IT’S A NEW DAWN, IT’S A NEW DAY, WE FINISHED EDITING, AND IM FEELING GOOOOOOD.
Sorry for any cringing caused by the sing-song intro (I am a drama student after all), I’m just so happy because last night we completed the mission of cutting ‘Vieux Carre’ down. There’ll still be changes made along the way but we officially have a script so we can start getting it up on it’s feet and get staging!
When editing we made several significant changes to character so I thought I’d discuss these and explain our reasoning…
Unfortunately the one guy in our group, Jack, is completely outnumbered by 7 females. Our play is very male dominant character wise and so we were faced with a problem- we could either us girls could pop on some trousers and tie back our hair or we could make the slightly more daunting decision and change the gender of the characters. After conversing with our seminar tutor who reassured us we didn’t need to treat Tennessee William’s as a deity whose work was in someway untouchable, sacred even, we decided we wanted to be a little more inventive and change the character’s gender entirely. We knew we wanted to keep one heterosexual couple but in order for the dynamics to work with the other characters we needed to have ‘Jane’ become ‘James’ and ‘Tye’ to be reinvented as ‘Tyra’.
What began as a necessary alteration due to the male/female ratio in our group has actually become very interesting, giving us more freedom when it comes to characterisation. For example, lines that William’s wrote to come out of a females mouth, are now being said by a male, which creates humour at times but also prompts some interesting conversation; particularly in regards to the ambiguous rape scene. In our version a female now appears to sexually abuse a man. The scene is now more than a display of aggression and domination but provokes questions about societal attitudes to gender and sexual violence. I suggested we push this point by allowing the audience to laugh but then interrupting their laughter by coming out of character briefly to ask ‘Why are you laughing?’, an idea we’ll be experimenting with in the next few weeks. I feel this would be very in keeping with Brecht’s desire for the audience to question their emotions.
Another character we made significant changes to is that of Nursie, Mrs Wire’s confidant, friend and maid. When discussing what themes we wanted to prioritise, as a group of white young people, race wasn’t one we felt we could successfully discuss. Although minimal, there are several references to Nursie’s race (and that of the piano player). In order to avoid the audience trying to find a meaning we aren’t trying to communicate we’ve decided to remove any lines were Nursie’s skin colour is mentioned. This is something we discussed in detail, after all it feels a little silly to put on a play set in New Orleans without one black character in it but none of us feel we can accurately or appropriately represent a black woman on stage so we’ve reimaged Nursie as an aging white woman, humpbacked, in a costume that mirrors Mrs Wire’s to draw attention to their relationship, which we feel is one of the strongest in the play.
When it came to the editing process Jon Venn’s workshop was particularly helpful. In his session we discussed the theory that the desires of the characters are at the foundation any piece of drama. Therefore, when it came to any significant changes to the text I tried to make sure that the desires driving the plot were still clear and strong. In order for the piece I feel the motivations of the characters must remain the same, despite any gender/race changes.
We had a couple of evening rehearsals this week which weren’t too much fun and by the end of the sessions we were often a little delirious. However, sustained by chocolate fingers and fudge, we persevered and I’m really pleased with our progress so far.
Now to get this text on the stage…