Tag Archives: performance

Form and Technique

Warning–this is a longish entry

Find the Right Form, Then Make it Look Easy with your Technique

That’s really what good writing and good performing are all about. Finding the right form for the expression of your ideas and then making it as if it were completed with ease.

This is how I often feel--life is like meeting waves.

This is how I often feel–life is like meeting waves.

In performance the right form can mean, using puppets, props, degree of audience involvement, length of performance, using the fourth wall, interacting with the audience, live, film, music, and more. In writing form runs the gamut from poem to flash fiction to short stories, novels, essays , creative non-fiction, standard non-fiction and then there is the whole genre thing—literary, mystery, humor, and more. Often, the creative thought chooses its own form somewhat like the Harry Potter concept of the wand choosing the wizard.

Which brings me to what I am going to share with you today. I am not sharing the work itself because it will be produced in February but has not yet been published.

The name of the work, now a ten-minute play, is “Pinpoint Wisdom” It first saw the light of page about five years ago as a short story. I wrote it as a challenge to myself, to those in the creative world who were slamming my entries to various short story contests, rejecting them out of hand because they were not “literary” fiction. I decided to try my pen in this genre. The saying/ question, “How many angels are on the head of a pin?” came to mind. I like this because it seems deep but in working out my tale

The story came into being as a dialogue heavy work in which I determine that the wrong question is being asked by th echaracters. My critique group liked it. Using their comments, I polished my story and sent it off, waiting to be embraced by the literary journal world. A few “reading fees” later, I determined that my cost was exceeding any benefit of seeing the tale published and put the story away for a while.

Various contests challenged me to remake it,–as an all-dialogue short, a poem, and more.. Still failed. Finally I saw the Ft. Point Channel contest. 10-minute play involving dance.
Hmmm, my characters dance in the story. I groaned. The discipline of play writing is not for the lazy or faint of heart. Because I ‘m a performer, I can shift focus to staging easily. But when I do it for myself, I don’t have to meet the conventions of stage formatting which is a pain in the neck to write for those not used to it.

Sigh. I researched the form, and doubled down . Hours later it was done—first draft that is. Then I polished and polished again. At last, I sent it in. Then, I forgot about it.

Amazement! My play was accepted and will now be produced! The right format for this thought was stage. But it took me five years to find the right format.

And in shaping it, each time I had to submit a program that was well crafted enough for technique to promote the tale.. Technique should never be in the way/ It should be your box of tools. The house or finished piece should be smooth and lovely. All of those times you hit your finger with the hammer, that’s all forgotten,. The crooked nails you had to pull out and replace, the changes of size, color, etc—none of that should show in the finished product. Of course you have to know what kind of house (format) you are building. Each time I switched, I had to re-think technique, so the constant reshaping of my work was a graduate course in creative writing.
Persistence, attention to craft and to the demands of each form. Now my work will live in a different way, as a play! My first. A director and actors will interpret my work for an audience. As a performer, it makes me rethink how I shape and present the words of others when I am on stage. Humbling. Exciting!

So, don’t give up on a piece that is languishing in your computer. Maybe it should be presented in another form. Don’t skimp on the craft of that other form and format. No matter what, rethinking and reshaping will give your mind a creative boost.

See below for the playbill with my name in it as playwright—Mine is one of six ten-minute plays being offered on the Valentine’s weekend in Boston.

So, I just found the playbill in my email(draft). So exciting!
I cannot thank Ft. Point Theatre Channel enough for selecting my show, Pinpoint Wisdom!.
The play is being produced on Feb 13 and 14, contact for tickets(free) is below)
https://www.facebook.com/events/328361430684525/ is the FB page to find out more about everything…

Tickets for Channel/Dance are free. You can reserve a seat below or just show up and take a seat until we are full! Half the seats will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sharing about Writing–thought provoking work

First, let me share that I love the Writer Unboxed and encourage you to sign up. As soon as I saw this essay by Vaughn Roycroft I knew I had to ask him for permission to share on my blog, so that performers would see it as well. He graciously said yes,

Details are important

working daily, bit by bit–these are two of my take-aways from his essay and the more often I read it, the more I find to think about in relation to both writing and performing.

How am I shaping my bungalow—the inner space of my story or performance?

Consider following writer unboxed and do read this post by Roycroft.




The Arts and Crafts of Writing Fiction

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Flickr Creative Commons: Kyle Jerichow

It’s A Bungalow? Are you familiar with the Arts and Crafts Movement? For many “Arts and Crafts” refers to a reproduction Morris chair in their den. For others it might evoke Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style or an antique Stickley dining set. Each of these is born of the A&C movement, but none of them alone does much to define it.

I was as unfamiliar as anyone until we bought our first house. We didn’t know anything about the style, but we liked that it was affordable, well-built and cozy. Turns out it was a craftsman bungalow. Being a history buff, I fell in love with the house and the style. I’ve since come to realize that my A&C ardency has affected my entire writing journey. Perhaps you too are an Arts and Crafts writer and didn’t even know it.

The Meaning Behind the Movement: When I first heard the phrase: “Arts & Crafts,” I thought of hand-knit oven-mitts at a yard sale. Then I came to know it as an architectural style. As it turns out, the A&C movement, born in 19th Century England, did not set out to promote a particular style but rather advocated reform and a critique of industrialization.

Early A&C proponents rejected the ornateness of the Victorian era. A&C pioneer John Ruskin (1819-1900) advocated honest and exposed craftsmanship in architecture. Ruskin’s writings influenced designers like William Morris (1834-1896), who strove to unite all the arts within the construction and decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity to make it a refuge of beauty and enlightenment. Morris’s influence reached America via popular turn of the century periodicals such as House Beautiful and Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman.

The Artistic Craftsman:

“Art is not a thing; it is a way.” ~Elbert Hubbard

Craft is about function, measuring success by usefulness. Art’s value is measured outside of utility, and encompasses beauty and emotional impact. If a craft, produced for its utility, can be made to be beautiful or to evoke an emotion without harming its usefulness, hasn’t it achieved artistic value? If so, it follows that there is inherent value in combining arts and crafts.

Proponents of the A&C movement espoused beauty in nature and simplicity of form; craftsmanship through skills gained by practice and dedication. As a woodworker, I feel the most beautiful and functional items I’ve produced are the simplest and most natural. Through woodworking I’ve seen that skills are gained though doing the work. There are no shortcuts.

It’s wise to study and to plan your projects, but a craftsman’s skill is gained through practice. And artistic results are produced by skilled craftsmen. (Is this starting to resemble writing yet? Just checking.)

The Arts & Crafts Writer:

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ~ Steven Pressfield

The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne. ~Geoffrey Chaucer

As I look back on my nine-plus years of writing fiction, I can clearly recall many instances in which I wanted to consider a project “done.” But, without exception, I’ve been able to take that same work to another level. I’m not saying this tells me that no project is ever done. What it does demonstrate is that we, as writers, should never consider ourselves done evolving and growing.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

Arts & Crafts Fiction:

“If there were a manifesto for 21st century fiction writers, I hope it would go like this: Down with high-flown literature! Cast off genre servitude! The revolution is founded in authorial liberty. It regards story and art as equals.” ~ Donald Maass

You might not expect a guy who has focused on genre work (I write epic historical fantasy) to be talking about simplicity or striving to be artistic. Genre is about storytelling and obligatory tropes, right? There may be an element of truth there but, for example, I’ve found that the micro-element of complex world-building does not preclude the beauty of macro-simplicity. As I practice and strive, I often find myself stripping away the superfluous, and honing on character goals and motivations to deepen conflicts. And I find the result makes for simpler, more effective storytelling. I also believe the simplest and most natural way to emotional impact is through effective story. Thus, my aspiration for the artistic through dedication to craftsmanship.

The Arts and Crafts writer should strive for ever-improving utility of function (storytelling), which in turn sets them on a course toward beauty through simplicity of form, and impact through that which is natural and human (art).

The Arts & Crafts Writing Career:

“Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is.” ~Elbert Hubbard

I get frustrated sometimes. And impatient. Some days I just want to be “done.” I am a writer, striving to be an artist. But sometimes I just want to be: Vaughn Roycroft, Writer—with a capital W. With books on the shelf, not still in a file labeled: work-in-progress. It’s days like these that I need to remind myself of my Arts & Crafts philosophy. And that philosophy tells me that I am the work-in-progress, not the file.

When I’m feeling down about a project or the state of my so-called career, the best things I can do are to take a long walk in nature, get back to the my roots as a human being, and then get back to work. If ideas won’t flow onto the page, I go to work in the wood-shop. I’ve found that nothing stimulates the flow of ideas like working with my hands. Even raking the yard is better than moping about the progress of my writing.

I remind myself that even after my first book is published, I must then remember that a craftsman continues to grow and evolve. After my fourth book is published, I will need to stretch my skills and practice again in order to find my way to a worthy fifth.

The Arts & Crafts Lifestyle:

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~William Morris

The Arts & Crafts writer does not seek fame or a lavish lifestyle. We find our art though dedication and through diverse life experience. We find satisfaction in the work itself. We know that only through practice can we achieve the utility we seek in order to stride ever closer to the artistic. We surround ourselves with beauty, and for us beauty is found in simplicity and nature.

In the best sense of the word, we are eternal students. Even when we are teachers, we are still students. WU is a perfect example of the fact that we all have so much to learn from one another—and always will. We writers are students of nature—human and otherwise. We are students of life.

So, what about you? Ever lived in a bungalow? Did you know it when you moved in? Are you an Arts & Crafts writer? Or are you already famous and living a lavish lifestyle? (If so, maybe don’t tell me—envy is not conducive to the Arts & Crafts lifestyle.)


About Vaughn Roycroft

In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.


Fans and Success

Fans. I don’t know how many I have–probably they could fit into my living room with space to spare.

But I cherish each one.

One who wrote me a letter to tell me how much my sotry “rings” meant to her. (published in St Anthony Messenger. Another, a neighbor who loves my book Giulia Goes to War and told me that she can’t wait for the next installment! A young man or woman who comes up to me and says, “Mrs. Leotta, I remember when you came to our grade school and told stories. I loved teh story of…..” Then they name their favorite tale.

It is not likely that my name will become a household word. Or that I will be widely remembered. But as long as what I write and perform is remembered fondly by those who do encounter my owrk or me in performance, then I have succeeded.