Not quite poetry and nearly never prose, rock lyrics have been a part of my playwriting for a long time. And they’ve been a disaster. I personally think it’s hilarious to have characters speak with earnest dialogue that they’d otherwise sing in the shower. Observe the previously-linked Jack Black summarizing his teaching philosophy with Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”.
But the joke gets lost in production. The lyrics are cut—or worse, they’re sung. The absurd sincerity of spoken word rock is smothered to death.
Yet I can’t resist. My recent Jack, Wanda, and Ben addition compounds my bad habits with two rock and roll references.
Wanda But Ben, you act as if you just don’t care.
This one’s easy. It’s “So Lonely” by The Police. I love the staccato rhythm of this phrase, and hope the clipped speech will prevent future Wandas from whining too much. Yet it’s likely that these actresses will instead pull out their Gordon Sumner impressions.
Wanda You think that abandoning me is OK just as long as you give a thought to me every now and then.
OK, this isn’t exactly a lyric; it’s from David Bowie’s speech in the extended “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. Give a thought? This is Band Aid’s call to action? These three words stuck in my head as something so tasteless, so absurd, that they could never be spoken with any genuine kindness. Apparently Wanda feels the same way.
Please note I insert these lyrics with the best of intentions. In performance, though, I’ve only seen them cause more harm than good. Perhaps it’s time to stop rocking for a while, and see what playwriting alone can do.