I took the initial notes that would become this play in 2009. It’s weird to be finished, to feel like I’ve taken it as far as I’m going to. This was one from the vaults that I assumed was dead and buried years ago – to have it together, in (relative) working order, and know that next week I’ll see it walk … yeah. Good, but weird.
How it all happened is this: the producing company, Alumnae, has an annual festival (Fireworks) which only accepts work that was previously produced as a part of their other annual festival, New Ideas (which is focused more on shorter, newer pieces). The idea is to see some of those plays into fuller development and give them a production as stand-alone, full-length pieces. It so happened that an earlier version of Act 1 of this play had been a part of New Ideas back in 2010. And it also happened that I had more free time than usual this year for taking a stab at random opportunities.
So when the call for Fireworks came up in January, I decided that, if nothing else, it would give me an excuse to write the missing second act and have it finished. And I did that, racing the deadline and turning in a script that was – well, obviously uneven, when the first act had been polished and the second was a rambling first draft. But still, I felt like there was something to it, that I was getting places with it.
And obviously so did the producers, as they wrote me back with encouraging notes and a request that I submit a further draft for their consideration. I admit, that stopped me for a day or so, and if I hadn’t known them I might not have taken up the challenge. It’s a lot of work to put together a whole new draft on a tight deadline for a maybe. But I leapt that bar as well and was officially accepted, and I found out what I’d be doing for the bulk of 2016.
Because they did accept it, but they also provided a list of additional notes, and a request for another draft, and yet another, and somewhere in there I completed a whole additional draft just because I wasn’t quite happy with things yet. And as I mentioned above, various other minor steps in between. All the while they were interviewing directors, and casting, and starting rehearsals, I was still working with them (and in a few cases, arguing vociferously against them) to even things out, to make it a working, complete piece, to bring it to where it was really ready for the cast and crew.
And then the cast got a hold of it, and if you think a script is complete before you’ve worked it with a group of actors, you’re only fooling yourself. You can – and should – read your words out loud while writing, and you should pull some friends together and do informal readings while you’re still in development (I did so twice, with friends of infinite goodness and patience), but until you work it with a cast who knows they are taking the piece into production, you aren’t done. That’s where you’ll find the remaining weak spots, the inconsistencies in how a character is coming across … and let me tell you, if an actor is bored with something they’ve been given to say, chances are the audience will fall asleep as well. You have to listen to the actors. (Not always agree – I argued back at them, too – but listen.)
And now we’re here, and I don’t have a lot to do. This is kinda new to me. Usually, I’m being produced by my own company, and I’m busy with reservations, and handling box office, and I pace outside and act as de facto house manager … but now, I’m pretty much done. And a week from now, you’ll be seeing it and I’ll be right there in the audience as well.
It’s been a trip. I’m glad to have a complete play out of it, and I hope we’re giving you a good show.
Good … but yeah, still kinda weird.