This post will let you in on a terrifying secret:
Playwrights may be in charge of their original text, but, whether they like it or not, they’re NOT in charge of their punctuation.
What, you say? How can a playwright write sentences declarative and interrogative and NOT be in charge of their punctuation?
Because stage directions are punctuation, telling, in effect, whether text will produce declarative action or questioning action.
And you know what? Playwrights have to trust their directors.
I trust my director. I don’t have one yet for this (at least that I know of, though my amazing partner Lydia may know something I don’t), but whoever it will be, I trust him or her NOW, before I even know who he or she will be.
My director is going to punctuate my text with stage direction. I write very little stage direction in, and, as a result, the play is a collaboration between the director and me when it comes to the non-musical stuff on the stage.
Sure, I may provide some direction here or there, but no more than the minimal. And even that may be cast aside. Quite right, too.
The stage is this multi-dimensional universe, and the text is only one piece of that creative architecture. Nobody better mess with my text, but I can’t mess with the physical space. That belongs to the director.
Why would I tell a homeowner what furniture to bring into their space?
Same with playwrights, letting directors fill up that physical space.
Last time, I challenged you to accept “silence” in order to be fully present with the challenging but ultimately rewarding reality of One Way In.
Well, I’m challenging myself once again to trust the director and accept his or her punctuation.
NEXT TIME: REALITY
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
April 1, 2013
Playwrights do seemingly counter intuitive things; sometimes we build in a moment of silence.
In the stage directions, we call it “a beat”.
That’s a musical term if I ever heard one, the sense that an actor, like a musician, is counting, holding himself or herself from rushing into some new action or spoken word, like a rest in music.
If you’re in the audience, and you see and hear nothing, what are you thinking?
“Oh, my God, he or she can’t remember their lines,” OR, “Oh my God, someone missed an entrance.”
Something must be wrong.
What have I just demonstrated?
Silence on stage is no longer silence when it makes audience members restless.
We desperately try to fill up silences. Yet, those “beats” are the black key’s on the stage’s piano, the white space around the black text on the page, accentuating horror, emphasizing humor, and most of all, helping us identify with a character, like us, trying to figure something out and waiting as a result.
Why am I telling you this?
Because One Way In has and will continue to have “beats”, or in musical terms, “rests”, and when that happens, be an audience member and remember it’s part of the show, and your restlessness suddenly makes it YOUR show as much as that of the actors, musicians, or authors.
One Way In is a challenging show for an audience. If you accept the silence, it will help you be present to the entirety of the show.
I promise you that if you are present in the show, it will not disappoint you.
NEXT TIME: PUNCTUATION
DRAFTEE OR VOLUNTEER, Part 2, CONSCIENTIOUSLY OBJECTING
So, last time, I talked about my own “investment” in war and peace in a family that disputed the ethics around these issues constantly and noisily.
The characters in One Way In are a blend of service-minded and relatively well-behaved citizens who become soldiers out of a particular sense of idealism, and opposing them? A rather militant pacifist.
It took months filed with serious emotional research to come up with a character who could take the stage with the same compelling stature as these admirable, personable female citizen-soldiers and conscientiously object to their choice.
This person had to be and remain their friend.
This person had to have a compelling backstory that could create a persuasive point of view.
MOST OF ALL, THIS PERSON HAD TO BE A MALE.
As a said in my last post, while the war that defined a particular sensibility and easily held point of view was opposition to the Vietnam War. Yet, as I also said, by the time I was ready to embrace a particular cause, the war was winding down, it was no threat to me in terms of a draft, and I found my own cause to be feminism.
As a result, finding strong heroines was instinctive and relatively easy.
Making them soldiers out of conviction was also easy.
Creating strong, collaborative, equally endearing, yet oppositional male figures was really difficult.
My first males were straw men, weak, dubious, basically doormats on the stage I’d made.
The stories that have always appealed the most to me, whether movies, tv shows, or yes, War and Peace, are narratives that have idealists of differing temperaments.
When I found and drafted suitably strong and idealistic males, and, as a result, had the coed cast the production required, the show could go on.
NEXT TIME: THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE.
February 1, 2013
DRAFTEE OR VOLUNTEER, Part I
Those of you who know me are aware that I’m a pretty relaxed guy, diplomatic to my detriment, and consistently gentle (I hope).
So, you might ask, why would I write a musical story about soldiers and warfare, in lieu of my temperamental track record my lack of military service?
Or, to state it another way, why did I feel emotionally drafted to volunteer a story about military protagonists when I could have taken some of the thematic material Lydia had given me and gone a different way?
Well, for one thing, I grew up in a family in which the morality of warfare was debated constantly. My uncle and my brother were conscientious objectors (meaning opposition to all wars). I can remember noisy conversations between my father and my brother on while I contemplated the floor or the ceiling and wondered how I could tear myself away to read some historical novel about a war.
For another, for over five years straight, I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace every year. For me, it’s still the most compelling historical novel ever written. (Some might quibble with my labeling it that way, but it is an accurate, if admittedly questionable use of the term.)
Another factor is my employment for the last eight years at Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the country. I’ve enjoyed my time there, and I’ve been immersed in supporting military undergraduates and graduate students. I’ve met a lot of military folks that I would not have met otherwise, a surprising amount of them female. (If someone had told me years ago I’d been in such a situation, I’ve have thought them mad.) I’ve found these soldiers, some already combat veterans and others officers in the making, varied and intriguing.
Finally, in my copious free time, as an independent historian as well as the holder of a master’s degree in international relations, I’ve had the opportunity to learn, write, teach, and think about the issues of war and peace. I’ve stated that I think that warfare is the most militantly coercive political activity, but that phrase, while well-turned, doesn’t help me resolve my conflicted feelings about war.
I am dubious about war, but I am equally dubious about wars in a penultimate context, ie, the “last war”, wars to “avoid” more wars, or wars of “ideology”, because they’re the deadliest, most total wars of all. I’ve told my students to be skeptical of the motives of those, from Kant to the present, who are proponents of this sort of perfective enterprise.
As David Bell, for one, has written, the almost endemic, “cabinet wars” of the 18th century, were relatively small scale affairs, amoral, with a relatively few casualties, and those limited, by and large, to professional soldiers.
By contrast, the wars of the Napoleonic era, by contrast, as well as those from 1914 on, were wars with an ideological bent, to export an ideology, to be the last war, to protect peoples from “terror”, to ethnically cleanse, or to perform some other endeavor that demonize enemies and produce enormous destruction and casualties among soldiers and non-combatants alike.
Another piece of disclosure: Vietnam was an issue for me, but not the big one that it was for those my brother’s age. For me, it was feminism. The draft was gone by the time I was of age, but I was awash in all sorts of discussions at college, and my best friends were almost all women.
This ambivalence toward warfare, my wish to always prize women’s experiences, and my unexpected exposure to military students all combined to inform my voluntary acceptance of being drafted to write about the military experience in this particular opportunity.
Next Time: DRAFTEE OR VOLUNTEER, Part 2, CONSCIENTIOUSLY OBJECTING
Lars lost his battle with