Size Matters

It really does.

I mean, there’s no need to get pink in the cheeks, I am talking about theater here, after all – and really, the play is the thing.  But, unlike the world’s grotesque obsession with mammoth manly pieces, it seems the theatre world is dead set against that which looms huge… So what does one do when one writes “large” plays?

My first grad-school play, In the Company of Jane Doe, called for a cast of 12 (or 8, if you got creative) but the first time we produced it, we cast 14.  And the script (not I, oh no) asked for some pretty interesting effects like  “A row of Clones spill out and around” the main character.  And it called for a large voluminous womb.

Fun for designers… better yet for designers with a nice little glorious budget… budget… budget  (from the echoes of an empty purse)

So the next play I wrote, I limited myself to four characters and wrapped them around a kitchen sink… but wouldn’t you know it if one more showed up, and those characters insisted on clamoring about the place… the living room, the garden, and the attic.   Still, at the end of the day, I felt I had done a lot to curb my “big thinking”  So much so in fact that I set out to write a THREE person play… It would be minimal. it would be clean… it would be: The most expensive play I’ve imagined to date. There are multi-media projections, a fire-breathing closet, five characters, and some of them fly in and off stage or hover “Above their own bodies.”

And I wonder sometimes if I am just hell-bent on making the most of this struggling artist thing by writing these monstrously theatrical shows that make dreamers giggle and realists cringe: “How can we produce this when you’re still just a pipsqueek in the theater world?”  I guess the economic crisis hasn’t done much to endorse the gambling spirit.

That, and the fact that in addition to my affinity for theatricality, I also write primarily about (wait for it….) WOMEN.

And if there’s one thing that seems to scare the Powers that Be more than big casts or fire-breathing budgets… it’s a “feminine” story.

But why?

I can’t figure it’s got any firmer basis in anything other the fact that many, many plays hover around or originate with men, and if there’s one thing people dread in any sort of business it’s untested change… Change brings uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds nervous pocket-books, and we all know that when the pocket-books get nervous, not a whole heck of a lot happens by way of taking chances.  Soooo, if the standard is “Male playwrights and male-centered plays sell tickets” then we are quite literally going up against “The Man” when we send in our materials.

And it’s crazy frustrating!  Especially when there are some kick-ass female playwrights out there creating all kinds of exciting theater.

So a playwright is faced with questions – Does she write smaller shows?  Does she try her hand at commiserating with a Manly public and changed “Sallie” to “Doug”?

Just what is a playwright’s responsibility to the yawning public (or frightened Producers) to give them what seems to be selling… or try to sell them what should?

Possibly, the solution is to set yourself some guidelines and then test them- my “Three person, one-set, super-clean” play ballooned into one of the biggest (And I think most beautiful) plays I’ve ever written.  It’s received oodles of praise, and I believe it WILL get produced (eventually) it’s just too exciting not to.  But I wouldn’t have written the thing if I hadn’t started out with that mindful, business-like plan of writing something “Small”…

What budgetary/production-ary/mind-set-ary do you take into consideration when inspiration strikes?

~Tiffany

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