Teaching Artist. Dramaturg. Theatre-Maker. Director. Collaborator. Stage Manager. Actor.
This is a sampling of the many artist labels I’ve used to describe myself and the work that I do in the field of theatre for young audiences. Recently, a new one has surfaced somewhat unexpectedly for me:
You know that thing you swore you’d never do, never be able to figure out? That thing you admired, but didn’t understand. That thing you didn’t know how to start. For me, that thing was and is playwriting.
With the careful guidance of a teacher who promised to change my “I’m not a playwright” attitude this past semester, I figured out the most important and most perplexing part of playwriting: how to start. The mysterious act of starting a play turned out to be surprisingly simple: In order to start writing a play, you simply must… start writing. Just write, and see what happens next.
Over several weeks of writing and re-writing, I closed my spring semester last month with half a play. Half a play about a girl looking for a lighthouse that could go in a million directions. Happily at a stopping point, I was ready to give it a rest, file it away in my brain and send it on its own summer vacation. But as I listened to snapshots of plays from around the world, read by their creators in their first language myself at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Warsaw, my mind wandered back to my own play about the girl and the lighthouse. As I left the first night of the playwright slam, I signed up to read the following night. It was time to share this little lighthouse play.
Teaching artist Eric Booth defines art as making stuff you care about and sharing it with someone else. I spent the first few months of my playwriting journey imagining and writing the world of this play, sharing pieces along the way with my classmates who were on parallel playwriting paths. But the Write Local Play Global playwright slam broke me out of that bubble. It was time to expand those boundaries. And as I read scene three of the lighthouse play to a room full of directors, teachers, playwrights, artists from around the world, I felt the butterflies of vulnerability rush to my stomach and dance across my face. I’m reading my first play right now. At an international gathering of artists who have been doing this a whole lot longer than me. I can’t believe I’m doing this. But they’re still smiling, so I guess I’ll keep reading. Even though we artists make art for a living, the part where you share the stuff you care about doesn’t get easier – and that’s the point.
Sharing your art always takes courage. I found courage in the room full of fellow artists – some of whom I knew, and some of whom I didn’t. The most encouraging were the two teenage playwrights who, like me, took this opportunity to share a piece of their very first plays. From the first to the fiftieth, whether it’s a play, a poem, a lesson plan, or a new idea, we continue to show up for each other and for ourselves. After reading scene three of my lighthouse play at the playwright slam, the artist label of “playwright” doesn’t feel so foreign; it doesn’t sound as strange as it used to. It’s worth feeling scared and saying out it loud anyway: I am a playwright.
Share your stuff.
Say it out loud.