Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 51: Huzzah!

I've got my mojo back.

The 3600 seconds per day (most days) last week culminated in 9.5 new pages for Frank, his daughter Vivian and granddaughter Angie.  I brought the pages into playwriting class yesterday, and the material was incredibly warmly received: "loved the scene", "characters were very real and rich", "very moving", "didn't drop out anywhere", "love the grandfather character", "lines were very clean", "the questions that came into my mind were all answered".   All things a playwright hopes to hear about their work.

These new pages depict a moment no one ever wants to have to face, on either side: the moment you have to tell your parent or grandparent that they can't take care of themselves anymore. This is an even harder conversation to have when the father and daughter have barely spoken for the last 25 years, and it erupted in some pretty hurtful dialogue between Frank and Vivian.  Frank was even brusque with his granddaughter Angie, whom he adores -- which really surprised me.  I didn't know he had such a dark and bitter side.

The biggest question I had about this scene was if the harsh words were over-the-top; if the conflict felt like it came out of nowhere; if it was unbelievable that people would really talk to each other that way.  Not only was this not the case, the class pretty unanimously felt that the conflict didn't go far enough.  One person said they were "too nice", and others said that I dropped the conflict between Frank and Vivian too soon; that I could have let it go a couple of beats longer and really let Frank express the disappointment he has in his daughter.  I was so surprised! 

I think I see where this comes from:  I was the self-appointed peace-maker in my family growing up, and as such am a very conflict-averse person.  Arguments, fights, or conflicts of any kind make me incredibly uncomfortable.  What may seem like a minor, insignificant outburst to some feels like a giant blow-up to me.  As scenes like these are a big part of what make great drama on stage, I'm going to have to get over this.  Perhaps it will be somewhat therapeutic for me -- to let my characters have some of the fights I've always avoided in my real life.  Maybe I'll learn something from them.

I can't wait to see what these characters do next.  I just hope they'll tell me soon, 'cause I have to admit I have absolutely no idea what the next scene is going to be. 
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