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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Collaboration II (The Johanna Project)

We've made some excellent progress this week on what I am fondly calling The Johanna Project: we wrote the first scene. It's obviously not a final draft; and it's short; and it doesn't do much but set the scene, in fact it doesn't really go anywhere at all. But COULD go somewhere from here. And it works, for the most part. The characters talk like themselves and talk about the things we want them to talk about.

I think this is a huge breakthrough.

We wrote the scene by switching off line by line - at first with me writing the lines of the mother and she writing the lines of the son. But then with the introduction of the third character, the waitress, we both sort of alternated between the three, as it was appropriate.

We'd done a similar sort of role-playing before, months ago, before we gave the project up, but I thought that one went poorly. That time, she wrote the mother and I wrote the son; I think I made the son overly childish and petulant, and rashly emotional. She fared a bit better with the mother, but she still seemed a bit tied to the 1950's housewife stereotype that we used as a jumping-off point for her character. We also got unnecessarily distracted with an argument about whether or not the deceased father let the son keep a dog as a child.

Why did it work so much better this time? I can't speak for Johanna, but I, for one, am much better acquainted with the characters. All of our talking around in circles, as frustrated as we've been with not moving forward, has definitely given us a much deeper understanding of the characters - and why they're sitting in a room together. We started, logically, with the opening scene and we've been over and through what brings them to this meeting point and what they ultimately hope to get from it, that it was easy to mutually imagine how their initial interaction would go.

All this is great; it makes me feel like we're on the right track.

Upcoming for our next meeting: we're going to read and evaluate the scene we just wrote on our own this week. Then, when we meet, we'll discuss and edit the scene together and then talk about what we believe we're setting up and where we imagine it's going from here. We'll discuss what we hope will happen in the next beat-or-so and then we'll switch off, line by line, again.

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