Friday, August 3, 2007

To do Theatre, Read and See Theatre

As I may have said before (but will say many times, I’m sure) playwrights do not read enough plays or see enough theater. Instead, they watch a lot of TV and a lot of movies.

Now, that’s fine if you also want to also write for those mediums but each one has its own challenges and intricacies. Too often, playwrights confuse the mediums, and what we get on stage is a sitcom or movie, usually in the package of naturalism. It’s prevalent everywhere and partly to blame is this growing trend of plays becoming movies (ala Proof, Doubt, Angels in America, etc.). So, of course, playwrights who are smart and actually want to make a profit, will want to have a play that can easily turn into a movie (and may even be writing a screenplay version of the play at the same time).

I’m not completely against this as I’m a firm believer that a good story is a good story, regardless of medium. But I do believe if you’re going to write for the theater then you should know what works and doesn’t, and to do that, you should READ as much as you can—the masters like Shakespeare, Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, Shaw, Ibsen, Miller, O’Neil, Shepard, Vogel, Churchill, Mamet, Lucas—as well as keep up to date on the newbies like Sarah Ruhl, Rebecca Gilman, Donald Marguiles, Jordan Harrison, Diana Son, Naomi Iizuki, Martin McDonagh, Adam Rapp, Adam Bock, etc.

In addition to reading plays, good and bad, you need to get out there and SEE plays, both good and bad. Aim for seeing good plays, the bad ones will take care of themselves, trust me. But see the old ones and the new ones, see how they're done, what works and doesn't. See what you can steal, basically.

So what have I been reading lately? Well, I’ve revisited my love for Craig Lucas’s plays like Reckless, Prelude to a Kiss, The Dying Gaul, and also was given a copy of his new play Prayer for My Enemy. All are so singular in vision and beauty. Recently I read Blackbird by David Harrower, In on It and Never Swim Alone by Daniel McIvor, Jack Goes Boating by Bob Glaudini, and I have a new translation of Sophocles Oedipus Rex.

As for going to the theatre, I’m seeing Prayer for My Enemy tonight and then seeing two new plays on Saturday, Mud Angel at LiveGirls Theater and Lightning in a Bottle produced by West of Brooklyn.

As for fun reading, I picked up The Bourne Supremacy at the New Orleans airport to read on the plane and surprisingly it’s not so much fun…but I think the movie will be quite good—if you like those espionage thrillers. And I do.

But I’m glad they won’t be making a play out of it anytime, soon. Of course, a savvy producer could dream up The Bourne Supremacy: The Musical! Could give Xanadu a run for its money.

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