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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Workshopped to Death"

There have been rumblings and articles and a lot of talk about the "workshopped to death" syndrome plaguing playwrights of late. At the O'Neill Theater Center, which boasts the most prestigious workshop experience in the United States, it is not uncommon to see a list of five or six, sometimes ten or eleven, previous workshops and development processes that the play and playwright have been thru. All of these workshops were worked thru by the playwright with the hopeful expecation that someone would see it, get connected to the play, and want to produce it.

No such luck.

Onto the next workshop.

Here's the thing...aren't playwrights complicite in this trend? If you're a playwright who's done workshopping the play, then hold out for a production and stop sending it to workshop opportunities. If that isn't working, produce the damn thing yourself.

Look back at the careers of all of the great or succesful (or both) playwrights. Everyone knows Shakespeare wrote, produced, directed, yada yada yada; but so did O'Neill; so did Gurney; so did Bullins; Vogel; Brecht; Becket; the list goes on and on.

This is one of those "push comes to shove", "will there's a way", "I'm a playmaker, dammit" kinda things.

Yeah, yeah, theaters get money for doing workshops, and the more readings, the less production money goes into the list of "here's what we did this year" that they have to hand in to get their grant money. It's a non-profit world that the theater exists in, and numbers are very, very important.

It's up to the playwright to be sure their play becomes more than grist for the non-profit mill. It's up to the playwright to push for production. If the theater won't do it, then the playwright needs to find a space and make their play a reality. Be a playmaker.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

sound and the theatrical landscape

Sound is emotion in theatrical terms.

We react to the sound of a word before we understand its logic. There's a little lag time. The sound makes us jump, or sweat, or reel. That's why we love the big show-stopper. Listen to it build. just listen.

I had an epiphany about sound while watching a staged reading of a play. There were no props and very little tech. At one point a character turned around with a "gun" (his pointed finger) and he hollered "BANG!"

We all jumped. The other character died. It was theatrically truthful and real.

In fact, it was better that way than if a "real" prop gun had been fired.

It worked. It got to us. We believed it.

Sound is something to study and become better attuned to.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Theater Manifesto

Theater is a generous act.

We go to the theater to fall in love. We fall in love with the play, fall in love with the work, fall in love with the company.

It is important to respect commitment over talent. I can work with commitment. Talent without commitment quickly becomes destructive and a drain on the ensemble.

Plays are not perfect entities, they are flawed, the actors are flawed, the audience is flawed, or late, or coughing, or who knows what. And still, we make theater.

The progeny of American Realism is film, not theater. Current dramaturgy owes more the the American Musical Form than the American Realists.

Theater is a house of magnificence and eloquence and joyful giving.