An October Conversation with Bipolar Disorder…

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Bipolar Disorder: Trick Or Treat!

Iris: Halloween isn’t until the end of the month. You’re a few weeks early.

Bipolar Disorder: But I want candy!

Iris: It’s not time for handing out candy yet. And, you’re a mood disorder; not a costumed child.

Bipolar Disorder: GIVE me some candy!

Iris: I don’t think we’re really understanding each other very well.

Bipolar Disorder: You think I’m misunderstanding you?

Iris: It does appear that way. Since you keep asking for candy.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, well I’m bored!

Iris: And you want this to be my problem, why?

Bipolar Disorder: I’m bored with all the self-care you do. I’m bored with your stability. Mood stability is BORING!!

Iris: I rather like my mood being stable.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, and you’re boring. I want to liven things up a little this month!

Iris: Yes, I know you have been trying to do that, haven’t you?

Bipolar Disorder: Wasn’t it fun the other week? Getting only a little bit of sleep that one night, and then waking up with that new short story ready to write?

Iris: Well, yes. That was fairly pleasant.

Bipolar Disorder: And you did a great job catching the whole thing before it faded from your dream.

Iris: Er, thanks.

Bipolar Disorder: You don’t seem very convinced you should be thanking me.

Iris: I don’t believe you have my best interest at heart. No offense.

Bipolar Disorder: Sure I do! Expansive thoughts! Flights of ideas! I can give you all that! If you just give me some more candy!

Iris: More candy? I don’t eat candy.

Bipolar Disorder: That coconut drink you had yesterday was just the stuff. I want more of that!

Iris: I didn’t sleep well last night after drinking that sugary thing.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, isn’t it great?!

Iris: No. I would like to return to my usual good sleep hygiene, thank you very much.

Bipolar Disorder: You’re not very cooperative.

Iris: I don’t see that it would benefit me much to be very cooperative with you.

Bipolar Disorder: But what about that short story? Don’t I deserve some thanks for that?

Iris: You can’t take all the credit for my short story.

Bipolar Disorder: But, you don’t dream like that when you’re properly medicated. You said that yourself.

Iris: That’s right. I don’t.

Bipolar Disorder: Don’t you feel more creative and more productive when you’re a little bit Hypomanic? Or even a little bit depressed? I’m great at giving you ideas for gloomy poetry, aren’t I?

Iris: I do feel more creative and productive at those times, yes. But, what you’re offering isn’t all good. You know that.

Bipolar Disorder: Well, yeah. Of course it’s not. Why else would they  call it *trick* or treat? I gave you a treat. I gave you that short story. Now it’s time for my trick.

Iris: I’m not interested in your trick.

Bipolar Disorder: Ugh! Do you know how boring it is? Being in your brain when you take such good care of yourself that I hardly ever get to have any fun?

Iris: That sounds like your problem, not mine. I’m much happier when I’m not having to manage your symptoms very often.

Bipolar Disorder: I want candy! I want candy this month! This month is Halloween!

Iris: You’re behaving like a spoiled toddler. Your temper tantrum isn’t going to change my mind.

Bipolar Disorder: This is the month for candy! If I don’t get some candy, some fun, in your brain this month I’ll… Well, I’ll…. I’ll pout! That’s what I’ll do.

Iris: See? What did I say? Just like a spoiled toddler.

Bipolar Disorder: So, you’re going to deny me any more sugar? And you’re going to deny me more nights of broken sleep too?

Iris: Yes. You get to come along with me this month. I don’t have any choice in that. But you are not in charge of me. I am the one making decisions here. Not you. Understood?

Bipolar Disorder: Fine. Have it your way. Be boring!

Iris: Good. But, I’m not bored, by the way.

Bipolar Disorder: What do you mean?

Iris: I’ve been transcribing out conversation.  Every word. I’m saving it, and I’m sure it will become very useful for me as a reminder.

Bipolar Disorder: What reminder? For what?

Iris: For when you try this again next month. Though I’m sure you’ll be demanding Thanksgiving candy next time. Thanks for your input!

Bipolar Disorder: What?! No way! You tricked ME!

Iris: Happy Halloween!

 

Oh no! Not the bait and switch!?

Today I began my new scene with these two dialogue prompt lines:

“I feel like everything I say is being weighed and measured. It’s unsettling.”

“So what exactly is going on here anyway?”

My first character was the anxiety-ridden one, and my second character was the inquisitive one.

After writing my writing prompt scene tonight I’m thinking about humor, and also about tone. I often write comedic plays, some comedies, some farce. Other times I write drama with elements of comic relief. When we write comedy for the theatre there is, or really ought to be, more to it than simply writing funny jokes for the audience to laugh at. The characters in a play, and the situations they find themselves in, can be funny and that’s hopefully going to entertain audiences. The tricky part to making comedy work in theatre is that the characters in comedic plays usually are not trying to be funny, and if they are funny by nature then they ought to not know that they are funny. It’s a delicate balance. It can be particularly tricky when you’re writing plays that deal with serious subject matters and themes.

The first play I had produced was a farce. The three characters in that play were in a fairly ridiculous situation which they took very seriously, indeed one of their lives depended on the outcome, and yet the audience laughed. That play was lighthearted and fun, and while one of those characters eventually paid the ultimate price for his wrongdoings, the tone and mood of the play were consistent throughout. It was  comedy through and through. I felt very proud of that play and I particularly felt proud of the creating that wacky situation  for those characters to muddle themselves though to entertain the my audience.

My second produced play was not a comedy. It was a drama. However, that play was produced when I was still quite new to playwriting and I had not yet discovered how to walk that tightrope of delicate balance I mentioned above. I opened that play with a scene that was light and funny. The audience laughed. They assumed they were watching a comedy. Quickly following that opening light and funny scene the audience realized that the subject matter of my play was far darker than they had been prepared for it to be, so when serious things began happening to my characters my unsuspecting audience kept laughing anyway. Now they were laughing nervously. That audience had already been laughing at that light opening scene, and while they did not find what was happening after that scene to actually be funny any more, they were confused and unsettled by my sudden bait and switch with the tone of my play.

It’s like I offered my audience a nice tall refreshing glass of iced tea and when they took a nice long drink of it they found themselves with a mouthful of sour lemonade made with far more lemon juice than water, and no sugar. That was uncomfortable for me to experience for me as the playwright. I learned an invaluable lesson that night as I sat there feeling how unsettled the audience around me was in response to my bait and switch opening which until that evening I didn’t even realize I’d created at all.

Achieving a balance of tone in a serious play that has moments of comic relief isn’t easy. If you’re writing serious plays please heed my warning. Make every effort you can to avoid pulling a bait and switch on your audience with the tone of your play. Set the tone at the opening of your play. You can always go lighter after the overall tone is set to help the audience feel comfortable and at ease. Audiences are smart. They will follow you. They’ll figure out how to surf the emotional waves of your play. Just don’t throw them in the deep end without first teaching them to swim!