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Becoming a Playwright, Old Moldwarp

Good news, friends! My play, “Famous Writer is Hell” was selected and will be performed at the 16th Annual Rochester One-Act Festival. Woot! The play is about, as you can imagine, famous writers in hell. For their eternal punishment, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Plato are forced to listen to undergrads misinterpret their great works. Insanity ensues.

“Famous Writers” was technically my first complete play. I thought the idea was pretty good, so I ran with it. I used every resource I had to refine the play, and in the end, my characters will come to life on stage. Pretty neat.

This achievement is especially gratifying considering that, last year, after my first playwright class, I came home terrified, insecure, and intimidated. The level of writing ability my classmates exhibited was well beyond my own. To quote myself, “Crap. I have some work to do.”

But if I’ve learned anything since moving to Rochester (other than how to keep the Polar Vortex from freezing your face off), it’s that good things happen when creative people surround themselves with other creative and more talented people.

Challenges emerge. Feedback fosters. Inspiration happens.

There’s a stigma of loneliness attached to writing: a lonely dark road, a closet with desk, just sit down and give yourself to the loneliness. Give me a break. Writing doesn’t need to be that way! Creative communities, I think, should be emphasized more in writing curriculums. These last few months, the workshopping and feedback processes have been just as key as the actual writing and editing part.

SIDE NOTE: All this said, I usually only write when I’m by myself. Writing, however, should never act as an excuse for loneliness, but as a motivator to experience life.

“Famous Writers” wasn’t chosen as a result of my uniquely accomplished, effortless writing style, but because it reflected hard work and nothing else. I workshopped it three or four times (once with actors). I sent copies to friends and heard their responses. I bugged my professor to read every draft, and I listened to his suggestions.

Writing is a team effort, man.

Thoughts on Theatre

Already, I’ve had to let go some of my preconceived notions of how the play would cast. I’m not in control, and I suppose I don’t need to be. So here’s to letting go and trusting! The first table-read with all the actors and directors and designers happened the other night. It was special. The actors (or is it thespians?) turned out to be really great. My director, Ben, is also a really sharp guy, an easy one to trust.

When the play opens in March I’m sure the stage will be smaller than what I see in my head, I’m sure the house won’t be packed, and I’m sure errors will ensue. But it doesn’t matter. You have to start somewhere, so I’m starting here. I’ll try my best to enjoy the ride.

Interested in reading some of the play? I haven’t yet shared “Famous Writers in Hell” as part of my Saturday Short series. It’s a longer piece, and I don’t think it transitions well to the blog. Nevertheless, I’ll leave you with a snippet of the script. Let me know your thoughts!

SHAKESPEARE

(in anger:)

Bestir, bestir thou lumpish waif-hewn flap-dragons!

HEMINGWAY

Calm yourself, Bill. He’s a bastard. They’re all bastards.

(HEMINGWAY takes a drink).

SHAKESPEARE

O’ my heart of hearts… the vacant, pale-hearted, malapert moldwarps.

PLATO

William, wise men speak if they have something to say, fools because they have to say something. This punishment stunts us all.

HEMINGWAY

(assuringly:)

Nonsense, dear Plato. Patience, gentlemen. I have a plan, but you must keep calm. Today is Hell. But tomorrow waves her hand; I can see her.

PLATO

Must today be a fuss? And tomorrow, and tomorrow? Let us earn our punishment in peace. You are cursed with these thoughts, Ernest. Cursed!

HEMINGWAY

Cursed either way, aren’t we?

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Any advice for a first time playwright? Thoughts on writing with a team?

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4 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more that writing, while often done individually, achieves the best results when a community is involved. This has been one of the blessings I’ve found in blogging and hope to find more extensively with a group of beta-readers.

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