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.

Starting from scratch

Last night, after struggling for a few days with a motivational deficiency, I finally picked up pen and paper and started working on a new draft of The Commandment (incidentally, when I say I picked up “pen and paper” I mean it literally, for this draft I’m gonna kick it old school…write on paper.  How analog). Reading over the last draft, I’m finding problems with the story that I’d glossed over before.  I think I was just happy to be finished the thing, and convinced myself that the problems weren’t that serious.  As a piece of Drama, however, its relatively unsuccessful at the moment.  I was having trouble readjusting the content, moving it and making changes.  So I decided that I would start over. I can reference the previous draft if I need to, but I wanted to take a shot at a fresh beginning.

Tonight: Rehearsal for Everybody Dies.

In other news, I should really start thinking about a vacation.  I didn’t take my usual writing vacation this year.  Might need to do something about that.

Struggling with the play

I am still struggling with this one man play that I’m trying to write.  Drafts 1 and 2 were very similar, making them really Drafts 1.0 and 1.1.  I have not yet found the journey of the play and I think that’s what is really holding me back.  I don’t know the character’s journey.  There’s a lot of words there, but I don’t yet think they are any more than that: just words.   I know the character’s background, and what he thinks about things, but at the moment, the play lacks a certain…theatricality, which I think will be resolved by finding the character’s journey. Once I know the journey, I’ll be able to give the play focus.

The play needs serious dramaturgy.  I need a dramaturg to help me find the play.

Who would have thought writing a play with just one character would be so difficult?*

*Just kidding. I knew it would be difficult. I guess I just didn’t know exactly how difficult.

Post-show | Second Last Man

Last night we closed Monkeyman Productions’ Banana Festival.  The play I directed, The Second Last Man on Earth, went pretty well.  The whole festival of one act plays was quite good, but being the director of “Second Last”, its the one I’m most close to.  I can honestly say that I am proud of the work that was done, though I do wish I’d had a little more time.  Our rehearsal period was significantly truncated, and as the show performed, I caught myself seeing little moments that could have been made slightly better…if only we’d had the time.  Then I catch myself: we didn’t have time, and everybody did great work with the time that we did have.  I imagine that there’s never enough time, and that there will always be moments that could have been made slightly better.

Today, I found myself feeling slightly off; and then I realized what it was: post-show depression.  It happens all the time when a show finishes.  Actors come together and spend large amounts of time in close proximity, sharing the stresses of performing and just generally hanging out.  For the period of working on a show, a group of actors form a small family, and then very quickly, the family splits apart.  Usually I am prepared for it, I know its coming, and can make arrangements to combat it.  But this show, I was not an actor, I was a director, and I didn’t expect that I’d find myself in the same mindset as if I had been an actor in the show.  So the beginnings of the post-show depression were unnoticed at first, until it was too late.

In other news, I’m turning my attention back to the Commandment and trying to fix some dramatic problems with it.  Perhaps I’ll have to change the structure. Maybe I’ll have to start over.  What I’ve determined so far, is that the play lacks high stakes, and the character’s journey needs to be fleshed out more.  So, that’s what I’m going to be working on for the next little while.  And perhaps I’ll try for next year’s Fringe Festival.

One play down

This week I finished the first (quite rough) draft of the one-man play I’ve been writing. The next step for me is to put it aside, complete the first draft of the other play I’m working on (The Commandment), and then I can come back to this one and start the revision process.  Though I want to start sending the play out to people and soliciting feedback right away, I think that I need to resist this urge.  I would rather get some distance from it, then come back to it and try to read it freshly, and see what my opinion is of it.  Sending it out right away seems more like an exercise in attempting to get positive “good for you, Phil” vibes from people rather than an exercise in getting actual feedback.  I know the play isn’t ready yet for someone else to see it.  So, those of you who have expressed an interest in seeing it will have to wait a little bit longer.

In other news, this period of not rehearsing anything has been very good for me. Prior to this I’ve gone from one project to another and between acting and work, the constant “go-go-go” has been taking its toll. The last couple of weeks have given me time to write, and do a little video gaming (moderately, though that is because I don’t have any new ones. The “moderate” gaming will likely end in a couple of weeks, as some new games will be coming out), and just generally relax. This is my “recharge” period since once we get to the fall, work starts with Keystone Theatre as we begin working on our Production of the Belle of Winnipeg, a production based on the silent film genre. This project has been in the works for about 3 years, and it will be good to finally be able to present it to an audience, so I’m really looking forward to it.