Playwrights’ Studio Session 1

Hello, my name’s Whiti and I’m a playwright. I’ve been dabbling with dialogue since I was a kid and have only recently got into the mis-en-scene…

I’ve just arrived home from the first session of the Playwrights’ Studio at Playmarket; 5 playwrights (including yours truly) and a dramaturg/mentor, David Geary, working on scripts over the next 6 months.

I was nervous about going, meeting new people and putting your work out there can be a bit scary. I know, I know, I talk about the same stuff on this blog but there is a difference between me writing this down on the lappy and actually talking to someone face to face. I truly believe I am more interesting on paper – after all that’s why I became a writer, if I could speak with confidence maybe I would have become a…huh, well what do you know. Perhaps I don’t express myself well in writing either!

So I had that kind of jittery feeling all day, which makes me quiet or giggly. I also arrived really early, which I seem to do when I’m nervous (So if I ever arrive late for something you’ve organised it just means I love ya, honest!) But all went well, I’ve come home with a mild headache, (the kind I get when I’ve been a bit over stimulated or have eaten too much sugar) and a head full of ideas.

We’ll be meeting once a month for the next 6 months, each of us working on our scripts. Mine is an incomplete first draft of Kiwiana Charlatan, a play about a Maori Cowboy who comes back to a New Zealand that has sunk into civil war. I have been wanting to write it since 2006, but the work on the novel took precedence last year. So when the opportunity to apply for this studio came along out went this draft to Playmarket, warts and all (even though last year I swore I had had my fill of workshops, no more talking about writing! I shall go out and just do it…)

I had kind of let myself go with this draft. Usually I have a clear idea of a story and will spend time plotting and outlining. This time I had a few images and characters and thought that I’d just go for it.

I’m not sure if all writers do this, but I am certainly guilty of it. There’s a hole in your story. You know it’s there, it’s glaringly obvious to the point that it mocks you. But you think, “I’ll write around it, no one will even notice it”. Then you give it to someone else and they’ll inevitably say “What about that hole on page 5? Whaddya going to do about that?”For some reason I always feel caught out, like I believed that they wouldn’t see it. That they’d be dazzled by the other cool stuff. Like gags and explosions…

So I got called on my lack of structure, which is fair enough. Which was expected since as I was writing I was thinking “I have no idea where this is going but it sure is a fun ride!”.

By next month I need to have a scene outline done, which means I need to make decisions about my characters that I just didn’t do while I was hanging on for dear life on the back of this draft.

David said something that was equally thrilling and terrifying and that is that he has thrown out 80 odd pages of work, kept the last 20 pages and started the play from that point – started his play from the “end”. It is kind of exciting. I’ve decided not to read the draft I have done and instead let myself find new ways of telling the story. I may even do two or three different approaches to see what fits best. Maybe I’ll throw out the beginning…

That’s the reason I’ve decided not to read the draft. There are some things that I feel wedded to. Partly because some of the scenes have been recorded on Burn This CD so it is “out there” in a way, and partly because there are some sexy, exciting things ( not actual sex, not yet anyway! I mean cool set pieces like explosions and flashbacks).

So busy, busy months ahead. I already have the itch to tinker with the structure of the novel too!

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Filed under Kiwiana Charlatan, Playwrights' studio

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