Previews can be one of the most stressful periods of a writer’s life. Regardless of whether or not you think critical response is important to your show, the countdown to Opening life can feel like a ticking time bomb.
All the elements of the show you’ve worked on for years are finally realized for the first time. Sets, costumes, lights, special effects, actors, etc. It has all come together.
Except for that scene and song in the second act.
Writers are constantly called on to rewrite lines, scenes, songs, etc. during previews. I’ve seen entire musicals restructured, endings changed, intermissions excised, a song cut, the same song added back, and so on.
Unless you’ve practiced.
There are lots of writing workshops and classes out there, and if you’re a writer I recommend taking one that forces you to present material every 1-2 weeks in order to keep yourself on a schedule.
But does that prepare you for previews?
In addition to the above, I strongly recommend writers give themselves (or each other, if you can find some goal-oriented friends out there) a Preview Preparation Speed Writing Workshop.
Here’s how it works:
Imagine you’re in previews of a new musical playing The Palace. The love song between your hero and heroine isn’t working and Hal Prince, who you’ve luckily snagged to direct, isn’t happy. He marches up the aisle and says, “That scene and song has to go. And I need something new by dinner.”
Dinner is four hours away.
Shows can take years to actually get to the first preview. And all that time can be for nothing if you can’t write during previews.