Friday, August 10, 2007

Writers On-the-air Day 8

Our final check-in before Reading Day. After a day of juggling schedules and casting, I was a little foggy-headed, but the evening went smoothly. All scripts are in and finished - bravo, writers!

When we checked in tonight, several of us talked about those last-minute tweaks and changes and the temptation to keep tweaking and changing. This is the liberating part of knowing it's a first draft. It's a little easier to stop tweaking. Still,the discussion raised that question that plagues many a creative artist - "How do you know when to stop?" One participant pointed out the quote "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Luckily, with a first draft reading like we have with WOW, you can just stop changing and see how it reads as is. That may help make the decision about changes, and save you some time if the changes weren't necessary.

One of the writers found that this last push to finish the script really kicked in her creative drive to complete another piece as well. A testament, I think, to the wisdom of those who tell you to write every day. When those muscles are in use, they get a lot done.

Those folks working on series discussed the ups and downs of that experience. It's somewhat comforting, if you have to cut, to know you can always put things back in to future episodes.

We tossed around the idea of "burning questions," which we will pose to our audience/actors. What makes a good burning question? Sometimes, you want to zero in on a particular moment, but often you want the question to look for that problem spot without putting undue focus on it before the audience hears the piece. Some recommendations: Ask yourself what you think the major strength & weakness of the piece is and formulate your questions from there. Build the questions as more open-ended. For example, say you're worried that certain parts are too short and others too long. You might ask: Which parts would you like more time on? Which parts feel unnecessary? You can also ask general questions such as: What is your impression of this character? What do you see as the greatest strength of this piece? What is its greatest weakness? what questions were you left with?

Guideliens and expectations for reading day:
What it is: A cold reading. A chance to hear your words read aloud by actors, see what works and what needs changing, hear specific reactions from a variety of listeners. A celebration of what you've accomplished during the workshop process.

What it is NOT: A fully rehearsed performance, final production, promise of production or future casting, opportunity for you or others to scorn or condemn your hard work, time to critique actor performances or casting choices. It does not determine your worth as a person or an artist.

In addition to logistics, we took a moment to do a "quickwrite" (write without stopping under time pressure) about our hopes and fears for Saturday's Reading Day. We hope the balance we are seeking between humor and authenticity will succeed and we fear laughter where we don't want it and silence when we want laughter. We hope genre will work for us and fear the preconceptions that some folks have about genre lacking depth. We hope we have created an effective degree of tension in a piece, we fear actors' tendency to go for the laughs in a cold reading. Generally speaking, we hope the audience will enjoy our work and fear that they won't.

Reading Day is always an adventure. I can't wait! With 10-20 actors plus writers and invited guests, 12 scripts and 6 hours of readings, it's certainly an event.

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