Had my own little writers retreat last week. Allison Williams, writer of Hamlette and Mmmbeth, owns a lovely big old house with a fantastic theatre library. I spent three days there doing nothing but reading plays and writing. Then we had a reading at the end. She has this perfect writer’s chair: it sets the body up perfectly so that nothing is uncomfortable. A perfect spot for the knees, a perfect spot to rest the feet, the perfect angle for my notebook and a perfect position for my arm to hold my pen. I have a terribly creaky body – if my knees are bent for too long they get cranky and so on. This chair was heaven! If I could have done it, I would have strapped that chair to the top of my rental and spirited it away in the middle of the night. Now that I’m home, I miss that chair. I keep moving from place to place and never being as perfectly positioned. Ah well….
I got twenty hand-written pages done for my A Christmas Carol adapt, I finished the last story for my Greek myth play, and I got twenty typed pages of my “brain” play worked on – the play I was wrestling with over the summer. It felt good to be in a place where my goal was to do nothing but write and to get so much writing done!
I read Year of the King which I wrote up a book report on for our Shakespeare Newsletter in January. It’s a fascinating diary written by Tony Sher, as he shares a year in his life leading up to playing Richard the Third. It’s shows quite a specific method of actor preparation, from Richard’s internal make-up to an extensive argument over whether the hump was going to be off to the side or in the centre of the back.
I also read: The Secret Rapture by David Hare, which did not grab me at all. There was no one to root for, which was certainly the aim, but left me cold; and True West by Sam Shepard. What caught me about that play was the seething hatred. The raw animal-like behaviour of the brothers was just riveting It was also quite cool to see Gary Sinese and John Malkovitch in the original production photos. However, I didn’t believe that the older brother, who is clearly portrayed as a low-life, lower-class liar, could convince the agent to buy his screenplay. It’s a pretty big plot point and so I was pulled out of the world of the play instead of being drawn in.
Lastly, I didn’t get through Wallace Shawn’s My Dinner With Andre but a quote from the Preface to the text really lept out:
“The world of my imagination was becoming a prison- I knew every inch of the walls, the floor, the ceiling.”
This struck me because at times this is certainly how I feel about my own writing. Am I getting too repetitive? Are the same characters, the same lines and phrases popping up over and over again? I think it’s something to be aware of.
I’ve already made arrangements to do another retreat in the Spring. I have got to get more time in that chair….