Day #6 – Sick + Rewrites = I don’t even know.

So, the good news is that after going over Mead’s notes and my notes, I was able to bust through and cut over 24 pages out of the script fairly painlessly.  I sort of went through it with a machete and hacked away left and right, anyplace where there were chunks of dialogue that seemed repetitive, or things were being over-explained, or someone was saying the exact same thing but in nineteen different ways (what can I say, I write like I talk).  There’s still more cuts to be made, I’m sure; I’m hoping to take some time this weekend to go through with a fine-toothed comb and sort of work out the kinks a little; like, are there tiny tweaks that need to be made to smooth over a place where I hacked out two whole pages?  (ANSWER: Yes.)  But since that means I’ve cut fully like half an hour out of the running time, I’m feeling pretty good.  It was surprising, after talking through it with Mead for so long, how easily the cuts came; like the first pass through, I just sort of skimmed through it and highlighted (with that oh-so-satisfying MS Word cross-out function, like so) everything that seemed like it could be cut.  Like whole huge chunks of stuff at a time.  Then I slept on it, and the next day went back to see if I had been overly zealous or had changed my mind; and in like 9 cases out of 10, I still felt like, “Yup, that can go.”  Soooooo satisfying.

Here’s an example of a scene that got hacked to shreds and I’m so so happy with it.  So, the big climactic scene of the play (don’t worry, no spoilers) is a confrontation between Molly and her asshole dad, who just got out of prison and she hasn’t seen him in years.  He finds out where she is and is on his way to the abbey to see her.  She’s waiting for him to show up.  This is the first scene of the final act, by the way.  Mead’s advice was to make sure things were speeding up towards the play’s climax, and to make extra-sure that nothing in that section feels like it drags.

BEFORE

(Lights up on the garden.  MOLLY sits alone with GEORGE.)

MOLLY

How much longer, do you think?

GEORGE

Soon.

MOLLY

If he left right away . . . it’s less than an hour drive without traffic.

GEORGE

It will all be over soon.  Don’t worry.

MOLLY

I haven’t seen him since I was ten.

GEORGE

You must prepare yourself for him to be very different.  You have no idea who he has become or how he might have changed – for better or worse.  (Pause) Did your mother ever tell you about how she first came here?

MOLLY

No.

GEORGE

She came with your father on a marriage retreat.

MOLLY

Seriously?

GEORGE

Yes.

MOLLY

He was here too?

GEORGE

Only the once.  Nearly twenty years ago, now.  He didn’t take to it.

MOLLY

Shocking.

GEORGE

The purpose of the marriage retreat, you see, was to strengthen damaged relationships.  Now, your mother was a human being, imperfect as we all are, but still – the damage in their relationship was not primarily driven by her.  She wanted to fix things.  She was willing to work on what she was able to fix.  She quite reasonably expected the same of your father.

MOLLY

But?

GEORGE

Ray was, even then, a deeply troubled person.  I wanted so badly to help him, to see his eyes opened.  But by the time he came to us, he was already beginning the downward spiral.  He was convinced Hannah – your mother – was cheating on him.  He bought a gun in order to protect her from the lustful advances of other men.  He quoted Scripture to me about wives being their husbands’ property.  Your mother had a stubborn streak, and she admitted many times that she lost her temper with him more often than she should, although frankly it would have taken a saint not to.  Ironically, I think that strength of spirit, that confidence is what your father first fell in love with – but as the years went by and he couldn’t control it, it became what he hated the most about her.  And I think he probably also feared and resented it in you.

MOLLY

Yeah.

GEORGE

He hated her coming here, but she did it anyway.  All the time.  Towards the end, it seemed like she was here a week or two out of every month. She never said it out loud, but I think it was largely to get away from your father.  She was a woman of great faith and intelligence, your mother.  She had extraordinary gifts.  You’re so very much like her.  You are truly your mother’s daughter.

MOLLY

I don’t think so.

GEORGE

You were loved by your mother, more than anything else on earth.  You must always, always remember that.  And I must believe that deep down, inside his own pain and anger, you were loved by your father too.  (PASCAL, DOMINIC, LEO, STEPHEN and MAGNUS enter.)

LEO

How are you?  Are you okay?

MOLLY

You all can stop asking.  I swear I’m fine.

PASCAL

You are an extraordinarily strong-minded young woman, Molly Fowler.  You were a child when your father went to prison, but you’re an adult now.  He can’t control you.  You have nothing to be afraid of.

MOLLY

I’m not afraid.

DOMINIC

We will hear him out, with respect and Christian empathy.  We can only hope that his time in prison has given him a new perspective he didn’t have before.

MOLLY

(Dryly) We can only hope.

BROTHER LEO

(Looking down the downstage path) I see him!  I see him!  He’s coming up the hill now.

MAGNUS

You sure you’re all right?

MOLLY

I’m fine.  It’s going to be fine.  What’s the worst that can happen?

PASCAL

That’s the spirit.

MOLLY

(Quietly) I’m glad you’re all here.  (PASCAL squeezes her hand affectionately.  MOLLY takes a deep breath and stands up to face the doorway.  PASCAL stands beside her and takes her hand.  RAY storms in, clearly expecting to find MOLLY alone.  He stops short when he sees the men with her.)

RAY

Molly.

MOLLY

Hi, Ray.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

AFTER

(Lights up on MOLLY, pacing back and forth in the guest house with GEORGE and MAGNUS.  GEORGE and MOLLY are talking quietly while MAGNUS watches out the window.  Outside in the garden, DOMINIC, STEPHEN and LEO are looking expectantly up the path as if waiting for someone.  They are all fidgety and nervous-looking.)

MOLLY

I haven’t seen him since I was ten.

GEORGE

He may be a very different man now.  (Pause) Did your mother ever tell you about how she first came here?  She came with your father on a marriage retreat.

MOLLY

He was here too?

GEORGE

Only the once.  Nearly twenty years ago, now.  He didn’t take to it.

MOLLY

Shocking.

GEORGE

He hated her coming here, but she did it anyway.  She wouldn’t give it up.  She was a woman of great courage, your mother.  You’re so much more like her than you think.  (PASCAL enters with RAY, walking down the garden path towards the guest house.) She loved you more than anything else on earth.  You must always, always remember that.  And I must believe that deep down, inside his own pain and anger, you were loved by your father too. 

MAGNUS

He’s here.

MOLLY

Okay. (She takes a deep breath.)

GEORGE

You don’t have to do this.

MOLLY

It’s okay.  I’m not afraid.  (They open the door and step out into the garden.)

RAY

Molly.

MOLLY

Hi, Ray.

———————————————————————————

Right?  So much crisper.  At least I think so.  I mean, you get all the same basic important points – her parents’ marriage was bad, the monks know her dad, she’s nervous, the monks are nervous for her as well as protective – those are all the salient details that need to come through for everything in the rest of the scene to hold together.  But the whole story isn’t necessary; with the cuts, it lets the audience fill in the details for themselves.

Hopefully more before-and-after stuff to come as I whittle down the rest.  For now, off to bed.  I was home sick from work today and am feeling better now, so I don’t want to jinx it by staying up until all hours procrasti-blogging.

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