The title of this blogpost is a reference to one of the most dreaded cliches of Neo-Futurism. Specifically, Neo-Futurist dialogues.
Writing dialogues here is difficult. Because all the people onstage need to be themselves, when attempting to write for other people, the words can come across as false, or self-serving to the person that wrote it.
Xavier: Hey, Kurt? What are you doing?
Kurt: I’m eating this flag because I’m making a statement.
Xavier: That’s so interesting, Kurt. What kind of statement are you making?
Kurt: I’m glad you asked…
And so on.
There are many ways you can write this kind of (in my opinion) terrible play, and one of them is to definitely start it with the words, “Hey ___, what are you doing?”
The point of this post: New Neo-Futurist NICK HART is performing for the first time in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind TONIGHT!
He proposed six plays at rehearsal on Tuesday (all good) and three of them got in. You go, Nick.
Three other plays that were proposed did not get in. These were three attempts by other ensemble members (myself included) to, in a way, haze Nick for his rookie night. You see, an astute observation Nick made a little while ago was just the thing discussed above. When I asked him if there was anything about the Neo-Futurist aesthetic that he questioned, or wanted to challenge, he answered, “You know that thing people sometimes do to start a play? And they’re like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ And the person can clearly see what the other is doing? Yeah, that doesn’t seem right.”
Please enjoy these little plays that try to tackle the big issues. And come see Nick tonight!
Neo-Futurism 101: Writing Dialogue (with Kurt Chiang, featuring Nick Hart)
Kurt Chiang © Jan 2015
(Kurt, Nick, Lily, and Ryan are all playing Jinga with their own Jinga puzzles. After a moment, Nick asks a question.)
NH: Hey Kurt. What are you doing?
(Kurt destroys his Jinga)
KC: What’d you just say to me?
KC: I asked you a question.
NH: I was just asking what you were doing. (KC destroys Nick’s Jinga.)
KC: (he exits.) Playing Jinga. What are you doing?
NH: …What the fuck? (Kirsten enters with a stool and the drawer of Kurt’s cubbie.)
KR: Have a seat, Nick.
NH: Where’d Kurt go?
KR: Do us all a favor and stop asking so many questions. (Nick sits on the stool.) You see this busted plastic drawer? Rhetorical question, of course you do. Every Neo-Futurist gets a drawer like this back there in the green room. When I first got in the show, I got real pissed at myself for screwing up some dumb thing in some dumb play, and I put my foot through this, like a child.
NH: But, Kirsten, it says “Kurt” on it. That’s Kurt’s.
KR: I don’t want you to go through that kind of hurt, so just sit there and listen for a second.
NH: Ok. (Tif enters.)
TH: Nick, promise me that you’ll never, ever start a play again with “Hey, Neo-Futurist. What are you doing?” It’s lazy, and uninteresting.
NH: But I didn’t write this play.
(LM destroys her Jinga.)
LM: Another thing, Nick. Be more respectful to your fellow ensemble members. Don’t write them empty, qualifiers like “But I didn’t write this play.” The audience generally doesn’t consider the context of these plays. While they are pieces of writing, the audience’s sensation here is to experience them as spontaneous moments. As it should be.
MW: So while it might seem rational to exploit the nature of playwriting and the written word by peppering your script with such text, in hopes that your dialogue will seem “more true,” you need to remember that the audience’s detachment from your private process is so vast, that any reference to it here will come across as unconnected and therefore false to whatever truth the play is striving to achieve.
NH: Ok…? (Brenda enters.)
BA: At the same time, don’t pretend like this stuff isn’t written. It’s important that we educate our audience of this essence of contemporary Neo-Futurism, which I think values, more than anything, the on-going attempt to marry writing, or any pre-determined action, with the honest, actual, live moment of a short play, which by definition is written.
NH: So, Brenda, when you say “I” are you talking about “you?”
(Kurt enters, reading the script off the page.)
KC: See, there you go again, Nick. Still feeling compelled to name exactly what is going on, in hopes that you come across as honest. You’ve got a long road ahead of you, my friend. But don’t worry, you’ll get there. I mean, look how well this play is going. I was able to balance a myriad of intriguing devices, to create humor, surprise, and poignancy. I justified other performers saying my own arguments, first by highlighting your comparatively novice status, then by reading my own text, gifting the audience the satisfying experience of discovering that it was my voice all along.
KR: (to Kurt) And let’s not forget, Kurt, the dynamic play between this measured and pedantic use of language balanced with the chaotic and joyful action of destroying Jinga puzzles.
KC: (still reading) I’ve never been righter. Thanks, Kirsten.
NH: Wait, so was that Kirsten talking, or you?
(Ryan destroys his Jinga, and reads Nick’s next line.)
NH: I’m bored!
TH: Nick! Don’t be rude to Kurt!
LM: He’s trying to teach you.
NH: But that wasn’t me! That was Ryan reading my line!
BA: Jesus. Give it a rest.
KC: (Kurt drops the script. It floats to the floor.) Welcome to the rest of your life, Nick.
Deconstruction of a Neo-Futurist’s Crutch
Brenda Arellano © 2015
TH: Hey Nick.
NH: Hey Tif.
TH: What are you doing?
BA pokes her head out of SR door.
BA: Congratulations! You just started the world’s most boring play. Start again.
TH: Hey, what are you up too?
BA: (hissing) Who you crappin? You know exactly what he’s doing. Try again.
TH: Hey Nick
NH: Hey Tif
TH: Sitting on that lip, huh?
TH: (exasperated) Nick!
TH: Doing, are you?
NH: (standing up) Doing!
TH: (throws a chair) Doing!
NH: (throws a chair) Doing!
BA: (throws a chair) Doing!
NH picks up TH
BA: (stopping him) Are you?
NH gives BA a look.
NH: (putting TH down) Heeeey
All of them set up the chairs on the lip while repeating ‘Hey’ in various ways. They sit on the chairs.
TH/NH: Are you?
TH: (putting a hand on BA’s knee) Hey.
NH: (putting a hand on TH’s knee) Hey.
ALL: (sinking into their seats, whispering) Hey.
Nick Hart & The End of Empty Questions
Tif Harrison © 2015
Nick and Tif stand onstage, shoulder to shoulder. Long silence.
TH: whispers Nick. Are you going to ask? Are you going to ask me the question?
TH: whispers But Nick, the play can’t start until you say it.
TH: Nick. Please. Please say it.
TH: If you’re not going to play by the rules how will you ever be a successful neo-
NH: Stop saying my name.
TH: How will they know you are really you if I don’t constantly refer to your name…. Nick….
NH: Looks at Tif
LM: Hey, what are you guys doing?
TH: Lily! Nick is suppose to ask that question. The play can’t start until he asks. That’s his job now. But he refuses. Nick refuses to ask the question.
LM: Is that true?
Lights shift to front spot, Nick walks into it.
NH: Yes, it’s true. My name is, indeed, Nick and I never will ask the question, “What are you doing?” on this stage because we rehearse all our plays. Everything we do, we rehearse. I’ll know on Tuesday what everyone will be doing on Friday and Saturday and Sunday. It’s stupid. It’s a stupid question.
Ya know, that use to be me out there in the audience, sitting in chairs made of hay watching some asshole ask some other asshole, “What are you doing?” And never once did I think to myself, “Oh wow! That one asshole doesn’t have a clue what that other asshole is doing! This is all so very real and true and unfolding in front of my eyes! What a truly unique moment never to be seen by anyone ever again.” Nah, that ain’t me. Because that sorta question is for fools and Nick Hart is many things, but Nick Hart ain’t no fucking fool.
BA: Hey Nick!
BA: What are you doing?