Monday, August 20, 2012

Are Readers of Fiction Like Actors in a Movie?

According to actor/novelist Molly Ringwald, they are.  In an article in the Sunday New York Times of August 19,  Molly lays out a scenario in which all the collaborators in the making of a movie - director, camera man, sound designer, lighting technician, actor, etc - all maneuver to influence the version of the film that finally appears on the neighborhood screen. Miss Ringwald extends this thought all the way to readers of fiction. 

She writes: “When I write fiction, I know exactly how the words should sound in my head, but it’s up to the readers to imagine for themselves how they sound. In a way, then, fiction readers are turned into actors.”  One imagines a wrestling match in which readers of fiction join multitudes of film collaborators grappling to inflict their particular interpretation (to the extent they can, of course) on the final product - the movie or the novel.

The wrestling is probably most intense in the case of an actor approaching a role in a film. Molly describes her need as an actor to create a complete back story for the character she was to play. She writes: “Our job, as the cast, was to find the humanity in the stereotypes that we had been assigned...  After a while though, these exercises began to feel a little incomplete. I could control only my character.  Ultimately, the character’s destiny was controlled by the writer.”  A battle for control of the story, alas.  She extends to this:  “Warren (Beatty) is another actor who became unsatisfied with only acting as a ‘gun for hire’. He found the idea of performing only in someone else’s script like squeezing into a twin bed when your body would rather unfurl in a king. That and the desire to decide exactly what a person sees is part of that control.”

Molly Ringwald, novelist, ends by describing how a friend after reading her novel presents a highly detailed description of one of the characters all the way down to the breezy hippie dresses she wore, a description that came nowhere close to Molly’s vision, I presume. She writes:  “It was at this moment that I realized that writing fiction gives you only the illusion of control. Ultimately, I believe that the true collaboration involves the audience, or in the case of the novelist, the reader.  These are the people who truly make the characters live.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Is a play script just an "information delivery system"?

In the previous post I provided a link to the book: Off Off Broadway Festival Plays 34th series. One of the short plays in the book is called
"Realer Than That" by Kitt Lavoie.  Kitt is the Artistic Director of The Cry Havoc Company, which focuses on developing new plays. www.cryhavoccompany.org

 If you follow the link you find the web page of Cry Havoc Company and the Cry Havoc Podcast, a series of recorded discussions of subjects related to developing new plays.


This is a link to an mp3 recording of a discussion of the "Elements of a Well Written Play"

It's interesting subject matter, complete with the assertion that a play script can be thought of as an information delivery system. A script is also described as a blueprint of a production, and as a skeleton - the structure of a body whose muscle, skin, hair etc. is provided by the director, actors, and other artists associated with a production of the play.

Playwrights may be more than a little taken aback by this. But it is an idea that is firmly dug into the thinking of theater people who also believe that the playwright often doesn't actually understand what his/her play is about, and it is only after the director and the cast get their hands on it and work with it that the play within the script emerges.

I wonder if David Mamet eagerly awaits the magic that a developmental theater company performs on a new script that he might hand over to them? I've also heard it said by some well known actors and directors that their sole purpose in producing a play is to serve the vision of the playwright.  What do you think?