A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Screenwriting Group

I am a member of the Northampton Screenwriters' Group, which ordinarily confines itself to scripts for movies and television, as opposed to theater. (That's the "screen" in screenwriting.) This week, however, we gave the floor to playwright Ezra LeBank, who wanted to workshop his new play, Fresh Air.

At meetings of my poetry group, we each read a piece and others critique it. Since screenplays are typically longer than poems, that format would be unwieldy for the Noho group. So each screenwriting meeting focuses on one writer. That person presents a complete draft, one act, two short pieces--whatever he or she wants help with. Everyone else contributes suggestions, speaking parts, or whatever's needed. The presenter is also responsible for refreshments.

Ezra had a complete draft and mainly wanted to hear it read. Wade Wofford, founder of the group, has an actors' group as well, and pulled some readers from it. Because Ezra is a graduate student at Smith, he scored a meeting room in Smith's gorgeous Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Fifteen or twenty people showed up.

This is a pretty new group, and Wade's still working out the kinks. Ezra's play took almost an hour and a half to read. We didn't break until after the full read. With the preliminaries, that took us to over two hours. Snacks were some soda, juice, and chips. Outside it was starting to snow. A pot of hot coffee--the real thing, with caffeine--would have hit the spot.

After the break, we discussed the play. A number of people didn't stay till the end (three and a half hours is a long time for a meeting on a weeknight), but I did. I was more interested in the critique than in the play itself. Some of the comments seemed goofy to me, but Wade's were right on the money.

Wade, who's new to the area, was fairly wowed by the Mendenhall Center, and eager to lock in a room there on a regular basis. Or find another roomy, convenient spot. Next time, we're scheduled to meet at the Media Education Foundation, but they don't allow too many continuous bookings. Packard's, a congenial Noho bar, has a back room available to groups, but the room's not very big.

Will the screenwriters find a home? Will the format get ironed out? Will the refreshments improve? Will Cicily have anything to present by spring? Stay tuned.

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