Every three weeks my playwriting group meet to do all those things groups such as this are suppose to do – support, provide feedback, encourage, and, most important, show up. We’re a small group, seven in all, and I like it that way. I also like that each of us has made the time and mental commitment to come prepared to sit down and spend two-three intense hours engaging in the writing of plays. It’s not always easy.
We’ve been meeting for a while in a small cubicle on the third floor in the public library – so it made sense that our founder called us the Third Floor Playwrights.
As I said, we meet every three weeks, schedule planned well in advance, so we know, over the coming months, how to schedule this time, as all of us have other family or work commitments to keep in mind. But we manage to make it work. And I think the main reason is because a) we’re all deeply committed to our own work, and b) because we know there are others out there, who have become dear friends (and who we have shared a stage with) that depend on us. We’re trying to work through this strange and fascinating, and oftentimes frustrating creative endeavour of putting down on the page a world of characters that came to us.
And oftentimes this frustratingly creative endeavour will stump us. It takes time to wrangle the disparate elements of a good play script. And by good, I mean good enough to go to the next phase of working with your dramaturg, producer, director, actors, to get to the (almost) final draft before it appears on the stage. Only then to continue tweaking it along the way. That’s the funny thing about plays. Even when you think they are done – they’re not.
The Third Floor Playwrights group is that safe place where a lot of this beginning work takes place.
But writing is only part of it. As all good teachers will attest: to be a good writer you must write, but you must also read. And, I’ll add, when it comes to play scripts, it is also good to go out and see plays. I wrote a piece a few years ago about the local Fringe Theatre where I wrote:
“I guess I’m drawn to these creative individuals because I admire the possibilities of live performance. As a member of the audience, I am given this momentary gift of someone’s passion, courage and determination, and reminded that there is always a level of risk when you perform live.”
So I always urge people to go out and take in a show. It doesn’t have to be the hottest ticket in your community, you can always find amateur dramatic societies, impromptu one-off events. Scour your local papers to find out what’s available. And if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable because you’ve never gone to a live show like a play before, don’t worry. Honestly. All are welcome when it comes to theatre. It can be entertaining and lighthearted. But it can also be an opportunity to be challenged beyond your own personal experiences and preconceptions, and, maybe, challenge yourself in what you believe to be true.
I would also suggest you pick up some play scripts and immerse yourself in different worlds and characters you never knew could exist. You can find them just about anywhere. Right now, I have about 150 play scripts on the shelves. Some I had read years ago, ready to be read again, and again, and some new to me. I have a list and will be checking them off as I go through them. And you might find a comment of two about them on this blog. So stay tuned.
Here’s one final thought. There are many people who have chosen to make a career in the arts. And they need you. They need you to show up.