Tracing the growth of a play from draft to “finished”, Pt. 2

When I left off in part 1, I had received some feedback on the second draft of The Parliamentarians, which involved two of the characters and a suggestion to change the timeline of the second act.

I had not ever considered that the play would not take place on a single night, and this idea of having the second act take place months later was unwelcome at first. I could accept the characters of Moreno and Madison might need to be removed, but the timeline seemed almost untouchable to me. At least at first.

I couldn’t think about anything other than that for a couple of days. I played with the idea and went back and forth between thinking that it was a great idea and that it might be the worst idea for the play. In the end, I decided that the only way to be sure, would be to try writing it. What would happen if the second act took place three months after the first? The answer, it turned out, was: quite a bit. Moving the second act to three months later actually opened up a lot of opportunities to explore the characters, and change their relationships. Ruben was no longer prime minister, his minority government brought down due to the scandal with with the call girl. Perkins was no longer working for him, and instead was working for the new Prime Minister, Stephanie Rivers, causing friction between him and Holloway.

As for the characters I removed, I replaced them with a couple of new ones.  The characters in the third draft were:

Ruben Holloway, Prime Minister
Perkins, his Chief of Staff
Lola, a call girl
Benji Collins, a reporter
Stephanie Rivers, Leader of the opposition
Vera Holloway, Ruben’s wife

I felt like the play needed some instigator, a role that Moreno had fulfilled, and I created the character Benji Collins, a reporter who had a crush on Lola. Madison was replaced with Vera, Ruben Holloway’s wife. Adding Vera made a lot of sense, since she is mentioned in the first half of the play. In order to justify bringing her in, I felt that I needed to feel her presence in the first half, while still not seeing her until the second act. So some business was added, that was suggested in an earlier draft. In this third version, I just played up that business a little more.

This new draft finished, I needed to have the play read. So I invited a few actor friends over to read it. The results were illuminating. Hearing the play meant that I heard all of things that didn’t ring true, or didn’t work. I took a lot of notes, and got some great feedback from the actors actors.

Now there was some tweaking to be done. The moments that weren’t working, needed fixing. And there was another question: did Benji Collins do enough to move the plot forward? If not, was he necessary to the play? So I started grappling with that question.

 

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