Wednesday, February 28, 2007

edward albee via Freeman

"We have no paucity of good young playwrights, and
good older playwrights; we don't have the happiest
environment for them to work in. Like in the art world
and in literature, the theater's just as trendy, as
dangerous and corrupt. The big problem is the
assumption that writing a play is a collaborative act.
It isn't. It's a creative act, and then other people
come in. The interpretation should be for the accuracy
of what the playwright wrote. Playwrights are expected
to have their text changed by actors they never
wanted. Directors seem to feel they are as creative as
the playwright. Most of these changes are for
commercial reasons. I know a lot about it because I'm
on the council of the Dramatists Guild, but of course
the pressures are on all of us. I'm in the lucky
position where I just say, 'Go fuck yourself; if you
don't want to do the play I wrote, do another play.'
The forces of darkness would back down if everybody
said that."


Jason Grote said...

I disagree about theater being a collaborative medium, and - without naming names - I see a ton of boring productions of new plays that would have benefited from more creative tension and/or directorial vision. I think many directors of new plays just do whatever the playwright wants and the play suffers - it's one thing if the playwright is directing his/her own work, but I for one am not a director for a reason.

He is right, though, that no collaborator has the right to tell the playwright what to write. I was recently approached by the artistic director of a 200-seat theater in a large city, who more or less came out and said that, if I made my play more like a very successful play, he would probably produce it. The thing is, this play - let's call it PLAY X - is completely boring to me, and only superficially resembles my play. I would rather not get the production, there or anywhere, rather than turn my play into the kind of play that bores the hell out of me.

Everyone in Denver completely respected my vision for the play, and it would have been disastrous if I took half of the advice I've received about it. I would rather have a my own play received badly than suck the life out of it for the sake of a production - and then get panned because it's so damn boring.

Adam said...

Are you saying theatre is a collaborative medium or is not? I agree with you that a director can make a play better or worse than what the playwright has in mind. I have experienced both.

It sounds like Denver was amazing. I think we are all looking for our Denver, Jason.

P.S. Please have that guy from the 200 seat theatre call me. I'd be glad to write whatever kind of play he wants. I'll make it exactly like the play he is describing. In fact I may just photocopy the play and change the title. That would be cool right?