Tracing the growth of a play from draft to “finished”, Pt. 3

At the end of part 2, I had just had a group of actors read The Parliamentarians, and give some feedback. In addition to some tweaks and fixing moments that weren’t working, the question of what to do with Benji Collins arose. I was trying to figure out if the character did enough, if he drove the action enough to remain in. If he was too passive,or if he didn’t serve enough of a purpose, I’d remove him. But I wasn’t sure. The actors who read the play certainly enjoyed him, but I wasn’t sure if he did enough. He did provide an important realization for Lola near the end of the act, but I wondered if that was enough to justify keeping him. Was there another way that Lola could reach that  realization without Benji being there?

In the end, like the change to the timeline, I resolved that the only way to find out for sure would be to write it. And so I did. And it worked. Without Benji, the realization Lola needed could be incited by Vera. And so, Benji was removed, leaving me with the following characters:

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

The play worked even better. With Benji gone, there were fewer characters to introduce, and we could spend more time with the characters and learn more about them.

To be sure, I had the same actors come back (less one) and read the play again. And it worked. Again, there were some moments that still needed work, but no major structural changes were needed. The play was working.

And that’s where I’m at now. I’m working on the moments that aren’t working and fixing them. And soon, I will have a “final” draft.

One of the interesting things about this process has been the experimental writing (ie: “I’m not sure this will work, let me try it and find out”). A long time ago, I might have considered that wasted time. If it didn’t work and I had to revert to an earlier version, would I have wasted the time in writing it. In the end, I think that none of the writing would be wasted. Once done, even if I didn’t end up using it, I would have learned something about the characters that could be used later. All of the drafts provided some information about the characters that allowed me to write them more fully as I progressed.

I’m quite happy with the play as it is shaping up, and can’t wait to have it performed.

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