Saturday, August 6, 2011

Write Your Heart

The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don't dare reveal.

Elia Kazan
A man asked if I would read and critique his play. I had been recommended. The play was about a famous assassination and the way he described it I thought it might be interesting so I agreed. What I thought was going to be a drama turned out to be a musical, of sorts. It opened with a chorus of guys in a pub. The dialogue was cliched and predictable, the characters were two dimensional and the plot was boring. I fell asleep while reading the first act.

Among the worst things about it was that he tried to reproduce English accents: "Oi" instead of "I" and "eer" instead of "here." And at one point he brought George Bernard Shaw into the pub.

The play had no drama. It was a piece of history trying to be a play. There was no point of view and not a single word from his own heart. There was no suspense, no justification for the assassination and virtually no reaction among the other people to it. I told him all this and I also said that if he wants to bring Shaw into the play he had better write dialogue that is at least as clever as Shaw's.

Another fellow, one who had successfully written a few plays, had just finished one about an S&M relationship. I was in the first public reading of the play. In the discussion that followed it was felt by many that he did not sufficiently cover the subject. He had written more about the effect of the relationship on the main characters instead of the relationship itself. He admitted that, said that he was a pipe and slippers sort of man and didn't really want to have to think about such a relationship in his life even though the story was important to him. But he took the criticism properly and did some good solid rewriting.

I was cast in a film about a father daughter relationship in which the girl had been abused and was confronting her father about it years later. The major scene in the film was this confrontation. The director was also the writer and I'm sure the story was autobiographical.

Every time we rehearsed this scene there was a long discussion about what my character thought and felt. She never seemed to be satisfied with my answers. I pointed out to her that since she wrote the script she should be the one with the answers. But it didn't take long to realize that she was trying to psychoanalyze her father through me. She never discussed the scene with the actress playing the daughter nor did she give her any notes. As a result actresses were getting disgusted with all the time wasted on figuring me out and they left. Girls went through that role like people through a revolving door, each one of poorer quality that the last. The final girl didn't even play the scene to me.. It didn't matter to the director who played the girls part, she was only interested in my character.

There was no scene in the script depicting the abusive moment that had taken place and I told the director that she had to write it in to the story or no one was going to understand or believe the drama.

She did, and the scene she came up with was so simplistic, minor, innocent, accidental and easily forgivable it didn't justify the confrontation. That's when I left the job. I know she interviewed other actors but I don't think the film was ever made.

Verisimilitude for an artist is an important and sometimes scary thing. One does not need to experience murder, perversion or child abuse to write about them when the artist's creative imagination supplies the materials. Shakespeare was certainly not squeamish about writing of lust, violence and cruelty.

I have written and will write about parts of my life that some men would not dare admit to about themselves, the dark places, where fools fear to tread. That's all right, all as it should be. I am blessed/cursed with being a creative person. I have no choice.

DB - The Vagabond
Never give up.

Summer is moving along, people.

It's a long, hot, sticky summer, so here's a hot, sticky question for you. Don't let the recent New York State decision rob you of your thunder.

Same sex marriage. Should it be legal or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

13 answers so far.

You have until the last day of summer, but don't dally.
I eagerly await your answer.


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