Earlier in the week, I worked on a rewrite of a 5-minute play (my contribution for the upcoming Los Angeles Short Play Festival, What’s Going On?, produced by Company of Angels. For more info on this festival, please visit: https://www.companyofangels.org/whatsgoingon) that shouldn’t have taken too long to work on but, in fact, took me almost the whole day. It’s not like re-writes come easy to me (an overthinker) but more so than that, my brain has been a little fuzzy as of late. It’s not hard to believe that with all that’s going on, and is continuing to develop, we (because I’ve heard this from other folks too) might not be as focused on the writing/work before us.
Fortunately, I am working with a really wonderful director, Sylvia Cervantes Blush, who quickly picked up what I was going through and gave me a writing exercise that really helped SPARK (hey, hey, there goes the title of this post!) something for me. This all started making me think of some of my favorite writing exercises that have, in this instance, helped me with the development of a current project, or some of which have just been super memorable because they allowed me to reflect and/or think outside the box. I’d like to share some of those here in hopes that it might help clear your fuzzy brain.
To help me clarify what the message of my play was (because trust me, I lost it for a bit), Sylvia offered an exercise to me that consists of three parts. Part 1 asks you to take 20 minutes to go through your play from beginning to end, including stage directions and highlight the words/phrases that HAVE TO BE IN THE PLAY.
It should be noted that 20 minutes was more than appropriate to actually go through an entire 5-minute play. If you’re working on a full-length, well, than of course, give yourself an appropriate amount of time to go through the play but not so much that you have the time to dwell over every word/phrase you possibly can (assuming you’re an overthinker like me).
Once that time is up, comes Part 2! Here, you will take half the time you took in the first step—so for me that was ten minutes—and re-write the play with just those words. Don’t fret, Dear Reader, you’re not starting from scratch! Essentially, you’re blocking out everything you DID NOT highlight and then observing the play in its new little Frankenstein form.
I have to say, this was personally my favorite part. Reading the words/phrases I highlighted from my 5-minute play, blocked off from all the other clutter, sort of felt like diving into some poetry.
Now, Part 3 made me a bit anxious. Part 3 asks that without looking at your original and Frankenstein drafts, you re-write the entire play! My hands just got sweaty typing that…
I did this third part in 30 minutes. Again, for folks writing full-length plays, you’re going to want to adjust that time appropriately.
The draft that was developed during this phase was most definitely not the final draft of my play BUT it was super helpful in going back to work on it, as influenced by these new interpretations of it.
While part of the Son of Semele writers group, fellow member, Lovell Holder, gave us an exercise that made me start writing a play I often think about. For this exercise, we were asked to write a two-person narrative (play, prose, or poem—whatever you choose). Through out our writing, the proctor (in this case, Lovell) called out random words that we were to use in our piece. Of course, if you were already on some train of thought with your writing, then the random words were bound to throw you off, but on the other hand, it could also drive your story somewhere pleasantly surprising, which was the case for me. Definitely a good lesson in rolling with the punches.
LTA/LA WRITERS CIRCLE EXERCISE
As a former member of the Latino Theatre Alliance/LA’s writers group, we would have notable LA playwrights visit our sessions and give us master class/workshop of their choice. This next exercise is from that time BUT, I honestly CANNOT remember WHO gave us this exercise. K sad (“How sad” for all my non-Spanglish readers).
This two-part exercise required that we draw ourselves in a place of emotional significance, but additionally, we are to include someone in that image who may or may not necessarily belong to that space. The second part of the exercise then asks that we then write dialogue between both people in that image, taking the space into consideration. To start you off, the first line of dialogue should be, “Do you really think you know everything there is to know”. Going back to space very quickly– I hate to admit this but I’m not always so good at following directions during exercises like these, either because I didn’t fully grasp what was asked of us or because… I just didn’t want to. I say this because NONE of my dialogue had nothing to do with the location of my play. I can’t say I was a rebel for going against the rules of this exercise, in this instance, I more so just didn’t listen because I got distracted. In any case, this was a super memorable exercise for me because I got to draw myself (in my preferred pants-free state) in my assigned dorm room at the University of Sussex when I was studying abroad. Not to brag, but mine was the BIGGEST dorm room on the floor, so yeah, I was having solo dance parties in there FOR SURE. But back to the exercise… Included in my drawing was my sister’s dog, Lita, who has long been over my shit, so the dialogue portion of the exercise was fun and biting.
This assignment, overall, just did the job of taking me out of my fuzzy brain and putting me in a good mood, so at the very least, I would recommend it for that.
Anyway, if you are experiencing fuzzy brain, I hope that you feel inclined to try one of these exercises. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know how it went.