Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"...and Scene!"

Two weekends ago, a Writers Workshop asked authors to bring in a scene from a play he or she was working on.

In a theater setting in Mt. Pleasant, actors read the words and brought the characters to life.

The cultural project had a director for each scene who helped the actors interpret the author's intent.

Then they all sat down to discuss what had just happened. Wow.

I liked being surrounded by talented people with a purpose.

My fly-on-the-wall observance of this magic was a special treat.

In addition to peer feedback, Susan Sloate, a best-selling novelist, screenwriter and playwright, analyzed each presentation and gave a constructive professional critique.

 Susan is a former member of the Mt. Pleasant Culture, Arts & Pride Commission (CAP) and is the chairman of a sub-committee that was formed to create the workshop.

Susan dissected each scene presented with comments on subject, structure, characterization, etc.

The authors were encouraged to consider the input and re-write the scene for another presentation the following weekend.

I was fortunate to see both versions. Literally a before and after.

Susan does not pull any punches.

She treats the authors kindly - and with respect - but points out flaws as well as pluses.

She has been in their shoes and has a firm grasp of what will work and what needs more work on stage.

 Each author was in different stages of development so she first had the scene explained.

This helped the actors greatly when they knew more about the motivation of the character.

Also, when in the play does the action occurs: first or second act?

What has led up to this point and  - often - Susan would ask how it ends.

She told the writers if, in her opinion, the scene being performed fully developed the necessary conflict for drama.

Or,  she pointed out ways the protagonist could be more clearly identified.

The actors had many questions for the writers and exchanged freely in the talks afterwards.

There was a slight bit of confusion when a writer included director instructions, mixed in with dialogue.

The suggestion was to keep them separate - perhaps on one side of the page - with the actor's lines on the other.

The first Saturday's action was held on the second floor of the Park & Recreation's  Darby Building at 302 Pitt Street.

Actors rehearsed on the first floor and came upstairs after the previous scene had been performed and critiqued.

The following week, with re-written scripts, the scenes were performed off Long Point Road at the R.L Jones Center on Egypt Road.

The November Workshop last year, was the initial write, act, perform, rewrite experiment and was completed all in one day.  There was a rewrite session between presentations.

That was found to be really tiring.

The enthusiasm was very high by the writers, actors and directors during the past two weekends.

These are dedicated people who have a wealth of stage and writing background.

There was give and take as ideas and alternatives were discussed and fleshed out.

Plot twists were straightened out and clarified.

Laughter erupted in the middle of a scene about a murder investigation where the victim's body had been dumped into a huge lobster tank.

Variety was the name of the game as scenes from 7 or 8 different plays were presented and examined.

Some were historical, and some comedic

A moving, probing vignette of three siblings sitting in the living room with their dying mother in a hospital bed, placed among the couch and chairs.

Not a spoiler alert but none felt that "Mom liked you best."

Overall, the plan is to do this again and perhaps set up a tight group of writers, polishing their work and perhaps culminating in an actual production for the public.

Meanwhile, as the creative juices flowed,  appetites were handled by a version of traditional Craft Services.

Well, in this case, bagels, cream cheese, doughnuts, bottled water and buckets of hot coffee.

I did munch half a bagel.

Hey! No broccoli or spinach salad was at hand.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

I'm glad I was invited to sit in and take notes - and pictures.
Thanks, Susan and the C.A.P Commission.

And Dunkin' Donuts.

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At Wed Mar 18, 12:17:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:48 PM (7 hours ago)

to me
Thanks Chuck - this was my first experience with visiting a blog site. (and I thought there were no more firsts in my life)


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