Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Article of the moment

I stumbled on an old but brilliant article on theatre reviewing versus theatre criticism: http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2005/05/part_ii_theater.html

In it, Isaac Butler says:

We are facing a dearth of theater criticism. Theater reviewing, on the other hand, is alive and well. By “reviewing” I mean the simple practice of consuming an art object and reporting back for us all to see whether or not you thought it was good. This is essentially what almost all mainstream theater writing is today.

He also says:

Why can’t theater artists review plays? Authors can do it. John Updike reviews books for the New Yorker, why couldn’t Edward Albee review plays for Harper’s? I’m not sure the answer to this question, but I know that no one really wants to do it. And that’s a pity, because we have a rich tradition of theater artists giving theater criticism as well (Shaw, for example).

It makes me think it may be possible to keep reviewing while writing and submitting plays. But I'm not so sure. Every time I write a review that is negative I can hear a nail being hammered into the coffin that will bury my playwright aspirations if I'm not careful.

It's a tricky one. I feel priveleged to be a theatre reviewer. (And I'm aware that I'm a reviewer and not a critic.) I love going to the theatre. I love reading plays and seeing them. I like thinking about them and writing about them. I hate second guessing myself and wondering what companies will think of my reviews. I try not to let self interest get in the way of the review. (For instance, I reviewed August Moon just before the judging of the Premier's Awards and was very aware that QTC's Artistic Director was on the judging panel. But I couldn't lie. Couldn't pretend the show was anything more than it was.)

And writing reviews helps supplement my income so that I can spend more time doing what I love best - which is writing. But I think I may have to give it up because of the constant conflict of interest. It's a tricky one. I'm in a quandry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Rosie Future

The new play is well on the way and it's looking rosy. Very rosy.

Time for a little bit of background ...

Danielle Wood published Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls in 2006. It's a novel about a young woman named Rosie who meets a fair few wolves on her adventures in the woods. It uses fairy stories as metaphors and has beautiful poetic language and I've been commissioned to adapt it into a play.

Yeehah! My first commission.

I read the book before I said yes. I needed to love it. Needed to be able to see ways to make it theatrical. Needed to feel it could be staged. When all those conditions were met, I said a very excited yes to the project.

And now I'm in finding my way through a new land, a land that's been chartered by someone else. I'm following her map and it's clear and the landscape is vivid. But what's most exciting for me is the little detours I can see, the places I can explore that she passed over. Ways for me to travel Danielle's road and make the journey my own.

What I want is for the play to evoke the same feelings the book does, to tell similar stories but to do them in a theatrical way. I want people who see the play to leave amazed that it came from a book because it feels so natural and so right as a play.

It's a big job and an exciting one.

It doesn't have to be the end.

I had been thinking that, now the awards are over and the winner's been announced, I would have to stop posting to this blog. But I've realised this doesn't have to be the end.

I have just finished the first draft of a new play (a very rough first draft but a first draft none the less), and Tinder is being read by all sorts of people, in all sorts of places.

So, I think I'll keep going with this blog and talk about the new play and any developments with Tinder.

I'll probably have to change the introduction and the explanation bar of what I'm doing here, but I can keep blogging about the highs and lows of the writing process.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 4, 2008

And the winner is ...

Richard Jordan with his play 25 Down.

I'm really happy for Richard, this will make the hugest difference to his life and his career. He's 26 - an age where anything is possible and anything can happen.

And of course I'm absolutely miserable for me. But that's what I get for entering competitions. You can't always win, in fact you usually won't.

I've got so much more out of this than I thought possible.

It was the strangest feeling, waiting to hear. We three playwrights stood together with our arms around each other, huddled, shivering. Michael Gow made a gracious speech and then handed it over to Anna Bligh, who was lovely. And they announced Richard as the winner and he went to the podium and Sven and I stood there. We kept our arms around each other, hugging tightly, and we kept the grins on our faces.

Sven and I were in the losers' corner. For a moment we were isolated with only each other to hold on to (thank heavens we had each other) and then people came to give their condolences. I smiled until I thought my cheeks would crack.

I don't understand this competition thing. Winners and losers. How do you choose? What makes a winner? What could I have done differently? What more could I have done?

In the end it doesn't matter.

I'm holding with everything I have to the fact that I love this play and these characters.

I've won because they've grown and changed in the process. It's a better play and I'm a better writer and, honestly, you can't ask for more than that out of a competition.

This is it

Tuesday 5 August. The day the judges make their announcement.

I've been on a roller coaster ride and have made it through to the end. Have managed to put things in perspective.

This is my first play. How incredible that it's got this far. How wonderful to have had all this amazing support.

I know without a shadow of doubt that this current draft (number 26 by my reckoning!) is far better than the play I submitted at the start of the process.

I have made new friends and made connections in the industry.

Regardless of whether I win or lose, I have already gained so much.

I'm going into the announcement feeling happy and grateful.

And ready to keep moving with the play. (In fact, on the weekend when I couldn't sleep, I started rewriting the ending and am ready to rework the first two scenes as well.)

It's all good!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blue Day Analogy

I've had a realisation - one that makes it easier to understand how blue I am today.

When I had my first child he had to be delivered by Caesarean section and was taken away from me straight after the delivery. I was wheeled into a room and he was placed in an incubator in the nursery. I couldn't walk, couldn't even wiggle my toes after the epidural, and I lay in this room, surrounded by flowers while visitors rushed in and out and told me how beautiful my baby was. How we was wearing a singlet on his head in the crib.

I was bereft. He wasn't in my arms where he should be. I couldn't see him.

And that's how I feel right now. I've delivered this play, loved it and birthed it and it's been taken from me and put into the hands of five judges.

I'm receiving lovely emails and text messages, my house is full of flowers, and still I feel bereft.

I wonder if this is how playwrights always feel? If once the play is finished and taken over by directors and actors it stops being theirs?


Well, that last post was a little bit emotional ... sorry.

Today is Sunday. Two more sleeps (or awakes) until this will be over and I'll know the outcome of the judges' decision.

I hadn't slept for 48 hours and I lay in bed last night not feeling even the tiniest bit tired. I'd had a hot bath, drunk whiskey and then chamomile tea, taken a sleeping pill, and still my eyes were wide open and my heart raced.

It didn't help knowing that the judges were probably deliberating as I lay there. They were meeting after Sven's play to make their choice.

The plays are so different. I don't know how they choose when there's a strawberry, an apple and a banana on the table. It's a matter of taste and hunger. There are too many what ifs for me to handle.

I have one of the judges numbers in my mobile. I could call. I could ask. It's so tempting. But I won't. I hope. I have to wait. Wait and find out at a swanky lunch with no support system around me. We short-listed playwrights aren't allowed to bring a partner. It's the cruelest thing I've ever heard of.

If I lose, I will want Peter with me. I'll want to feel his arm around me, holding me up, keeping me strong, pinning the smile to my face.

If I win, I will want Peter with me. He is the first person I want to look at. His is the first hug I want to feel.

I can't bear it that he has to wait outside in the carpark and that he won't know what's happened until all these other people, these strangers, know.

But I've written and told the organisers this and they're not budging on the 'no partners' rule. So Peter will be in the carpark and I'll be inside, ready to make an ungraceful dash for the car when I hear the news.

It's no wonder sleep is so far away.