20th October 2017 marked a milestone in my writing career. My script, ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, was performed live on stage.
Every year, the local drama group put on a show involving different plays to form an evening of entertainment. For 2017 ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, a comedy drama of approximately 45 minutes in length, had the difficult job of opening the evening’s proceedings.
The writing process started a year ago when the group was celebrating their most recent successful show. The discussion turned towards ideas for the following year. I asked if I could write one of the scripts for them and the group agreed.
There were two requirements. There had to be a part for everyone and it must make the audience laugh. With eleven members of the group, it was going to be quite a challenge to include so many characters within the time constraints.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I also enjoy walking and this is often when I do my best creative thinking. I was strolling around the village one evening when the basic plot began to materialise. I wanted the setting to be in the local area so it would be familiar for the audience. I am fortunate to live in an area known as the Black Mountains in Wales so it seemed logical to set the story in the surrounding hills.
The play would involve a fictional drama group doing their training in preparation for ‘The South Wales Three Peaks Trial’ to raise funds for the village hall. This idea would allow for enough characters to fulfil the criteria, provide the comedy and give the potential to create suspense and peril.
The next challenge was to create eleven, distinctive characters with their own unique personalities. In some ways it was easier to write for people I know because I could visualise who I thought would be best for each part and what it could look like on the stage.
As soon as the initial idea was established, I was able to meet with the group again and confirm that I could go ahead.
Throughout the next three months, it became a collaborative process. I began writing it and the group were keen to be involved and share their ideas about funny phrases and storylines for their characters. This resulted in several revisions to ensure that it stayed true to the original concept but also included everyone’s suggestions.
The first read-through was in March. The script was revealed to the cast and they all read their own parts aloud to hear what it sounded like. Did it make sense? Did it flow? Was it the correct length? How would it work on the stage?
This was the first time I have ever been part of something like this and it was nerve-wracking to hear what they thought of it. This was the point when it suddenly felt real. It was no longer just a story exclusively in my own imagination.
Fortunately, they were all delighted with their parts. It was at this point that I was happy to hand it over and let the drama group work on their own interpretation.
Following a few rehearsals, the director asked me if they could remove a section to shorten it slightly to fit with the timings for the rest of the evening. I was also asked to extend the narrator’s part at one point when there was a scenery change to allow a few more minutes for the backstage crew to set up. Both of these changes were implemented.
A few months later, I was invited to see how rehearsals were progressing. The most important thing was that they looked like they were having fun with it and it was great to see the characters being brought to life. It was also an interesting learning curve for me to see where there were gaps in the stage directions and where I could have added more details for the director. All of these things will help with my future writing.
October soon came around and it was show week. I went along to one of their final rehearsals a few days before the performance. This was up another level from the previous run-through because they were using props and no longer relying on reading from scripts.
After a year of planning, writing, editing and revising, it was finally show night! There were all sorts of questions running through my mind. Would it be funny enough? Would the audience laugh? Would it live up to expectations?
Then the curtains opened and the scene was set…
The cast did a fantastic job. They delivered the comedy lines well and, most importantly, the audience laughed in the right places. It was a great end to the process and I loved every minute!
At the end of the show, I was presented with a lovely bunch of flowers. People were very complimentary about it. This will give me confidence moving forward with my writing career.
I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to write the script and to be part of such a creative and collaborative process.
There is something very special about script writing. The journey from the initial idea to the final performance is exciting and it truly is a team effort in a way that other forms of writing are not. Hopefully, this is the first of many.