Monday, March 10, 2014

Wearing the Writer's Hat...

In my last post, I spoke about the power of saying yes.   Well, I recently had another really good opportunity with my friends at WickedLit.  I was invited to write an adaptation of classic horror literature for to be considered for the main Halloween festival.  With the huge success over the past five years, the producers have realized that it's smart to open up to a larger pool of writers and directors so that there's more material to choose from.

Yes, I am a writer too,  although I primarily write feature films (a few which have been produced).  I've never tackled a stage play before.  I knew it was going to be a challenge.  Not only did I have to master the art form, but I also had to find source material that was both in the public domain, and of the horror genre. With all of the online resources, it would be a piece of cake, right? has proven to be quite a challenge.  The main challenge is finding the right story to adapt.  As a writer, I have really high standards for myself.  I don't want to adapt something that is too similar to what has already been successfully produced.  I also don't want to waste time doing an adaptation of a story that is physically impossible to produce in stage form.  There's a lot of great Victorian classics out there that don't work on the stage for various reasons.

This is where the fear comes in.  Fear that I won't find anything suitable, and that I will fail to complete this task that I've set upon myself.  I can't tell you how many times I've felt the futility.  But, I've kept myself to a strict regimen of methodical searching, and I can now say I have found a story that I believe is not only suitable for production, but it also is a story that I would love to see come to life.

I won't go into specifics, only that this material has really excited me, and I stumbled upon it by accident. Through searching for material by a more well known author, I came upon a blog post about this author and a mention of a story that was thought to have inspired another story I was considering.  When I looked up this story, I knew that this was the one!

When writing an adaptation, you need to read the source material several times.  A well written piece will reveal something new with each successive reading.  One thing I've learned about adaptation is that while you want to capture the original author's spirit, you need to let your own voice shine through.  When adapting for the stage, sometimes you need to change parts of the story to make it fit dramatically.  You also need to pick a story that excites you, as you will be working on it for quite a bit of time!

As far as mastering play writing, I understand that can take a lifetime, but I do know that as an actor who's appeared in numerous plays over the year, I understand the medium and how a story needs to be told onstage.  It's quite different from screenwriting, which is visual and action-driven.  A stage play is dialogue driven.  That's why the margins for dialogue are practically page width for a play and a narrow column for a screenplay.

It's been quite a journey so far, and there's quite a bit of re-writing to do, but it's a great start to 2014!