On the panel, Graciana Holland, a songwriter and composer of folk and Americana music, Vern Wall, Bendigo Theatre Company Life Member, playwright, musician and man of many more creative hats, and Shaun Rosaia, a local comedian, all discussing their various Writing techniques and insights in Writing for Performance and paraphrasing Vern, travelling the ‘tightrope of immediate reaction’.
Graciana’s songwriting process is usually sparked by reflecting on a conversation where the seed of an idea, either words or melody which puts her in a ‘panic to get it down on phone or in a notebook if I have one on hand and then I leave it’.
All agreed in the importance of the leaving stage was where the story could germinate and reveal itself.
After the idea is picked up again, Graciana will then tweak the idea and produce a rough copy and that is when she will collaborate with another songwriter and get their opinion and feedback. This other songwriter is ‘usually Mom’. She will then try it out on a friend who is not a songwriter but ‘purely for audience perspective to see what phrases or piece of melody stuck with them’.
As a playwright, when Vern returns to his idea after putting it aside he checks for authentic dialogue. ‘Authenticity is what I am always looking for’. He will then make sure to use the KISS principle and make sure he has in the back of his mind how it will work in performance and limit the amount of scenes and props to allow the dialogue to do the work. He then will get feedback from actors to check for ‘living’ dialogue. 'If an actor is looking into space the dialogue is not immediate, not living.'
Comedian, Shaun, will often video his performance or pieces to see what he could improve on for the next performance and see what the audience sees.
The panel all agreed that having collaborators, mentors and other people in your field to bounce ideas off is paramount to creative process. Shaun, found when he was starting out that it was hard to source a group to assist as there weren’t many people in the comedy field in the area. Because of this dilemma he was instrumental in setting up a comedy artist community.
Another strong point made by all three on the panel was the need for rehearsal and practice. Vern said, ‘if you haven’t done the hard yards, it will go horribly wrong’.
Shaun, echoed this, ‘Comedians have to be prepared, some can wing it but I reference comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, artists that are meticulous in their practice and repetition until they get it right. You also need to develop the skill to give it energy to bring it into the moment, like it just happened.'
With all the different fields the panel were in, there was always some scope and delight in being able to change the material as they perform, dependant on the performer [if someone else such as an actor or another songwriter or comedian] and the audience. When asked when they knew to stop tweaking their writing, Shaun says, ‘if it works everywhere, stop playing with it.'
However Vern summed it up perfectly, ‘there are always new ideas, if you are still working on an old project, you can’t pursue the new one.'
For more information:
On Graciana: www.gracianaholland.com
On Bendigo Theatre Company [Vern]: www.bendigotheatrecompany.org
On Goldmines Comedy Cellar [Shaun Rosaia]: https://www.facebook.com/GoldminesComedyCellar/
On Write on the Fringe Festival: http://www.ncgrl.vic.gov.au/fringe
On the Bendigo Writers Council: www.bendigowriterscouncil.weebly.com or https://www.facebook.com/Bendigo-Writers-Council-188254821270689/