Interesting twist in a play I’m working on. I’m getting a draft complete for a reading next week – I’m hooking up with fellow Theatrefolk writer Allison Williams for a writing retreat. Did this in November and it was incredibly fruitful. She has the best writing chair EVER in her house.This time I have the full length for the reading and then I’ll be working on three other pieces over the week. They’re all in the stream of consciousness, creative, no-holds -barred-no-rules-nowhere-near-a-first-draft stage so it should be fun.
Back to the full length. It’s a Greek Myth play that looks at a variety of myths with a superstructure tying everything together. The myths themselves are chugging along great but the superstructure has continually bogged me down. The problem has been that the characters telling the stories are the Greek Gods themselves – the idea being that in this day and age no one knows who the Greek Gods are, because no one tells the stories like they used to. It’s the first idea I came up with when I started work on the play – I love the idea. All fine and dandy.
The problem is that the personalities of these Gods, as reflective in their own stories, aren’t very nice, aren’t very helpful and aren’t all that sympathetic. Which is a problem. Also, I was having to write circles and circles to explain why these unsympathetic characters would tell stories that didn’t really involve them in any way (such as Perseus and Medusa, where the Gods just kind of flick in and out) Finally, last week I hit a full dead stop with it. I knew it was coming, I could see the wall, I knew I was going to hit it and so I did.
Deadlines are a wonderful thing. Sure I could smash into the wall, but if I didn’t get this draft done, and done in some coherent fashion then I would miss out on a reading, which is no good. So I picked myself up, dusted off the wall rubble and played the “What if” game with myself.
On a fresh piece of paper I started to ask questions of the play, most importantly – what if this happened? It’s very important in the “What if” game to completely disregard what you’ve already come up with at this point. Go in the opposite direction, make absurd changes, make changes that you know you don’t want to make: What if the Gods weren’t telling the stories, what if the Gods told different stories, what if there weren’t Gods at all?
Because that was truly the problem. Those ornery Gods. I loved them, I wanted them to be there in all their not nice glory, I wanted Hera to threaten to turn the audience into goats and so on. But they were the problem and they had to be shown the door.
And once I did that, everything locked neatly into place. New characters with only one ornery personality in the bunch, instead of a whole stage full of them. It took two days (instead of weeks and weeks!) to weave in the superstructure I finished the draft four days early and I’m happy with what’s going to be read. Now of course, everything could go to pot once it gets read out into the open air, but that’s another story.