Monday, May 22, 2006

Authorial Intentions

As our team writing experiment has dwindled to 1 and a half writers, we're hard pressed to do justice to such a large amount of material in a matter of a week or so--which is when our final draft has been promised. Having our director involved with edits has been a plus, but I worry that she might be directing a play that does not yet exist, and is thereby informing choices in the text. With a writer in the room, I've been privy to many instances where a director might advocate a cut or line change rather than a serious effort to make the 'trouble-spot' work. In my experience, these rough patches can be the ones that give texture, detail, and conflict to the rest of the script. Not always, of course, but more often than not the writer has a full awareness of why they chose to include something in the first place. I would like to see them defend these bits more.

Back at my university, rumor has it that a first-time director was dissatisfied with the play she worked on, and decided to cut, edit, rearrange, and add to the original. Did she realize that this could very easily get her production shut down by the playwright? No. Neither did anyone at the theatre, apparently. (In the end, the writer came and saw it, making the concession that it did need to be changed from what it was, so she was okay with it. Her prerogative, really.)

I've been reading Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations, edited by Jeane Luere in an attempt to gain some perspective on the relationship I generally oversee as I bring new work through its transition to production.

Edward Albee has this to say:"I heard a distinction made that I didn't quite understand: the distinction was between responsibility to the playwright or responsibility to the text. It seems to me--well, first of all, nobody should go in rehearsal with a play that they don't respect. We're talking about a play with a composed text. You should not go into rehearsal assuming that the piece is going to be written during the rehearsal procedure because in the commercial theatre, anyway, there is no time in the four weeks to accomplish that. I claim that my plays don't change very much in rehearsal; I lie a little bit when I say that. I cut my plays because I overwrite. I get infatuated with the sound of my own voice and I out in all sorts of scenes and speeches that I am very fond of and I will probably use in another play if I take them out of the play that they are in. But I don't reconsider the play, because I think about it very carefully before I write it down. The responsibility to the text of a serious useful play is the same thing as the responsibility to the audience, it seems to me. If you mutilate, revise too much a play, the changes that take place in the commercial theatre of a play on the way to opening night are usually oversimplifications, removals of grit; they homogenize, they make it very, very smooth and less an act of aggression against the status quo; and these are very bad things that usually happen in the commercial theatre. Theatre is there for a playwright to give us his vision of what the world is, not the vision that the audience wants to have of the world."

3 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Hello!

Broderick sent me the festival flyer and I've booked myself some seats for the show at 3pm on the 23rd followed by discussion.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Poetrywithmeaning.com said...

This sounds great!!!

1:59 PM  
Blogger susana said...

Thanks for sharing...
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