BY ISABEL MEHTA
The third installment of Germantown Friends junior Isabel Mehta's ongoing blog series about the process behind the 2019 Mouthful Monologue Festival.
While Dramaturgy Day #1 was culmination of introductions, new things, and new people, Dramaturgy Day #2 was less about adjusting to new surroundings and more about the writing. And more specifically, how we, as the playwrights, could revise our monologues to make them triumph on stage.
Anyone can write a monologue, or a piece of writing from a single voice. But to take that writing to the stage, to perform it for theater, is another process that is unique to typing in front of a computer screen.
How do you make something pop on stage?
How do you make the performance engaging for the audience?
How do your words take command of space?
These are all questions we were asked to answer by the end of the day. I was excited, because today wasn’t just a day to think like a writer, but to think like a playwright.
We spent the morning with our directors and dramaturgs, discussing edits made so far, staging ideas, and how we were feeling about our pieces. This was productive for me, because I got to chat with my actor, Taiwo, about which lines needed clarifying and general questions she had. It was great to get her perspective, because as an actor, it was important for her to understand the meaning and motivation behind every line to give the best possible performance.
We all also participated in the “Make Every Line Count Challenge”, which in a nutshell, forced playwrights to categorize every single line of their pieces as either “keep”, “clarify”, or “cut”. The goal of this exercise was not only to shorten the pieces, but to make them more clean and concise. Before the exercise, the playwright sets a “cutting goal” - the number of lines they want to delete. For me, as a playwright, I love cutting lines. It doesn’t make me nervous, but rather giddy because I know my piece is better off for it. After the exercise, I ended up cutting about ten total lines. I was pretty proud of myself.
After the morning revising activities, every newly-revised piece was sent to print. That afternoon, we ran through the entire show! And all I can say is, it brought me to tears, twice.
It was obvious that the “page to stage” revising attempts worked, because all the monologues transformed beautifully from the initial first drafts. The actors were incredible and the pieces were unique and funny and devastating. I can’t wait for the festival. It’s going to be something that will touch the hearts of so many people, and that, I think, is why I am so proud of the work we’ve done.