As a CPA I consulted with many business clients about marketing, staffing issues , organization charts, etc. Many of these clients were distraught, frustrated and just plain out of ideas. I would always tell them the same story. It went something like this:
I live a few blocks from my office. Every morning, I plan to go a certain way, but many times it does not work out as planned. My trip is interrupted or altered by things completely out of my control – construction, closed streets, accidents or running into someone and chatting with them as we both walk along the sidewalk. But, in the end, I always get to work. I may take a detour or two, three or four, but I always have different options to try. That is what trying to solve a problem is like.
I bring this up because as we have been working on GRACE & THE ISLAND OF MISFITS we have struggled with how we portray the leading character – Grace. I created and developed the characters, and from the beginning I was pretty clear about who our leading lady is and what motivates her. But, somehow, someway, it just was not working, not translating, not jelling with the story or other characters. I consulted with my other collaborators and we all agreed. Something was not working. Something was not “right”.
So, I reached out to one of my consultants and asked for help. I said something like….I am out of tricks. I don’t think it is working and I am stuck. He asked me to tell him in detail about the character, her wants and needs. Then he said, “It sounds like you have a reluctant hero.” “Yes, we do,” I replied. “Well, I think you should consider rethinking that. In musical theatre it works much better if the protagonist is very clear about her goal from the beginning, is excited and works hard toward her goal. Of course she will struggle with obstacles. That’s the essence of drama! But in musical theatre it is better if the obstacles that get in her way are outside of her, not her own indecision.” Now, I know this…..I just forgot it. But, what he said opened doors. I immediately grew excited about sharing this with my collaborators, but I decided to wait a day. Let it percolate, find examples, etc. Then, I wrote to them telling them my thoughts about an adjusted character description.
“YES! Makes total sense! I can work with this so much more easily!” This was the sort of response I received from the other producers and collaborators…..so….back to the drawing board as we re-work the script and try and capture our new leading lady in our wonderful Holiday story.
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