Crafting Happiness – One Play At A Time…

It is now day number three in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Well, in my world it’s evening of day number three. I’m feeling throughly exhausted after a enormously busy weekend, but I am here to make my post for today anyway. I’ll sleep soon enough. I promised myself I would write a blog post every day this month and tired or not, I intend to keep that promise to myself. Today the friendly people at Ultimate Blog Challenge recommended that we blog about where we hope to end up; what our goals are, in our blogging enterprises.

In my case I can answer that question without a lot of fuss. I aim to create lots of theatre. I look forward to both directing new plays, as well as writing new plays. And, I anticipate spending a good long while blogging about what it’s like for me, being a working playwright.

While I’m on the subject of being a playwright, it comes to mind that often when people ask me about being a playwright entails they often have quite a few misconceptions about what the goal actually is. Unlike the goals of writers who create works of fiction intended for reading silently while curled up, catlike, in a comfy armchairs, plays are not written with publication as the end goal. Plays are written to be performed in front of audiences. Plays are written to be experienced; not merely read.

While it is nice to get ones plays published, of course, publication is only really useful to playwrights in one important way. Publication of one’s plays enables a wider variety of theatres to discover and produce one’s plays. Playwrights write plays as a means of creating new experiences in live theatre for the audiences who attend plays.

This is actually why the word playwright is spelled as it is and not as playwrite. The etymology of the word goes something like this:

The word “wright” means a person who builds something, a craftsperson. When “wright” is used as a suffix of a longer word, the prefix of that longer word is indicative of what it is that the craftsperson builds. So, a person who is a playwright is a crafter of plays. A creator of theatre, if you will.

Unlike stories that are written to be read silently by one person, plays are not created to be mere collections of words on a page. Plays are a lot more like blueprints than they are like books. The director, designers, technicians, and actors all come together and use a the words that the playwright has written to build an experience for the audiences who come to see the play. In that way, playwrights aren’t really writers at all. They are more like architects.

So, there you have it. My goal as a playwright is to create theatrical experiences for audiences. My goal in blogging is to spread around a bit of the joy I take from my life as a playwright. By and large, my experiences as a playwright have been joyful. It is my wish that more people are able to discover that they too are the creators of their own life stories. Like me, other people have the option to create happiness in their lives. I create happiness in my life every time I write a new play. If that’s not a noble goal, I don’t know what is!

 

My Playwriting Beginnings…

For this second day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge it is recommended that we bloggers share how we found our way into our particular blogging niche. I’ve been wanting to make a post on this subject for a while now anyway, so since it’s been recommended to write about this topic today I figure why not go for it. I hope you enjoy reading how I found my way here.

Recently I read a fascinating book called “The Play That Changed My Life – America’s Foremost Playwrights On the Plays That Influenced Them.” It was an engrossing read (as it would naturally be for me as a playwright) edited by Ben Hodges, with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Paula Vogel. Reading this book I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the backgrounds of many playwrights whose work I’ve admired for much of my life.

As I read the essays and interviews collected in that volume I began thinking in the back of my head about which play I would name if I were ever asked what particular play changed my life, making me want (or is it need?) to write plays. Answering such a question is simple for me, and answering that question will also explain how I came to be blogging about playwriting now.

In the early 1980’s I was being raised in the theatre. Starting when I was three years old I took acting classes after school at a local regional theatre, and I was performing on that professional stage by the time I reached the tender age of six. My parents took me to see lots of brilliant professional theatre, intended mostly for adult audiences, but the play which made me want to be a playwright wasn’t one of the classics or contemporary masterpieces skillfully performed before me by local equity actors. The play that made me realize that I must write plays was a children’s play.

Despite what is sometimes assumed, my being a theatre kid didn’t in any way dampen my interest in attending plays which were intended for an audience made up primarily of other children. One Saturday afternoon in the my elementary school years I went to see a regional premier of a play called “Step on a Crack” written by playwright Suzan Zeder. There were many things that I found magical and vibrant about Ms. Zeder’s play that day which I couldn’t have described with mere words just after attending the performance. That play has stuck with me all these years. A few years ago I finally tracked down a copy of the play and read it. As I read the play I envisioned the production I watched in my head far more clearly than I anticipated I would be able to after having seen it only once at least two decades previously.

In “Step On a Crack” Ms. Zeder created a leading role for a child actor, and a story for that character to tell the audience, that felt more real and lifelike than other stories I’d seen about children in plays before that day. What was completely different about attending that children’s play which set it apart for me from all the amazing plays for adults which I had seen though was what happened after the play had ended.

At the end of the performance the artistic director of the children’s productions announced to the audience that the playwright who created this magical experience we had all just shared was seated there among us in the audience. He asked Ms. Zeder to let us all know which adult she was. I felt delighted, and not just a little bit awed, when it was revealed to us that Ms. Suzan Zeder had been sitting very near to my brother and me.

Suzan Zeder being present at that performance of her new play, and being acknowledged as the creator of that afternoon of enchantment humanized playwriting for me. By the time I attended that performance of “Step on a Crack” I had already seen at least a couple of Shakespeare’s plays in performance, as well as plays by Neil Simon, Oscar Wilde, and many other theatrical luminaries. While I thoroughly enjoyed every play I had attended before that day, the playwrights who created those worlds onstage had been to me only names in the playbills. They had not seemed like real, living, breathing, flesh and blood people. Seeing Suzan Zeder in the theatre that day struck me with a thought I’d not conceptualized previously about plays. Regular people write plays.

I was already bitten with the theatre bug having spent several years in acting classes and in performing professionally too. At that point I was already writing as well. I was writing short stories and a bit of poetry back then. When I saw Suzan Zeder’s play that day I decided that while short stories and poetry were all very nice and pleasant to write what I really needed to do was to create theatre experiences for audiences by writing plays.

To make a novella-length story far shorter, suffice it to say that I ended up studying playwriting in high school, in college, during my Junior Year Abroad in the Land Down Under, and afterwards for two summers at a Summer Writing Institute in Iowa. I have had two plays produced so far with others having been selected for production, and I am still at it. These days I also blog about playwriting. I blog about playwriting mostly to keep myself motivated as I write, rewrite and circulate my plays.

Lastly, my favorite part of this story is that right around the time that I finally tracked down that copy of “Step On a Crack” to read and enjoy again, I also tracked down Suzan Zeder herself. I Googled her and I discovered that at the time she was teaching in a MFA playwriting program here in my home state. So, I looked up her faculty email address and I wrote to her. In my email I told Ms. Zeder that I’d been in the audience that day at her regional premier of “Step On a Crack,” and I sincerely thanked her for inspiring me to become a playwright myself. A short time later she answered my email, graciously thanking me for contacting her, and told me that my email had made her month.

I have felt for many years now that expressing gratitude is an integral part of being happy, and I feel very pleased to be able to end this blog post by sharing my story of my playwriting beginnings which has such an integral gratitude component to it. Thank you for reading, and I hope you liked my story!

Daily playwriting thoughts reinstated!

Hello there!

I know I’ve been away from this blog for quite some time. I didn’t plan to do that, and I do want to change it. I have missed sharing my thoughts on playwriting with you all. Life gets in the way of things we want to do a lot of the time, and I think when you are determined to do something you will find a way. It is this way for me with playwriting.

I have been asked in the past why I don’t just give up on the whole playwriting thing with so much else happening in my life and with these other things happening so often. I don’t give up because I have never wanted to do or be anything more than I have wanted to be a playwright. I have not been able to dedicate nearly as much time to the craft of writing plays as I would have liked, but I won’t give up.

In a renewed effort to keep my promise to myself that I will not give up on my playwriting I have decided to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge! Despite the challenge it already is for me to carve out time to write plays, I am giving myself the extra challenge of blogging each day in July. I hope that in blogging each day I will encourage myself all the more to not slack off and stop writing plays, sending them out or making every effort I can to get my plays brought to life onstage.

So please, do stay tuned for my daily July blog posts!