Happy New Year! Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays–I’m happy to be back with an exciting synopsis of our January PlayLabs. As always, there were some wonderful scenes read and some great discussions! So first, we’ll start with:
PLAYLAB 1-JANUARY 9th
Our reading assignment was “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller. The last time I read this play was in high school, when I was a 17-year-old wondering why we were reading about this old man loser…what did this have to do with me at all? Fast-forward to years later, and I’m blubbering through this play as I’m reading it…why did it hit me now? The same words kept being repeated throughout the discussion–“broken dreams”, “failed goals” “loss of hope”. We all agreed that the character of Willy Loman served as the ordinary everyman trying to be extraordinary by being “well-liked”. We compared the loss of Willy’s dreams to the loss of the American Dream–the hard realities that we all have to go through in life’s journey (which is why Willy Loman is a more poignant character at this stage in life than as a teenybopper trying to get an A in English).
“Death of a Salesman” is structured differently than the other plays read in our labs–in this case, Miller used flashbacks as Willy’s memories and entwined them with the current-day action. One example of this technique is early in the play, when Willy is playing cards late at night with his next-door neighbor and he remembers a conversation he had with his late brother. As the memory progresses, Willy starts talking to his brother out loud, in present-day, and his neighbor grows confused, then concerned with Willy’s behavior. An embarrassed Willy ends up running the neighbor out of his house. The participants all agreed that the technique of integrating Willy’s memories moved the action forward more effectively than just using plain exposition.
According to David Ball, in his book “Backwards and Forwards”: “Action occurs when something happens that makes or permits something else to happen”. According to Ball, action is one event that leads to another event, and these actions are what makes up any play. For example, you can say “How are you?” to a friend, and she can reply “Fine.”. The “How are you?” is the first event that comprises the action–the “Fine” is the second event that completes the action. As Ball says, “The first leads to the second; the two compose an action”.
Ball has assigned terms to these events that make up an action–the first event is called a “trigger” and the second event is a “heap”. Again, an event is anything that happens–but it takes a subsequent event that happens as a result of that FIRST event that comprises an action. Now, according to Ball all plays can be mapped out by their action, not only from beginning to end, but backwards–from the end to the beginning, all based on the “triggers” and “heaps”.
We will be discussing action in further detail in our February PlayLab–we will be analyzing our next reading assignment and the actions within the play to further understand triggers, heaps, etc. It should make for a great discussion–I’m looking forward to it!
This month’s writing exercise was:
TAKE ONE OF YOUR PREVIOUS EXERCISES AND REVISE IT TO TAKE PLACE IN A DIFFERENT LOCATION.
SELECT A LOCATION THAT ADDS A NEW OBSTACLE FOR AT LEAST ONE OF THE CHARACTERS OR INCREASES THE URGENCY OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS.
The scenes that were presented really benefited from the change in location–the characters were more clearly drawn, and there was definitely more action within the scene, instead of just exposition or talking heads. I think there is definitely some room for expanding on these scenes, if the participants wanted to do so. That’s the most exciting part of the PlayLab 1–seeing where someone can expand on their work and start to write more…either about a character, or a situation. We are now beginning to work on projects that will lead to a one-act play by the end of the session. I’m looking forward to seeing these one-acts develop over the next few months!
Keep up the good work, ladies!
PLAYLAB 2- January 12th
Our assignment for this lab was:
WRITE A SCENE BASED ON A PAINTING.
We had some fun scenes based on this exercise–participants had playful ways of incorporating the painting into their scene. Whether it was literal (referencing the actual painting within a hilarious scene about a high-school field trip to an art museum); or figurative (a surreal scene about a magical parrot or a scene about profession of love before an arrest), it was an entertaining night! The best part is having new artwork to love now as well!
I’m excited to announce that THREE of our PlayLab 2 participants have completed their full-length projects. Two of the participants, Kristiana Colon and Petrucia Finkler, will have table readings of their plays read at Teatro Luna in late February/early March 2010. I’m so excited to attend these readings, as I feel I’ve only caught glimpses of these fabulous plays, and I’m ready to hear the whole play read out loud. A table reading is such a valuable tool for a playwright–when you’re dealing with dialogue, it’s so important to have other people read your work out loud. Sometimes a monologue is brilliant tragedy on paper, but when read by an actor turns into melodramatic tripe. Also, it’s important to see how the play “moves” when read aloud–will the actors be able to catch what you’re trying to accomplish? Will the plot be clear? Will you be able to relate to the characters?
Our third participant, Mishelle Apalategui, is having her play, “Shiny Boxes”, produced by the Dream Theatre Company in February. The information on this show is below:
AELITA & SHINY BOXES
by Bil Gaines & Mishelle Renee Apalategui
Thursday, February 4 through Sunday, February 21, 2010 at Dream Theatre 556 W 18th Street.
Performances run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM, and Sundays at 7:00 PM.
Street Parking is available. Tickets are $15-$18.
773-552-8616 / firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t wait to see it!
As long as I’m plugging shows, last week I was able to catch another show written and performed by two of our PlayLab 2 participants–Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo make up the comedy group Dominizuelan, and their current show is running at ioChicago:
Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City
Thursday nights until 2/25 at 8PM in the Del Close Theater
Tickets are $10.00
For more information, call the iO Chicago Theater Box office at 773.880.0199 or visit the Dominzuelan website at http://dominizuelan.com.
You do NOT want to miss this show–it’s hilarious, fun, and a STEAL at only $10. These ladies will be also writing and performing in the next Teatro Luna show, “Multiple Americas” in May, so get a head-start in checking them out. You will NOT be disappointed–I was literally crying from laughing so hard!
February’s PlayLabs are when the 10-minute play festival submissions are due, so I’m DEFINITELY looking forward to those labs. I can’t wait to read what the participants have written based our our MOON theme. We are going to have some very interesting pieces to present, and I’m also very excited about working with the Directors Lab as well, as they will be directing the 10-minute plays chosen for the festival.
As always, I welcome comments, suggestions, etc for the blog. Thank you for reading, and looking forward to catching up with you in February!