"If you want truly to understand something, try to change it."

--Kurt Lewin

Apr 27 2012 I like writing these little blog posts. They more reminders to myself about how and why to write plays than prescriptions for a playwriting populace. When I find myself doing it wrong or for the wrong reasons, I straighten out by writing to myself as a student. Thus, Bad Shaw Syndrome.

The playwright's job is to ask certain, complex questions of himself, others, the world. These are suppositional questions, often taking the phrases of "What if?", "What could happen?", "What could be?", "What could have happened here?", or often, "What's the worst that could happen?". The playwright tests the world, and more directly, the people in the world. And because we're playwrights and of the theatre, we turn these tests into public trials, not too unlike a witch hunt, public hanging, or televised celebrity trial (Hi2U O.J. Simpson).

Read more: Bad Shaw Syndrome
Feb 04 2012

I just had a great idea. I should think about it for a while and construct a list of the 100 greatest people I can think of. Then I should write each of them a person-to-person letter, not an email, but snail mail, telling that person why I esteem them so highly, how they have impacted the way I live my life or do my work, what I think they are to the world, etc.. Hey, I write a pretty good letter. Then I'll either scan or type them up and post them on this here website o' mine, maybe I'll tweet about it. Maybe I can then turn all these letters I've written into some kind of live theater piece of some kind and it'll be something to talk about amongst other playwrights as a, 'Hey, here's this other thing I'm doing." And it'll mean something to a few of the recipients, perhaps some will write me back, and perhaps they'll let me post excerpts to my website.

The one thing I didn't rush to start doing with this actually quite pedestrian idea is sit down and start writing letters to people. Farthest thing from my mind.

Read more: Managing Artistic Debt
Jan 24 2012

There is this one particular scene that's been giving me fits. In this rewrite, I'm trying to adhere all the branches to the trunk, so to speak, and this one scene simply won't bend. As with a living tree, forcing it to bend to my will is working out absolutely fantastically and we can all go home now. It either splinters, bends awkwardly and unsustainably, or simply resists and patiently waits for me to tire, on tree time.

The difference between now and right now. I started asking myself this about this scene. Is now right now? Turns out, this scene was so gosh darn close to now, it wasn't right fucking now. Without realizing it, anything that would and could happen in this scene was actually what would happen in a couple of days. Close enough, right? Not really. Right now is right fucking now, and it just so turns out that a very short amount of time before right now is merely now and that won't do at all. I tossed the whole scene out and starting writing it in the right now-version of now and the right nowness of it is far more now than just before now. Now is dead, long live Right Now.

There is another scene, a new scene, that needed to be written, but I couldn't figure out how to cut in. I know who is in the room, I know what has just happened, I know what one character is about to do that is going to set it off and running. But how to begin? It was very stagnant in my head, two characters more or less sitting there, lying there, having one of many smeared-up moments that are anything but anything. Sometimes, you peer into your characters' little world, waiting to take down what they say or do, and they blankly look back at you, waiting for you to do pretty much the same thing. Very High Noon. So I turned one of them upside-down. Physically. Perhaps all the blood went to his little head, but it worked--I mean, how long can you hang upside-down before you get a headache?

Jan 10 2012

I invariably think I'm writing deep, meaningful dramas that will move the audience to copious tears and a realization of life in all its complexity and glory. Thus, I inevitably write comedy. In order to avoid writing comedy, I make sure to end every play in the death or destruction of something or someone, thus ensuring the play fits the description of a tragedy, not a comedy. And when I do so, I often construct the destruction of the thing that clears the way for a marriage or union of something else, ensuring the play is, indeed, a comedy.

You see, I'm truly a deep, morbid, brooding soul and I'm going to write characters full of emptiness, pain, suffering, and desperation. When the writing is going particularly well, I find the center bits of a character and am moved myself by something they say, do, or a horrible thing that happens to them that makes me really care, really get them. I'll run into a windowless room or hide under my desk for a while. This is how I expect the audience to respond as well.

Read more: On Being Laughed At
Jan 07 2012

It occurs to me if many companies underweight the value of backups, playwrights probably do as well. This is a non-good thing. There are few more horrible, sinking feelings than irreparably losing your own hard work. Multiply losing the second half of that college term paper times three hundred--that's you trying to piece together years of playwriting labor from printed copies of version X from that reading and some files from a ZIP disk circa 1997. Oh, the horror.

Here's a little guidance from one playwright who has, at a couple times in his day job career, been responsible for developing disaster recovery plans for banks and technology companies.

The most common mistakes you are likely making are:

  1. Putting backup off in lieu of more important things
  2. Not backing up off-site
  3. Avoiding backup because you think it'll be expensive
  4. Assuming it's a bit too technical for you
  5. Never actually testing a restore of your existing backup
Read more: Backup for Playwrights

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  1. The Retroactive Narrator Exercise

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