lunedì 12 settembre 2011

Rewrites. A memoir - Neil Simon

In the spring of 1957, I was unhappily in California working on a television special. I was thirty years old and knew that if I didn't start writing that first Broadway play soon, I would inevitably become a permanent part of the topography of the West Coast. The very thought of it jump-started me to my desk.
I sat a the typewriter and typed out "O N E S H O E O F F," all in caps and putting a space after each letter and a double space after each word, trying to picture what it would look like upmon a theater marquee. Four spaces down, in regular type, came "A New Comedy." I sat back and studied it. Not a bad start for a first play. Then I suddenly wondered: when they wrote together, did Geroge S. Kaufman type this out or did Moss Hart? No, it must have been Hart. He was the eager young writer poised behind the trusty old Royal machine while Kaufman, the seasoned old pro, would be lyng across a sofa in his stockinged feet munching on his handmade fudge, bored by such prosaic labors as mannual typing. Kaufman had probably put in enough time punching the keys back in the old days when he was drama critic for The New York Times.
How I envied young Moss Hart being in the same room with the great Kaufman, knowing he would be guided through the pitfalls of playwriting mush as any club reporter would feel the security of marching behind Henry M. Stanley as he guided his pack-bearers across the African plain in search of the great missionary, and then, upon finding him, having the coolness and gift of a great journalist to put quite simply and memorably, "DR. Livingstone, I presume?"…
But, I had no Henry M. Stanley to teach me the impact of brevity in great moments. As a matter of fact, I had no George S. Kaufman, no fudge, no nobody. I had me. Not only had I not written a play before, I had never written anything longer than twelve pages, which was all that was rewuired for a TV variety sketch back in the mid-1950s. Even that was a major step up from the one-liners I used to write with my brother, Danny, when we were earning our daily bagels working for stand-up comics and sit-dow columnists.
Now I was faced with 120 pages to feed, complete with characters, plots, subplots, unexpected twists and turns, boffo first-act curtaind lines, rip-roaring second-act curtain lines, and a third act that brought it all to a satisfyng, hilarious, and totally unexpected finish, sending audiences to their feet and critics to their waiting cabs, scribbling on their notepads in the darkness "A Comic Genius Hit New York Last Night".
…At least Lindbergh had the stars to guide him. I didn't even know how to change the typewriter ribbon. Nevertheless, I pushed on.

Rewrites. A memoir - Neil Simon.

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