I’m of two minds when it comes to this blog and publicity. Is this a good-news-only blog where I celebrate the joy and wonders of writing and production? Or is this a all’s-fair-in-love-and-war blog where, in addition to the celebrating, etc, above, I also lay out the failures and disappointments?
Precedent suggests the latter.
Whilst doing publicity for the Still Life With Chickens machine, I mentioned looking forward to the premiere of Kingswood this September at BATS Theatre in Wellington. It’s been in progress for two years, it had built up some momentum in the last couple of months, and my fellow creative principals and I were at various levels of quiet excitement (hey, we’re all Kiwi males so high-testosterone-I’M-PUMPED-type excitement was never going to happen).
Having put it out there on the æther, we’ve just had to cancel that premiere season.
Life happens. Life goes on. And there will always be other productions.
(The pedants among you are wondering why this post is titled ‘postponed’ but the post itself has the word ‘cancelled’. 1. I didn’t officially announce the season on the blog in the first place so, in the bigger scheme of D F Mamea things, as a project, its premiere is merely delayed. 2. This is my blog, so there.)
I suppose it’s an annual pilgrimage: as Matariki descends upon this lush nation, I take myself to my hometoon of Wellington for a bit of colour and culture. The Lovely Wife didn’t accompany me this year as our schedules didn’t work out (and we’d been down this way only a few weeks earlier).
This time around I:
- saw Kia Mau Festival highlights Taki Rua’s He Kura e Huna Ana and the premiere season of Deer Woman;
- attended a Playwrights Hui where I —
- had the pleasure of meeting Tara Beagan (Canada), Jorjia Gillis (Australia), Lily Shearer (Australia), Mitch Tawhi Thomas (Wellington), and Jason Te Mete (Auckland);
- and caught up with Ali Foa’i, Mīria George, Natano Keni, Hone Kouka, Jamie McCaskill, and Ilbijerri’s Rachel Maza;
- and, outside Kia Mau events, met with various Wellington residents about one thing or another.
Unlike last year there was no dining at the usual, nor a Mamea family catch-up, but it was a productive trip, and my hometown is always always fun to visit.
From November 2007 (lightly edited):
Let’s say I have to write a scene with corporate suits speaking corporate-speak. I want it to be fluid – a language that’s appropriate to the characters but still accessible to the audience. Minutes and minutes of talking heads yakking at each other – but interesting. Touchstones are Oliver Stone‘s JFK, the ‘law’ halves of Law & Order episodes, and any episode in Aaron Sorkin‘s West Wing.
My first instinct is to just write the scene and get it over with. This can be difficult if I’ve little or no idea how suits talk to each other. In the past it’s become a war of attrition: the objective of narrative-propelling talking heads can be forgotten in a distressing and dispiriting fug of expository dialogue, with an end-result of dropping the scene completely, followed by a period of self-loathsome whimpering in The Lovely Wife‘s compassionate and patient arms.
I know what I want. I can almost taste the scene. The problem is writing what I want even though I have no idea what happens.
The solution is awfully simple: take tiny steps. Write what I know. Then write it again. Repeat until well done.
I’ve noticed a pattern to how some of these scenes take shape. Below are the stages of development that a scene can undergo:
– the nugget,
– the description,
– as good a start as any, and
– a work draft.
INT. CORPORATE BLOCK – DAY
TWO SUITS cook up a plan.
INT. MONOLITHIC CORPORATE BLOCK – AFTERNOON
BOUFFANT and COIFFURE walk and talk about BALDY’s imminent death.
As good a start as any
INT. ROTHERAY & TEMPLAR OFFICES – AFTERNOON
JAMESON RODERICK and TREVOR ALMOND prowl the open-plan offices and corridors.
[PLACE HOLDER: confident growls of world domination]
[PLACE-HOLDER: squeaky noises of dissension]
[PLACE HOLDER: growly grunts of alpha-maleness]
A work draft
INT. OPEN-PLAN OFFICES, ROTHERAY & TEMPLAR BUILDING – EVENING
RODERICK JAMESON and TREVOR ALMOND walk and talk as paralegals, interns and secretaries work into the night.
Did -. Did you –
His more athletic companion glares at him as a BEAVER-LIKE INTERN cuts in:
Sorry to interrupt, Mr Jameson, but Sir Templar asked me to give you this.
Roderick relieves him of an UNMARKED ENVELOPE and the intern disappears.
Is -. Is that –
Roderick steers his cream-doughnut-loving toady towards –
INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – CONTINUOUS
– where Almond slips out of his grip and takes a trembling breath:
I -, I’ve changed my mind.
They stare at each other for a long beat. Almond, of course, looks away first.
It’s too late.
It is done.
OUT ON Almond: there’s no turning back now.
As you can see, each draft gains more depth and colour and tone – I’m building on what’s gone before and with each iteration I’m that much closer to what I want. What I wanted in the first place and what I end up writing may be two very different things but that’s for another post. What matters is that I’ve now got something to really work with.
Another seventy-or-so more scenes to go.
The lead up to the opening has been more public than I expected. The write-ups and mentions continued in the Herald, the Listener (hardcopy only), and Tagata Pasifika have been nice to read and watch.
On opening night I was accompanied by The Lovely Wife, The Girl and The Boy, and I was very, very happy to have my family with me. The opening night audience liked the show — that’s always grafifying. The early reviews in BroadwayWorld and Concrete Playground are positive.
For some reason this doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’ll hit me at some point — soon, hopefully, maybe — that I’ve achieved something tangible, something to be inordinately proud of. Instead I’ve been looking over my shoulder, waiting to be awoken from some impossibly good dream.
The play opens this Thursday. I don’t know where the time has fled. Meantime:
- designer John Parker was interviewed on Radio New Zealand about his love of puppetry;
- there are these pieces at Stuff and Mindfood;
- a very nice mention by Renee Liang at The Big Idea;
- and the programme for your taste-whetting.
(Please forgive the avian puns. I hope you understand.)
In the meantime, please can someone suggest why this pic —
— keeps making me flash on this:
Your answers and suggestions welcome in the comments.
I looked at the calendar and saw with some shock that the first performance is less than a fortnight away.
Less than a fortnight.
Until I can figure what else to blog about, here’s some chicken in a bucket for you:
Rehearsals are continuing apace in Auckland while life goes on in Northland. An unexpected perk on this production is the rehearsal reports I’m sent at the end of each work day: a one-pager of what happened, what’s needed, and any observations.
Yesterday’s report got me cackling and yahoo-ing in the Fortress Mamea environs:
And it made me flash on this:
Rehearsals for Still Life With Chickens kicked off this week with an Auckland Theatre Company welcome followed by a reading, then a read-through.
I got to meet and thank set, puppet and costume designer John Parker. I caught up with director Fasitua Amosa and actor Goretti Chadwick, as well as met the masterfully coiffured Chicken puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae Jackson and the very quiet, very calm technical stage manager Andrew Furness. Also well-met were those whose names are unlikely to appear in the brochure but whose work is just as vital as those on and around the stage: Eliza, Natasha, Nicola, Emma, Jan, Jade, Nicole, Siobhan and Miryam.
I realised with a shock that opening night is only four weeks away. It feels perilously close.
Going by how I had to blink back tears through a couple of mere read-throughs, as far as I’m concerned, the show is in good hands.