Twelve years, hoo-rah.
Time for a cream choc donut or two to celebrate.
Twelve years, hoo-rah.
Time for a cream choc donut or two to celebrate.
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:
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.
Speaking of nerves, the extended Mamea aiga attended the opening night: our Stern but Loving Parents, Awesome Sister and her girls, and Staunch Bro and his family. They said they enjoyed the show and I can’t ask for more than that. The Lovely Wife was not called on to take one for her husband so it was quite the lovefest and very validating for this writer.
It’s all “Still Life”-this and “Still Life”-that, some of you are carping. I can’t help it. It’s a big thing for me.
It’s a week out from the show’s Wellington premiere and my anxiety has increased considerably.
Why the nerves, you may ask, when 1). box office returns must be pretty good, and 2). touring is the fun part of being a playwright. Yeah. Well. I’m taking my mother to the premiere next Wednesday and I’m experiencing a very familiar feeling like I’ve done something very bad and I’m going to have to own up to it.
It’ll be fine, my siblings have been telling me, our mother’s gonna loooove it. But I recognise the tone in their voices: the kind of tone where they know I’ve done something wrong, too, and I’m going to have to take my lumps, and boy are they glad they’re not me.
I shall hold onto a couple of thoughts over the coming week: how Simon Wilson describes the play best as a hymn to [my] mother; and how The Lovely Wife will be on my arm at the premiere where, if necessary, I can use her as a shield.
I’ve been laggardly with this blog: Still Life With Chickens has already had three performances at Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North.
The Centrepoint season runs until this Sunday 15 April, after which it continues southward — whereupon the Greater Mamea Aiga will see it.
I’m feeling a little trepidatious about that development.
Even though I’ve more pressing matters, I’ve been unable to stop refreshing the ticketing page for Still Life With Chickens:
Between testing Fortress Mamea’s acoustics with maniacal laughs, the almost daily reports had this wee nugget:
‘Nugget’! Oh, this is so much fun.
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:
(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.