An Evolving Monologue, Pt. 3

The last version of this speech was far too expository to be of any use. It was more like a history lesson than something a character might say. While the last line of the speech is intact (Yes, he bores me. And that is something I can never forgive), it isn’t elaborated on in this speech, but it did inform other interactions in the scene. For this version of the speech, some of the history of the Ruben/Vera relationship remains, but there’s less detail. Vera isn’t a character that would go into that kind of detail with these people.

I did still feel, however, that she needed to be understood. To have someone understand what she’s been through with this man.

Again, Lola says: “what gives her the right to be such a miserable bitch? She just waltzes in here, insults everybody and then waltzes out and we’re just supposed to let her?”

“You think that I am a heartless bitch, who always gets what I want. You think I’m unfair in the way that I speak to my husband, that I am dismissive and unfairly cruel to him. And yet, you know so very little of him. Perhaps if you knew what I know, you would see things differently.

“Look at him. Look at this man who you are so concerned about. What do you know of him? Would it surprise you to know that he is singularly self interested, with adolescent tendencies? That he is unreliable, and emotionally immature? I suppose none of those things would surprise anyone here.

“How did a man like this become Prime Minister? Or even leader of a party? Simple. My father and his father. His a mover and shaker, mine a king maker. And somewhere along the way, they decided they wanted a dynasty, and so it was arranged that I would marry Ruben. I was against it, of course, on principle. I accused my father of living in the dark ages, and refused to even consider it. And then I met Ruben. He was very charming. And he was uncomplicated. I saw so much potential in him.

“Leadership of the party was ordained for him, once Pearson Thomson retired. And finally the day came, and leadership was handed to him, fulfilling the dreams of our fathers, did he take it seriously? No he did not. Since party leadership was ordained for him, why not the Prime Minister-ship as well. Why work at a thing when it is preordained? When it will be handed to you. Ruben would have squandered the opportunity if he had not been surrounded by competent people who could get the job done.

“I hoped, beyond all hope, that Ruben would live up to the potential our fathers saw in him. That he would rise to the occasion. But alas, you see what happened. I tried to encourage him. To push him. But you see the good that did. Ruben was never one for taking advice. He avoided me.  He stayed out at all hours, claiming that he was working. I suspected that he was having an affair, but that relieved me more than anything, since I had long since tired of having him in my bed, and as long as he was discrete about the whole thing, and didn’t embarrass me, I could live with it. But I still believed that if he became Prime Minister, he might live up to his potential.

“But he didn’t. He squandered that too. And when his infidelity was revealed, when he was exposed with you in all the papers, when my shame was made public, when I was humiliated like that in all the papers, I finally realized that this man would never be anything other than he was. A clown, a fool, a bumbler. A bore. Yes, he bores me. And that is something I can never forgive.”

Now this sounds like Vera. Now I feel like I know a little more about her. We know a bit about how she came to be married to Ruben, and more about how she has felt about him and their situation. And more importantly, it sounds like Vera. It sounds right for her. I’m more satisfied with this speech than I have been throughout the process.

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.

Tracing the growth of a play from draft to “finished”, Pt. 1

As I close in on the last draft of my play The Parliamentarians, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the journey this play took from its first draft to where it is now.

The play began as three words at the Red Sandcastle Theatre‘s first  24 hour play writing event this past summer. The pages of a dictionary were flipped in front of me and I put my finger on a page selecting a random word that I would use as inspiration for my play. This was done three times, and my words were: Popular, Moll, and Horde. At 7pm, we prepared to write, and where given the theme “when push comes to shove”.

I will admit that these words were giving me a lot of trouble at first. I had no idea what to do with them. I started staring at definitions of the words, hoping that something would spark an idea. I found it, finally, with the idea of “popular opinion”, which led me to think of politics, which led me to think of a prime minister. I mixed in a gangster’s girlfriend (the moll), which means I needed a gangster as well, and a horde of reporters. I wrote the first draft during the event.

The characters at that time were:

Ruben Holloway, Prime Minister
Perkins, his Chief of Staff
Lola, a call girl
Oscar Moreno, a gangster and Lola’s boyfriend
Stephanie Rivers, Leader of the opposition
Jennifer Madison, the Governor General.

The play was two scenes, taking place on the same night. The scene break came after a surprise revelation about the relationship of two characters. After finishing this draft, I put the play aside for a few weeks, and then came back to it to expand it into a full two act play. The scene break became the act break, but the structure and character arcs remained the same. I then asked a few trusted people to read it, and give me feedback.

The feedback I received was extremely helpful, and identified a few problems with the play. I’d been feeling like there was something not quite right, but the feedback identified it for me. First and foremost was the gangster character. While the play is a comedy, in the second act, he presented a certain darkness that overshadowed the comedy. I had to decide if that darkness added to the play or if it took away from it. Additionally, the character of Jennifer Madison, coming at the end, felt like a bit of a deus ex machina. Like with Moreno, the question had to be asked: what was her purpose in the story? The last suggestion was more of a question: what would happen if the second half took place much later? Not the same night, but a month, or two months later?

I had a lot to think about, before starting on the next draft.