Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

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When I started writing, Polly’s advice was wise: don’t force a type of writing. Don’t force the words into a play; just write, and however it comes, follow the story.

My first efforts came out as prose –short pieces of fiction, outlining a setting and carving a dynamic between protagonists.

The avenues into writing always seemed to develop out of visual settings: two people on a park bench; a person standing alone at a bus stop; a man, sitting on the edge of a swimming pool, watching the tattoo of a dolphin bobbing through the water..

Visual placement is a very real part of storytelling for me; I have always loved film, and devour it, caught by techniques of ‘visual narrative’ and story telling.

One of the greatest examples of this remains the “key” sequence, from Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Notorious.

Ingrid Bergman steals a key, from her husband, intending to use it to get into the locked wine cellar to search for something suspected..

When the camera looks over the grand staircase, there is no need to hear the conversations going on below; the visual narrative, the storytelling of the sequence, is supreme and clear, and keeps us connected to the through thread of the drama: the key.

This lesson of maintaining a strong narrative has always been a goal in my own work.

My first imaginings, stimulated by Aida, where an intimate human drama stands out against a background of Egypt and a cast of hundreds, had some influence on my willingness to look at large tapestries of narrative and character in my early reach as a playwright.

The play the New Playwright’s Trust presented in my first workshop was called Besswick. It was written as a farce, of operatic proportions, and required a cast of 10. The director of that workshop, Phil Setren, later counseled me that I might try my hand at something “smaller”, which would have a better chance at production.

I did. The next play I wrote was a 3 hander. But the larger canvas had tweaked my ambition, and as I strengthened my voice, and honed my ability to be succinct with dialogue, I began to ease closer to larger scaled thoughts and situations, that drew me to trying to create a method of storytelling which would utilize all kinds of narrative tools, and allow a more complex narration of modern conflicts, domestic dynamics, social paradigms, and intimate confusions.

For me, the development of learning what could occur in the black box of the stage happened alongside a period of technological advancements that drew all manner of visual narrative tools into the everyday reach of a younger generation.

Words melded into a language of image, and text, and visual shorthand that modeled the directness of Hitchcock.

The fluidity of that form of communication, in all its’ narrative embrace, was a toy I wanted to master in an effort to fabricate a more modern storytelling technique.

The result of this ambition, and effort of many years, is a triptych of plays: The Orion, Breathing Ash and Reconstruction.

 

In these plays, I progress a method of narrative where visual information, some of it non-verbal, works as a ‘integral resonant companion’ to the staged drama, and not as wall paper, or “multi-media”. The method of narrative develops as storytelling in the second play, and then leaps forward again to become a seamless participant, character and technique of the third.

In each play there is a sense of confluence, a binding of narrative styles that propels action, broadens an audience’s exposure to the drama, and deepens the breadth of theatrical experience.

The journey of presenting this narrative has been an incredible one, and brought me to a company which might be the garden where this new work can grow..

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Written by tomminteroffthestoop

April 9, 2010 at 12:58 PM

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