Saturday, August 24, 2013

Revision: Parenting a Problem Play


When you first write a play it's like you're conceiving a child. It's all about how fun it is for you to do it. But then when you start to get it in front of people sometimes the ideas and good intentions that that went into the fun act of conception meet up with the complications of getting it on stage. You have to start pushing and straining to get it into some kind of shape where it will come out of the world in the right way.

Borrowed from the Meme Center
http://www.memecenter.com/fun/225185/parenting

Then you have the problem like I've come to in rewriting 27 Days. Your baby just got birthed in a reading or production and now a bunch of people are giving you a lot of notes. They're looking at your baby and telling you how you should raise it. A lot of it's well meaning advice and few of it isn't. So you do what every good parent does and try to follow as much of that advice as you can in your revisions. You try to be a good parent and only do what's good for your baby. You take out harmful words and actions here and you snip away unruly dialogue here. It's still knocking around a bit but it's just learning to walk you have to be patient.  And so like a nice parent you're rewriting to make sure that your growing child has a place in this world.

Then you come to the point that I came to last night. Suddenly your play for the first time says "No! I'm not going to do that Dad! I'm not a sketch on a napkin anymore! I'm not just thoughts from your head I wanna what I wanna be." And your play starts rebelling against you and the revisions that you've been making and you have to learn the lesson every good parent does: that trying to follow the notes and the advice from colleagues is one thing but at the end of the day you and you alone know how to parent your own child! 

Some advice helps and you use it. Other notes that you get in development, while they might make the wisest sense, don't work for your play. They may be what every other playwright is doing. They may be the "hip" thing that might get your play into the "Ivy League" regional theatre. But at the end of the day they may just be plain wrong for your play. And, fellow playwrights, the most important lesson that you can learn is listening to your play and discovering when just following the notes is hurting it. And in the end it's your decision.

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