Re questions about research - after having worked on my last play for over a year and now its performances are over, I sat staring into middle space - completely brain dead - for what seemed an eternity. Then an ex-student came into my office. Can't remember why. We chatted. I asked him what he was doing during the summer and he said he belonged to this paranormal society. That clicked because a while ago I'd been looking at traces of people from the past (London - Shakespeare - real people) and so I jumped at the chance to go along with him and his group on one of their investigations. After that, all sorts of coincidences have started to happen that link with the subject matter - like the woman who knows a guy who does regression therapy (I agree - a bit scary - but must keep an open mind). Then I met a group at a village fete last weekend who dress up in Medieval stuff, set up an 'emcampment' , cook Medieval food, fight each other in suits of armour, etc etc... and I thought what a bunch of interesting characters... and so on and so on. This is probably not making any sense, but that's the way I work: I'm like a manic sponge to start with. Then characters start forming in my head and I have bits of dialogue and all sorts of crap that I then have to sort out and ask myself: how do I make this into a play?
Don't get me wrong - I'm not a control freak: I believe completely in writing organically - that's how my first drafts get done!
It would be great to hear what others do when tackling a full-length play...
I've only completed one full-length stage work [not the one which failed to impress TPTT judges]- I still have 2 archive boxes full of drafts and parts of drafts.
I got some favourable feed-back but offers for production.
My TPTT sub. was a fragment of a first draft and a mess...
but I think it contains somewhere a good idea.
I'm concentrating on a novel at present- but again I've started to fill a 2nd archive box.
And I've just revised a sitcom pilot.
Is that where someone is hypnotised and "remembers" a previous existence?
It sounds unlikely, but as you say one should keep an open mind...
"more things in heaven and earth etc"
You're an inspiration to all of us, Kate, especially to those of us, who can no longer describe ourselves as "youthfull talent".
I look forward to your next project with interest.
Recently I was persuaded to try for promotion- I'm a civil servant- I've surprised myself.
It's off the topic I know, but the CS is keen on the idea of life-time learning.
I tend to have more than one project going- and switch 1 to the other if I really get stuck.
I've been knocking on a door "partly ajar" because most of the time after submitting, I either receive a longish reply- not of course offering anything in the way of production or as happened with BBCTV a face 2 face with a number of producers and a place on a writers course.
It's all very tentative- when compared to your marvelous success- but it's encouraged me to keep trying.
Btw, I'm sorry I didn't get to the Q&A 2 weeks ago, that would have been great- but I had a last minute place on a training course.
Our internet-buddy, Playfull was there and you may have read his good report on TPTT forum.
Boz2 - with all your different threads and different pieces of writing on the go, it sounds like you could give the 30 submissions in 30 days binge a real try! That would give you a definite deadline and might spur you on - even if you finish only one piece. I think deadlines are great - backside-kicking stuff. Have you posted anything on this forum to be looked at?
I think I might have a go at the gym thing - it's good to keep the pen moving!
Thanks for giving me the link to this site - you're right: it's friendly, enthusiastic, constructive and supportive, and that's what writers should be with each other. I'm exploring - finding my way around. I love the poetry strand. There's a strong link between poetry and drama - to do with the precision of use of language, the rhythm, the sound.
Look forward to hearing about your writing adventures!
Nikip posted vociferously in support of 'On the Third Day' on the old TPTT forum. If you read through the 'TPTT Exiles' thread you will see that the poem she posted on the 'Critique my poem' thread was in fact the first time she had 'exposed' herself and her work to the world.
So, it is as a direct result of you winning the TPTT competition, and her then being inspired by seeing your play, that has resulted in her having her work praised on this site....................I just thought you might be interested.
You asked in the introduction thread about the way that I write. I started to think about that question and the answer comes out like a story.
I was a trial lawyer in Washington in the 90s and I had two trials back-to-back - one was a three month, 10-lawyer-a-side tobacco case (Kentucky - talk about a fly-over state) and one was an intense one-weeker in Luxembourg in French
We lost both of them. Not my first losses but brutal and disheartening (until you have stood next to the CEO of a tobacco company when a jury awards a billion-yes-with-a-b verdict against his company you have not had a bad day at work)
I had worked 12-16 hour days seven days a week - I had one weekend off in five months. I was doing some post-trial stuff in the Luxembourg case on a regular tense Monday and the printer wouldn't work. And I started to cry. I couldn't take any more. My kind-hearted Buddhist secretary could see it was time for me to go home. So I just left. And I didn't come back for over a month! For the first two weeks I sat at my kitchen table, sometimes reading the paper, sometimes just sitting there quietly enjoying the silence. I didn't check my voice mail. I didn't check my e-mail. I rarely even returned the videos before the late fees kicked in. My friends were worried. I was beyond caring.
After a few days I wrote a play called Baby Love Time about a single female thirtysomething lawyer who just stops going to work. In my play, one of her friends from work comes to her apartment to check on her. He asks what she's doing and what is going on. That part of the play was interesting to write because I had no idea. I wrote the play to answer the question about my life. And the title (the three words that occur most frequently in Madonna songs in order of frequency) perfectly summed up what I wanted and didn't have - the real reasons I was staying home. It was the first play I wrote since I was 8 years old.
Shortly after I returned to work, I wrote Damnation of John Smith with a fellow litigator - a play about someone who worked hard at a law firm his whole life and dies only to find out that the point of life was not to kill yourself for the sake of being successful in the eyes of the world. (That play's posted in the critique thread by the way). Again, the play was a medium to work out exactly what the hell I was doing with my life. We worked on that play until we were both satisfied that Kurt Cobain's character spoke truthfully about the meaning and purpose of life. We in essence judged our lives and found them wanting. That play was my apologetic for leaving the demanding and seductive world of trial law and within two years, I was gone.
In 2001 I met a nice guy who was in Washington on business from London. The day after our first date, I wrote a play called Baggage. It's got two characters - a man and a woman who flirt (silently to each other, commenting on their progress separately to the audience) at baggage claim at DC's National Airport. The play ends when the woman is brave enough and trusting enough to let the guy help with her baggage. Again, it was like I was instructing myself about what to do next.
Reader, I married him. And the pattern of writing plays to get at my own life has continued up until now.
So I don't really do research. Or maybe my research is that terrible burden of introspection I can only do in the guise of writing plays. It's just trying to make sense out of my life and figure out what I should do next.
I don't know if it would be easier or harder to write a play that didn't have a dilemma out of my own life that needed solving. While my method makes sure the raw material is very raw indeed, it also provides a meta-level compulsion to get inside my own head and figure it out. Maybe I need that hyped up compulsion - inside my own head is kind of a bad neighbourhood and I need a good reason to spend time in there.
Thanks for asking the question, and getting to the end of the long-winded reply.
Hi Swann, I just wanted to say that I am breathless from your story. Fascinating stuff. I totally totally understand the introspection thing. I haven't researched anything either. I listen to Kate and how engaged she is with the research of her plays and it sounds so wonderfully exciting, but I still sit here and it is the introspective stuff that dominates my head and there seems so much to say! I have to say though, that it also problematises my attempts to write. Like Kate said about "On the Third Day", I often try and cram all issues into one place and boy would that make for a long, complicated and laborious poem! x
Do you ever feel bad about ordering a latte in the middle of the day because your friends have told you that the Italians and French never actually do that? I always feel bad about it, but I just like holding a big ol' latte. So comforting.
Do you ever feel bad about lying to your children? Sometimes I tell my two and a half year old that "Barney went away" when actually I purposefully hid the DVD because I can't stand the banal music and cretinous dinosaur.
Swann - your reply is amazing and honest and I admire you for the raw experience that drives your writing.
I have to admit that, although I do research stuff I don't know about, I also always inject my own stuff into my writing - my own world-view often lies at the bottom of metaphors. And I think I probably work too much with imagery/metaphor/'clever' links/multi-levels etc at the expense of what I call Tennessee Williams emotion drama (which I adore) - and which I think is the most challenging to write.
But whatever we write, the great thing is that each of our voices is unique and the fact that we choose to express what we want to say through drama - well, that means we've really got something to say that's immediate and important, and it's something that is relevant now and relevant to others.
Blimey, I sound as though I should be on a soap box at Hyde Park Corner. Shut up Kate!
No, don't stop! Why not? We get precious little inspiration and support and lots of rejection! Why not be all loved-up and supportive for a few minutes?
Question for you, Kate - how is the Jesus in On the THird Day related to your own theology? What does Jesus mean to you.
And a comment: Weirdly, I didn't realise how I was writing all those plays to figure out my life until you asked me how I write.
I think your comment about the urgency and immediacy of writing fits interestingly in the recent post about the lack of political plays. What's going on? I've been thinking about that - I am going to go post there.
Swann1719 wrote: Question for you, Kate - how is the Jesus in On the THird Day related to your own theology? What does Jesus mean to you.
On The Third Day isn't a religious play and doesn't relate to my own beliefs or non-beliefs. I guess I wanted to throw up a discussion about the whole idea of human redemption and forgiveness. I don't want to try and explain my play - but I'm glad it promoted so much disagreement and emotion. Yes - I put a lot of myself in my plays, but really I think that plays should ask questions but not necessarily answer them.
A question - how do you think it would go down in the US?
I think if I had managed to make the Q&A, I would probably asked Swann's question about Jesus.
It was the one aspect that I had a few problems with...
as a humanist.
That is to say, if Jesus was indeed a physical manifestation.
Btw, I occasionaly drink pinot grigio; I'm amazed that I have a life. Work colleagues tell me, I live in the trendiest part of London- but never see any signs of this!
Perhaps it all happens late at night?
Not sure what type of coffee ,latte is.
I've only set foot in a coffee place once- I remember it as Cafe Nero?- is there such a chain?
Can't remember what I drank.
I'm a pretty idecisive kind of guy...faced with a complicated array of coffee, I think my mind would go into melt-down.