Friday, May 27, 2011

Conceptually Challenged. Again.

There comes a moment when I'm involved in a new project, a writing project, in which I inevitably say to myself, 'I no longer have any idea what I'm writing about.' This happened yesterday. I've been here before so it didn't necessarily come as a shock or surprise. I simply couldn't remember what my original passion stemmed from. And what's more, all the money in the world is not going to change it. At this point I do the only thing I can which is to stop everything, turn off the old Microsoft Word and pretend I never started in the first place. The usual pattern is that after a few days, slowly it starts to trickle back into my easily burdened brain why I'm doing it, and more importantly, what I'm doing.

After a bit, sometimes a few days, sometimes a few weeks, I suddenly remember the personal importance of the project and I bring it up on the screen again. Often, I've discovered, at this point it appears someone else entirely has written what's on the screen. So I approach it as a new thing altogether and thus begin to 'fix' it.

I have to go back to the original question for myself, which is, 'Why would anyone find this remotely interesting?' I think it's a fair question for a playwright or screenplay writer to ask. 'What, exactly, about this would make someone pay hard-earned money, sit in an uncomfortable chair in the dark for a couple of hours and be absorbed by the story unfolding before them?'

If I can answer that question sufficiently to myself, I can get back on track.

It happens all the time in film, probably less so in the theatre, but I'm just guessing. Someone has a terrific idea, say, 'suppose a guy died and then suddenly awakened from his grave 100 years later?' And then after a whirlwind writing period complete with U turns and dead-ends and tons of comments from friends and colleagues, suddenly the guy finds he has written a story about a guy who goes to heaven and is sent back to earth to do some final good deed. And then, he thinks, 'wait, this movie has been made. It's called 'Heaven Can Wait.' Or 'A Guy Named Joe.'

In any event, it's a fine line between being original and being shocking. I prefer original.

The problem is, of course, sometimes it simply doesn't come. The work gets jammed up somewhere between the brain and the fingers, I guess. Nought to do but wait it out. It's either that or just write 'Redrum' about 1000 times.

On the acting front, the auditions have been coming fast and furious. Some look promising, others not so much. As I've said before, it's a numbers game. Doesn't have a whole lot to do with 'how good you are.' It's all about 'do you look like what they're looking for?' And, of course, there's no way in hell to know that so taking rejection in this business personally is a waste of time and energy. Best to just move on.

Since I seem to be 'conceptually challenged' on the writing front, I'll turn my attentions today to the acting front. I have a big, honkin' monologue in the new play I'm doing (The Interlopers by Gary Lennon, Directed by Jim Fall, Bootleg Theatre, Los Angeles, June and July) so I might as well get that under my belt before the next rehearsal. Thankfully, memorization doesn't require a lot of abstract thinking on my part, it's more along the lines of assembly work, so I think I'll just concentrate on that today. As my wife can verify, I'm not the world's greatest multi-tasker so one project at a time.

I have been more than a little distracted by the savage tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, MO. I did my undergraduate work about fifty miles from there. I'm very familiar with the town and the area. The damage and careless loss of lives have left me dumbstruck. I am feebly hoping it isn't a harbinger of things to come. I don't pretend to know the myriad details regarding global warming, but I do know what happened in the midwest was savagely abnormal. And of course, I have been profoundly moved by the compassion, courage and heroism that has come from that little town over the past few days. It seems ordinary people are always just a heartbeat away from being extraordinary people.

The puppies are staring at me now, trying to perform a canine version of the Vulcan Mind Meld. Time to take them for a walk. They're a very passive/aggressive pair of dogs so not to give in and give them what they want is futile. The guilt becomes unbearable.

See you tomorrow.

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