Naplwrimo 2009 Burst # 1: Every Way is the Right Way by Aaron Riccio
To kick -off Naplwrimo 2009 in style, I offer you our first weekly "Rhino Burst" . Rhino Bursts* are written specifically for you by people we deem worthy of rallying Rhinos thanks to the magic of their words. If you are still on the fence about whether you should do Naplwrimo, this week's "call to arms" will surely help you make up your mind. Thank you Aaron Riccio for writing such a heartfelt piece to get us started on the right computer key!
*A burst is the sound that an adult rhino makes, though it is barely audible to human ears. A baby rhino on the other hand makes a squeak.
I’m not a playwright. Given the deleted first drafts of this rhino burst, that’s probably a good thing. (I compared plays to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You know, because “there’s no wrong way”?) So I can’t really extemporize as to how one goes about writing a play—mine always seemed to involve giant, overly intellectual hot dogs seeking out familial resolutions in abandoned mineshafts haunted by racist Native American spirits. And but so then (to pull inspiration from another writer’s rhythms, which I recommend) there’s the whole parenthetical point I just made: that is, there is no right way.
Instead, like a well-read zombie chasing brains for their knowledge rather than their soft, fleshy delectables, what I can infect you with is why you should write a play. You know, for me, the critic haunting the other side of the footlights, or more appropriately, the Hungry Audience. (By the way, I assume by the fact that you’ve read this far—that you’ve visited this site at all—that you actually have something to say.) And the reason you should write a play is thus: because it allows us, with far less effort than reading and far more intimacy than film, to experience a different world, to see through another’s eyes, and no matter what you choose to show us, there is nothing more necessary than that. We are nothing if we forget how to listen.
Fearing structure, logic, plot, character, you put the pen down. You hesitate. You don’t kill your darlings, you abort them. You’ll quote how it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, and then you’ll deny those raw feelings the chance to appear on page—where they will resonate with someone—because you have doubts, or worse, fears of what others—critics, perhaps—may say. (Hopefully, in reading this asphyxiatedly purple prose, you’ll realize that those fears are rather silly. We’re in the same boat as you, except that we’ve somehow convinced you to do all the paddling.)
But those feelings are what make it all the more important that you write. Because now you’ve got subtext—even if you drown it in cluttered metaphors, stretched allegory, inconsistent characters, whatever. You’ve got truth, and you can always go back and dig that out of a first draft. Better still, you can have it read, or you can stage it, and actually see what’s coming out. Best of all, you can share that moment—completely human in its incompleteness—with an audience.
And that’s important. In this community, you hear a constant caterwauling about how audiences aren’t going to the theater anymore: it’s not true. They’re just waiting to hear the voice that appeals to them, be it the one that’s fresh with the eagerness of the slam-poetry beats of a new generation; the iambic melodies of the old; the slow, measured pauses of the meditative moderns; the cathartic screams of the Greeks; or, as likely as any of those, yours. Syllogistically, if they’re not going to the theater, it’s because nothing there appeals to them. Nothing there is yours, or at least, it’s not this new play of yours. Therefore, they’re not going to the theater because your play isn’t there.
And you’re not alone, either, which is what thrills me most about new theater. Your text is going to trigger certain things in actors—especially if they’re Method-trained—and it’s going to spark the imaginations of directors, especially if you’re vague, as they resolve the play in their eyes. I remember watching, through a night-vision camera projected on stage, a man dressed in a bearskin, nursing on a girl’s breast. I remember a man deliberately loading, aiming, and firing an air gun; the other man painfully reacting and then returning the favor: the cycle continues. I remember a man covered in condiments, smeared with desserts and relishing in relish, denouncing humanity.
We are talking about a “play” after all, and what is that but some freeing connection to our minds, the parts of us that we keep locked up in day jobs and closeted within social conventions. More importantly—because there is some work involved—we’re talking about something new, and this is the crux of why you should write. Because if you don’t, nobody else will. Because your voice is unique: even if it sounds like someone else, you’re still the one who wrote it. Because you’re giving far more to the community than you realize, even if it’s just in providing the fuel to the fire, if it’s just reminding the audience, or a peer, that—holy hell—you’re allowed to do that. (Because time and again, we forget.)
Because every way is the right way. So I take it back, I can extemporize as to how one goes about writing a play: you do it by picking up a pen and being honest, even if that’s simply to be honestly silly. And I take the other part back, too. At least for this November, I am a playwright.
Aaron Riccio was forged into a theater critic after being raised amongst and exposed to the endless possibilities of New York City. He has written for Show Business Weekly and Time Out New York and works as the editor for Theater Talk’s New Theater Corps. He proudly prowls the off-off-Broadway beat, regularly posting reviews for his site, That Sounds Cool, and would love to see your play.
HAPPY NAPLWRIMO 2009 !
LET'S DO THIS!
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