By Tiffany Antone
It’s such a powerful communication tool, and one that we, as playwrights, like to twist and turn as much as possible.
To find new ways to say things.
To find just the right way to say things.
To elicite emotional, vibrational “Ahhhh”s from our audiences (or to stun them into silence.)
Jen’s post on the words she “Hates” got me thinking about words audiences (and admins who decide what to feed their audiences) sometimes “Hate”; Those delicious but rough and tumble expletives that love to erupt out of some of my most favorite characters’ mouths.
My parents were, as parents sometimes do, giving me some advice on how to get my work done – the spark for this of course being their well-intentioned comment that the local theatre should produce one of my plays. I remarked that I really only had one or two plays that I thought would even work here, being that my plays aren’t always linear, or topically relevant to what Prescottonians expect from the theatre.
They remarked that if I took out some of the swears, I wouldn’t have that problem.
I wasn’t talking about language – I was talking about the overall scope of (the majority) of my scripts.
But they were ready to talk otherwise.
Because to their tastes, starting a play out with your heroine screaming ‘Motherfucker’ at a cricket was lazy writing.
“Isn’t there something else she could (would) say? An, I don’t know, more creative way to show that she’s mad?”
Hmmm…. Well, sure – I suppose there are. But this woman doesn’t say “Darnit” or shake her fists at the heavens whilst soliloquizing verbosely… She doesn’t use “Safe” words or even say “Please” when she should.
Does that really mean I’m being lazy?
And when I tell young writers that there are often better ways to craft a character’s dialogue then to lace it with verbal extremeties… am I just delivering what I “ought” whilst walking my own (obscene) walk?
Or is there something to the idea that not all plays are written for all folk?
It’s an interesting talking point…
Especially when (presumably) none of us is writing “To be left in a drawer.”
And yet, a part of me wonders: Is it the language as a whole that some find offensive, or is it that my female characters can one up any of your trash-talking male characters, thankyouverymuch, that they find irksome?
I don’t know. I don’t know if theatre companies are reading this foul-mouthed stage-baby and cringing at Aura’s mouth, or hooting at her audacity the way I intended… all I know is the play is piquing some interest and that interest is fluffing my potty-mouthed feathers quite a bit.
Almost enough to drown out the disproving looks of my parents across the table… Parents who love me no matter what, and who support my work no matter what, but who obviously find it a bit distressful that their daughter observes such a pock-marked vocabulary as is evidenced by her risque writing…
So, what do you think? Should we as writers try to make our works more accessible to the masses, or is it okay to write a play you know will probably only ever find a home in Chicago, LA, or NY amidst the brazen and “edgy”?