Saturday, July 14, 2012

Writing the Street Theater

Hey! I just realized it's Bastille Day!

I'm sitting here on the screened-in porch of my trailer just outside Germantown, NY. I just finished the Street Theater play for this year. The porch, by the way, was built by Mark Marcante, and rebuilt by him this Summer. He is the Production Director of TNC and a leading actor in the Street Theater company. The roof caved in this Winter due to a heavy accumulation of snow. He had built it 4 years ago and the roof is all screening, except for the crosspieces of wood. So it's held up pretty well, I'd say. It's a Godsend to me since we have no air conditioning and I like to write outside at night when the trailer is like a Hot Tin Box. It cools off pretty well outside, up here, at night. But around 5:30pm the bugs come out and even with Eucalyptus oil slathered all over me and smelling like a Vicks Vaporizer, it doesn't really stop them. And as the night progresses, it gets worse.

We are situated in the woods and a little creek behind and a cemetery across the road in front. So I have quiet, to write, which I do, morning to night, and sometimes morning to night to morning. I'm writing with a deadline, so my notes and papers are scattered all over the place. There's a library in the town itself, about a 7 minute drive from the trailer and it's got computers and almost no one using it a lot of the time. The town itself only has 1 store and a little post office. There doesn't seem to be anything written yet about Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but it's in and I put a hold on a book they will be getting called "The Rise of Labor." It'll be after the fact, but I'll read it anyway. However, there's lots of pictures and articles on the computer, and we had a member of OWS come talk to us (the cast) as part of our two-week workshop we do just before I go off to isolation land. Don't get me wrong. A screened-in porch is not a panacea. The Bugs get in. The Gnats and the Noseeums. But when you're writing it takes a lot more than that to "bug" you. No wonder writers are so into themselves. I include myself. When you're on a roll, the house could burn down and you really wouldn't care. Afterwards, oh, yes, but while the muse is upon you, the rest of the world goes away. And, of course, you need time to dream.

My process is usually this. I write, I fall asleep in the chair, pen in hand, I wake up an hour later, or 10 minutes later, or 60 seconds later, and I write. Sometimes I remember my dream. Sometimes not. It doesn't matter. You are working on the play during sleep. Argue with me if you will. Let good writers let me know how it is with you.

At any rate, "99% Reduced Fat, or, You Can Bank On Us" is finished. The Book and Lyrics, anyway. Now it's up to Joe Banks to set the music. He's been e-mailed all the lyrics but we've only got three weeks to get this baby on the Boards. There are 3 A.D.s and myself taking notes during the Workshop, and I always have an Alumni Meeting a week before the Workshop, where the Wonderful Street Theater actors from previous years, talk about the issues of the Day. I tell them this year's theme, and they go off from there. They know I'm looking for Humor and Satire. They undersrtand the process. One of the A.D.s takes notes and so do I. These notes are irreplaceable. They are my inspiration. I will have written the play's synopsis even before the Alumni Meeting, but ideas come out of that meeting, and lots more from the workshop improvs. Great characters emerge. One actor came up with a really super character. A Sanitation Worker named Willy. I think maybe next year, he will be the Hero of my play. This year, the hero is a young member of a gang who leaves that life to become a community activist. It's loosely based on the life of Chino Garcia, and the founding of that great Cultural Center on the Lower East Side, CHARAS, which was the Focal Point of the Lower East Side for so many years, until Mayor Giuliani had the building sold right under our noses. You know who it was sold to? The same guy who owns the new Nets Stadium in Brooklyn. Bruce Ratner. The neighborhood was so up in arms about it, he was never able to develop that old school building on 12th Street. The Neighborhood stopped him at every turn. Rallies, picketing. There is still hope that the Lower East Side consortium can buy back the Building and make it back into the true Cultural Center that it was. Chino's CHARAS co-founder and partner was murdered during the fight to save the building. A coincidence, maybe. But that's not the feeling around here.

Chino, who is still a community activist, came and spoke during that 2-week Workshop. The workshop also has other activists come and speak. Also, this year, two teachers, because the kid hero of our play is mentored by an old teacher of his. In that workshop, we teach Commedia, Clowning, Voice production, Modern Dance, Improvisation, Theater games, Microphone use, Juggling and Stilt Walking, as well.

At any rate, I've finished the play. Now, we've got to get this baby on its feet. It's Saturday, late morning. The last song got finished early this morning. I've got a little breathing time 'til tomorrow when I drive directly to TNC, with the finished script. The A.D.s type it up. Monday, I go over it, line-by-line, with Jon Weber, one of the A.D.s, looking for lines left out, incorrect words, etc., and Tuesday at 6pm, I read the entire script once. I learned that at Lincoln Center when Arthur Miller used to read the new play of his, aloud, once at the start of Rehearsals. That way, you get a real sens of the writer's intent. Also, it's the only time the actors will get an overview of the play, since we only have three weeks to get it on and we'll be rehearsing out of order and probably have Music rehearsals in one theater while we're doing scenes in another and choreography in a third. We open Saturday, August 4th at 2pm, outside TNC on East 10th Street at 1st Avenue. See you then. Writers (only the good ones) let me know your process. It'd be good for people to know how very hard a writer has to work, to write something that people can just pick up and read or see, in an hour or a day or a couple of days. Of course, we always expect you to think about it for a long time to come, and I guess that's work too, isn't it!

1 comment:

city said...

.thanks for sharing