Sunday, 30 October 2016

You Dancin? #playwriting

Dance  - it's something that everyone does in one form or another.  There are traditional, cultural, even religious dances.  There are spectacular showy competitive dance competitions.  There are discos and nightclubs pulsing and heaving all around the world.  There are mums boogieing whilst washing up in the kitchen, dads toe tapping and head banging, teenagers secretly wishing they could let loose.  Best of all there are children whirling, twirling, jumping, leaping, spinning, twisting, krumping their little hearts out to every single piece of music under the sun.  Dance brings joy and laughter.  You just have to look at prime time Saturday night TV - the ever popular Strictly Come Dancing, now in its 13th season, was born out of the much beloved 1949 Come Dancing show and I'm fairly certain we were throwing shapes a long time before then.

This month's playwriting challenge was to write a short, ten-minute (ish) play on the theme of Dancing.  Time frame - five days.  Challengers - seven.  Who would step up?  Well, they all did and it was fascinating at the different aspects of the topic each writer decided on, for example:

  • The dance macabre with monologues from three different types of dancer
  • A well established married couple going for their first ballroom dance lesson
  • An end of the world party with dancing
  • Competitive dance and a reluctant participant dancing for all the wrong reasons
  • Two women in a nightclub, trying to avoid the cheesy chat ups
  • Interwoven commentary from a trio of women who'd been to see Fosse
  • A monologue about the thinly veiled sex & horror behind Strictly

It becomes very difficult to gauge your own work against such a varied collection and doubts set in that your style is less convoluted, your dialogue without long monologues, in fact your entire piece without an inner wisdom revealed - just characters experiencing an event.  And yet feedback was encouraging.  Despite being a window into the ordinary and everyday it wasn't boring, the dialogue flowed naturally and there were moments of comedy.  

Fast forward a few days to writers workshop and we are challenged on free writing for twenty minutes and then - just like marking tests at school - swapping with a partner to edit freely in red pen. The purpose behind this was eventually revealed.  Did we discover the emotional intent behind the prose?  It wasn't about just editing the words and the grammar.  It was about feeding back what we discovered from the piece and finding out whether our inner meaning matched the author's.  This is my biggest fear - that I have no inner meaning and my work is just words collected together in a somewhat pleasing arrangement.  Time will tell.  

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