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1000 PLAYWRIGHT INTERVIEWS

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

Jul 14, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1088: Christina Hamlett




Christina Hamlett


Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Three new books (including 101 Plots for Stage, Page and Cinema), several performing arts articles, and about half a dozen new plays. One of the reasons I’ve never had writer’s block is because whenever I discover I’ve written myself into a mental cul-de-sac, there’s no shortage of other projects to which I can switch over and recharge.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  As an only child, I was a voracious reader (I still am!) and would entertain myself by writing plays for my puppets, stuffed animals and Barbie dolls. I supplied all of their voices as well; on the days I was especially boisterous, the neighbors would ask my parents, “How many children do you have exactly?” In school, I never took drama or acted in any productions. Instead, I fell into theatre purely as a result of being in the right place at the right time. Specifically, my first job out of high school was writing movie and play reviews for a weekly newspaper. On the afternoon I went to do a write-up for the local melodrama company’s upcoming production, the heroine forgot there was a rehearsal and they needed someone to stand in and read her lines. My impromptu acting must have impressed them because they not only wrote in a role for me but tasked me to be understudy for all the women in the cast. It was the fortuitous start to 16 years treading the boards as an actress, director and manager of my own acting company.

Q:  When you finish a new script, who’s the first person to read it?

A:  My husband. We do lively table reads in the dining room over adult beverages. Since we can both do a wide range of accents, I’m sure that when the windows are open, the neighbors must think there are at least 17 other people living with us. (Not unlike my childhood, right?)

Q: Of all the scripts you've written, do you have a personal favorite?

A: I think every actor and playwright will say that their favorite is whichever one they're currently involved in. For me, though, The Knight of the Honest Heart, will always be among my fondest memories. It's a sweet Medieval romance in which an ambitious young cobbler named Crispin seeks to woo a princess named Lady Elaine by pretending to be a knight. As their flirtation grows, he's torn by the realization he has fallen in love with her and, thus, owes her the truth. Imagine his delight and relief when he discovers that the object of his affections is actually Celia (Lady Elaine's lady in waiting) who was also questing for some adventure. The Knight of the Honest Heart, is the first script I sold to PLAYS Magazine in 1980. Twenty years--and many, many scripts--later, I wrote the sequel for PLAYS in which we learn how Crispin and Celia's lives turned out. My relationship with this publisher is one that continues going strong well into the 21st century and attests to the value of building one's brand and staying faithful to it.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, Neil Simon, Bernard Slade.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Compelling storylines, watchable characters, plausible and sustainable conflicts, amazing set designs, and music that I’m still humming weeks after the curtain has come down.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Attend as many plays as you can. If you can’t attend in person, consider these venues for play-watching: www.dramanotebook.com/watch-free-plays-online, https://www.timeout.com/theatre/best-streaming-theatre-shows-how-to-watch-online, https://www.playbill.com/article/15-broadway-plays-and-musicals-you-can-watch-on-stage-from-home, https://broadwaydirect.com/where-to-watch-musicals-online-the-musical-lovers-guide-to-streaming/,https://www.digitaltheatre.com/ and https://www.pbs.org/show/great-performances/.

Take some acting classes. Even better, get yourself cast in something! It will hone your playwriting skills in pacing, structure, character development, dialogue, and set design.

Recruit friends to read your scenes out loud for you. This is invaluable insofar as determining whether the conversations sound natural or stilted.

Be an original and don’t write to “trends.” As popular as it is to use theatre as a platform to politicize, to rant, to blame and to kvetch about current affairs, the operative word here is “current.” The more you fixate on whatever is currently going on in the real world, the potentially shorter shelf-life you’re giving your material. (Of the projects I’m reading these days in my capacity as a script consultant, two-thirds of them are about COVID … and they all sound exactly the same.) Look at the plays which have stood the test of time (and especially Shakespeare). They have survived because they speak to timeless themes, not transitory events.

Catharsis may be good for the soul but it’s not always commercially viable. If you’re envisioning your play as a memoir-with-actors, it’s critical to consider whether you’re writing for an audience or just writing for yourself.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My plays (and there are now 215 of them) can be found at Silver Birchington in the UK (https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com), Pioneer Drama Service (https://www.pioneerdrama.com), PLAYS (https://www.playsmagazine.com), Stage Plays (www.stageplays.com), Brooklyn Publishers (https://www.brookpub.com), Heartland Plays (https://heartlandplays.com) and 365 Women a Year (https://365womenayear.wordpress.com). In addition, a number of my one-acts can be found on Amazon. Just Google my name. (And yes, Hamlett is my real surname.)

Want to try an online playwriting class and get one-on-one feedback? Looking for a professional script consultation? Have questions about playwriting resources or competitions? Feel free to contact me via my website at www.authorhamlett.com. Please note, however, that I do not open unsolicited manuscripts or other attachments, nor do I provide industry referrals for individuals I don’t know.


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1 comment:

Linda Jack said...
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