I have this play, “How to Kill Cactus,” that I thought was the crown jewel of my plays. It’s the most complete, the most ready-for-production play I’ve written.
I was heartbroken when I suddenly saw the problems in it, and realized how much work I have to do to fix them.
See, at the reading it had on the 21st (of October), I got restless and irritated during the middle of the second act. My notes are full of “cut that!” “get rid of all of this exposition!” “up the stakes!”
The audience didn’t act as restless as I felt. So I thought maybe, just maybe, everything was okay. After all, I hadn’t changed the play that much from the reading back in January, because it didn’t seem to need it. So maybe I was restless because I know the script so well.
Then I used the dialogue-checking technique I wrote about last time. (Reading one character’s lines — it works!!!)
I read through the play, reading just the lines of one of the minor characters. Then I did it again, with another minor character.
Just that was enough to make it glaringly obvious that, in the second act, most of the characters were not working towards their objectives. There wasn’t enough action, enough momentum towards the climax of the play.
Oh, damn. Now I have to refresh my memory of the voice of this play, and how to write it. And rewrite four scenes in the second act.
But it will be a better play.
Has this ever happened to you? Please tell me I’m not alone.