The Fairy Tale Project at BMCC, NYC. April 2015.
This past week I had the privilege of seeing my play THE FAIRY TALE PROJECT remounted at BMCC and I was reminded of this:
Nothing is as informative as seeing your play on its feet, in front of an audience.
The first phase of writing is getting words on the paper.
Once you finish a first draft, you might bring some actors together to do a private table reading of your play. That's helpful.
You might also send it to friends to get feedback.
Then you do rewrites. And more revising.
But you can only learn so much about your play from sitting at home by yourself and reading and re-reading and revising your play.
You need to see it in front of an audience. You need to present it.
But productions (and even staged readings) can be difficult to land. If no one says, "yes, let's do your play" then your play will just sit in your computer.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
The wonderful thing about plays (unlike screenplays) is that all you really need are actors and a director and a space to present it in order to see what's working and what's not.
I encourage all writers who are sitting with a first or second draft of their script (short or full-length) to find a director and actors and start doing some table work.
Work through the script, dig into the characters with the actors, let the director do their job in shaping the scenes.
And then present it. Off-book or on-book, doesn't matter.
It could be in a rented studio. It could be in a corner in your living room.
Wherever it is, find a place and then invite some people to come watch it.
If it's a short piece, maybe band together with some other writers who'd like to do the same thing and present a small selection of plays.
Go to your reading with an open mind. Try not to worry about "do people like it?" Instead, try to focus on "what's working?" "what's landing?" "What could be stronger?"
I know it's hard to do, but try to get yourself in the mindset that you're watching someone else's play, not your own. Be curious about your own creation: "What IS this thing that I've created?" Take notes of what might need to be changed.
Afterwards, ask the audience questions like, "what parts were you really engaged with?" " Were there any parts where you lost interest?" "Was there anything that wasn't clear?" Etc.
Try to listen more than talk. Don't feel the need to explain your piece or defend it. You're there to gather information about what's working and what needs to be improved. It's hard to listen when you're talking. Just listen.
Ignore any comments that don't help you see your piece better. Try to only listen for what people are responding to. What do they want to see more of.
Collect your notes. Put the script away for a couple weeks or a month. Then do another rewrite.
And then do it all over again when you're ready to hear it again.
Do it anywhere.
"Write That Play! The Basics" begins May 4th...More info here.