The Scale of Inspiration

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. 

The Clip from the News Hour on One Person Shows

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.

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