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“The Somers Affair,” a playwright’s thoughts on the opening scene.

October 9, 2021

An unusual confluence of unrelated circumstances recently recalled to my attention a full-length play I wrote in 2014, and had set aside for a time.  Seven years, as it turned out.  But having returned to it, I prepared the script for a reading at a zoom “Scene Night” where members of our local playwrights’ center share individual scenes—cold-read by actors—for comment.

Great way to find some of the scene’s shortcomings on your own, and find others targeted by your peers.  And to make you think about how the whole arrangement works through the spoken words of your characters, and how the writer’s job is to write—not direct, regardless of the temptation to do so through stage direction.  Some of the reaction—wishing a character had spoken or reacted differently in the script—would have been justified, except:  since we only do one scene, only I knew that the apparently inappropriate reaction in the first, is a setting up for a resolution in the next.  But only I could know that.

Which brings me to some wisdom from the Scottish actor Brian Cox—here quoted in NYT Magazine 19.3.21:

“Well, what I love,” he said, “is a director who understands text.  Because without the writing, you’re nothing. . . . The thing that compels people to say:  ‘Who is this guy [the character]?  What is he doing?’—you must always keep to that.  You must keep that sense of what is excluded from the audience. . . .”

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