You may think we’ve been sharing this poster a lot. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
On Saturday, we had our preview of our one woman show, Cacophony. It’s the first time that Cast Iron Theatre has brought a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe, so – perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also the first time we’ve done an Edinburgh preview. It went really very well, so we’re somewhat giddy with excitement and anticipation. We also asked for feedback – which we received – and we’ll have another rehearsal before the week is out to see how well (and how appropriately) it fits in with what we already have – if at all.
I’m in the middle of edits on a short story that I’ve written, which will be published in a book later on in the year. It’s the first time that I’ve been published in a book, and so also the first time that I’ve had an editor (this blog entry seems to be about firsts, apparently). I found the list of edits and rewrite suggestions .. well, maybe not ‘exciting’, exactly, but it felt quite invigorating, permission to really get stuck in with the story and have another swing at it. Yeah, yeah: as I said, it’s my first story with an editor – I’m confident the ‘excitement’ will wear off pretty quickly.
Last night, I told another story. I had been invited along to a spoken word event at the Artista Studio in Hove, and I had said ‘yes’ slightly before I realised that I didn’t really have a story to tell. I mean, I have plenty of stories – some of them are even finished, believe it or not – but most of them are written to be read. That statement, I realise, may require a small amount of unpacking. I write for a few different mediums: stage, page (as in prose – short stories or novellas), stand-up, and on rare occasions screen and radio. And I guess I should include blog entries in there too – that counts, and certainly it counts for the point I’m trying to make. Even within the confines of stage, there are many differences: a musical is different from a biographical piece – and not just because of the inclusion of songs, there’s something about the pacing, and the size of the performances, that make the actions on stage (and therefore the words on the page) a completely different proposition. Even a sketch and a short funny play are two different beasts (and if you disagree, then we have fundamentally different ideas about what constitutes either of those things – although I’d concede that a lot of my favourite sketch writers are more interested in character than gag, which confuses the argument somewhat).
My point being that although I have a fair amount of short stories in my toolbox, they’ve really been written to be read in silence, just the reader and the page, and no interferences or interruptions. Sure, they can be read aloud, but it’s different. So I realised with only a day or so to go that I didn’t really have a story that I wanted to take along: which for a storytelling night, isn’t exactly great. I began to think about something that had been mildly annoying me of late (if you ever think you never have an idea for a story, just think about what’s pissing you off at the moment – stories, when you strip them back, are often simply about opinion plus response), and I began to staple various bits together in my head as a narrative.
Couldn’t think of an ending, however. My mind is quite busy at the moment with about ten and twenty things to do with Edinburgh, and plus there are a few things to get sorted before we leave to get on the megabus (oh yes, no expense spared). So I couldn’t really focus on the ending. The ending had to be good. The ending had to earned.
(The line ‘The Ending Had To Be Earned’ deserves an entire blog entry in itself. It’s come up a lot in the improv classes recently, where endings have come out of nowhere, just because the actors have felt the need to get the hell of stage as soon as possible. At least in improv the performers – sort of – have an excuse [not really] in that the story hasn’t been planed. It’s much more difficult to ‘seed’ in plot points that will become important later. But that (not entirely convincing) excuse becomes positively porous when you attempt to use it defend the close of a story that you’ve actually written and therefore – presumably – have done at least a couple of drafts over. So: Earn Your Endings. A blog for another time.)
So, no – I couldn’t focus. And when it came down to it: I still didn’t have an ending. It’s been some long time since I’ve appeared on stage by myself performing (I’m not including presenting or compering, which is again different). And I was – well, I was nervous. Quite a bit nervous, actually. It’s good to remind yourself that you can be vulnerable on stage, and that you don’t have all the answers. Doesn’t mean that it’s always gonna be fun when it’s happening, though.
Finally, I had a flash of inspiration. And when I was on stage, I told the audience that they had a choice: either they could go for the incomplete story, which meant that I would have to come up with an ending right in front of them, making it up on the spot (which would either be absolutely fine, or we’d witness a Hindenburg style moment), or they could choose the story that I’d actually had published in January, and so we knew that at least two editors and their peers would agree was basically coherent.
I gave them that choice.
Guess which one they went for. Go on, guess.