Over the weekend I had a reading of "Smoke and Mirrors", by a theatre company based in New York.
As I've made it a personal goal to host/attend as many readings as possible
(currently over Zoom, but hopefully soon I'll get to do some in person, too) this was really cool.
I've said multiple times how awesome it is for any artist to see his/her/their work come to life
so I won't go into that here.
But it was AWESOME!!!!!
One of the questions that was asked during the feedback session was about my writing process.
Since this is the second time I've been asked this, and it probably won't be the last,
I've decided to elaborate a little bit on this little blog.
Because I can.
And why not?
Every writer has his/her/their process.
When "Wolves of Sherwood" premiered at Brelby Theatre Company in Arizona,
the Artistic Director asked me this same question,
and I went into detail about some of the specifics of my writing process(detailed here)
If you've followed me for awhile, you already know that I use playlists for my projects,
and I have celebrity and "real life" models for my characters---because of course I do.
The scripts I write always start with a "what-if" scenario(like "Wolves of Sherwood");
or an image or idea that won't get out of my head
(like someone throwing someone else out a window/front door--the opening scene in "Angel's Alley");
or a part of my person belief system or something else I want to talk about but can't in any other way,
because for some reason I can be more articulate in my writing rather than vocally,
Every initial draft of a script I write ends up being about twice as long as the final draft because:
1) My characters love to hear themselves talk, and more often then not will talk too much
2) I have this ridiculous need to please my inner critic before everyone else, and
3) Exposition bogs me down. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Don't know if y'all have noticed, but I have a tendency to write scripts with massive casts.
And part of a playwright’s job is to establish initial relationships between the characters.
Easy if you have a two to four person script, right?
Not so easy when the cast size is 10-15(Sherwood Cycle, I’m looking at you).
Don’t even get me started on the number of scenes that either disappear with each draft
or I talk myself in and out of keeping. (I have a folder labeled “Scenes For My Eyes Only”
that serves as a Scene Graveyard,
and I already know there’s at least ten pages of “Robbing Hoods” that already need to be either excised
completely or cut down, but I haven’t even written “End Of Play” on that one yet, soooooo)
After I write the initial draft, I get to the Fun Part.
When I first started playwriting, I would procrastinate like nobody's business
when I got to the “revision” process(see “inner critic” on list above).
My roommates and good friends would always know that I was in the revision process
because I’d usually act like Ross Geller on “Friends” for days, as I’ve never liked killing my darlings.
Or my characters.
One of my friends came home to me bawling like a two year old after I killed off one of my characters
and she thought something truly bad had happened but I told her
And she said she believed me
and then got me chocolate and sat me down in front of “Princess Mononoke” to calm me down😛
(have I told y’all this story before? If I have, then it’s worth a repeat, so there you go)
My inner critic didn’t help much either.
That is, until I figured out a way to turn the inner critic off.
One of the apartment complexes I moved into in my early twenties had a cable subscription to TCM
(Turner Classic Movies, for those not in The Know)
and, being a cinephile, I binged this channel multiple weekends while not working or studying
(ok, fine, sometimes I would forgo studying to binge TCM); and after awhile I started to notice things:
1) James Cagney, Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Cummings, George Brent,
and John Garfield were gorgeous (and if you know who any of those men are, kudos!
If not--look them up because--well, they’re 😍😍😍 !)
2) I wanted to look like a combination of Anne Sheridan/Audrey Hepburn/Lucille Ball/
Katherine Hepburn/Joan Blondell/Margaret Lindsay/Barbara Stanwick when I “grew up”
(see parenthesis above and substitute “women” for “men”)
3)The majority of the films I watched(usually filmed between 1930-45) were tight, clever,
had snappy dialogue I really wanted to imitate(and did) and plots that I adored
even if they tended toward the “formulaic”(The Gangster and Noir Films were my favorites)
4) I could watch a film and do something else at the same time--
not just baking or folding laundry or things like that(I’ve been doing that since I was little),
but also while I was writing.
Which means that now I can pull out the latest draft of whatever script I happen to be revising
(in this case, “Nottingham’s Legacy”) and proceed to slice out chunks of dialogue and scenes
with one part of my brain, and paying attention to something on the tv screen with the other.
Usually throughout my writing process, I’m “theme watching” so there’s been a lot of
“Robin Hood” adaptations that I’ve either bought or rented in the past two years.
But sometimes I need something that isn’t related to the project I’m working on,
so I’ve been switching between “Gossip Girl”, “The OC”, and “Call the Midwife”
--because that’s about a far away form swashbuckling outlaws as you can get.
Also, for some reason, I can spot a typo while the tv is on, not so much when the tv is off. Weird.
Once the initial revision/editing process is done(usually depends on how many characters I have),
then I get to do the readings and post reading revisions and pitching for performances and all that stuff.
Which is the Other Fun Part 😛