Diary of a Play #7: Ditching the Pre-Contraceptions

The read-through – that moment when all the voices in the playwright’s head are suddenly made real.

Well, the voices regarding the play anyway.

For earlier diary entries, go to the Spd D8n page.

Either a beautiful noise or a gawd-awful cacophony is about to ensue …

The writing process is largely solitary. Just as well, because for me it involves pulling faces while enacting character dialogue and reactions, and an inordinate amount of fidgeting.

Some of Spd D8n was written at my weekly writing group sessions at my local, with moral support – and beer – close at hand to push onwards. Face-pulling is minimised so as not to scare off newcomers.

Submitting for review is the first exposure, but there you have time to ready yourself for critique.

“Time for the read-through” – quite a bit like “Let’s go to the vet to get spayed.”

The read-through is the proper rabbit-in-the-spotlights moment.

A whole bunch of new people holding a tangible copy of your script. Touching it, flicking through it, reading, nodding, frowning, commenting. Judging.

I’ll just sit over way there in that far corner, if you don’t mind.  Behind the fern, emerging only for the occasional cracker biscuit.

All those preconceptions in your head are null and void. The script is unsheathed and unprotected, about to be interpreted in a wholly different way.

No choice but to be Zen and detach, welcome the new perspectives, accept change. And don’t hit people with fern branches.

Luckily, Therese the director decided to combine the read-through with the audition process, thus the actors were quite nervous also. Eager to impress. That can only help.

Actors often prepare with a series of vocal warm-ups

A word from the writer before we begin?

Oh. Umm…

“Be gentle”?

“Please like it”?

Profuse apologies for the unintelligible unfunny nonsense they’re subjecting themselves to for the next two hours?

I opted for the “I’ll probably do some rewrites based on tonight” and a vaguely passive aggressive insinuation that I’d be snide about them in this blog. Otherwise, I’ll be behind this fern if you need me.

So it began …

Stephen King in On Writing recommends putting a work away for a few months, so as to come at it with fresh eyes of a reader. I’d not looked at the script whatsoever since handing it in for review – more through laziness than strategy though.

I was pretty confident about Act One, having previously read it aloud and timed it. Reassuringly, the actors read it largely the way intended. Most importantly, laughs from the get go. Phew!

The Goat of Self-Doubt terrorises another writer

Act Two was almost like listening to someone else’s play. I could barely remember it.  I’d pretty much handed this in as soon as it felt finished. Not quite “first draft”, but very raw.

Hence, some fixing is needed – trims, tidying, enhance some jokes, and maybe cut a small scene which didn’t add much and marked the beginning of the “this is all starting to go on a bit” feeling.

But on the whole, it sounded pretty good, helped by a strong set of actors reading very well and immediately inhabiting the characters. Therese has some tough casting decisions ahead!

Things that flit through the Writer’s head during read-through:

  • Is the opening scene the best to kick off with? Does it set the tone, style, and conventions of what’s to come?
  • Is the order of the scenes correct and balanced? Do the characters get equal time across the play? Is there a variety of scene style to keep the audience on their toes?
  • Will it appear rude if I walk out mid-scene to get another beer?
  • Fair cop, the characters sometimes repeated themselves, restating their motivations or thoughts. These were points where I recall getting stuck and trying to find ways to progress. Trim time!
  • Does the tricky “fireworks” scene towards the end work, or is even intelligible?
  • Has anyone noticed how much camembert I’m swiping each visit to the nibblies table?
  • The actors body language. Is it all banging on too long? Are they sliding down their chairs waiting for the end? Are they feeling as guilty as I am about the camembert? Seriously, there was a whole wheel of it at the beginning.

A visual metaphor the other day

All in all, though, a success. We survived, and the play feels like it has potential.

Now, the casting decisions are ruminated, and it nears time for me to walk away somewhat and leave the director and cast to it. At the very least, avoid the tedious horror of blocking night.

Next time: All locked in – the first rehearsal

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This entry was posted in Community Theatre, Independent Theatre, Perth Theatre, Play writing, Plays, playwright, Theatre, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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