Check out our Video Series: The Journey of A Play; videos on the step by step process of a play from the idea stage to publication.
Welcome to The Journey of a Play. It’s a new series we’re going to be doing here at Theatrefolk. Over the next year, we’re going to take you through the step by step process of what happens to a play here at Theatrefolk. From the idea stage, to script, to production, and proofing, printing, publication. All the P’s. As you can can tell, there are many, many steps.
I just started working on a new play in April called Somewhere Nowhere. It’s a jigsaw play. There are four one acts that can be performed independently but also they can be put all together to tell a story for a full evening of theatre. It already has its first production lined up for the fall, so it’s going to be a very interesting one to follow.
‘Where did the idea come from?’
I was pretty lucky with this play. There was a very specific “AHH” moment which jump started Somewhere Nowhere. Which is not always the case, at all.
We were pretty much somewhere nowhere, I think we were in North Carolina driving home from the Florida State Thespian Festival. We needed an oil change and it wasn’t going to wait until we got home. Craig found a Speedy something or other and we pulled up – It was like a snapshot. The garage door was open. There were four teenagers, who were working at the garage, they were just sprawled out.
One girl was doing her nails, there was a guy flat on his back. They kind of seemed to come out of a daze when they have to move to let the car in. You just got this instant picture of what their life was like. They were bored but they weren’t apathetic. And then when you started talking to them and the picture kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And my brain just went ‘play!’ I think I started writing the instant I got in the car.
‘What sparked you about that image?’
It’s such a cliche but it’s really true: a picture is worth a 1000 words. And when I rolled up to the garage I just had that instant picture and sort of an instant play bloomed in my mind. Often people do things or people say things and they look at me – ‘you’re going to write about it!’ or ‘that’s going to be a play!’ Sad to say it never is. It’s never anything that’s foisted upon me. I spend a lot of my time observing. Just sort of Just looking at the world. I’m always looking at the things people don’t think I’m looking at. Why would a garage spark a 100 page play? But that’s the way it works….
‘So what’s the play about?’
The play follows a group teenagers who all live in the same small town, and all are sort of grappling with the same dilemma: at the end of high school, do you leave, do you go out to the great unknown or do you stay with what is familiar and what’s known. For some of the characters the very small town is somewhere, it’s meaningful, and for others it’s nowhere, it is a place to leave.
When I started working, I did a lot of surfing the net looking up small town stories, how people feel about small towns, what that atmosphere is, what that thing is that denotes living in a small town. And also websites of small towns. I wanted to clarify for myself the size of town. There’s a difference between something that’s 600 people, to 6,000, to 60,000 and so on. I liked the size of 6,000. Not incredibly small but by no means a large town.
And then I started to write. This is what it basically takes to get to a first draft. I always start with pen and paper. I always start in a notebook. That’s how creativity works for me. I’m not so good at creating on computer. At the beginning when I started working on this, the play was called Small Town Season and I was dividing everything up into seasons. Fall was first, Winter, Summer, Spring, and that didn’t work for me, we changed that very, very quickly. We go from one book, and then we go to another book. And sometimes I like to change the pen. More writing. And finally we move to computer. This is how I work. Things go on, things get scribbled out and notes get taken. And then there’s another draft and another draft. Everything ends up to something I’m ready to show someone. And that process took about two months. The first person I always show my drafts to is Craig.
So next month in this series we’re going to talk about re-writes. What happens after that first draft, what happens after Craig has read it and given me feedback. A little sneak peak: Two of the four one acts were basically completely re-written after Craig read them. So how do you take something and re-write it without starting from scratch. We’ll talk about that next time. See you then.