Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Road to Nower: Part 5 – Community Comedy

Joel has been a guest on a fair number of television shows (in fact, my Tivo just caught him doing a funny turn as a Water & Power employee on Dharma and Greg). In the process, he’s learned a thing or two about, well, the process.

As well as what processes he likes, and the ones he finds limiting. Those that make the top of his list are those where the actor is somehow involved in the story.

You see, Joel and I both come from the world of theatre, where new scripts are always workshopped with the actors. The writer would be in the rehearsals, watching what the actors do with the words, seeing how the director deals with the action.

And the smart writer is looking to the actors and director for input on changes: how to make a line flow better, a joke hit stronger, a character dig deeper.

Joel just won the LA Weekly Award for Best Musical of the Year for a show that was built from the ground up with the actors’ involvement.

Not surprisingly, the show also took Best Comedy Ensemble.

Yet too often in television the writers are divorced from the rehearsal process. They write the script, hear a table read, figure out what isn’t working, and go off to fix the issue. This leaves the actors to rehearse scenes that they know will be changed, which isn’t necessarily the most productive of work.

Joel tells some great stories about shows that aren’t like that – shows where the problems are worked out IN the rehearsal, with the writers on hand. Shows where the actors can make suggestions, offer ideas, and give of what they know about their character.

(Ask Joel some time to tell you about his scene with Jason Alexander in Seinfield, and how gracious the stars and the writers were to their “guest.” It goes a long way toward explaining the huge success of that show.)

This is the kind of show we want Nower to be; and we began designing the show with that in mind.

As the script was developed, we held three living room reads so we could hear the piece with actors. We scribbled notes in the margins of our scripts, cribbing lines as the actors ad-libbed. And we re-read and re-worked scenes that had problems.

And in the process, we believe we got what we were looking for:

An ensemble script, with characters that actors could sink their teeth into.

A community comedy.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

3 comments:

Irene said...

'... a script that all the actors could sink their teeth into.'

i like that! :)

DanBuck said...

Gaff... you going to the Symposium?

stacy barton said...

you must be talking about mcrary! how fun. must run back in your blogs and read more about this road to nower!