Today is day 17 of Naplwrimo, which is National Playwriting Month. The deal is simple – write every day for the month of November, check in at the website, and submit a play of at least 75 written pages on November 30th. I am working on a modern adaptation of sorts of The Gift of the Magi. I have come to the conclusion that the play is an inspiration and not an adaptation and so, will have to come up with another name. Except that I do want people to reference the story in their minds when they see the title. Which means either the words “gift” or “Magi” will have to be in the title. Is it too simple to just go with The Gift? I looked that title up, and there’s an Australian play with the name, but looks incredibly different so I don’t think that’s a problem. It feels too simple, and yet it’s very appropriate. And what’s wrong with simple any way?
I thought I was in a bit of trouble with the play after I started transposing my written notes onto computer. The tone of the piece was coming across as very, very grim. Which, while there is some necessary gravitas for the journey of some characters (the main character goes through a whole body and mind transformation, for example) if the whole play is like that from beginning to end, well then that gets rather dreary. When you’re looking to have a finished draft by the end of the month (the mid point of which seemed to come and go very quickly) that kind of tone issue can be a cause for panic. After all, my end goal with this play is that it’s supposed to be a holiday piece. Grim is not good for the holidays. Chestnuts do not roast on a grim fire.
Instead of trashing everything and starting again, I steadfastly continued to transfer my notes, not getting too fussed about where the individual scenes would go in the grand scheme of thing. I purposefully did not think about the end product, but soley on continuing the process. One word at a time. And when I had finished, I knew where to start. I knew what I needed to work on to find that balance between grim (I really should stop using that word, what I mean is character transformation from darkness to light) and the humour of the piece. I had been ignoring a whole group of characters who purpose in the play is to address their situation with humour. So I should probably let them, huh? I also found a new theatrical direction with the main character – she’s going to be played by two actresses, the past version and the present. The light and the dark. To that end I was playing the present girl as too down by her past. When the fact is that she has transformed into someone better, kinder, more human. So, if she’s a better person then why is she so down? If I embody her with more lightness, then the play has lightness.
Oof. Although, I’m real glad to have caught on to this issue halfway through the first draft and not on day 26 or 27 when any major re-writes would have been a real cause for panic. As it is, I have still a lot of time, over two weeks, to keep moving forward. One word at a time.