One of the writers in my writer’s group goes to the Sundance Film Festival every year, and comes back to share stories of what she’s seen. It sounds like a Harry Potter experience, to be able to see these wildly original films, ready for marketing (or not), and to be part of a small group of industry insiders who get to see those efforts.
What I loved hearing from her this year is that all of the films that she saw (and she only saw a sampling of what was offered there), the films that she saw – were written from a very personal point of view. The films were “intimate” and “story-focused” and “emotional”. Now granted, these are films, not plays. But I think that there is an influence from theatre to cinema, just as there is an influence of cinema to theatre.
I was thinking about that influence of cinema on theatre when I saw this clip on Anna Deavere’s Smith’s new play. Look at the visual effects for this one woman show – it looks like a scene out of a big budget motion picture. And yet, there’s an intimacy in her writing, and obviously, in the people she’s portraying.
I remember when I did a one woman show on Emily Dickinson, all I had was a desk and a fainting couch for a set, and some pretty low budget lighting. (“And lights up.” “And lights down.”) Would the show have been better served with a scrim projecting images of Amherst, and Emily’s handwriting, and beautiful photographs of the natural world, the beauty, the despair, that she wrote about? Perhaps, and especially in the media/photo saturated world we lived in now – but I like to think that theatre is also about asking the audience to imagine a cowboy holding a beer at a bar, or an enraged patient at a doctor’s office.
I still think about using scrims with projected images for background images onstage. But I just haven’t made the leap. Yet.