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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, June 26, 2012

The Hard Talk

A week ago a theater colleague to whom I had sent a new work sent a response to the play of mine that she had just read.  She bagan her e-mail to me like this:

Okay, here goes.  I'm going to give you a totally honest response - we don't know each other that well, but I'm going to assume that what you want (if it's not delete the e-mail right now).

She was ready with a response that was all about "the hard talk" with the playwright about the work.  As far as the communication that followed, it was thoughtful, well composed, and on-the-money describing the strengths and weaknesses of the work she had read. I will be taking her comments with me to a meeting I am having about an upcoming workshop of this play.

When this e-mail arrived I had to take the big gulp, allow my mind to open,  double click the message, and read.

It is not easy to be on the receiving end of "the hard talk"; it is also not easy being the one who decides to deliver it.

As playwrights it is important to be choosy when asking people for their opinions and observations about our work, especially the work that is still actively being shaped.

During a playwright introduction at The O'Neill Theater Conference I heard a playwright describe the best way to give feedback as questions, "Your questions about my play are always welcome; your answers about how to solve the problems not so much."  This is a good starting point for learning to talk about the plays, becoming aware of the questions.

On the other side of the conversation is the playwright. As the playwright how willing are you to engage in the "hard talk"? It's an important thing to know about yourself and your attachment to the work. It means you have to be open to the double edge elation of it being liked (loved?), and of the warts and bumps being pointed toward.

Are you willing to grapple with the work once this new perspective has been revealed to you?

I have been on the reader end of the question as often as I have been on the playwright end. I know that if I am dealing with a knowledgable theater person that I will listen if they are willing to go to the place beyond polite response into the area of the "hard talk." I in turn will go to the "hard talk" if I believe the colleague with whom I am dealing seems ready for it.

Even in the response that I quoted above there is the note about deleting the message before treading further. At that point I ready myself, and read on.

PS - The graphic I am using in this post is my first foray into drawing my own computer graphics. It took me three days of experimenting to draw it using just the track-pad on my computer. I guess I'm gonna have to buy a tablet soon, or draw them on my iPad and transfer them to the MacBook for editing. Any thoughts? Let me know. - Kato

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