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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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who you workin' with?

If you're writing plays for anything more than a puppet show in your kitchen, then you've run into the realities of the marketplace.

Sure, we've all heard folks moan, "It's all about who you know," like there's some magic cocktail party to attend with a pocket full of business cards and two months later you'll be viewing a production of your play.

I believe there's something more radical (and more obvious) than the "who you know" syndrome.  I think it's really, "Who have you worked with?" That's the one that's your foot and your play in the door.

So, the million dollar question - "Who are you working with?"

3 Basic Workshop Types

Staged Reading of IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE WITH ELVIS
at Wake Forest University by Virtual Theater Project.
There are endless variations on types of workshops. The thing that unifies them is that they all posses the potential for radical insight and enlightenment about your work, or devastating painful disaster. Those are extremes, but either can happen during something as simple as a seated public reading of your work. 

There are three general categories of workshop levels:

Concert Reading: a reading of the play from a stationary point. Sometimes actors are seated throughout, sometimes they stand when their characters have “entered” a scene. Usually there is a formal aspect to the actor’s placement, indicated by a stand to hold the text of the play. Stage directions denoting major actions, descriptions that are not apparent or actable by stationary performers, and scene changes are read aloud.

Staged Reading: a script-in-hand staging of the play. Minimal props, lighting, sound effects, and suggestions of costumes are present. The dialogue is read, but most of the stage directions are omitted unless some action is impossible to perform in the context of the staged reading (an elaborate dance sequence, a large set requirement, or some other aspect unable to be evoked through a minimal staging).

Concert reading of ARIADNE ON THE ISLAND
Workshop Production: an off-book staging of the play. Minimal props, lighting, sound effects, and costumes are present in bare-bones but complete performance of the work.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stuck

How often does being stuck inform the dramatic action?  A whole lot, that's what.  In many plots the characters begin stuck. The unsticking can begin the action of the drama just as easily as it is the result of the dramatic action.

In theater, finding interesting ways for the characters to remain stuck is often essential.  A lot of theater relies on acceptable reasons for characters to be stuck together, often in one location or a handful of locations, for the duration of the drama.

Hamlet gets stuck, and mopes around the castle.  Oedipus gets stuck, first in Thebes and then in Colonus. All of those family members are stuck in that big house in August, Osage County... See what I mean.  Think about your favorite couple of plays and ponder what makes them stuck there.

Stuck -- Stuckedness -- Stuckisity -- entails that someone else needs to be there to help.  If not, then a companion can be invented, like Wilson in the movie Castaway, or the audience in the better one-person monodramas.

Inventing stucktivity, the kind of all-or-nothing stuck that defines a human-being, is what a lot of great drama does.

How are you stuck? How can you use that to fuel your work?