A Message To My New Dramaturgical Mentee

As part of a local theatre company’s recent fund-raising trivia night I offered as a prize my dramaturgical services for 6 months. This is what I wrote to the winner:

Congratulations!  I am yours for at least 6 months!

The bottom line is I am here for you.  A sounding board, a resource – that ideal audience member who is seeing the play in their mind’s eye and responding to it.  I’ll also be someone to bounce ideas off no matter how crazy or out there they might be.  (I will probably also bounce some ideas back – to challenge you, provoke you, make you dig deeper into what you’ve written.)

I’m looking forward to reading what you have and getting into providing whatever help/assistance/advise/criticism/support I can.  Please remember that as much as I might have ideas about what I think you might need, I’m sure you have ideas, too, so please don’t be backward in coming forward and identifying exactly what you might want from me e.g. “Can you read this and tell me if you think I should keep the fifth spear carrier from the left.”

The other thing to remember – which I think is very important – is that I won’t be doing any of the actual writing myself.  That’s your job.  The learning comes from the doing, and no matter what I say you’ll still be the one at the coal face, with keyboard and screen punching out the words.  I can point you down a path, but you will be the one to decide if you walk it.

The key to dramaturgy is twofold, I think: the development of scripts, and by extension the development of the playwright.  The two go hand-in-hand.  I can’t wait to see where we wind up in 6 months’ time!

Let the adventure begin!

I haven’t received any scripts as yet, but I’m sure they’ll come!

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What To Do When Accidents Happen In The Theatre

I now know what that word “dumbfounded” feels like. Just the other week I was told a one-act play of mine was about to go on in a one-act play show minus its last four pages. The play, Dreams of Justine, had been acquired by the director who assumed that the perusal version was the final version of the play – and that’s the version he’d been rehearsing with his actors.*

With little time to waste I decided to distill those last four pages of script down to half a dozen lines and a few actions so as to better tie off what I thought was a comedy, because as we all know, comedies end with the guy and the girl together at the end after a lot of tooing and froing, ups and downs and roundabouts. (Or so the traditional form tells us.)

Luckily, the director and the cast were able to rehearse my concluding snippet during the first half of the program and put on my version for the audience. When I saw how things had turned out, it seemed as if the play was meant to finish where and when it did, and the audience, I think, was satisfied. (Thanks to all concerned for their efforts.)

So what have I learned?

1. Theatre is always about risk – or should be (otherwise, why do it, right?) – but please remember, your script will usually conclude with the words Fadeout or Snapoff;

2. While the response of some was that it wasn’t my problem, being in any group – theatre or otherwise – is always about finding solutions and working together;

3. I have a new idea for a one-act play about a writer who learns that their one-act play is about to go on minus the last four pages…

You can get your hands on the perusal copy of Dreams of Justine here – and if you’d like to get your hands on the shortened version I’ve just written let me know!

* (If nothing else, a great pat on the back to my writing: even truncated, my script still made sense to the director and the actors!)

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