Monday, July 12, 2010

It's a freakin' play! Use your imagination, dude.

Holy cow, it's the first day of our playwriting intensive here at Endstation Theatre Company, and we're already off to a rip roaring raucous start!
Now for those of you unfamiliar with the whole intensive, here's the long and short of it: the intensive is divided into two parts: "Ad Hoc" and "Post Haste."

"Ad Hoc" is a showcase of work that us playwrights were working on before the festival began. These are very much still works in progress, but they've had a little more of our love and concentration over the past few weeks or months. We're having readings of these works this Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 PM. That's all I'll say about it now, because I'm sure Michael will go a little more in depth on the process in his blog tomorrow.

"Post Haste" is a showcase of COMPLETELY NEW work that us playwrights write the two weeks we're here on Sweetbriar's campus. Now this work doesn't come completely out of thin air, but it's pretty close to that. "Post Haste" has its roots in a thing we tried last year called a "bake off" which is something I stole from a workshop I took at the Kennedy Center from Quiara Alegría Hudes (who wrote the book for In The Heights). The rules go like this:

a.) Us playwrights dream up five "ingredients" a piece for a play. These ingredients are basically anything at all. A theatrical device, a plot twist, a character name, an object. Anything!

b.) We put them into a hat.

c.) We choose five of those ingredients at random.

d.) We write like hell for the next two weeks to hopefully get an ultra rough draft of a play to be read the last Saturday and Sunday of the festival!
Why would we put ourselves through this? Well, us writers can be pretty indecisive sometimes, and so ideally the abridged writing time forces us to make decisions quickly, commit to them, and get something, good or bad, out on the page. It's like a teacher of mine always used to say: "A shitty first draft is a million times better than any great idea." Plus, we don't want to look like complete dummies at the reading, so we do our damndest to make it a little better than shitty.

Secondly the ingredients make some of the decisions for us already. If nothing else, we know at the very least that our play will contain those five things, and so suddenly a little problem solving is injected into our pieces. How will we use our ingredients? This question can become completely daunting at first, but ideally it becomes wildly liberating because it offers us a jumping off point for research and ideas. If you come to the readings, I think you'll find that us four playwrights will have incredibly different ideas of how to solve this problem.

While I'm not going to tell you the five ingredients we picked, I will let you in on the ones we didn't. Keep in mind these ingredients can be used as literally as possible, or they can be completely hidden in the text. A good example- one of last year's ingredients was "a talking pumpkin." Last year's playwright's had some different ways of addressing that. Dan Caffrey's antagonist donned a pumpkin on his head. A character of mine was simply named Pumpkin. And Tearrance Chisholm had the inspired idea to name all his characters after different varieties of pumpkins. For instance: Mammoth Gold.

Without further ado-

(in no particular order)

1.) A full moon
2.) A printer that malfunctions
3.) Deafness
4.) A traumatic event that happened to you when you were younger
5.) A haunting
6.) Insomnia
7.) Lewis Carroll
8.) Patriots
9.) Bubbles!!!
10.) A horrible accident
11.) A vial of actual crocodile tears
12.) Invisibility
13.) VCR
14.) By the end of the show the entire stage and or audience/ space must be covered in... something.
15.) In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
16.) Freefalling

Thanks so much, and hang on to your socks because two weeks from now they're going to be getting knocked off with so much new and amazing work!


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