Over the past several weeks of conversations, rehearsals and reflection, I’ve been gathering lots of notes and ideas for changes I wanted to make to the new draft of Satellites. Last week I took a sabbatical week from work to sit down and produce the latest version of the script (Draft 7).
I started the week by going over my notes from director Nick Barton-Wines, producer Karen Goddard and writing mentor Rebecca Stott, and making the edits they’d suggested. Some of this I did in the beautiful library at Norwich Cathedral, some in the Millennium Library, and some of it at my kitchen table.
I spent most of my mornings doing the “academic” writing, and then 3 afternoons in a studio kindly provided by The Garage, where I kicked the script about by doing acting exercises on it, bringing it to life in a way you can’t access by just reading it on the page.
One of the tasks for this was to devise a pre-show “ritual”, a warm-up routine that gives the performer what they need to get out and do it. Every show requires something different from you, and no matter what kind of a day you’ve had, you need to find a way to get into the right headspace. Some of what I came up with was old failsafes that I’ve always used (yoga, belly breathing, running and jumping around the room), and some of it was new (counting to ten in Dutch at full projection, reading a poem given to me by a friend, and DANCING! Dancing to 70s disco!).
I read the whole piece aloud, from beginning to end, as close to performance-pace as I could, and it ran at about 2 hours. By the time I finish, I’m exhausted. My voice is shot and I am slumped over in a chair. The energy required to keep the audience’s attention for even half that time is extraordinary. Well that’s that, I thought, I’ll spend the rest of the week cutting.
The exercises that helped me make the cuts were “walking the punctuation” around the room (in which I made some nice discoveries, for example there are points in the piece where a child is speaking that reads as just one long list of Brilliant Things); and circling all of the verbs in the show, which helped me analyse what the “pushes and pulls” are in any given moment (the pulls being reaching up, the celestial, the pursuit of knowledge, the beautiful, the divine, and the pushes being being dragged down into the swirling hole of fascism, of hatred, of ignorance and of forgetting).
Another really useful exercise was shared by Bryony Kimmings on Twitter, where for each scene you finish the following sentences:
I want to tell you about (subject)
I want to use (form)
I want to reveal (plot or character point)
I want my audience to feel (the intended reaction).
This was a brilliant one, because it really helped me decide whether the scene I was working on was “doing its job” in the piece.
I ended the week with a new draft which is with the collaborators now. It’s getting to a place where I feel it’s soul starting to emerge, and I’m starting to get excited to share it with an audience.