Last night I had the
reading of my new play, working-titled
. Which is to say, for the first time, this work was heard aloud. It was only heard by me, and the actors involved, of course, but still and all . . . cool.
And it went well. Hell, first things first -- memorize these names, because they are amazing talents who ought to be heralded throughout the land: Friends
. They had, I assure you, the hardest job in the world making sense of my cobbled-together "play," and did it brilliantly. I laughed, I cried, it was better than . . . well,
were better than
; MUCH better. Can't say so much for the "play," as such, just yet. I only hope they understood that my moments of out-loud laughter and quiet sadness weren't a bit to do with my writing. I'm rather sick of my writing, just now. It was them, pulling out miracles of surprise from my strung-together words, and finding unique life all their own. Their performances, if nothing else, motivate me to continue working to give them a better playground to explore.
My plan: Based on all the information I have now (and
' advice, of course), I am 100% certain that I must put the play away for at least a month, which should be easy given my upcoming schedule. Before I do that, however, I'm compelled to tinker just a bit, then do a little more writing on themes and ideas -- not dialogue. I think I'll reorder the scenes according to some of my notes, save it as a new draft, but not read it in that new sequence until after the break. Then I need to flesh out my notes from the reading while they're still a bit fresh, write a little on the ideas both new and observed, and file all that away for review later on. So when I come back to it I'll have two versions to compare, then detailed notes to incorporate; plus hopefully I'll be detached enough by that point to be unsentimental about it all.
I rather improvised my method of taking notes last night, but found it to be very effective. I was concerned about being too involved in writing in my copy of the script to catch everything the actors were doing, but after the fact my only regret is that I didn't make an audio recording. My hand-written notes worked out well. I printed a page for each scene beforehand, with the scene number, title and characters involved at the top, so I could focus on each scene one-at-a-time. When it came to taking notes, I figured out a little code for myself: A "+" preceded any notes to the good, a "-" to the bad, a "?" for things to be pondered and examined later, and quotation marks themselves whenever citing actual dialogue. In this way I have a sort of instant cursory quantification for a given scene. I also circled the titles of scenes that might need to be cut, to differentiate between the experience of "wow I can't believe how well this is working was I supposed to be writing oops" and the experience of "aw crap."
Still a bit giddy with a sense of accomplishment (I must confess), my feeling is that roughly half the scenes work on a basic level, and half do not. Of the half that don't, two may be cut altogether, so it may become a one-act play after all is said and done. I am still considering the possibility that the best thing for this collection of scenes is to leave them just that, to not construct them into a unified play, but it's a slimmer possibility now that I've had a reading. That may be why, in spite of some really awful malfunctions that became agonizingly apparent in the reading, I feel so optimistic now. Hearing my work helped convince me that there is a strong basis on which to construct a whole play of some kind. That's exciting. That's gratifying, whatever work may lay ahead (hint: a lot). Ultimately, I'll have to wait until after my time away to know for certain, but still and all -- good feelings.
This may be the first time that I've really felt the
of writing working for me. In the past, as I've said, it's remained such a private, sacred experience for me (no matter how many people I showed it to) that it was easily dropped, or frustrated, or simply uninformed. It's taken me awhile to accept some of the things that allow for a good working balance in this, things like distance and objectivity, experimentation and failure. I'm much more comfortable (not that I'm actually
, but still) with process as it applies to rehearsal. Together in a room we all make asses of ourselves until, bit by bit, we accumulate enough good bits to make something cohesive. And the work is never
done. And I suppose that's exactly what we accomplished by reading through
last night. Or rather not accomplished, but kept going. It feels by turns gratifying and terrifying, and it feels right.