Writing, Directing, Producing Plays
by G.L. Horton
G.L. Horton's newest essays are now being posted on her stageblog.
Whether 'tis better to seek or not to seek a grant: Grants to
individual artists are rare and very competitive. You can do it
on your own...
The Great Moderns were in an epic struggle to discover and communicate
Significance, wrote in conscious reference to and competition
with great works of the past, and hoped their efforts would be
rewarded with a place in a Classic Canon that they regarded with
something very like religious awe.
I Got Started Writing Plays
I had no idea that play writing was so difficult as to be impossible
for a female until I got to college c.1959 and my professors and
textbooks and the theatre department directors told me so...
Snodgrass & Writing Subtext Workshop
Kate's example of subtext was Hemingway's "Hills Like White
Elephants," which she read aloud. Some knew it, many didn't.
Of those who didn't know it, about one third didn't "get
it" until others explained what is going on between the lovers.
While a solid minority of readers think subtext is a dirty trick
(authors should just come out and say what they mean), Kate points
out that actors ITCH to stage this story, so spare with words
and so rich with subtext . . .
MP wrote: "What was your Sundance experience like?"It
was thrilling-- besides being luxurious beyond a humble writer's
dreams. It was also a big disappointment . . .
NA wrote: "Better to talk to the dead author than
the estate when seeking the theatrical intent of a work."A
lively discussion of issues affecting authorial intention ensues
-- ranging among copyright and copy"left", Rubens and
altering works of art in France, stage directions in Beckett and
Beckett's estate . . .
JH wrote: "It made me think of a funny script idea.
I have this character who defends ~something~ obtuse and arcane..."
GLH replies: I began work on a script like this. Didn't
work. As a Saturday Night Live sketch, a Monty Python "bit"
in Spamalot-- or best of all in a subplot in a sprawling Elizabethan-structured
play-- it works very well. But . . .
Directions: How Much To Use and Director's Reactions
JL wrote: "A director [said] he finds the play
very interesting but I have too many stage directions ... I put
in stage directions as I write to help me see the action of the
play and the development of my characters. The dramaturg never
[said] there were too many directions, though ... How do you deal
with stage directions?" GLH replies: The Actors
List has been kicking this one around. Readers appreciate ...
Many directors are snotty ... Some actors are grateful ...
as Scene Partner?
Really old plays: The Mysteries, Shakespeare, Commedia, Restoration,
Romantic-- everything up to the invention of the spotlight and
darkened auditorium, in fact-- were written with the intent that
the actor would engage the audience As A Scene Partner.
ECA wrote: "Could you recommend anyone with relevant
experience [for Production Manager]? It is a paid..."
GLH replies: My theory is that all the people with this
skill set who used to devote themselves 40 hours a week to Theatre
are now working Real Economy jobs with forced overtimeor
2nd jobsjust to keep afloat in our cruel economy...
JEH wrote: "Folks, theatre is a business. Playwrights
are hawking a product..." GLH replies: I find
this upsetting. It may be true ... but I have never thought of
this list as a place where writers are "marketing" or
"N" Word in Mouths of "Good" Characters
GL wrote: "Some of the actors have changed 'that
N word.' I admit I am one of them, partly because it sounds harsh
coming out of a character who is so good and kind." GLH
replies: It does-- and that's important, isn't it? Even more
shocking is that the admirable responsible housekeeper cannot
be left any money in the will...
from a Distance?
CBH wrote: "I'm doing your monologue the Elegy
and i would love advice ... a.s.a.p. sorry to cause you any trouble."
GLH replies: It's no trouble, but I don't know how I can
coach you at a distance. Acting is "present"...
and Impossible Personalities
JEH wrote: "Who wants to work with a raging, angry,
nasty, whining person? No one. Certainly not me." GLH replies:
One of the astonishing things about talent is that it often comes
wrapped in quite impossible people. I don't particularly want
to encounter those nasty talented people in person ... but I don't
want to be deprived of their wonderful work! ...
and Women Playwrights
SP wrote: "I also sent the Humana article to express
JOY that a woman playwright was being produced to such acclaim."
GLH replies: The Better Angel of my Nature rejoices. ...
The selfish devil in me that writes plays, however, is howling
and Elite Schools
Webber wrote, "Talent is rare enough that it tends not
to stay hidden. Those 30 or so plays ... are the ones by writers
... touted by their teachers at the important playwriting departments..."
Playwright comments: "So glad to know that all 'talent'
comes out of 'important' formal education programs." RLW
wrote: "...so glad to know I wasn't the ONLY one irked
by this comment..." GLH replies: Irked?!!?? I
am boiling with bile!...
Spirit Alive and Well
DJ wrote: "Some of my friends and I have recently
started our own company." GLH replies: Good for
you! Best wishes for success, financial and artistic! OTOH, don't
be too hard on yourselves...
UK wrote: "First three productions were completely
new ... our audiences are growing every day ... new play series
... sold out every performance..." GLH replies:
This is such an accomplishment!! I know that readings of new plays
are fun ... At Playwrights Platform, we can get wonderful experienced
actors to be in the readings-- but sometimes I hesitate to ask
Guest Equity Actors
On the controversy about Reagle's hiring Equity guest artists
from beyond Boston to work with their community theatre: I
love the Reagle shows, which miraculously combine the "heart"
of community theatre with the rigor of Broadway's demands re skill.
Some, at least, of the "amateurs" at Reagle are "retired" musical
theatre professionals who settled in the Waltham area to raise
families, but keep up their skills so that they can be in the
shows they have always loved...
Actors Cannot Do Readings
Sometimes an actor who is talented (and may have been brilliant
in a recent mainstage production) but can not read English has
been cast in a reading and when the problem shows up in rehearsal
nobody has the guts to discard him or her and get someone less
talented who can read...
People on the Knuckles
When I was scolded for posting a freshly written unpublished stand-alone
monologue in response to a specific request ... the rejection
was one of the most painful I've ever had ... To be told my work's
not worth the nanosecond it takes to delete it!...
Wearing Different Hats
One of the fun things about working in an ad hoc "developmental"
situation is the chance to explore the material wearing different
hats. This summer my piece "Autumn Leaves" was ok'd for my group's
June festival, and I turned it over to an experienced director...
for Writers on Violence
As studies continue unveiling a causal relationship between violence
and aggression in children and the violent content of the video
and movies they are exposed to, the next question is-- what do
we as artists do about it? Easy to say, but very difficult to
the Shrew: How to Direct?
My concept of direction? Well, I try to find the basic emotional
shape of the piece-- the author's if it exists, an invented one
if necessary-- and make sure that every element of the eventual
performance contributes to its realization ... SF wrote:
"[Taming the Shrew] was written 400 years ago, but, well,
it's terribly sexist." GHL replies: True: but
it ain't just women who are second class citizens, oppressed and
humiliated if they step out of line. Servants have to obey too,
and this also is enforced by beating and starvation and verbal
abuse as well as...
See also other G.L. Horton essays on . . . actors
& acting . . . criticism . . .
literature . . . miscellaneous
. . . modern plays . . .
political commentary . . . Shakespeare
. . . women's issues . . .
writing & directing & producing