November 1, 2012
You don't need to know why
Why did you write this?
Why Anne Hathaway?
Why does this character say that thing on page whatever?
As a playwright, I get a lot of "why" questions from actors and directors. I usually answer them because I know people are curious and want to understand where my work is coming from. Sometimes, though, it puts me in the position of explaining or defending my artistic choices rather than exploring or illuminating what's going on in the play I actually wrote.
Yet, in the rush to psychoanalyze me through my play, I often wonder if what gets lost are the things that transcend the psychoanalysis. Rather than expanding and enriching my creation, it shrinks it and dries it up. It makes it easy to dismiss the story and the characters as mere symptoms of my own neuroses as opposed to being reflections of a greater truth.
Here is the irony: in this drive to answer all questions except the most essential ones, you can actually undermine the truth of my work.
This is why I'm such a big fan of Practical Aesthetics. It takes the focus off of what's going on in my head and puts it where it belongs: making choices about what's happening on the page. What's happening right here, right now? What this character trying to do in this scene? What does it mean if they do or don't?
Everything else is either something I can't say, something I refuse to say, or something that doesn't need to be said.
I would love to be part of a process that allows me a chance to sit with the director and actors and use Practical Aesthetics to do a scene analysis of every scene in the script. That would be amazing. That would go further in creating a rich, textured performance of my play than any number of questions aimed at excavating all my secrets or summoning all my demons.