Stine is a writer. He has been noticed by big shot Hollywood producer Buddy and offered a three movie deal to write the screenplay turning his novels into movies. The Novels are about Stone, a private detective trying to solve cases and navigate his complex love life.
I love this musical. I love the cleverness which parallels the fictional novel universe of Stone with the life of the writer Stine, with many of the protagonists and events he writes about clearly inspired by himself and the people he knows. As Stine’s wife sings
“And come to think of itGabby, City of Angels. Music Cy Coleman, Lyrics David Zippel
Your writing always mirrors our relationship
With dangers cropping up
And sweet young strangers popping up like weeds”
Buddy wants to edit this story for the silver screen, to paint with pictures and a moving soundtrack rather than words and exposition. To change the characters and events to fit his own life and experiences and cast the people he knows to play them.
Who owns a story?
In theatre and film there is a concept of “death of the author” – once it is written and published it is no longer yours. The person who reads it brings the words to life for themselves. Sometimes we use this within dramatherapy; how can this character stand in for what I am experiencing right now. Sometimes it is a quality in the character we wish we had – to be able to save the day like the super hero. Sometimes it is a situation which is how we metaphorically feel – trapped in the maze unable to find our way out.
At other times in dramatherapy, what is created is about the process of creating something personal for us. So if we write a story inspired by our life and people we know it is much more important to make the process of that exploration meaningful, rather than to polish the finished product. In this case the author is very much alive and engaged in the material; setting it, directing it, being immersed in it.
In a group setting, sometimes others will still offer what they witness or experienced in someone else’s story. They may offer a perspective or their own association. The dramatherapist will then ask the story author to reflect on these offerings and see if they add texture to what was created or if perhaps they only resonate in that way for the other group member.
In City of Angels, Stone is a version of Stine which is in some ways idealised. As the characters sing to each other “you’re nothing, without me”. Stone has a more exciting life, he is making better choices. Stone is also not real and part of Stine’s journey is to integrate the aspects of Stone which he needs into his own life to create the Hollywood ending for himself.
In dramatherapy, whether we are using characters created by others or writing our own narratives we need to allow some of the fictional version to be reclaimed into our own lives. The story is powerful but if we can integrate the message it can also be transformative.