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Thursday, March 11, 2010

All Said and Done

My most recent play, Irritation To A Murder has just concluded its debut production and one question that frequently pops up in the post show world is: "How do you think it went?"

I have always considered this question rather deep and I usually provide a deep answer to the inquisitor, whether they care or not.
First you must understand, that once I complete a script, I hand it over to the director and for the most part, stay away from the production process.

I do not sit in at rehearsals and offer advice or point out how a scene or character should be played. I will attend the first "read through" to hear the play read out loud, but that is primarily to listen for errors because I tend to think faster than I type. I can think "He went to the store" but I type "He went store". Granted I do proof read the script a few times, but some blatant mistakes always rear their ugly grammar. I'm also available to the director and the actors at first in case they have questions about particular intentions in the script, but generally I shy away revealing or over explaining too much.

Why?

Well, this ties into the root of my own philosophy. (note: this is 'my own philosophy' and is not the standard rule of every playwright)
My philosophy goes like this: as a playwright, I essentially create a world in my imagination. In this world, I imagine particular people, (characters) and then imagine these people interacting in a particular way (plot). Ultimately, this imaginary world transfers itself onto paper which is a play. If I have done my job correctly, I will have come close to capturing my imagination into words on the printed page. Anyone should be able to read those words and understand exactly what I envisioned. I should be able to hand it off to a director and a group of actors and not have a bad feeling that they just "won't get it."

But at the same time, I must also understand that a director will digest my printed imagination with their own subjectivity. Furthermore, each actor will spin the appointed character with their own interpretation.

I never forget the fact that I have directed plays and formulated my own take on the material. I have also stood on stage as an actor and have taken liberties with the way character was written and ran in a new direction. Nor will I ever forget the tongue lashing I received from a theatre patron after he noticed I changed the word "darling" to "dear" in Arthur Miller's play "After The Fall". (I didn't feel comfortable as an actor saying the word "darling" nor could I make it ring true, so I asked the director who allowed me to change it.) I didn't feel that altering a simple noun threw the crux of my character into unrecognizable realm. Nor do I think that Arthur Miller felt a small part of himself "die" when I made the change.


Having been a champion of change and interpretation, I may be somewhat more forgiving of directors and actors than other playwrights. I believe if a playwright has to be at every rehearsal and define each character and give a line reading on every bit of dialogue, then they haven't done their job or else have an unhealthy control problem. (but that's just me)

The bottom line is this: if the performed play is anywhere inside the ballpark of my original imagined world, I am happy.
So when someone asks me, "How do you think it went?", I always consider how close the end result lands in the area of my original idea; first, there is the world I saw in my mind, next there is the world that comes out on paper and finally there is the world that comes to life on the stage. If I can see a common element running through each world or better yet, my mind's world resembles in any fashion the stage world then, I am satisfied. Someone once said, "There's the play in your head and then there's the play that you see. They're never the same thing."
True, but if you do it well, they can come mighty close.