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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Writing Process

Greetings all, and welcome to Theater is a Sport. 

Amazing playwright and buddy Bradley Hayward invited me to take part in in a #bloghop that asks writers about their writing process.  (To learn more about Bradley's many wonderful plays, click on his name above.  To read his answers to the questions, click HERE)

I rarely get invited to things, so I figured, what the heck?  I'll give it a shot.  I'm passing this along to playwright buddy Wade Bradford, so stay tuned for info about where to read his responses!

So, without further meandering....

THE WRITING PROCESS

1.  WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
I have recently finished a batch of ten minute fractured fairy tales for a possible anthology at some point.  I have had a great deal of fun working in the ten minute form.  I am also working on a sixty minute play that I was commissioned to write by Lakewood Theater for their fall production for kids.

In other news, I'm also finishing up my first YA novel, and hope to be able to find a home for it someday. 

In a grander scale look at the question, I'm ALWAYS working on trying to become a better writer.  It's on of those goals that never has an end.  Thankfully.

2.  HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN YOUR FIELD?

Interesting question.  I write for the youth and high school markets for the most part (though I still do write plays for adults as well), and I have nothing but respect for all of the fine ladies and gentlemen I have had the pleasure to meet and stay in touch with who also write for this market. 

I don't mean to cop out with this answer, but I believe EVERY writer brings something different to their work just by being themselves.  I admit, when growing up, I would find that a good number of the plays one found in high school catalogues seemed a bit formulaic, and those types of plays still exist, although I must say that the climate has changed. 

What I try to bring to my writing, is a base for younger people to grow from.  When I was writing my play Confession: Kafka in High School, I was truly hoping that my play might encouraged a student to seek out other absurdist works.  Kind of like a gateway play to some of the great writers.  I had a similar hope with my play The Dark Tower, which was based on the Browning poem.

One thing I've noticed about my writing lately is that I tend to write from a very "once upon a time" place and feeling, even my darker pieces.  This isn't true for all of my plays, but I think there's a part of me that is very much about fairy tales, and I don't just mean Cinderella.  I mean plays that have a feeling of myth and lore to them, even if they are set in modern day times.  Frankie and the Gingerbread Boy is a good example of what I mean.

3.  WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?

The simple answers to this question are A. Because I think I'm pretty good at it, and B. Because I enjoy it. 

To elaborate a little, I believe that good plays for high school students and younger are VITAL for the future of Theater, not only in America, but all around the world.  Maybe if a student is in one of my comedies, they'll be inspired to read a comedy by Neil Simon or Moss and Hart.  If they read one of my absurdist plays, perhaps they'll be eager to devour the works of Pinter, Beckett and Ionesco.

I know that my love of acting and writing came to me while I was a young student, and wouldn't have happened without good, solid plays written for my age group.  Being in The Actor's Nightmare by Christopher Durang changed my whole impression of what plays could be.  To this day, I'm still a huge fan of Durang and all of his more adult-themed works as well. 

I like to imagine (particularly after receiving a royalty check that was smaller than I'd hoped), that some student, somewhere out there, got their first taste of theater by being in one of my plays, and have since grown a love for it that will stay with them forever, no matter what career path they may choose.

It's a nice thought that I hope is true. 

4.  HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

It differs from play to play. 

For the most part, I like to write very quickly.  With a ten minute piece, I like to write it all in one setting, and then work on revision later.  With my longer one acts, I generally get a draft out in 2 to 3 days (although, I have written a few of them in a day).  Remember--- these are drafts.  Some rougher than others. 

I like to write in silence, and, to be honest, it is almost like having a conversation with myself, where I am playing all of the different characters in my head (I was an actor before I became a writer). 

Sometimes I outline (especially if I'm stuck), but most of the time, I don't.  Although, I do like to know how the story will end in my mind before I start writing. 

I like to think of "writing" as he term that also encapsulates all the time spent thinking about a project in my head.  Rolling it around back and forth, imagining all the sights, smells, sounds.  Envisioning a character's quirks.  When I'm actually sitting at the keyboard, I call that "typing" or "transcribing".  That's not to say that new and exciting things don't hit me while I'm doing the typing--- they certainly do.  But even the thinking is part of the "writing", whether you're making notes or not.

Speaking of making notes, if I get an idea that might be promising, I do keep a notebook where I'll write down possible titles and synopses.  To be honest though, the REALLY good ideas are the ones that I don't forget.  The ones that keep demanding attention in my head.  In a sense, they are demanding me to write them. 

I don't know if you'll find this interesting, but I do sometimes like to write longhand first, and I use white legal pads and different color pens when I do.  Writing this way sometimes forces me to think a bit more when I need to.  Other projects, the ones that are bursting to fly out of me, go write to the computer, however. 

Okay!  I guess that will just about wrap this up.  I'm passing along to extraordinary playwright, Wade Bradford.  Stay tuned and I'll link you in to his responses!  In the meantime, do check out Bradley Hayward's answers to these questions, and, while you're at it, check out some of his plays, too. 

But most of all, please remember--- theater is a sport. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

WRITING ADVICE: Who Cares What People Think? (Or Don't Write With Anyone Whispering in Your Ear)

Emily Ciuffetelli as Kelly in a production of my play "End of the Movie"

Greetings to all of you writers and actors out there, young and not-so-young, and welcome to Theater is a Sport, my blog where I talk about all things theater that happen to pop up in my mind.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I am a playwright, actor, director, and part-time drama teacher.

I sometimes wonder if Samuel Beckett's mother ever said to him, "Why can't you write a nice, ordinary play that everyone gets, huh?  What's with all the dark?  What's with all the crazy?  Can't you be a normal playwright, and write a sweet play about a lonely gal who meets a nice fella, and they wind up together at the end?  What's the matter with you?"

If she did, I'm glad he didn't listen to her.  We may have never had Waiting for Godot, or Happy Days.

I wonder if Eugene O'Neill ever had a friend say, "Gene, come on, already!  We get it... life's rough!  Give us a good comedy, huh?  And 'Ah, Wildnerness' doesn't count!"

It's not easy being human, and it's not easy being a writer, because our canvas, by and large, is humanity.  Writers, after all, are writing for human beings, and, more often than not, writing about the human experience (even if they're writing about Martians). 

And the human experience, along with being beautiful, can be ugly.  And scary.  And disturbing.  And dark.  And depressing. 

Playwrights, like all artists, often find themselves going into places that others do not necessarily wish to go, all for their art.  To some degree, I think it is almost the responsibility of the playwright to keep pushing themselves and challenging their audience.  Not just for the sake of doing so, of course, but for the sake of being honest, telling a true tale, and reflecting humanity (even some of the harder elements of it). 

When you sit down to write, sit down alone.  Don't let the sounds of your parents, friends, spouse, or children be whispering in your ears.  Of course you love these people.  Of course you want them to be proud of you.  But it is exceedingly difficult to write an honest play that comes from you if you are worried about disapproving voices. 

What will people think of me?

Who cares? 

Okay, so that's easier said than done, adopting an attitude of "who cares?", and, yes, I believe everyone cares at least a little bit what people think of them.  But honestly, if they don't like your play that deals with a murderer stalking single mothers in a small Midwestern town, then they can write their own play. 

If you are going to be a writer, you have to write from yourself.  You have to write with freedom.  You must let yourself go and see what happens.  You may have to fix things.  There will be a time for constructive criticism from others that will certainly help your play or story.  But constructive criticism does NOT include matters of personal taste. 

As a writer, your own inner voice, your muse (who dwells inside you), your inner idea manufacturer, has to be louder than the disapproving voices of others.  Writers can't seek approval from the masses--- it's a surefire way to never attain it. 

So be free, young and not-so-young writers.  If people think your nuts, then they clearly aren't fellow writers, thereby making their opinions on your writing far less valuable.  You can always just tell naysayers the simple truth:  "Hey, I'm working here.  Leave me alone."

So if you've been looking for permission to let loose in your latest composition, then consider granted by your truly, Bobby Keniston.

Remember:  write honestly, and theater is a sport.  See you next time.