Tag Archives: plays

Randy-the impetus for writing-courage

I started reading plays because I thought it would be easier reading than reading other things. I didn’t know about subtext or that if a play were any good action had to be inherent in the dialogue. In drama there is always more to it than what is on the page; of course it is inclusive of all the creative energy of all the people (actors, director, technical people) involved in a production of it. I had to visualize the piece staged; but that might seem impossible for someone who had never seen a stage play. (I grew up on television and AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT.) So if a play doesn’t really come to life until it is mounted on stage by a combination of artists, how did I get very far? Well, I got as far as I could; and I didn’t associate until later the written play with theater. (It wasn’t until later that I learned that theater was the one place where all the arts come together.) I actually read very little. My ego got in the way; I showed off by writing. Luckily a teacher confiscated my work (“stuff” then because I dashed it off) and didn’t know what to do with it. The writing was alien for Irving High School; so the teacher pointed me in the direction of the Dallas Theater Center, and I had the courage to go.

Creative work, according to Frank Lloyd Wright, is a combination of “the hand, the heart, and the mind.” To have discovered that on my own would’ve been impossible for me; walking into a Wright designed theater had to have been a start for me, though I’m sure I wasn’t aware of it. It was in fact the beginning of a very long journey that continues today, a journey full of surprises. Even this morning when faced with the task of writing this blog, I didn’t know what I was going to write and it required courage and faith to start with “I started reading plays because…” It was stepping into that building and my rejection of the familiar that led to drama and my going to Baylor and Trinity; and the rest, as they say, is history, my history.

With all the options available to me then, why did I choose drama? I certainly didn’t have a desire to perform on stage, though performing in other ways wasn’t out of character for me. Those snippets of dialogue, which I wrote during study hall, I’m sure didn’t survive (though I honestly I don’t know because I have boxes of unrelated scribbling). It was through my teachers that I gained the insight about the creative process that I have (Paul Baker and Eugene McKinney in particular). Now I know I owe more to my dad than I have readily admitted; he enjoyed making things with his hands from scratch and later after retiring enjoyed creating skits for his travel club (I didn’t have the privilege of seeing any of them.) But besides these influences, by and large, I have been on my own. Even today my family doesn’t read what I write; but I can’t afford to read too much into that.

Good morning, Randy Ford

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Randy – The Rewrite

I was a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio. In those day Trinity had a graduate drama program at the Dallas Theater Center. I knew the Dallas Theater Center before then. As a high school student, I attended an adult playwriting class there, and some of the people I knew at Trinity went on to the Dallas Theater Center before I did. Somehow a one-act play of mine made it to the Dallas stage before I finished my senior year at Trinity. There was every reason in the world for me to be excited and nervous about that. I grew up in Irving Texas, very near to the Center, which meant almost certainly my parents and sisters could and would attend the production. (I’m not sure how many of my friends went.) There would also be there a reviewer from the “Saturday Review of Literature”; another reason for me to be nervous.

The set was wonderful, an actual wrecked car; the acting, professional. Congratulatory telegrams arrived and even maybe a rose. In other words, by then I had every imaginable reason from being distracted from what my real job was, as a playwright.

Don’t you know what your play is about?

Of course, I knew.

During the play, instead of focusing on the audience, I looked at the actors on the stage.
“Good job,” I said, and applauded.

I ignored the reaction of the audience. “But by and large they enjoyed the play.”

“I know.”

But knowing that was not good enough. I should’ve paid attention and seen at what point members of the audience leaned forward and when they slouched back in their chairs. When they dropped their jaws? Where in the script did they start to fidget, if they did? I couldn’t have told you. At no point did my excitement and nervousness allow me to pay attention to the details that would’ve helped me rewrite the piece.

But wasn’t the play completed? Didn’t it, after all, receive a professional production?

Sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t rewrite the play.

Three years later Paul Baker directed a full-length play of mine; again the production was at the Dallas Theater. This time I had a more direct relationship with the production because I could attend rehearsals. Of course, the same excitement and nervousness existed. That is the one thing that happens to playwrights during rehearsals and productions. Oh, how exciting. Nothing can be more exciting for a playwright than to see one’s own play on stage.

And did I focus on the audience during the run of that show? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t remember. (By then I had had other plays professionally produced, other opening nights.)

But I do remember Mr. Baker calling me up to his office after the show closed. I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Ford, now you can write your play.” Now understand that he said this to me after the show supposedly had a successful run and was held over. Oh, my! What did I know? Nothing. Did I rewrite the play? No, no, instead my wife and I joined the Peace Corps.

Good night,
Randy Ford

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