Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dietz Post: Portrait & Lidless

Upon seeing Lidless, there was something about it that really irked me.  Several things, but it wasn't clarified until I saw Portrait.  It seemed to me that the characterization and dialogue in Portrait really lent itself to the actors, providing some really excellent acting and roles that I personally was drawn to as an actress.  I tend to particularly focus on the female characters (go figure) and none of the characters were cliches or one dimensional, not necessarily easy to peg.  

In Lidless there wasn't any character that I would want to play, male or female.  It didn't really didn't seem like a play written for actors as much as it was written for the playwright.  I thought the young girl character in Lidless was insufferable.  I got what she represented at different times, presenting an ideal next to her mother's gritty reality, but I hated her delivery that contained no real curiosity in her questions.  I felt such animosity towards the character that her death was somewhat of a relief to me.  Also, in the first scene with the young girl and the once prisoner, I figured that they were father and daughter and the fact that it seemed so obvious took me out of the mystery pretty quick.

I really like Frances' ideas, especially in 410 (Gone), and she can write some really beautiful, thought-provoking lines.  I wouldn't have felt so frustrated watching it if there weren't some really good things about it.  I just think it's her characters that fail to draw me in and get invested in the story.

I also thought about questions of gender in Lidless.  How would the play have been different if the interrogator/torturer was a man and the prisoner was a woman, whose child would later save her life in a strange twist of events?  How would that dynamic change the play?


  1. Sara,

    I think your post is timely because it gets to that question I posed (without sufficiently explaining) in class yesterday: "What is the playwright's concern?"

    One of my concerns, in "Portrait" but frankly in ALL my plays, is "make great roles who would be fun to play." Hardly a surprise, given that I started acting when I was ten. In fact, for the first several years I wrote, I focused almost exclusively on "fun scenes," to the exclusion of story. Hence my harping on story with you all.

    Frances? Not so much. She's a WRITER of fiction, screenplays, and plays. She grew up all over the world, attending international schools, was hugely involved in politics and human rights -- her concerns are absolutely story, message, language.

    Not that either of us don't care about the other's concerns, but that we each come AT playwriting from a different place, and it informs everything.

    That to say: we all HAVE concerns, those concerns WILL show up in our writing -- the question is whether we're AWARE of them and to what degree we acknowledge/succeed with them.

    Out of curiousity, what would you say your concerns are, as playwright, as actor?

  2. I've been hoping for a comment!

    That is a very good question, so much so that I had to ponder and discuss it over dinner and come back to it.

    What I was trying to say about Frances' writing isn't that she writes for herself as much as she writes like a writer, meaning (to me) focusing heavily on the message and central theme.

    Myself, I think I am moving from the infancy stage with my creative writing to the fumbling, bumbling trying to crawl around breaking things stage. I have never stopped to ask myself my concern as a playwright, although I suppose certain prominent themes keep popping up in my short plays and outlines. Looking at the contents of my binder, I seem to focus on a single theme, build a story around it, and fill in characters where needed. Thusly, I had the same character pop up in my outlines, almost exactly in the same archetypal form. I don't want that to happen.

    I haven't thought about it, but you're right in that focusing on what I want to accomplish in my play will shape what it becomes. I can say that most of my favorite plays and books and films are heavily character driven. Very performable. But my playwriting concerns of late have been more about delivering a core message and building a story around it to best get that message across.

    I think if I were to write a play knowing I would to perform in it, the writing would cater much more to the performing possibilities. I think I should try and write a play solely with characters that I would love to play. That would be a ridiculous script.