Sunday, December 12, 2010

The 48 Hour challenge

So I did the 48 Hour challenge with The Melbourne Theatre Collective. This involved meeting the other writers on Friday night, getting our "parameters", writing a play Saturday morning and then seeing it performed Sunday night. I've done exactly the same thing in 24 hours about 5 years ago (so I was totally like, "whateva" - yuh...).

I actually quite like these little challenges I think that they stretch the writing muscle and that it needn't result in bad scripts, quite the opposite after what I saw on Sunday night.

One friend complained bitterly at me that "this type of thing" was actually not helpful to the industry at all, as it takes the emphasis off carefully thought out and planned scripts. I am inclined to agree, but that didn't stop me taking part. Or rather, I agreed with Liz in that I also believe that one of the big issues in this country is underprepared scripts, but I still like having fun and I'm not dead yet.

Parameters:
Theme: Ticket to nowhere
Line: "What's for dinner?"
Character: Layla - mid 30's, art curator with a masters in something that slips my mind. Likes to travel.
Final line to include: "It's going to be ok".

So they were quite stringent really, more than I was expecting. But they weren't constricting and really to be honest when I got down to writing I didn't find them an issue. I left the briefing not really having an idea and so met with a friend for tapas who proceeded to relate a (fairly devastating) history to me -something they had heard about. I took that idea and then wrote the play the next morning. Took about 2.5 hours.

The weekend this was happening turned out to be the busiest weekend that I had the entire year and so I wasn't involved in anything else to do with the 48 hour project apart from supplying the script.  I turned up Sunday evening ready for anything.

So, I've debated about how honest to be in this blog, Howe much to discuss and how much to leave out. And I have decided to say how I felt as unemotionally as I can. I was disappointed. I had felt that the script was pretty good, not a masterpiece, sure, but still solid. I felt that a bad casting decision was made and I wasn't happy with direction. But then, I'm a known control freak. So perhaps it's simply not possible to please me.

That said I thought that the night was well organised - hats off to MTC - and that there was some really nice work done by the playwrights.  Jane Miller was great as always, Scott McAteer, thought provoking, Cerise De Gelder - both disgusting and also funny - and these were just the highlights, I really thought that everyone had come up with something good.

I'd definitely do it again, it was fun. And the outcome is that I have a little script - she's up on Scribd - I think that you can look for free - http://www.scribd.com/doc/44942275/Greta-Alone
(note that the lead characters name was originally Layla as per the brief, but she's become Greta)

I am going to try and use Scribd more, and put some other shorties up there.

Rhonda: I have cleaned the script to a third draft and submitted it for a prize which I'm not talking about. Cos I'm superstitious. Hopefully the play will go on in late 2011 or early 2012.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Electronic City - not strictly about writing...

Not at all about writing.

I have been assisting Wayne whilst he directs Electronic City and it has been a very interesting experience for me and very exciting. The play is an intense piece, fast paced, but quite uni dimensional, meaning what you see is basically what you get. A crazy examination of the modern world, following two loosely affiliated partners as they each battle their own modern demons, imaginary and real. It's a tight piece. Eight actors - two "leads" and 6 chorus who are kept very busy.

This week the play opens and will be a very hasty and orchestrated 60 mins. Come and see it. You should, if only because it is just very, very interesting.

After Electronic City I am directing a short one for PlaySix, this one is written by Michelle Wallace who wrote a very interesting play called Wild Things a few years ago, which I also directed. So here I am again directing for Michelle - this time the piece is a bit lighter and brighter. "Martha Plants Sunflowers" is a nicely balanced little piece. You should also come to PlaySix - not just because the pieces are always well chosen, but because Shannon Wollard has worked very hard for quite a few years to keep this season running. It is held at Williamstown Little Theatre and it would be good to see the wee theatre filled.

On a more personal writing note I am thinking a lot about Fury and have started to cast it in my head. This is a good step for me as it helps me see the direction of the piece and to hear the voices speaking. I have had lots of ideas for scenes, it feels very promising. Moreover I have met some really interesting people who have given me great ideas and also great leads.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not writing, thinking.

Why am I not writing?

I'm thinking, that's why.

About  writing. But not in a blocked up way, just in a musing, generally imaginative free for all.

Plus, I is directing and that also takes the work.

But I'll be back soon with a new version of Rhonda and various tales re research. Betcha can't wait.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Reading at 45

Let it be said. I was nervous. Not in a "this might be total crap" way - but rather in a "I hope that this isn't mediocre" way.

I met Wayne at the space round 3pm-ish which gave us plenty of time to be nervous and slightly overwrought together. It was fairly stark in there, as you would expect, but Wayne had set the stage up as per our rehearsals and the spacing was pretty good. Better than I expected, for some reason I had thought that it would be much smaller and that the actors would be squeezing past each other.

It was roomy. Fairly roomy.

We were booked out too, BTW. They had overbooked the room, which fits 120, so were hoping that approx 10 people weren't going to show. Given that it was a free event, I figured that there would be a 20% drop off.

The cast were all there by 5.30pm and we ran a top and tail, to check that the actors weren't going to fall over the chairs and that the copious sex scenes were blocked just enough to make them look, if not semi legit, then not stupid.

The room was filled to capacity (120) and I saw a lot of faces that I know in the audience, and a bunch that I didn't. I sat in a crap seat because I had to read a couple of V/O lines and didn't want to be distractingly in the middle of the audience pretending to be Arabella.

It went well. Very well. As I watched there were a few "cringy" moments for me. Lines I wish that I'd cut and a few annoying pieces of repetition. I was busy running my pen through my script as the show rolled on. But there were lots of delightful moments. It's funnier than I expected, which was marvellous. Quite clearly the audience needed the laughs and it was great to see where they appeared.

In particular they were snorting and hooting away during the sex, which I think is probably the impulse that most of us have when faced with sex, which is an innately hilarious act. 

Because the material is heavy it seemed to me that there could have been more of these touches of levity, not endless injections of laughs (and sex) but rather a few more judicial moments of respite. The audience responded overwhelmingly! I had lots of very generous commentary and such positive energy about the piece, the actors and the directing. 

I was really pleased with the actors, they were so focussed and powerful and each has made their role their own. They made me very proud. The first draft would not have been finished without them.

There was a question and answer afterwards where the questions indicated lots of good will for the piece. People seemed genuinely moved and interested in the story. People used phrases like "layered", "complex, but not complicated" etc.

I was forced to admit that I initially began writing the play because Wayne had asked me to write something to use up a set that he'd built. Of course it had changed it's whole reason for existence since then, and doesn't fit in the set either, ironically. But still, it's not an inspiring story.

A large number of us went for drinks after and it was great to hear more relaxed feedback. In all, I came away with a great feeling about the piece. I think that it could really be a great play. Really special and I don't feel  like that is very far out of my grasp now.

Thanks to all that came. Rhonda inches closer and closer to be truly "finished"...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Short plays - time - work life balance - etc

I wrote a short play about two or three weeks ago, I haven't been writing anything except Rhonda and making notes on Fury - so to suddenly have a wee idea and dash it off was unexpected.

It's called Spirit Level and is a sort of "What if" regarding who we get as a spirit guide when we die. It will be read at the next meeting of the Melbourne Theatre Collective, so come along and watch if you feel up to it. That's on Aug 28th at the Arts Centre. They have a page on FB - just search them up.

I've been reading a great deal - well more than usual - this gives me some reprieve from writing and also lets me get some inspiration from other writers. I am continually thinking about going away somewhere remote and windswept and sitting in a wee cabin writing. But I know that it would be cold, and I don't like the idea of that, especially the windswept bit. Plus there would probably be no internet access and there's only so much romantic brooding I can do, until I need to play Farm Town.

I also really want to start writing Tactical Mind. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the idea but feel like it could be interesting and watchable... also I want to write my novel - about Evie and the baby Jacob. So, what to focus on? Ideas are definitely not my problem, time and inclination are a whole other issue.

I've seen a couple of good plays recently "Happily Ever After" by Jane Miller and "She's Not Performing" by Alison Mann. Both were at La Mama in Melbourne, so working with some stage size restrictions, and both made good use of the space. Probably the best I've seen done there. Jane's play was lovely and wistful, with a sad sort of unrequited energy to it, not in love, but more in hopes and dreams for life.  Alison Mann's play was more challenging and had a  few explicit moments - on the whole it was powerful and sad, my only criticism being that the lead actor could have been more sympathetic to the audience had she been able to reveal her pregnancy earlier. Sorry if you are seeing this and just read that.. although, it doesn't give much away to say that!

Next time I blog I want to have some new writing  going one way or the other, as always if you want to read my stuff let me know.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rhonda - the second draft

Ok, I had to blog to say that I have gotten to the second draft. And I feel good about it. I have made some changes, cut a few things here and there and have tightened up some of the dialogue - mainly Lief's and the Students.

Today when I read it I found myself much more caught up in the story and that hasn't happened for me in a long time. I think that it still might need a non verbal scene which eludes me, but it will come, I have faith.

I definitely see Hannie and Wayne's points about finding the humour in the script. It seems key to me now, given the subject matter. I am not actively writing more jokes, but hoping to pursue that more with the actors.

If you read this blog, then come to the reading for Rhonda is in Therapy on 3rd September at 45 Downstairs in Melbourne (45 Flinders lane, city). 7.30 pm. It's a free event.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Research - Fury

I now understand more fully the amount of research that will be needed for "Fury". It's probably good anyway as it means that I can actively think about the project, but not write. Seeing that I am still writing another play and all. I like to finish one before I start another one - short plays excepted.

I have heard some very sad stories since I started this topic, re bullying and the cyber world. God knows there is a lot of information online. I am hoping to talk to some teens about it, and also some people actually involved in the aftermath. It all hinges on how comfortable people feel about talking to me.

Anyway, the topic of this post was Research, this is not something that I ordinarily do a lot of for my plays - mainly because I don't usually base my plays solidly around a factual phenomena (like cyber bullying). My plays have, in the past, been to do with fictional accounts around relationships. I think Fury will be that too, but it needs a sound basis in reality and also I need a bit of statistical evidence before I go grandly making some bold statements regarding who and why and how.

Other playwrights that I know, successful one's - wot make a living from it, spend a lot of time on research. This is because often they have been commissioned to write about "sumfing" and that thing has to be looked into, Or they are writing about "sumwun" and that person has a real life. I guess that part of the journey of Fury for me, is learning to take a real issue and think about how to theatrically present that without too many gimmicks and also without too much sentimentality. I am not one for sentimentality.

The other day the opening of the play popped into my head, so even though I'm not officially writing the play yet, it has begun to write itself, which usually happens with good ideas.

Before Rhonda I never shown a partial draft of anything to anyone. I have now overcome my superstitious fears and hope that I will be able to apply the same sort of development to Fury that I did to Rhonda.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fury

I am starting a new play concept.

"Already?!", they cry!

"Yes indeed", I coyly reply.

Not one to sit on my laurels, not I! What are laurels? Where are they? On my bottom I suppose.

I am very interested in Greek Chorus at the moment. I like the facelessness of chorus and have always loved the beautiful, interesting and powerful things that groups of people can do. Bodies and voices can be very confronting. So my next play idea is working with chorus, the internet, bullying and of course....death.

My concepts of chorus were developed and fostered by Dr Michael Cathcart, the amiable and talented historian cum director cum comedian cum friend. It is a lovely synchronicity to me that Hannie Rayson, his equally talented and extraordinary wife is a writing mentor of mine (and also a writing idol). What a couple.

Anyhoo, it was Michael that really showed me how voice and body can be used on stage to create entire worlds and soundscapes. It is his ideas that are rattling in my skull now and making me think about the ways that five women could be used on stage to make virtual societies and environments come to life.

Five women. You heard me. I have long said that I write thinking about women, and good roles for women. Well, this play will put my money (if I had any) where my mouth is. More news to come.

Working title "Fury". 

Rhonda is in Therapy - The first Reading

For those that are interested in the evolution of "Rhonda" - we had a reading of the full script on Weds 7th and it was interesting and fairly enlightening.

It was clear after the reading finished that we are going to need to have a partial moved reading. The big plan prior to reading it was that the actors would conduct the entire reading seated. But the play definitely loses something without the "lightening" influence of the multiple sex scenes. Oh, I see, NOW you're more interested aren't you, after I said 'multiple sex scenes'. :)

But actually they are energetic and a bit slapstick in places and they give the play a very light and bouncy energy for the opening, otherwise it's a bit... um... dour. Which isn't so good. So yes, the actors will have to, at least minimally, mime the sex. The rest of the play is reading a bit better. I did say that I was trying to make Lief's journey a bit more real and three dimensional, but in doing so I've made him yell more. So that's had to be cut back a bit (Sorry to Ben, for all the yelling).

And now, we have one more rehearsal on Aug 22 and then we're up on Sep 3. I hope that the reading can convey the strengths of the script and I hope that the weaknesses get overlooked. Until I understand better how to jimmy them.

I'll be letting people know when the reading is and the time and booking numbers etc (it's a free event). See you there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rhonda

I have progressed to Draft 1.5.

Drafting is such a scary process, it's so hard to know if I am drafting  the play now for myself or others. Mostly I feel in control of the changes that I make, but I am influenced by the ideas of others, esp mentors and writers who I think are good.

Plus I am kind of sick of the play. I always get like this when I have choked out the first draft. You write it, you let others read it, you listen to them and then you think "aww fuck, now I have to rethink everything!". Well not quite, but rather I have to really think about the characters - more deeply and move them into the next realm. Where they live and breathe more.

In 1.5 I have focussed on Lief living and breathing more. I hope that he does. I'm not sure if I'll redraft it again before July 7. I kind of hope to, but I also want to hear it read out aloud. I feel like I am going to be able to spot the weak sections more easily.. or I'll be bowled over by how gorgeous it is, or I'll just have no clue. Please don't let it be option 3.

I am also kicking a few short play ideas around. I haven't submitted for S&S this year, just don't have anything new or short enough. I'm thinking though. I like to submit at least.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Evie (The T-Series)

This is a novel concept, meaning for a book, not "wow a completely new concept".

Our heroine is Australian - but really could be any nationality as not much is made of that one way or the other apart from geographical references. It is set at some point, similar to now, life is much the same apart from the fact that a vast number of the population, to different degrees have a level of telepathy - or other "mind power" (for want of a less hokey phrase).

This is called the T-level. There are four t-levels 1 being the lowest kind of ESP and 4 being the highest. This could range from telepathy, empathy, kinetic abilities etc. Or a combination. Most t-4's (about 8% of the population) are employed by the government. When you have a populace with these kinds of gifts you have totally different kinds of crimes. And therefore different sorts of policing.

Evie is 17, 5 months pregnant and a T-4. Two months ago her baby started to talk to her. His name is Jacob. Jacob is going to change the world.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

One Night in Many

Why am I writing about this little play? Because it has kicked around for so damn long, and I really like it! It's about 15 mins long and I think that it could be quite moving, or funny, or moving and funny. Or angsty. Well you get the picture.

Here it is, I'm still fiddling with it.

Click Here for One Night in Many

What was I trying to do? Play with middle class malaise. (What else?)

Create a sense that people do things with scant regard for others. That ongoing sadnesses are borne and then encompassed. That people stay in relationships when they are unhappy, until they don't know that they are unhappy anymore.

Rhonda is in Therapy

Some people who read this blog will have also read Rhonda. It is a full length play that I have written and am now drafting.

I have just hit that point where I am not sure if it is any good. Despite what people say. This is because I've re-read it a few times and am worried that it is self indulgent nonsense. This is what happens when you read your own work too much.

I got some great feedback from people about the script and have been mulling over it. I'm not going to drop the text here, it's 70 pages long and wayyy to close to me for open debate. (between the two people I've given this blog address too...)

My main issue is in making the Lief character less perfect and more believable and by doing so giving him more of an inner life and three dimensional quality. I feel that doing that is going to change the end of the play. At 5 am this morning, when Gabe woke me up, I lay in bed thinking about the fact that if Lief truly turns this situation around at the end of the play then really they all need to move back to Germany. Which has a kind of nice synchronicity to it, as it's where they met and also it's the "dream land" that Rhonda's father always talked about. But man.. that's going to require some re-writing. Unless it's alluded to. At any rate I don't like the end and feel that the phone call with Hannelore can go.

The play has a reading at 45 Downstairs on Sep 3, 2010 in Melbourne Australia. This is part of Flashpoints - connected to winning RE Ross Trust last year.

So If you have a comment re the play and you've read it then let me know. Most of you have spoken to me already about it. But I need to have a second draft by 7 July. That's the next rehearsal.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tactical Mind

This is a film idea I've been kicking around.

A young Aussie woman, say 25 - ish, has an unusual ability. She is able to see catastrophic/fatal events about 70 mins before they happen, but only for people that she cares about or knows. This is not the kind of ability where she sees plane crashes about to happen etc. Unless her sister is on the plane, for example. Most of her friends an family know about it, it's not really talked about, just quietly accepted. As is she. Given that she has saved her family and friends over the years from fatal or terrible injury.

She goes to a club one night and foresees a fire in which all die. She warns her friends and they set about trying to get everyone out. In doing so, she ends up being injured herself in the last second and winds up in hospital. On waking she is greeted by two American officers. They question her about the incident, and manage to get out of her, or basically reveal that they know what she can do. They talk to her about joining the American army as part of a special project - done in concert with the Aus army. They explain to her that they can use her skills to prevent further loss of life in the Iraq war. She tells them that she only sees the future for people she cares about. They say they can take care of that.

She agrees to take a look, (we get that she can't "just take a look" and she does too, but that's the premise that she goes to the USA under). She is taken to a secure facility where she learns that she is one of thousands of people who have the same ability and that the army has been using them for years. Each person with the prescient ability trains with a group of soldiers - gets to know them and usually to care about them.
After all she really only needs to care about one person in the unit. This person - known as the "Tactical Mind (TM)" then travels with the unit and tries to avert any potential danger to the group.

She trains with them starts to care for one (maybe falls for him) and then goes into the field. She meets other much more cynical TM's. 

She watches her information kill local people and save the soldiers. 

She foresees the death of her sister and the army prevent her informing the family - some effort is made, but it's too late. (She out in the enemy territory and contact is minimal).
Her sister dies.

She lets two members of her team get badly injured and the army aren't sure if she did it on purpose or not. It comes to light that the TM's usually burn out fast - many of them finding the conflict too much and the atmosphere of death and war overwhelming.

She is faced finally with a choice that could see her freed from the situation - but many of the soldiers dying. 

So here are the major themes
- Civilians thrown into warfare with no understanding of how it works
- The difficulty in understanding what the war achieves
- Who is the enemy
- The way that war justifies the means - including using people up and discarding them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Beginning

Which could well be the ending also. If I don't like this format.

I'm going to put writing here and if I'm the only person that ever sees it, then that's probably good.

I'm also going to put writing ideas here. And then perhaps I'll give this link to writing friends and they can tell me what they think.

Right. Write.