As you may know, I generate my plays-for-teens with and for my students. A new semester means a new play. This isn’t to say I have a specific process that I always follow: in fact, I often reinvent the process, tailoring it not just to the people in the room but also to my artistic interests. The process is part of the art itself.
- A year and a half ago, I wrote a play that was based on a student’s set design. Our job was to look at this space and conjure up what could happen there. This eventually became And then, She Picks Up the Sword.
- Last year, we focused on adaptation – generating improvised scenes from public domain stories. We listed out a bunch of public domain works, brought in summaries, and started to improvise around them. This eventually became Icarus Livingstone.
- Before that, I started by bringing in scenes from established works that would invite us to figure out the desired tone of the play – a scene from Angels in America was clearly better for the people in the room than the scene from Eurydice, so the world that we created was tonally in concert with that. The students then brought in images that were inspiring to them, which we then used to generate… stuff. I quickly brought in scenes based on this material that we played with to figure out what was speaking to us and eventually developed what became Basement Demons.
- Another time, we started with an aesthetic I wanted to explore with them – realism – and followed this by generating a list of locations in the three broad categories of setting in realism: public, private, public/private. We generated scenes in these locations, and eventually set the play in a summer camp. This became Two Truths and Lies.
This year, I have a proposed situation – in essence, a world with a major complication imbedded in it. This will serve as a container that the students will play around in. A sandbox, to borrow a concept from OKGo.
Now. Here’s the thing. Last year, I thought that we’d wind up devising around a very different story than the one we landed on, and if I’d committed fully to a different text, THE PLAY WOULD HAVE ESSSSPLODED!
Working collaboratively with a group of people means that you MUST be willing to give up on an idea.
It’s hard. I have to do some prep work, but cannot fully build the world without my students.
Tomorrow, I am going to have them start to generate material from the concept of ‘adulthood’ and ‘apocalypse.’ If this works, I’ll present the idea to them (and you), and we’ll be off to the races. If I have to trash it, however, I will.