Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Notes on “101 Ways…”

Plenty of spectacle on this one. Never lost rhythm, never got boring. Granted, that’s easier to achieve with small segments than with a single plot from beginning to end, but as playwrights, I think we should consider how the action of 101 Ways (…) is distributed in cycles and use it to make sure our plays never suffer for having too much time go by without anything changing, surprising or otherwise happening.

And my God, what a beginning.

Ass-kissing aside, I’d like to address two issues that, in my opinion, need improvement:

1) Despite the myriad segments, the play had a formal unity, and I think that was because of the recurrent “sections” – “Makeover with Miss Carra”, “X Things I’d Like To Read In Cosmo And Won’t”, “Q&A with Steve”, “Someone Wrote This”. The more independent bits (Sarah’s story where the magazine scares her into not doing anything other than reading magazines, “If the media was a city”, “Cosmosutra”, Steve’s argument about girls practicing for adulthood instead of playing) worked just fine on their own, but felt a little out of place in the greater context.

2) Emphasizing the real-life identities of the actors-writers is not very constructive for the overall effect. It makes the subject matter less concrete: we’re no longer watching a play about magazines, but an investigation about the writers’ attitudes and reactions toward the magazine world, its culture and how it connects to their own individual baggage, blah, blah, blah. Even if that is exactly what is being presented onstage, disconnecting the material from the writers hides the process, casting a brighter light on the product.

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