Playwriting Possibilities from Lee

Here is something of what I remember of talking to my mother on the phone.  It is pretty boringly real, yet I have already had to invent things and combine remembered moments because I don't record our conversations (using memory of moments can actually yield more Art and less Real anyway--see the What If handout).  Still, I must do much more to reveal more depth about both characters.  Even though I mainly know about myself, as I revise I will move away from my messy, boring, reactionary, "real" self and try to get more focused; I will also try to think of a balance of concerns my mother might have under her surface--I am not in her head, but I will have to start inventing because I don't want any black and white hats; I will use some of Metro's 20 character questions to perhaps find something surprising in both of our characters.  I will want to think a lot more about what the mundane surface could let me do to show an interesting underlying conflict (the one thing more; the power struggle).  I will also need to speed up the pacing.  I also need to think in terms of a narrative arc--a high point and a possible closure--if I want to have something that feels like a complete play.  Ultimately I will need to think about how I want this performed on a stage and if I want any special props or lighting effects.

Draft #1

“Hi, honey.”

“Hi.”

“How’s school?  Are you doing ok, honey?”

“Yes.  Funny.”

“How is your house?  Are you ok being alone?”

“Funny.  I have no friends.  I’m fine.”

“Well, if only you went to church.  There’s lots of nice people there you know.”

“I don’t think we’d get along.”

“Well, you never know.  Oh, those photos you sent from New Orleans.  Jake and Justin got scared and screamed when I showed them that leech picture.”

“That’s cute.”

“Well, you know Bonnie Watkins died.  She just went suddenly.   Pancreatic cancer.  She was gone in two months.  Frank Kleinman asked her to send Gail a message—you remember Gail, his wife, right?”

“Yes.”

“Frank asked Bonnie when she passed through the veil, to tell Gail he’d been a good boy.”

“Oh.  Hmmm.”

“Your dad and I were talking about how anyone could go just like that.  You never know.”

“Yeah.  Have you been to the doctor yet?”

“Oh, I’m taking lots of nopalitos.  Aunt Elvia swears by them.”

“Uh huh.”

“We just got finished eating your favorite food.  Guess what that is?”

“Mom.”

“Tacos.”

“Funny.”

“We’re watching Touched by an Angel right now.  They just have the best messages.  Last week it was about a woman who was paralyzed but wanted to be a figure skater.”

“A figure skater.”

“God can do miracles.  She didn’t skate in the end, but she became a coach.  Oh, did you send your taxes in?”

“Yes.”

“I hope you’re getting something back.  Any news from work?”

“I’m mad about it all.  Salaries.  New administrators.”

“Well, now, don’t get so mad you burn you’re bridges.  You have a good job.”

“No, mom.  I won’t.”

"Well, if you get a chance, turn on Conference this weekend.  The choir has really been practicing a lot and they're so good."

"I thought they were already good."

"They've all been taking voice lessons.  They really have improved, and I just love their music."

"Yes, they are quite famous."

“Well, I’ll let you go. I Love you, honey.”

“I Love you.”

So, what kinds of things in this early draft seem to stick out at me?  First, I am automatically thinking about what isn't being said, the deeper conflicts, mainly in me, under the surface that hardly ever get talked about in my family.  Our conversations stay on the surface, but, at least for me, there is a lot going on underneath.

Draft #2

two rooms on stage; one sunnily lit (tinfoil on the windows, orange velour chairs), one cloudy (a bourbon on the table, a sage colored couch); phones; a mom, a daughter

“Hi, honey.”

“Hi Mom.”

"You haven't called us forever.  Is anything wrong?”

“No.  I've just been busy.”

“How is your house?  Are you ok being alone?”

“Yeah, it's fine.  I like my house.  I don't have a lot of friends, really, but I have been going out.”

“Well, if only you went to church.  There’s lots of nice people there you know.”

“I don’t think we’d get along.”

“Well, you never know.  There are good people everywhere.  Oh, those photos you sent from New Orleans.  Jake and Justin got scared and screamed when I showed them that leech picture.”

laughs “That’s cute.  They're cute kids.”

“Oh, you know Bonnie Watkins died.  She just went suddenly.   Pancreatic cancer.  She was gone in two months.  Frank Kleinman asked her to send Gail a message—you remember Gail, his wife, right?”

“Yes.”

“Frank asked Bonnie when she passed through the veil, to tell Gail he’d been a good boy.”

“Oh.  Hmmm.”

“Your dad and I were talking about how anyone could go just like that.  You never know.”

“Have you been to the doctor yet?”

“Oh, I’m taking lots of nopalitos.  Aunt Elvia swears by them.”

“That's fine too, but the doctor could probably help you a lot more.”

“Yes, dad has been fixing me healthy food.  If I just eat like him, I'm sure my blood sugar will improve.  Oh, we just got finished eating your favorite food.  Guess what that is?”

“Mom.”

“Tacos.”

“Yeah, if I have anyone over for dinner that's about all I ever fix them.  Mexican food.”

"It's a good thing you like it then. We’re watching Touched by an Angel right now.  They just have the best messages.  Last week it was about a woman who was paralyzed but wanted to be a figure skater.”

“A figure skater.”

“God can do miracles.  She didn’t skate in the end, but she became a coach.  Oh, did you send your taxes in?”

“Yes.”

“I hope you’re getting something back.  Be sure to put at least a little bit of it in savings.  Do you have any savings?"

"Yes, I have some.  I have automatic deposits.

"I know it's hard to deal with money.  I learned from an early age to never get in debt.  Any news from work?”

“I’m mad about it all.  Salaries.  New administrators.  It can be really tricky with new administrators.  They don't know who you are or why they should listen to you.  All those previous contacts lost.”

“Yes, it's hard when you don't know your bosses.  But don’t get so mad you burn you’re bridges.  You have a good job.”

“I know I do.”

"What would your ideal job be?"

"Writers usually always have to teach.  It's a good job.  Then I can write in the summer."

"You could work for extra money in the summer too.  Anyway, if you get a chance, turn on Conference this weekend.  The choir has really been practicing a lot and they're so good."

"I thought they were already good."

"They've all been taking voice lessons.  They really have improved, and I just love their music."

"Yes, they are quite famous.  Well, I have to go. I Love you.”

“We Love you too, honey.”

So, I am focusing a little more, changing the dialogue, adding more of our main conflicts, letting the daughter character say a little more, trying to show what topics they avoid by moving quickly on to something else.