I’m planning another post. A post about the project. But right now I’m coming off the high of writing for Redeye Theatre Project (RTP); winding down, ready to nap the day away, that’s what I’m inspired to write about here.
All six of the Augsburgers participating in Yinzerspielen are also in RTP this weekend. (RTP is a 24-hour theatre company at Pitt that I co-founded in 2005.) Eva G. and Nora wrote together. Basti and Vinz are directing. Eva B. is acting. And Simon wrote, with me.
I’ve written for RTP a total of four times prior to this festival, and it’s always been my favorite thing to do. I love watching auditions, casting, getting our prompts, brainstorming, wandering out of the Cathedral at 4am for coffee, sitting in the commons room all night, the buzz, the first creative sparks, and that moment when you realize you’re past the point of no return and you’ve got to stick with your current idea and make it work, no matter what.
Co-writing has always scared me. I’ve never been good at talking about my creative ideas as a writer. I feel timid about them, like I need to work them out on my own through just writing and writing, playing, seeing what works. For RTP, I’m almost always writing up until the very last minute. I was very nervous about throwing another person in there. But it’s something I’ve always thought I should try, too, and Simon offered me the perfect chance. He really wanted to write, but isn’t confident enough in his English to do it on his own; and he and I get along very well. So I went into the whole thing nervous but optimistic.
It was kind of a fascinating experience. We created this idea together that neither of us would (fully) have come up with on our own, a conglomeration of Greek myth and sibling rivalry, and the collaboration seemed particularly fruitful when we were piecing together a plot outline. Up until midnight things went swimmingly.
Then it came time to really write. And that was tricky. I couldn’t talk about my ideas as clearly or as much as I would have liked, because I’ve discovered that when I’m talking, I can’t really think. Simon would have tons of ideas to add, especially for the first half of the script, but because I was the primary writer (physically speaking), not all of his ideas actually got transmitted to the page. It began to feel less like a collaboration and more like me riffing on our plot and theme. We both felt it but there wasn’t anything either of us could do.
Around 5am we mutually acknowledged our frustration to each other — put it out in the open and dealt with it. The frustration was at the general situation and not aimed at each other. Remembering how stressed out and how displeased I’d been with my scripts that I’ve written on my own before, I got perspective on the whole thing. And as I told Simon, the play isn’t perfect, but we didn’t degenerate into silly slapstick like many co-writers do, and ultimately it was a shared idea. We may have both come to the conclusion that co-writing in this particular environment isn’t really for us, but we didn’t crash and burn, and I think the play that came out is something our director and actors can have a lot of fun with at least.
The key to real collaboration is to find how multiple visions can morph into a shared vision that isn’t fully the vision of any one individual involved. Simon and I weren’t able to quite find that balance in the 12 hours we had to write our script, although I think sometimes we had it, and many other times we came close. At the least, it encouraged me that I might actually be capable of writing collaboratively…but I’ll need a lot more practice, and I’ll need it to be a process with a lot more breathing room to it.