Sunday, 9 October 2011

Poems A Dead Boy Wrote – Short & Sweet Melbourne 2011


Nicole Bilson plays Jane in Poems a Dead Boy Wrote

Today was the first rehearsal I was able to attend for Poems a Dead Boy Wrote, the piece of mine that will be part of the Top 22 plays at Short & Sweet Melbourne, 2011.

I met director Flora Georgiou during auditions and, happily, I was there the day Nicole Bilson auditioned – because once Flora had cast her, I already knew we were onto a winner.

The audition process was much different this year to last – more collaborative and asked more of the actors. They read their audition pieces, took part in movement exercises, were encouraged to take part in “Hot Seat” – as a way of opening up about themselves, as well as reading their audition monologues for a second time under the direction of Anthony Crowley, the Festival Director for this year’s season.

Throughout the process, Nicole relaxed, opened up and the second reading of her monologue felt like a wholly different character to the first. It was amazing to watch. (A lot of other actors did great jobs, too - and I would have had a hard time choosing, which makes me glad it was up to Flora to make that decision!)

Short & Sweet is part-festival and part-competition, though the only real stipulation once a piece has been chosen to take part in the festival is that it runs no more than 10 minutes. As much as I try to keep my short pieces under the ten-minute mark, particularly when thinking of S&S submission, inevitably my plays run a little long.

As last year, my piece was running three minutes over. The Fidelity Act in 2010 was a three-hander, so it was easier to trim lines here and there and for the pace to be picked up with the rapid-fire dialogue. With Poems being mostly poems and monologue, it was going to be trickier to trim.

In the edit, we have lost three full poems – because with Short & Sweet, the piece has to be very focused. As much as all short plays should be lean, the ten minute rule really dictates no fat whatsoever. No redundancies. No tangents.

Scripts will nearly always get trimmed once actors get involved, simply because a great actor can convey as much with a look as another line of dialogue. This particular piece is more structured and not one where the pace can be picked up. I’ll miss those poems – a couple of which actually date back to my own teenage years – but it’s necessary this time around.

And a full version of Poems A Dead Boy Wrote will be seen next year. Details to come.

Flora has got the piece up and moving, with a simple yet elegant set design (read: well placed props, minimalism works best for Short & Sweet). Nicole already has a good handle on the character. And we were all able to talk about what the piece means to us and what I was trying to get across.

Unlike last year, where I tried to attend every rehearsal, I am happy for Flora and Nicole to take this piece away and really make of it what they will. I will attend another rehearsal before the show opens on November 2 at 8pm – Chapel Off Chapel. I hope to see you all there. Book now.