It’s my turn to blog about The Lab, and I have so much to say about it I can’t decide where to start.
First, The Lab has been a real awakening for me. I am not a theater person, and although through my work and social circles I know many writers, I know very few playwrights, and have never even tried to write a play before this experience with The Lab. So I am quite intimidated, as you may imagine. At our monthly meetings, I sometimes have to stop the discussion to have some theater term or concept explained to me. But I think this has been good for me. I feel like I am discovering a whole new world, and it’s at least as exciting as it is intimidating.
The writing is much harder than I expected. In an essay or a short story, the writer can simple instruct the reader in what is happening beneath the surface of the action. You can even tell the reader to picture this or that scene, or drop back into the past to give the reader the backstory of this or that character. Now, trying to write for the stage, I find it a real challenge to be restricted to just the words the actors say. Even in the solitude of my study, trying to revise a scene for our Lab, I find myself saying, ‘Let me explain something about this character.’ Alas, there is no explaining in playwriting.
But, the basic principles of good writing are the same in the theater as in fiction or poetry. ‘Show, don’t tell,’ are the watch words I learned way back in college, and the Lab exercises have brought this lesson back to me in a powerful way.
Perhaps what I treasure most about being in The Lab is the association with the other writers. I look forward to our meetings because our discussions are always lively, always interesting, and I never fail to learn something new from my fellow Labbers, or they remind me of something I already knew (or should have known) in a completely new context, and my understanding is deepened.
The Lab experience has also changed forever the way I watch plays, and even movies. I studied Shakespeare in college, but, watching A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM in December made me realize there is so much more to Shakespeare than you learn in Literature courses.
I am delighted to be part of the Lab, and look forward to the rest of the adventure we are on together.
The Plan-B/Meat & Potato Lab began in the fall of 2008 with 8 playwrights embarking on a two-year course. In the fall of 2010, a new group of 6 playwrights, including Guy Lebeda, began their two-year course!