Writers Victoria theatre intern John Back interviews Caleb Lewis about playwriting.
Why is theatre important to you?
It pays my bills.
What is the experience like as a writer when your words are being spoken by someone else?
By the time a play reaches that stage most writers know the words so well that you’ll often spy them on opening night, sitting up the back, mouthing the words in concert with the actors onstage. So it’s an odd feeling. Thrilling and terrifying. Your work is done and now it’s up to the actors and director to (hopefully) make it sing.
What do you think is the hardest part of writing a playscript?
I really love the research stage. There is a part of me that still misses high school assignments (I know, weird!) and so I particularly enjoy interviewing people and poring over books at libraries, and trawling online. Writing is fun. Rewriting is sometimes easier and sometimes harder then the first draft but usually it is still fun.
The hardest part of playwriting is not the writing at all but rather getting the work on once the writing part is finished!
How do you approach writing setting and exposition for the stage?
As far as setting goes I’d say that a play is most successful when its form reflects the content. As a rule I am generally uninterested in creating naturalistic detailed settings onstage, as I think theatre is an act of storytelling and should suggest and infer rather than slavishly recreate what one can see outside anyway.
Regarding exposition, I think of it as the controlled release of backstory in the present. Too little and the audience may get lost. Too much and it will “clunk.”
Your advice for someone thinking about writing for stage?
Use italics for stage directions.