Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Theatre and Deadlines

I've mentioned before how I am mostly motivated by deadlines and am generally pretty good about hitting them.  This past several days has been extremely stressful, though in the end I did manage to hit all the important deadlines.

I didn't want to discuss it until things were finalized, but the original venue for my Fringe piece fell through.  The TDSB really does not want people to use its classrooms in July and August after 5 pm.  If Danforth Tech wasn't running summer school, it might have been possible to shift the times to 3:30-4:30 or something (and no weekend shows), but those are really not great times.  I don't think anyone I know could make those dates.  After discussing things with the principal, we decided I would find another venue, and, if the Fringe is a relative hit and the actors want to put on additional shows, we would come back to Danforth in late Sept./early Oct.

That left me madly scrambling.  It was a crazy chicken-and-egg situation in that I needed to make sure there were some spaces available (and that the prices weren't completely crazy) and I also needed to make sure that the Fringe would let me change the venue.  I didn't want to call them (the Fringe) unless it looked vaguely possible to find a new space.  I found out that the Recreation Centres often had rooms that looked a fair bit like classrooms.  The price was roughly 2.5 times what I would have paid to get a permit at Danforth (though I don't need to get separate liability insurance, which helps a bit).  I'm in pretty deep at this point, so I decided I should just push on.  It's only money, right?  And it is certainly a cheaper mid-life crisis than some men have.  But seriously, I think the main thing that separates me from more serious artists is that I am too willing to stop and shift gears to something else when I hit that first roadblock.  I would like to change that, and I have definitely shown far more determination and hustle this time around than I have in the past.  Perhaps a turning point.

So at that point I contacted the Fringe.  While the Fringe was understandably disappointed that I was switching venues, they did allow it.  They asked me to try to stay in East York if possible, given that they were trying to expand the reach of the Fringe this year.  That kind of limited me to Jimmy Simpson and Matty Eckler.  After going through the alternatives, it looked like Matty Eckler would work better overall (and it is certainly more convenient for me).  I then started to try to pin them down.  It took three incredibly stressful days to get the schedule set.  (I'll post the schedule in a separate post shortly.)  The clock was really ticking to get the schedule into the program.  Everything took at least a day longer than it should have.  But in the end, I got the information to the Fringe in time.  I feel a huge sense of relief.  It finally feels like this is actually going to happen, which is incredibly exciting, though now I need to land a director and set up the rehearsal schedule.  But  the venue is the single most important thing to get settled.

On top of all this, I had wanted to get in a script for Void Room Theatrics.  I had planned on using this as an opportunity to push through and finish the script for Straying South.  It was due April 30.  I lost a day or two looking for the notebooks where I had roughed out the ending.  I got that material typed in, but there was just a week left, and I kind of hit writer's block.  Basically, I couldn't find a reasonable way to end the show that had enough impact.  Either the ending was too over-the-top or the motivations of the main antagonist (Helen) didn't seem that believable.  I also realized that there were too many scenes with exactly the same set-up (Helen turns up, tries to get the dirt on the main characters and then leaves).  I'm really starting to doubt that this is stage-worthy.  As much as I hate listening to doubts (particularly internal doubts), this probably does work best in novel form.  Until I solve this to my own satisfaction, there just isn't any point in pushing on.

I've pretty much written off Dharma Donuts.  Given the current state of play on cultural appropriation in North America, this will not be staged here.  I'd have to do it in Europe where they have very different attitudes about who can write what and who can use whose voice.  I think they may have a bit of catching up (the critics there are just waking up to the idea that yellow face is just as offensive as black face), but does seem to be more openness to the idea that stories can be told by anyone, even by white male writers.

That left me with a few days to heavily revise Corporate Codes of Conduct.  This is/was the first full-length play I wrote.  I have tinkered with the first section a bit, but not the second half, which was stylistically quite different.  I decided to take a look and tackle this over the weekend.  (I should note that when I was about halfway done, I noticed that they plan on open casting and that they didn't want to be limited to using actors of specific ethnicities.  Honestly, that probably would be a problem, as I don't think a part specifically written for an Asian female should be portrayed by a white performer.  But I suspect it won't really matter, as I am unlikely to be one of the five scripts selected.)

Given what I have learned over the past few years of what works and what doesn't and in particular how much repetition can be allowed (and what just drags), I sliced out 15 or so pages from the first act.  Still, this was in pretty good shape.  The second act was a total mess.  It was basically just pure id thrown onto the page -- anxiety about being loved for one's money, not oneself with another character worrying about being exoticized.  It was just too much and it was totally shapeless.  I went from 120 pages to 64!  In a few places I may have cut too much (and perhaps been a bit too concerned with keeping the staging simple), but I think this is a better piece overall now that most of the baggage has been shed.  (If I absolutely need to, a few things can get put back in, but they probably are not necessary.)  I managed to get the last draft in at 6:30 pm on the last day of the competition, which was pretty stressful.  Assuming that Void Room Theatrics passes, will I do anything with this script now?  I'm not sure.  I might have a few people look at it now that it is in better shape and see what they think.  If nothing else, the deadline was a very useful prompt.  I'm still a bit amazed that I was able to pull it off at all.

There is one more upcoming deadline (this Wed.) for a short piece (10 pages) to Sing-for-Your-Supper.  The May edition will be Monday May 7 (starting at 8 pm) at Cafe Embargo, 1521 Queen St. W, not at Tarragon.  I do have a short piece I would like to write that is sort of a homage to the victims of the Humboldt crash, but if I just need the sleep more, that's ok too.  I have a piece about K-pop already on the slate for the evening, so I am pretty excited about that.  It might not be a bad thing to target the June edition for this even newer (i.e. not yet written) piece.

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