The first bullet on the Programming Checklist in the YouTube Creator Playbook says, “Create content that is unique, compelling, and entertaining or informative.” Ironically, the Creator Playbook doesn’t compile any important tips, best practices, or strategies to help you check this item off the list.
So, what should you do to sustain the artistic process of innovation and daring, ensure that you tell diverse stories, as well as create a profound and ever-evolving relationship between the audience and your work? Go for a long walk? Take a hot bath? Drink half a pint of claret?
All I can tell you is what my wife and I did last week. We went to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to catch a couple of plays in the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) at Shepherd University. I should disclose that our daughter, Kelsey, works on CATF’s production staff. (She’s the sound engineer.)
Now, getting away from the office and visiting historic Shepherdstown, which is located along the Potomac River, went a long way towards sustaining the artistic process. But, the actual triggers of innovation and daring were the two plays we saw.
The first play was Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah. In this world premiere written and directed by Mark St. Germain, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway wrestle with the sparks of art and the perils of creativity. This combative new play is set in the Garden of Allah, a Los Angeles resort villa, on the evening of July 4, 1937. Fueled by friendship and rivalry, two literary heavyweights reunite for the last time to explore their mysterious bond and the genius that first brought them together – but was fated to tear them apart.
In a recent interview filmed and edited by Mallorie Ortega for Talk Theater, playwright and director Mark St. Germain tell us about his thoughts on his new play, Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview:
Why did you choose to write about Hemingway and Fitzgerald? What drew you, as a writer yourself, to these literary titans?
“At the time, Hemingway was at his peak; Fitzgerald made only $13 for all of his books that year. They had a difficult relationship; I think there was great affection and great disdain on Hemingway’s part. Ironically, a lot of the things Hemingway despised about Fitzgerald were traits of his own. He had little sympathy for Zelda, who he thought was crazy, but he ended up having electro-shock therapy towards the end of his life. He hated Fitzgerald’s weakness for drink, but he turned out to be an alcoholic. They both had their demons.”
Though a period play set in the 1930s, what universal truth does you play set out to explore?
“I think a lot of the play is really about the process of writing and creating, and the toll it takes on both of these writers. There is something a little frightening about the process because there is a mystery to it. There is another character in the play, who works for MGM, and she views writers as spoiled children; she thinks all they do is sit there with their pen while others are digging ditches. And that is true, too. The play looks at it from both sides.”
The second play was A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World. This world premiere written by Liz Duffy Adams and directed by Kent Nicholson is set in 1702 – 10 years after the Salem witch trials made famous in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. About to leave the Colonies forever, long-lost Abigail Williams arrives at the frontier tavern of her childhood witch conspirator — Mercy Lewis—desperate to understand the madness that overtook their youth. But with war threatening New England yet again, Mercy and the local Puritans are in no mood for Abigail’s doubts.
In another recent interview filmed and edited by Mallorie Ortega for Talk Theater, playwright Liz Duffy Adams and Director Kent Nicholson talk about their experiences while producing A Discourse of the Wonders of the Imaginary World.
Here are a couple of excerpts from a related interview with Liz Duffy Adams:
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible during the McCarthy era. Is there something about our contemporary society that made you want to revisit the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials?
“Absolutely. It’s maybe the primary reasons for writing about the past: to talk obliquely about the present. The rest of the answer is in the play, I hope, and for the audience to decide.”
As a playwright who has had great success with mixing historical fact and fiction, what drives you to take creative license? What are you trying to achieve by departing from “the truth”?
“The theater is not a classroom. A play is not a history book. My obligation is to the audience, my brief to tell as theatrically thrilling a story as is in my power. At the same time I feel deeply beholden to the real people and places I’m hijacking for the purpose, and where I depart – or careen wildly – from the letter of the factual record, I hope I remain true to its spirit.”
CATF’s 2013 Season includes thee more new plays: Modern Terrorism by Jon Kern, H2O by Jane Martin, and Heartless by Sam Shepard. We didn’t see them, so I can’t tell you much more about the rotating repertory.
But I can tell you that CATF says:
The 2013 Season will introduce you to five American truth-tellers; five provocateurs that will call you out and make you stop in your tracks and pay attention.
Here are five original voices that take a good hard look at the absurdities, the injustices and the hypocrisies of our contemporary society. Here is a repertory of five new American plays that will transport you away from the status quo of the bland, the safe and the familiar. This repertory is about telling stories you haven’t heard. Or telling a story you may know in a way you’ve never imagined it.
This Season is brave and brazen. It’s noisy and audacious. These plays are vivid, fleshy, and ambitious. They will wake you up. They will touch your heart and stimulate your intellect with new thoughts and ideas. They will shock your emotions and incite wonder.
And they will entertain you.
Now, if watching one or more of these plays doesn’t inspire you to create content that is unique, compelling, and entertaining or informative, then try “going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret.” According to David Ogilvy, who literally wrote the book on advertising, these can also be helpful to your creative process.
Whatever you do, avoid committees. As Ogilvy observed, “In my experience, committees can criticize, but they cannot create.”