Monday, June 25, 2007

Mourning the death of the english language...

From an email I received at work today...
"Wha Laa..."
Which I'm pretty sure is a phonetic representation of the word "Viola." Which I'm pretty sure I was familiar with by, well, at least the eighth grade.

This sort of thing makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Or eat a bullet. Or both.

Or maybe it's just that I'm having a pissy day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It was magic!

So far, the production of "Dinner and Drinks" has been a...well, let's say interesting, experience. This is my third time in the director's chair, but the first time directing something I've actually written myself. And I have to tell you, that changes things considerably.

I've already done one polish on the script, prior to the first readthrough. And since then -- with only the one readthrough, and two rehearsals under our belt -- I've made copious notes on even more things I want to change. Things that sound awkward, things paced badly, things that aren't funny. All sorts of things.

Which is good. That's what this was all about -- using the production process as a phase of the editing process.

With only two rehearsals complete -- and with those two rehearsals focused on only two of the play's four scenes -- I'm incredibly excited about how good things are already looking. It's fun to hear the words I've written coming out of people's mouths, particularly when the work. I hate to pat my own back, but there are some pretty funny exchanges in the play, that work even better when read allowed. And seeing those moments play out on stage, when they work, is just...amazing.

But, so far, the best part came last night, when rehearsed the, er, climax to the show. There's very little dialogue, and the scene plays out against music, with changes in the music as the cue for changes in the action.

This is a scene I've had imagined in my head for probably close to two years now. Last night I saw it, for real, on stage, for the first time.

And I loved it.

I got chills.

Little hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I am not kidding.

I know as the weeks go on, and I see the scene again and again and again, it'll lose some of this initial charm, and become just another moment on stage. But I'm hoping that some of this initial magic will be preserved -- even if I don't see it -- until we actually put the show on stage, so that, if all goes well, those in the audience might have the same sort reaction I did. That is, after all, what it's about.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Past, present, future...

Leaving work today, nursing my numerous crises, reflecting on the crises of others, I found myself thinking about the script to Dinner and Drinks, in particular its final scene.

It's a scene that, at least at first, wasn't actually supposed to be there. As originally envisioned, Dinner and Drinks was going to be three scenes, involving three different couples, and when the three scenes were done, the play would be as well.

As I wrote it, though, I discovered that these three scenes that were going to make up the play were, while occasionally funny, essentially downer stories. The people were in bad relationships, or ditching bad relationships, or refusing the start bad relationships. Once you stripped the chuckles away, you were left with some pretty messed up, unhappy, dysfunctional people.

I decided I needed the play to end on a slightly more positive note, so for the fourth scene I decided to revisit the couple from the first scene -- whose story ended on probably the most downer note of the three -- and decided to give them some semblance of a happy ending.

I was inspired as well, I think, by a desperate need for a happy ending in my own life, not just in general, but for a specific circumstance I was going through at the time that I was writing that play. For the record, my own happy ending didn't come, but since then, I've become increasingly convinced that happy endings are a bit of a rarity even at the best of times.

I bring all this up because, while thinking about the script today, I realized that if I were writing that same play right now, I don't think I would have ended it quite the same way.

I still believe, to some degree, much of what is contained in the final scene. That sometimes you have to fight and take chances to try to get the things that mean the most to you. And that sometimes that most important thing is love. But I don't know if I believe it quite as passionately as I once did. Which got me to realizing that, on some levels, I'm not the same person now that I was when I wrote that script.

Which got me thinking about writing in general.

Writing, if you do it properly, can give the writer an amazing ability to look back at himself. It doesn't matter if you're writing a daily journal, writing a novel, writing a play, or writing a poem -- if you're putting part of yourself into it, then you're creating a permanent record of who you were at that point in your life. The things you believed in, the things you cared about, the things you were terrified of. And you can look back at those things years later and go, "Oh, so that's who I was."

Which is sort of cool.

Phase Two is almost complete

Following yesterday's callbacks from callbacks, Dinner and Drinks is 99% cast. I just need to make a few phone calls, confirm with all the actors their availability for the performance in Kelowna in October, and make the official announcement of the cast.

Which I won't be doing quite yet. Because it's only 99%, and things are still pending, and if I made any sort of announcement I would, without a doubt, be jinxing an already fairly sufficiently jinxed production.

First readthrough is scheduled for next Wednesday, with a Wednesday and Saturday rehearsal schedule. I won't lie to you -- I picked a Wednesday rehearsal night because Wednesdays are wing at Oliver's, and the more common Tuesday / Thursday rehearsal schedule tends to miss that fine bar special.

For some, it might seem like their priorities were a bit shuffled to schedule their rehearsal time around what night had the really good special at the pub, but when a visit to a local watering hole is pretty much a given post-rehearsal (as it tends to be when I'm in the director's chair) this seems like the most obvious approach. Plus the wings at Olivers are damn fine.

So if anyone wants to come and hang out with a bunch of loud people, drinking beer, eating wings, and probably conversing about all manner of filth (two hours of rehearsing a play about sex will do a lot to diminish conversational taboos), feel free to drop by our table. We'll usually be hitting the pub around 9:00ish.

It's feeling surprisingly good to see things finally falling into place for the production. Getting the approval, getting accepted into ACToberfest, and now (almost) having a cast. Next on the agenda is a quick polish / rewrite of the script before next week, so I can have a copy of the script for everyone in the cast at Wednesday's readthrough. I keep looking at the script, and at some of the sequences that I want to fix, and then I just sigh and put the script away, because I don't really have the energy to push through with the changes.

One of my cast members had commented a few times that the script is quite "clever" and I sort of agree -- with one scene in particular. Or, at least, half a scene. The latter half of the scene, less clever, and that's one of the big trouble areas I want to try to fix before next week. It's all going along just fine, with some really nice back and forth wordplay, and then all of a sudden it's like it's on a race just to get to the end. And it just doesn't *work* when compared to the earlier part. It's not as good, it's not as funny, it's not as clever.

I can't remember for certain, but I think I may have just gotten tired of all that cleverness, because as easy as it looks on paper, actually coming up with those clever lines can be rather a lot of work. And after doing it for half the scene, I think I probably just got lazy and took the path of least resistance.

Don't take the path of least resistance. Yes, it's easier, and yes, the road less traveled probably looks a little scary. But the path of least resistance is where all the carnivorous animals are hanging out, because that's where everyone else goes, so they can be pretty sure there'll be a good meal if they hang out there for a bit.