Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 219: on collaboration and being my own artist

(if you notice that my day count seems off, I noticed that I somehow got a couple of days off somewhere along the line so I'm catching up.)

Last week, I secured a director for the staged reading I am planning for my play's birthday in October.  His name is Steven Yuhasz, and I have to admit I am a bit humbled that someone of his caliber and experience wants to work on my play (especially for virtually no money).  And it is not for any reason other than the material itself -- he doesn't know me, I wasn't recommended to him by someone he trusts, he merely saw a posting sent out by an organization I belong to (Theatre Resources Unlimited -- great organization you should check out if you are in the theater biz in any capacity).  The description of my play's subject matter intrigued him, so he emailed me.  I sent him the script, and he loved it.  My writing style, the characters' arcs, my knack for dialogue, the emotional weight of the play, all resonated with him.  I feel like I'm entering the big leagues here -- we're even signing a contract that connects him to the play for the immediate future.  This is a gamble I am willing to take to work with someone like him.

The process of finding a director was very interesting for me.   Though I've done this several times before for my short plays, this is (obviously) the first time I have searched for one for a full-length play.  I felt like I really didn't know what I was doing, especially as I received so many responses (apparently my birthing project intrigued a lot of people).  Do I send the whole script to everyone who responds? (I decided no, since I don't want a whole bunch of copies of my play floating around for people to steal from.) How do I screen them *before* sending out the script to decide who gets to read the whole thing?  (I decided to send out excerpts and then talk with people).  Then, once I have found someone I like and who likes the material, how do I engage someone as a collaborator without giving up my artistic integrity and control over the script?

I was worried at first about that last one, but I discovered something really important about myself in the process of figuring all this out:  I have become my own artist.   In a way I never could as an opera singer, and only started to as a cabaret artist, I trust my instincts.  I believe in my work, I stand by the things that are important to me.  I received a fair amount of (unsolicited) feedback on my script from some directors, and I was able to hear what they had to say and not let it make me doubt myself or my work. I even turned down a couple of offers of feedback because I didn't want to confuse the clear ideas I already have for the second draft of the script. Even in talking with my playwriting teacher, I didn't take every suggestion he had, as there were some things I really liked and felt worked that he thought could be changed.  I am learning to trust myself.

Let me be clear -- I want feedback, I want input.  I want to know what is working for people and what isn't, I want to hear what other people see in my play that I may not.  The greatest joy for me in this process of creating theater is collaboration: working with a great director and actors and seeing what they bring to my work and having them help me shape it.  But I filter their input and weigh it against my own vision for the play, against my own intuitive sense of what works and what I want to see happen.  It is not possible to write a play that everyone will like, or that people won't think would be better if I'd done xyz instead.  In the end, it is my play, my story that I am telling, and I have to steer my own rudder through the currents of other people's opinions.

It is difficult to express how satisfying it is to realize that I have finally become my own artist.  That I have more utter confidence in my writing than I ever did in my singing, even though I've only been doing it for a year and a half and have very litte formal training in it.  Arrogant?  Maybe.  But I just feel like I've finally grown up. 
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