UPDATE: Matthew Freeman has posted some of his thoughts over at his blog, giving some added insight to his take on theory and practice.
UPDATE #2: Talk of the Walk-Up author Dan Trujillo has posted an excellent entry with his take on theory/practice over at Venal Scene, shedding some light on his writing process.
"Filmmakers generally make movies about movies. Rarely are they inspired by their own lives or real life in front of them. They can never describe their film without immediately in the next sentence making reference to other films or other types of media. They're all making homages to someone other than themselves, and I cannot stomach that. It makes me want to vomit."
Congratulations to the cast and crew of Talk of the Walk-Up for putting on such a fine, fun and bizarre show. It really is unique. For those of you who haven't yet seen it, you've got two more chances (tonight and tomorrow). Reserve your tickets by calling (212) 501-4751.
After seeing Dan and Isaac's show last night, a number of us went to the local bar for some obligatory post-show drinking. Joanne had asked me what I had thought about the idea of incorporating theory into playwriting (she was specifically curious to know how the process of writing for the stage worked for me) and I don't think I provided her with a very coherent answer (go figure). I had said that I didn't give much conscious thought to theory (or Theory) while writing for the stage, but that didn't mean some things weren't rattling around in the ole' noggin (you can't really escape some degree of literary pretension if you're a "former student of English").
Of course, saying I don't think about theory implies a.) my interest in writing is only to entertain (it isn't), b.) it's purely intuitive (also not true) and c.) Pete and I are just throwing some not-fully-baked concoction from my brain a la David Lynch out on the stage and leaving it up to the audience as to what the show is all about (definitely not true).
I am hoping, when I write something, that I can find at least a few audiences to be on my wavelength with the work; to have them relate to it, see their world/life in a new light, cast some light on something that doesn't seem quite right in the world, dispel some cliches, end world hunger, save the world, be one with nature, get closer to God, all that. (Yes, there's much more to it than that, and I'm sure at some point I'll get into greater detail but for the sake of this entry this very short answer will have to do.)
Personally, I do see there being a danger of writing creative work based solely on theory (and, more specifically, another author's theory), because it can stifle your actual "voice" and you run the risk of either writing term papers for the stage or writing "Beckett-lite" or "Brecht-lite."
Having said that, I'm not against a writer being intellectual or theoretical with his or her work. Whatever works for you, works for you, right?
I think this may be just a difference between inductive and deductive trains of thought.
Yeah, you remember learning about "The Scientific Method" back in sixth grade, where you first come up with a theory, then create a hypothesis, then create an experiment to test the validity or invalidity of that hypothesis, then come up with a conclusion, right? That's deductive reasoning; or, "Top-Down" thinking. Inductive reasoning is "Bottom-Up" thinking: you make observations, detect patterns, formulate a hypothesis and then come up with your theory.
When writing for more than just the need to entertain, when writing for the need to get to "the bottom of things," make discoveries, pry open your (and the audience's) proverbial third eye, expunge untrue clichés that we take for granted, I'm more of an inductive (rather than deductive) kind of guy, but that in no way means I'm disparaging of deductive thought.
My best guess is someone like George thinks about things in a deductive way (the theory comes first, the work comes second). [George, please correct me if I'm way off on this.] I think about things - and write about things - in an inductive way, where my ideas for my plays come first from observations, then noticing the patterns, then halfway through (or a third of the way through, or three-quarters, whatever..."at some point before the rough draft is done") guessing where the patterns come from and why, then finishing the play based on theory and - in case this entry isn't as pedantic and pretentious enough for you guys - having it factor into my personal theory on life.
But that's just my theory.
Just a waste of space,
James "Bottom's Up!" Comtois