Game 1: The Card Game

I’ve now formalized the growing deck of idea cards with an easy to follow set of guidelines:

  • At a lull, select a card.

  • Group reads card aloud and has one minute to decide if we can work with it.

  • If not, card goes back to the deck & we select another card.

  • Group spend ten minutes working with the card.

  • We decide if it should go back into the deck.

  • Topics are not to be suggested at meetings but anyone from the group can email Bob with card topics

Milestone 1

Just got back from a vacation on Virginia Beach; a fertile but non-productive period, where I did a lot of planning for the impending start of the Genesis process. Have now arrived at a process point where I think I can actually be of use to the actors as we work.

The major effort I am making is to be a source of support, process and information but not an arbiter or judge of the material. As in a perfect brainstorming or improvisational process, I’m seeking a meritocracy of ideas. So my own ideas must take a backseat to those the group as whole can generate. And that’s going to be one of the first things I shall announce once Matt turns the group over to me for the startup phase of our work together.

On the other hand, I have done a large amount of research for this play, and want that research to be of benefit to the play development process. The cards mentioned in the previous entry are a part of this. A guided improv process will be a second tool for generating scenes. A physically oriented brainstorming process will support the generation of themes. All in all, I’m really looking forward to this!

Big Index Cards

Talked to Matt Bray, AD of Praxis… he’s amped about this blog; so it’s all set… I’ll report on the output of the process, sometimes in a rather raw state, other times more associatively.

I plan to bring in a set of big index cards to all the meetings, possibly starting with the first if the time is right; each card has no more than 25 or so words about the ideas that have come out of the research. A picture already on the background of each card represents Shared Idea. If things ever get static and need livening up, I’ll pull out a card at random and if I’ve done a decent job on the first set, it should do some good. If there’s a flop, we have to agree to put it BACK into the pile to be drawn later. So we only dispose of an idea card once we are done.

I plan to open the process of generating these cards to the whole group as soon as possible. People can email me ideas and I will put them on cards, the same as the first ones I generated, and we will draw them at random when we need.

Maybe also take a quick vote (we have to get good at quick votes) to determine when a card should be considered completed. But I think perhaps these cards will never be completed; if we get a card again, it’s time to see what that card has to say to us again. If that idea doesn’t pan out, we’ll abandon it.

The cards:

• If someone were to say “MacBeth,” what would be kept from that, and what taken out?

• Do Banquo & Lady MacBeth represent the two sides of evil’s intimacy?

• True or False: A story published Sept 8, 2001 (NY Times website) with a CIA warning to overseas US interests did not mention the domestic US. The story is removed from the Times website on 9/12.

• True or false: The famous flag raising on Iwo Jima photo was staged.

• True or False: Video cameras watch you shop, drive, enter or leave an office building, train or bus station, or airport.

• Every word you say over any electronically transmissible medium is recorded & analyzed for key words like: terrorist. bomb. shoot. protest. congress. president.

• What if SS/Stasi/KGB/MI6/OSS/CIA operatives were really the Oracle of Delphi?

• A CIA operative’s life is 99% banal routine

• The Elizabethan worldview… through new eyes, but still influenced by the Middle Ages’ spiritual aspiration and physical corruption.

• The Body Politick – the human body as the state and vice versa

• Ann Coulter/Camille Paglia; the sexually and politically active woman, liberal or – even more interesting – conservative.

• Eventually there will be an incident that will compel us to vote the Constitution out.

• The gradual erosion of meaning destroys our ability to care, and thus to oppose.

• Elements of what Greil Marcus calls “The Old, Weird America”

• Aerial slides of military sites, taken from satellite photos.

• The Quality in Education Act disembowels public school budgets. The Clean Air Act allows increased air pollution. The Patriot Act removes our freedom. Name two other possible Acts.

A Process for Praxis

This process will involve more than an orientation to use non-logic and dreams in the construction of plays; there is also the deliberate use of coincidence outside the actual structure of a play, in fact in the making of a play. Case in point…

I’d done about 8 pages of notes for the Praxis play so far… all exploratory (no dialogue yet because the characters are still taking shape and are not ready to speak). I’ll be transcribing some of the notes shortly. I have made a tentative decision that it’s possible the model of the play is based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and besides re-reading MacBeth the 12th time, I decided to look at some older criticism on the play.

That same day, I took my son to the park. Someone was just closing up a yard sale in front of their house on Prospect Park West, and put a box of books out for free (guess nobody was buying books that day). Amongst the books was a copy of Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary.

It’s an older book, but reading the section on MacBeth and on Hamlet in that book is starting to give some ideas on how to apply the storylines to a political context… and this is definitely a political play… and now my notes:

1. One character – Ann Coulter/Camille Paglia; the sexually and politically active woman, whether liberal or – even more interesting – conservative.

2. There should be elements of what Greil Marcus calls “The Old, Weird America”

3. Play pre-show: Aerial slides of military sites, taken from satellite photos.

4. Banquo & Lady MacBeth should be merged in this play… they represent the two sides of intimacy…

5. The witch: an old OSS/CIA operative who’s trying to get in touch with her.

6. Everywhere the sense that everyone is being watched, recorded, monitored, measured, judged. Their acts transcribed directly into the Book of Justice, or St. Peter’s Book of Virtue and Sin.

7. The Elizabethan worldview should have some influence on this play… they viewed the world through new eyes, but eyes still under the influence of the Middle Ages’ cruel spirituality.

Bridge or Berkeley’s Monlogue adaptation

Reading Playwriting Master Class by Michael Wright… interesting to study the processes of other playwrights… although at the same time, valueless. Every writer has their own unique process… though Wright’s premise of dividing writers up into three categories of process (dreams… journeys… cut from whole cloth) does bear some scrutiny if for no other reason than a chance for each writer to query the specifics of their own process. Possibly there is a fourth, perhaps even a fifth and sixth.

Research proceeding apace on Bridge/Berkeley’s monologue… found a huge trove of research on Berkeley’s life, including some accidental parallels between certain relationships with women in his life and relationships of my protagonist and women in his life. I couldn’t have known this beforehand, yet somehow it seems to gel so perfectly.

And of course the job is knocking me flat so I’m grateful to even write this blog, nevermind a script. The day I leave the job, aye, indeed thah will be a blessed one.

Genesis commission!

Wow… four months since my last post… guess i suck at this blog thing. sorry everyone…

good news is that Praxis Theatre Project – a terrific NYC company that had a hit this Spring with How His Bride Came to Abraham – has designated me their Genesis playwright in residence for 2003-2004… they’ve got a real cool process for developing plays that’s sort of up the alley of any active hands-on type of playwright.

Their process in a nutshell… their Artistic Director, Matt Bray, meets with the playwright over the course of the summer to coalesce some thematic material. it’s a suggestion-built-on-suggestion process that’s very interactive and leaves a lot of the gathering to the playwright… and Matt’s a fascinating and charismatic personality and a great talker on his own.

You enter the Fall development period with a two things decided (1) the skeletal themes of the play to be (2) a basic rundown of the actors who will participate.

That’s it. The rest is up to the process.

Actors meet weekly with the playwright as moderator to read script in the works, discuss themes and ideas, argue, whatever works. The playwright is unleashed with the actors, without a further need for artistic moderation on the part of the company… the degree of trust implied by the process is very impressive.

And since I have this blog thing… perhaps I will record a portion of the experience and insights that come with the process here for all of you… perhaps it will even capture some of it for you.

Ozymandias, or living in NYC

—–Original Message—–
From: Wirelessreport@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 5:13 PM
To: Ferrante, Bob
Subject: hope you are okay

Heard the awful awful news from NY and hope you, friends and family are all okay,
Best,
Barry Zellen
Wirelessreport.net

—–Reply—–
From: Bob Jude Ferrante
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 6:24PM
To: Zellen, Barry
Subject: hope you are okay

Barry–
Thanks for your kindness. Family alive and home OK. I witnessed the plane hitting Tower 2 and its aftermath, from a train on the Manhattan Bridge, even then it had the feeling of something – a “moment in history.”

But we are back to work tomorrow… actually been working from home all day.

Best,
Bob_Ferrante@ibi.com
Sent from my Blackberry pager

***

You might know me from my column here on WirelessReport called Wireless@home. Or not. The column takes place in Brooklyn. The ‘we’ in this article means ‘we Brooklynites’ or ‘we Americans’ or ‘we humans,’ take your pick.

I really live in Brooklyn and the colorful characters that happen to play with mobile technology in the column are real people that live around here. So the colorful characters have been living a strange fever dream the past four weeks.

***

The Blackberry beeped. The email said there would be an InterFaith gathering Friday at Newkirk Plaza (think ‘Town Square’), sponsored by Midwood Park, Fiske Terrace and Ditmas Park. Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Moonie leaders would all speak of tolerance, mutual respect. A solemn gathering. Not a party.

***

In Brooklyn we are 2½ miles from Ground Zero. We are the closest boro to downtown and we all work in Manhattan. Until 9/11 the World Trade Center was always there over our heads: Two big grey buildingtops squatting just above the roof. A nasty brutish (but not short) engineering marvel. At nineteen when the World Trade Center was going to be there forever, I wrote a bad poem where they were the topless legs in Shelley’s Ozymandias. You know, “look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

We needed no TV to see what was happening. Ashes fell on us, burned memos clogged our trees, charred file folders swarmed our sidewalks. The smoke stayed three days: black the first day, grayblack the second, gray the third. There are still Auschwitz survivors living in Brooklyn. Some, whenever they close their eyes, still see smoke.

Then the wind shifted toward Jersey.

***

Brooklyn has a huge concentration of Muslims. Pakistanis occupy a rectangle from Argyle to E. 10th and Newkirk to Avenue J, right next to one of the many Orthodox neighborhoods. Driving down Coney Island is a hateful experience because Pakistanis jaywalk… well, everyone jaywalks in NYC, but Pakistanis are the worst.

Since they published the photo of Mohammad Atta, though, the Pakistanis stick to the sidewalk, walk fast, furtive, head bowed. Brooklyn’s Pakistani population did not dance on 9/11, no matter what anyone says. They lost family, friends. And now with every shout, every horn honk, they jump a little. They have every reason to fear the worst. But we’re all like that now.

***

We used to joke that going to work was going to war. Now it’s no joke. Maybe an exaggeration… we have pilots and soldiers on Afghan soil, really at war. But Subways, airports, office buildings, train and bus stations, landmarks that were once grand are now targets. F-16s scrawl overhead, destined for carriers offshore. On every corner there’s heat: Cops. Troopers. Marshals. Rangers. Soldiers.

We go to work, eat out, see shows and movies, but always with a look first overhead then all around. Before, rushing to get to “war,” sometimes I forgot to say goodbye to the people I love. Now I always do.

***

In 2000 NYC did a campaign, “NYC, Capitol of the World.” Friends scoffed at the arrogance. But in dark moments now we know it’s true. We are NYC, Capitol of the World, under siege.

***

9/11 began for me at 9AM. Window seat, Manhattan-bound ‘Q’. As Subways go, Q is pretty magnificent. It goes over the Manhattan Bridge, clear or cloudy, day or night you get (1) a great view of the City (2) a chance to catch up on phone calls.

I take out cellphone and pager and wait for sunlight. In the dark between DeKalb Avenue and the bridge, the Q stops. One minute. Two minutes. Five minutes.

The conductor comes on the PA. Another preachy sound bite from the Giuliani-era MTA: it’s Good to not hold train doors, Good to give seats to the elderly. Or maybe it’s an apology because a kid pulled a brake somewhere, or a passenger needs medical attention at Grand Street, hence the delay.

But no, it’s: “Q train service is delayed. There’s a report. Uh, a plane hit the World Trade Center.” Imagine this: All you do is drive a train. Suddenly you have to tell 800 people some really bad news.

Bang, commute trance ended. We look up from our books, adopt the NYC “what’s this shit?” look (patent applied for). Conversations spring up. How bad could it be? A B-25 hit the Empire State building. 1945. The building got fixed. Did ATC really mess up bad this time? The system is old… needs to be replaced… hey, who gets the contract? The truth occurs to nobody.

The Q climbs the bridge ramp, creeps out on the bridge, warm blue late summer, sunlight ladders march up the “graffiti proof” key-scratched windows. How bad could it be?

The World Trade Center tears into view. And it’s… a hole fifteen stories high, punched through Tower 1. Dark grey smoke plumes out slow in a thick marker line stretching five miles over Brooklyn. From the broken tower’s windows people lean, tiny suits and dresses, tiny arms waving.

Awed whispers. This is a mistake massive as Bhopal. Jesus Christ. Are these people gonna make it? The whispers die. The conductor comes on. “I think we should all take a moment and say a prayer for those people.” Everybody looks down, then eyes are drawn back up – the sight is riveting – just as a huge BOOM rips through the south tower. Glass, steel blow out, float in glittering clouds, torn by angry walls of fire.

Everyone on the train goes apeshit. Wo, wawazat? Did the fire in one tower catch the other tower? To try to explain, to map it, is just futile. Sitting there above the East River, we can’t see the plane that tore through the South Tower on the opposite, Hudson River side.

Now both towers bleed debris, fire and smoke. But still they stand. The fire can be extinguished. The train, still stopped, sways with the bridge. That’s when we realize, we are hanging in the sky 150 feet above the East River and all it would take would be…

The train lurches again. It heaves. It goes and as we pass slowly into the tunnel leading to Canal Street we take a look back. They will get the fires out. It will be OK. They will fix the towers. They will reopen. We made it through 1993 (when a bomb blew out the basements under the Towers) and we will make it through this. In the dark, wanting to say something to someone, but no one to say it to. The Q reaches 34th Street.

***

Just outside 2 Penn, a good friend stands chain-smoking cigarettes. I walk up, light one. “‘Sup?” I ask.

“The Pentagon. They hit the Pentagon.”

The loop closes forever. No systems failure. A they did this and it was huge and it was intentional. It must have taken years to plan… lives now ended in plumes of smoke and fire… years to plan and execute the operation, to kill 5,000 people who showed up for work.

Up the elevator to the 28th floor just as we get the evacuation order. 2 Penn is right atop Penn Station, which pretty much screams ‘target.’ Dan Ortolani, a compassionate VP, helps me rush the floor, to tell everyone, get the hell out, we are closed, go home to your families. They are mostly crowded at the south side-great view of south Manhattan from the 28th floor-transfixed by the sight of the planes hitting, of the flaming towers, of people jumping.

We get loud; “YOU HAVE TO LEAVE NOW! NOW! NOW!” And suddenly they are all shouting… “It’s going down! It’s falling! Jesus, it’s falling!” as the South Tower collapses in a pancaking cascade. They won’t be fixed. It won’t all work out. And the dead will number not in tens or hundreds but thousands.

Later came the news hundreds of onlookers, just as curious and awed as the group on 28, and just as buried when the building fell. And the man that rode the building, rode it over 80 floors to the ground, like some standing wave, and the bill was two broken legs.

Then evacuation is complete. So we elevator back to Plaza level and join thousands of evacuated commuters who have all been told, “get the hell out, we are closed, go home to your families.” But everything’s shut. There’s no way home. The MTA posts workers but no answers, except that the trains will run again, probably soon.

Then through the crowd headed south. It seems that on every street corner a parked repair van or ice cream truck blares WABC Newsradio or Bloomberg; news is ubiquitous, everyone knows the current story, and everyone wonders, who did I lose today?

We are skilled software engineers, product people, and architects. But that’s pretty much it. We are not surgeons, EMTs, or Civil Engineers. The city is already turning away volunteers without essential skills. If you can’t help, fight. If you can’t fight, hide until the Subway reopens.

The bar we choose to hide in looks inviting. In fact we see a couple friends. But it happens to be across from Morgan Stanley’s mid-town offices. Downtown, Morgan Stanley leased about half the north tower and this bar is where many escapees have congregated to be counted. 25 year-olds, just out of their last no-pay summer internship, being trained how to broker. White ash on $300 Men’s WearHouse suits. They got out eleven minutes before it went down. Told to meet at the usual bar hangout, they immediately pound beers. I can’t fault them for that. I was a mile-&-change away and am totally ready to start drinking.

We down a round. It’s making us nuts. We have to know. We buy them drinks and desperately grill them: What it’s like, did they hear the planes, did people get out, how close were you. Josh, trembling with fear and drink, represents:

“First day in Broker training up on the 84th floor. The plane hit the north tower, the building shook like anything. Me Stan and Brett started to get the fk out. Then Security came on and said, everyone go back to work, the building is secure. But we said, fk that. When the second plane hits our building, we’re in the stairs, the building is shaking like it’s gonna come down. We got a ‘fast lane’ down the WTC stairwell. Man, there was old people, there was pregnant ladies, guys with crutches, I don’t think they got out. Eleven minutes after we cleared the door, it came down.”

Please give up your seat to an elderly person as you run for the exit.

Mark, a sales rep from work, fumes. “Bastard kid, walked past those poor people, they coulda used him, used his help, and all he thinks about is getting his ass the hell out.”

Ach. Hard question. How would the kid know the tower was coming down? Police and firefighters didn’t think so on their way up-the kids passed them on the stairs. OK. You’re 24, just out of school, it’s your first paying non-restaurant job. The economy sucks, the job might evaporate. It’s your first day of training and a plane hits your home office and you realize, it’s time for eight years of lacrosse to pay off. The kid made it out. If he stopped to help, he might be lost. He wouldn’t be here to smoke every last damn one of my cigarettes.

***

It could have been worse. The WTC could have been filled to capacity. It could have been worse. Neighboring buildings could have been full. It could have been worse. The planes could have been full. It could have been worse. The fourth plane could have reached the Capitol or the White House instead of a handful of passengers crashing it in Pennsylvania. It could have been worse. There could have been no contingency plans in place. It could have been worse. The MTA had trains running that day, only slightly delayed, and the delay was well-spent, routing N, R, 1, 2 and 3 trains away first from burning skyscrapers, later from destroyed stations. The MTA sustained us through the Cold War and Nuclear Age and is probably more prepared for disaster than many of us. It could have been worse. The Office of Emergency Management, NYC’s FEMA, was located in 7 World Trade which was destroyed, but was back in operation nearly immediately at Pier 92. It could have been worse.

***

The night of the 12th, George W made a speech. Among the points he made was that Americans should practice tolerance with those of Middle Eastern extraction among us. Not to hate people that looked like the attackers, some of whose photos had just been published in the paper. And I wondered what came over him. A sign of… leadership? No. Can’t be.

***

That email about the InterFaith meeting… it’s a noble message, that we all need to go out in public and say “I respect Islamic people, especially those who know the Prophet loved peace.” But would that help or hurt? Would Americans look weak, saying “tolerance?” Would they look strong, if they could say “tolerance” after sustaining such a grievous wound?

And what would be the final public reaction… Americans barely had grief and they are already doing anger. Would folks go rampant, drag people out into the streets? Never, no, never, not in NYC anyway, not with its huge Muslim population and long history as a melting-pot. No Krystallnacht here.

Though I volunteered to help out, the celebration didn’t happen. Everyone is too messed up. We lost too much to get the liberal spirit up this first week. There’s a memorial broadcast from Yankee Stadium that Sunday, a larger version of what our celebration would have been. We listen to the preachers and politicians speak, blink at the wounded skyline, think of what’s lost.

We must imagine what our celebration would have been like. Free meatball heroes from Lo Duca’s. Kids dropping tomato sauce on their Tommys. It’s winding down. Catholic and Jewish ministers done; Muslim wrapping up, Moonie’s on deck. You take a brownie, and I in my turban take a frosted vanilla bar from the Hindu-Pak bakery. Two ladies, one Jewish, one Mexican, make banal cell phone patter in different tongues. “I’m at the door. A guy’s in the way. Excuse me. I’m losing you, this is a crappy signal.” The turbaned cookie man has an email pager like mine; it beeps, he reads a message, fires off an answer. Federal computers comb the content, looking for Jihad, bomb, Mullah, fatwah. Now this article is listed too.

***

George W! We have to feed the starving Afghan people. Starving people are close to dead, so dead isn’t as scary. A starving man doesn’t think clearly, or learn right, or get your point. The perspective of ‘three squares’ incurs rationality. So don’t just drop 30,000 K rations a couple times and call it a day. Before a show of American force, show American meatball heroes and American potato salad.

***

Osama Bin Laden, man behind the curtain, was trained by allied agencies working for American Intelligence, but that excuses nothing.

Bin Laden is the VC for the expansionist ambitions of the Islamic fundamentalist movement. It’s possible his hands are even ostensibly clean. The evidence against him took a lot of doing. He’s a really silent partner. Bin Laden trades dollars for fear. Fear is a weapon, but only if your foe doesn’t grok it’s standard issue.

Fans of Tony Soprano wonder, is this a vendetta against the Bushes? The sins of George, visited on George. That’s a more possible reason than the narcissistic “they hate our way of life.” Hitler’s first move was to garner unchallenged control of Germany’s sphere of influence and restart its economy. Make the land pure German, defining ‘German’ wide enough to make a nice big nation.

Bin Laden has simple needs — to overthrow the house of Saud that rules his ex-homeland. From that powerful stronghold spawn sister governments. Eventually you replace every moderate Middle Eastern government with a Fundementalist one.

The Fundamentalist consortium then sets the price for oil – because we still depend on oil – and eventually either buys us or buys a military to smash us from the center of the board. Fundamentalism of every stripe is always a political ism. Geopolitics is its real God.

***

A week after 9/11, I take my wife out for our anniversary and we take the Command bus home to Brooklyn. It goes through Ground Zero, which we haven’t seen in person until then. The mayor’s asked us all to stay out of the way of the rescue effort.

Rising from the pit, smashed buildings all around, unearthly bright light emphasizing its lunar aspects, sits the twisted pile of steel, aluminum and glass, still burning, that used to be the World Trade Center. And then I repeat Shelley’s words:

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

An old man drops a grocery bag. It bangs to the bus floor. Nobody stops to help him pick up the groceries. They are diving for the exit.

***

Eight blocks from home, a Pakistani man jaywalks carrying a smiling baby in a Gerry pack. The man bounces. The kid bounces. The kid giggles. The man smiles. They are there to tell you, live as if the world is good, stay ready in case it isn’t.

Notes to a playwright

These are actual dramaturgical notes I recently gave one of the playwrights with whom I  work.

The points below will no doubt annoy you because they are deceptively obvious play writing text kinds of things, but I’m going to say them anyway, because you still need to hear them.

  1. If the new scene 2 has the same stuff going on as the last one, the whole scene’s got to go. The scene I read appeared to show an appalling lack faith in your audience – but really it was probably just a lack of faith in yourself, so you’re forgiven.
  2. If the characters’ world isn’t so different from ours, skip all exposition. Don’t even have one moment of someone recounting something from the past unless that information is being used in the present. Don’t have a single line there for gratuitous purposes. None of your puns where someone fucking breaks plates just so they can later talk tectonics. Someone has to cut their foot on the plates and that cut foot has to interfere with something critical later (which is what you did to fix that). Peppered throughout this draft, people were saying things without a character-driven reason for saying them. Entire pages needed to be crossed out – they were well written but totally unnecessary because they were providing detail about the past, which we could have figured out if the people would stop talking and start doing something.
  3. Keep an eagle eye out department – we often admit to ourselves in the writing when we have characters say things like “I know / that,” “as you know,” “I keep asking myself,” or “I told you before,” “you told me this.” Or when the same information is repeated twice – bad enough it came once as exposition, then it has to be repeated again, to another character who needs to hear the news too. If that’s “needs” to happen usually the scene started in the wrong place. Start right after the news was related, the audience will know exactly – oldest trick in the book but still frequently used and never sounds stale.
  4. Avoid starting your café scenes at “hello, I’m me, you’re you.” Start ten minutes into that scene, after some ridiculously funny, shameful or horrible thing was said. Then you won’t fall into the exposition trap. All you have to do is have one moment where it’s clear this is their first time meeting, and then all the knowingness about each other MUST be because he told her just then, no? So we get to skip the exposition.
  5. Grill sessions of three pages where two characters do question and answer format, that’s what scene 2 felt like. Don’t pause the play to feed the audience information. In the type of play you’re writing, which is either realism or magic realism, you have to resist all temptation to talk to the audience. If it were a musical, or Epic, you could get away with a few breakouts.
  6. Focus on voice. All we know of these guys is what they do and their sounds or silence. Everything else is submerged or silhouetted. Get a map of the US and put a star with a character’s name next to where each one was born. Make a grid with all characters’ names on it up the left and across the top and write a few words about how each character should talk to and act against their counterparts, or include a few sample lines. Hang those up above your writing table. I use these tools – and I invented them, they don’t come from a book.
  7. When reading a play it’s as if I am going to direct it. Am fairly ruthless with most plays and usually feel bad about it only after closing night. Say to yourself, “would I tolerate this from a play I was watching?” It’s a maddeningly simple question, but really ask it anyway. Even the exposition in scene 1 of my play is going to go, it’s nothing but scaffolding. And this is an alien world to which the audience needs orienting.
  8. I directed a 15 minute play last year and cut a page out of it and the playwright agreed to it (it took less than 5 minutes to convince him). What does that mean? That I am an asshole? (Yeah, probably) Or that the play was 10% too long? (Yeah, probably) As it was, the playwright so shackled the play (one of the characters was paralyzed and the other forced to spend the whole scene washing him) that the play felt like static talking anyway. I realized after a week of performances — there are never enough rehearsals in these no-money NYC showcase code shows, professional actors can’t afford to waste their time rehearsing a fifteen-minute play when they can get paying work — it felt totally like my fault, I should have worked harder to open the play up with the playwright. But the playwright was actually trying to distance himself from the play, it was about a very painful experience he’d just gone through (I admonish you, go through serious therapy and wait 20 years before trying to write about your own pain!). The fragment we held was merely notes, a sketch, and the play hadn’t even been born.
  9. Write scenes with only stage directions and no dialogue to counter the scenes where nobody does anything but talk for 5 pages.