Playwriting

Notes on a Play: Beauty and the Bee

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Beauty and the Bee is a new play. I worked on it with Atlantic High School last month and their CAPA (Communications Academy of Performing Arts) students.

Craig walks into the theatre after lunch. He stares at me. He stares at the working students. He stares again at me. I inquire after his puzzled look.

‘The teacher got the script a few days ago.’ he says. Yes.’ I say.

‘She gave it to them ahead of time. Before today.’ he says. ‘No.’ I say.

He looks at the actors again.’ These guys could open next week.’ he says. This means a couple of things….

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a) The students are really good.
b) The script is nicely accessible.
c) all of the above.
d) Lindsay is more drill sergeant than director.

‘Which is it?’ I ask.
‘D’ he says. Without hesitation. Hmpft.

Beauty and the Bee has been a struggle of a play. Although the first draft came pretty quickly last fall, nothing else has been smooth. I’ve been pushing and pushing toward a two act version of the play for months, but the play never got into the groove. It never wanted to be a full length.

I did a workshop in the fall where the second act fell apart. So much so I had to put the play off to the side and think about it. When I was ready to attack the script again this spring, I wrote and re-wrote and still the second act fell apart.

Finally, I sewed and glued, and stapled the thing together and thrust the pile of papers at Craig for an outsiders opinion. And then I did what I never, ever, do. I did the thing that I tell every student writer I come in contact with to never, ever do.

‘Tell me what you think.’ I said.

I never say these words regarding feedback. I encourage every writer never to say these words. These words are, in general, intangible.

‘I don’t like it when Jimmy burns the letter.’
‘Well I do.’

Stalemate. Nothing. Does my play get better. No. Is it helpful? No.

But sometimes, you spin and spin and the dizziness is overwhelming. You don’t know what’s good or bad and you have to say those dreaded five words. ‘Tell me what you think.’

There are rules when one says those words. Strict rules.

  • You cannot chastize the person providing the answer to those words if they say something you don’t like.
  • You cannot yell at the person providing the answer to those words if they say something you don’t like.
  • You cannot inact the silent treatment at the the person providing the answer to those words if they say something you don’t like.
  • You cannot leap down the throat of the person providing the answer and rip out their tongue if they say something you don’t like.

Craig is never happy to be asked ‘Tell me what you think.’ As you may have figured out.

But ask I did. And respond he did. With very little cringing or signs of trepidation (he’s such a great guy) he said:

‘It’s a really great one act.’

Ah. Yeah. Crap. The second act falls apart again. And I must finally come to grips with the fact that no tape, no stapes, no glue gun, no contact cement will keep it together. It is a one act.

This is made even more clear when I cut close to 50 pages to make it a one act (FIFTY pages! Do you know how long it takes to write FIFTY pages?!!!) and I don’t really miss a thing. But the true validation comes, I know I’ve made the right choice at the workshop when the piece, for the first time, comes together. Clicks into place. Becomes a play. By the end of day we’ve had a great time playing with the script and pretty much blocked the entire play.

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Hmmmm. Maybe I am a drill sergeant…..

About the author

Lindsay Price