Saturday, December 6, 2008

Working On The Memory.

The Play, 'Bohemian Cowboy' has seven movements. Within each movement are several, 'beats', and a song. A 'beat' is a part of a longer piece, like a paragraph in an essay. The first rule of playwrighting is keeping your audience moving from one experience to another. Each 'beat' opens with a declarative, or a 'new action', and ends with a 'transition'. If you watch or listen to a good play, you should never ever be thinking about something else. It should hold you fast. Most mistakes that playwrights make, (especially now days with shorter attention spans) is holding onto a thought or idea for to long.

Today, at the coffee shop, I started breaking down the play. Within each of the different movements, I've also been experiencing with different writing tense.  "I remember.... blah, blah... is the kiss of death." Still, many plays are 'memory' plays as is this one. The trick is to figure out how the memory is effecting you 'right now'. I miss being able to go into the class room and explain these techniques as I discover them. Most of what I'm discovering now has more to do with the 'elements of style'.  It was exciting 'breaking the play down', which is what actors do when they go to work on the memorization. I'm discovering that through this process I can actually discover where the re-writes are. If there are 150 beats in a play, (average for me) that means there are 150 scenes to play out the story. That means there are 150 declarative statements, and 150 transitions. Our minds are constantly in states of thought and transition. The trick is to know the exact point when the audience will leave the story. If its one statement to long, it has to be cut. I've also noticed that with certain people, (in real life)  the transitions are accompanied with actions. A physical body in motion is the best kind of transition. With this play, however,  the actions have more subtlety. The action is within the body in a stationary position, rather than the body in constant motion. I love playwriting. Its blood, its marrow from the bones, its life. 

Today was an exciting day. I went to my meeting, the speaker was one of the staff writers from the television show 'Weeds'. She talked about how her success and addiction took her to the heights of Hollywood, and then came crashing down. In sobriety, she took a menial job and survived. Now she is at the top of her game again. It is a wonderful meeting. The first half the meeting is one of the artists/alcoholic/addict  (the meeting is called 'Artists in Sobriety') telling their story, (what it was like/what happened/what its like now), and then the second half is a question and answer period where the artists answers questions from the floor about art and addiction... fascinating! I also met an actress who was very interested in reading the play and possibly auditioning for the part. A good day. I came home from the meeting elated, and charted my course for my walk. I walked for an hour, near the big silver lake, (I'm living in Silver Lake!), as I was walking back, I came upon Edgewater Terrace. I looked up the street and there was Aunt Linda's old house. I'm less than a half a mile! All very deja vu. So, the walking has commenced. I also wanted to comment that after taking Kent's yoga class yesterday, I slept more soundly and deeply than I have in months! When I got home last night, rather, when I laid down to sleep, my body was free of tension! I have taken yoga before, but this seemed a very direct message that this is what my body needs... 

Lastly, the energy is good right now, and I'm keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open every day to find the sychronicity of the people who I will find myself yolked to for this project. The Gods are being good right now, very good. 


to fade in said...

I have been dreaming of getting all of this debt of mine out of the way so I can put my money towards something more productive and, well, healthier for me in general, and the first thing on my list is yoga. I definitely don't exercise enough, but alas, the dancing days are behind me...

But god DAMN do I ache and long and yearn for another stage. Give me a script or give me a long, slow, sad death. Really. Reading your blog makes me miss our little black box so horribly, I have half a mind to pack a suitcase and sleep under an L.A. overpass if it meant working with you again.

Maybe one day...


Mojo Jocelyn said...

Ahhh, the most wonderous question any playwrite tries to avoid with a passion...the 'cookie' question.

Yes dear Shurtz, it does seem like i did actually pay attention in your class and i'd like you to know that if i walked away with anything branded in my mind, that brand leaving it's burning mark etched in my melon is 'the audience should never be thinking what kind of cookies are being served at intermission'.

I'm very proud you're going to meetings and surrounding yourself with a group of artists, struggling with their own vices, but are also there to give a leg of support who may need a little more courage and integrity for themselves. I wish i would have been able to bring myself to finding and going to an N.A. when i had my internal struggle with transitioning from being the addict to being the recovering addict. Alas, i was not as courageous as yourself and kinda suffered through the first part of sobriety and cleansing alone.

Stay strong Mr.Shurtz, you always have and always will be my hero.

---- Jossi Jorj

Gerry said...

The entries are getting more technical which I find fascinating, as you have written so many more plays than I have and produced so many, you have advanced more deeply into the process. The comments have likewise become a must to read, too, because some talented writers are responding. Great stuff! Mom