On The Path Of Form And Style

I've talked in previous posts of how my work has changed, but I think the scope is missing from it. Part of the idea for this post came up as a desire to talk about that age-old question, “Where do you get your ideas,” and part of it is just rumination from some the comments I've made in other posts. I got to thinking that maybe it would be interesting to go over my work in a timeline sort of fashion and talk a little bit about how my style has developed over the course of my career thus far. I'm not gonna offer much of a preamble here... I'm just sorta gonna jump right in.

First and foremost is, what can only be called, my “Accidental Play.” I've talked about it in other posts, but this piece had no premeditated goals. It started off as a monologue in verse (poetic journaling, not at its finest) and it very quickly turned into a conversation. I remember at a certain point (probably when I decided to end it) one of the characters clearly became my Head, and the other just as clearly my Heart. Honestly, I'm sure that was true the entire time, but it was only as I sat down to end it that I figured it out. I needed to know who they were in order to close it. And then, of course, when I was finished, there was 30 pages of dialogue. That's when $#*^ got real.

“Love and Rues” took at lot of it's inner workings from my own history and the tale that lay behind the “Accidental Play.” I decided to explore myself, my pain, and the world around me, but it certainly wasn't the truth. First of all, there was a happily-ever-after sort of thing, and that clearly wasn't real. Life still served as the springboard though. The entirety of if was written in poorly crafted Heroic Couplets, and I even had the audacity to throw in Thee's and Thine's and a whole slew of inaccurately used archaic forms. I can't complain, though. Not really. I was chasing after my closest known analog; Shakespeare. I am definitely no Bard, but it was he who had stuck with me. A kind friend of mine pointed out how terrible it was (writing wise, though the story was good, and the characters, fine), and I attempted to fix it. Totally didn't happen. The story itself tried to examine different types of relationships all rolled into one narrative: Love At First Sight, Lovers Who Don't Know They're Lovers, and Lovers Who Aren't Anymore. It worked... in an utter-failure sort of way.

My second play, ridiculously called “Pieces Falling,” will never see the light of day-- not only because it was also so poorly written, but also because the amount of unnecessary production requirements (among other things) is simply stupefying. I again took my life as inspiration, but changed my gender, and made it a “Future Extrapolation” play instead of a “My Life Was So Bad” play. I no longer used Heroic Couplets throughout, but I was still addicted to archaisms, and I did use rhyming couplets at the ended of every character's speech. A step in the right direction, but only a baby step.

My third play doesn't have a title. It was incomplete and totally lost when my computer was stolen from my house. The premise itself (which I dearly love and has been giving me serious pains ever since) was simple: a brother and sister fall for the same guy. The brother wins. I decided to step away from my life, and try instead to create something new. Also, my life is really boring. This first attempt at it was college age, but as I said, it was lost. All of my notes, all of the draft thus far... gone. Also my backup flashdrive of EVERYTHING was gone (plugged in at the time.) I think that was probably the first major loss of work I suffered. In the end, I knew I wasn't done with the premise, and I really wanted to get back to it right away, but also I knew it would never be what I had lost. I left myself little choice but to lay that premise aside for a while.

Number 4 was probably my most ambitious brainchild yet: a prequel to Romeo and Juliet. Believe me when I say it was way too long, and that is hardly its worst problem. The plot itself needs a lot of work, even down to its basic premise. But, at the same time, there are a lot of (dare I say) brilliant taps and nods throughout. I really want to throw my pen at it again, unfortunately, now is not that time. Not yet. Pen! This was the first play since my journal-play that I wrote by hand (I would be computer-less for a while to come). I started off using 8.5x11 notepads for the draft, and printer paper for my notes. Ironically enough, this play was the first I did away with the archaisms.

Then I moved on to the next thing. I really wanted to do something fun for #5. “The Gravedigger's Daughter” was a dark romantic comedy about fetishes and phobias set in a small town outside Chicago in the 20s. Finely crafted intention with some beautiful moments, it, some how, just fell short. This play, whose premise still sounds like a lot of fun, would need to be reworked. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have already lifted some of it into my latest play, “Gravediggers.” I know. Hard to see the connection. I'll talk more of that when we get there.

The first draft of “The Other Side Of Life” followed. I actually don't have the first draft anymore. I know I have the rough draft and the notes, but “Other Side” is one of those plays where I didn't save separate drafts. I know I rewrote most of it writing wise, but very little changed in the actual layout and motion of the piece. It's hard to say where the old one is or isn't, but I remember cutting out quite a bit, even in the rough draft stage. My original thought line involved many more characters and attempted followed each of them in a large overall narrative that totally failed. I'm pretty sure this is the first play where I started to pare things back a little (or in its case, a lot). Still a fun piece. Actually, its finished draft is pretty awesome.

“A Girl Named Wench” comes in at number seven. It exists in a completed rough draft, and a three-times-reworked-three-times-lost state. This was the second outing for the Brother and Sister concept, but I decided to switch genders. This time they fall for the same girl, and the sister wins. I'm not sure if it is this one or “Other Side” but between them, I decided I could split couplets. They only happened at changes of speaker. I was now using thoroughly modern language, and my verse cadence (which I call Conversational) began to develop. “Wench” was unwieldy mostly due, I think, to there being two stories that were both compelling in their own ways, and who competed not just for the girl, but for primacy. The the sister got the girl; primacy is still in question, and “Wench” now resides comfortably back in the queue.

My first pseudo-biographical play, “The Hummingbird General” comes in at lucky number eight. Based quite closely on someone I knew, “General” was about the crises of self that comes with being partially paralyzed later in life. It was a heavy investment for me emotionally, and it's probably one of the simplest plays. This is most likely the point where my writing begins its movement toward Creative Advocacy. I like to think that it is ready, but I'm not totally convinced yet. So, not exactly back in the queue, but not necessarily out of it either.

Somewhere around here, I think, my use of couplets started developing its most current iteration, but you have to hear it to really get it. Reading it (which you should also do) doesn't do it quite enough justice. Also around this time I bought a new computer. I ran for several years on flashdrives and library computers to do my digitizing. I had also started a Writing.com account as a place to upload my work prior to the advent of Dropbox. I still write my rough drafts on pen-and-paper (Crystal BIC, and lined Moleskines.) All subsequent drafts are on the computer.

“Airport Sparrows” was my first play to attain a level of completeness, both in style and in form, that I felt comfortable presenting. I hosted a reading of it with friends and family, got some wonderful feedback, and I'm pretty sure it's ready to fly. If I can figure out where to send it.

Due to a faulty flashdrive, my third attempt at the Brother/Sister play is totally missing. I only wrote 3 scenes, but I had decided it belonged to a different premise, and who knows what that was. Especially since it's missing. I have gotten a lot better about printing out final drafts and I'm totally grateful for Dropbox for helping keep my sanity.

Number 10, then (I keep changing number format because it's fun for the whole family, and probably driving someone nuts) is “To Fleece The Fleece.” This is the second play of mine the speaks to drug abuse, and the first to have a Widower and his Holy MacGuffin. Actually it's his young daughter who never appears in the show, but most is definitely present. This play has probably held the “My Favorite” position the longest, and it has a bit of an Easter Egg for those who are paying attention. This is also the first play that I started using Moleskines. I still carry two notebooks, though. As before, one is a draft book, and one is a notes book. Multiple plays can occupy the same book, though, because I'm not at all interested in wasting perfectly good pages.

“The Goldfish” was my fourth attempt at the Brother/Sister premise, reverting to the original genders, stands complete, and yet now dated due to the conversational note of Gay Marriage (I'm happy for this, by the way.) On the downside, it means the attempt number five is somewhere ahead of me. I was never totally happy about this version anyway.

Somewhere between “Fleece” and the proximate entry, I believe is when “Other Side” received its overhaul and attained it's beatific current form.

Number 12. “Sunset Finches” I'm officially calling it number twelve, anyway. Remember my first, non-accidental play “Love and Rues”? Meet its bionic better. There's actually not very much here aside from names that are the same. “Finches” is also my first play discussing rape, though it's not a “Rape Play.” It is probably my personal favorite at the moment, although it has some stiff competition from “Gravediggers.” It's actually a very warm play, and I guess it picks up the same thematic examination of love as its predecessor, but the two have very little alike besides that.

“Waiting For Toast” was a title bouncing around my head for a while, and I had a hard time figuring out what it went to. My first (and only, so far) One-act, “Toast” pits two elderly gentlemen in a retirement home against each other. It's a pretty intense conversation on bigotry.

Around the same time I wrote “Toast,” “Blurred Lines” spilled onto the page. “Blurred” is a 10 minute existential drama. I was blessed with a reading of it at the Dramatists Guild National Conference by my new cohort-in-arms Steve Martin, and our mutual acquaintance, Walter Cuirle. I think it still needs a bit of work, but it the internal commentary itself is pretty fun. Keep your eyes out.

Coming in at 13, “The 7-10 Split” is a play about sexism and gender roles set in a romantic comedy. Or drama. It's hard to say with most of mine. They tend to be a little bit of both. If you didn't guess, most of it takes place in a bowling alley.

The fourteenth entry on this list is “Gravediggers.” I lifted the character of Ruth from “The Gravedigger's Daughter,” phobia and all, and placed her in an entirely new story. “Gravediggers” is a transgender play addressing abuse and suicide (well, attempted at least). It's really intense, really rich, and currently submitted. It's gonna be a long wait though, I can tell you that.

I suppose that means I'm working on my 15th full length play. The topic du jour is the disparity in society between the statuses of a sexually active male versus that of a sexually active female, colloquially known as Player vs Slut. It is certainly a commentary on why it is so stupid that that disparity even exists. I'll keep you all posted, but I just started Act 2. This is also the first play that I haven't used Scene Cards to organize the script. I recently discovered Simplemind. I think it is a fantastic mindmapping program, and I by far prefer the paid version on my phone to the free one. I haven't yet put gotten it on my computer, and I'm not sure if i will, mostly due to the fact my rough drafts require ink, and I don't cart my computer around unnecessarily.

Well, I think that sums it up. Thanks for joining me on this tour and history of my process. You can check my website to see which one's I feel have made the cut. And if you're curious, you can find synopses both on the website and here on my blog. With a little luck (and a great deal of skill) we'll all be able to enjoy these (or at least the ones that are ready for it) live and onstage in the near future. I hope I'll see you there.

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