Wendy R. Williams
| Greetings Theater Lovers,
this month I finally saw Doubt. And
make no doubt about it (sorry, I could not
resist), Doubt is an incredible play.
Doug Hughes is one of my all-time favorite
directors. Frozen, Last Easter and
McReele are just some of the many
plays that Mr. Hughes has directed and I have
written about in this column.
And with Doubt, Mr. Hughes is working with an incredible mix of talent. The play’s author is John Patrick Shanley and the cast is headed up by actors Cherry Jones (winner of 2005 Tony, Obie, Lucille Lortel, and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Actress) and Brían F. O'Byrne (winner of 2005 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Actor).
Here is a quote from their press
release:“Set against the backdrop of a Bronx
Catholic school in 1964, Doubt is the
story of a strong-minded woman faced with a difficult
decision. Should she voice concerns about one of
her male colleagues... even if she's not entirely
certain of the truth?”
Doubt is a play where
you leave the theater talking about the story -
and in this case, just whom did you believe? And
I mean, believe. The actors are so wonderful,
they made fiction a reality for me. But as to the
question, it is hard to know. My sympathies were
solidly with the priest, but then... well, with
everything we now know... you see what I mean...
yes, there is definitely room for Doubt.
Doubt received the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play as well as the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics Circle, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Doug Hughes received the 2005 Tony Award and the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Awards for Outstanding Director of a Play. Wow!
Doubt is playing at the
Walter Kerr Theater at 219 West 48th Street. Since
Doubt just won the Tony, tickets are hard
to come by. Those tickets that are still available
are being sold at
www.telecharge.com where they range in price
from $26.25-$90.25. And if it is a little trouble
to get tickets to Doubt, it will certainly
be worth the effort.
Jeffrey Carlson, Pablo Schreiber and Marin Ireland
I also had the privilege of seeing
a very fun play, Paul Grellong’s Manuscript
at the Daryl Roth Theatre, 20 Union Square East.
Manuscript is directed by the talented
Here is a quote from their press
release: “When a manuscript is discovered
that can guarantee success, three ambitious people
set into motion a manipulative quest for vengeance
and fame in this calculating comedy by Paul Grellong.
Unfolding on stage with youthful wit, Manuscript
proves you're only as good as your word. Bob Balaban
directs a cast that includes Jeffrey Carlson, Marin
Ireland, and Pablo Schreiber. “
This play is extremely well written,
very witty, and features Jeffrey Carlson as Chris,
Marin Ireland as Elizabeth, and Pablo Schreiber
(Liev Schreiber’s little brother) as David.
All three of these young actors totally held their
own, fighting out their verbal battle to the bitter
end. The direction was impeccable; I was utterly
charmed and mesmerized. And the funny thing is,
I had not even heard of this play until someone
gave me tickets. Bravo and keep up the good work!
Tickets are $65.00 through www.telecharge.com
Sir Alan Ayckbourn
And now for you die-hard theater
fans (everyone else, go read Miss Wendy), I will
tell you about a lecture I went to on June 5, 2005
at the 59E59 Theater. It was titled "A
Day With A Knight," and the speaker was Sir
Alan Ayckbourn, the legendary playwright, director
and artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre
in Scarborough, England. Now this knight has a really
cool job; he can always have his plays produced
- and he does.
Sir Alan was full of nervous energy
and he fiddled and twitched as he spoke. But that
nervous energy produced a lot of good practical
advice which I will relate to you in this next section.
Sir Alan said that when he started
writing plays, he only wrote and someone else directed.
Now he does both and this is what he prefers. He
said there is a craft to writing directable plays
and it is primarily a practical art - and he believes
he has benefited from his experience of both writing
Speaking of his love of plays,
Sir Alan said the strength of plays is they involve,
“Live people talking to live people.”
And his primary goal is to, “Write intelligent
entertainment that gives the audience a good time.”
Here is some of Sir Alan’s advice to playwrights:
Speaking on the subject of the idea for a play, he spoke of the necessity of a divine inspiration and then a series of practical decisions to make the play work.
And on the subject of the practical decisions:
- How many hands (people) does he need to tell the story? Can he do this with two hands?
- The time span of the play
– covering twenty-four hours is very good.
It is more difficult to cover a longer period,
like, say, twelve years. It is always good to
write the play in real time so the actors and
the audience breathe the same breath - the most
intimate type of writing.
- Where to start? Start as late
as you can (in the storyline). But if you don’t
know the end, don’t begin. You will get
- Where to set the play? Best
to write on a single set. Avoid set changes and
having the burglars come out to move things around.
It ruins your momentum.
- Don’t leave too much
for the director. But also do not overwrite.
- Pauses are necessary to let conversation develop.
- Sound and light can tell the story. A ringing phone can signal an empty office.
- Dialogue – all characters
need to sound different from each other. They
should not speak in complete sentences. A playwright
is writing for instruments, like a composer does.
But the playwright’s instruments are human
beings - one must think of the harmony of voices.
- Try to avoid direct information
– let the audience find out for themselves.
- Please don’t tell people
about something that happened somewhere else.
It is boring. Example from his own writing: Play
about three boring parties in a living room. Set
the action in the kitchen.
Sir Alan has written more than sixty plays and he ended the lecture by telling us that playwrights get better the more they write. And I would like to say that they also become wiser. For more information on Sir Alan, log onto http://www.alanayckbourn.net/