Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Sorkin Invention

Damn you, Aaron Sorkin.

Longtime readers will assume I’m condemning Sorkin for his many literary sins. I’ve been hate-watching his stuff since the halcyon days of, well, I was going to say “The West Wing,” but as soon as I typed that, I remembered how much I hated “Sports Night.” I can’t think of anything the guy has written for TV or film that didn’t annoy the hell out of me.

So, it makes sense of some sort that I’m directing his “The Farnsworth Invention” in Palo Alto this spring. And I’m actually looking forward to it. It’s a really good play and should be both fun and challenging. (Side note: I think the reason I like his stage work and not his screen work is that the former has limits; he has to tell a complete story in two hours, more or less. He doesn’t get the time to get distracted and dither the way he does working long-form.)

The fun will come eventually. I’m feeling the challenge right now because, with auditions coming up, I need a breakdown of how many actors I need. Sorkin has generously given me 93 roles to fill, and while it might be nice to have 93 actors playing those parts (some of which are only one or two lines, of course), even the Broadway production used only about 25 actors. If I had even that many, the process would be easier, but given the difficulties in casting lately, I’ll feel myself lucky to get 12-13 in the cast (and even that will have a lot of cross-gender casting, since men just don’t seem to audition anymore). But as I look at the requirements of the script – and try to figure out who’s on- or off-stage when and who can double or triple what roles – I’m getting a headache. All those Doctors and Bar Patrons and Judges are blending into one another. Some of them are obvious; the character is on so much or the doubling is indicated in the breakdown and the actors will be on stage for many, many pages, even if not in same role all the time. But others? Oy.

I realize this is a big show with big themes about big issues, but damn, Aaron, couldn’t you have made it easier? Even consulting the casting in the script and the Broadway playbill is no help, as actors are listed as playing This Role, That Role, “and Others.”

I guess this is why I get paid those big director bucks, right?

1 comment:

  1. The West Wing was a really good show in the beginning, IMHO. So was Sports Night. For me Sorkin is like Ben Roethlisberger -- when he's good (West Wing, American President, Social Network) he is capable of winning the artistic superbowl. When he sucks (whatever that faux SNL show was or the News Room) he throws 5 creative interceptions and is accused of whatever is the literary equivalent of sexual