Monday, August 14, 2006

Creating a stronger character.

Now that I've gotten some of my other projects off my plate, it's back to rewrites on BFE: The Town that Christmas Forgot. This is an original full-length musical comedy I'm writing with Dave Shirley. We started the script about two years ago, and it's finally going up this November in Denver. It's a twisted holiday tale that's been a lot of fun to write -- the script and the music & lyrics.

The script is about 85% there. About 5% of the leftover is just general polishing and tightening up. But the other 10% primarily has to do with one character, Lonnie.

Lonnie is a secondary character, one of the townspeople of BFE. Every other character in this thing is pretty well fleshed out but Lonnie is falling flat. Part of the problem is that, when we were writing the part, we had a specific actor in mind. With her reading the part, the character filled out nicely. But that actor can't do the show, and we're suddenly stuck with a character without much substance. So we need to add some.

To a certain degree, there's value in going back and exploring the character's background and motivations and all that stuff. But only to a certain degree, because this is a very silly, slap-sticky comedy with the sole purpose of making people laugh, not ponder. With this show, if you delve too much into a character's history and motivations, you'll just end up giving yourself a headache because, as we say in show business, we're asking the audience to suspend their disbelief. A lot.

So the approach I'm considering is one I often use in acting; an approach that is the antithesis of method acting. I'm speaking of creating a character from the outside-in. Developing the physical or outward characteristics first, and then developing motivation from there. Sir Lawrence Olivier was said to have developed characters this way, so if it's good enough for him...

Anyway, I'm thinking I might make Lonnie the town drunk. She's already the town doctor and the town mortician. Adding "town drunk" to that list could make for some good comedy.

I'll let you know how it goes.


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