So here. Take a minute and read this. I'll wait. Then we'll go on with this discussion.
(Author leans back and puts his feet on coffee table. Pulls up email. Hmmm...nothing. Checks Facebook. Like. Like. Oh, that's funny. Like and repost. Checks email again. Still nothing. Checks blog analytics. Numbers are good. People are checking in. Makes note to self to write something for Action Bob Markle. Don't let that audience down.)
Okay, you're back?
I'm a nut for details. If I'm sitting in, let's say, the first row of The Factory Theater and I'm watching a play and an actor picks up the phone to make a call, I will actually count the number of buttons pushed to makes sure the actor is actually dialing a "real" number. Yeah, I hate myself for it, too.
And I remember once seeing this remarkable play. It was at one of those ten-minute festivals where the audience votes and it really was a sweet play with a great premise. As a matter of fact, the audience loved it, and voted it its favorite.
It was Christmastime, and a young man was in prison for the murder of his father. He murdered his father because his father used to abuse his mother. And his mother was visiting him at Christmastime. And the setting was one of those rooms in prison where visitors meet with the inmates.
So the mother comes in, all bedecked out, dressed up, with jewelry, and she was carrying a shopping bag with wrapped Christmas presents. And of course it was a play, so they got into a heated discussion, and yelled at each other and hugged. And I sat there thinking to myself, what a load of shite. Am I the only person in this theater who's been in a prison? Am I the only one sitting here who knows if you visit someone in a prison you have to take all your jewelry off? And you can't bring anything in, much less a bunch of boxes wrapped up. And if you could. they certainly would have torn them open. And when you're visiting, there's a guard in the room with a gun, so if there's any shouting going on you might not leave the room the same way you came in.
But the audience lapped it up. And applauded the actors--who did a fine job, I want to add. It was a wonderful play, it really was.
But I still wonder to myself, how much different a play it would have been if the writer knew a bit about prison life. And had the mother come in, sans jewelry, with her son's Christmas presents ripped open and shredded, because the guards couldn't care less about an inmate's feelings. And what if every impassioned, angry, hurtful word they said to each other they said consciously knowing it was being said under the watchful gaze of a man with a gun instead of all the shouting that went on?
This was a hard post to write. I don't mean to disparage a fellow writer. Hell, this business is hard enough without having to take friendly fire. My only point is that writers tend to write about what they know, but our because we have imaginations we can write about things we don't know either. Things we want to address or are curious about. And when we do write about what we don't know, we have to do some serious research, or rely on the chops of a good dramaturg.