Musical theatre workshops and productions

Blog 8 – My dinner with John…..

My dinner with John….

john dinnerThe other night I had dinner with a living legend.  John Glines is a playwright whose work appeared in several off-broadway theatres and on television.  He is a Tony Award winning producer, who co-founded The Glines, a nonprofit focusing on LGBT arts.  Famously, he produced Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway.  And regularly, over the years, he directed his own work as well as other plays.  He now lives in retirement in Thailand, where we had dinner.

We talked about many things.  But inevitably the conversation turned to theatre.  He shared three insights, gleaned from his decades long experience.

  • 1) Document….Document….Document. Often, in the heat of producing a new play, there’s such a focus on the moment that one can forget to keep a record of the process or the end product.  John had several stories of productions where, much later, people would ask: “How did that happen?”  “When did you make those changes?”  And his answer:  “We really don’t know.  No record exists!”  What a tragedy for the exciting history of theatre.
  • 2) Don’t work with it too much before you get actors…. John compared it to making tuna salad – if you stir it too much, it becomes mush.  When the words take life in the voice of an actor, something magical happens.  So don’t get too far ahead.  Let the text on paper simply be a draft, to be revised when you hear it live.  Let the actors reveal the true, personal spin that will make it all real.
  • 3) And then, John said something that seemed a contradiction. “Ask the actors questions,” he said, “but don’t use what they say!”  What did he mean?  It turned out he was making a very important point.  If you get actors to talk about their characters, they will tell you how those characters feel at their deepest center.  And they may well suggest that you put those feelings in the text of the script, allowing the characters to speak their truth.  “Don’t do it,” said John.   Real people don’t speak their deepest center.  Rather, that center reveals itself in the subtext, in the silences between their words and in what is NOT said!

A great, memorable evening.

Larry Little


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