No blog entry yesterday. What can I say? I'm counting down to my mini-birthday-vacation, I have little use for such things as BLOGGING...
I have begun my duties with Stage Left Theatre, and I'm very happy that I'm mainly tasked, so far with reading new plays. Anyone who's worked with me in a theatrical capacity knows my love of new works in theatre. New scripts are what push the medium forward. Yeah, yeah, we know that Oklahoma! pays the bills, but it's those little plays being done for the first time that really matter.
Not that they're all very good. I've worked with three theatre companies, in "official" capacities since I left school, and worked with new scripts in every case. If there's one hard and fast rule I've learned it's this:
YOUR PLAY CAN ALWAYS BE BETTER.
Lest you think I'm holding myself above others, I will tell you this, I have a play I started writing about eleven years ago. It was first performed about ten years ago. It's not done. It can be better. I'm done so many drafts, including a page-one rewrite, I don't even know which one I'm on anymore. (Probably somewhere between 15 and 20) Oh, sure, I've had other works that I've "finished," but mainly on a deadline. Neon, the aforementioned play, was really never ready to be performed when it was, and mainly went up because we had nothing us to stage at that point.
The most ridiculous reason to put up a play, ever.
Development is such an important part of the new works process, and I think it's almost always the last thing anybody thinks of. I see way, way too many small companies that do new work putting up scripts that are obviously first or second drafts.
You have to work the script harder than that. You have to pound the thing into submission, and you have to let the parts that don't work wither, fall off and die. That's hard to do, I know, but I've seen people fight and fight to keep characters and plot points that are, flat out, not working, or worse, lack any reason to be there, in a play. It might hurt to remove that really funny character that you based on Uncle Morty, but, if it makes your story flow better, if it makes your play stronger, Morty's gotta take a dive.
The other thing that kinda drive me up the wall...
A statement is not a story.
I understand you may have something to say about global warming, I understand that you want to get that out, and share it with the world. However, if you've cobbled together a series of events that really aren't interesting, just so your lead character can deliver a 3 page manifesto about the use of fossil fuels and the consumer mentality of Americans, you have failed. You have failed because I, as a reader and an audience, don't care about statements, I care about people and characters and how the events of the play move and change them.
Craft a story that involves your issue. This may take a long time, but a hackneyed plot built around your personal hot button issue is nothing but playwright masturbation. (Much like the entirety of Kenneth Branagh's film of Hamlet is "actor masturbation.") It's the point where your desire to give us what we "need" outpaces your desire to give us something interesting. Now you're sitting back and positioning yourself as the authority of human morality, and preaching.
No one goes to theatre to be preached to, they go to be...and I know this is a dirty word to some people...ENTERTAINED. That doesn't mean you have to pander, it means you have to be compelling, or at least interesting. It means that your characters ought to be something more than a avatar for you to get on a soapbox.
and lay off the stage directions. Most directors are going to ignore them, anyway.