Went to meet the actors for a play I’m writing as part of OC‘s “Ignition” at 3MT. I’m always nervous going to this type of thing. In fact, I’m always nervous period. That’s sort of why I force myself to do things.
This was another situation where you’ve got to meet and make friends with a bunch of complete strangers in a very short space of time. Fortunately, Gayle and Dan make it a little less painful, in that the relaxed atmosphere at Organised Chaos really flows from them. It occurred to me about 5 minutes in, after having been introduced to the three male actors and one other writer, that I’d actually done zero prep for this. I hadn’t even prepared any questions to get things going. So as we chatted, and Gayle and Dan ran through the details of the show, I frantically scribbled down some opening questions for the actors.
The point of meeting the actors beforehand is to write with them in mind. Something I’ve done once or twice in the past – but never with a completely new trio. The play also has to be written for this coming monday which gives me seven days to come up with something that doesn’t completely suck.
Luckily one of the actors gave me a ton of great ideas just by telling me a bit about himself. He does that actor thing of telling stories – in this case not about previous gigs – but about his life. A really interesting guy and because the stories were quirky with some odd characters I worked up a scenario as he talked. After this I felt a little more relaxed – and he was great about using his history as a starting point.
I’ve studied at theatres, uni and with writers agencies over the years, also a lot of reading about how to generate stories, but still I find it difficult to define how you come up with something that interests you. It’s never, or rarely, for me about a writing “activity” such as they teach on creative writing courses to get the creative juices flowing. Nor is it about knowing the shape of a classic story and trying to find the correct elements (or if it is – this isn’t a conscious process for me) It’s a different starting point every time. A word. A person. A situation. It can be anything. But once you’ve got that thing that interests you, whatever it may be, your brain starts to form connections and things start happening. Maybe it’s a bacterial sort of process. If you drop a germ into a dish – and if there’s enough food there for it to live on – it’ll multiply automatically. Because that’s what it does. It’s a germ. That’s its purpose.
Until you’ve got…fungus?
I don’t think I’ll use this analogy again. But anyway, it went well. Got to admire people like Gayle and Dan who decide to create theatre themselves and make it happen, regularly and consistently. It also occurred to me that the actors, directors, writers and producers I hang out with are all really doing something that’s important to them. Whatever their skill set and experience they’re a bunch of people that like to get involved – often wearing several different hats. At one time I might be directing someone, who later goes on to direct me, or produce something I’ve written. You do what you’ve got to do because it’s better than doing nothing. And it’s all good experience.