Natalie Symons

Natalie Symons’ plays have been developed and produced at freeFall Theatre, ACT, Aurora Theatre, American Stage, New American Theatre, Theater Schmeater, Florida Studio Theatre, Bridge Street Theatre, Theatre22, Amas Musical Theatre, New Century Theatre, and Urbanite Theatre.

Awards/recognitions: Lark Eden: Suzi Bass nomination, Creative Loafing Readers’ Choice ‘Best Playwright.’ The Buffalo Kings: 8 Theatre Tampa Bay Award nominations including ‘Outstanding Play,’ Broadway World Award ‘Best Play,’ Creative Loafing Critics’ Choice Award ‘Best Playwright,’ Naming True: ACT/Theatre22 The Construction Zone New Works Festival, Recipient of Palm Beach Dramaworks’ Dramaworkshop Prize, Bridge Initiative Women in Theatre Playwright of the Year Award finalist, Ashland New Play Festival finalist, Hope and Optimism (University of Notre Dame and Cornell University) finalist.

Natalie’s commissioned play Schooney’s Home for Girls and John, inspired by the book Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker, will premier at Florida Studio Theatre this spring. Natalie will be the Playwright in Residence for the 2018/19 season at American Stage. She is the author of the upcoming novel Call Her Frank, a literary mystery set in a forgotten steel town in Pennsylvania. Natalie has a degree in human services and drama therapy, and studied theatre at Boston University.

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2018-08-19T19:23:57-04:00

Don’t say it.

Don’t say it.

Something I struggle with when crafting a play is what’s not said. I’m not talking about the themes and ideas underpinning the play, but rather what don’t the characters say – that is often just as important to the story as what is actually spoken in the dialogue.

Novelists have the luxury of getting into the heads of their characters (this is the big reason why I love writing the narrative of a novel). As a playwright we tell our audience everything about the character through what the character says– and what other characters say about them.

But just as in life, the silences in the theatre also inform us. This is obviously the job of actors and directors, but still it’s the playwright’s job to infuse the script with what’s not said.

It’s what’s not said that often takes me the longest to tackle when writing drafts of a script. I’ve sometimes made the mistake of saying too much and not trusting the audience to get it on their own. The result is something heavy handed or too on-the-nose. And I’ve also sometimes not said enough, thinking the audience will get it and then they don’t get it.

For instance in The Buffalo Kings there is a closeted gay character that comes to Christmas dinner. I wanted the audience to know he was gay without ever saying it. Director Eric Davis and actor Chris Crawford, who played Pete, helped me with this in rehearsal. Chris was beautifully nuanced in the play but my writing in that moment was just a little bit off. As it happened some audiences got it and some missed it. But damn it, I wanted them all to get it! So in the post-production draft of the script I added a line that acknowledges that Pete is gay.

In writing my new piece, I tried different variations of scenes to say things without actually saying it. I won’t know until I hear it in readings if it works. But I sure do love trying to solve the puzzle of what to say and what not say every time I sit down to write a play. 

2018-08-19T12:02:37-04:00

Does It Linger?

Does It Linger?

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Chautauqua Theatre Company’s production of George Brant’s new play Into The Breeches. It’s a female-driven backstage comedy, so my guess is it will get a lot of mileage regionally, as comedies – especially the ones with women in the driver’s seat – are a rarity in the theatre.

In the play, which is about the production of a play, one character asks another if the play “lingers”. I love this. You see for me, if I’m not thinking about the play the next day, or more specifically the characters in the play, then it probably wasn’t very good. And if the play is really good then I’m thinking about the characters a week later, two months later.

I know I touched on this in an earlier post, but if it doesn’t “linger” then it wasn’t an effective play. Playwright Taylor Mac says: “All plays are flawed except the extremely boring ones.” For me, flaws don’t matter – it’s if it lingers, if it’s still with me days, weeks, even years later – that’s what matters.

And if I ask myself this one question: I wonder what happens next to those characters? If I ask myself that question, then the playwright did her job. For that is the mark of good story telling.

2018-08-19T11:43:34-04:00

“Oh my God! I wrote a hit play!”

Oh my God! I wrote a hit play!

…yells Max Fischer in the movie Rushmore. 

It’s my favorite of Wes Anderson’s films (and I love them all). And that particular scene is a classic. Anyway my point is: I wrote a play, I wrote four plays! And none of them are hits.

Lark Eden has had multiple productions but the other two were one-hit wonders, or rather one-production wonders. The Buffalo Kings was pretty successful when freeFall produced it, but after it closed I never did much – or anything for that matter – to get the script out there in the world. Naming True, both the writing of and the world premier of, was a learning experience. I’ll just say this: two-handers (two character plays) are a master-class in playwriting – or any narrative writing for that matter.

Now, as of a week ago, I have a draft of my newest play, titled The People Downstairs. It’s a father-daughter drama that also takes place in my hometown of Buffalo. American Stage is partnering with me in the 2018/19 season to develop it. I look forward to the collaborative process. Collaboration is a delicate art form, as it takes a thick skin and sensitive insight to work with other artists to breathe life into your story.

I’m aware that these posts have had rather little to do with my process as a playwright. I don’t have much to say about it I’m afraid. I just write. I write plays.

And someday just maybe I’ll write a hit play.

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