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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Nov 19, 2007

what the left hand does while the right hand sleeps

Check out this Parabasis Hal Brooks interview. I especially liked this section, which I think is the best articulation of this particular playwright dilemma I’ve seen. The main challenge of working with the writer in the room is finding a way to run the room, while knowing that the guy/gal who wrote the play might have the answers - but that you might be the best person for a variety of reasons to answer the questions. I think actors sometimes want to get the answer from the playwright - because he's/she's there. But often times a playwright, having written their work, tapping into their unconscious might not have the actable answer...or they might. It depends. I love it when a writer doesn't know the answer. It makes the whole room freer, I think.. I am often afraid to open my mouth in the room for this reason. I don’t want to say the thing that is true but not useful. And I don’t want to say the thing that is not true and not useful because sometimes I’m not sure what made me write a line 3 years ago. This uncertainty is sometimes what makes people (not Hal) think they can help us write our plays. Because it’s not always easy to translate the subconscious into something everyone can understand. And when you can’t explain something, people sometimes thinks that means that they can do it better. Or that you need help. I think it’s actually a separate skill to try and be able to talk about what you’ve written while keeping safe the things you can’t say and yet keeping your confidence or appearing to keep your confidence while you deal with a question that you’re not sure if you should answer or are unable to answer. Meanwhile, you have to figure out in the rewriting process what things your subconscious put there that have to stay and which of them have to go. Because a lot of this is instinct, other people are often not helpful with this. What they can do is see the play with their eyes and tell you what they see. Which is helpful because you can never see the play with their eyes. It helps if these people are smart and know things about plays. And it helps if your subconscious doesn’t want to kill you. You see how I ruined a perfectly good essaylet with that? That was my fucking subconscious mind getting involved. And you know what? That probably shouldn’t make it to the next draft.


RLewis said...

Hal is a smart man, and I hope that we hear more on blogs from directors, since this sphere seems tilted to the playwrights. A lil' balance is nice.

I would never stop a playwright from being in the room if s/he wanted to be, but the Answers issue is important. I still hold that answers given is creativity denied.

Early in the rehearsal process there are questions I, as director, might have answers to, but try not to give up; because 3 days later when the actor comes in with that "I figured it out" excitement, it means more where it counts. It's their answer now, and once the show opens that's what matters, cuz neither the playwright nor director is the one out there.

Adam said...

Yeah, I usually leave during the discovery process. It's no fun and we playwrights are not much help.

Anonymous said...

Generally, I prefer to just go to the first read, then pop in for the designer run, make revisions, and that's it. I defer questions from actors, but I will talk frankly with the director after the designer run. The director is free to completely ignore what I've said, but at least I've been heard. Other than I stay out of it.

When I direct my own work, I tell the actors they're not allowed to ask me what anything means just because the playwright's in the room.