Recently, choreographer Natalie Greene and I discussed how we tackled Brecht in Cal Shakes’ current production of THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN. Take a listen to the podcast episode below! But SPOILER ALERT: Listening is only recommended once you’ve seen the show!
This isn’t readily apparent in this blog, but I am a huge Nintendo fan. For a while, I’ve been considering how I might bring my love of video games into the conversation around writing and dramaturgy. In my mind, there’s a lot of connection between video games and storytelling. How a video game unfolds may require unique parameters, but it’s not so different from how a play or musical unfolds. What the audience experiences in real time is key for both artforms - and yes, I definitely consider video games an artform.
Enter Super Mario Maker 2. With its predecessor on the Wii U, I was fine simply playing the levels that people from around the world have created. But last night, I ventured to create my first level. This brought me back to younger days when I would make mazes for friends to solve. I loved making a puzzle and challenging others. So, naturally, my Mario level is a puzzle, a maze. I’m not sure how many more levels I’ll feel inclined to create, but it was fun considering once again how I would both hinder and help a player as they solve the puzzle I made. Some will find it tricky. Some will find it too easy. But, here’s my first Mario Maker level code, for those Switch owners who might want to try it:
I'm sorry it took me so long to get here
The map was outdated
I followed a wrong right turn
I'm so sorry
The map promised me a destination
but always seemed to shepherd me in the opposite direction
It told me I didn't have enough power for the
journey without its compass
It gave me a windbreaker that was too tight,
causing me to choke
and hiking shorts that kept falling off,
causing me to trip
They must've belonged to someone else
I must've belonged to someone else
But I'm here now I'm here sh it's ok
I promise you
I am still arriving
— written on a plane-ride home
A friend of mine shared this graphic on Twitter, created by Cheyanna A Lepka. It’s a matrix that details different writing styles. As a person who loves taking personality quizzes, I just had to figure out where I belonged on this matrix. But I was surprised to learn that if I had taken this quiz years ago, I would have ended up in a completely different square.
Years ago, I was a Lawful Plantser. I often knew the endpoint of my plays before aiming to write. I wrote very detailed profiles for characters, faithfully following Lagos Egri’s guidance in The Art of Dramatic Writing. I felt the responsibility of knowing all the ins and outs of my characters and their journeys.
Nowadays, I’d say I’m a Neutral Plotter. I still outline, but hold it less dearly - beat sheets is probably more like it. And I do indeed feel the guilt of wanting to write detailed character bios, but not finding the time to. I’m not sure if the change means that I’ve become more lazy or more confident in my craft. Probably a little of both. I think I’ve learned enough to know that I’m not going to get everything perfect out the gate, so why put so much effort into an outline that is inevitably going to change? I’ve also learned that once the show is handed to other artists, their experience with the piece will fill in any gaps that may be present. I can build as I go.
It’s kind of freeing, actually, to see this matrix, and to realize that none of these writing styles is better than the other. So I don’t need to feel like I’ve fallen short if I no longer find myself being “Lawful.” But alas… the guilt’s still there sometimes.
“We’re no longer capable of drinking our tea in the here and now. Even when the tea is in our mouth, we aren’t conscious of it. We’re drinking our projects, we’re drinking our problems.” - Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power