Saturday, August 21, 2010

More on that Annie Baker interview

See here for the pertinent quote.

In that interview Baker goes on to say--
[P]utting information in for the sake of having that information makes me want to die a little. Audiences need way less exposition and backstory than we think they do.
I think this is true, and it also recalls Pinter's insistence on characters we know nothing about being as dramatically viable as characters who've told us their life stories. I think about that assertion all the time, particularly when I get hung up about how things have to be in order for the story to be successful, or meet whatever conventional classifications would make it viable for production in the eyes of those who make the decisions.

Of course I also took personal pleasure in reading this interview, because there's great stuff in there for the writer in me. The longer I write the more frustrated I become with the more or less required conventional elements of the form, the dishonesty of them. I'm not suggesting I've rejected realism the way Baker was thinking of doing way back in 2007, and anyway I know these recent blog posts are pretty strong evidence I don't have much problem with it.

I just find with greater frequency as I get older that the pat solutions, the emphasis on resolution, sentimentality, and so many other hallmarks of the form just seem inadequate to create a theater experience with much semblance of sincerity. I find myself responding by doing the opposite of what Baker does; I once got a diplomatic rejection letter saying my script was a little too "revved up" for their theater. Lately I'm fixating on depictions of violence in (mine and others') plays, and I'm really big on writing in all caps as well, to the point that it's starting to irritate me.

And that gets at the bigger problem. I start to irritate myself and smooth everything out in the rewrites. Sometimes I think it seriously works to my favor (it took me about 4 drafts of rewrites on my new play, Bumblefuck, AR, to get it organized and working well enough to figure out what the hell I was getting at), but then sometimes I bristle at the notion that all the conventional story insistences have to take place in my seemingly realistic narrative. And at the same time I kind of shrug at the inevitability of my attempt to address those insistences in some form or fashion as I rewrite.

I still think I try to innovate, to push myself, and to challenge what I feel is the kind of theater that seems hackneyed, overly familiar, safe, easy, etc. Mostly I'm just trying to write things that work and might be read by lit offices with a modicum of interest. Still theatrical. Hopefully challenging, but not unaccessible.

So it's a conundrum, I suppose. The conditions of the form we've chosen to write in.

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