i & me & you
A blog about a play
6. The Cookie
Writing is, by pure definition, all about solitude. You spend your days largely isolated from the world at large, which is hilariously ironic because for most writers the only reason to shut yourself off from everybody else is to get some words onto a blank page that illuminate something about the very world you’re ignoring. It’s a little like being a pastry chef who refuses to eat dessert. I mean . . . have a cookie every once in awhile, you know?
But once you’ve finished a draft and are heading towards either a workshop or production of your play, you get the best cookie of all—you’re no longer alone. Because you’ve got a director.
If I asked you to write down what a director does, you might make a little list of things like “figures out what it all looks like” and “tells the actors where to go and what to do.” But in actuality, your list should be exactly one word long.
The director does everything. Every question that needs answered is for the director to answer. Every decision that needs to be made? The same. And on a new play, the list is longer because (and this is vital to remember) THE PLAY HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. So everybody is trying to figure it out from scratch. And the director is the focusing agent for every single question being asked and every single answer being given.
For me, it’s the best part about writing. After months (sometimes years) of working on a thing all by myself, suddenly I have a partner to help me figure it all out. For this play, I’ve been extra lucky because I have gotten to work with two terrific, talented, kind, incisive and opinionated directors. Wes Grantom directed the Play-By-Play workshop and Karen Azenberg is directing the production, and they are truly the best.
We learned so much during the workshop last year, and that was just the beginning. Between the workshop and now, Karen and I did a reading in New York and a major rewrite came out of that reading because of smart questions Karen asked.
Then Karen started conversations with designers and they started to flesh out the world. This play takes place a little bit in the future, so they get to decide what that world might look like, sound like, feel like. She gathered a cast of terrific actors (more on them later). She worked with marketing to develop the poster. She bangs the drum daily to get people excited about the play. She’s the wizard and this is her Oz.
And every day we get together in a room in a basement, Karen and I, and slowly, word by word, chip away at this story, trying to find the best way to tell our little story. Because now it’s not just my story. It’s ours. It belongs to Karen and me now, not just me. And it belongs to the actors. And to the designers. And the crew and staff of the theatre. And, soon enough, it will belong to you.
See you next time.
—Jeff Talbott, Playwright