So I recently heard back from the Young Playwrights Theatre in New York, and as is custom for their national competition, I recieved a 1-page critiquing of the play. It's called "The Vacuous Case of Mister Um" (it's on the forum if any of you care to look for it). They had some interesting things to say, mostly good and a lot that was constructive. I just am not too sure how to move forward in revising. Some comments they made included noting that thematically, they didn't know where the play was leading them, especially because this play revolves around absurd themes. They also reccomended that I try and tighten the scenes with all the banter. Hmmm. I don't know. Maybe I'm just venting. Any of you ever gotten a critique and never knew what to do with it?
The only thing I started doing is going through the play literally phrase by phrase and analyzing what the it all means thematically. This gets a bit tiring but I'm sure what else to do. Ugh. Revising nebulous, absurdist fiction is hard work.
Sometimes, I've seen playwights get lost in critique. in a playwright's group, you learn to take advise from some, and not from others, mostly because you come to learn who's tastes are more like yours, etc. There are playwrights I've been in groups with who will never like my work. Thing is, you don't know where this is coming from. My suggestion, is just look at the things that resonate with you, and ignore the others.
A few thoughts from a guy who stopped writing plays for several years after getting several bad critiques on a play:
Not having read the critique all I can offer are some generalizations. The first is a quote from Marsha Norman that addresses the thematic direction:
“I’m convinced that there are absolutely unbreakable rules in the theatre, and that it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t break them . . . You must state the issue at the beginning of the play. The audience must know what is at stake; they must know when they will be able to go home: “This is a story about a little boy who lost his marbles.” They must know, when the little boy either gets his marbles back or finds something better than his marbles, or kills himself because he can’t live without his marbles, that the play will end and they can applaud and go home. He can’t NOT care about the marbles. He has to want them with such a passion that you are interested, that you connect to that passion. The theatre is all about wanting things that you can or can’t have or you do or do not get. Now the boy himself has to be likeable. It has to matter to you whether he gets his marbles or not.”
As to tightening scenes: I continue to be amazed at how tightly written good plays are. In a great play, there is not a single sentence that can be cut because it affects the play somewhere else. Even the initial exposition must refer to something later in the play.
I suggest you go through the play one sentence at a time. Why is that sentence there? Why do we need to know what it says???
There must be a place later in the play where that knowledge will will affect the outcome of the play. For example, you might tell the audience that the character is very tired. If that knowledge does not directly affect another point in the play, cut it.
Hope this helps
Last edited on Tue May 15th, 2012 03:42 pm by Doug B