From Page to Stage Part 2: Letting the Show Hit the Stage
In my last blog, I explored how some gin-addled ramblings in an old notebook developed into a script, which in turn became an actual Fringe show. In that same post, I also wrote about how letting a polished script go can be difficult. Handing off your work, your pride, your wee word baby to a group of people to do with as they will is a daunting thing. Here's how I handled it and managed to stay (relatively) calm about the whole thing. And yes, the gin did help.
Discuss your vision: your foresight is right, but so is theirs
The words are written, the font is finalised, the pages are printed. All that's left to do is send over the script. If this is a new work (my play, Tyke, was written last year and has yet to be performed), then it is a good idea to talk to the production and directorial team about your own vision for the piece before handover. Talk through how you formed the characters, what the script means and what you hope an audience will take away. There is, of course, the argument that if your writing is strong enough, the meaning should be easily deduced. This is absolutely the case, but if you have the luxury of communication, use it.
Conduct interviews, watch showreels, have incredibly intense phone conversations about sets and props and flyers. It's worth it.
Make sure you're working with the right people
It's all well and good talking about 'visions' and 'communicating' (in a strictly non-Paranormal channel way), but that only really works if you've got the right team behind you. Before handing over the script, it's a good idea to get a sense of the director's aims, the producer's ability to produce cash from mid-air, and the actors' strengths, to make sure that the project is being taken on as well as it can be. It can be tempting to give your script to the first company to snatch it up, but wait for the right fit. It's always better to hang on for the real thing. Conduct interviews, watch showreels, have incredibly intense phone conversations about sets and props and flyers. It's worth it.
Settle in for a ride as a back-seat driver
Once you've handed off the script, that's it. It's up to the production team who they cast, how they stage it and, well, approximately everything else. Beyond those early conversations about 'vision', your job is finished the second you hit 'print'. When it comes to the staging process, your input doesn't have to matter (it can, if your production team want it, and in my opinion the process works infinitely better with a little feedback from the writer) but most teams will want to take full creative control of the process, and that can mean things don't turn out exactly as you imagined (and occasionally, even as you wrote).
Enjoy that first performance
The most important thing to remember, though, is to enjoy that first performance, even if it's not exactly as you imagined, even if the lines didn't sound as you thought they would. The inside of your mind is being played out on stage (for me, that meant coming face-to-face with a six-foot elephant puppet which is being stored in my living room for August). It's a strange, but rewarding process, and one to savour from curtains up to blackout.