Editing is not an exact science. When I edit, I always feel as if I am straddling an invisible line that I’ve made for myself between what is “better” and what a writer actually intends. Being a writer myself, I have plenty of opinions about what makes good writing. But editing, whether as a dramaturg for a theater company or for clickbait website like buzzfeed, requires that you find a balance between the two. It isn’t your writing, after all.
For this project, finding that line has been especially difficult, since for confidentiality reasons I wasn’t allowed to see the initial transcribed interviews. Every script that I worked on Stephanie had already taken from the source material (transcribed interviews), and rearranged into a manageable form. I took that form and polished. I had to deal with three realities; my own artistic sensibilities, Stephanie’s intent for the pieces themselves, and the reality of the stories that we had been told. Keeping faithful to all of them has not been an easy business.
Being the projects’ assistant director has probably helped most toward that end. The wonderful thing about theatre is that you can see and hear the text as it’s delivered to you in rehearsal. If you’ve made a wrong choice, or if a phrase is awkwardly worded, that is immediately apparent when spoken. Many times, I’ve deferred to the actors’ opinions on the text. To me this only makes sense. An actor feels the text. They know it from the perspective of the person speaking it. I can come close, but I can never quite manage that insight.
The result of all of this cutting and pasting, balancing and rearranging that we’ve had to do is that these monologues belong to no one. I think this is a good thing. A piece of art can be whatever it wants to be, but what I’ve told Stephanie from the beginning is that this piece is not just ours. It’s not mine, or the actresses involved, or even the women who allowed us to use their words.