Monday, June 09, 2008

voice

I finished reading a thick old pile of scripts for the upcoming Pegasus Players annual Young Playwrights Festival. It's still in the adjudication process. I'm not the final word but one of the gatekeepers saying YES/NO to sending scripts on to the final round. Of course I'm keeping my eye out for good plays, but it's more about finding "a voice." A million times I've been told "we like your voice."

Me: You like my voice?

Theatre Professional: We love your voice!

Me: You're going to produce my play?

Theatre Professional: No.

Me: But you like the play?

Theatre Professional: We like your voice. We want to read your next play. We might like THAT one.

Me: I haven't written another play. I wrote THIS one.

Theatre Professional: I'm sure we'll love your next play.

It's like dumping somebody in the most positive way possible: it's not you, it's me, you're a wonderful person but... I don't know, when you sneeze, it creeps me out -- but really, that's MY problem and not yours. It's a positive thing to have a voice, and to be told you HAVE a voice, even if you don't exactly know what the heck they're talking about. I have a terrible voice. I can't sing. Not even talk-through karaoke songs like Cake's version of "I Will Survive." And I don't know if voice necessarily includes story-telling ability. If you have a great voice is the only compliment you get, it's a heartache until somebody pulls the trigger and produces the script.

I guess I don't know what else to call it when you're reading plays written by 16 year olds, if it's "voice" or "talent" or "something else in quotes." A lot of the YPF writers clearly had to write a play for class. But some of them have a voice and something to say and a story to tell on the stage. The most difficult part is guessing which of those writers might be open to exploring the script in the workshop and rehearsal process. Work ethic is not something a voice will necessarily tell you.