View single post by katoagogo
 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2014 06:26 pm
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Joined: Fri Jun 16th, 2006
Location: New London, Connecticut USA
Posts: 902
This is one of those things that came up in my Facebook feed yesterday - and I thought I'd post it here.

This list is composed by Andrew Hinderaker, and it's a solid assessment.

My friend [...] recently wrote me, saying he was interested in writing a play and asking how he should begin.

I had no idea how the hell to respond... and then I just had the most inspiring conversation with Anne Garcia-Romero, and here's what I've got for you, Sean... and anyone who might be interested:

1. Read and see as much theater as you can. Most public libraries let you check out 30 books at a time. Many theaters let you in for free if you usher. Bring a pad and pen to every play you attend. Make notes about what you love, what you hate, what bores you to shit and moves you to tears. Worry less about things like character, conflict, and rising action. This is craft, and craft can be learned. This is less about learning HOW to write plays, and more about learning WHY you write plays, and this will fuel your inspiration again, and again, and again.

2. Experience as much 'theater' as you can. If it's got an audience and unfolds in real time, it's theater. This means dance. And music. And sports, and magic, and performance art. Reach out to collaborators across disciplines. This will broaden the boundaries of your work. It's fine if your play has a naturalistic set and a hero's journey, but this should be a choice rather than an assumption.

3. Be a human being in the world. I don't fully subscribe to the notion of 'write what you know,' but I believe that the YOU is hugely important. Write what you hope to know. What you're afraid/embarrassed/ashamed that you don't know. Write what you hope for, what you yearn for, what troubles you on a profound, personal level, and what gives you silly amounts of glee. The key word is YOU.

4. Along those lines, write/journal/reflect, and face the fear of working in isolation. Yes, theater is absolutely a collaborative art, but as shy and awkward as I am, I've never found it (all that) difficult to get in a room with brilliant actors, directors, designers, and artists of all stripes. That's the fun part. Much harder is waking up at 5 AM, while the rest of the world is asleep, and facing the blank page. But know this: you are enough to begin. (By the way, I'd argue that this is true regardless of how the work is made: devised, scripted, etc.) The most daunting (and sometimes most rewarding) work is done in isolation.

5. Compassion is even more compelling than conflict on stage.

6. Say YES way more often than you say no. The theater artists who inspire me - Suzan Zeder, Kirk Lynn, Michael Patrick Thornton, Jonathan Berry, Will Davis, Polly Carl, Philip Kan Gotanda, Gregg Henry (And a Bahzillion other people I'm ashamed to leave off) dared to say yes to me, when they had every reason to say no. They said yes to plays with twenty cast members and a drumline; they said yes to plays with two intermissions, with the word "Suicide" in the title; they've said yes to plays that are starting to look a little less like "plays." There is *always* a viable reason to say 'no' in the theater. But every meaningful experience I've had in the theater was infused with a resounding spirit of YES.

7. Accept that making good, resonant theater is really, really hard... and that most of the stuff you churn out at first won't be very good. There was actually an interesting NPR article about this - Google it. The first plays you write are generally (but not always) crap, and guess what? As you get better, it gets harder (a brilliant piece of wisdom from Steven Dietz). Take JOY in this. You will never, ever make a perfect theater piece. Sarah Kane came close, but even she didn't get there. What a beautiful thing... to strive toward a bar you will never reach.

8. Write, write, write, write... and write. I have never once thought, "Gosh, I wish I hadn't spent so much time writing." Don't always wait for inspiration... more often than not, the work is the inspiration. More often than not, the work isn't very good. But if you devote a ton of time to writing, the good work will accrue. Kirk Lynn is busier than anyone I know, and he gets up at 5 (or earlier) almost every day and writes for an hour before his children wake up. And guess what? Kirk Lynn is a very good writer.

9. Find your artistic homes. I have been so, so, SO very lucky to find homes at the Gift Theatre, the University of Texas at Austin, the Roundabout, the Goodman, Chicago Dramatists, the entire city of Chicago (and other places). But this kind of started when I stopped worrying about whether I'd ever get produced at Steppenwolf.

10. Get in the room, and make something. With people. Work in different models. If you write a play, have actors over to your house, make them dinner and drinks, and hear the play. And remember: dialogue is (almost always) SPOKEN, not read. Your play is seen, heard, and experienced, not read. Please join me in rescuing theater from the English Department.

11. When you finish a play, take joy and pride in knowing that the play would not exist if you hadn't written it.

12. Finish the play.

13. Unless the play helped launch you into a different play. In which case... finish THAT play.

14. Be grateful most of the time, pragmatic part of the time, and cynical almost never. True, there's rarely money, and all too often our field marginalizes and misrepresents. But be a part of that conversation. Be an advocate. An artist. Especially if you're a straight, white, able-bodied dude like me and Sean, and the beneficiary of all kinds of advantages that we never fully appreciate. Join the conversation, and recognize that joining the conversation means listening more often than talking. I'm not particularly good at this. I'm working on getting better.

15. Hold me accountable to points 1-14.

16. Sherry Kramer once told me, "It all boils down to working on a project that matters to you deeply, and working with artists you genuinely admire and enjoy." And I'm pretty sure she's right.