Monday, July 15, 2013

Why do people "mess with your play"? Part One

I seem to enjoy living in two different worlds theatre wise. I am connected to a whole lot of playwrights and I get to celebrate and support their work. I get to hear their problems and concerns with the industry and I like being in on the conversation with them to try to make the industry better. One of the most common complaints I hear from playwrights is about people messing with their work. You got a production and you get mad that the director changed a stage direction, cast a character differently than they should, or changed a line. One of the most common arguments that I hear when a group of playwrights get together is what to do when people start messing with your play. Well let me share 4 thoughts on the issue...

#1 If people are trying to change your play it might need changing.

This is a truth some playwrights don't want to admit. If an actor is continuing to flub a line, if a stage direction is constantly being snubbed then it might be because it might be an impossible line or stage direction to perform.

Here's a prime example: I have had the pleasure to be involved with a few productions of Larry Shue's The Foreigner. In the last scene it calls for one of the lead characters to sink down into a hole in the floor in a KKK costume to look like he's melting like the Wicked Witch. at least I'm told in the stage direction that's what's supposed to happen. In one production I've acted in the trap door was there and he disappeared in it but there was no melting. In another I did house for they didn't use the trap door at all. I've seen it twice more in other places. Still the trap door isn't used the way it is described in the script. Now are all of these different theaters bad at doing shows or is the stage direction just a bad one? You be the judge. 

#2 You have to let the Production Staff do their job.

Look I know that you have a perfect idea in your head about how your play is supposed to look. You probably saw it coming out one certain way and with one certain cast and in your head that's the only way it can be done. Well the problem is that you work in the theatre. And in the the theatre every production is like a snowflake; they're never the same. You'll have different directors and different administrations with different needs. Please have your standards but know that your play is going to change. You may have the right to approve or deny stuff but if you think that you can hold the play hostage to your whim until your play is done exactly the way you want it then you've missed out on the point of working in the theatre. I make a point that unless I'm directing the show or are otherwise involved in the show I'm absent for rehearsals of my shows. I want to leave room for all the people working on my shows to have fun and enjoy the show. And if they enjoy working with you then they want to work with you again.

The thing is to know the people who will be interfacing with your work and letting them have fun. Be flexible for their needs and let them have fun. If you can provide them with a fun time working on your piece then you're golden!

To be continued! Look for Part 2 next week.

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