Best Behavior…but not Perfection

I was fortunate enough to have a meeting last Saturday with a director who is interested in a full-length play of mine. We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do with it after a private reading, but high hopes and artistic dreams were in the air as we chatted over iced tea at Aroma in Studio City.

Before the meeting I said to myself something along the lines of “Don’t say anything stupid.” Or words to that effect.

By stupid, I meant I hoped I wouldn’t cross a line that playwrights probably shouldn’t cross. I don’t do it often (I’ve been at this for a looooooong time) but now and then in the fervor of a moment, I’ve said something that I regretted afterwards.

A year ago I said a couple of those type of things to a woman who was directing a staged reading of my play in a festival. She was very intelligent, had a lot of experience, had just gotten her Masters from a nice school back East – but she was a good 20 years younger than I am.

And at one point I pulled the age card. I swore I wouldn’t do it, but I got so testy I did. We were discussing stage directions and scenic design, and my script had descriptions she thought weren’t necessary. I said in L.A., with our small theatres on micro budgets, I don’t want them to think they have to re-create the Taj Mahal to do my script. So in this particular script, I had stated that the hospital, E.R., restaurant and car could be all be done with two chairs. The main set of the living room could be more fully-realized. She thought I was telling the director and stage designer what to do.

It’s a fine line. It’s a collaborative art. The stage directions aren’t written in stone. If someone has the money to do more elaborate sets than what I suggest, have at it.

But in the moment I didn’t say those things with the calm and reason that I normally have or I’m exhibiting here in this blog. I got testy and loud and pulled the age card, explaining that she didn’t have the experience that I had with small theatres in L.A. We don’t have the budgets that nice grad schools have.

And then the following week, if that altercation wasn’t fun enough, I really lost it when the producer of the festival thought my show was going to run WAY OVER our time slot allowed. This was because the “run-through” she witnessed was actually a “work through” of Act I, with a million starts and stops. Neither the producer nor the director had any concept of how long my play would run. They even suggested we do only one act for the festival because there wasn’t time for both acts. I explained to them the whole thing would run 90 minutes, without all the starts and stops. But I didn’t explain it in a nice tone of voice. I was a red-faced apoplectic cartoon character with smoke coming out of my ears and fire coming out of my mouth.

I wish I had remained calm. As it turned out, my play ran 90 minutes and I was vindicated, but I still wished I hadn’t lost my temper.

But no one’s perfect. And that’s the moral of today’s blog. The young director wasn’t, the producer wasn’t, and I wasn’t. I’m working on forgiving everyone involved, myself included.

And I’m hoping I will carry these lessons – stay calm, remember no one’s perfect (least of all me) – in my next venture.

4 Comments

  • By Robin Byrd, September 1, 2010 @ 10:05 am

    Wonderful life lesson, Nancy. And, congrats on the play!

  • By Sunshine Jen, September 1, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    If you, as the playwright, say two chairs, then it will be two chairs. It’s up to the director to decide where those chairs go on the stage, and it’s up to the set designer to decide what those chairs look like.

  • By Nancy Beverly, September 1, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

    Jen, I’ll be printing out your comment and pasting it on my scripts! Thanks for the support!

  • By Tiffany, September 2, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    We all get a bit testy now and then – a play is our hard-laid egg, after all!

    And Here, here, to Jen’s comment. Masterfully stated 🙂

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