Last night was my first playwriting class and, wow! The class was full of impressive and high-powered people: directors, media executives, working actors, theater professors, and the like. Twelve of the fourteen students were women, and I really liked the dynamic that created. No one seemed hesitant to speak up, despite the wide discrepancy in ages, experience levels, backgrounds and the like. And Han Ong! He’s a great writer, but no one mentioned he’s also a great teacher! And - though I probably shouldn’t admit it - extraordinarily charming and really cute.
In any case, I wasn’t too intimidated at first, because I was one of only three students to have written a play before. I figured that might get me somewhere, or at least prevent me from looking like a fool. And then Han Ong kicked my ass.
We did a twenty-minute monologue-writing exercise, where we were supposed to envision one of our characters and write in their voice. If we came in with a concept, we were to flesh out that concept; otherwise, we would start a new play. So I took my concept (Anne Sexton, time travel, the usual) and wrote one of the core monologues, where this guy is trying to convince Anne Sexton not to kill herself. I thought it was pretty good - a powerful moment, and not portrayed badly given the twenty-minute constraints.
Then we got our crit, and ow. He said he liked the premise, and then tore me a new one. “He’s talking like the blurbs on the back of a book cover” is the one phrase I remember, but it went on from there. I need to make his language more idiosyncratic, his passion for Anne Sexton more specific, his motivations more hidden. He did say that last was also a strength, that I was able to be so raw and forthright with the character, but overall I left feeling like I need to start completely over, maybe ditch the character, maybe leave this particular monologue until I have a better sense of who he is, maybe just learn to write.
Fail faster, fail better, right? That’s what I’m telling myself today, anyhow. Whatever I write next week can hardly be worse.
Actually, I think it’s a good thing, even if it’s a little painful the first time around. The whole point of taking this course is to learn what I don’t already know about writing. I just need to plan to have a thicker skin next time. :)