Monday, January 24, 2011

Kafka Finds a Good Margarita in the Second Act

We've invited Jeff Seeman, currently taking Anthony Clarvoe’s playwriting class, to write a little something about trying to write a full-length play in ten weeks:

There’s just one more meeting left in the fall session of Anthony Clarvoe’s ten-week playwriting class and people are already clamoring to sign up for the next session.  It’s been a fascinating ride over the past few months, spending Wednesday evenings in a roomful of fellow writers—feeding off each other’s enthusiasm, supporting each other’s creativity, and occasionally spilling coffee on each other’s scripts. 

I started the class back in November with a clear idea of what I wanted to write—a musical version of Spider-Man with a huge cast, a bloated budget, overblown special effects, and a strained relationship with OSHA.  Imagine my surprise during the first week when Anthony pointed out someone was already doing that.  Who knew? 

Quickly shifting gears, I settled on my other idea, an Ionesco-Goes-To-Work-At-A-High-Tech-Company tragicomedy, which Anthony dubbed “Kafkasoft.”  We all spent the first few weeks of class exploring fundamental questions about our respective plays:  What’s the play really about?  Who’s the protagonist?  Does the play fit into a genre?  What will the structure be?  What are the story and character arcs?  Did anyone bring snacks?  Are you going to eat that?

After a few sessions, the writing began in earnest, with Anthony firmly but gently nudging us all towards fulfilling our playwriting goals.  Part critic, part coach, part Jewish mother, Anthony shared with us his wisdom and enthusiasm for the writing process.  Drawing on examples from Shakespeare to J. K. Rowling, he somehow managed to impart his ample expertise without ever becoming dogmatic.

By the time we came back from the holiday break, two of us were working from complete drafts of our plays and several others were close behind.  Then came the next round of questions:  Does the play work as a whole?  Does it hold up in Act II?  Does it fulfill the promises made in Act I?  Have you tried the margaritas at that place across the street?  Are they any good?     

Like a skilled dramaturg, Anthony then asked insightful, provocative questions about our respective works-in-progress.  As someone who used to live in L.A. and wrote screenplays for several years, I was delighted to receive such useful feedback.  (In the movie industry, most of the notes writers receive are more along the lines of, “Hey, that movie with the elephant did great box office last weekend.  Can you stick an elephant in the second act?”)  

As the class comes to a close, I’m now immersed in rewriting.  Then I’m off to my next project, a comedy about two mismatched roommates, one neat and the other sloppy, who are separated from their wives.  No one’s done that, right?

Jeff Seeman is a writer, director, producer, and author of two novels, Political Science and Guns and Butter.  He likes cheese.

Guess what? If you are jealous and want to try to write a full-length play of your own, Anthony has a new section beginning March 2nd on Wednesday evenings. A possible East Bay section on Monday evenings is also in the works – more details soon! Please visit our New Play Institute page on our website for more info!


1 comment:

Dim said...

Boy, that sounds a lot more practical and sensible than other projects I've seen. Congratulations to you for participating and to Anthony for being grounded and helpful. All the best with the Kafkasoft script in the future.