I am a visual person.
I struggle with lectures, conversations without whiteboards, and mixing up metaphors. If I don’t write something down, it will most likely not happen. So, when James and I sat down for New York weekend #2 in September, I was beyond thrilled to see a large corkboard dominating the wall. It was time to break down the big idea into smaller ideas and begin building the individual stories, and we would do it literally, visually, on that wall.
The first two were tough to get going, but every other statement started with, “What If”:
What if we have 2 two-person stories, 1 three-person story, and 1 four-person story, where only one of the stories has a family connection?
What if we had a 5th solo person who is observing all of the stories and only sings 2 songs in the show? What if the first song was about being grateful they don’t get close to people, but the second song was a decision that, maybe, they should take a chance?
What if one of the stories focused on one person, the wrong-doer, doing something that the other, the wronged, completely forgives, but that the wrong-doer can’t forgive themselves?
What if it’s that same story, but then the wronged questions whether they can stay friends with the wrong-doer, because the wrong-doer’s inability to forgive themselves is dragging their friendship down?
Back then, before we had character names, everything was Jen, James, and Kelsey.
What if James and Kelsey are old camp friends, and then Kelsey moves to James’s school, thinking they’ll be best friends, but then James really doesn’t want anything to do with her? Wait, isn’t that a bit like, “Grease?” Shoot. Yes. Okay, new idea…
What if Jen is a really good baker and teaches her friends James and Kelsey how to bake, and then they start a company and get really good, but then Jen doesn’t want to do it anymore, and Kelsey gets mad and James is the go between?
But once we got going on the basic ideas for each of the 4 stories, it started to flow. We nailed down an basic plot and overarching theme for each story as it explores forgiveness. Next up, it was time to break down even further into plot points.
Each story received 5 main plot points. First this happens, then this, then this, then this, then it concludes like this. Once the stories were plotted, it was time to mix them up so they wouldn’t play out as one story after another, but rather interwoven and spliced together. This is where James’s skill in writing and storytelling came into play. We got back from seeing Kinky Boots, and he worked late into the night.
The next morning, when I arrived at his apartment, I was blown away to see the 4 stories divided by plot point and printed on color coded index cards. They were all mixed up on the board, creating an overarching storyline that, at times, had characters from different stories singing together in the same song. One by one, the stories would build on both themselves and their fellow stories to create a beautiful, cohesive, piece of magical theatre.
We spend the rest of the time rearranging, talking through, and imagining how this might play out on stage. It was exciting and mind boggling at the same time 🙂
Sometimes, in the creative process, you get the big idea and then need to break it completely apart in order to rebuild it again even stronger. The trust still has to be there, the inspiration has to be flowing, and the vision has to be strong. When all 3 of those are working together, that’s when you know you’re in for some serious flow.
Creative goodness that is currently inspiring us:
The Forgiveness Solution by Reverend Misty Tyme
Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber and T. S. Eliot
Kinky Boots by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein
Charm by Philip Dawkins