I am privileged to be able to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every other year.
We all attend the Festival expecting to see great work and are seldom disappointed. Despite the name, not every play is a Shakespeare production, the Festival includes modern works and popular musicals. This year musical was My Fair Lady staged in the Bowmer Theater.
Since the Festival is about the new, art and creating a new way to see traditional plays (re: Shakespeare), My Fair Lady was staged with everything – the musicians, the chorus changing and hanging around, all on stage in full view of the audience (no, there was no nudity, that would be a different version of the show wouldn’t it?).
A friend commented that she didn’t like the huge stage-bulb sign in the back proclaiming My Fair Lady. She thought it was distracting, as if the sign, as well as the chorus changing their clothes in plain sight, were all in the service of pointing out – “hey, you’re watching a play and we are only actors.” We actually knew that already. But part of the charm of a play is getting so involved, you forget it’s a play, and begin to care and even worry about the people on the stage. But that wasn’t really the point of the performance.
The central theme of My Fair Lady is a person can transform themselves by changing their language and their outfit. Slip on another outfit, deliver a different line, sing a different song: you are different (Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd illustrated this idea as well). Watching the same chorus member change from a servant in the house to an participate at Ascot, was very much the point – the reflection of how Eliza could change.
What does this have to do with writing? Obviously immersing yourself into another art form – the play – can directly improve your own writing and creativity. But that’s not why I bring up this particular show.
What I never understood in My Fair Lady is the slippers. In the second act Eliza violently throws slippers at Higgins nearly hitting him in the head. The final line in the play is: Where the devil are my slippers?
So what’s my problem?
There are no slippers in the first act.
There is no build up or even set up to make the Act II slipper incident make sense. For us, as an audience, we need to see that offensive footwear in Act I. Even if slippers are not mentioned in the script – we can see the slippers, we can see Eliza find them when no one else in the household can. We can see her care for Higgins in some manner in Act I so when he misses her in Act II, we know why. We need to understand Higgins’ attachment to his casual footwear so when Eliza throws the slippers in anger,we understand, we applaud.
We’ve all been guilty of this kind of omission in our work, which is why we engage Beta Readers, why we have continuity editors.
Because when we don’t, those nagging inconsistencies will be what we remember about an otherwise lovely show.
Don’t let that be the one thing a reader remembers about your book.