Phase one is to find a shape I'm interested in. My most recent play -- Chaos, and Other Worldly Possessions -- was shaped like seven broken plates all put back together in a mosaic. It worked well with the limitations placed on the project as an outgrowth of the process we set up. (I will spend a little time exploring/explaining this choice and how it affected every choice after it in another blog post.)
To find the shape, I need to decide what I think theater is good for; what it can/cannot/should/should not do. My opinion on this changes all the time, so it isn't an easy question for me to answer.
Now, on to today's post ...
Today is Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The weather is close to perfect. The world hasn't really crapped on me yet. I have a show opening that is really quite good. I'm feeling positive about people and the future and the theater and my life -- and people in the future of my theater life. In short, it is a lousy day to work on a new play.
But it is an interesting opportunity for me to think. Why did I just write "it is a lousy day to work on a new play?" Why am I an angry playwright? It's a legit question because I am, most of the time ... even when I try to uplift the mood at the end. I believe in hostile stories with mostly happy endings. Why? Is this something I can or should change? Can I play against it to find a new voice for the next play? What would a happy play look like? How would I build one? Is it even really possible? Comedy is savage. Drama is savage. Tragedy is ... well, you get the point.
If I believe in a visceral theater -- and I do -- is there any way I can be not savage? Not seeing it right now. Maybe I'm afraid of being overly sentimental or of boring the audience because I'm not good enough to write a riviting, tender story. That's a real possibility, since I take the time my audience gives me very seriously and I don't want to fritter it away. Maybe it's just my personal belief that I don't think sentimental theater is interesting to watch ... EVER. Maybe I think theater should beat the snot out of everything in it's path or it should stay home.
I can live with that theatrical theory, for today anyway.
If I have to be a savage playwright, is there any reason to pull back from a dead-ahead sprint? 90 minutes of raw humanity on stage? Isn't there a reasonable argument for writing a play that is a snarling, violent, emotional train wreck.
What would that look like, structure-wise? Actors led into a slaughterhouse and shipped out as sausage?
Ooo, I like this image as a structurely guideline! Done and done. This blog post is finished. I have to go think about how to create a slaughterhouse of a play. Thanks for helping me take the first step. There are still many more steps though, so come back often.