WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

Anytime you are writing about your writing, you always want to think in terms of actions. Both the action of the plot, and more critically the action of your characters. To do this well, you must harness the power of Emotionally Charged Action Verbs.

Most dramatic writers are obsessed with dialogue. Dialogue is important, obviously, but it’s best to think of dialogue as the vehicle in which your scenes move. The engine is the actions. Doesn’t matter how slick your Porsche looks from the outside, it ain’t gonna go anywhere if it’s running on a Ford 4.2 V8 (and yes, I had to google that in order to make this metaphor work.)

Emotionally Charged Action Verbs are particularly useful when crafting a Logline because of the need for brevity. But let’s pretend the following is an excerpt from a synopsis, treatment, or outline. (More on those in another post).

Bad WAYW looks like this:

Continue reading WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

The Sheet Music Whisperer

Few parts of the job of a composer are as boring or tedious as music preparation, also known as copy work. And yet, when it comes to communicating your ideas to the other people who must execute them, no job is more important.

Copy work can be described as the visual presentation of music on the page. The people who do this work professionally are called copyists. In musical theatre, copyists are typically the LAST people to touch the sheet music. After the music has been composed, arranged, and orchestrated, the copyist will craft the individual charts that each musician will play from.

Unfortunately, it’s rare to be on a production where you can work with a copyist. Most of the time the task falls to the composer, the music director, or sometimes the musicians themselves.

The problems arise when these people have little to no experience in writing good charts. They may know how to write a vocal lead sheet, or a piano part, but what happens when they have to write a string part? A drum part? A GUITAR PART?? (Seriously you guys, guitar parts are the worst. Unless you play guitar yourself, give up. It’s a hopeless enterprise.)

Fortunately, I just stumbled upon the BEST THING EVER. Continue reading The Sheet Music Whisperer

WAYW: Loglines

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

A logline is a one to three sentence summary of the main elements of your story told in an emotionally engaging way. Think of it as your ultimate elevator pitch. The term logline is mostly used in the Film/TV industry, but I find it useful for any type of dramatic, narrative storytelling.

Loglines are incredibly useful when you’re trying to market a show, pitch an idea, or apply for grants and awards. The better you can succinctly communicate your story, the easier it is for people to jump on board.

But Loglines can also be useful for you, the writer, to help shape and heighten the arc of your characters and story. Let’s dive in. Continue reading WAYW: Loglines

Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

One of the most important skills for a writer is being able to write ABOUT your writing. Ironically, this is often one of the hardest types of writing for writers to do, and many – if not most – do it badly.

When writers don’t know how to write about their writing it suggests a very damning truth: She hasn’t done the work to craft a strong, compelling, or emotional story. This isn’t just happenstance. Being a good writer and being able to write about your writing¬† are tightly connected. In other words: good writers have an awareness of how their writing works. Bad writers either don’t know, or don’t care. Continue reading Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

LOOK: Photos and Reaction to JOE SCHMOE

Earlier this month, Indiana University presented four workshop performances of Joe Schmoe Saves the World. The piece was provocative, empowering, and very well-received by a diverse audience of different ages and backgrounds.

Here’s some press response from the show: Continue reading LOOK: Photos and Reaction to JOE SCHMOE

What Lorne Michaels Can Teach You About Compassion

PC: Joe Pugliese

This week’s Hollywood Reporter cover story is about the remarkable year SNL has had making fun of Donald Trump and our current political swamp. When you step back to look at how they’ve successfully navigated a particularly divisive cultural moment and walked away with a ratings bump of 11 million viewers, it’s truly amazing.

It’s particularly impressive given that so much of what’s happened in the news is either really serious and scary to many people, or is so absurd that it in-and-of-itself goes beyond parody. What I appreciate about their approach in these instances is that they often simply repeat what actually happened, giving us all a second to laugh out loud at it. It turns pain into catharsis, and makes SNL a type of antidote that people have to tune in to get.

In the interview, Leslie Jones quotes Lorne Michaels commenting on the numerous celebrity self-pitches to play other administration officials – most notably Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon. What he says, I think, is actually incredible advice for how artists must approach despicable characters who do unsavory things, whether real or invented. Continue reading What Lorne Michaels Can Teach You About Compassion

Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

Ryback and Ulloa’s new show PASSING THROUGH was one of 9 new musical selected for development at this summer’s Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

Wanna watch a song from the show? Go here.

For nine consecutive weeks beginning July 2, each writing team will have a weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, to write their new musical.

Writers pay nothing to participate in Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which takes no percentage of future royalties, and donors cover all the writers’ costs. Each writing team lives in a private home and is provided transportation, food, and a $500 stipend.

The 9 musicals were selected from 113 applications by a panel of new musical experts: Continue reading Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

PC: Aron Van de Pol

I saw a couple new plays over the last few weeks, and it got me thinking about structure.

There seems to be a trend with young playwrights that rejects the “restraints” of traditional structure. With nothing worthwhile to replace it, however, rejecting traditional structure feels like a rejection of any structure at all. The resulting play feels like a meditation on a theme at best and a plot with no climax or catharsis at worst.

There are two general kinds of structure that I’d like to distinguish: Flow and Story. Continue reading Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

For the longest time there was a wall I couldn’t surpass as an actor. I didn’t know how to be fully emotionally vulnerable in my work. Every now and then I would hit on something and it would surprise me. I couldn’t get back there, and I didn’t understand why.

A few months ago, I saw a play that featured a word that I thought I understood, but realized I didn’t truly understand. The word was shame. I thought I had a sense of what shame was, and I had a feeling about its pervasiveness in our society, but it was a vague sense and a vague feeling.

As it turned out, Vulnerability and Shame were inextricably linked. Continue reading The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

The Anatomy of a Best Song

What makes a song the “Best Original Song” for a motion picture? This year is particularly fascinating.

There appears to be a clear front runner in La La Land, nominated for the maximum two songs – “Audition” and “City of Stars.” Being a “movie musical” (yes, in quotations) the songs function in a very clear and direct way, allowing their effectiveness and relevance to the dramatic whole to be more objectively quantifiable. With two nominations, however, it runs the risk of cancelling itself out.

Furthermore, historically the academy has chosen songs by famous pop artists, which gives an edge to Justin Timberlake and Sting. Although THIS year, with the massive pop appeal of Hamilton, the prize could go to Lin-Manuel Miranda. So it’s really up in the air.

There is always going to be a large amount of subjectivity when evaluating a creative endeavor. Ideally, the law of averages works it out so that the opinions of an educated sample reflect the opinions of the educated majority.

Remember, though, that while the nominations are made by Academy members who are songwriters and composers, the winners are decided by the membership as a whole. (So beware Lin Manuel Miranda – the deciding vote may come down to a tone-deaf cinematographer.)

I’ve always thought that songs in motion pictures are a difficult thing to judge, and precisely because of that they are almost always a difficult award to predict. Add to that the bizarre and ever-changing rules which govern the nominations of songs, which results in years where only two songs (???) are even nominated.

I thought it might be interesting to go through the nominations and see how to evaluate them on the principles of the Academy.

According to the voting rules of the Academy: Continue reading The Anatomy of a Best Song