Writing for theatre is a whole different game to writing for any other medium. Maybe it sounds like the most obvious statement ever, but I think what it really means is only just starting to hit me. Recently I have been reading the Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre – a great read for any director – about their process of working on devising, physically and with text. There are lots of great points to pull out from the book, and some good exercises to try or stimulate the development of your own, but their section on working with writers particularly stands out to me at the moment.
Writers need to remember that they are writing plays to be performed and should give full consideration to the potential ingredients involved.
I’ve said before that a play is never really finished, not even when it goes on stage as the audience and the liveliness add that extra burst of life. A play can be changing for years. So when you’re writing for theatre you’re really writing a blue print, on which the rest of the creative team can work with you to build the structure. What I hadn’t really thought about in much detail, though, is how a writer for stage doesn’t have to just write words. Theatre is visual, it’s visceral; words are to be heard and not read and a silence – a blank on the page – can be seen and experienced in a myriad of ways.
Writing for theatre is about getting into the heart of an experience, it’s about knowing when to write a single word instead of a sentence and to let the actor’s body language, the set, the color of the lighting, the sound, film and whatever else do the rest.