Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Collaboraction's 9th Annual Sketchbook

The 9th Annual SKETCHBOOK Festival

April 16 - May 10
The Building Stage l 412 N Carpenter

A lively celebration of staged theatrical works, music and fine art, SKETCHBOOK is a short play festival like no other. Each year Collaboraction guides more than 200 artists through an exciting collaboration where 10-20 short performances, each seven minutes or less in length, mingle with visual art and music. The SKETCHBOOK Festival is Collaboraction at its best: breaking down the walls that divide theater, music, visual art, video and the Internet, transforming the space into a singular world where audiences can be both spectator and artist, contributing to dynamism of each performance.

There are two things you can do to become a better writer...

1) Write.

2) Go see stuff that was written.

That second one is the one most frequently dropped by writers, yet it is as important as the first. Seeing the work of others helps one discover what they like and dislike and what they want to avoid or aspire to. Seeing bad stuff can be as educational as it is torturous. Seeing great stuff can be inspirational.

I saw Collaboraction's Sketchbook - Program A two weeks ago and it was inspirational. For me, it was a reminder that there's more than one way to write a scene. And that the simplest ideas are usually the best.

It started off a little squirrely with "Constriction" by Jennifer Barclay and directed by Devon de Mayo. Four teenage girls that speak their own version of gangsta valley girl end up in hell. A fun concept, alienating by the lack of sympathy for the girls. It used the whole rave-like theater space and moved backward in time. It came across more high concept than substantial. A good way to kick off the evening as it lets us know this is not your father's "Desire Under The Elms."

Sketchbook shows what it does best in the polar-opposite simple second piece, "Who Put The Dead Bird In My Mailbox" by Sarah Hammond, directed by Karen Kessler. A simple story about a young girl, portrayed with just-barely-post-teen angst by Jennifer Waldrip. A girl finds a dead bird in her apartment building mailbox and leaves a note to the offender filled with anger, hurt and wonder.

Sketchbook is a festival, as such, the quality goes up and down, but not by much. A few of the pieces set the bar pretty high and the ones that don't match are still worth seeing. And from a writer's point of view, it reminded me that there's more than one way to tell a story and reality is what I create it to be in a scene. If I want a character to be followed around by a chorus of Indigo Girl fans who sing about the side effects of allergy medicines, then I certainly can.

Become a better writer. Go see Sketchbook.

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