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Rehearsed reading of five new short plays scripts. All for the price of…

…Its a FREE event. No need to book just turn up.

You’d be very welcome. Spread the word and let anyone else know who you think would be interested.

Playwrights: Tom Murray Vivien Jones Marilyn Messenger Mike Smith Carolyn Yates Lucy Cameron

Director: Ken Gouge

At the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, Saturday 15th April, 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

For the last few months BHDandMe have been part of a play writing group meeting at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries. Co-writer Marilyn Messenger and I have been working on a thirty minute two hander, Telling, and under the direction of Ken Gouge (who directed the Swallow Theatre production of BHDandMe’s play Smokes, a mime with words, back in 2008 [?]) there will be a script-in-hand reading by actors of the Theatre Royal Guild.

Plays by Tom Murray and Vivien Jones will also be featured.

The event will take place from 4.30-6.30pm on Saturday, 12th November, in the Studio at the Theatre Royal. About half an hour of each play will be read, and there will be an informal discussion/feedback session in the bar afterwards. Friends, blog readers & followers are all invited to come along to view, and to chat!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m beginning to notice more and more, as if it were widening, the gap between the narrative telling of stories, and the presentation of direct speech. Sometimes, and perhaps more often than used to be the case, I find that my own stories are falling almost exclusively into one or other pattern: narratives have no, or almost no direct speech; dialogues have almost no accompanying narrative. Were it not for the fact that most of my short stories are around, or under the one thousand word mark, I would turn many of them into short plays (which need c5,000 words of direct speech), turning the small amounts of narrative into stage directions, or removing them entirely.

When I am consciously writing plays I do try to limit, and if possible eradicate stage directions – believing that Directors should have the freedom to decide how the words should be uttered.

Moving in the opposite direction, towards a ‘no direct speech’ narrative throws more emphasis on the narrative voice – more awareness in the listener or reader, that here is a he or she telling us a story from a particular viewpoint. Such a narrator reports the events, and the words of the actors, as they appeared to them. During the twentieth century many writers and critics began to move away from this idea, looking for a ‘un-authored’ narrative, with multiple voices, or, as James Joyce suggested, one that had been ‘refined out of existence.’ There was an attempt to spread the narrative across the voices of equally important characters, rather than – as A.E.Coppard suggested, telling the story through the ‘eyes’ of one character only. To me, it has always seemed that so long as one person is providing the words, that person is, mixing the metaphor, calling the tune. The agendas, insights and limitations of the author will inform those of the narrator, however many of them there are, and it maybe that that is what makes any author worth reading.

With an entirely narrated piece, where everything, including the reported words of the characters, is presented through the narrator’s voice, we have come, in a sense, full circle, back to the wholly spoken state: the monologue. The narrator, however, is giving us a monologue that is not, ostensibly, about him or her.

In a curious co-incidence, the same day as I jotted these thoughts down in my notebook, we had a first person monologue that evening at the Facets of Fiction workshop, in which there was no direct speech. Such a piece is likely to look different on the page, and it did. Blocks of text, unbroken by the more fragmented layout in which direct speech is conventionally cast, seem heavier, and the white space on the printed page is far less. But it’s not only the visual that is affected. Reading aloud too, I feel, is a different business when the single voice carries the whole thing.

If this effect is something we don’t welcome in a specific piece, we can get around the problem perhaps, by re-paragraphing, and breaking up the monolithic chunks of text in that way, but paragraphing too affects not only the look of the writing. By throwing emphasis on the sentences that open, and close the paragraphs, it can skew the meaning of a piece. (I looked at this issue briefly earlier in the blog, in reference to a Russian text, the translation of which had been paragraphed entirely differently to the original, and with noticeable effects on the focus of the story.) Arthur Miller, in a preface to an earlier collection, replicated as the introduction to his collected stories, Presence (Bloomsbury, 2009), makes some interesting observations. He is writing from the perspective of a playwright introducing a collection of his own short stories, and has a strong sense of the differences between the two.

‘This was when the author stopped chattering and got out of the way;’

This is the play, by the way. But he says this too…’the novelist’s dialogue is pitched towards the eye…and falls flat when heard.’ And, ‘the dialogue in a story needs to sacrifice its sound.’ Here are two statements which, for me, at least need not be true, and better not be, for he is making an assumption about the printed word which I reject. He does say, of his stories, that ‘some of these stories could never be plays, but some perhaps could have been.’ The distinction he makes centres on sound, but it seems to me, that what the play adds to story, is observation (as does the film), whereas what the story (as text), adds to play or film, is imagination.

Neither pattern, direct speech or narrator, is right or wrong, and neither is a balanced blend of the two a desirable end in its own right, but the differences are worth being aware of, and matching to the stories we want to tell, and the way we want them to be received.

Words on stages, by the way, are part of the thing, where Borderlines, Carlisle Book Festival, 4-6th September, is concerned. You can check out the details here:

www.borderlinescarlisle.co.uk

In the meantime, if you Kindle, why not grab an e-book copy of Mike’s collected essays on short story master, A.E.Coppard : (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UEONRV6)

English of the English