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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chapter 12 - Belief, Bias and Common Humanity

Filling the Empty Space

Skidmore and I were having a drink in a bar one evening after attending a performance of some dire piece of performance work masquerading as drama when he suddenly said “I’ve written a few pieces for the magazine at Uni, I think I’ll have a go at writing a play next.  How do I go about it? What sort of story is best for a play?  How long should it be?”  And suddenly everything goes all wobbly and the room spins round and round as in an old episode of Doctor Who.  Mind you I had been drinking home brewed scrumpy all evening but I did think this was one of those portals into those time loops where our actions are repeated over and over again for ever and I had had this conversation so many times before.

I asked, as I do every time “Why do you want to write a play?  Why not a novel or a short story or a poem?”

“There’s a competition I’d like to enter.  I definitely think I could win it.  All I want is an idea and I’ll give it a go.”

Well, that’s an answer I suppose.  Not one I wanted to hear.  Perhaps I should have phrased it differently.  “What is the idea you have that can only be expressed as a play?  What are the particular attributes of the narrative that make it so that it can only be expressed in a play?  Plays are hard work and if you could express yourself in a short story or even a haiku, you’d have a lot less heart-ache.”

But this time our young hopeful is not to be put off. “It can’t be that difficult.  You write them all the time.”

Well, yes, I couldn’t disagree.  There is no actual law against anyone having a go at such an undertaking.  And in answer to his initial enquiry I had to admit there are no actual rules about how much and what subject. And I never, ever advise people about how they should write. But I liked Skidmore for all his rather callow, erratic, exuberant approach to the world and I didn’t want him to get involved in something that might make him unhappy so I thought I might try and guide him with a few pearls.

All right, I say “How much experience do you have of theatre?  How much do you know about that unique relationship between actors and audiences?  What do you know and expect of your own relationship with the audience?”

“I don’t think I need to go into that too much.  That’s for the director to sort out.”

That is also true.  Up to a point.  Directors need to be given freedom to explore the subject and don’t need to be told how to direct a play.  Particularly by someone like Skidmore.  But that’s not what I’m driving at, either.

“So you’re saying that you don’t need to engage with the audience yourself?  You place your work before them and they like it or lump it.  A tiny bit arrogant, don’t you think?”

Skidmore frowned at that.  I don’t think he’d ever been called arrogant before.  Then he brightened as he always does in adversity. “I think you’re deliberately misunderstanding me. Anyway, the play is just the words.  I leave the gubbins to the techies.”

Now there you are wrong, young Skidmore.  Comprehensively irredeemably wrong.  Plays are not works of literature.  They are one part of a huge collaborative effort by actors, directors, lighting people, audiences, cleaners, ice-cream sellers.  That’s why I say to all new writers who have to listen to me ranting on from my stool in the corner of the bar: “Before you put pen to paper you must get to know theatre and the way it works.  You need to have all that firmly planted in your mind, the smell of sawdust and of paint, the sounds of rehearsals in a draughty hall somewhere, the anxiety of the producer that the thing is about to work.  You need to know all this because a play needs to come from the theatre and is not bolted onto it.  Have you read Peer Brook’s “The Empty Space”?”  But when I looked up, Skidmore had ceased listening and was attending to his I-phone.

The answer I should have given right from the start was, “If you want to write plays then start by getting stuck into theatre.”  I really was getting worked up.  This was a subject I had decided views on and I wasn’t going to be ignored.  “Now listen here, young fellow.  It doesn’t really matter whether it’s professional or amateur but you must understand theatre as a living, breathing organism before you can begin to think about delivering the instructions that will prod this leviathan into motion.  It also doesn’t really matter what you are going to do within the theatre.  Just be somewhere where you can observe and learn.  When I got thrown out of school I hitch-hiked to London and not knowing anything better, I went from stage door to stage door asking if there was any work to be had.  By some extraordinary fluke heard of a job as a stage hand.  It was from the vantage point of the side of the stage that I was able to watch great actors and theatre makers at work.  Later, I became a very junior stage manager in the North West of England.  It was sitting in on rehearsals in freezing cold rehearsal rooms, marking up prompt copies with coloured pencils held in shaking gloved hands that I learnt how the hidden mechanisms of plays actually work.  What paths the directors and actors took through the intricacies of scripts, how they came to understand what a play was about and how best to serve the script…”  I tailed off because Skidmore had lost interest in my c.v. altogether and had wandered off to drink tequilas with some old buddies from Uni. Leaving me to carry on musing about the subject.

Theatre is the oldest expression of some of the deepest human instincts.  The playwright’s job is to lead the complex process of thought that leads to that expression.  Yet in the twenty-first century many of the enormous possibilities of drama have been lost to a superficial welter of acrobatics, music and visual effect while the skills of playwriting, character construction and dialogue have been downgraded to that of mere pen holder for other theatre makers. For three thousand years, theatre has provided a crucible of thought and argument.  It has challenged the status quo and reflected on the great changes in society and watched civilizations come and go.  It has mocked the privileged and epicene and it has raised to our consciousness those who are oppressed and down trodden.  It has provided relief in the times of crisis and serious dialogue when things were going smoothly.  It can be both ridiculously funny and jarringly emotional.  It provides high ritual and low cunning.  But because playwriting is seen as something of a dilletante pass time, the subject of many university theses, it has lost its heart and soul.  Aspiring playwrights like Skidmore are encouraged to write ten minute sketches for competitions instead of committing the years of work necessary for real drama.

“What you want to do Young Skidmore, is devote yourself to cutting through all the obfuscation and razzamatazz and get back to the heart and soul of the thing…  Read Peter Brook… Skidmore…  Skidmore!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Chapter 11 - Belief, Bias and Common Humanity

Secrets and Lies – Inner dialogue

Some liars are so expert they deceive themselves.   -Austin O’Malley

People tell lies.  That might come as a bit of a shock to you having lived your life in your sheltered, honest-to-goodness tell-it-like-it-is neighbourhood.  But let me assure you that some people are capable of ejecting absolute eye-popping, heart-stopping, teacup-dropping humdingers of lies.  In fact, some people are so given to telling whoppers that they can’t tell where truth ends and lies begin.  And, sadly for us, neither can we.  Sometimes we find we have lived right next door to someone who has been living their whole life as a lie.  And when the police call to ask us if we suspected anything of our serial killer neighbour we say with hand on heart “We didn’t have the slightest clue, officer.  Not a whisper.  The chap was the quietest, kindest, nicest church-goer you could ever have the pleasure of sharing your gardening implements with.  Mind you, there was the time the shears came back with suspicious stains all over the blades and he said he had pricked his thumb on a rose thorn.”  And so on and so forth.  And we wonder about the clean living vegan on the other side who borrowed the electric drill once...

 What I mean to say is that we all have an inner life very little of which we share with other people.  And sometimes we find out about it and sometimes even the owner of the inner life is not aware of it.  But for an actor studying a character they are to play, it is the inner, secret life that is not written in the dialogue that they will sniff out like a truffle hound.  In the gaps that your dialogue allows, the actor will try to find the actual words that remain unspoken but which motivate and drive the character forward.  In most cases it is the secret inward dialogue that the character has with him or her self that is more important than your actual words on the page.  This is a secret world that the actor inhabits from curtain up to the final climax.  It is the place where all the debate and decision takes place.  What happens in the pauses in a play by Pinter?  The dramas, the actual material drama happens in the pauses.

The great neurologist and theatre director Jonathan Miller says   We must allow for the way in which the unconscious works and guides our speech quite unwittingly.  This doesn’t just mean the Freudian slip but the way in which our unconscious brains are working on problems that we may have quite forgotten about.  How often do we retreat into that secret world until our partner says: “You’re quiet.  What are you thinking about?”  To which our answer is usually “Nothing”.

Now here is an interesting conundrum for the playwright: how do you write something invisible and unstated? Something that the character herself has no awareness of?  The inexperienced playwright may include stage–directions.  “He crosses to the table, furrowing his brow and looking anguished.”  Well, forget that sort of thing.  The actor finds that demeaning.  It is the actor’s job in association with the director to worm out the inner dialogue.  Even less do you want to write the inner dialogue into the text.  “You look worried Harry.”  “Yes I am suffering fearful flashbacks about that car-accident in which that young girl was killed by my stupidity last year.”  “Oh dear, I hope you’re not going to brood about that over dinner.” “I probably will, although I shall attempt to put a cheery face on it.” What you must do as a writer is to make sure that you have the inner dialogue with the character yourself.  You must examine thoroughly the psyche of the character and make sure that they behave entirely truly to both their inward and outward dialogues.  There will be tiny nuances .  He or she might alter their speech by just one word to give a little hint to the outside world of the inner world.  What was it we used to say in church?  “The outer visible sign of an inward invisible force.”  Because it is surely the inner force that drives the character through the play. Think about a play like “Cat on Hot Tin Roof” where the whole structure of the play is driven by the lies that the protagonists hold close to them. This drives the characters towards the inevitable climax. This is fine detail work and requires close inspection of every single word you have written in the later drafts.

The unseen and unspoken topics that are never uttered are usually to do with shame, guilt embarrassment. They touch on status and emotional engagement.  Intentions in these areas must never be referred to directly. What’s more characters must be careful to engage in such a way to indicate whether they want to discuss these ideas or not.   The idea of opening or closing is well known to actors and improvisors.  An open question leads to a thoughtful and, possibly, lengthy reply.  “What did you think of the pas de deux in Act 2?”  Leads to a fuller discussion than the closed question: “Did you like it?” The closed question encourages a “yes” or “no” answer while an open question leads on to greater things.

I read an interesting piece in which some teacher suggested that playwrights should never employ questions as part of dialogue writing.  I think I see what she is driving at but you still have to deploy an interrogation at some point.  Obviously the clever playwright will imply the questions but we still want our interlocutor to ask “Well, did you murder Celia?” in some way or other.

Some thoughts about Status

For most people the huge self examination that goes on throughout all interactions is that of status. As soon as we walk into a room of strangers we are weighing up the appearance, speech and manners of everyone else in order to establish our place in the pecking order.  Status is vital to our understanding of the world but it is not as straightforward as whether one speaks with a cultivated accent or has polished shoes, though these outward signs do play an important part.  And status is itself can be fluid and mutable.  I walk into the room and at once I am on my guard, ready for an opportunity to exhibit my knowledge or wealth. I must preserve my status at all times and, where and when possible, increase it.  This is more than just getting one over on your adversary.  One can increase one’s status whilst appearing to lose it.  Thus you can make what appears to be a gross error in manners in the eyes of one person but it may result in admiration from others.

Consider opening and closing questions in the following dialogue.  And how are Andrew and Barry asserting status through their use. Thus:

Andrew:            Cup of tea?
Barry:               Not if it’s a problem.
Andrew:            No problem.
Barry:               Are you making one for yourself?
Andrew:            Earl Grey or Typhoo?
Barry:               What are you having?
Andrew:            I’ve got both.

Barry:               Can you still get Ty-phoo?

Andrew:            I got some in for when the vicar called.

Barry:               That might be nice.

Andrew:            Last year. It’s at the back of the cupboard.
Barry:               Don’t go to any fuss.  Earl Grey would be fine.

And so on.
Andrew asks “Would you like a cup of tea?” in as off hand way as possible. Barry must never reply “Yes” or “No”. These are forceful, closing words which represent a status assertion and, as such, serve to reduce one’s own status.  (The answer “yes” Implying something like: “You are too stupid to recognise that is why I am here” and “No” implying “I wouldn’t drink that gnat’s piss you served up last time.”) Thus Barry must reply with a status neutral question: “Are you making one for yourself?” and so throwing the status problem back to Andrew who must reply with a further question: “Do you prefer Earl Grey or Typhoo?” Barry’s answer: “Can you still get Typhoo?” is nearly a status assertion in itself.  “I may have some in the back of the cupboard.” Is a winning stroke. Yet notice how long Barry can hold out without every giving a direct answer to the original question.

I’m not certain how this operates in other parts of the world but in the UK this is typical of a complex status interaction in which both speakers are fencing to an unwritten but well understood set of rules.  There are similar rules to follow in interactions concerning the weather which are really coded for one’s emotional engagement with the world and must be kept carefully guarded at all times.

It used to be axiomatic that in polite society one avoided conversing about religion, sex and politics.  In our dialogue here, of course, these are the only safe topics of conversation.

And whether this particular case is especially British or not, I’m willing to bet there will be similar sets of unwritten rules throughout the world.

Some thoughts on Irony

We all know about Dramatic Irony.  It’s a stock in trade for most playwrights wherein we let the audience in on a secret that the protagonist in the play is unaware of.  It’s where the audience nudges each other and says “he’s riding for a fall.”  Greek Drama is chock full of ironic situations because the audience should be well acquainted with the story in advance.  The best place to see it in action is in pantomime with a thousand kids screaming “It’s behind you.”  As the Dame is cheerfully unaware of the ghost creeping up behind her.

Irony is our way of distancing ourselves from problems or problematic people.  It gives us an outside view. It prevents us getting angry.  In order to be ironic about something we need to be detached or held apart from the source of our irritation.  And irony is also a signal to others who may be our allies.  Sending out an ironic smoke signal allows those who agree with our point of view to sidle up closer to us with a knowing wink without always raising the suspicions of those who are the target for the irony in the first place.  Irony sets us apart but also joins us together.  The knowing versus the ignorant.  The Insiders against the outsiders.  And here we’re stepping on dangerous territory.  As soon as we have defined an otherness then we are as guilty of shredding the network we are so wanting to build. 

So we need to be careful with an ironical inner dialogue that it’s not the playwright speaking directly to the audience over the heads of the characters in the play.

And here is another fascinating aspect.  You the playwright are in conversation with the actor and director about the inner dialogue through the words you have written, but how much do you want to reveal to the audience and at what point?  Do you want to let them into the secret at the beginning so they can watch the two levels of the play at once, or leave it to the end as a grand deus ex machine reveal?  More likely you will want to leave a little trail of clues throughout the piece that, if you are clever, they arrive at the truth at the moment the other characters discover it. It’s clever if you can pull it off.  I always find it annoying when as an audient you have realised the truth of a character in act 1 while the characters on stage don’t see it until two acts later.  You’re almost climbing out of your seat to shout “Can’t you see?  He did it?”

You, the playwright need to understand what your characters are not saying.  What topic is known by one or all of them and is being ignored?  What is, as they say, the elephant in the room?  And what sort of code are your protagonists using to avoid mentioning it?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chapter 10 - Belief, Bias and Common Humanity

Dialogue - The Heart of Playwriting


Skidmore:            I’ll do this. (nods to counter)

Steve:                   Eh?

Skidmore:            Watchawan?

Steve:                   (Purses lips.  Makes bubbly noise.)  You come up on the dogs? 

Skidmore:            (Pulls lips back over teeth. sighs) Uh?

Steve:                   Cheers (Sucks teeth.) Uhhhh...

Skidmore:            (To barista) (makes despairing look) Capuccino. (Gestures to Steve)

Steve:                   Nah.

Skidmore:            My treat. I said. (Closes eyes)

Steve:                   Had one here. Last week. Came in to see… (Makes grimace.  Laughs out loud for no apparent reason)

Skidmore:            Hurry up. (Nods to Queue.)

Steve:                   (Puffs air. Tuts. Shrugs.  Nods)  I don’t think… Milk. (Grimace again.  Mouths) Fridge.

Skidmore:            (Raises eyebrows)  Eh?

Steve:                   I d’no.  Americano then.

Skidmore:            (To barista) No milk

Steve:                   Cheers.

Barista:                Anything else?

(Skidmore looks at Steve. Steve shakes his head)

Barista:                That’s five pounds exactly.

(Skidmore looks hard at Steve)

Steve:                   Eh?

(Skidmore shrugs.  Studies shelves behind counter. Steve pays.)

Barista:                I’ll bring them over.

Steve:                   Cheers

I’m not being entirely whimsical.  The idea is that as a play wright, as any sort of writer, you should listen to people talking. As much and as often as possible.  You need to listen closely and at some length as you sip your americano.  You also need to blow the dust off your notebook and write down what they say and, most important, the way they say it.  Until you have spent hours and hours doing this and have acquired some understanding of the way people speak to each other; the speech patterns and rhythms, then you cannot begin to write plays.  Because the stuff of plays is made up of the interactions and interplays of characters.   If you can’t get that, then you can’t write a play.  Anybody can write a play that depends on situation or plot but to write a play that depends on character requires an understanding of how to build a character and how that character develops within and around a plot.  Indeed, how the character and the plot are inextricably linked.  What happens in a play can only happen because of that character and that character drives what happens.  And we reveal that character by the way they speak.

There are no rules about getting a character to speak.  Indeed, you will find out very quickly as you listen, that there are absolutely no rules to conversation at all.  Trying to record and reproduce is virtually impossible.  Conversational speech is broken, halting, discursive, unsettled.  Entirely without grammar or syntax as described in the conventional manuals.  Sentences have no verbs.  They do not link one to another.  They are made up partly of words, partly of sounds and partly of gestures.

What’s more, dialogues have very little logic.  It is quite possible for one person to espouse several quite contradictory ideas at one time.  Sometimes our interlocuters speak in other voices (the actual meaning of “irony” by the way).  Most of the time conversation does not follow the neat ordered pattern of question and response we would expect as writers.  Most of the time people will only talk about themselves.  Each question or statement being answered or interrupted by their own experience. As a student of conversation, I sometimes feel that the whole purpose of 90% of conversations is entirely existential.  That is, we are reaching out into the void merely to say “I am here”.

Yet, somehow in this mish mash of half formed sentences and ill formed ideas some sort of exchange does take place.  It may be indirect and convoluted but eventually some idea may be conveyed to the other party.

So what do we playwrights learn from this?  Firstly, that our characters need to be freed from the conventions of written speech.  This gives us the opportunities to learn about the reality of our characters.  Our character can grow with our discovery of their little tics and irregularities.  And I don’t mean that that gives us licence to write in some sort of ridiculous Dick Van Dyke cockney voice.  I mean that we can discover the outward signs of the inward workings of a character though their speech.  And as we write it we need to speak it out loud. We are trying to record a spoken interchange so it only exists in some bare notation as words on a page.  In writing dialogue it is, perhaps, useful to think of the words on the page as a sort of code that reveals your intentions for the characters. 

Secondly, we need to remember that most conversations are about anything but the subject in hand. This is especially true about complex and deep subjects. Previously I mentioned our inbuilt willingness to suspend our disbelief.  If you ally that with our need to co-operate and collaborate in social situations you can begin to see how inevitable it is that we will say things in a conversation that we may not believe in an attempt to maintain the interaction.  As playwrights we need to understand and to embrace these apparent lies.

 It takes quite a bit of beating about the bush before the real feelings of our character are flushed out.  This is what makes the process of play watching so enjoyable.  The audience are voyeurs trying to understand something from the snippets of half formed conversation they are allowed to overhear.  As in real life in any coffee bar, we try to work out from these snippets, what is going on in their lives.  What sort of people they are. And, of course, our characters are often unreliable witnesses.  They lie, they prevaricate, they say the very opposite of what they really think and feel.  But as the watchers begin to know and understand they begin to get more and more drawn in and engaged.

Thirdly, we need to avoid the need for stage directions.  If you’ve got the voice right then there is no need to interject (humorously) or (bitterly) it must be there in the speech itself.  If you find you have to resort to stage directions than you need to recast the speech. I would never present a play for performance as written above.  It’s for the actor to discover the little gestures and informal sounds that carry the character through that interchange. Similarly, as a director, I get annoyed by writers who write detailed character descriptions in the stage directions but do not carry them through into their actual speech and actions.  It is not good enough to describe a character as “Young dynamic and ambitious” You need to show those attributes.  You need to demonstrate how that ambition is manifested or hidden through what they say and the choices they make in conversation.

Fourthly, plot needs to correlate with the characters you are drawing.  If you are beating your characters into a particular plot twist or situation then you have either got the plot wrong or the character or, most likely, both.  The actions that a character takes are the ones that define that character and are defined by that character.  If there is a surprising plot or character twist you need to ask yourself whether you have buried that possibility deep within the psyche of the character you are working with. You need to ask yourself “does it contradict anything that has already been laid down?”

Quantum thinking and speaking

In an article from New Scientist Of September 2011, Mark Buchanan tries to relate the mathematics of the quantum world to human interaction.  An explanation, in effect, of our fuzzy way of going about things.  It casts an interesting light on the puzzle I have as a playwright - the sheer impossibility of capturing or reproducing human speech in all its wide, broken rambling, halting form but while still managing to convey some sort of meaning.  I have never managed to find a way of notating speech in anything resembling a realistic, believable way.  Pinter arguably came the closest to making this work but he still had to resort to a rather mannered "pinteresque" approach.  Of course, a playwright does not necessarily want to reproduce everyday speech exactly.  It would be massively tedious to the audience, and probably totally incomprehensible but there is an inbuilt urge towards getting closer than we have managed up to now.  The reason being that we may wish to describe in our plays a more realistic way of describing the trains of thought of our characters.  And those are inexorably linked to the way they speak.  I need to read the article several more times to get some deeper insight but I like its drift.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Chapter 9 - Belief, Belonging and Common Humanity - Meditation on Playwriting

The mobile army of illusion -  Meaning and Metaphor

Reach into your toolbox of writing aids and pull out a metaphor

Along with all the other 7 and a bit billion other inhabitants of the planet, you’ve gazed up at clouds on a summer’s day in seen faces and animals, lions and dragons and strange landscapes, castles and mountains.  You’ve experienced the same thing when you’ve looked into the glowing coals of a fire.  That’s because we are programmed to make out faces and animals against a confusing background of clutter.  We need to be able to distinguish friend from foe, or the attacker hiding in the shadows.  Sometimes this mechanism gets slightly confused and we see faces where there are none but it is a capacity to associate shapes or outlines with other images that we call metaphor.  Metaphor is our way of letting one thing stand for another and thereby create a trail of allusion and association.  As I said in the last chapter, language tends to be iconic – that is the sounds we make are arbitrarily associated with particular meanings. But metaphor seems to provide a short circuit between idea and idea. We live in a world of symbols and rituals.  Everything we do and say has hidden meaning.  Everything implies something else. We seldom unpick the metaphors and we can generally get the association without having to understand an otherwise illogical connection. In fact, a study of patients with localised brain damage has shown that there are areas of the brain specifically devoted to the understanding and interpretation of metaphor. “Vilayanur Ramachandran and his colleagues at the University of California at San Diego were intrigued by four patients who were mentally lucid, fluent in English and highly intelligent, but could not understand proverbs. When one of the patients was asked to explain the adage "all that glitters is not gold", for instance, he completely missed the metaphorical angle, replying that people should be careful when buying jewellery. All the patients had damage to part of the brain called the left angular gyrus. This lies at the intersection of the brain's temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, which process tactile, auditory and visual information respectively. The findings were presented at a meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society this week in New York.” (From issue 2495 of New Scientist magazine, 16 April 2005, page 18)

What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically, rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.2

Says Frederick Nietszche In this early essay, ‘On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense’,

Douglas Ayling glosses this by saying each contextual occurrence generates appropriate semantic resonances from within the words.

In other words, our use of a particular word or phrase reaches down into our brain and pulls out a rats’ nest of related ideas and congruences. So the meaning of that word becomes, not a single point of truth, but a fuzzy ball of associations.  The picture that this confused, tangled image, provides is sometimes clearer than the word or phrase itself.  It offers some sort of ranging point around which our meaning revolves.  Clarity comes because that ball of associations may contain associations that are similar in the listener.  They may not be entirely the same but there are enough points of similarity to provide a correspondence and thus a complex or difficult idea can be passed between us.

Metaphor is central to our use of language and to our understanding of the world.  Metaphor is sometimes more often associated in the mind of the writer with poetry rather than playwriting. But a moment’s thought will crush this. A playwright needs to play with the possibilities of the language to convey complex ideas and most of that will be through metaphor.  We can indeed argue that theatre itself is a metaphor for life and the resonances of the words in the empty space should echo out into the real world and stay in the mind of the listener for ever.

Think logically but let that logic be flexible.  Our fuzzy, imprecise language enables us to access our fuzzy, probabilistic thinking.  Not only are there more avenues of the brain explored by wider, looser speaking but also better, more accurate conclusions are drawn from it.

Perhaps for a playwright the message must be, if you want to make specific points, the dialogue you use needs to be fuzzy and non-specific.

Metaphor can be novel and shocking or jaded and banal and even so common in usage as to no longer even have the status of metaphor.  By the idea of “resonance” (itself a metaphor) is one of the great tools of the creative writer.  For the playwright, the correct selection of le mot juste is the means whereby inner dialogue can be aligned with the actual spoken text.  Choice of metaphor indicates a pathway of thought, unconscious or conscious that reveals more than the character’s dialogue reveals.  For the audience they will pass unnoticed but a trail of such metaphor choices will lead us to divine instinctively more about the character than at first sight. So bear in mind when choosing a metaphor, it will reveal a great deal about your own fund of ideas and associations but we really need it to do that job for your characters.  Ask yourself, what does that particular metaphor tell us about their back story and hinterland of ideas.


Be bold in your use of metaphor.  Your arrows may just pierce to the heart of the matter

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chapter 7 Belief, Bias and Common Humanity. Meditation on Playwriting

Language - the Gloopy, Smeary, Muddy stuff we work with

All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar's teeth.  Antonin Artaud

For me language is a huge pile of wet, sticky clay.  I can plunge my hands in and pull out big dollops that I can smear over my pages.  I can create great gloopy piles of the stuff or mould it into delicate little figures.  I can pat it smooth and tranquil as a black mountain tarn or I can hurl fists full of it around so that it sticks in foul messes on anyone who happens to be passing by.

I apologise that I’m going to refer to the English language throughout this chapter.  That is not some sort of colonial statement that plays can only be written in English.  Far from it. But I feel that I have to try and make my arguments mean something to my annoying acquaintance Skidmore who has the attention span of a turnip and the linguistic ability of un pomme de terre. Besides I use the English language for my work and it is by a process of understanding the tools and materials of my trade that I hope to improve.  For writers in other languages, I hope there will be parallels and interesting facts about English that may amuse you anyway.

The English language as we know it came in to being so that our conquering Norman overlords could converse with their Anglo-Saxon underlings.  It is not very much use being a conqueror if you cannot get your peasantry to go out and about ploughing your fields and reaping your harvests or fighting your battles for you.  Consequently, all the fripperies of grammar that beset the parent tongues were excised and we are now blessed with a language that is so simple in construction that it has become a lingua franca (an amusing and ironic description) for trade, commerce and general communication round the world. This stripped down form of speech means that someone from the forests of Papua New Guinea can make themselves understood to a francophone from Montreal.  English is a sort of Lego language in which simple elements can be assembled using any bits and pieces of vocabulary from any other language the speaker can lay his or her tongue to. Consequently, it is unafraid of importing any vocabulary from any other language that might prove useful.  If we don’t have a word for an item or an idea we import it. Or we just fabricate something vaguely appropriate rather than trying to make it up according to some arcane set of rules as is the practice in French.

English is essentially a language of negotiation and commerce.  For all its basic simplicity it is deliciously imprecise and the reason that contract lawyers make so much money.  As I pointed out earlier, the whole process of writing and making plays is one of negotiation and collaboration so the English speaking playwright has at her disposal a magnificent set of tools ready sharpened to go about carving out a masterwork.

On the other hand, the many strands that have fed into it also means that the English language has a rich oversupply of vocabulary far beyond the needs of basic communication.  Thus each new acquisition can take on an increasingly subtle interpretation of ideas.  And as it becomes ever more complex in vocabulary and a minefield for those who are unwary in its application.  Because of all the imports and coinages words slip and differentiate in barely perceptible shades.  And above all, the true English speaker will use words in a subtle, almost poetic fashion in which basic words assume indirect, elliptical, cryptic colouring calling up a world of strange hidden meanings and images. The writer of English must always assume the mantle of a poet and the writer of dialogue in English drama must become something of a magician weaving strange incantations and spells together.  (It is no coincidence that the word “spell” is of exactly the same root as “spelling” meaning to assemble a word correctly.  The two concepts of controlling unseen powers are directly linked).

The Lexicographer Laurence Urdang says “It is a curiosity of English that it continuously acquires words from other languages to expand its lexicon. Observers have often noted that even if a new coinage or a loanword from another language starts with “exactly” the same meaning as an existing word in English, the meanings begin to drift apart before very long, one acquiring quite different frequency, distribution and connotation from the other. ... Some words do become obsolete and are dropped forever. Most, however, remain and develop nuances that expand for the writer and speaker the opportunities for expression and expressiveness.”

In Singapore, for instance the language has mutated into Singlish.  Here “The grammar mirrors Mandarin or Malay, the indigenous language of Singapore, by doing away with most prepositions, verb conjugations, and plural words, while its vocabulary reflects the broad range of Singapore's immigrant roots. Besides borrowing from Malay, it also has words from Hokkien and Cantonese (from southern China), and Tamil from southern India.”

So to record speech in English one must be aware at all times that what is said contains drifts of meaning far beyond what the words themselves convey.  

Professor Stephen Pinker suggests that language is hard-wired into the brain.  It is something we do instinctively.  He suggests that there is an innate language that, rather than learning, as we develop we synchronise with other speakers around us.  Thus a child at between six months and eighteen months can learn any language in the world. To his way of thinking, language is not an add-on or by-product as Chomsky would suggest.  I rather like this idea because after forty years of listening to other people’s conversations in coffee bars and trying to reproduce them as dialogue in plays, I have realised that language goes farther and deeper and is more convoluted than the linguists or grammarians would have us believe.  There are whole areas of speech that have entirely different rules from carefully formed written speech.  Listen to people talking and you will hear strange, illogical thought pathways and the odd instinct to synchronise speech patterns within a conversation so that each encounter seems to develop its own rules and vocabulary. It seems to me that dialogue is not only shaped by the people speaking, it also shapes their interactions together. Two people speaking together will use a style and vocabulary unique to that encounter.  They will bring all sorts of immediate thoughts and rhythms which will be different from any other encounter.  And will certainly be different from any conversation they have with other individuals.  Language like this is iconic.  It is only arbitrarily associated with the meaning that is to be conveyed. This is why I insist that plays are not literature and should not be treated as such.

Marcus Perlman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues wanted to test the assumption that language is iconic rather than mere imitation of natural sounds. They asked nine pairs of students to play an elaborate game of vocal charades, in which they had to express certain words, such as big, slow or attractive, using only simple vocalisations. No gestures or facial expressions were allowed.

From the outset, the students tended to pick vocalisations with similar acoustic properties, such as duration and pitch, for many of the words. Over time, as these words were said back and forth they became increasingly similar, both within pairs, and between.

There may also be some evidence for this in the experiments with teaching sign language to primates.  Whether chimps and gorillas can actually acquire human language or not is up for debate but there are signs (ha) that they have a predisposition towards some sort of iconic communication even when not influenced by human interactions.

As babies we understand instinctively that that babble of sounds we make with our mouths somehow relates to those objects and actions that we see around us.  And, what is more, they also can stand for those ideas and abstractions that circulate within our own brains and have no actual correspondences in the world outside.  I may be able to see that you are angry by your facial expressions and your actions in throwing over the furniture or punching someone but I will never understand what you are angry about or why you are angry until you can express that thought in words. 

In observations of other primates, it becomes clear that communications originate in babies with all sorts of non-specific sounds, squeals and chuckles that align with the spoken phrases of the adults around.  Listening in on the bus I hear that an enormous amount of our speech as adults is made up of those sort of utterances and we manage with a relatively small vocabulary of properly formed words but a rich vocabulary of the non-specific stuff.

How many words do you need to communicate with other people?  And what would your list of 100 include?  The article here gives the 100 most commonly used words in the English language but, of course, that doesn't mean they are the ones you need most.  I would have thought there ought to be a fair sprinkling of nouns - for that would have to include "tea" coffee" "computer" "phone" "car" or "bus".  There would have to be "sea" "rain" "cold" "sun" and something to do with money like "pound" (or "dollar" or "Euro") and "card".  States of mind: ""miserable" "happy" "sad" or could I do those with mime?  And I would need some numbers, too.  In fact, if I could mime one to ten with my fingers, I would still need enough of those, say twenty and so on to make up the list.  And then there are those things you need to be able to understand on the phone when trying to get through to the call centre "press" "key" "hash" and "star" and probably "Could I speak to your supervisor?"  What about shopping "Have you got this in a larger size?" and "will you give me a discount because these are weeks past their sell-by date?"  There' that's my 100 already.  But wait a minute, can I find room for "friends" "Facebook" and “Blog"?

My acquaintance Skidmore spends a great deal of time in front of the mirror making sure that he looks just so when before he heads off to the casino. (Usually with some of my money in his pocket).  He is very conscious of his personal style and ensures that his hair is gelled into the exact quiff he requires and so on.  It is the same with his writing.  Although he doesn’t admit to it.  He agonises for hours over a single sentence trying to get it as gelled into shape as his quiff.  And, yes, I think that sort of care and attention to detail is necessary.  However, as a playwright, I have to remember that my style is made up of a great deal more than the words on the page.  Sometimes I must leave spaces for the unwritten, sub vocal language.  As I’ve mentioned before, style is related to the personal choices we make as artists but I must also leave room for an interpretation of that style.  It would be intruding on the work of the actor to nail down all those grunts and groans and sighs that are the real material of language but I must make sure my style is able to encompass, not only the style of the character I am creating but also the style of the actor who has to make it come alive.  The language and words I use must indicate what I require rather than what I prescribe.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chapter 6 Belief, Bias and Common Humanity. Meditation on Playwriting

Créativité, l'inspiration et Genius    Comment fonctionne l'improvisation

Skidmore is indubitably the most annoying person I’ve ever met.  Apart from his habit of trying to borrow money off me, he is nearing the end of a part time creative writing course at Bournemouth University so he imagines that it behoves him to question every aspect of my life as a writer.  The annoying thing is that sometimes he entangles me into that sort of wrangle that gets under my skin and has me lying awake at two o’clock in the morning trying to justify my existence.  The even more annoying thing being that at that time he is probably just getting into his stride at the poker table and couldn’t give a toss for what I’m worrying about.

 “What’s the big deal about being an artist, then?  This whole writing thing is a piece of cake.  Why have I just spent all this dosh just to find out that any Tom Dick or Harriet can be a genius?” He said with a dismissive wave and disappeared to meet up with his current floozy in some bar or other.

This is my answer to him.  Of course, it would have been better if he’d been there to hear it.

Absolutely. Creativity is part of every human’s makeup and Everybody is blessed with genius. Creativity is the ability we all have to gather a few bits and pieces and make something that might be pleasing or useful to ourselves and, possibly, to others.  Those bits and pieces may be words or pencil marks or pebbles or something altogether grander and more robust making use of tonnes of concrete, timber, steel or aluminium.  The creation itself may have explosive qualities, it may save a life or serve some other function or it may just exist.  In other words, creativity is the spark that motivates pretty well everything we do or make anew.  So, let’s admit it, there is nothing magical or out of the ordinary about creativity.  It is the ability to create that, given the right conditions, we all have.  Children are always mucking about with stuff and everything they do or make is entirely new to them.  Give a child a muddy puddle and some twigs and leaves and they will create a whole world. But this capacity doesn’t leave us suddenly when we reach adulthood.  We may just have to look for it deeper within ourselves.

In a similar way, genius refers to the attendant spirit that is allocated to everyone at birth.  Originally it meant an actual God or angel who presided over our destiny in life.  It became a tutelary spirit. The word itself is associated with the Arabic Jinn or Genie (of which more later).  From this is derived the idea of one’s natural character or tendency.  A person is not A genius but possesses a genius or has genius within them.  That genius can be looked on as unusual and remarkable or it can comprise some perfectly natural ability or inclination that is generally taken for granted.     In other words, I’m using the term “genius” to imply some sort of personal inclination or particular ability. I am not trying to measure or value one manifestation of genius against another.  Einstein (why do we always use Einstein when talking about genius?) had a particular genius for visualising problems but he did not (as far as I know) have a genius for playing the banjo. (I bet somebody lambasts me on Twitter for not knowing about Einstein’s blue-grass skills) You may have a genius for personal relationships, caring for someone or fixing shelves. Or in Skidmore’s case for rubbing me up the wrong way.

The trick, of course, is recognising your personal genius and using it and, certainly, practising it so that it grows and develops. 

What’s more We actually do musicians or architects or cooks a severe disservice when we call them geniuses.  This implies that they are mere celebrities that have been gifted with a weird ability.  It's as though their skill and craft is something they have no control over. But genius in itself achieves nothing. In fact, these people have taken the genius that is within them and worked hard with it to create a conduit for their particular style of creativity, a vehicle for the novel Idea that we all applaud. Genius may be particular to the individual and is the product of their self awareness and practice of it but we all have it.

The other two terms I’m using, Improvisation and inspiration are instrumental.  They are the means by which we create or exhibit our genius.  They are the ways in which our creative genius manifests itself.  And they work closely together.

But first, let us talk about the thing itself, the artwork, the piece of architecture, the scientific discovery, the new way of thinking.  In the same way a baby is created by the coming together of two cells, the new invention or idea is formed by the coming together of two previous ideas.  The baby has characteristics utterly unique but which derive from both parents.  And in the same way that a baby is the product of its parent cells. The new idea is never completely novel but derived from generations of ideas stretching back through the centuries.  And the more distant the original ideas from each other the stronger and more powerful the progeny.  This is in some way analogous to the natural world in which, if two distant plant species can be encouraged to breed together, the outcome can exhibit an extraordinary strength called hybrid vigour.

The success or failure of this creative flow of tender hybrid ideas is the ability of the gardener to discriminate, to pick out those plants which will have this hybrid vigour and which will produce the most pleasing or useful result.  This ability to discriminate is crucial.  It is the exercise of choice which gives value to a creation. The human services thinker John O’Brien says “Choice defines and expresses individual identity”. The process we call art is the exercise of choice and it is, again, open to everyone.  The choices we make define us as people and what we are as people defines the choices we make.

Art is choice.  Every artwork is the result of a series of choices made by the artist.  These choices range far beyond what particular colour a painter uses on his or her palette.  What aspect of the subject do they choose, what mood, what does she include and what does she leave out?  Why does she make a mark just here and not over there? And so on with every other form of artistic endeavour.  In a play, what particular moments in a narrative does the writer select to dramatise?  What characters and what characteristics do they exhibit that makes them part of the story?  The artist is consciously or subconsciously making choices continually.  They are asking the questions who?  where? what? how?  why?  And the finished work is the unique result of those choices.  That is why no artwork can be like any other because the myriad of choices can only lead to what's known as "a deterministic chaos pattern" - the butterfly effect.

Often we cannot consciously account for the choices we make.  These unconscious choice makers we call “inspiration”. Style and choice are inextricably intertwined.  It is our unique style that enables us to make the choices we do.  The choices we make are seen by the outside world as our style. It’s probably a bit of a let off for the philosopher to be able to define “inspiration” as “a breath from God” but your style both as an artist and as a person are at the heart of what makes you an individual and different from the rest of the seven and a bit billion on the planet but whatever subconscious drivers these inspirations may derive from, they are still valid.   For me, this mysterious breath is indeed a marker of who I am as an artist.  I can judge it from that point when I am writing a play and the characters I have created suddenly take on a life of their own and head off in directions I could never have forecast. When inspiration rushes by all I can do is to hang on to my hat and follow it wherever it leads me

I love those random events and decisions that pepper our lives. Those unintended and unexpected consequences of decisions that are made on the spur of the moment or as a result of sudden twists of circumstance.  Here are three of my favourites from famous studio recording sessions:

1) Raphael Ravenscroft, booked to play a tiny part on the Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street” session, tries out the guitar part on the out of tune saxophone that he hurriedly fetches from his car.  

2) Session musicians are paid by the number of instruments they play so Herbie Flowers needing to get an extra few quid doubles his electric bass with string bass on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”

3) Al Kooper realises his guitar playing is not as good as Mike Bloomfield, so slips unnoticed into the studio to play the Hammond organ but, as he is not a natural organ player, he follows the rest of the musicians a semiquaver behind in an effort to keep up with the chords the others were playing.  They are recording “Like a Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan.  The studio manager is not impressed but on playback Dylan insists he “Turn the organ up.”

Listen to these tracks again and marvel at the power of serendipity and improvisation.  The trick is in the artist, the person who had to make the final choices of the mix, hearing those chance occurrences and to make use of them.  To seize the random happening and make it part of the whole. 

“There are people who prefer to say 'yes' and there are people who prefer to say 'no'. Those who say 'yes' are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say 'no' are rewarded by the safety they attain.”
Keith Johnstone

Improvisation is the art of creating in the moment.  Ex tempore, unplanned, at this time, in the here and now.  There is no forward planning or backward assessment.  The artist and his or her audience live in this moment with no idea of what is about to happen or where or how.  Each moment is a surprise and the reaction is new every time.  But how do we achieve that result?  That state of bliss that enables us to think or speak beyond ourselves?

There is a second meaning to improvisation, the idea of making do with whatever is at hand.  the process of devising a solution to a requirement by making-do, despite absence of resources that might be expected to produce a solution   this meaning goes a great deal deeper.  Improvisation can be seen as the process of creation itself.  it is the deliberate drawing together of two otherwise unrelated ideas to create something new.  We are back to the idea of the child playing in the muddy puddle oblivious to the world beyond.

That child playing in a puddle will make use of mud and twigs and leaves to create dams and castles and so on.  They will improvise on the theme of mud in just such a way as an electrical engineer will improvise connections with whatever materials may be to hand when needed.  This idea of making do leads to some of the fundamentals of improvisation.  Use what is to hand.  Accept what you have to work with and look to see what is possible within the limitations.  The trick here seems to be able to think iconically.  In other words, to let one thing or idea to stand for another thing.  In improvisation two levels of reality operate, the reality of thing itself and what it stands for or could be.  It becomes a metaphor.  And through metaphor we see new possibilities and different connections.

So if creativity, genius and inspiration are already there within us, is it possible to hurry this process, to make it work for us, to turn it to our advantage?  Can we encourage the discriminatory powers without becoming self-conscious and maybe self-parodying?  Can we indeed uncork the bottle and let the genie of our unselfconscious creativity out upon the world?

 In theatre, music or other performance arts there can be rules for improvisation which draw the attention of the performer to a channel leading to a new idea.  The Inspired artist will be able to spot these new channels and choose the ones that lead to a fruitful outcome. The best improvised outcomes come from a series where the choices are reduced either by necessity or by artificial rules.  Thus someone making an Improvised Explosive device uses whatever is at hand while a performer will limit the possibilities by enforcing some apparently artificial rules.  For the performer, these artificially imposed limitations are underpinned by the idea of acceptance.  Whatever happens is good and must be incorporated within the growing piece.  Ideas cannot be rejected and conscious discrimination is put on hold for a moment. This is the creative act performed ex tempore.  At this time. In the here and now.  There is no forward planning or backward assessment.  In an improvisation we live ex tempore: outside time.  And that applies just as much to the audience as to the artist.  They have no idea what is to happen next or where or how.  Each moment is a surprise and they react anew every time something occurs.

In the end, the object is the same, it is to distract the conscious mind in order to let the unconscious, inspired self go to work on the task in hand. We start to think iconically and speak metaphorically.

Inspiration can not only produce new ideas but also give us new approaches to established and often dull practices.  Done deliberately and in a structured manner, these sort of improvisations can add to performance by allowing in a more fluid, randomised element.  I saw a Shakespeare play by a company that were playing hidden impro games within the piece.  The game is to attach a clothes peg to another member of the cast on stage.  The performer, once they find the peg have to remove it and pass it on unseen. Obviously the company must have superb discipline and the improvisation must be entirely at the service of the piece.  In other words, no knowing winks or character drop outs.  For the audience the play was perfectly acted but there was a frisson about the performance that made the evening electric.  The impro game distracts the actor's conscious mind from the wobbly set, the spider hanging from the lighting bar, the member of the audience eating cheese and onion crisps.  The actor exists in the moment. The text and the delivery of it becomes at one with the subconscious where it allows a true emotional engagement with the words as they are uttered.

We are all aware of that sort of trance that ensues when we become fully and deeply engaged in an activity.  Time is suspended and we seem to have superhuman powers of creativity.  The genie is at work within us and the breath of God fills us so that the creative act pours from us like honey.

The improvised moment can direct us into that state by a set of games that we call rituals. We all understand the form and intention and we have confidence that every other participant is doing the same thing at the same time. The ritual guides us and pulls us so that we lose all sense of self and become the process, the conduit for divine inspiration.

In “The Archeology of Ritual” Evangelos Kyriakidis says that a ritual is a set activity (or set of actions) that, to the outsider, seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical. The term can be used also by the insider or performer as an acknowledgement that this activity can be seen as such by the uninitiated onlooker.  In other words, it includes and excludes at the same time.

Composer Roddy Skeaping says "With improvisation, however, we are involved in a process of creation going on right here and now, there is no one better or more informed about the emerging live m creation than those who are making it happen through their creative and critical faculties. In our own terminology we refer to this as ‘Live Creation’. Because Live Creation is a group effort, a performance is a social event, created through the merging of the sum total of the cultural background of all who participate. Further to this, there is no need for any undue reverence towards the thing created because it is designed to be enjoyed in the moment of creation, not as an art-object to be stored, reproduced or sold. Each event is therefore unique and you have to be there to appreciate it. Not there and you miss it. The great thing about improvised art installations of the Live Creation category is that if you like it you’ll come along and enter into the spirit of it and if you don’t you’ll vote with your feet and stay away. This way we hope to grow our audience through facilitating an event that is both fun and meaningful”.


So do we give up our creativity to the Gods of chance entirely?  Do we merely find the finished piece rather than make it?  This is what I was banging on about in Chapter 3 when I was talking about engagement.  That is, engagement with the work we are making and with the world we are making it in.  We may not be able to envision the final product before we start out but we know the general direction we are taking to get there.  We have closed it round with some parameters of what we would like to see and feel at the end but the improvisation of the writing will carry us off into unexpected directions and we must exercise our choice as to whether those new circumstances are a complete dead end or an important waymark on where we want to get.  We throw ourselves into the sea and start swimming towards the horizon but the current will carry us at a tangent from our expected course and we surface on an island that may have interesting new monsters roaming on it.  This vague sense of direction that encompasses my work is usually represented by a stage picture, a certain style or, as I call it, a taste of what the finished piece will be like.   Perhaps I could explain that better by saying that I can visualise the gap in the cosmos that this piece will fill. It is almost a way of saying I know what use it will be put to.  For me the justification of a piece of art is that it fits neatly into space where nothing else will fit.  This is what brings joy to the creator and the watcher or listener. It is almost as though I start with a Platonic ideal or form of what the piece will be but it is only through the actions of creativity, genius, improvisation, outward intervention and choice that I can bring the ideal into Substantial reality.    In our writing we create a form of reality that gives an echo of the ideal we have been aiming for.

But the artwork is not yet finished when we have done with it.  An artwork only exists as a piece of art when it is seen by a viewer, a reader, a watcher and they have made a reaction to it.  The result of the choices the artist has made should elicit a response in a viewer and it can only be called an artwork when it has gained that response.  The response may not be entirely positive.  It may be tedium or disgust.  The viewer may be upset or unnerved but those are still valid responses and they make the work a piece of art.  One can argue that any made object that elicits a response is an artwork.  It may be bad artwork but it is still an artwork. 

Perhaps it's not appropriate to try and divide artwork into good and bad but we are conscious as a viewer that something is not right and it's worth trying to explain that unhappy feeling we get.   We can divine bad art because the maker has been too self-conscious.  It is too mannered, too well thought out.  The artist has not allowed for the random inspiration that gives it life and attractiveness.

The viewer or audient is also making choices.  Apart from the immediate emotional response to the artwork there is the matter of what angle to see it from, what part of the work to embrace first. With a piece of music, the listener may elect to follow a particular line or to concentrate on a particular part of the soundscape. Particular sounds will resonate with memories or emotions that belong to that listener alone. In the same way every artwork is infinitely different because of the artist’s choices in making it, then every viewing will be different because of the myriad changes in environment and the reactions of other viewers or listeners present, the number of times it has been viewed already and so on.

Roderick Skeaping’s music theatre company Le Collectif International des Improvisateurs (Le Collectif) encourages these different audience viewpoints by encouraging the use of cameras and phones to record and stream from the many points of view available to them.  Their many responses are recorded and fed back into the proceedings.  A particular audience member can thus influence the whole course of the event by drawing attention to details completely unseen by other audience members and even the performers. This can operate a sort of feedback loop where everyone can be drawn into entirely new and different responses to what is occurring.  Individual audience members are thus shaping the event as it progresses and adding to the deterministic chaos as much as the artist.  This inherent chaos means that we can never forecast the outcome of our performance.  The outcome must necessarily be uncontrollable and the process must take precedent over product.  The playwright in creating the basis for a piece of theatre will need to be the improvising creator but also making precise choices as to what is to be part of the finished plan and what left out.