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July 3, 2013 1:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm meeting a playwright on Saturday. What questions should I ask?

I'm attending a theatre event on Saturday morning when I get to meet a playwright and ask them questions in a fairly intimate setting (i.e not a theatre Q&A situation, but at a table, and over an hour or so). I have no idea yet who it'll be - it could be someone whose work I know, or equally a complete stranger to me.

What would be some good questions to ask?
posted by essexjan to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What are you working on?
posted by empath at 1:49 AM on July 3, 2013

Who are your sources of inspiration?

Which plays have taught you the most about yourself?

Which plays would you recommend for beginners?

Any great/funny/sad/odd stories about how people have reacted to your plays?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:06 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: As they write the plays and then essentially hand their babies over to other people - director/set designers/actors etc to realise them - I'd ask what that process is like. Is it hard to see a play come to life in a way that is different to how they imagined it while writing, or can an outside view bring in new dimensions that even they hadn't considered? Are they involved in the process after a director becomes involved? Do they have any say in the casting, for example, and has this process thrown up any surprises (positive or otherwise?) How do they feel watching a play on its opening night? Which of their works are they most/least satisfied with? Good luck!
posted by billiebee at 3:24 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tell me about your worst review.
posted by xingcat at 4:35 AM on July 3, 2013

Can you say a bit more about the nature of this discussion? Is it just for yourself? Are you going to be writing something based on you interview? Do you have something specific you'd like to come away from this discussion with?
posted by Betelgeuse at 4:38 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: Do you envision certain actors (real or imaginary) playing the parts as you write and are you ever disappointed in who is cast?

Do you write novels, short stories, or anything else, and do you find plays to be easier? Harder? Just different?

What play do you wish you had written? Or, what other playwrights are your inspirations/favorites?

Have you ever written for tv/movies, or would you? Differences between writing for that vs live theatre, etc.

Do you read reviews?

What do strangers who find out what you do think of your job?

Do you think a play needs a larger (social, political) meaning to be relevant, or is it enough for it to be about the personal experiences/emotions of the characters?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:46 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: Don't ask about their worst review - that's like rubbing their face in it.

Ask them what theatre experiences first made them realize they had to write for the stage rather than some other form of writing.

Talk to them about how developing a play is a collective venture, collaborating with a director and actors, and the pluses and minuses compared to the very solitary life of writing stories or novels.
posted by zadcat at 5:16 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went to a very tony library event where we had an author at our table. There were 5 of us and this guy. We talked about all kinds of stuff. Books we were reading, news. Just regular conversation. Don't force it, just be yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: How do you know when your play is "finished"? Or is there ever such a point? How do you decide when to present the play to the world?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:17 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: "Can you talk a little about how you think about plot versus character in your writing: does character drive plot? Does plot reveal character?"
posted by cribcage at 6:54 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "In what ways is the world your characters inhabit different from and similar to 'real life'?"
Insert answer

Following this line of questioning should allow them to wax lyrical on what aspects of 'real life' their plays explore and also about the artistic prism through which they project their ideas.
posted by therubettes at 7:37 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: When works for stage are developed and produced into screenplays, does the soul of the work expand or contract?
posted by bobdow at 7:46 AM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: These are great, thanks so much everyone.
posted by essexjan at 10:15 AM on July 3, 2013

Response by poster: Can you say a bit more about the nature of this discussion? Is it just for yourself? Are you going to be writing something based on you interview? Do you have something specific you'd like to come away from this discussion with?
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:38 PM on July 3

It's a 'Meet a Playwright' event at a theatre, where there'll be several playwrights, and tables seating four or five people (including the playwright), so there's a chance to talk in detail about the playwright's work. What I'd like to come away with mostly is finding out more about the creative process that puts the written word onto the stage, and not making a complete idiot of myself in the company of people who undoubtedly will know more about theatre than I do.
posted by essexjan at 10:18 AM on July 3, 2013

Best answer: Is gender an important consideration in your work? Do you think about the gender of the character before, during or after the process? Have you ever switched the gender of a character just to see how it would affect the play?
posted by crossoverman at 8:02 PM on July 3, 2013

It's all about preparation. It will go better if you know about them and their work. You can ask How do you find and develop your characters?, but How did you create Elspeth, and what inspired you to make her steal the painting in Act II? is better, as long as that question hasn't been asked by every interviewer, ever. Read anything biographical, the plays and the reviews. Form some reasonable ideas about the work and the playwright. I'd also have a couple of left-field questions, like What apps do you have on your smartphone/ music on itunes?
posted by theora55 at 7:55 AM on July 4, 2013

Response by poster: Follow up: This was a really interesting event. The playwright for our group of 8 people was a young, accomplished writer, and he read one of his short plays and then we got the chance to ask questions. I asked whether the narrative came first or the character, about the process of getting a play onto the stage and about the difference between plays and TV/films (quite a big one, apparently; with TV and movies the finished product often bears little resemblance to the writer's original idea, whereas in the theatre it's much more of a collaboration between writer, director and cast).

So, thank you all for your great questions.
posted by essexjan at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

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