Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your thoughts on TRANSFORMATION!!

Post away folks!!

Is there an image from tonight's plays on your mind?
For me, it was the park bench, and the kitty folded from a newspaper...

What was the most metaphorical transformation?
Loved the stiletto heel...

Were there any particular words that stuck with you?
"fluffy lightening" (used to describe a dog)

Was there something that left you thinking, "WHAAAAAAAA?!" Tell us about it.

Do you want to know who wrote what play? Ask us.

Playwrights: did your scene get an unexpected reaction? Why?
Did you learn anything valuable as a writer tonight?

Let's hear what you've got to say about tonight's Instant Theatre...


Keely said...

i learned that it's best to assume "gender" and "written dialogue" are merely just suggestions. ;) i loved how it turned out. super great cast!

Aaron Carter said...

By far the moment that sticks out to me is the character who discovered that it her mother was in the lotion at the nail salon. Loved that simple turn from "smells like mother" to "is my mother." Jenni - you kicked ass.

Hats off to Ray for going for a silent piece. I gotta admit I didn't get it. But I admire the guts. And I also liked that it changed the rhythm of the evening by offering a different experience to the audience.

I also learned a great lesson from Nick's piece. Nick gave it away to early - we knew like four lines in that the sexy woman was the computer. Had he kept that up in the air until the girlfriend entered it could have been a great surprising turn. But we were ahead of the piece. Its like the playwriting version of why buy the cow when you get the milk for free. That's right. I mixed like five metaphors. I can do that. I'm a playwright.

A nod to Phil's piece as well. While I'm not sure about the double reversal (you're drunk, you're not drunk, you are drunk) I really thought the moment where the husband claims that he was late because he didn't want to hurt his daughter's feelings rang true. I was kinda disappointed that when we finally got to him actually being drunk, that meant that lovely moment was a lie. That might be a good thing, that disappointment. I'm not sure.

Great job! See ya next month.

Wendy said...

I want to thank my cast, Kristie and Morgan (I think it's Morgan, if not I'm sorry!), who did a wonderful job of interpreting somewhat dense material in a very short period of time. As a matter of fact, everyone I talked to from the audience raved about how great all of the actors were. They were very impressed. My play, "To Tell the Truth", involved a clock which one character, Aline, insisted was a mirror; the other character, Alicia, who was getting ready to go out into the world with a suitcase, protested that it was not a mirror, it was a clock -- and also gave a short treatise on the nature of time.

What I Learned: I would love to return for Instant Theatre to improve on a couple things. First, about props. My play might have been stronger if my character Alicia could have opened the suitcase and flung the colored letters from Andy across the stage, and pulled out the real mirror that was in there, to demonstrate that Aline was wrong. These things were in my script, but it's impossible to do a physical prop-oriented thing unless you take time to physically run through it. We discussed it and felt it would still make sense if she wasn't able to pull it off; the actor playing Alicia (Morgan) did a wonderful job of improvising with the clock -- pulling it off the wall (much to Aaron and Chris' chagrin...!) and gesturing with it. These weren't in the script, but had a good impact.

I was thinking the solution was to omit actions or props that were too complicated -- better not to need them or to think of a work-around. After seeing the origami kitty created on stage out of newspaper, however, I now realize that opening a suitcase wouldn't be too complicated to attempt, you just have to make sure the actor knows exactly how to do it.

The second thing I learned was that it is very helpful to have directing and/or acting experience to make your play successful, and next time I want to be more prepared to think in these terms.

Some Things I'd Appreciate Comments On: I was wondering how clear my play was to the audience? Did it have a clear feel, or was it obscure? One thing I found that was difficult watching all of these short plays in a row was shifting gears for each one. It was hard to tell sometimes if the action was supposed to be surreal/abstract or if it was supposed to be realistic and I just missed something. Therefore, I'm sure it was a challenge with my play because it was definitely abstract. I was hoping it would have an obvious emotional thrust though, even if you couldn't explain exactly what it was about. Did it do this? What did you get out of it?

If You Want to Read My Instant Theatre Play:

Wendy said...

Two pieces stuck in my mind from last night because I thought they both worked well, for somewhat different reasons. They are the notorious Bottle of Lotion play, and the one in which the writer is torn between two women. I like it when even extremely short plays written for an exercise are art. I like it when the pieces not only meet the goals of the exercise, but also express something meaningful and human, and operate on more than one level. These two seemed to do that, in different ways.

Lotion Play: I never found out who wrote this, I'd like to. There was a powerful double punch of creepy and hilarious in the sister's reactions to the bottle of lotion. The actors did a wonderful job of exploiting these moments. There was also a wonderful-creepy poetry of associations going on with the creamy, white, sweet smelling stuff that was made of mother, and how the two sisters longed for it/her. It raised the play above the level of simply a story fulfilling the Instant Theatre requirement.

I have a question about this play, because I can't be sure if I missed something. I understand that the mother was lost at sea, and it seemed like it was building towards a climax of how it was that she was turned into lotion, and I'm just wondering if there was a specific explanation (like, she was engulfed in a kelp bed, which was an ingredient in the lotion) or if it was left ambiguous. I'm just curious how it was resolved because I didn't catch it all.

Muse Play: This was the play in which the writer seems to be leaving one woman for another, but it's quickly apparent the first love is actually his writing. This was written by Nick, who I met last night; I think he got a lot out of his actors, because most of the time I forgot they were even reading from a script. The thing I really liked about it, though, was how complete it was. It expressed something very specific and it had everything it needed to do it, no more. It seemed like a five minute play, not a moment out of something larger.In this way I disagree with Aaron about it, you don't learn the point of the play too soon because the point is not the computer becoming a woman, it's to express what it's like to be a writer.

It was also very easy to follow, and it seemed like this is a function of having all the problems worked out of what, where and how everything was supposed to happen -- unlike my play. It made me realize how important good directing is to getting a story across.

Lynda said...

Silence is truly golden...I thought the concept of that scene was unique and fresh, and the actors' protrayal, compelling.

Instant Theatre rocks!

Cassie Sparkman said...

I also loved the lotion-as-mother piece. After my own mother visits our house, for days after I smell her everywhere. She has worn the same perfume since I was a little girl, and that smell = her for me. the actors' commitment on stage made the piece both hilarious and sad.

As an audience member every month at Instant Theater, I applaud the writers and the actors who make it happen (and Chris and Aaron of course!) -- every time I come I see something that blows me away.

Christopher De Paola said...

For Wendy-
Apart from the technical reasons for limiting your physical actions (actors only have 2 hands and one of them is holding a script), here is a tip for next time- and this is just my opinion- so take it or leave it, of course. And others, please respond to this if you disagree...

Think of the physical action as somethig that raises the stakes in the scene. In other words, you have to ask yourself, as a playwright, can the scene go on with or without the physical action?

In the park bench scene, the one major action that occured was the folding of the origami kitten. It was focused and necessary. The scene built up to it. And when it happened, it was very satifying because the consequence of the physical action resulted in a beautiful image. The scene needed that physical action and image to continue to its ending.

That type of physical action is very different from pulling a clock off the wall, opening a suitcase, taking a mirror out of the suitcase, putting the clock into the suitcase, etc. Those are just lots of physical actions that eventually lead to some meaning you're trying to convey to the audience.

Remember, you only have 3-5 minutes. So I would say, focus those actions into ONE single important action that MUST occur. Maybe it's just opening the suitcase, or maybe it's just taking the clock off the wall.

The idea is to build your scene around that SINGLE physical action in order to convey your point. If you build up to it properly, that ONE physical action will have all the weight of the world behind it.

Make sense? I hope so...

Jenni said...

I wrote the lotion piece and I'm so glad to hear that it landed well, and I believe that is in large part due to the actor's commitment to that moment on stage. It is a pretty huge leap to make there and I think Lynda, Morgan, and the other wonderful actress (I can't remember her name did a great job) embracing the moment.

I wasn't really building toward the mother being caught in kelp and then finding her way into the lotion, although that's an interesting idea. I guess I thought more that the characters Tricia and Tina needed and missed their mother so much that they were willing to "put" her in a bottle of lotion. Does that make sense.

As far as Wendy's scene, I was a little lost. It's a really interesting idea that maybe could be better understood in fifty minutes than in five. And as far as props, I think definitely the simpler the better. That's the tough thing about Instant Theatre, getting to something in such a short amount of time.

I really enjoyed all of the scenes, loved especially the park bench scene and little paper kitty which was a total surprise.

Can't wait to do more!

Josh said...

I loved the lotion one. It was hilarious when the actress held it up and said "mommy!" I was dying. I also liked the sad bench, although I wasn't quite sure if the guy was schizophrenic or what.

Aaron Carter said...

I'm down with Chris' comment on a single focused action. He's on to something with that distinction between a neccesary action that the piece builds to, versus an explanatory action.

It's got me thinkin - what could be an action that embodies the tricky nature of time in that piece? It's one thing to say that time is a human intellectual construct. It'd be something else to SHOW it.

WendySchmidt said...

Thanks, Christopher for your comments. You are absolutely right about the paper kitten, that that was the action the whole play built towards. I think the actors in my scene had good instincts about what actions could be left out, and I've learned from that.
Thanks for the feedback, Jenni. It's interesting to consider how much can fit in five minutes -- just because the lines can be said in that amount of time, doesn't mean it all can be taken in and experienced. So far, all I've had to judge by is whether I enjoy reading it or not, and that is different.
Also, I think it makes perfect senses what you said about the sisters missing their mother, etc. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Aaron and Christopher, for organizing and hosting Instant Theatre.Thanks also to your fine actors for the loan of their talent.

Writing a short play of this kind, having to focus on a particular goal, theme, or restricted subject, is enormously useful. As a playwright whose genetic tendency is to write grotesquely long, it serves me well to be forced to compress a dramatic arc into a small theatrical package. It focuses the mind on the essentials of the scene. There's no time for chit–chat. That raises the question, "Why not write all our scenes with similar objectives and constraints?" Should each scene of a longer work have an analogous focus, except that whatever action, theme, or subject chosen will build the larger movement on the entire play?

I enjoyed bits and pieces of all the plays. Each of them was imaginative and engaging. A clock as a mirror, lotions as mother, a portal to another dimension of space and time—thank you all for a cheery and mind–expanding evening of theatre.