After the 9pm show of The Adventures of Huckleberry Hostel last night, two inebriated women dressed partially in glowsticks walked down the Soulard alley as I was greeting the cast. They waved and continued on, glowing all the way. Earlier that evening, an apparently crazy woman walked in off the street as one of the actors dried off between acts in the registration room (he takes a shower during the show), and did not take the hint when he began blow-drying his hair. She kept right on talking while he undressed. She might still be in there talking. Weeks ago, while the cast was rehearsing in the space, another less-than-sane character threatened to smash the director’s face through a glass door if he “locked it one more time” even though he had never locked it a first time.
By comparison, the five characters I penned seem tame. This is what the world gives writers to work with: a yearbook full of personalities.
Seeing Huckleberry Hostel last night was a joy. I know writers write for many different reasons, but I think the main one for me is this: I write shows that I want to see. So seeing a show I wrote is kind of an awesome way to spend a night. But I enjoyed myself primarily because the actors were enjoying themselves. The satisfaction comes from creating a vehicle by which others find enjoyment. What a gift!
Interestingly, however, I find that I like the play less after having seen it, and this is no way the fault of the stalwart actors who performed beautifully. I think there are two reasons: 1. I got to know these characters more than I let on in the writing. They have backstories that exist in my head that are only hinted at during the show. Maybe this is because those aspects of their lives don’t have any bearing of their actions in this play, but having been so preoccupied by the interlocking structure, I feel like I somehow missed completing their portraits. Or maybe its that I feel like there is more yet for me to discover with these characters. I want to see the play in which James vainly attempts to help Finn fake his death in the teachers’ lounge, or the play with a devout three-year-old Sarah walking herself to church because her mother and older sister are atheists, or the play when Emmeline desperately attempts to invent a personality more interesting than the one allotted her by her suburban Chicago upbringing.
The second discovery is wider-reaching: I’m still learning the difference between writing that is best heard and writing that is best read, and there are many moments of Huckleberry Hostel that work better on the page. Peppering writing with poetic prose adds flavor—alliteration and assonance are examples. These tricks also work well in speeches, but those are a genre all their own. But poetry in plays comes off as unnatural because people don’t speak in poetry. Sometimes these moments make me groan, but, more dangerously, sometimes they speedbump the momentum of a scene. Maybe playwrights should not concern themselves with the beauty of language but concentrate purely on the development of character and plot. Maybe poetry should be left to the poets . . . to be continued . . .
But first (or, I guess, last): a HUGE thank you to the OnSite Theater and the cast of Huckleberry Hostel! Yay to new theater in St. Louis! Yay to a theater focusing on the weird genre of site-specific work! Yay to the five actors who rocked my world! Thank you you for a fantastically fun night, and thank you for teaching me lessons that need learning. Have an amazing closing tonight!