My dramaturg assignment in Collingwood is helping some playwrights take historical information about a place and turn it into a play. Writing research is a tricky, tricky thing. You want to make sure the information is part of the story but you don’t want it to sound informational. It has to sound organic and natural. It has to sound like a character would speak in that way about that topic.

It is easy to to become overwhelmed by the amount of information surrounding a historical place or event. Sometimes it’s better in the writing process to put that research to the side and let the facts come to the surface as they may. Don’t worry if the information isn’t quite right – you can always go back and fix information. Focus on writing organically, in a character’s voice, with a character’s intention.  That way, you have  a better chance of keeping the focus on the play aspect rather than the research.

If you’re writing a play that involves a great deal of research, try this exercise.

  1. Study the information below regarding D-Day.
  2. Give yourself a time limit to look at the information. At the end of that time limit turn away from the computer, or turn your screen off.
  3. Write a monologue. The only stipulation is that you can’t go back and reference the information. Take whatever has stuck in your head and use that for your monologue.

 WWII “” D-DAY – OMAHA BEACH

  • June 6, 1944
  • US. 29th and 1st infantry divisions
  • Beach one of the longest – stretched 6 miles
  • Huge cliffs provided advantage point for the Germans. Huge German guns had range of 15 miles.
  • Landed at 6:30 am
  • Within 10 minutes the leading company of the 1st infantry division suffered huge losses – every officer or sergeant had been killed or wounded
  • Almost all of the tanks sank, they were supposed to provide cover for the soldiers
  • Strong winds, waves up to 6ft. breakers were 3-4 feet
  • Men would be injured and then swept out with the tide
  • Over 2,000 lost
  • Soldiers carried: weapon, life preserver, gas mask, five grenades, half pound block of TNT, six rations, canteen, entrenching tool, first aid kit, knife.
  • Claudia

    So timely. Have been writing a play with historical events – researched for 2 months. My initial scenes sounded like a term paper! Uh oh… I thought.

  • Lindsay

    I think the hardest thing to do is let go of that research sometimes. It’s like walking a type rope between information and theatre.