Learning a bit of art from one of my favorite artists…Robyn O’Neil.
I came across her through a publication that featured her from the magazine The Believer and was blow away by the magnitude of her work and her crazy work ethic.
In some ways, performance (or drama) has great overlap with other kinds of visual art.
Using this video, try the following exercise:
Visualize your play through Robyn O’Neil’s lesson. Visualize. Visualize! Visualize!!!
What is your play going to look like on stage?
By Edward Albee
“One of the downsides of our ascendant era of writerly TV drama — wherein networks are constantly luring away playwrights with big checks — is that new plays by young authors now often feel more like spec treatments or screenplays than juicy dramas for the stage. It feels like a new style is emerging from our leading MFA playwriting programs: intense personal traumas play out, in multiple locales, against the simmering and intellectually high-end backdrop of some broader societal malaise. It’s all feeling a lot like a “Mad Men” episode, and it’s in danger of becoming a formula.”
For more, click here.
And, honestly, one of the very first things my thesis director told me when I presented myself and told him I wanted to do a theatre emphasis for my M.A. was: “Ok, but work on making your dialogue seem less like it’s from TV.”
I had to stop watching TV for a while and, most definitely, stay away from sitcoms, etc. I don’t know if that, in and of itself, improved my writing or if it made a difference, but I did it. I read a lot of plays during my M.A. program to improve my technique and sharpen my sensibility. I think that’s really what created a more drama-oriented mindset out of me. We can’t deny that there’s some really great TV shows out there, some awesome scripts that come to life on screen and that there is powerful dynamic to look up to and strong storytelling to be inspired by. But TV is not theatre and the things that you can do in one are often impossible in the other, and viceversa.
The magic of theater is its life, its incomparable presence and passion. You can feel like you’re traveling the world if you watch TV but you feel like you’ve connected with another human being when you’re watching theatre. If we write for TV and stage it on theater, our focus is in the wrong place: be it lots of set movement, hyperdrama, relatable but nearly perfect characters, etc. Though there are many purposes to theater, we should not neglect to focus on its magic. By writing for a flat medium (even with the advent of 3D TV), we are selling ourselves short and selling our actors, our directors and our audiences short with us.
DAVID MAMET would write all of the plays. Ugh.
What’s particularly interesting about this Smithsonian article is the section beginning with Grimaldi, the father of modern clowns, and the deevolution of clowning from a comedic performance to the opposite, the projection of our deepest and darkest fears (the fear of the other) onto a person with makeup that is supposed to make us laugh.
Some parts of the article seem a little…dramatic, but if we’re talking about clowns, I’m not sure it’s inappropriate to have that tone.
Nonetheless, it’s a very interesting concept to think about: the modern clown and their place on stage today. Do they even have a place? Or, like the article suggests, they’re better off now just hanging out in hospitals, providing company to the sick akin to service dogs. Is that a performance in and of itself?
This just feels like the perfect setting for a play. For the backburner, this one. Primarily because I should be working on other things. However, if you like it and feel just as inspired as me, write something and share!
If a writer doesn’t want their writing touched, it should publish it. If it wants it to proactively engage with the world, then s/he should put it up onstage. The playwright should not pretend that it will always know better than other people, even if its in regards to their own work.
I’m pretty excited about this new project. I will be helping to adapt a children’s book into a play! I’m very excited because it’s a fun read and children plays are a very interesting endeavor with their own peculiarities and rules of the craft. I think it will be a worthwhile challenge to tackle. With any luck, I’ll even get to see it performed near my own whereabouts.
The play, having finally been completed in its first draft status has been officially submitted to:
eSe Teatro’s Multicultural Playwright’s Festival!
This is very exciting! What’s most encouraging is that the festival accepts plays in any stage of development so I don’t get to miss out on this opportunity despite not having finalized my draft. For that, I’m hoping for another month’s worth of work. It should go by faster, though, since the hardest part for me is always to sit down and create. Whereas to sit down to edit and criticize is essentially second-nature. OH! I speak valiantly. I’ve never actually 1. written a full length and, consequently, 2. revised a full length play so we shall see if I eat my words later!
Bottom line, though:
This is good :)