"Practically every body in New York has half a
mind to write a book -and does"
- Groucho Marx
I keep my notepad with me everywhere I go, and when it strikes me I'll make a note of something that inspires something else, that may eventually become the contents of a play or novel that one day I'll write.
I just recently finished my first full length play 'Causing Scenes' which is about the breakdown of a Broadway actress, and her painstaking ''return to the stage.'' I'd like to think I've captured the essence of the theatre, or perhaps more specifically, the New York theatre.
I'm also working on a new television script with a writing partner in Florida. She and I had written together before for Disney, and so we're collaborating again to work on something a little less 'for-the-whole-family' - which is proving to be very successful. So much so, we intend to shoot a demo/pilot for the show later this year here in New York.
'Write what you know' has always been a hard and fast rule for me - I'm not equipped to write an involved political thriller, or military drama - since I have no experience of those things.
Following this rule, I'm now working on a new book called 'Being British: The Quintessential Guide to Acting and Improvising in an Entirely British Context'
The title itself is a somewhat ironic reference to the sometimes euphemistic and protracted usage you see in British English, but the book is essentially a guide for American actors to help maintain consistency of their characters within the context of the play or film they are appearing in.
The book is designed to go hand in hand with my coaching sessions (which I'm now doing out of my studio at home) for actors who want to perfect their British dialects, and apply some societal context to their work.
It's fascinating in researching for this book, since I'm learning a lot about the different regions in the UK, and how even since I left seven years ago, there have been a lot of developments and changes in Britain.
In truth, Britain becomes more and more Americanised every day. Not to say that there aren't massive differences historically, culturally... But the United Kingdom is most certainly changing.
I hope the coaching sessions and the book will help American actors avoid the all too common pit falls in playing 'British' - be it in their grammar, dialect, line readings - even the way they move and walk on stage.
It would be presumptuous to assume an American actor could apply social context to a character based on, say, their birthplace. Though, in fact, especially in the UK, a detail like that is quite important to a character's socio-economic status, politics, speech, grammar and physicality.
I'm enjoying the process of this book. It's quite different to writing a play, with stage directions and dialogue. In fact, in a non-fiction book, there's no narrative at all, so the 'beginning-middle-end' theory doesn't apply. There is no arc, no character development. It just becomes a bundle of research and information that needs to be rewritten, rephrased, re-theorized and put into a digestible format.
About a third of the way into this book, I started to miss the dialogue, and the stage directions, and the character development - and so I swiftly opened a new word document and started hacking away at a new play - this time, a British domestic drama, set in the north of England. The style is reminiscent of British playwrights like Jim Cartwright or Alan Ayckbourn. It is, as yet, untitled, but will be a two person, husband and wife drama.
'Causing Scenes' will soon be performed as a staged reading here in New York, after a few editions.
In the mean time, I'll continue with my two writing projects - and between those I'll be making random notes in my spiral notebook.... Who knows what may come of that.