#4 - Finding that Compelling Story to Write About! - January 8, 2016
Finding a compelling story to write a play about can be challenging.
My definition of "compelling story" is a story that the audience is compelled to watch because it is so dramatic, or so funny, or so different.
How can you start writing your compelling story?
Here are some questions to get you thinking:
What has happened to you recently in your REAL life, that could prove to be a compelling story?
And if you are writing comedy, is there anything in your life that has really happened that is so absurd or crazy or nuts that it HAS to be brought to the stage?
Could you bring this real life story to the stage with absolute truth or could you just shift the context to make it even more fun?
Just last July, I was directing my MEN monologue play to be performed at Manhattan Rep. It was the second rehearsal and I was working with an older actor on a heart-felt monologue called THE WINK, which is the story of an older woman who’s husband comes home one night and for the first time in 20 years he is SUPER AMOROUS, (if you know what I mean,) and she doesn’t know what to make of it. It is a funny piece and it has a soul, and if performed well, it always makes me cry.
I start rehearsal for any piece I am directing by trying to give the actors some sort of direction in where to go with the work, and I do that by asking a series of questions. The actor working on THE WINK had some other ideas about the piece. Now I have no problems with actor choices, as long as they are congruent with my vision of the work.
(I swear to you this story from MEN rehearsal last summer is absolutely true.)
“So I think this character should wear a FAT-SUIT” she said with this oh-so serious look in her eye.
I replied, “What?”
“I think my character should wear a fat-suit. She is fat.”
Sort of surprised, I responded, “I respect your idea, but my vision of this piece is that we don’t make fun of this woman or goof on her, but that we work from the inside out so we can see her pain, and we can get the comedy of the piece too.”
“I would like to wear a fat-suit.”
“I honestly would prefer if you didn’t. It will make the piece campy or goofy and we need to see a real woman battling with a real problem.”
“I really think she is fat.”
“Honestly, I don’t see any reference to weight in the text.”
“I would prefer you not to make that choice.” I replied firmly.
“Ok. But I think she is fat.”
We worked a little on the monologue and then ended rehearsal.
The next day, when she came to rehearsal, SHE WAS WEARING A FAT-SUIT!
So I said, “With all due respect, didn’t I ask you NOT to make this choice to wear a fat-suit?
“I thought you might like to see it.” She piped in with a slight smirk.
I didn’t want to create animosity or weirdness at rehearsal so we worked on the monologue in the fat-suit and talked and debated about this choice for about 20 minutes until she finally said:
“If I can’t wear a Fat-Suit for this production, I am going to have to leave the cast.”
I thought a second and said, “Then I think it is best for you to leave the cast.”
And she left the show. This was the craziest thing that has ever happened to me in rehearsal!
And in that moment, I thought to myself, “This is too crazy to be real, yet it is real. I have to write a play about this!
So literally the next day, I started work on my 10 Minute comic masterpiece - The Fat-Suit. All about a director who is directing Romeo and Juliet, and the actress playing Juliet who decides that her character has weight issues, so she comes to the first rehearsal wearing a huge FAT-SUIT as Juliet, and then the play goes from there to crazy comic heights. We produced it at Manhattan Rep at the end of August and I played the director and I worked with the wonderful actress Fenny Noyvane who played Juliet, and it was awesome!
My crazy real life story, created a crazy fun play. All I did was change the context slightly and I went with it as far and as funny as I could.
So use life.
It is usually better than anything you can make up.
And people will think you are a brilliant playwright.