The final scene was written at 2am Friday morning; the whole thing was formatted to look pretty Friday night, given one final look to make sure everything’s as it should look (I went with Helvetica this time); I addressed each of the questions/concerns sent by the OnSite team in response to the last draft (some with more candor than was probably beneficial), and sent it off a little after midnight.
Then I did a little May Day Morris Dance of celebration!
Before I turn all my attentions to understanding how far behind we are with planning the wedding, a quick wrap up is in order I guess. This project started with rules and it ended with them. By far the trickiest rule to navigate was the one-minute courtyard.
Figuring out how this influenced the length of the scenes in each one-act involved stopwatches, spreadsheets, and me mumbling aloud to myself like a crazy person in a coffee shop as I read new lines to approximate if they gave me the buffer I needed to delay a character’s exit. Vaudevillian action was written in, in no small part because I know the director can expand and contract them as needed.
The last time I wrote a play for this site-specific company, one of the reviewers lamented that it would never be done again, not really because she liked it, but more as a general “what good is theater if it can’t be repeated.” I took that to heart at first, aiming to write a play that could be done at other hostels by leaving out references to St. Louis and to the specific personality of the Huckleberry Finn Youth Hostel (where this play is taking place). But the traffic and timing the courtyard necessitates helped me get back to the philosophy I had when I wrote the last site-specific play: embrace the immediate and ephemeral. This play can only happen in this space, spanning its cumbersome courtyard. So you better see it this June, because it is very likely that will be it. Unless it proves a huge success and it becomes some sort of annual tradition.
So why do it?
This has been a question that has haunted my mind over the last two weeks as I exhausted myself and pushed down anxiety-laden thoughts about finding wedding rings, a suit, a cake, etc. I honestly probably would not have agreed to take this project on last January if I had realized how much of an investment it was to be. But this is about timing more than anything else. It’s my own damn fault for getting married. The real question is why spend a month researching/thinking about and a month writing a play that is only going to see a three weekend run? To be a part of a collaborative/creative process is one reason, but when I’m in San Francisco and everyone else is in St. Louis, it is hard to feel that communion. Emailed notes from readings you couldn’t attend make you defensive, and not a little jealous that you weren’t there for your creation’s first words. But then, most playwrights are writing with no promise of any production at all. Forget about a three-weekend run: they’d be content with a staged reading. So the real question is, why do playwrights ever write anything?
I don’t know. For some I think it’s a compulsion. For others I think it’s narcissism. For still others, I think megalomania. For some it’s a game. For some a challenge. For some a puzzle. Some write plays as a way to break into film and television. Some write plays because they like seeing plays but haven’t seen many plays they’ve liked. Some are in love with words, particularly as they trip off the tongue; they hear poetry in colloquial rhythms. Some are searching for something. Some think they have something to say.
I love the structure of literature and the fatalism of psychology. As a writer I love words. As a Unitarian I love the search for Truth and the celebration of life and beauty. What is (was) missing from this is the appreciation of action, movement, and “spectacle.” Translate this into playwriting, what is (was) missing is plot. What happens? But because of the first two rules assigned for this project—1. two one-acts would take place simultaneously in two spaces and 2. it would be a comedy—Huckleberry Hostel was dependent on plot. This was the struggle. This was the exhaustion. I was learning a skill whilst working on something that had to be finished: for five actors, three friends, and a theater company, it had to be finished. It was just like how I really learned how to write as a grad student teaching 12 freshmen how to write.
I would do it again. I have a 60-page script that I’m proud of and 5 new characters that didn’t exist until they broke free from my brain. And I have a new skillset. Maybe this is why writers write—why artists create, why construction workers build, why biological engineers manipulate proteins: it just feels good to have made something.
But now that it’s May, it is time to move on. Plays are never finished, they say, only abandoned. Well, Huckleberry, good luck as you float on your raft down the Mississippi of time. I’ve got a wedding to tend to.