January 25, 2007



Good to see you back, and with such a terrific, spot-on post. I couldn't agree with you more.

Alison Croggon

Nice post. As for "authorial intent", that's an idea that has whiskers all over it. No author is fully conscious of everything s/he writes; certainly I've never understood the idea that the author is the ultimate authority on "meaning". Sometimes you just write something because it just seems "right". Like in Frank O'Hara's poem "Oranges", about painting and poems (why did you put orange there, Steve? Oh, it needed some orange). S/he just does his/her best to make a shape (hopefully, a really interesting, really beautiful shape). But its aim is to stimulate the imaginations of others to fill it up.

Especially true in plays, I would think.


I really can't express the depths of depression I would reach if every question in my script had a correct answer, and I held the teacher's edition.


I'd love to make it clear that a playwright can assert authorial intent without being an abrasive asshole who demeans and marginalizes the contributions of others. It's not that I immediately know everything that's contained within something I write (how boring it would be if I did), and I certainly hope to be surprised many times in the rehearsal process, but ultimately, if you are starting with a text as the basis of your event, doesn't it make sense to attempt to faithfully transfer the values inherent in that text? If that doesn't interest you as a director or an actor, then by all means work on pieces that either have no set text, or that create one through group improvisation, etc. A thrilling, moving piece can be created out of those conditions. That's just not what I do. I write plays. If you would like to produce them, I'm happy to collaborate with you. If you really want to do something else, then do something else.


Ken, I'm not if you're taking issue with my post, but if I'm reading your comment correctly, I can't find any specific point on which we differ.

Perhaps we might disagree on the best way to assert authorial intent. To my mind, the best and most powerful way to enforce authorial intent is to build it into the script, rather than to deliver it verbally while patrolling the perimeter of the rehearsal.


There is one specific I would like to touch on just because of the... well, the irony I guess. You say that authorial intent is best written into the script, and it seems like this is a little like your defense of Isaac.

In my humble career, you are the playwright who insists on *less* enforcement of specifics in your script than anyone else I've ever worked with. I've seen entire productions of yours that I thought were *massively* misunderstood, characters being played with shy regret that were written to be bold and sarcastic, situations that were played without even an understanding of the amount of time that had passed between scenes, etc.

It's as if you go through your plays and scour out any indications that might hamstring an actor or a director, with the thought that these talented people will be able to bring something to your plays that you hadn't noticed before.

Now, of course, when I act in your plays, I do generally bring something *RAD*, but you have almost always sat on your frustrations and let a stupid director or bad actor follow through on their misunderstandings in the hopes that you might learn something about the script that you hadn't noticed before.

Your characters require more work than most directors and actors are willing to put in, and I have always hoped that you would add about one page of stage directions for every ten you write now, so that maybe people would understand better the nuances of how your characters work and interact... so it's ironic to see you talk about building your authorial intent into the script now.

Unless, of course, you've decided that, from now on, you're not gonna let your scripts get screwed. In which case, I'll be cheering from the cheap seats.


Sean, you make some very fine points that I will most certainly address in my upcoming January 2008 blog posting.


Here's an address to remember. 19-14 Ditmars. You know what you'll be addressing there?


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