it comes down to someone reading your play and deciding “Hey!  There’s something interesting happening here…” And it can be of great service to you, the playwright, or it can be a disaster.

I think the matter with readings is that sometimes you get one because that is the only way said theatre is going to look at “new” playwrights.  It’s simple enough- they have many, many, many financial concerns directing their decisions.  A play could come across a Lit. Manager’s desk that is in wonderful shape, but it’s as-yet-undecided reputation and your relative obscurity, makes them reluctant to hand you a contract.  Instead they offer you a reading and invite their artistic director, and you head into things hoping that everyone likes you… that everyone likes your work.

Then there are the readings (as I just had with Theatricum Botanicum) where they bring you in on an admittedly new work, invite actors and directors to come listen and talk about what they heard, and you get a whole lot of rewrites done because the process is about YOU.  See the difference?  Above= about the theatre.  Development Readings= about You and the script.

I think it’s important to recognize the difference beetween the two because a reading can have serious consequnces on a playwright’s psyche.  I mean, it is said by some that a play is never done- but I disagree with this sentiment.  I believe there comes a time when a script is most certainly ready as done as it’s gonna’ get without a production, and all the “talking” about it in the world becomes mute compared to the final polishing that will take place in rehearsal.  So you take your little creation around to these readings, hoping they’ll lead to a production somewhere, but if all that is happening is people are sitting around “talking” about it and “rewriting” your script, you can get stuck in “Development Hell” and you might start to go crazy.

So… I suppose the moral of this is to the playwright- Know which kind of reading you are being offered.  Prepare yourself for tons of questions, but know where you are in YOUR OWN development process.  It’s hard, especially when you have theatre professionals nodding over some random comment made by the crazy in the back… but try to make sure that YOUR questions about the script are present in your mind before the reading so that no matter what happens afterwards, that reading can be of benefit to YOU.

I have to say my experiences with the multiple readings I had this month were each of them different- In one case I hadn’t been involved in any of the casting or rehearsals and got to sit through an awkward read of a very polished play.  (The lead actress was about as interesting as listening to rocks… Gah!)  But we got our lead actress for In the Company of Jane Doe from that cast, so all was NOT lost!  The second reading I had was of an old play that I hadn’t looked at in ages- and I forgot how funny it is!  The director was SOOO on her game that I wound up looking brilliant.  It was wonderful.  And the third reading at Theatricum was great for me, but challenging for the audience as it was a “Staged Reading” which means actors on stage, script in hand, moving around and trying to give a sense of the staging.  Now, I find staged readings are always difficult as they are essentially invited rehearsals, which means that stage directions (sometimes integral to the plot) inevitably get missed- If you can’t see it, hearing someone tell you that the house is completely caved in might not stick in your mind.  Sunday was incredibly helpful for me as the playwright, but frustrating for the audience partly due to this very matter- they simply weren’t able to “See” the play through its “Staged” ness- and so I had to sit through some awkward moments.  BUT, for me, I was able to see quite clearly where the rough spots still lie…

SO that’s my little riff on readings.

Any from you?

The TBNT letter- or, the ugly part of literary managing

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on October 6, 2009 at 9:13 am

So one of my many gigs that don’t pay is as literary manager for an awesome theater company in LA.  Awesome because they produce exciting new works for the stage.  And as lit. manager I get to read all the submissions that get sent in… which are (let’s face it) not always awesome.

Now, that’s not to say that they can’t be… but there are a few things that eager playwrights should take into consideration.

1- SPELLCHECK!   And don’t just use the computer’s spellcheck, use your eyeballs too.  Commonly confused but CORRECTLY SPELLED words like  to/too, they’re/their/there, you’re/your, etc. won’t get noticed by your cyber-buddy.  You need to go back over your work and see if you’ve been using the correct form of the word you want.

2- DO include a character breakdown.  It can be maddening to open up a submission envelope to find  a play with twenty-some characters without definition or doubling scheme.  You may remember every detail about the MacKenzie’s but unless you’ve got handy sheet for me to reference, I very probably am going to end up getting confused and get pulled out of the world of your play by that resultant confusion.

3- Send your best work!  I know that it gets exciting to finish your first draft- but if you haven’t gotten that script into the best shape you can can before I get a hold of it, chances are it’s not ready for me to read it.  I’m presuming that you are sending me a script that you believe is ready for stage development… that is to say, I wouldn’t hand somebody a half finished sweater and tell them “Well, imagine it with arms and a softer collar.”   There is a big difference between something that needs a little polish and a script that is still under construction.  You are shaking literary hands with me, make sure those hands are in the best shape!

3a- If you didn’t send your best work, don’t be surprised when I reply to your email-reply-to-my-“Thanks But No Thanks”- letter, that no, I will not read a revised draft of the play I just read.  This is why you want to send your polished draft the first time.

4- Remember that theater is meant to be seen, heard, experienced.  You, as a playwright, are drafting blueprints for directors, actors, designers, etc. to follow, color in, and build.  Ask yourself if your play idea is going to incite enthusiasm from fellow artists.  I call it the “Who gives a shit” test.  I have read a lot of plays by very talented authors that are full of lovely language and skill, yet they lack some fundamental theatrical flame.  Not every play is going to get produced- there are just too many of them.  But you can cut the odds by always striving to highlight the elements that make your story unique.

5- Lastly, let me also say that you should see and read other plays!  I cannot tell you just how much I have learned as a writer myself in the past two years as literary manager.  It’s a wild ride, and we are always learning.  Part of that process is participating in the world you want so passionately to write for.  Act, stage manage, even direct if you can, and your understanding of theater, playwriting, and the way it all works will be deepened.

Exploring the Depths

In The Daily Drool on August 22, 2009 at 11:08 am

There is a little thing that happens as you begin to rewrite… well, maybe it’s not so little.  See, what happens is that you begin to look into your story and see that it’s got depths you haven’t even begun to explore.  It’s exhilarating even as you groan with all the weight of the spelunking equipment you are now going to have to lug around looking for golden nuggets.

But it’s worth it, because now you are making the difference between something that makes you giggle or think, and something that moves others to the catharsis of emotion.  Because you don’t write a play or a screenplay for yourself- you are writing it to be seen, heard, felt.  And unless you can put away the ego enough to continue the adventure, you will miss out on all the theatrical wealth that exists just beyond “The Easy” surface of a first, second, or third draft.

Basically the first couple rounds with a play are all about getting the specifics down – you tell the story and then go back and try to make sure the pieces fit together as smoothly as possible.  Once you’ve got it in a cohesive and sensible state though, well, that’s when the real work begins.  That is when you start combing it for pebbles that need removing and paying attention to nuance with fervor.  Because that is what lifts a play to the top of the stack – it’s intricacies and unique flavor.  So many playwrights get the overall machine running, but they forget to detail the car – so you pass on by the car  lot with nary an interest in stopping for a test drive.

I guess this is the stage I’m at right now with my latest play – paying attention to the details and asking myself questions that require more work and heavy thinking than I’d like, but knowing that the doing is well worth the sweat.  (sigh)  And afterwards I’ll give myself a cookie 🙂

The Pain and the Itch

In The Daily Drool on August 3, 2009 at 8:43 am

I saw a tragic new play today – one that made me laugh, laugh, laugh and cringe, cringe, cringe.  It’s a tough thing writing a play that can do both so well, one that keeps you thinking about it well into the evening.  The play was called The Pain and the Itch, and it’s probably not the play for everybody, but wow did it ever get my creative mind going.

I’ve many a writing friend – each of us tackling our own artistic mountains – but it seems to me that the greatest obstacle to any writer is coming up with a great story.  I call it the “Who gives a shit” test.  If you are the only person raising your hand, it’s probably not worth your time to write.  But many writers forget (or don’t even think to ask) this question – so you wind up with piles and piles of dead-end stageplays clogging up the lit-manager’s mailbox… representing hours and hours of time spent devoted to a project built for an audience of one – yourself.  Boooo.

Plays are meant to be seen – so write something that can get people talking!  Write something that will inspire people- inspire them to laugh, to cry, to make a tax-deductible donation to the local animal shelter… But please don’t write a play unless it takes me somewhere.  Theatre needs to be active and alive!

And if you’re in LA, go see Furious Theatre’s co-production of The Pain and the Itch at Boston Court.

Inventory

In The Daily Drool on July 31, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I realized a few weeks ago that all of the energy I was pouring into the kids at the performing arts camp I was teaching at was coming at a price- that I couldn’t possibly sustain that kind of effort without it sapping some juice from my personal life at the same time.  Well, after 6 weeks of so much “giving” I find myself turning my nose up at even the slightest hint of “need.”

It’s just that I’m tired.  And I’m a single girl who’s been tending to 53 kids, every day, without anyone at home to ask me about my day and tend to me… (Not that being single is to blame – many a partnered gal could make the same complaint)  but my point is this:  I’ve been giving my all to these kids and now it’s time to recharge my batteries, so I just don’t have any extra to hand out.

That’s not to say the process wouldn’t be accelerated if I had a little help… a footrub or two, a nice dinner… you know, treats.  But where’s that going to come from?  The cats?  Gar!  Sometimes being single in LA can be a real pain in the ass.  Maybe I just need to get my feet to the pedi-place and pay someone to rub my piggies.  Maybe it doesn’t matter who’s giving the love as long as the love’s being absorbed into each little toe…

In any case, it’s an interesting feeling to have hit your limit – to just not care about excuses or someone else’s crap.  Revel me with tales of your adventures, catch me up on all the news, but don’t ask me for anything.

The Tiffany shop is closed for inventory.

Whew!

In The Daily Drool on July 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well, it’s been a long week.  (I suppose you can tell that from the relative silence on my end.)  Apologies, for those of you who missed me.  I’ve been going crazy.

Remember that whole performing arts camp I mentioned earlier?  Well we went into rehearsal this week, with the resultant performance going beautifully this evening, but WOW, I feel like I’ve been running on fumes for the last three days.

I remember six weeks ago frantically trying to figure out just how I was going to manage everything – and now that I’m here I can’t believe it’s only been six weeks.  I’ve learned so much both from the process and from the kids.  They challenged me in many ways (not always pleasantly) but through it all I was reminded just how much I enjoy teaching!

This week has been all about the original performance piece we created together – and I’ve been Facilitator, Director, Sound Designer, prop maker, and Stage Manager for this whole thing.  It’s been incredible.  And terrifying.  I remember quite distinctly saying to someone on Sunday that I really wanted to hit the fast-forward button on this week so I could hurry up and get to the place where everything was working… well, here I am and I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with the getting here.  I’m so proud of these kids and the energy they put into this piece.  And I’m so excited to have helped them get here.  That’s the best part – knowing that six weeks ago we were a group of total strangers, not knowing where we were headed, and now here we are – an Ensemble.

So I guess I’m just kind of soaking it up – the relief and pleasure of this accomplishment – and I’m smiling as I think about it, about my eager students.  It’s been great, I would definitely do this again, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom again.

But first… some SLEEP!

I just planted my flag!

In The Daily Drool on July 23, 2009 at 7:23 am

I don’t know what was going on last night, but the little romantic in me found myself a Tall-Dark-and-Handsome in my sleep, and was whispering things like “I want to discover your lips forever” and then kissing him and saying “I just planted my flag.”

I might be loosing it.

What amuses me so much is that not only were we holding on to one another everywhere we went (there were a host of odd things happening, at one point even climbing some rocks to get to my friend Amber’s bar where I had to help her carry drinks but I dropped my phone… crazy nonsense) but that I was speaking in such dime-store-novel cliches.  We already know that my mind retains some of it’s metaphorical lyricism -I’ve even woken up with bits of dialogue for plays I’m writing – but this?

Maybe it had something to do with the great anxiety I was suffering yesterday afternoon upon realizing that the kids and I have so little time left to polish up this performance piece.  That anxiety could have created some want for safety… and maybe my inner glow worm thinks safety is to be found at the bottom of a big soft doe-y pair of eyes and soft lips (and a man who won’t spit up his breakfast at such saccharin announcements as those)

Anyway, I thought it worth exploring right here, with you… if only to get you to giggle at the flag-planting line.

A toothy surpise

In Essays, The Daily Drool on July 19, 2009 at 8:58 am

I have recurring dreams about my teeth falling out.  I’ve looked this up in dream dictionaries before – most say that my dreams might be due to concern about loosing control of my words or my words loosing power.  I’ve always rolled my eyes at this, believing the source of these dreams to be a gross fascination with my own orthodontic experience leaving me with a subconscious fear that my teeth could literally move of their own accord and leave me with nothing but gums…

Until now.

Today I had a lovely reading of a new play of mine – one that had been causing me a fair bit of forehead thumping and disappointment.  Well the reading went really well and turned out to be quite encouraging!  I got a lot of positive feedback and the actors did such a nice job with the text that I was really able to locate the places I needed to retool.  Yay!  So I came home with a smile, nibbled some cake and took a nap, transporting myself immediately into a theater where I was on stage and my teeth were falling out.  HA!  But what happend next hasn’t ever happened before – rather than bubbling over with panic and trying to hide the disaster occuring in my mouth (all those loose teeth wiggling with every word) I explored the revealed gum with the help of a mirror and saw that right there, where my incisor used to be was the bud of a brighter, whiter, sharper new tooth.

I mean, WoW!  I’m dreaming in metaphors.

Here I had been worried about this play that had been haunting me for so long and was happily surprised to find that it’s not quite the unmanageable monster that I had thought it was… now I’m dreaming about my teeth falling out but in their place are better ones.

I’m still kind of thrilled by my brain’s masterful making of the point.

Rule-Breaking-Rulers

In The Daily Drool on July 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

It never ceases to amaze me that no sooner do I speak the words “Every play must have a beginning, middle, and end.” someone thrusts their hand into the air, fingers waving, challenge poised on the tip of their eager tongue.  It seems everyone wants to break the rules, and I’m merely there to set up the hurdles.

In a way, it’s kind of cool – here is a room full of hungry young people, eager to bring the theater world to its knees with their words – but what is fascinating is their passion to buck the trend, deny the basics, and break all the rules… rarely are they able to see that only in learning them first (and why they work) can you really seek to write a play with such purposeful dissent.  Of course there are playwrights who break rules in their own right, but they generally have a mastery of the craft of storytelling that allows them to bend and play with the dramatic form.

But what fiestiness must there be within these young writer’s imaginations to motivate them (so strongly) to want to laugh in the face of the “Tried and True” before even trying their out their first word.  But isn’t that the thing about learning?  You plan a course, raise your hand, and before you know it your hock deep in something you barely understand, only to come out on the other side of the experience a bit weightier from the knowledge and kind of surprised at how you digested it.

And of course, when push comes to shove, I find that many of them end up walking the line in spite of themeselves… but walking it with purpose.

It’s really a gift to be there as they begin to figure it all out… thing called “Play.”