Thursday, January 23, 2014

Your Own Words May Unexpectedly Surprise You

Nine years ago, I took a playwriting class called "Unreal Theatre" at Seattle's Richard Hugo House. In that class, I adapted a short story I had written, "The Circumstances Around Steve Wickland not Receiving The Silver Star", into a play.

After the class ended, the instructor, Bret Fetzer, asked if he could produce a single performance of it a late-night cabaret put on by Annex Theatre. Here's a video of the 10 minute production:

Previously in this blog, I wrote of the unexpected emotional resonance that my college band's song had on someone.

But that can happen to the author as well. The last day of the class, four actors came to do readings of the students' plays (not the actors in the above video). These were cold readings; they had not seen the plays before. I provided four copies on my script with lines highlighted for the actors.

As the story unfolded for the actors, they were able to become the characters as they read their dialog for the first time. It's an impressive skill. But what amazed me was that they took my words and brought out an emotional depth to the story whose existence I was completely unaware of, and they did it on the fly.

The actors took my words and made them their own, resulting in an enhancement of my work.

I imagine authors whose work is published as an audio book discover this as well.

I would say this is an extension of my words in my previously mentioned post:

How a piece of art is interpreted is completely out of the hands of the creators. Things can have meaning beyond their creators' intentions.

A play is, of course different from prose. A reader's interpretation of prose is internal, while plays are meant to be interpreted publicly by actors and directors, and the writer may have little say in that interpretation (I was happy enough that Bret wanted to direct my play that I told him to do it anyway he wanted).

(This can go wrong, as shown by any number of bad film adaptations of novels.)

The point of this post is that if you ever hear your work read out loud, don't be surprised if an aspect of your work is revealed that you didn't expect to be there.


No comments:

Post a Comment