In a couple of previous posts, I wrote about a colleague seeking advice for playwrighting opportunities for readings, workshops, and the like – and my rules for running talkback/feedback sessions after public readings.
Which brings up another topic, dramaturgy.
I am active in three writers’ groups and attend a fourth when I have the time, but also routinely read for friends and ask them to do the same for me.
Before a playwright has a public reading, it’s very important to get feedback on the script, rewrite a lot, invite actors/friends over to read the script aloud (feed them or give them beverages in return), discuss the three feedback points in the post ‘and do this next!’, then rewrite rewrite rewrite prior to airing the work in public, even for a reading in which the actors sit at a table or stand still at music stands.
For once, short and sweet. At least, the advice is. Oops, another story.
I recently met up with an MFA playwright, asked what he was up to, and he said he’d just written his first screenplay. He was amazed at how many ‘passes’ he had to make, one for each character, one for POVs, one for locations, and remarked how different it was from playwrighting.
At least, not in that capacity. Yes, a screenplay asks that you-the-writer be obsessively controlling not only of what’s on the page, ergo, of what gets made.
Folks – even MFAs – seem to think that making a play is less complex than making a movie, that wrighting a poetically pared-down blueprint so that theater groups from Pojoaque to Timbuktu, from community theater to Broadway (we should all be so lucky) put on some semblance of the same story, the one you wrought.
Even with the same blueprint, different builders would make different buildings, choosing their materials, workers, schedules differently, having differing resources and skills. Which means that the blueprint – the playscript – must not just be dashed off and sent out. It requires far more time and effort and care.
So here’s my question.
Previous to writing plays, is your theatre experience that you’ve spent a lot of time in the audience? Maybe sat on the Board of a theater? Got talked into a college theater program by a gifted and charismatic prof?
TAKE AN ACTING CLASS with a PROFESSIONAL teacher, one who has worked in the real world of theater, not just community theater or academia. Volunteer backstage at your local community theater. Study theater set and costume and lighting design, at least enough to understand the possibilities of theater magic.
Get to know your local theater scene, as well as the wider world’s.
Get onstage. Assist a director. Read. Discuss. Become obsessed with the inner workings of theater. Know enough of the literature to know if you’re reinventing the wheel, or have something original to add to the sum of the profession and art you’re wanting to milk for fame and fortune.
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