Creativity #43 - Collaboration!

Collaboration is a miracle, especially for a playwright. Most playwrights write in the vacuum of their mind, spending hour upon hour staring at a computer screen, until the wee hours of the morning.

But when a playwright brings his work to a director and actors, the magic begins. I know from my experience that MAGIC really actually does happen in rehearsal. Once embodied by actors with a thoughtful director, my characters change, morph and become amazing, complex entities I just barely imagined. In my humble opinion, the creative collaboration of playwright, actors and director is the most important and most exciting part of the playmaking process.

The first thing which is really important in this collaboration process is, to GIVE UP YOUR WORDS! When actors embody a playwright's words, often the words simply don't work, or there are better words. As a playwright you have to remember that 90% of the time, the words don't matter anyway. It is the struggle or the problem to be solved that powers a play, so in the collaboration process, give up your addiction to your words. Write new ones in rehearsal or let you actors make something up when your words suck, and go from there. You will learn so much if you come from this perspective in rehearsal. Give it a try!

The next thing during the collaboration process which is challenging for playwrights is to stop TELLING and simply GIVE IT TO THE ACTORS. Often playwrights, in their attempt to tell the story, make the characters speak too much, literally TELLING the audience about a relationship or character trait, when it could simply be embodied by the actors. Why do we need to be told about a close relationship when we can literally see it on stage? So in rehearsal, see what dialogue you can cut by simply giving it to the actors to embody.

Now this is my favorite magical rehearsal strategy. Don't be afraid to add a character element or a bit, based on the actor's work. If an actor discovers a funny phrase or mannerism, play with it. Have the actor do it again later in the play, and see where you can go with it.

In my play Conversations with Dog, Anthony J. Ribustello (of The Sopranos fame) was playing the lead character (or should I say the lead Dog) and his performance was amazing. During one scene, while another character is rubbing his belly, he responds with a sexy, breathy "LOWER!" Anthony was so funny with this bit, that we added it again in the second act, and then we topped it off again in the third act. It was hysterically funny, but I didn't write it. It came from the actor embodying my character, the merging of my art and his craft, that created those funny moments. I so love that. Two artists collaborated and something neither could have imagined manifested!

Just for fun, collaborate sooner, in your playwriting journey. Find a friend to grab some talented actors and put up a scene in your living room and see how the LIVE work can now inform your writing and your rewriting! Try this and it will change the way you write and create. And it is also nice to hang out with people instead of your computer screen.

So play with your writing workflow! Add in some collaboration and see what happens!

Posted on May 13, 2015 .