Just a week ago I was not in Toronto but in Lansing, MI to watch the production of my third play, Chair with Man, through Michigan State’s Theatre and English Departments. It may not have been the first time to see my work produced on stage, but it marked a pretty special threshold for me: the first production outside of Rice University.
I didn’t think I was going to make it to witness Chair with Man‘s first production. It was the middle of finals, only five days before I had to be on the plane to Austin for Christmas vacation. But when I was in Milwaukee for the conference, visiting with the MSU professor behind this production, he and his friend showed me just how important this trip would be: “What’s really more important? Finals or your play?” It reminded me of that moment over a year ago when I finally admitted that I was a playwright. It reminded me of the moment my gut said that I had to make the leap and move to Toronto. I could plan to write papers faster, I could find a way to afford the trip to Michigan and back, and I could enjoy this baby step forward in my playwriting career.
I didn’t feel the same hoopla around this production as I did for others. No uncontrollable glee that bubbled up in the days and moments before like with somewhere never travelled and The Failures. I grinned as I walked into the theatre and saw the chair, THE CHAIR (the centerpiece of the script) at center stage. As the audience giggled over the opening moments, I did join in, but I also watched the younger MSU playwrights, who had one-act plays premiering after mine. I knew what they were going through, how they would laugh harder than everybody else in the theatre, even before the jokes. How they would grin for ages after the end of the show, unable to consider how anyone else reacted to the play because it had happened and that was too much to take in on its own. Most importantly, it reminded me that I’m not in that phase of my career anymore. I’m in the next phase, the one where watching a production of one of my scripts isn’t a miracle, but a chance to learn. Thankfully watching Chair with Man proved to me that the ideas I’d put forward in the script were there, were working. And most importantly, they had inspired the cast and director to discover new ideas that I hadn’t thought of–but that were there just as much as everything I had written.
It didn’t surprise me though; it was like looking in a mirror and realizing that I am becoming the artist I wanted to be. Chair with Man‘s first production reminded me that in the mess of graduate school studying and networking and paper-writing I’m also stepping forward as a playwright. I don’t get hung up on changes that a cast and crew make, but instead look forward to discussing the ways my script naturally supported their ideas. Though I loved the students’ passion and their enthusiasm to work on my little script, it proved to me that I need to keep finding productions and readings. Why? Because I’m ready to get their feedback, take their criticism, and make changes. I know that my decision to write plays is supported by my mentors from Rice, my department at York, my family, my friends, and now my theatre friends at MSU. It’s spreading!
But before I can get those new plays produced, I have to write them. So I’m also thankful that with the memories and excitement from this production to motivate me and my family in Austin to take care of me, I have three weeks break from graduate school to make that happen.
Happy Writing, Merry Christmas, and here’s to more new scripts and new plays in 2014!!!