Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scripting 101

It's been a while since I created shows like this. When I started out with Grinder Productions it was my intention to produce exclusively my own work, and to entertain any outside scripts only if others brought them to me, and I would conisder those projects on a case-by-case basis.

Then reality hit me like a ton of bricks and I realised that no one cared about a writer they'd never heard of telling them stories they didn't really want to acknowledge even existed. So I started buying scripts and paying royalties and doing shows that were well known and loved. Sometimes this had the desired effect, and the shows were successful, and sometimes they weren't, but at least we had a basis to work from that had at least once worked well enough for someone else to get a production out of it, so theoretically it made life easier. Now dealing with the companies that grant amateur royalties isn't much fun, especially when you haven't really got enough money to afford what they consider their very modest rates. Worst of all, they want their money before the show, not after, so you can't use the money from the show to pay for the royalties, you have to have it already. And they can be very mean too, they hold the monopoly for whatever play it is you're interested in, so if you want to do the play their job is done and they don't have to be nice to you to make the sale.

Okay, so they're not always mean - I've had good experiences, and some of the people I've dealt with over the years have actually been very pleasant to deal with, and have gone the extra mile for me. All the same, I'll be much happier when I have enough money that paying for scripts and royalties (and no, they won't let you make photocopies).

But the economics of a successful rebuild dictates that we can't afford to be buying any shows at the moment. Even if there were a way to somehow defer the costs until after the event I still couldn't justify taking on any extra risk beyond the cost of venue rental. They say you have to spend it to make it, I know, but paying for the privilege of having a place to put on a show is spending enough for the moment, thank you very much, without having to pay for the privilege of producing the show itself.

So I'm back to writing my own shows. Now yes, in the case of Bad Words I'm not so much a writer as an elocutionist, and I may not have a script per se as much as some working notes, and I'll be making frequent use of works by people long dead, which is thankfully in the public domain. All the same, as anyone who's ever sat through endless boring university lectures will know, in order for this type of material to be entertaining it must be presented in an interesting fashion. In other words, it's gotta be sexy. And since I don't have the money (there's that word again) for fancy multi-media effects or even a decent stage design I'll have to rely on written words, a story that I will essentially write to make sense of this material.

When it comes to Come Play With Us, on the other hand, I won't be able to refer to very many notes. For that I will have to write several "scenarios" - detailed descriptions of what it is I would like to do at each point in the show. If it's a game, this is how we play it. If it's a song, it goes like this. If it's a story, here are the key points. I'll be relying on my skill in improvisation to pull these elements off in performance, but the more comfortable I am with them to begin with the better I will do so again scripting, even in this loose sense, is essential.

Love Notes will be the most interesting one of the bunch. There's not a word of dialog spoken onstage (though voice-overs are a definite possibility), yet I will still be following a script. Every movement will have to be worked out beforehand, and then the purpose of rehearsal will be to patiently drill these movements until they stick. This will be the hardest of the three shows to put together, but it's the one I'm most looking forward to.

So that's some insight on the process that is going into creating these three shows. It's not quite the same as traditional playwrighting, which I am more accustomed to, but it's also not quite the same as collective creation, that much-maligned, over-stereotyped method of creating shows that brings together a bunch of performer-writers, with or without a director, to generate and then refine the material for a show.

Back to the grind it is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your ideas sound fun, different and very creative, I can't wait to see the end results.

I look forward to seeing everyone from Grinder Productions next weekend at these new shows.