Wednesday, November 27, 2013

jackDawe, December 1, 2013

Good collaboration is like good sex. 
by TJ Dawe

Lately I've been fucking Harry Standjofski, a guy in Montreal I've never seen in person. My friend Julie Tamiko-Manning hooked us up. 

Harry organizes a cabaret every December: Urban Tales. It's a handful of monologues, related to Christmas in one way or another. Different writers for each one. Different actors. Harry dramaturging and directing.

He sent me a bunch of scripts from previous years. They were dark and edgy. Some of them grotesque and disturbing. I set my imagination to work. Came up with two ideas. Picked one. 

I wrote the monologue, and sent it to Harry, making explicit the attitude I always have when submitting work to anyone (including to this site): I'm open to suggestions, big and small. Including "burn this fucker and start again."

I scrapped the thing. Started on the other idea. Wrote it. Submitted it. 

Harry came back with a pile of notes. He liked some things, didn't like others. And had one note I simply could not refute: the connection to Christmas was tenuous. The same story could have taken place on the character's birthday and it wouldn't have been different. 

He was right. 

It's no small thing to morning-after-pill an idea. But when the suggestion comes from a place of mutual interest and not dominance or ego, it rings true. Part of you recognizes it's for the best. 

I scrapped the thing. Started on the other idea. Wrote it. Submitted it. 

He liked it a lot better. It's about a bitter and cynical AD, driving the cast of her production of A Christmas Carol with a whip, until she's visited by the ghost of her mentor, and so on.

I estimated the length by word count. When Harry had Julie (who'll perform it, that's why she hooked me up with him) read it aloud, it was too long. He sent me notes on possible cuts. And a few other things. 

I agreed with some cuts, but wasn't crazy about one of the big ones. I sent him back two drafts - one incorporating his cuts, another with others. He wrote back "I love it when writers write!" Yeah, well I love it when dramaturgs dramaturg.

Give me notes, baby! Silence from a collaborator is like silence from a lover. Let me know what you like! It gets me off to hear you moan and see your back arch. 

Theatre's collaborative. There's give and take. It works when both parties are paying attention to each other. When each has a greater goal in mind than his own satisfaction. The goal is for us both to get off. 

And this is unprotected sex. We're actively trying to bring something new into existence. It'll be the child of both of us. Or, three of us, in this case. Born in pain and terror and blood followed by an outpouring of love that could tear a battleship in half.

So are my solo shows (with no director or dramaturg or cowriter) masturbation? Nope. The intercourse happens with the audience - they're my unknowing directors and dramaturgs. A good solo performance isn't a monologue, it's a conversation, even if the audience isn't responding with full sentences. The performance is modulated to what they're giving me. And again, the goal is for all of us to get off. Ideally, at the same time. And for it to be fresh every time. Just going through the motions is... well, it's okay, but there's nothing like the real thing: vivid, immediate, full of sweat, surprises and real emotion. 

Harry and Julie are rehearsing in Montreal now. Harry speaks very highly of Julie's performance. I wish I could be there. I envy everyone in Montreal who'll get to attend the final fuckfest (it's all women performing this year too!). It being Montreal, I'm sure many of them will have a cigarette after. 

The piece I wrote is A Christmas Curdle

Dec. 5 - 14

1 comment:

    This seems to be a good time to let you know how much I enjoy your writing and love your solo shows. I hope you'll make it to the Toronto Fringe next summer. Thanks for putting yourself out there.


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