Saturday, June 30, 2007

All Over But the Fade Out

To SaipanWriter on Monologues, June 26:

I'm coming to this late, as I think you've written past this already. But I had a couple of thoughts which might be useful for revision.

Monologues are analogous to songs in musical or arias in opera. They do a few things. They concentrate the emotion of a character. Good ones have a beginning middle and end, like a short story, and the character can be changed as a function of speaking them. They catapult the action forward.

They are tools of revelation. The character is revealing his deepest thoughts, his most heartfelt opinion. Sometimes the character is disingenuous, and revelation is manipulation.

As an actor I was taught that they are tools of persuasion. The character is persuading himself, an antagonist (always someone hostile to them in some way) or the audience. Often they appear in significant places in the play--before the end of an act, for example. Sometimes they come at the climax, but I think that is a tricky place to have just one person speaking, unless the antagonist is on stage, catching his breath before continuing battle, or the whole cast is there to witness.

The most powerful ones change the action in some way, precipitate action, send the action in a new and charged direction.

Between now and when you revise, read a lot of plays in your genre. Look at monologues and see what makes them tick. Read them out loud. (Always a good idea when you are writing, anyway. See if the words can be said by a human being :)

We just watched *All About Eve* last night--excellent movie about theatre, with some great monologues. Look at Eve's story in the dressing room, Bill's harangue about theatre, Margo's talk about "being a woman" in the stalled car. And of course Addison's acerbic "Chorus" speech in the beginning, setting up the story.

Hope this helps and is not too vague. I have 2000 words to go, and am a bit addled today.

What is Workshopping--playwrighting forum, June 29th:

Saipan, congratulations on finishing! And congratulations on generating some interest in it already.

Someone with an actual foot in the current state of the theater can answer this better, but I believe a workshop is a dry run, the goal being to invite backers to see it and generate interest and financial investment. It is done a lot for musicals, because musicals have become horribly horribly expensive.

In the old days, you'd get together a party of rich New Yorkers and Cole or George and Ira or Irving would stop by and play through their score, the director would give a pep talk and people would get out their checkbooks. Then you'd go into rehearsal, work on the thing, try it out in New Haven, watch how the audience liked it, cut musical numbers and write new ones, recast roles if need be. You'd do this for a few weeks, and then you'd go to Broadway--and even if you were Porter or Gershwin or Berlin you'd still run the risk of it being a dismal flop and closing at Intermission. But that was okay, because there were scads of musicals opening and closing, and chances are you had another two projects in the works anyway.

Broadway has changed--musicals are few and far between, and have to be guaranteed moneymakers. Hence the workshop. The show is cast, staged minimally, tried out before small audiences. A dramaturg is called in to tweak story, songs are tried and discarded--all of this done over weeks and months before major production money is sunk into the project. Only when all or most of the creative kinks are worked out are investors courted.

And the other essential element--feedback is asked for, and given. (Which I always thought was a very Age of Aquarius development, right up there with the focus group. I can't imagine Cole Porter in the 30's asking for "feedback" with a straight face.)

My best guess. Here I show my age. I've never workshopped as a verb. I've done staged readings of plays-in-progress, where the audience was invited to discuss the piece afterwards, what they liked and didn't like. I'm guessing that's what your director means. If you trust this guy (very important) and are ready to surrender your baby to the world, having real human beings act it out is probably the most effective tool in seeing what does and does not work.

(That was a lengthy response. Also precious. Whatever will I do without this forum ;) But I hope this is a help.

...Feedback is scary, no doubt about it. You have to learn detachment. It can be done. It's not you that is being criticized, it's your work, and you can always learn more about the process of writing. But it takes a great deal of trust initially. (This is why I made a comment about trusting the director. It has to be someone who doesn't have his own agenda and unresolved ego issues...the type that will rewrite your whole script without telling you.)

The good thing about theater is that directors still want imput from the writer during the process. In film, once they option your script, you are out of the loop while they butcher with impunity. You won't get rich from either, but you might get more satisfaction from having a play produced.

To Keyboard Warrior, Guys Writing Romance, June 30

Wow! Found a Vein of Gold! You don't know what is in you until you write a lot for an extended period of time. I would consider myself "romance-challenged", wouldn't pick up a Harlequin or anything like that, but every single story I've written in the last two and a half years (including three and a half novels) is chock full of romance--much to my surprise.

And it isn't unusual for guys to write romance. I belong to a huge writer's group--one of its most prolific writers started as a technical writer and is now a very successful flash fiction author. He got into speculative/horror because that's what people wanted, but he also writes and publishes a boatload of romance.

Because of that, I let my surfer-dude playwright specialize in romance. I took all my arguments about why I write romance and gave them to him, and he was happy to spout them for me, in a very virile sort of way, of course.

Follow the energy and see where it leads you!

To Michelle, June 30th:

Meant to write you, but often I go out with a fizzle, instead of a bang. I finished and validated Thursday night, after a long day, most of it spent waiting for Stephen's '84 Chevy Cavalier to be repaired.

Crashed yesterday.

I've been trying to get back to the script, to smooth it out, but am still sleep deprived.

I have some scenes, or ideas for scenes, which I guess I will put in the rewrite. I kind of hate my ending. It definitely needs work.

And the cats can bear to be in the same room now, but Max is a party animal when the sun goes down, and it is really wearing to us. Last night we were also awakened by this very loud sound like a screech or a police whistle outside. We thought perhaps it was an owl, and went outside to try to make it fly away. Instead after several loud minutes, we found the source--a very small toad on our patch of lawn. We captured him, and are going to move him a damp spot on the neighboring property after dark.

So that's where I am. Thanks again for joining in the fray.

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