Monday, 6 April 2015

Feeling Lonely? Why Not Write A Play...

            Feeling lonely, depressed, no one making a big deal out of you? Why not write a play?

            With fifteen of them under my belt, take my word: you need not fear being propositioned hourly by ravishing actors seeking parts in your masterpiece.

            However, the characters you create will forever clatter around your brain like a gang of cider-swilling skinheads. Bid farewell to days of solitude.

            And since you’re unlikely to ever make a buck from playwriting, you can feel smugly superior to those who concern themselves with such banalities. You, my friend, will have ascended to the ranks of a serious artiste.

Not to mention that you can drink like a fish without guilt – weren’t Brendan Behan and Eugene O’Neill first class rummies, and it’s rumored that even Shakespeare murdered pints in the morning.

            Everyone has a good play in them – or at least everyone who attends my dramas knows exactly how to make them better.

            But if by chance you’re stumped for a subject, fear not - every family has at least one skeleton in the closet.

Did someone just roar out “Aunt Bridie’s one night stand with a married communist trombonist!” Now you’re talking drama!

            Here’s the first rule – do not begin at page 1 where Aunt Bridie is dolling herself up before heading to Killarney Town Hall where she will meet the trombonist from the Johnny Flynn Showband.

            You’ll be astonished at how technically difficult it is to get the old babe from her bedroom to the dance floor. Page 2 through 7 will take months and you could end up with a serious drinking problem. Why do you think Behan and O’Neill were such heavy hitters?

            No, you’ve a lot of thinking to do before you ever put pen to paper. Having a beard is great during this gestation period, as you can twirl it, and really look like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t have a clue. 

            You see, you’ve got to get Bridie situated firmly in your mind’s eye. Some refined exaggeration never goes astray. Start with her eyes. Make them unusual in either color or character without going overboard, or she could end up looking like Bono with the yellow glasses.

Then tackle the hair. Beware of baldness. You would be amazed how much wigs cost nowadays, and how touchy actresses can be about shaving off the whole shebang.

With Bridie’s general physiognomy finally taken care of, you’re ready to write – but you’re still miles away from Page 1. You now have to deliver her back-story. Be of stout heart – jot down everything you know, and - more important – everything you suspect. Anyone who gave it up to a married communist trombone player has many secrets, you will be positively astounded at what you unearth.

            The real writing now begins, but cut straight to the chase. What were the trombonist’s first words to Bridie? From there continue on to the tragic end, and tragic it will be – just picture poor Bridie in the clutches of any musician of your acquaintance! From this sad denouement, work your way back to Page 1.

            This will take much time, beard twirling, and visits to dive bars to observe musicians in their natural habitat. Eventually, you’ll have much less money and far more material than you need. That’s par the course – playwriting is all about editing and pacing yourself in pubs. However, if you’ve followed my instructions faithfully, you should have the makings of a decent play.

            The next step is to get a bunch of actors together to read your masterpiece aloud. You’ll also need a psychotic director – for in the many moments you question your own sanity it will help to have someone present who’s certifiably crazier than you.

            Then head for An Béal Bocht in the Bronx. There’s a crowd of ne’er-do-wells up there who put on plays. And if they shoot you down you’ll at least be amidst other serious artistes in a great bar; besides, you’ll never drink alone again now that you have Aunt Bridie and the married communist trombone player forever knocking around in your skull.

            PS Probably better to keep Aunt Bridie away from opening night!

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