Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Theatre and writing: best friends!

Application update: I'm meeting with my advisers tomorrow at 3:00. Hopefully I'll have some good news for you afterwards!

All right, answers to questions:

Becky Mahoney said: Tell me about what you're reading!

(Becky's blog)

Currently, I'm reading both POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil and POSSESSION by Elana Johnson. Loving both so far! I've gotta finish POSSESS this weekend for my book group, and when I do there will most likely be a review on here :)

Amparo Ortiz said: If you could pick any character from a YA novel, who would you like to hang out with in real life and why?

(Amparo's blogOperation Awesome)

There are so many! At the moment, definitely Will from ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton. I'm kind of in love with him. (For those of you who haven't read the book, just know that he's an incredibly protective guy who's head over heels in love with the MC. And he's hot. ;p)

Susan Francino said: Well, since I've read some of your work, I'm interested in how you reconcile religion and magic in your fictional worlds. (But if that's too personal it's OK.)

(Susan's blog)

Aah you ask the best questions! It's not too personal at all! Since there's so much I want to say on the topic, that's going to end up a blog post :)


Thanks for the questions! Now on to today's blog post.

(Kudos to you if you read this whole thing, because I have waaayy too much to say...)

This is inspired by Susan's question from yesterday.

Susan Francino said: How does acting and theater in general help you with/influence your writing?

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this question! I should have done a blog post about this a while back, but here it is now.

When I first started considering majoring in the realm of theatre, my heart was set of Music Dance Theatre (MDT). My life's goal was to be on Broadway. (It would still be nice, but I'm more realistic now :D)

My father, who's an accountant, sat me down one day and asked me to major in something more 'practical.' For some reason he actually wanted me to be able to eat when I graduated college.

I kind of rolled my eyes, but I told him I'd major in theatre education, just to appease him. Truly, it was a backup plan, because I still wanted to spend my whole life performing.

Maybe I just grew up, but something happened my senior year and my heart was opened to the possibility. I was the musical director for the four musicals we did (I was also in each one), and I felt such happiness and pride in helping others achieve their potential. I even had to teach one actor to sing--when we started, he couldn't even match a pitch, and by the performance he was able to keep in key the majority of the time. When he did mess up, it sounded like harmony and magically worked!

The joy I received from this was unbelievable, but nothing compared to when my little brother played Winthrop in our production of The Music Man. For years, I'd been trying to get him to do theatre, because I knew he'd be fantastic at it. Finally, he relented, allowing me to sign him up for the show.

Before the show, he spent all of his time playing video games, and was very shy and quiet. It was amazing to watch him open up and explore new possibilities. He gained so much confidence and had a blast, way more fun than he thought he was going to have! I was his coach when he didn't come to rehearsals, and I looked forward to that time so much.

From that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a drama teacher more than anything...well, anything aside from being a mother. I've seen how drama can change people's lives, and I've seen how it's changed my life. If I spend my whole life in the classroom and never get published as a writer, I have to admit I will be completely satisfied. (I will wish I was published, but most people only get to pursue one passion in a lifetime!)

There are so many lessons to learn from theatre, especially in relation to writing. For the sake of time, let me suggest just ten:

1. Writing itself! I've done a lot of playwriting units, and it's helped me get ready to write a novel.

2. Character development. I think this speaks for itself. If you don't learn how to properly develop characters, you can't portray them on stage.

3. Plot structure. You learn how to best convey a plot to an audience to keep them engaged. Unlike writing, in theatre you have the advantage of knowing whether or not your audience is engaged in the story the moment you start. It's taught me so much about how to formulate dialog and action.

4. On that note: dialog and action. You don't get inner dialog or description in theatre, just action. The story moves quickly, and if it doesn't the audience stops paying attention. It's helped me to keep my story more active and not dwell on certain scenes longer than I should.

5. Discipline. My senior year of high school, I was at the school every day from September 15th to April 26th, most Saturdays and some Sundays. We did nine plays a year, and very often I was in two or three (one time four) at the same time. On top of that, I had church responsibilities and had to complete all my schoolwork and apply for college. I learned discipline, all right, and that's helped me make and keep goals pertaining to my writing.

6. Interpretation. So many times high schools in the area did the same shows, and it was so interesting to see everyone's different interpretations of the same script. It's helped me look at concepts a different way to make my stories more original.

7. Confidence. I had to make choices with each character I played, and those choices weren't always easy to sell to the other actors or director. I learned to stick to my guns and do what I believed was right, and it always turned out well in the end. Same with writing: I have to remind myself when my CPs tell me to change something that this is my story, and I know the best way to tell it.

8. Teamwork. In accordance with that, I learned how to work with other people and take their suggestions to make me better. I also learned how to give constructive criticism in order to help others.

9. Persistence. Auditioning is painful. Even more painful than querying for me, because if you're rejected in an audition they're rejecting you, not your book. (I'm not saying querying isn't incredibly painful, because it is, but this is how I personally feel!) But when I've persisted, it's always ended up landing me some amazing parts. I'm hopeful someday I'll get an amazing agent :)

10. Be positive! The rehearsal process is long and tiring, just like edits. But every time I get up on that stage to perform, all my hard work pays off. The exhilaration and excitement I feel reminds me why I'm putting myself through all the work. There's not a better feeling in the world than an audience's applause, to know you've affected their lives in some way. That's my goal with my writing as well.

I could go on forever, but I won't make you stay here that long. Suffice to say, I wouldn't be where I was without theatre. I wouldn't be nearly as determined to get published and wouldn't have the discipline to have even finished my first novel. Something else may have given me the drive, but for me personally it was theatre.

This is why I want to be a drama teacher: because I know that theatre will influence every one of my students, no matter what profession they go into, because the concepts taught are applicable to life in general, not just the arts.

What's influenced you? What in your life effects your writing so much you can't even express it?



  1. Oooh, POSSESS has been on my list for the longest time. I definitely want to pick it up soon!

    I really enjoyed reading this post, especially since I was a theatre geek once upon a time as well. I don't get as many opportunities anymore, but I loved doing profiles for the characters I played and figuring out what their lives were like offstage. I can tell how important theatre is to you, and I'm sure your advisers will too. (Or at least they'd better! Grrr!)

    Also, I finally answered your questions! They're in the comments here. Sorry it look so long! ;-)

  2. I love the ten ways theatre affects your writing! Fabulous list! I know you're going to be published someday, and you'll get to pursue TWO passions. Go Tiff, Go!

  3. So true, Tiffany. I've done a little theater in the past and loved it--I can't wait to get involved in college productions!


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