Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Day in the Desert

I went to Florence and met a German clown who can play the harp, and now that harp-playing-clown, Barbara Draeger, is about to to come to Johannesburg to make a brand spanking new show called 'A Day in the Desert' with me. How exciting? Yay. We will be performing it at this years Grahamstown Festival. How totally scary.

I have spent so much time thinking about how to 'sell' the show. Selling... grr. How I wish people would just buy it without us having to sell it. Selling theatre. Rough. But the biggest question or obstacle is the theatrical style. You say clown and people think circus, balloon animals, tripping tricks and bad children's theatre. You say physical theatre and people ask.. so do you talk?  

So... it is clown a show - But there are no balloons involved. It is physical theatre because we change space - But we do also talk. Quite a lot. About what we think is quite important. I tried calling it magical realism... which is also true. But in the end honesty is the best option. And those who come to see our madness will come and see our madness... and possibly - hopefully - be a little changed - a little effected - because of it. Or not. Who knows. Take a risk. Eee. 

So there you have it. A brand new clown show will be born in a cold June 2013 in what will be our brand new studio. Here's to red noses and a harp in an epic adventure with Andromeda Andromeda and Fiona van der Walt. 

This is our poster designed by Barbara's very talented sister Kathrin. So lovely. 

How scared am I? Very. But looking oh so forward to hosing you - Barbara Draeger - in our home and in our country. 

I take tremendous comfort in these writing rules below to turn our 'little show' to be a 'bigger little show' ...without loosing why we love it and why we want to tell the story in the first place. Especially no 4. Writing rules by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist...
  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

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