Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some more thoughts on rehearsals

I've been luckier than most new writers, I think, in that so far I've had the opportunity to watch three experienced directors at work, two of them with something I've written. It's a great lesson to me on how people interpret the written word. I write (ideally) in a sort of creative cloud, immersed for the moment in an imagined world or a character's mind. At other times I feel like an omniscient god, observing my characters and simply writing down their actions and thoughts. Whatever the process, it's hard to reenter exactly the same space I was in when I wrote it, so when I'm asked "why is your character doing this?" I sometimes have no idea.

Yet my main task as writer is to communicate those scenes in my head to the page so that someone reading it will be able to see what I see. And yet I can't just describe it exactly as I see it. Having dialogue that is too "on the nose" is one of the greatest sins of dramatic writing, and one which I (as a novice) am frequently guilty of.

Watching Tony, Andy and Li-Ming work on my play has been a largely humbling experience. One because they take such care with my ideas and words. And two because they often find meaning in my writing that I wasn't aware was there, but with their interpretation, I see was there all along. Did I put it in there because I intuitively knew how to, as a writer? Or was it just a fluke? I'm hardly ever sure.

Tony has been explaining some things that are probably just as good for a writer to know as an actor: when an actor speaks a line, they have to think about three things:

1. what the surface meaning of the words are. eg. "I need to go to bed" means the character is tired and needs to sleep.

2. the underlying meaning that the character is conscious of, eg "I need to go to bed" means they want to get out of a boring dinner party.

3. the underlying meaning that the character is unconscious of, eg "I need to go to bed" means they want to leave the dinner party because they are attracted to the host but don't want to acknowledge this to themselves yet.

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