In 2007, on a whim, I wrote two short plays and submitted them to an open call for submissions to a playwright’s festival at a local college; one comedy and one more serious piece. I’d acted in several plays before this, and done lots of other writing, but I’d never written a play.
To my surprise, the festival accepted both plays. The night of the performance was…amazing. I’d been on stage a lot before this and had many other types of writing praised or criticized. But this night…this night hearing my words, words I wrote, characters I created, brought to life…well, it was a weird mix of frightening and giddy, out-of-body surreal-ness. It was a rush at least equal, if not perhaps even greater than the thrill of acting.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of other plays I’ve written at festivals since then, most recently this past weekend when my play “Calling Home” was given a public reading, which could lead to a full production in the future.
One of the other playwrights, Michael Carron, made his playwriting debut at the event with his work “A Decent Interval”. He also acted in the reading of my play and the third offering of the night, “Wheelies” by Shea Doyle. When the event was over, Michael was elated and relieved. The experience was, he said, the most frightening thing he’d ever done. Here was a guy who has been on strafe thousands of times – doing Shakespeare, no less. And even he was intimidated by the experience of watching an audience watch lines he wrote be performed.
I totally understood that sentiment. And yet, I surprised myself when he asked me about watching your work Be performed, “Does it ever get easier?” I said, “yes”.
I have no idea why I said that. I was just as stressed this weekend as I was that first time years ago. The rush of seeing your characters come to life. The joy of the audience laughing where they should and being reverent where they shouldn’t. But still…the stress was, I dunno, differentthis time. Unlike crust first night years ago, this night I was thinking more about technical things – tweaks to lines and characters I might want to make. Tightening to be done, points to be clarified.
So, in that sense, I guess it is easier now, the playwriting, because I don’t worry as much about the act of putting work in front of an audience as I do about what that audience will say about it.
As I write more and put more out there for public consumption, if the fear wants to continue to evolve, that’s fine with me. But I hope it never goes away, not completely anyway. I kind of feel like if the process of writing for the public gets easier, the work will suffer.
Am I wrong about that? What say you?