Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Writing Process

Playwright extraordinaire Lindsay Price (of such plays as Among Friends and Clutter, Hoodie, betweenity, and many, many, many more!) invited me to take part in a #bloghop that asks writers to answer four questions about about their creative process and post those answers to their blog. (Be sure to check out her thoughtful responses here.) I'm honored that she passed the torch on to me, so here goes...

What are you working on?

Right now I'm playing around with the idea of expanding my one act play I Don’t Want to Talk About It into a full length piece. The more it is produced around the world, the more I hear from students, teachers, and parents about other issues that they would like to have addressed. I was truly humbled by a teacher who said the play was like a teenage version of Angels in America. Obviously I would never compare my work to that masterpiece (Thank you for your brilliance, Tony Kushner), but it did open my mind to the idea of taking the play and growing it into something broader that might make a bigger impact on the lives of a greater pool of teenagers. After being in a production of the play, or having seen it as an audience member, I have had many students confess things to me that they needed to talk about – things that are not in the play and things I’m not sure I could handle as an adult – and so I feel compelled to see if I can open the play up to include these new ideas. The original one act took me the better part of two years to get right, so tackling such a project would be a major undertaking, but something in my heart tells me that it’s one worthy trying.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Back when I was in high school there was a major lack of material specifically written for teenage performers. Basically, there were a few staples that every single school would produce on a rotating basis. The poor drama teachers of yore must have been bored out of their minds! And these plays were either “classics” that students probably had a difficult time relating to, or “modern” issue plays that were corny and overly didactic. Thankfully, with the advent of publishing companies such as Theatrefolk and Playscripts, there is now a wealth of material out there that has been specifically generated for this huge market that had previously gone untapped. Trying to keep up with the swath of new publications each year (mostly to make sure an idea I have has not already been done) is a huge task that takes up a large chunk of my time. Yet the process of doing so has allowed me to read some really great plays by talented playwrights that would not have seen the light of day in years past. I admire the work of many of my cohorts, and as is the case with admiration, influence follows. I have been inspired by so many of these contemporary plays, thinking to myself, “I wish I wrote that!” Challenging myself to come up with new ways to tackle thoughts others may have already written is not easy, particularly with the market as saturated as it is now, but that’s what makes sitting down at my computer each morning so much fun. 

Why do you write what you do?

I write plays for teenagers because of the fearlessness in which they attack the material. I find that as people get older, particularly artists, they get increasingly self conscious about what they are creating. As we see more, experienced more, we become more aware of our own work, which sometimes leads to damaging self-criticism that inhibits the creative process. In life and in art, I find that teenagers are far more open to taking risks because they have yet to experience the aftermath of failure. I love seeing this boldness applied to my words. I also think teenagers have so many wise and wonderful things to say that it is my honor to provide them with a platform upon which they can express themselves. If what I write encourages a student to express themselves, whether in theater or in life, I consider what I’ve done a success.

How does your writing process work?

I have to strike while the iron is hot and write my ideas down the moment I have them. If I think about an idea for too long, I inevitably lose my passion for it and then I end up putting too much pressure on myself to find the creative spark I had initially. For this reason I typically write my plays to completion in a day or two. I find that I can always go back and fix things that might not work, but having a completed draft takes a huge weight off my shoulders that allows me to think more critically about what I have on the page. I also try not to fuss with the words as I write them. I just throw as much as I can out into the ether, with reckless abandon, before going back to see if it’s brilliant or gibberish. Quite often it’s the latter, but I’ve discovered that gibberish can make great theater sometimes!

Now it's my turn to pass the baton on to a writer whose work I enjoy very much. Bobby Keniston wrote the brilliant and bizarre comedy Confession: Kafka in High School, among others. It's one of my favorite one act plays out there, so I look forward to hearing more about what keeps his creative ticker alive!

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