I had an influx of time to work on my play, Leak, last week in which I was able to realize two things:
1. The play’s title doesn’t fit anymore
2. I may have to rewrite 80-90% of what I’ve written so far
Here’s what happened...
Every December 15th and may 15th for the past 15 years, I’ve been trading works in progress with my friend, Laura. It keeps us working on something new. On December 15th, I sent her the 30-ish pages I’d written for Leak at the time. Early in January, I sent her the now 50-some pages I’d written for Leak. I received Laura’s thoughts about the play just in time for my extended time away from the day job (5 days in a row!), so I could get to work.
Sending a play to Laura is necessary for me because she’s great at seeing themes that are running through the play, especially themes that I didn’t realize that I’d been working with. When I write a play, I have an idea about the characters and the plot, so I go into writing a scene for the play knowing where in the plot that scene takes place, but still have quite a few unknowns. While I write, things that have been on my mind and muddying up my subconscious interact with my characters and make their ways onto the page. I may not know exactly what’s in my mind about the play until someone else reads the play and tells me, “I see you’re really writing about [blank].”
So, what is Leak about? Or, rather, what is “the play formerly known as Leak” about? According to Laura: technology, art, and family. I had no idea technology was such a large theme in the play, nor did I notice too much about family. Laura said she was interested in how these themes would come together, so now that I know what themes are are in the play, I can figure that out!
What happened this past week? I spent my time cleaning up the play and creating all the connective tissue between the scenes. I completely restructured the play from the way that it had been structured when sent to Laura. I had about 60-ish pages now and felt that I had only hit the mid-point of the play. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went to my Writer Emergency Pack and drew some cards. If you haven’t checked out these cards (developed by screenwriter, John August), you must. They are a great way to look at what you’re working on from a different angle. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, it can be helpful. One of the cards chosen was the “Morgan Freeman” card that essentially asks, “what would your story be like with an omniscient narrator?” Who would the narrator be? Would the narrator be someone from the story? In my mind, it suddenly rose to the surface that the narrator would be Monica. One problem: Monica is a fetus at this point in the play. If she’s the narrator, that means she’s speaking from the future...
My brain started stretching and bending, trying to unravel this new wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey dramaturgical idea I’d just started to consider, and I asked myself, “Can there be a time jump?” How much of a time jump? “Long enough to make Monica older.” How old? “Fifteen?”
I’m not sure why I came up with 15 and not 30 or 40 or 10, but it was semi-decided. I texted Laura about doing a 15-year time jump. “Back and forth or straight jump? Either could be cool.” Straight jump. “Jump in!” I texted my friend and co-host of Writers Get Animated, Mackenzie Worrall about it and his response was: “TRY IT.”
I’ve spent the last three days thinking about this time jump and worrying about what the world would look like in 15 years. Would the play go into science fiction territory? The world of the play doesn’t quite lend itself to that, but what technology would exist in the future? Mackenzie listened to my worrying and today said, “What if the play starts in 2006 or 2007? Then, the jump won’t be so far ahead of us now.” But I make references to technology now that are crucial to character development! If I change that, I’d have to completely rewrite 80-90% of the play! Oh well...
I’m in the midst of figuring out what this time jump might mean for what I had planned for the characters and exactly what impact it will have on what I’ve already written. I’ve never done something like this in one of my plays, so it’s frightening, but I’m excited about it.
What crazy ideas have you had about your plays lately, my fellow theatre-makers? Did you go for it?
Have fun with your work and, as always, be excellent to each other.
P.S. - Have you caught an episode of Writers Get Animated yet?