by Linda Escalera Price
When is it time to start a new project? Right now. No matter what else you have going on.
“Make sure you have another play ready to go.” Fellow playwright Faye Sholiton offered me this advice early in my career. I’m pretty sure it was between bites at lunch during FutureFest – an amazing weekend-long play festival (eat, see a play, discuss the play, repeat 5 times) run by the Dayton Playhouse. When she had won FutureFest, several people asked her for scripts of her other work, and she nothing ready.
I panicked. Not right away. After all, I was very busy eating and watching and talking. But the minute I boarded my flight home, the panic set in. My first full-length play had just won FutureFest, people had indeed asked me for other scripts, and I didn’t have any other work ready. The play I was currently working on – Harps & Harmonicas – was several months from completion.
I vowed to never be in that place again.
As soon as I got back home I rushed to finish Harps. And as I started table readings, I looked for a new project. I didn’t want to start at square 1 so I took a one act play I’d written for 8th graders and turned it into full-length play (that is now inappropriate for 8th graders).
And that began my journey into working on multiple projects at one time. It wasn’t long before I discovered a really fun aspect of this process. I get to experience plays in different life stages all at the same time.
Rehearsals – More than anything, I love watching a play in its first rehearsals. I’m still needed – there is still rewriting to do – and it’s such a thrill to see actors inhabit the characters I’ve created and see what needs to be changed. But, as exciting as it, this stage is also bittersweet because the characters are moving away from home, and I never know when I’ll see them again.
First Draft – I also love when first draft is completed. Rewrites are fun because I know the characters, and I know where the play is going. The drawback is I usually have extremely messy and awkward places that I ignored and rushed through so I could type THE END. Now I have no choice but to go through the struggle to make those places actually work.
Middle of Play – Since I usually start with a premise – a question – what would happen if . . . – I never know the ending of play when I start. Usually around the end of the first act, the ending reveals itself. It’s a wonderful moment and I can’t wait to move forward. Until I do move forward. Invariably I have written something in the beginning of the play that now makes no sense and I have to cut it. It’s a little like knowing I’m going on vacation, buying all kinds of beach attire and then finding out I’m going to Canada in January. I have to put the beach things away, hoping I’ll have a chance to use them sometime, but also knowing they might be horribly out of fashion when I finally pull them out again.
Beginning a Play – I do enjoy meeting new friends and finding out about them. They do and say things that surprise me. And the research I need to do invariably allows me to surf the internet. Plus I encounter some wonderfully creative situations since I’m not inhibited by specifics yet. But, it’s my least favorite part and the time I am most able (and most likely) to walk away from the computer. There is nothing solid yet. Nothing I have really sunk my heart and soul into.
Working on multiple plays enables me to enjoy the best of all worlds and minimize the worst. If I’m on a roll, I definitely need to stay where I am. But the trouble arises when I want to pretend I’m on a roll as an excuse to avoid working on the problems in another play.
Because the point is to get my plays finished. All of them. So when you ask me for one, I have one. Several, in fact, so I can give you a play that’s right you and your theatre.
So go ahead. Ask.