Thurs. Feb. 21, 2019: Developing the Monologues

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Waning Moon
Sleeting and cold

Hop over to Gratitude and Growth for the latest post.

Had a decent writing day yesterday, and a good session onsite with a client.

Got out the comic ghost story radio play (numbered draft), along with some other paperwork for them. Waiting to hear back from that company on a few different things, including my contract.

The weather was turning, so I came home after the client session, and worked on contest entries.

SCRATCH, the book about writers and money, is really wonderful. And the experiences can be applied across disciplines in the arts. Someone on social media couldn’t understand how a book about writing could apply to any other art. If everything has to be spelled out directly in your own reference, how can you possibly create art? Art is about going beyond the expected, and knowing how to make connections beyond the obvious.

Also reading A PARIS ALL YOUR OWN, edited by Eleanor Brown, which is a wonderful anthology of writers and their experiences in Paris. It also lists their books. Some of them I’ve read; many I haven’t.

I’m also determined to track down a book by Jeannie Moon. She was disparaged by a person calling herself an author who said that a romance novel where the woman is ten years older than the man is “gross.” How sexist and ageist is that? So now I’m determined to read the book.

Between the lists of Parisian books and Jeannie Moon’s book and recommendations from the post on A Biblio Paradise’s Reader Expansion Challenge, I have a wealth of choices for the next challenge!

Did some work on Gambit Colony.

Watched HIDDEN FIGURES. What a beautiful, beautiful movie! Made me both laugh and cry. I can’t believe it took me so long to sit down and watch it.

Worked on the monologues.

I planned to test one or two of them last night, but decided not to because of the weather. Of course, then the weather didn’t get bad until later, but it would have been a challenge to get home.

Public reading is not something I can do off the cuff. I write for performers; I am not one. But, of course, a professional writer has to give readings. It’s even more layered when it’s from a stage piece that I have no intention of professionally performing — the actors cast will perform it.

However, the monologues from WOMEN WITH AN EDGE have served me well over the years — both in the professional productions where actors have performed the monologues, and in readings all over the world, both live and on radio. Those monologues have been around and performed since the mid 1990’s. The evergreen ones can be called up and spoken/read at the drop of a hat.

I need to test the monologues I’m creating for WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST. At some point, when I have a batch of them, I might call upon some local actors to come over for a session and read. Or hire a rehearsal studio for a few hours, where we can read. Maybe hire a space over at Cape Space.

But right now, it’s too early in the process. I need to speak them myself and gauge a reaction. I need to feel the rhythm in my body in order to revise properly.

When there’s a script with multiple parts, it works better for me to bring in actors and listen to them read. That way, I can feel how individual rhythms develop and make adjustments. (And yes, I’ve often paid actors to come in, sit around a table, and read an early draft of a script).

But with monologues, unless I’m developing a piece with a specific group of actors (which needs time, access to the talent pool, and money), I need to read aloud the initial drafts myself. I need to feel the rhythms in my own body.

After a few drafts of the monologues, then I’ll bring in some actresses, and we’ll work in the room. But I need to test the initial drafts with an audience, once I’ve read them aloud myself a few times. Whenever possible, I also tape the reading, and listen to it for objectivity. I do this when I rehearse readings from my books as well.

By listening, I can figure out rhythm. Where do I need to take a breath? Where can I speed up? Where should I slow down? Is there anything that needs to be cut, because it doesn’t work in the piece?

Anything that is spoken needs to be heard. Simply looking at words on the page isn’t enough. Even when I have enough experience to feel the beats as I write them, I also need to hear them. That’s true of radio, stage, or screenplay. Having actual actors (not just random people) read the words out loud during the development/drafting process makes a huge difference.

Obviously, it was easier to do that in NY than it is here. First, the talent pool is smaller here. Second, even though there are some wildly talented people here, theatre is a “side” not a “priority” and getting people to commit and fulfill that commitment — even for a one-shot reading — is not easy. Anything shiny dangled in front of them will take priority.

It gets frustrating. But it is also vital to the process.

But I can’t just decide at the last minute whether or not I’ll read. I have to feel confident that the draft I have is ready for comment. In other words, it will have gone through several drafts, and I will feel it’s solid enough to have feedback.

Then, I have to rehearse it, so it feels natural when I speak it, and I’ve found its innate rhythm and show it off as best as I, a non-performer, can.

Had I gone last night, I would have read “Smile!” and possible “Emotional Lifting.”
“My Life in Quicksand” is still an unfinished first draft; while I’m having fun with it, it’s nowhere near ready to be read yet. Most likely, I would have just read “Smile!”

I’d rehearsed, to the point where I felt as comfortable as I can feel when reading. Which is “never very.”

But then, I have to gear up myself emotionally. I need the focus of my emotional energy to be set aside for that reading. For several days leading up to a reading date, I pace myself differently, and I store up the necessary energy, so I can tap into it during the reading. I do this when I teach in person, too, or attend a conference.

Even though I wrote during the day. Even though I did client work during the day. I had to pace myself and save myself.

So add in a storm to the mix, snow and sleet, and bad road conditions at night, in an area where people are lousy drivers on a good day — I made the decision the night before, based on the weather forecast that said it would start getting nasty in the late afternoon, not to go.

In other words, that saved emotional energy was then released and dissipated into other projects.

I kept waiting for the storm to start. It didn’t.

Part of me was tempted to just drive to the open mic and read.

Only I’d used up the emotional energy I needed in order to read well on other projects during the day, because I’d made the decision not to read that night. Could I have read?

It would have been flat. It wouldn’t have given the audience something worthy of response, which meant I wouldn’t have gotten what I needed for the next draft.

It was snowing a little after eight, so it was a moot point anyway. I wouldn’t have gotten home until nearly ten (I don’t read and run — I stay for everyone’s work, and then we usually chat).

Have I ever just stepped in and stepped up to an unexpected opportunity? Or a request to fill in for someone who backed out at the last minute?

Of course I have. I’ve done well. Because I dig deeper, making like a hockey player, and use the adrenaline rush. I’m wiped out after, but I can do it.

I can do it not with new material, but because, after all these years, I have a wealth of material and experiences I can use to draw from in a spontaneous talk. It’s been hard-won, but it’s there.

So that was my Wednesday night.

Today, I have lots of admin and LOIs to do, then yoga, then, hopefully, a good afternoon writing and working on contest entries and the book I’m reviewing. I also am prepping for my client meeting tomorrow.

Which means that tomorrow’s post will go up late, probably in the early afternoon.

We have more storms this weekend, so I’ll tuck in to read and write.

 

Published in: on February 21, 2019 at 10:20 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 21, 2019: Developing the Monologues  
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Fri. April 25, 2014: An Interesting Start to the Day . . .

SEAL TIDES flyer - 2nd version-1

Friday, April 25, 2014
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Well, THAT was an interesting way to start the day. The door in the bathroom jammed — doorknob wouldn’t turn. Tried to climb out the window, but couldn’t get it up high enough to slip through. Had to call the landlord just after 6 AM, so he could come over and hand me tools through the window so I could get out the hinges and take off the door. It was either that, or call the fire department!

We don’t call the landlord often, but, when we do, it’s something unique.

Yesterday was a good day at the library — put in my first video order; enormous sense of accomplishment. Worked on setting up some programs — getting excited about that aspect of the job.

Left at 2, headed over the bridge to the Marine Life Center. Again, the volunteers had turned around the room for me, which was a big help. The wonky light worked. We had a troop of girl scouts. The show itself was challenging — lines getting jumped, and then, instead of moving forward, actors trying to go back and getting even more tangled. The understudy was there trying to learn the show, and I had the actors run lines with her after the show, and after I gave notes. The audience still loved it, though, and I have to remind myself that they don’t know the show, and, as long as we got through it in a believable way, it works. It’s set up to be full of interruptions and tangents, that’s the structure, so there’s more room than if every line set up every other line and had to be letter-perfect.

Came home to work on client projects and some contract negotiations. I’m having a lot of trouble with tendons in my right arm and hand — will have to set up an appointment with the acupuncturist.

Late to bed, up early, wanting a productive morning on client projects, but then was stuck in the bathroom. It was pretty funny, but I lost time I desperately needed to work. Will have to make up for it tonight, in and around starting the food prep for Sunday. I’ll also be baking for the library’s big event next week — but I’ll probably do that Monday or Tuesday.

I’m at the library again, then head straight for the show, then home to get as much work done tonight as I can, before working at the library tomorrow and the heading to the show, finishing up the food, and two shows on Sunday.

That king-sized bed in the hotel room during the conference looks better to me every minute.

Oh, yeah, and “Lake Justice” is set to release on Sunday. I’ll let you know as soon as I have a buy link.

Have a great weekend!

Devon

tnLakeJustice

Published in: on April 25, 2014 at 6:20 am  Comments (2)  
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

I have some catching up to do with you, don’t I? The decorating is getting started, but there’s still more apartment sorting to be done before I can really commit to it. But at least the front door’s done. Ran around to places like Michael’s and the garden center on Saturday, and spent the rest of the day sorting out the apartment. I have a couple of carloads of stuff stacked in the hallway to go to storage — and then I’ll bring in the rest of the decorations.

Yesterday, I was too damn tired to do any work on the apartment. “St. Nicholas” made a delightful visit and filled the shoes with candy and cute things. So that was fun. I went out early to get the newspaper, but most of the day was spent resting up, working on Confidential Job #1 (which is due on Wednesday), and writing. I had some really good writing days Saturday, yesterday, and today.

In late afternoon, my friend picked me up and we drove to Long Island to see my play. It went pretty well. For the most part, I was pleased with it. No matter how far removed a story or characters is from my actual life and experience, I always feel slightly naked when I see my work performed, even when it’s done well. Par for the course. I’ve learned to deal and smile through it and be gracious. And, of course, I sit there mentally cutting material, because once you put in an actor, a three-dimensional human being, you can cut out unnecessary words. And, since I’m not a part of the rehearsal process with this company (their contract is very specific about that), I don’t get to cut in the rehearsal room. This cast hadn’t had the series of crises that befell the last production, so the energy was much more upbeat, and there was much less tension. It showed in the performance. You could tell that the cast really enjoyed working on the piece, which is always a relief to the playwright — because, after all, if you hate the piece, don’t do it. No performance job is worth that. There are some timing issues, especially with entrances and exits leaving holes big enough to drive through convoys of trucks, and one actor went up on his lines and had trouble digging himself out of it, but that happens. It wouldn’t even be worth mentioning, except that he tried to say later that it was “intentional” — which is, of course, a slap in the face to a playwright who didn’t write those lines. Plus, I’ve spent my entire life in the theatre, a lot of it on Broadway, with the best of the best — I know when an actor deliberately adds his own material, and I know when an actor goes up on his lines and is trying to find his way back. There was one script change they hadn’t cleared with me which I wouldn’t have agreed to, and I will discuss that with the producer. One actor was particularly weak, in my opinion. The role was written so the guy is gregarious, happy-go-lucky, charming and a little snarky, but then falls head over heels in love, and, while he doesn’t reform, he softens a bit. Unfortunately, he was played at a single, frantic, one- note screech with no shading. I have no way of knowing if that was the actor’s choice or the director’s, since I wasn’t in rehearsal. I’d like to give the actor the benefit of the doubt. However, the woman playing the villain was perfect. She got every nuance, every subtext, all of it. I was delighted with her work. She actually had to improv at one point to fix something that went wrong (the joy of live theatre) and her improv was fantastic, just spot on. She had the training and the in-depth knowledge of the character to pull it off. One of the actresses in my last play done by this company was in this show, too, and she was very good. In fact, she played SIX roles in my last play, so it must have been a relief to only have a single role here! We pretended not to recognize each other until the end (the cast isn’t told when I’m coming, but since they interact with the audience, she spotted me) — it was pretty funny. She gets a lot of the timing down well.

In both of my shows for this company, the strongest actors in each piece have told me that they find my dialogue easy to memorize because it flows so well and has such rhythm. That’s my goal — to have the words flow naturally from both character and story –which is why when the less experienced/ less trained actors think they can “improve” the piece with their ad libs, it falls flat, doesn’t get a laugh, and all the air goes out. The rhythm is disrupted, and the piece goes off the rails a bit. If I was an inexperienced playwright without a world-produced pedigree, I’d have no right to say any of this, but I have the credentials and the experience so to do.

It’s always interesting to see how someone else interprets one’s script, especially when one is not included in the rehearsal process, and I’ve learned to pick my battles. There’s plenty I’m willing to let go (more than many playwrights, actually); there are some things I am not.

The producer and I discussed the next three plays I’m writing for the company, and we discussed the play that’s going to open in April, so that’s all sorted.

When I got home, I saw the first part of the ALICE mini-series on Sci-Fi (I will NOT use their silly new logo). I thought the piece was quite clever, although it looks like they used some of the same locations they used in TIN MAN. And some of the other shows on the channel. However, I think both Caterina Scorsone and Andrew Lee Potts are excellent. I wonder if they cut some of the early Hatter scenes or just didn’t develop the tea shop much due to time constraints. Anyway, I enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing the conclusion tonight.

Good morning’s writing session. I have some paperwork to gather for a meeting tomorrow, and then it’s back to Confidential Job #1, and trying to get the apartment organized so I can put up the decorations.

Devon

Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 9:05 am  Comments (7)  
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

More post-mortem paperwork. I’m spending several hours per day filling out paperwork, which then leads to more paperwork, because the people demanding the paperwork are morons. There needs to be a lot of corporate restructuring, as much as “let’s get rid of the unnecessary b.s., obstructionism, and vamping.” It ate up most of the time I hoped to put aside for writing before I had to leave for Long Island.

Oh, well. I’m starting to think I should flip my schedule, going back to working all night, sleeping during the day, and never being available by telephone again.

Typical example of Suburban Bitchery: I stood in line in the Post Office yesterday afternoon. A woman several people ahead of me had her sleeping, well-behaved baby in a stroller – very cute, very sweet. The woman behind her “oohed” and “aahed” over the little one, sidling around to “get a better look” – and then cut in front of her when the postal worker called, “Next.” I mean, come on, lady, you are NOT that clever, nor are you that important! If she’d tried that on me, I would have kicked her ass right there at the window. But then, people don’t usually try to cut in front of me in line. I tend to stand in line with the mirrored sunglasses and I can still turn on the “I live on the Deuce in NYC, don’t mess with me” attitude, even though I haven’t lived on 42nd St. for years. However, knowing how to waft intimidation through one’s pores like perfume comes in handy.

I was completely stressed out about what to wear to the show. Silly, isn’t it? But hey, it goes with the territory. The only contact I had with the production was with the producer via email and telephone – I’ve never met any of them, and it was a very hands-off production experience (which is fine with me, that’s the way it goes sometimes). But first impressions and all that. Changed my shoes eight times, and wound up with what I first put on anyway – the chocolate colored patent leather pumps with three inch heels.

The drive to Long Island was difficult, which I expected, going during rush hour. The drive to the Whitestone Bridge was fine, but the Cross Island was backed up because the LIE was a parking lot. It took me a little over an hour – but I was still an hour early. Lara, you’ll love this – the only place I could find to hang out was Stop & Shop. I kid you not. I walked the aisles doing meal planning – I actually have to do my grocery shopping today, so I walked around and made my list. There was no way I was going to stash groceries in my car for four or five hours.

The restaurant had the reputation of being top notch Italian. The prices sure were. Yet their idea of a “house salad” was iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing and an olive on top. Um . . .? They either used vegetable oil instead of olive oil or such a low grade quality of olive oil that it tasted like vegetable oil, and so much of it, along with melted margarine (I can taste the difference between butter and margarine – I’m a cook), that it globbed into a ball of grease at the bottom of my stomach. The only choice for dessert was ice cream (really? In an Italian restaurant?) An Italian ice would have been lovely – but this was store-brand freezer type. On the plus side, there was enough garlic in the meal so that I did not have to fear vampires on the drive home. Even other cars kept their distance.

Perhaps I’ve become a food snob. Yet I eat at a wide variety of restaurants all over the world that aren’t written up and have great meals. This one, with its supposedly great reputation . . .

I also felt badly about disliking the food because the staff was so nice. Now there’s a paradox – usually when the food is under par, so is the service and the attitude. Here, they were lovely and they took very good care of me, which I appreciated, and I tipped well, in spite of the food, because the service was good.

I felt the venue was quite disorganized, but I was happy to see the play. They’d told the producer there weren’t many reservations; yet it turned out they were overbooked and had to add seating, cutting the playing area to almost nothing. It was a case where I had to bite my tongue and take a breath – I’m not on the production team on this one, I’m “just” the writer. I don’t have to take control in situations like this, the way I usually do – someone else does. Because, of course, my first instinct was to jump in and fix things. But the production has quite a wonderful, capable, CALM production manager. The actors didn’t know I was there – they’d been told I was coming to the final performance. This was the first performance for the two actors who stepped in after one actor was fired and one quit – so there are two actors on book for the last three performances this week. I’d written an alternate final scene because there were problems with the actor who was ultimately fired early on, which only changed one small thing but made sense of the fact that a woman had to step in to replace the most stable male character in the show. I was told that scene would be used; however, when I got there, I found they had created a new opening to “explain” the two actors on book (instead of just saying “we had cast changes, we’ve got two actors on book tonight”, which is perfectly legitimate and happens at all levels of the business) and that became the central focus of the show instead of the actual plot, due to piling on the ad-libbed material which took the air out of several of the scenes. Comedy is written and performed with specific pace and rhythm, and there were times when all of that went out the window. However, in the scenes that ran as written, where I could actually see the actors and the material, I thought they did a good job. The four core actors have a great rhythm together, and, in the scenes between the two female leads, there was great chemistry. The third actress was very good in her multiple roles, and the guy playing the detective was a lot of fun. When he first came in, I was worried about his choice, and then he turned on a dime in a wonderful way and made it work very well. The two actors who stepped in at the last minute had some funny moments and gave it a good shot – with a little work, they’ll own it and maybe even have some fun. I’m not going to stress about it for the last two performances – if there were two weeks, I’d insist on a rehearsal and work with them, tweaking the script. Because I’m that kind of bitch ;).

Hey, my plays are produced all over the world, and I’ve often stepped in to tweak my own shows. I don’t have directing aspirations, but I know how to talk to actors.

I even roughed out a new play during the intermissions (I always travel with paper and pen/ Besides, there are always napkins).

I was introduced at the end of the night. The delight on the actors’ faces made it all worth while. Especially the four core people said they felt I’d written them roles of a lifetime, and they wished the show would run for a year. Two of the actresses will be in THE MATILDA MURDERS in the fall (and one of the actors who stepped in to a role will direct it). I’m very pleased about that. The other actress will perform in my home town this summer, so I’ll get to see her. I already put a bug in the producer’s ear about a play I’d like to write for her. She connects to my material very instinctively, and, in our conversation later, we thought very much along the same lines. Some of the audience members even asked for my autograph – and yes, I learned from working with all those Broadway and television actors. The first thing you say is, “What’s your name?” and then you personalize it. Otherwise it ends up on eBay. (It shouldn’t for me, I’m not well-known, but you never know what people will try to hawk on eBay). I held firm to my “no-photographs” policy, which miffed the venue owner’s wife, who wanted pictures of me on the web site, but too bad.

It was great to meet everyone and talk to everyone. It’s truly a lovely group of people, and I am deeply appreciative of their commitment and work. I’m definitely happy to continue working with them. I had a few notes that I think will help the new-to-the-piece actors in the final two performances, and I followed protocol by giving them to the producer and production manager rather than directly to the actors.

The drive home was fine – hardly any traffic – hey, garlic works on more than vampires! Got home after midnight, but was too wound up to sleep, plus ate crackers to absorb the grease. I missed my workout last night and feel the difference. May have to add one today.

I need to get my stomach settled and my mind settled and get some good, solid writing done. After all, the producer wants to know when she gets to read FEMME FATALE!

Devon

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 7:08 am  Comments (11)  
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