Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The Playwright's Craft - The final polish
There's one last process before you hand the script over to the director and cast- this is the final polish. You've done everything you need to make the play work: you've got the narrative structure right, you're telling the story in a crisp, stylish way, you've got the scenes in the right order and the overall dynamics look good. You've edited out all the dross and you've got the characters speaking in their own voices. The interchanges of speech and action flow naturally and easily. You've done your grammar and spell check (making sure it's set on UK English if it's for the British stage). The play is finished. Except for the Final Polish.
The Final polish is that last little bit of tweaking time. It may be a couple of hours, a couple of days or, perhaps, if you've finished ridiculously early, a couple of months. The best thing is always to put the thing away and come back to it with as fresh eyes as you can manage. Now read the play for one last time. And make sure you read it it closely, not the sort of skim that you've given it up to now. You're on the look out for those little anomalies that the actors will pick up straight away; little solecisms of speech and character. Ask yourself "How does this character know this?" "Where did that piece of information come from?" "Shouldn't this character be aware of that fact before now?" and so on. Actors are notoriously good at spotting these errors and inconsistencies.
If there is time in the rehearsal room you may be able to make these adjustments but don't count on it. Rehearsal time, as I've said before, is for rehearsing not for rewriting. And if you iron out these little glitches beforehand you will appear that much more organised and the actors will have more confidence that the rest of the thing is going to work.
At this stage I am not suggesting rewriting anything, you should be far beyond that necessity. No, I'm talking about tiny details that can be rectified with one or two words or, at most a sentence. I've just finished polishing a piece that relied on two characters knowing each other but I realised I hadn't made that clear. It only took a "I think I've seen you in the Co-op" when they first meet to settle that.
So there you go. Final little tweaks and it's ready to go into pdf for sending off. Good luck.