Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finding One's Muse

While living in Kansas, I participated several times in a 24-Hour Play Festival, the equivalent of a short-term writing sprint. People signed up for various activities--tech, acting, directing (6), and writing (6). I did tech once, but the other times I wrote one of the plays.

The premise is simple: At 8 p.m., all of the participants come to the theatre with one costume and one prop. The participants get up one by one and present their items, and the actors also tell anything they can do--accents, sword fighting, double-jointedness, etc.

Once that is done, the actors, techies, and directors go home to bed, while the playwrights "draft" their actors for their play (usually they end up with 4-5 actors). Using their group of actors, along with the costumes and props brought in that night, the playwrights have from about midnight to 6 a.m. to write a ten-minute play. They have a few readers who stay up with them to read and offer feedback (so that the plays are at least a bit revised and polished before 6 a.m.), and then they head home to sleep all day.

Copies of the plays are made, and by 7 a.m. the directors come, read all the plays, and then fight over who gets to direct each one. At 8 the actors and techies show up, and from that point until an 8 p.m. performance, they rehearse the play, find costumes, learn lines, and prepare for a full production of each play.

Pretty fun stuff!! Exhausting, but fun. It's also a learning experience, and it helped me realize how much I depend on PEOPLE for my inspiration. I never had a clue what my play would be until after my actors were cast. Sometimes a prop gave me a little something, but it was usually the actors themselves. No, it was ALWAYS the actors.

And I have muses in real life, too. One woman in particular in Kansas ended up in several of my plays--she was the perfect protagonist--vulnerable, kind, intelligent, sensitive. She was also an actor, and a good one, so she often ended up in the very role designed for her. She was Othello's wife in my play Desdemona, and was absolutely perfect for it.

Now I have another muse here in Georgia, a 72-year-old teenager who has more energy in a single strand of hair than most people accumulate in a year. I've already written a play with her in mind, and I will likely write more. Then again, most characters in my plays and novels are melded images of a dozen different people, some from decades ago. And they all have just a touch of me, as well (even the villains).

So, who is your muse? What or who inspires you to do the work you do? Who shapes your world?


  1. Mostly the early morning silence inspires me to write. Nothing though makes me write, I just do it because I grew up doing it. There have been a few pieces over the years that have been dedicated to people but that dedication came after I saw how much it suited them. Maybe I need to get out more.

  2. Walking Man, I would say Nature is one of my muses... and that is a good thing, but it can't work on it's own to inspire a novel for me. Not unless I want a book similar to Robinson Crusoe or something, with a single character all alone in a big forest. I like dialogue too much for that.

    I understand, Stephanie. I'm just glad you're still coming around and checking out my blog... Every single day I wish I lived closer.

  3. This is a very neat concept. I've never heard of a 24-Hour Play Festival...