the road to edinburgh: wasted writing
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
Try, try, and try again. No, but really. I want to talk about a specific moment in my script where we had real trouble creating a meaningful scene. It was both frustrating to work through. And I don’t mean painful in a heavy way but more uncomfortable. John Michael pushed me in ways that were good for me but I hated at the time (see previous blog post – link below).
In my show, I had a scene where I told the story of my great uncle who died in World War Two. It’s a sad story. He was 19 years old at the time and the war had – for all intents and purposes – ended and Germany was retreating through Poland. He was shot at a time when his parents had specifically asked him not to go out but he had wanted to be part of the resistance and he ignored them. In the first version of the play, the story had been – how do I put this nicely? – boring. It was very predictable. I’m a chronic over writer and it was overwritten. And there was no suspense.
(I don’t think I said this in the director post but work with someone who will be honest with you. Not cruel and honest. Supportive and honest. It’s brilliant.)
One morning, we put aside the time and worked for hours on this one scene. John Michael took the script away and we improvised it for hours. It’s a short scene. I must’ve done it upwards of twenty times, twenty different ways. He would shout out some prompt “Be Stefan at 4 years old” “Be Stefan when the Germans arrive” “Now he’s in the woods” “What happened at his funeral” etc. We did so much work that day – none of it which made it into the final show.
I have a tough time with the idea that, when writing, one will write loads of material that never gets used. I don’t like waste. Therein lies the problem, I suspect. It’s not waste. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around that one. We created a good scene. We used some things that came out of the improv. Other bits of improv, or bits of writing we did later that day, will never see the light of day. They belong in that moment, in that morning, to that rehearsal. It did make the scene better though. At least, I really hope it did. I might have to check with Charlotte.
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