Tag Archives: playwriting

Dramatic Escape

Thanks to the last of the air-miles earned during my previous life as a jet-setting astronomer I was recently able to take a wee hiatus from mummy-duty and head solo to NYC for two days. The main DSC_0420motivator for the trip was to see the off-off-Broadway premier of Ed Falco’s play Possum Dreams (which I wrote about here) but I also got to hang with friends that I get to see way too infrequently these days. After a few travel hijinks I arrived in the city mid-morning on the Saturday and headed straight for the main library. Although I am super lucky in how frequently I get to visit NYC I’m not often in mid-town so I wanted to take the opportunity, while untethered by a two-year-old, to play tourist. It is such a beautiful building but it was slightly disappointing that the Rose Reading Room was shut to visitors that morning otherwise I would have loitered quite a bit longer. DSC_0418

My friend’s apartment, and my home for the night, is in the Upper West Side so I strolled from the library through the mayhem of Times Square. It has been years since I set foot in Times Square and I swear there were far more life sized (and frankly disturbing) cartoon characters this time around! But it was nice to get into the theatre-mood for the upcoming evening’s entertainment. The rest of the day was filled with a trip to the MET and great food before we found our way to the twelfth floor of a building on West 54th and a teeny-tiny blackbox theatre for Possum Dreams. The three friends who came with me had no exposure to the play prior to the show so I was really interested to see how their experience would differ to mine.

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Leighann Niles DeLorenzo and Andrew Narten star in Ed Falco’s ‘Possum Dreams.’ Photo credit: None Too Fragile Theater

If you are interested in a professional’s review of the play you can read a, deservedly, glowing one here but let me start with – I enjoyed it immensely. The actors, to my mind, did the text proud and indeed Leighann Niles DeLorenzo brought a version of ‘Jan’ to life that was completely different (and far superior) to the one I saw in my head when I studied the play. The stage area was compact to say the least but they made effective use of the space and the actors navigated it well. They only aspected of the play that felt constricted by the stage area was the physicality and the destruction of the living-room set that the play calls for – I would love to see what these actors could do if they had the space to really throw the dinning chairs around! The ninety minutes of the play flew by and the actors held my attention throughout –  even though I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the possum (you’ll have to go see the play to find out what I mean)! As a newbie playwright what mostly stuck with me was the success of the ‘reactions’ that the actors brought to the play – by that I mean the reaction of the person who wasn’t speaking to what is being said. When you are studying, or indeed writing, a play you are intently focusing on the dialogue but when the play is translated into the visual medium up on a stage there is so much subtext and ‘story’ being told by the actor who isn’t speaking. I assume as a playwright you just have to cross your fingers and toes and hope that if you are lucky enough for a play to make it to production the actors are good enough to bring that level of performance to the piece.

I’m now gladly back to mummy-duty, spring weather, the last few weeks of semester and my playwriting class. For the end-of-class portfolio I have a one-act play (around 30 mins in length) to complete and I’m slowly, though frustratingly, forcing my concepts and ideas into something resembling a play – with the help and patience of the hubby, my professor and kick-ass classmates! I did have some very pleasing news this week though. A 10-minute play I wrote at the beginning of the semester has just won top prize in the prose category in the Shapiro Writing Contest – an annual competition run by the University of Toledo. Does this mean I can now claim to be an award winning playwright?! Nah – but it is very nice to know that I don’t completely stink at this writing malarky! If you want to take a gander at the play you can read it here: Thwarted.

The drama of it all.

Two weeks ago I started a new semester in which I’m concentrating on all things dramatic. By that I mean I’m taking two classes – ‘Introduction to Theatre’ and ‘Playwriting’. I love the theatre. I love the ‘play’ and I’ve been involved in amateur productions in many capacities for most of my life but actually writing a play is kicking my ass! Not because I can’t envisage the actors on the stage – in fact I can see them clear as day in a set concocted in my mind following stage directions to a T. What is tripping me up is the drama.

I just got a rough draft of a short play that I wrote back from my professor – in it, a married couple have a conversation. Sounds dull? Yip, it pretty much was and my professor, rightly so, told me exactly that. “Flat” and “uninteresting”. That isn’t to say that there may be a play hiding somewhere in the draft but it is utterly missing the critical ingredient, the aforementioned drama. And so my new quest is to learn how to write dramatic characters that are not clichéd stereotypes but are complex, and real but happen to talk and act in a heightened way. Of course, these characters have to engage and entertain a paying crowd as well! We just finished reading and studying a wildly funny (and hugely dark) play by Ed Falco called Possum Dreams. The play pits a married coPossum Dreamsuple against each other over the course of an evening when secrets are revealed and confessions are made. The two characters are intricate and genuine but do, at times, fall into the ‘clichéd’.  After all, the catalyst for the action is a 40-year-old man that hits a midlife crisis and has extra-martial “sexual encounters”. But, the beauty of the clichés and the way that they play out is that they are both spookily real (I literary could hear real people from my actual life saying some of the lines from the play) and fantastically, dramatically, entertaining all at the same time.

I’m not going to give away spoilers as the play is soon going to be staged off-Broadway (see the flyer) but what transpires in the play is nuts, like, seriously nuts. So much so that if your best friend met you in the pub the day after and told you about his night you would be insisting that he was a bare faced liar. But amongst the shenanigans Falco dismantles so many deep rooted notions about the institute of marriage in such a beautifully skilled way that it makes me want to be him when I grow up!

And so it is back to my dysfunctional couple and how to give them depth & growth & drama and a story that unfolds in a engaging way that makes also a statement – oh, and did I mention the play only lasts ten minutes! Thankfully, I love a challenge.

p.s. Off to book my flights for NYC for Possum Dreams … see you there?