WOS Special Edition: Playwriting I Class

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conducted by mike doyle on 5/16/13

md: If any of you guys want to talk about what it’s been like writing a play this year in the sequence in terms of what you’ve garnered from this class, what the process has been like from the beginning up until now.

janie killips: For me, and I think a lot of us started the same way, but not necessarily the same time period, but I started writing this play first quarter. It came out of an exercise that we did in class and I was assigned something, and I wrote a quick scene. We read it in class. I felt like there was more to it, and so I just kept exploring and that ended up being my final for first quarter, so like a thirty page section of this play. I really liked it. Then, second quarter with Carlos it switched, and I started a new play. I liked what I was writing there, but not as much as this play now and I kind of kept going back to it. Then, I decided when it came Wrights of Spring  time to pick which play I would write, the play that I kept going back to, so now I have written this play.

lauren fields: I started writing this play last quarter in Carlos’s class, and it was born out of a character exercise. The character that I was focusing on is still in the play, but is not the main character, and it’s actually not his story. I started focusing on another character who was born out of those exercises, but I was interested in this play and it was something different from what I had written fall quarter. I have been continuing with it and have been very frustrated because I’ve never written a play before, but I feel like it’s coming along, so I guess we’ll see.

jared hecht: I started this play on a Megabus from Minneapolis to Chicago, I think last quarter. It kind of spawned out of some exercises from Carlos’s class and some character development things that we did. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to work on it in his class and it really kind of developed itself outside, but it was definitely using what Carlos had talked about in class to work on it. I’m still writing this play and I can’t wait for it to be done in the future.

molly dannenberg: I also got started in one of Carlos’s character activities. I feel like while I started that play during class I think the one that I have now has been removed from that and gone through some serious changes throughout the last two quarters from, I guess, Carlos and Dean, but also influences from everyone else’s writing. We’ve all been doing it together.

aaron aptaker: I first got the idea for “Vincent: The Musical” four years ago as a freshman and then never did anything with it. However, Wrights of Spring senior year right before graduation seemed like a great time to get it all out there as a going away present.

md: So in terms of Wrights of Spring specifically as that’s approaching within the next week here, how has that been for you guys both like the writing aspect and how that’s influenced you recently, and also just finding actors, directors, and all that jazz? What have been difficult points in the process for you?

lauren fields: Recently, it’s been rough. I bought a jug of wine yesterday to take home to do some rewrites. I think finding actors was the easiest part of the process for me. I worked with some second year actors earlier this year, and I reached out to them, and they seemed really excited. Janie’s been reading the part since I first wrote the script and she was totally game to keep reading it for Wrights of Spring, so I’m excited to say that she’s going to be in it. Finding actors for me has been really easy, and I’m directing it myself. I think the hardest part of it for me has been writing and rewriting and editing and cutting and all of the things that come with that. In the past two weeks it’s been kind of a mad dash for me to get it into some semblance of order that I feel will make sense within Wrights of Spring.

janie killips: For me something that’s a great pro that Wrights of Spring brings to all of us is that it’s really a deadline. We’re really forced to produce a product at a certain point and writers will always be doing rewrites, but when you have a deadline it just helps so much more. For me my biggest problem, and this is a problem very specific to me, is that i’m trying to write a musical. I’m having time to write these scenes and really work on them in class, but really writing the music has to be on my own time. Trying to find that time and that creative space to do it is hard, especially when we’re all in class and I’m working on a couple shows and it’s just hard to kind of cut out that time for you to just write and not feel like, Well, I’m sitting at my computer thinking about my play not really getting anywhere. I could be doing homework and being more productive, but really you need that brain time. I think it’s just something for me that I’m just learning as a writer––how to deal with that process and how to fit it into my normal life.

molly dannenberg: Yeah, I agree with Janie in that it really forces you to go write a bunch of material, which is really, I think, is one of the greatest things about having playwriting as a class. When you have an assignment, you actually have to go out and write where usually I think people don’t schedule time for writing, it comes as an impulse. When people actually have a deadline to do something, like with Wrights of Spring where you have a classroom assignment, it forces us to have output, which can only make us better.

md: Have you guys heard your work read aloud at all before, apart from inside the class? Have you brought in actors or anything and has that affected how you’re writing?

jared hecht: I think for me hearing work out loud, specifically recently at Chicago Dramatists was so so helpful, because not only hearing the work out loud, but the cast that they gave me for my show was much much older than the actual cast of characters, or the actual ages of the characters that I originally imagined. That, I think, brought another whole level of depth to the characters. Also, I think hearing just the voice of a person as this character that you’re creating really helps you define in your mind’s eye, when you’re working, how they sound and how they say things. I think what’s more interesting is when you have multiple actors read for a character you can kind of pick and choose how you think this character sounds and how they act and transfer that to the play.

molly dannenberg: I tend to think the most helpful thing about having work read aloud is actually hearing what doesn’t translate for the actor––like what things they don’t pick up on, so that you need to make that more clear for someone. Like in a first read through, that’s one thing and there are definitely going to be some things that people miss, but if you bring in things more and more, and certain things do not translate every time, then you realize that that’s something that you need to work on and make it work.

md: That’s all I have, so thank you guys and…what do you say to a playwright? Is it still break a leg?

anonymous playwright: Go fuck yourselves?

(laughs)

md: Well, go fuck yourselves, and write some plays.

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