Write more / write less

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, I’ve now had two staged readings (of different plays) in under a week’s time.  It’s interesting to compare the two experiences.  I wrote about the earlier performance last week, so now I feel obligated to comment on this one.

The most recent reading was two days ago, at City Lights Theatre in San Jose. As a grad student, I couldn’t simply fly to California for the evening, so my director was kind enough to set up a laptop and Skype me into the performance.  Though the sound quality left a bit to be desired, it was perfectly acceptable, and not only did I get to hear the play in performance, I got to participate in the audience talkback.

Tycho's Fool

This play, which is called Tycho’s Fool, is about the 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe, and as I listened, I realized I suffered somewhat from the “I must cram every possible thing I learned during my research into the play.” Well, not quite, but it was clear that I was giving the audience more than they needed, and the pacing suffered at times because of that. But when I asked the audience what they thought the theme of the play was, I got answers that fit what I’d been trying to accomplish, and I feel like the emotional connection was successful.

For one play, I learned I need to write more to ensure that the audience got the resolution they wanted. For the this play, it’s a matter of writing less, or rather removing the material that isn’t necessary. It’s so much harder to come to those conclusions when you’re sitting alone with your script. For me, having the audience helps remove the blinders that keep me inside my own frame of reference. There’s something about an audience that opens up the experience.

Both those pieces had been read in workshop, and had gotten criticism from other writers. But I experience that in a very different way. My fellow playwrights are there to analyze and critique (as they should), but that process feels something like a debate, opinions are expressed, and points are made. An audience is a much more organic creature. While it’s made up of individuals, it has a gestalt all its own, and I’m able to enter into that as well. It’s a great experience and I’m very lucky to have had the support of both UNO and City Lights in these past few days.

 

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