Putting Minds on Paper, Composing, 17/07/2014

I had a meeting with Mel today, the director of You Were My Friend, which will be my debut as a playwright this November at The Pearl Company theatre in Hamilton. We’ve made our plans for the revisions to the draft script, and discussed our plans for what actors we would want for the two roles in the play, Vicki and Madison, two mismatched roommates.

No, not these comically mismatched roommates. Mine are
women, so it's a completely different kind of fun.
It’s coming together very well already, though the revisions are interesting. I originally designed the play as a series of alternating monologues and dialogues. My motives for this structure were twofold. On one level, I was being entirely pragmatic. I wanted to book the best actresses possible, and to do that, I gave them a huge amount of juicy material in long format that would feed their egos. On another, less mercenary level, I wanted to build tension between the characters’ public personae — how they interacted with each other — and their private selves — how they interacted with the audience.

This could feel stilted after a while, though, and take time away from the most entertaining part of the story, watching these two spar and laugh together. So I’m recasting most of the material in the monologues to be revealed in longer, more involved dialogue scenes. The play is called You Were My Friend, after all, so we should see more of their actual friendship.

However, I do think the play’s development was improved by casting so much of it as long monologues to start. Sometimes, writing dialogue alone results in ambiguous characterization, ideas that can be too easily misinterpreted, and characters who feel thin, self-contradictory, or wedded more to the plot than any authenticity. But having these monologues to translate into more playful scenes together gives Vicki and Madison a more secure grounding. 

I don’t have to look at the dialogue now, and wonder what thoughts it may express or elide. I already have those thoughts, and I can reveal them cagily or directly, as the situation demands. I may try this with scripts I write in the future, plotting the inner lives of the characters before completely wiping over their direct expression and weaving it through dialogue and story.

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