I love Mr. Velvet. Not that it is a surprise, because we are married and all… But, I have been a little surprised (and, I admit, relieved) to find that I am loving working with him writing the script for our July theatrical/burlesque/cabaret production Dollhouse Monsters. Now, I have worked with Mr. Velvet before because we co-wrote Just Another Zombie Holiday Show. The process for that script went something like this:
Mr. Velvet spends 15 minutes writing a brilliant comment/joke/portion of a scene. He then hands me the computer to read it and I do. It is great. I try to hand the computer back to him and he says something to the effect of: “That is enough for tonight. I am tired.” And I panic, knowing we have a very tight deadline to get the script out to the cast, so I spend another hour or more writing the ends of scenes, connecting in the acts, and so on, until Mr. Velvet is ready to provide his next moment of brilliance.
So, I was thinking we would be doing something similar this go around. But, I was surprised. Now first, I want to make it clear that the topic matter is based on the real lives of the cast – Lady Malavendra, Dee O’s Mio, and myself. So, to some extent, we are not creating new subject matter. On the other hand, we are sifting through a lot of life stories to find the moments we want to highlight and finding ways to make those moments mean something in the context of what we are trying to create on stage. I liken the process to taking a full-course meal and trying to distill the flavors into a series of amuse-bouches. (mouth amusers…) Except these are for the brain…
Some of the scenes Mr. Velvet drafted alone with edits by me. Less scenes have been drafted by me with edits by Mr. Velvet. But some of the scenes have been a process where we sit huddled together passing the computer back and forth as first one, then the other, writes a few lines or changes the language in lines one of us has already written. While our brains are on the same pathway, we have different ways of getting there and the combined result is stronger. Even when we are not actively writing, we have conversations on how to deal with issues, problems, how to distill the intent, how to make a moment meaningful. Sometimes problems are resolved ½ an hour after a long conversation when Mr. Velvet texts me an idea he came up with on his drive to work. The sifting back through the written materials to find or emphasize commonalities and differences has also been a critical component of drafting this script. Structure is also critical as I try to build in non-static time or space or create on-stage ability for costume changes and solo preparation in this primarily three-woman show involving stripping. (Note: with the Velvettes serving critical roles as back-up dancers, ancillary characters, stage kittens, and dressers!!)
While we don’t always have the same trajectory in the process of this production and where it is going, we both want to create a relevant and enjoyable theatrical/burlesque experience.
This also doesn’t mean everything is smooth. When Mr. Velvet drafted an opening for the second set that involved minimal costuming for the three main characters I was initially against it! This was a whole intermission without a complicated costume change! What a waste of time!! Although disappointed in this “waste of time”, I realized that his idea made the most sense for the trajectory of the show and I found a way to work with it… In another situation where I wanted to write scenes about difficult issues impacting young female teens, the conversations with Mr. Velvet (and the cast) made me realize that this topic matter was better served in an actual group act. The impact is still there and we are showing instead of telling.
I am getting excited (and nervous) about our production, and we still have tons to do. However, I feel like our script is in a pretty solid space. Now just to finish the choreography, costuming, and do all of our script memorization and rehearsing… (maniacal, hysterical laughter follows…)
Mr. Velvet says we need to work on a novel together next. I told him I am okay with that – just as long as we start AFTER July…