Starting this blog was harder than starting the script of the play I wrote. Stark Turn has asked that each of us lucky playwrights fortunate enough to have our work performed write a bit about our process or our show, or the festival, or something. Anyone who has sat in front of a blank page knows the stupefying difficulty of picking a place to start. This is no exception.
When writing any piece I've always heard “back yourself into a corner and then fight your way out,” which is to say: immediately commit to something outrageous. With my play, I committed to the idea that a drug dealer might not be so bad, or for the ten-minute version: maybe the people trying to seek righteous justice on that person are not so righteous after all. There's more to know about why a person would do something no one aspires to do, like sell cocaine to pensioners, and it's a story worth hearing.
When I sat down to write the play I had a corner to work from. Less so with this blog. The difficulty is knowing the intended audience. Who reads this?
First, I guess the quixotic people of Stark Turn will read this. To them I'd like to express sincere thanks for producing my script. It's rough, but I was thrilled to write it. For a short piece it's amazing how much detail one can stress over – is the dialogue right? Is this at all a logical progression? Is it funny? What will be thought of my version of people? When writing, my only defense in the face of these questions is to make a choice that has reasons behind it and hope they pass for worthwhile. We'll see if they do when the show opens. Again, thank you.
Second, I imagine one or two actors in the show might read this, and maybe the director. To you, I say this: break this script in all the ways you want. The characters are archetypes with maybe one added or unexpected dimension each (10 minute script). Do whatever you have to do to make that work. Change lines, change embedded direction; the play doesn't belong to me anymore. I have been the actor working with too rigid a writer or director and it's a nightmare. I just hope that you have fun. If you do, so will we, the audience, of which I am now a part.
The last group of people I expect might glance at this blog are audience members of the festival, and I have something very important to say to you bastards. This is the sacred realm of regional theater, and with the availability of Hollywood gloss and Broadway tours I think it is oft missed how significant this rough and crumby regional theater really is. There is nothing like it. Getting pretentious for a second: the tradition of putting people from the community in plays and making them look like fools dates back to before Ancient Greece. When cities were small, the roles were filled by people like that creepy butcher three blocks from your house, or the mailman with the weird tooth thing. And one would go watch the creepy butcher from three blocks over play a lustful older lady, wig and rouge and all, and the community would remember and maybe love each other a little more for it. Today, a poor actor in a community production makes a mistake and we cringe: we've seen better. We should instead encourage and rejoice. It's not about dazzling quality. The stories in this Stark Turn show are wrought from the stuff of our lives in this city. The actors are performing for us, and they come from us. It is our job in the audience to watch, and remember, and maybe grow a little closer for it.
And that brings me to my final point about writing and my farewell to this blog. Whenever you sit down to write, my best advice is to start so you can finish. The best thing in the world is a first draft. It'll be lumpy, ugly, and stupid but it's something you can fix. If you never get there you'll just stare at the page, worrying about whether you have anything worth saying, like I did with this blog. So start the script, polish your draft, enter a play competition, and let the community make you feel at home. We're all in this together. And that's why I like theater.