Monday, February 28, 2011

World Premieres!

This weekend was The Weekend- the weekend that two of my short plays premiered in the QMUL Theatre Company's New Writers' Festival!

It was definitely an experience. I had hoped to attend a rehearsal or two of each to see how things were going, but I didn't end up doing so, for various reasons, which means that I was surprised on Friday night and tonight!

First up was Funeral Circus (I'm sorry that I'm making you follow a link to see the videos- Blogger won't let me display videos. I promise it's just YouTube.) This is a piece inspired by a dinner I went to with my friend Kara, her mother, and her grandmother. It was a lot of fun and when I went to a day-long playwrighting workshop and we were given forty-five minutes to write a scene, that dinner popped into my head and I wrote this scene. It's hardly been edited at all since its first draft, and I was really happy with how it was received and how it was presented. The director added a ton of stuff, all of which I loved. In the original script, the waiter is only in the scene for about three seconds to give the women their desserts, but I thought it was pretty cool to have three waiters onstage the entire time making comments on the action onstage.

Tonight's piece was Funeral Sketch. I promise, I don't only write about funerals. I almost didn't get to see this one- though I had e-mailed them days ago, they forgot to put my name on the reserve list and so told me I would only get a seat if people didn't show up. I looked around crowded lobby and knew I wasn't going to get in- I wasn't even the first on the reserve list! I tried to think of a backup plan and finally decided to ask a girl from my RT class to film for me- I HAD to film it so I could get the reactions of the audience and edit the piece accordingly. Thankfully, fourteen people (which is kind of a lot) didn't show up, so they were filled by people like me, desperately waiting for a ticket.
This piece, though also comedy, is very different- no family dynamics here. It also took me months to write, which is why the audience reaction was a little disappointing... or lack therefore. I'm not sure whether they didn't like the piece or if they were just a quieter audience, as it was a different crowd of people than Friday night. Either way, I saw a lot of places where I needed to do some tweaking. The actors' delivery of lines were sometimes much different than I expected, and there were a few lines that were changed. I loved the projected pictures on the back wall, and even though it took me a few minutes to get that, though the actors are seated far away from each other, they're actually sitting together, I really liked that in the end. And I thought the actors were especially great during the eulogy part of the scene- they made me laugh and I've been living with this script for about a year. I also loved how the director used the audience as the other people at the funeral- I'd never thought of that!

Overall, it was a good experience. It's pretty awesome to have people laugh during a scene and know that you wrote it. And I'm not going to lie- I was extremely nervous before each piece, the same kind of nerves I get when I'm about to open a show. I was shaking and I couldn't sit still, wondering how things were going to go. It was also a very different theatrical experience than I've ever had before. It's the first time I've done something in theatre where not a single person links me with the piece. I was completely anonymous- yes, my name was on the poster and in the program (which thrilled me to bits), but no one here really know who I am. This is something I've never experienced; acting is a pretty public thing, so for better or worse, people know it's you up there and you get feedback of all sorts, Also, while I sat there all nervous... I sat there alone instead of being surrounded by my fellow, just-as-nervous actors. This is is why it was a bit weird to walk out of the theatre... and just leave. And while I'm going to sound like a horrible person, I wasn't a huge fan of the anonymity. I like getting credit for my work. Maybe I'm just immature, and since I do want to be a playwright, I suppose I'll have to get used to this. But it is something very different.

Anyway, I feel extremely honored to have been included in this festival- most of the material in it was truly great. Both of the other pieces tonight really blew me away with both their writing and their presentation. I'm glad to have been a part of it and that my work was seen by real, responsive audiences. There is at least one great thing about the fact that people didn't know who I was- when I overheard that someone liked what they saw, I knew they meant it :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Failure? Maybe, Maybe Not

So I did something in December that, until right now, only six people knew about, including me. I've mentioned my PP play on this blog numerous times, obsessed over it, finished it, and handed it in. I was very proud of it. I am very proud of it. However, when my professor suggested that I submit it for my school's theatre season, I was a little hesitant. I don't show a lot of people my writing. Besides doing WIP Wednesdays on this blog, there are really only two people to whom I regularly show my writing, and I've talked about them in an old blog post about writing buddies. I find it hard to part with my babies, though I'm getting much better due to writing classes and workshops.
I also didn't know if I wanted to submit it because when I spoke about it with my advisor (who has a great hand in choosing the season, if not the whole hand), he told me that I needed to get it in very fast, as they usually announce the next season in the first week of January. The completed script was due for class on December seventeenth. I had a copy to my advisor by the fifteenth. And while I did hand him a completed script... it was a first draft. Not all of the scenes- some of them were nearly a year old. But others had been completed just hours before. I knew it wasn't ready, but because I had been encouraged to do so, I had enough nerve to turn it in.

I wasn't ashamed of my advisor reading it- I think it's an okay play. But it's not great, not yet. Besides the fact that some of the plot can be fleshed out much further, it would also be a challenge for my school's theatre space in regards to stage size, cast size (we hardly have any boys at my school, and my play would need all of them), and stunt ability (there's not a lot, but it is Peter Pan and since the Spiderman debacle, people are pretty leery about the whole flying thing, no matter how brief.) I didn't know what to expect in ways of reaction. They've set precedent in working with student playwrights after they choose the student's show, and I wasn't sure if that might happen to me. When I would have exchanges about the next season with my advisor, he would be cryptic. I got an e-mail response from him this week telling me that he thought I would be very happy with the next season.

It was announced last night. My play is not on it.

Am I sad? No. Not at all. The part of me that really wanted to have a play I love produced this soon is a little disappointed. But I don't feel cheated or gyped or disrespected or overlooked. I'm not relieved, but it does take a good deal of pressure off of the rewrites I'm doing now, which I would have embarked on either way. I do want to publish this play one day, but it needs a lot of work.

So I don't consider this a failure. I won't lie- there was a moment or two when I thought, "If he hates the play, does that make me an awful writer? What does this mean?" But the fact is, I don't know if he hated the play. He might- we have different tastes in plays and I wrote a play I would want to see. But he might not hate it. There is a myriad of reasons why my play wasn't chosen; dislike could be one reason, but even if it is, there's probably something else too (like the casting of non-existent boys.) Also... the season is freaking awesome. I felt nothing but excitement when I read it.

So no failure here. Not success either, really, but it doesn't lessen my passion for the play and it hasn't slowed my rewrites. I just sent a fresh draft, complete with two brand-new scenes, off to one of my trusty writing partners last night. Hopefully with his edits, I can make it even better and hope to one day see it mounted on a stage.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Even though I promised myself that I would wait until my readers' edits came back to look at The Other Side of Light again, I keep opening the document and looking it over. Partially it's because I'm still very invested in the story, which is good, but partially it's because I'm avoiding editing my play, which is bad.

In any case, as I edit, I am ashamed at the amount of formatting and tiny plot mistakes there are. I can't believe I sent it off like this! It's not completely my fault- I compiled all of the different sections in Scrivener and either it's a fault in the beta or a fault in my brain, but the formatting wasn't perfect. Some lines will be combined with others, a bigger-than-normal space the only indication that I might have meant something different than appears there.

But worse are the moments where I discover the tiny little pieces of an old plot point lurking in a new place in the novel. For example, Lyddie, the main character, goes to a dance at one point because I needed to get her out of the house for other reasons. Until mid-November, Lyddie and her sister had fought before Lyddie left. But once I realised that Lyddie needed another relationship to raise the stakes, the dance served the purpose of not getting her out of the house, but dangling her crush in front of her and yanking him away (she does get together with him later.) I moved the fight scene to much, much later (more than 31, 500 words later) and had her sister willingly offer to do Lyddie's job while Lyddie went to the dance.

It all worked out, plot-wise, but I've been discovering tiny little things that I overlooked. For example, even though Lyddie left the house in good terms with her sister, when her phone rings and it's her sister, Lyddie thinks of how annoyed she still is with her. Oops... And while it might not seem like a huge deal (perhaps it's not), the poor people who are reading this novel are going to be confused. I can just see the comments now: "Where did this plot point come from? Why would she be angry at her sister?" *sigh* It's not the end of the world, but it does disturb my perfectionist's mind. I get embarrassed when I make a mistake in a Facebook status. To make so many in a novel is, to me, tragic.

But then, I'm a bit of a drama queen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Auditions... For MY Writing!

Yesterday and today were the auditions for my English university's New Writer's Festival... which means that people- actual, willing participants who most likely can act- were auditioning for my pieces.

I was actually there as an actor, but as a writer, it was pretty exciting too. Since I'm new to the school, no one attached the writer name to me, and I got to hear people explain and discuss my pieces while remaining essentially invisible. And everyone who read them seemed to like them :) As I said before, they asked me a few times if I wanted to direct and I said no. Now I see why they asked me so many times- almost everyone else is directing their own pieces, so they must have thought I was really weird. But even in hindsight, I think I made the right choice.

I auditioned for my pieces as well as the six others that were chosen. The shorter one, the one based off the dinner I had with my friend, her mother, and her grandmother, is being directed by a guy who has some pretty cool ideas about it, which he explained to me when he found out that I was the playwright. I'm pretty excited to see it played out- it's going to be even funnier than I wrote it!
When you went into these auditions, you wrote your name down or, more likely, they asked you and wrote it down themselves, probably to put a name with a face. So when I went into my second one, they said, "Name?" I could see mine glaring out of the byline that the girl had right in front of her, so I said, "Rachel." "Rachel what?" I practically whispered my last name, and she went, "Oh... oh, you're the writer. Okay... well, now I'm nervous." I told her not to be, that the reason I had submitted them was so they could be played with and to help me improve them. She seems pretty excited about it, and she's pretty much just keeping it how I wrote it- no fancy sets or crowds of people. I think both of these directors are going to be great.

The most interesting thing about watching my pieces be auditioned for was seeing how the humor carried over into an English setting. I didn't realise how many little Americanisms there were in my pieces until they were being performed in English accents. Besides one character saying "Mom" a few times, I also make reference to Stephen Sondheim and Ginger Rogers in one of them. No one had any idea who either of those two were... which was a little surprising considering that Stephen Sondheim is pretty famous worldwide. In the other scene, I have one character call another a jerk, and I'm not sure if they use that word here, but hearing it with the accent was pretty funny. Thankfully, most of the humor seemed to carry over well.

I'm hoping to be cast in something, but even if I am, I'm not sure if I can accept it (they announced last night that there will only be marathon rehearsals for the week before the show... and I already have a friend from France coming to stay with me for the majority of that week), but either way, I've got my pieces in the festival!

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Which I Recognize That I Am a Baby

I mentioned a few blog posts back that I got some great, helpful feedback from my playwrighting professor on my adaptation. I am excited to apply them... but I am also being a complete baby about it. I enjoy editing, and I feel very accomplished when I've completed a lot of little changes. For example, in my fiction, I have the tendency to just use "says" and "asks" rather than more vivid verbs. This was one of my frend's biggest comments on Remembrance. So I went through The Other Side of Light and highlighted every single one, then took a few days to go back and "vivify" them. It took a long time, but I know my novel's better for it.

But the changes that need to be made on Straight on 'Til Morning are not small. It's almost like an overall rewrite is due- my scenes and dialogue are fine, but it's so all-talk, no-action that I pretty much need to rework every scene in some little way, as well as add one or two more that are more swashbuckling.

When I bring up my document and face the title page, however, my brain just throws a tantrum. I'm not quite sure how to make a lot of these changes, as all-talk, no-action is my weakness in all writing... and possibly my life :p I want to make them because this play will not sit in my desk drawer for the rest of my life... but it's definitely going to be hard.

This weekend's a writing weekend, though- I have to finish up three shorter papers and then I'll turn my attention to the scritpt. We'll see how this goes.

In non-whiny, cool news, the First Novels Club is holding an awesome contest! Check it out!