I’m writing a play. I will try not to bore on about my process because no one wants to hear about that, as Hayley Campbell succinctly pointed out in “Attention, #NaNoWriMo Fans: No One Cares How Your F***ing Novel Is Going”. (And if you feel as strongly as she does, feel free to skip to the end and just donate the funding campaign!) I’m writing a play because last year I applied to the Collaborations Festival with an idea and a few pages of script. Of course when I sent off my application I hoped that they would like it, I wanted it to be accepted; and yet when I got the email to say it was going to be part of the festival, I was terrified. Now I actually have to make this happen. It’s not just a nice idea anymore, it was something that I really have to do.
This will be the first time something I’ve written will be staged and I’m excited to have the opportunity. I’ve written little bits for devised performances but it was usually something that was improv-ed during rehearsals and I just wrote it down later. I’ve studied playwriting, in college and with the Open University and the Gaiety School of Acting, and I have written a few short plays that never got off the page. This is the first time that something I’ve sat down and made-up in my head will be performed in front of a paying audience by people who aren’t me. I’m trying not to think about it too much because when I do, it seems like an absolutely stupid, ridiculous idea.
At Theatre Forum’s “Tell A Good Story” event before Christmas, Gavin Kostick talked about Dublin Oldschool and working with its writer Emmet Kirwan. As it was a Show in a Bag show, Gavin had regular meetings with him as the show came into being. He talked about how Emmet would come in week after week with a small handful of pages which were the first five minutes of the play. He was working and reworking the beginning to get it just right, and once he got that right, the rest of the script came very quickly. I can’t do that. I need to drag myself through the first draft and try to get some sort of ending before I can see the shape of the play. I’ve decided this is because of my previous life as a computer programmer. You have to finish the programme or at least finish the chunk of code before you can run it and see if it works. It seems that I write the same way.
I slowly, slowly got through the first draft. This took a surprisingly long time considering the script is only twenty minutes long. I tend to write too much. I will say the same things three times, just to make sure the reader knows exactly what I mean. It’s not hard to reach a word count like this but it can be very difficult to move things forward. Needless to say, with my habit of over-explaining things, I am terrible at sub-text. If it manage to sneak into the script, it’s almost certainly there accidentally and I will probably ruin it as soon as I notice it by making sure everyone notices it too. I’m basically a terrible writer. I mean, I write really terrible first drafts. Then I start again at the beginning and edit them. I make them a bit less wordy, flesh out the bits I skipped over the first time around and put in the things that I only figured out when I was nearly at the end.
Now I have a script that I’m pretty happy with it. I think it does what I want it to, I’m just not sure if it does it particularly well. I need to hear it out loud. I need to know if it makes sense to other people. Writing a play on my own made me really miss devising. Making theatre is less fun without other people to bounce ideas off. I feel like the whole thing would be better if other people were contributing to it. This might be because of the type of show it is, but I think it’s my brain as well. I am looking forward to working with other brains when I start workshopping and rehearsing the script.
The Collaborations programme will be launched on the 22th of January and I will share all the details of where and when you can see my play then.
Help fund the festival:
In the meantime, the festival is running a crowd-funding campaign with some very nice festival-related rewards. If you’d like to check it out and maybe donate a few euros, you can do that here.
Of course, please don’t donate the money that you need for food or bus fare but if you are doing Dry January and would like to donate the price of a night out, that would be very nice. There will be a nice festival reward for Future You in February. And if you don’t have any spare cash, maybe you could share the campaign with your wealthier friends!