I've been meaning to write another post, even though I've begun in earnest the "tracking down" phase of writing my third play. What that entails is this: I'm trying to familiarize myself as much as possible with the characters I plan to use. Not all of them will make the final cut, as the story develops, but I'm trying to form a picture in my mind of the major players in The Lord Chamberlain's Company in 1601. Can't write a backstage play about Shakespeare's men and ignore the information that is available about them all! There are facts and there are hints and anecdotes. So, I'm tracking down those. My own conjecture will follow, as I select (or invent) details that will move my story along.
I've also been researching a couple of noblemen and their roles in the events I plan to cover in this play. This is a little tricky for me as, ironically enough, I have never been very good with dates. It doesn't help me that in different generations of the same family the names and titles seem to shift with the family's fortunes! Renaissance England was truly a shifting time!
As I read through my printed sheets (from computer research) and the notes I've taken from some books (more to follow: I can hardly wait to get my copy of Henslowe's Diary), I'm sensing suggestions of how to plot my play, and how to sub-plot my play. I hope I don't end up with too much material, although that is a GOOD problem. As my Grandmother from Benevento used to say: Better too much than not enough. Of course too much good material can clutter the atmosphere and cloud the judgment. "Oh, I have to include this." No, Mary Jane, no you don't. Enjoy it, make a note of it for possible future use, and move on! That has been one of the hardest things for me to learn: to write a play that has a playing time of an hour and forty-five minutes. Even then, I'm bucking up against the new Gold Standard: 90 minutes without an Intermission. I'm counting on Shakespeare to bail me out as he set the Gold Standard as "the two-hours traffic of our stage." And even then he went way past when he felt the need. "O, reason not the need."
Tom Stoppard also seems to write what he needs to write. He operates on the assumption that his canvas is his canvas, and if it's a whole wall, well, if it's interesting and beautiful enough the audience will want all of it. Of course, I have been to plays by Stoppard (even Stoppard!) where people with expensive seats have walked out at the Intermission never to return!!!! I believe this is called voting with one's feet. But if a playwright starts out trying to please everyone and to follow each theatrical fashion, I think that playwright is putting on unnecessary shackles. Audiences sort themselves out. The playwright needs to honor his/her voice. Otherwise, what is the point of doing this at all? What is that trimmer putting out into the world but an artifact that is half-hearted? Faint heart ne'er won fair lady, nor the golden apple.