Playwriting

Starting the Playwriting Project

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Professor Musgrave as well wanted us to do some individual tutorials. I sent him an email with everything I had in mind – I had a clearer idea because I got inspiration from the SCAMPER exercise we had done in class, but I had many questions anyway. I am going to write down the email I sent him with his kind responses and then I am going to write down the notes from the tutorial.

I am writing this email because you wanted to have an idea of what we are going to write for our Final Project. My idea is very embryonic, but I have decided to expand the exercise we did in class about SCAMPER and getting inspired from the newspaper article.
I had written about Patsy Kensit, Liam and Lennon Gallagher. The newspaper article was about Patsy Kensit saying that her son with Liam wants to be a theatre actor and is not interested in exploiting his father’s fame.
You wanted us to change the story to make it more interesting – so I decided to write a story about a woman, an ex-groupie, who got pregnant of a famous rockstar but never told him about it. She brought up the son by herself, trying to make it as a single mother. After getting pregnant, she abandoned her rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and taught him politeness and good manners. When he expressed the wish to study in an expensive school (I definitely want to change the fact that the kid wants to study acting), she decided to contact Liam and exploit his money to guarantee her son the best future he could have.
This backstory already triggers many questions which I need to clarify by myself – is it legally possible to do something like that? I need to do some research about it and if you have any suggestion please tell me.

I don’t think it would be legal, especially (beyond the sense that when paternity is proven the father may have certain responsibilities). But far more interesting I suppose is: ‘how does she MAKE Liam go along with the plan?’

Anyway, the play is divided in 5 scenes and it starts right after any conversation and negotiation that “Liam” and “Patsy” (I will of course change the names and the band he played with) could have had. I want to write a play with two characters, who are the father and the child, but the play would be about women, and in particular about their relationship to “Patsy”. The play is set nowadays in London and takes place in only a day.
In this day, the rockstar is trying to spend some time alone with his son to get to know him better and he organizes every “cliché” activity that he thinks would suit a 11 years old boy. So he takes him to McDonald’s after school – and I need to think carefully about how to stage something like that. This triggered other questions. How is it possible to stage a scene that takes place in a public space?
Yes, absolutely. You create a sense of multitudes in the audience’s mind, rather than spending a fortune on extras. Or a table in a busy restaurant can just stand in for a busy restaurant…


How can I give the impression of people coming and going into the restaurant? If you have any suggestion, please tell me.

Sometimes this is done with sound design… more often you can do it through what the characters say, eg:

LIAM: Look at that tosser over there… he thinks he owns the place
SON: Stop staring, dad!

In the first scene, the father and son’s personalities clashes and “Liam” shows that he really has no idea about how to interact with a kid. They are very different and the rockstar would like a more “macho” kid, while “Lennon” is very kind and polite. The second scene would be set in London Zoo, where “Liam” takes him thinking that that’s the perfect place where a 10 year old boy would love to go. The third scene would be set in his father recording studio, where the boy meets all of his father’s collaborators and band mates. The fourth scene would be set on the steps of Trafalgar Square, and the last one is set in front of the house of the child’s mother in Stratford.

Great.

In the play, the son and father’s personalities and lifestyles continuously clash with each other, but the focus of the story is their relationship to a strong woman who had dreams and ambitions but decided to keep her son and bringing him up by herself. The mother does not appear in the play, but she’s at the centre of the two characters’ conversation.
During this day, the father and son get to know each other and they both learn something from the other. The rockstar gains some “sense of reality” by seeing how difficult for the mother and the son it is to do what they want, and the son gains some confidence seeing that his father has realized his dreams and has made it as a rockstar.
I hope that this is a good idea, even if I have the feeling that it’s a bit banal. I wanted to write something simple because this is the first play that I write.

Sounds good…

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After the email, I realised I hadn’t expressed exactly what I wanted, especially about the role of the father. I want him to seem annoyed about knowing that he has a child, but what I really want him to be is flattered and happy that he has a role now. He’s not that young anymore, and his band is not as famous and popular as it was. So now he is flattered that he has such an important role. He thinks he gan give wise advice to the kid, to make him become a small version of him. He’s a rockstar, so he can make him become cool and all. The kid, instead, has a natural curiosity and wants to see what’s so fantastic about fathers – since he has always lived with his mother and he’d like to know what it’s like to have a male parent.
When we discussed the fact that I feel like my idea is banal, he told me that originality doesn’t lie in the story, but in the voice of the writer, and how they express and tell that story. So originality is how the feeling inside a writer’s head is expressed. That’s where poetry come from. I also had issues about staging the play. Professor Musgrave told me to write what I see in the world of the play, and not to think much about the stage. This was a very useful advice. He also gave me some useful advice about the graphic features of the submission (dialogue and stage directions must have a very different aspect), and we discussed my idea of dividing the play in 5 scenes. He told me that TV is more used to short scenes and theatre can have long scenes.
A part from all this, I want to note down how the tutorial started. As soon as I sat down, Professor Musgrave asked me: do you normally read plays? … It made me really uncomfortable because I thought he was going to tell me that I suck, but I answered yes, that I’ve always had, also for university. He told me that I can do it. That I have a personal slant and that I can write plays. I think that was one of the happiest moments in my stay in London 🙂
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