Troubling Plays…

So. In my last blog I mentioned something about plays that give me trouble. I want to talk about that for a second. Or two. Or three. Now this is all about the FIRST draft of a play, I’ll talk about drafting another day.

Sometimes a play comes out onto the page pretty well formed, no problems, easily done. That’s a blessing. More luck. Well, a dash of preparedness, and bit of thinking, and then a bunch of luck as I’m writing that the whole thing seems to come together without much hemming and hawing.

Then there are the other plays that seem to come together mysteriously. Like stepping out of a fog they sort of arrive. That’s not to say I sit back and just wait. I wish it were that easy. I have to keep plugging away at the play…writing scenes, doodling lines, thinking, writing…madness.

The trouble…well…let’s talk about what trouble means: trouble is my confidence being shaken. And when it’s shaken those ugly things start popping up: I don’t know enough about my play, my play is boring, I don’t know how the play is going to end and it will go on and on and on forever, and who wants to watch that.


The troubling plays begin with a tickle in the back of my lizard brain. They begin with an impulse that won’t go away. An image or a feeling or a line. These keep returning and returning, perhaps each time bringing a little more information or just more questions. But the nagging prevents me from NOT writing about the image or the line, etc. I have to pursue the play, the characters. And it takes time. And patience.

Umbrella took me five years to write–pulling teeth slowly. A Thousand Yard Stare and New Horizons, both new plays of mine, have been in my head for over two years. They both circle my brain slowly, each time a tiny bit of information is revealed, or an idea on how to tell a story I don’t know how to tell pops up…

It can be a battle. My conscious mind versus my sub-conscious mind.

Sometimes I’m convinced the play is even purposefully, willfully being obtuse in order to torture me. But I think that’s just the story of a paranoid mind. But what if it were true? And my plays WERE out to get me…hm…

All of this is to say, however, as troubling as these plays are to create, I think they are my most rewarding. Not just in the final product, but also in what I learned on the way towards the final draft. The mistakes, the wrong paths, the experiments gone wrong, all eventually become solid choices, the right path and the experiments that glow.

I just wish I could do it in my first drafts.

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