Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rising from the failure...

So if you've been following this, you'll notice that I did not manage to make my deadline for the 90 Day Play challenge. I could make a bunch of excuses, but the truth motivation failed.

I'm still working on [working title] "Dies Irae," and I hoping to get a draft out by the end of August. Right now, what I need is a title. The working titles I've been throwing around are "Transcontinental" and "Dies Irae." I can't say I'm sold on either of those. Brandon's original idea was entitled "Smoke and Sparrow," so I'm still considering that, but I would be adding plot elements in order to support that. I suppose we'll see!

More to come.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 23

Sitting in my apartment, eating pizza.

I went to the Central Hotel Library Bar today to meet with my writing group for the first time in about 7 months. This writing group is the remnant of a playwriting class I took at Fishamble, and it has been amazingly supportive. I think the most useful thing to my writing is having a group of people to bounce ideas off of and to read what I've written. It was a fabulous time and has really propelled me into some more writing.

I think, most importantly, reading with the group made me realize that I need to get some Irish friends together to read the first draft when I've finished. The Irish characters sound so different in the appropriate dialect, and I've already found some phrases that stick out like big American thumbs. I really have to get back into the dialect as soon as possible so that I can find these characters' voices.

Anyway...boring blog tonight. Writing all day tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have something better to report.

And Ben...I hope you're still writing!! :-D


Monday, March 22, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 22

Sitting in my living room in Dublin, eating rashers and drinking Diet Coke.

So it's been 17 days since my last blog. Obviously, the blogging is lagging behind, but I have actually been making some steady progress on the play. So far I have a clear outline of both acts, excepting two major events which I haven't quite figured out. In some ways, the play is going to be both more epic and simpler than I originally thought. I've decided to cut the characters down quite a bit and include some more ensemble based scenes.

I did finally write the last scene, although after having written it, the story begs for an epilogue. This is one of the events I'm not quite sure how to execute. I know what I want the final scene to feel like, but I'm not yet sure of its manifestation.

Since I'm in Dublin now, I'm going to be able to use Trinity's wifi to be more consistent in my blogging and, hopefully, I'll pound out an act in the next few weeks. I'm also glad to be having some outside support. There's a writing group (a remnant from a playwriting course I took at Fishamble) that is meeting tomorrow. I always look forward to writing groups because of the impact they have on my work and my motivation, and this group has always been particularly supportive.

So...more on this later. I will leave you with a bit of dialogue that I'm playing with:


What did you do to that boy?

He changed his mind.

He was ready to kill Reilly. He was going to do it!

Musta thought better of it.


Must have.


Still, never seen a boy turn like that. Maybe he had some help

I don't follow.

Help changing his mind.

Maybe he did.

SPARROW grabs EOIN by his elbows.

What did you do?

EOIN struggles to touch SPARROW. SPARROW immobilizes EOIN's hands

You touched him, boy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 5

Just returned from seeing a wonderful production of Much Ado About Nothing at Hope tonight.

Update: Spencer has agreed to compose a folk hymn based on the "Dies irae" (yay!) This makes me even more excited about pushing this play further!

I have formulated the final scene of the play, and I must is epic. I have not yet written it, but I'm pretty sure it should be done by tomorrow. This is going to help my process tremendously. I like to write big plot points and then fill in the spaces. When I have the beginnings and ends of each act, it begins to feel like putting together a puzzle. The story begins to tell itself - to logically flow from one major development to the next. I also enjoy writing backwards, because I believe it gives characters a greater sense of purpose.

I've also decided to cut a character. One of the brother's isn't necessary, so why keep him in there? It's really going to tighten the script up significantly. I think I also need to get rid of one of the women, but I'm going to hold off on that until I'm in the second draft phase.

So far, Transcontinental is a freeing piece for me. Kyrie was restricted with realism and The Hound, or Libera me was restricted by the Hound character, who is a constant force of nature. I love the concepts for both plays, but the world of Transcontinental is unique. I feel like I have a lot of room to experiment and really go out there with the characters and the plot. The process feels smoother, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm more used to it now or because the play is easier to write. In any case, I really think that this one is going to be performance ready far ahead of the other two.

This is a short post because I'm so tired. I'm doing some more writing tomorrow...hopefully I'll have an excerpt or something I'm willing to show!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 4

In Barnes and Noble, drinking my Earl Grey tea latte (Earl Grey and steamed milk...yumness) and listening to k d lang's Vancouver rendition of "Hallelujah."

While I was writing Kyrie, I decided that I'm going to write a play for every movement in a requiem mass. The plays I've written so far, Kyrie and The Hound, or Libera me, take care of the "Kyrie eleison" (Lord have mercy) and "Libera me" (Liberate me.) I've decided that, whether or not I chose to include it in the title, Transcontinental will be the "Dies Irae" (Day of wrath.) I'm very pleased right now that I've settled on this movement, because I really think it's going to inform the spine of the play and the texture of the story. The following are the words to the first four stanzas in latin and in English (William Josiah Irons):

Dies iræ! dies illa - Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
Solvet sæclum in favilla: - See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Teste David cum Sibylla! - Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Quantus tremor est futurus, - Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,
Quando iudex est venturus, - when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
Cuncta stricte discussurus! - on whose sentence all dependeth.

Tuba, mirum spargens sonum - Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
Per sepulchra regionum, - through earth's sepulchers it ringeth;
Coget omnes ante thronum. - all before the throne it bringeth.

Mors stupebit, et natura, - Death is struck, and nature quaking,
Cum resurget creatura, - all creation is awaking,
Iudicanti responsura. - to its Judge an answer making

I love requiems, they have such arresting words. It's too good NOT to put somewhere into the script. In Kyrie, I use four different versions of the "Kyrie" to frame the acts (Subway to Sally) - from metal to cluster chords (Arvo Paert.) The Hound, or Libera me opens with Man singing Faure's "Libera me." I think I'm still in love with inserting these movements into the plays. I'm such an aural person, that I can't help but write in some of the sound design - it absolutely makes the play for me.

I just asked my brother (a very talented musician...he says he writes/plays "Ken Burns Folk" if he'll compose a folk hymn to Irons' 1849 English text, so I think that will be a perfect tool to help me write this if he agrees!

In other news, I'm really stuck on where to take this next. I need to write a scene before I leave here, so wish me luck!

More to come

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 2

I'm in Barnes and Noble right now, listening to Acoustache: Volume 1 and wrapping up the writing for the day. So far I've finished two short scenes, about 8 pages in total. I'm giving this play the working title Transcontinental. Right now, the play is going to be loosely based on the Joseph story from the Bible and is set during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The "Joseph" character has a superpower (gasp, to be revealed!) Sooooo...this is going to be an interesting experience for me, as I've not really written in this genre before. I got the idea from my good friend, Brandon Ruiter, who has really gotten into the graphic novel mindset with his ideas and works with The House Theatre of Chicago, which has really delved into that comic book/superhero, story and ensemble based theatre. I'm excited to put Brando's idea on stage because, well...why not? It's an interesting story and I'd like to see it!

An immediate concern I'm seeing is the number of characters I want to write into this play. My first play, Kyrie, is pretty much a two person play. My second play, The Hound, only ever has two characters onstage at once. The first scene in Transcontinental has seven characters in it. Let me tell you, it's very difficult for seven characters to interact with each other. I'm trying to push practicality out of my head and just write what I want to write, but the characters are screaming at me "No budget, no budget!" I've got to figure out a way to write what I want and still be practical.

I'm quite exhausted at the moment, but I am excited for where this is going.

More tomorrow


Monday, March 1, 2010

90 Day Play - Day 1

"People have asked me, 'Why don’t we have more good plays?' I said, 'Why don’t you ask why we don’t have more bad plays, because if you have more bad plays you’ll have more good plays, because that feeds the ground.' That’s the manure that makes things grow. It’s very valuable manure, as manure is valuable to growth. We need activity, we need action, we need trial, we need error. —Harold Clurman"

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am adamant about promoting attendance of performances for theatre students and practitioners. I think it is vital to the development of the craft that we who produce art train our senses to receive it. I would like to say that I enjoy going to the theatre. I would like to say that every performance advertisement and every playbill I see excites me. I would like to say that I am still in love with the industry.

But the truth is I can't. More often than not, the theatre frustrates and bores me. The risk of wasting my time on yet another version of a play I've seen several times before has begun to outweigh the chance of that rare stirring performance. It's been a long time since I have been reminded of my love of the theatre.

I have to ask myself: what do I want to see onstage? Clearly, many of the shows that I have seen lately have not lit a fire within me. The subject matter, styles, or productions often don't reach me - so what will? After seeing Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman" in New York a few years back, I desperately looked for plays that would speak to my aesthetic in the same way. I've found a few, but I always wondered where the other plays were? Now I've come to an inevitable conclusion:

If there is art I want to see onstage, I have to put it there.

I have to write those plays that are missing...or at least soil the ground for others, as per Clurman's advice. And thus begins my 90 day mission to write a play.

In the next 90 days, I will write a full length play that I would like to see onstage. It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be profound, it doesn't have to be performance just has to be. This is a personal challenge to jump start what I see as complacency in my life. Of course I will continue to take the risk on theatre, and I hope soon I'm proven wrong. In the meantime, I'd like to encourage any of you out there reading this to join me in this endeavor. Write. write. write. For 90 days, just write. We need more plays!