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Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Special Hell

In screenwriting school, we used to read each other's weekly pages out loud -- the writer brought in copies for everyone and assigned roles, and we'd huddle around the little table in the little room and do the best we could with voices and narration. There were only seven of us, three of whom were any good at reading, and I wasn't one of them. But it was still a fun exercise, to see how stuff worked when said out loud. Because it's easy to forget, huddled away in your room, that with the best of luck, people will actually be PERFORMING what you write.

But I've gotten a keen reminder of this recently. That one-act play I was writing in March? Well, it's going up. Performances start in late May. (You may express happiness about this -- I personally am thrilled to death.) But part of why I've been so exhausted recently? We've been casting.

Me and my director, sitting in a little room and watching people act. Well, not so much sitting. Standing. Acting. I've been reading with the actors, see, while the director does his thing. We've auditioned approximately ten actors for each role, running through the sides at least three times with each person, and almost by accident I shifted from reading to acting with them. It's gotten us better performances, the actors are more comfortable, and some interesting stuff has come out of it. But...

When you have to read a scene thirty times, you maybe start to notice the occasional flaw. But when you have to PERFORM a scene thirty times, a scene you wrote, a scene you thought was pretty great at one point, some things get hammered home.

Like, for example, a character just saying another character's name as a line of dialogue. I used to do this a lot, especially in screenwriting -- I always figured that a great actor would be able to take that word and make it his own. But after the twentieth round of "Julie-" "Jules..." "Julie-" (quite literally my lines for the last half of Julie's sides -- no surprise I was off-book last night) I was cured of it forever.

Hence, a new definition for the special hell: reading your own words, over and over again, and not knowing if you'll ever have a chance to revise them.

Cue last night, though, and just writing and rewriting and getting a chance to use all the ideas that accumulated after thirty reads of two scenes.

One more pass before I send it off. Then, rehearsals start!

Good thing I'll be unemployed in a little over two weeks. Busy!

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