Thursday, June 11, 2009

Under the Influence

Don Hall posted this a while back and I meant to respond to it, to try to get a meme going. (If I could do it with Travis Bedard Day, I can do it with this!) Then I let it fall by the wayside. But with Issac's call for less doom and gloom and more excitement, it seemed like a good time to give it a whack.

Alan Ayckbourn: the most prolific playwright in the Western Hemisphere (and probably both hemisphere). Dude writes a ton.

What I Steal: Write a lot. (He wrote all three plays in The Norman Conquests in three weeks. All three. At the same time.) Never write the same kind of play twice, even if you're writing about the same subject. Everything - style, format, genre - is fair game. Entertain 'em.

Lanford Wilson: after I was turned onto Lemon Sky, I devoured everything else of his. I saw all of the productions of the Signature's Lanford Wilson season.

What I Steal: Write for actors, not to actor-proof it. Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. (Yeah, that's Emily Dickinson, but it applies.)

Naomi Wallace: One of the more unsung greats working today. Slaughter City and One Flea Spare just plain blew me away.

What I Steal: Political writing can be emotional and powerful. Let images do some of the work for you.

Constance Congdon: Tales of the Lost Formicans basically made me a playwright.

What I Steal: Have fun out there, even when you're writing about the heavy stuff.

Tony Kushner: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's all been said before. And it's all true.

What I Steal: Do your research. Use your research. Pull in all the disparate threads. It will come together.

August Wilson:
The grand old man, R.I.P.

What I Steal: There's nothing wrong with telling the story straight. And using a lot of words. Use lots of words.

What are you stealing?


The Green Cat said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing this and for honoring your influences.

Lindsay Price said...

So lovely. 'Lemon Sky' is definitely an influence of mine. Great characters in a left of centre format. That's my M.O.

I steal a sense of rhythm from musicals, specifically Sondheim. I love writing with a sense of rhythm, whether smooth or jagged.

Freeman said...

On this subject, give the podcast interview I did with Adam Szymkowicz a listen on It touches some of these themes. I think you'll enjoy it.

Ken said...

Things I've stolen at one time or another:

From Samuel Beckett: Strip away the unnecessary, leave only the essential.

From Harold Pinter: The menace behind the words, the untold violent worlds lurking underneath an ordinary-looking facade.

From David Mamet: The meaning of dialogue is found in its rhythm. Make every speech a drum solo, beating out the characters' wants and needs.

From Sam Shepard: One character can suddenly become someone else, constantly shifting, sliding, oozing, from one form into another and back again.

From Len Jenkin: If you're going to tell a story, then TELL A STORY. Look the people right in the eye, don't pretend we're not in a theater.