I have joined the Librettists Workshop, which runs throughout the Spring at the Actors Centre. It is being funded by the Really Useful Group, the Arts Council and MMD. The group is being run along the lines of the BMI Lehman Engel workshop in New York and for this season it is focusing on form, structure and characterisation. Later we hope to use the group as feedback on work in progress.
There was a really eclectic mix of people in the group, from all areas in the musical theatre scene. There were also producers and artistic directors, hoping themselves to find out more about the craft of the librettist.
I left with a copy of the libretto of West Side Story under my arm, for a first assignment in deconstruction. The most important words I carried away with me were:
The leading character must be active and not passive
There should be a sense of unity in the "world" of the show
The ticking clock - where a character has to achieve something in a certain time builds tension
The leading character has to fanatically want something tangible and non-tangible and we have to be routing for them more than in a stage play
We need to see through the eyes of the characters
I think I knew all these things but it is good to be reminded about them, especially in the middle of writing something new. It is very easy to get lost in the world of your own book and essential to stand outside, look at it with fresh eyes and say "am I doing all the right things dramatically".