Thursday, July 16, 2009

Playwright on Playwriting

Cecilia Fannon’s playwriting philosophy tells as much about her personality (fabulous) as about her talent (ditto).

“What I have discovered in my career is that storytelling is the cornerstone of great playwriting. But people aren't born telling stories. They need to learn how, even the phenom 19 or 20-year-olds who are hailed as overnight successes. I might have been pretty good, telling a story a dozen years ago, but I'm better now. It takes practice. That's what I teach in my playwriting workshops. How to tell stories. Eventually, those stories turn into plays, even plays where people ask for your autograph.”

She illustrates that with—what else?—a story; in fact, two stories:

“One of the worst theatrical experiences of my life was nearly a dozen years ago—a play I'd written for "Star Trek" went up live before 1,000 slavishly adoring Trekkies, dressed in flowing cloaks and phrenologically bumpy masks.

Leonard Nimoy played Spock, and I was in the audience, nauseated, because I knew jack about science fiction, and even less about "Star Trek." Trekkies know everything about characters, from Klingon dental work to Vulcan hammer toes. Blood thundered through my cranium for about one and a half hours.

One of the best theatrical experiences happened before a small audience, a play I wrote about the World War I flu, about which I knew jack, despite research. Both performances received standing ovations, and people asked for my autograph. (Clearly the "Star Trek" occurrence was more a bouquet for Spock than for me.)”

Well, maybe and maybe not. But one thing is clear: students in Cecilia’s All-day Playwriting Workshop will bring away a theatrical experience of their own, and we predict it will be one of the best.