by Carole Vasta Folley, Vermont Artists’ Space Grant
Carole Vasta Folley of Essex Junction is the newest recipient of the Vermont Artists’ Space Grant. During the 10-week creation process, Carole works to develop a work-in-progress theeater piece that premieres on Saturday, May 30 in FlynnSpace. Apply now to be considered for the next Vermont Artists’ Space Grant.
This is a page from one of the scenes from The Seymour Sisters, my new play, I’m workshopping at the Flynn as part of the Vermont Artists’ Space Grant. And I love it. (Both the Grant and the page You can tell I am at the point where I should be making these edits and reprinting. Although I don’t have the time right now to do that, at this point, I don’t think I would. These pages of crossed-out lines and scribbled-in words ARE my work. I have found myself getting as much joy out of the dialogue I omit as the lines I keep. That probably sounds funny as I would have thought it’d be painful to cut lines I really liked, lines that spoke to the heart, or were funny, or whatever. But instead, when I strip away these lines, they become unnecessary and what is left is stronger.
For me, editing happens in several ways. First is pre-reads, just script in hand reading and rereading, stops and starts. Asking, “Do I really need that?” or “why is she saying that?” Words get changed and lines are crossed-out. I am accustomed to this type of editing as I have edited this way solely for years—just me and my laptop. Alone is best as I speak the dialogue out loud. My goal is to not just hear it, but to listen to it. This process is often surprising and marvelous, even when it’s just me alone in my office playing all the roles. After all, it is the first time my characters speak audibly and resonate beyond my mind. Their words become vibrations bouncing off walls and they become real.
I have been able to play with a deeper editing process in the Hoehl studio at the Flynn. This exploration has changed me as a playwright. It has given me new tools and ways of thinking in regards to editing. During rehearsals in the Hoehl studio, I continue to edit, but this time, on my feet—IN the scene, as an actor and as a director. If you were in the room, you’d often hear me exclaim, “Let’s try it!” The Vermont Artists’ Space Grant has given me permission of sorts to take the time to investigate the dialogue more thoroughly—trying scenes with and without certain words or lines and playing with moments to find the sweet spot. We workshop a scene over and over again—changing it up as we go—both editing dialogue and movement. Oh, the myriad of ways we humans communicate and thus the endless possibilities for exploration and variety. Sometimes—and this is really fun—I’ll say, “Drop the script! We know what the script says, let’s now say it in our own character’s words”—improv of sorts. This has been a successful method especially in wonky or seemingly disingenuous moments, resulting often in a big ah-ha!
I walk away from these studio sessions (gratefully) exhausted from all the editing, reiterations, and emotional journey traveled. The Seymour Sisters covers some tough topics and while workshopping them, we might be in a painful space for hours even though we’re working on one page of dialogue. But to be able to edit while acting and directing is so valuable I now can’t imagine it any other way.
Finally, so far the biggest gift of the editing process has been this: Somewhere along the way, I don’t remember writing the dialogue anymore, it lives outside me. More accurately, the characters begin to live outside of me. Then—here’s the best part—THEY inform ME what to omit and what to keep. They are the ones who have something to say.