It seems like I’ve been writing for years. That’s probably because, I have been. Aside from the obvious writing associated with being a double English and Drama major in college, I was an early adopter of the blog, took to writing reviews early, am an avid letter and postcard writer, and have written numerous critical papers, short stories, one-acts, adaptations, full length plays, poems and even a novelette. Oddly though, despite writing infiltrating nearly every cell of my existence at a young age, I never really considered myself a writer until I heard a play I wrote read around a table, followed by feedback.
Of all my theatrical involvement, writing is by far the most personal, and where I’m the most vulnerable. An audience rarely notices your directing and to be honest, acting is so subjective and so variable, I gave up caring about why someone was not moved by a performance years ago. But writing? Somehow, even writing about something as unemotional as shoelaces can call up a whole mess of defensive in me. Writing has opinions, morals, politics, education, spirituality, and dreams all tucked up into word choice that many writers will tell you can become an obsession bordering on (if not full-blown) unhealthy. The music a writer composes is both an intensely intentional, calculated act and simultaneously a deeply subconscious apparition that materializes seemingly out of nowhere.
When a playwright is “done” with their art, they gift it to others and those people gift it to an audience after they work their own magic. Once the writer gives it up, they don’t get to interpret it any longer. But, before they essentially give away their child, there is an indeterminate period of time that the writing incubates. A time where, if lucky, a writer will be afforded the opportunity to discover if their words, in that raw, unembellished, adolescent state, when spoken out loud, match up to the clear artistic voice in their own heads. The staged reading preparation for the birth, it’s a playwright’s lamaze, and it’s a whole different kind of vulnerable. For a writer, to push that fledgling prose out into a room without polish, without months of rehearsal or spectacular stage effects to distract from the words, is a thing of profound excitement and tremendous fear.
Last night I joined an intimate audience (read 5) at the Theatre on San Pedro Square for a staged reading of the play-in-progress Prissy by local playwright Richard Medugno. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Richard as a director of some of his pieces and an actor in a staged reading. He is grasped by edgy, controversial, somewhat twisted stories and this particular piece was no exception. Prissy deals with sexual abuse, the ramifications of abuse and how it creates victims outside just the two who are directly involved in that abuse. It questions if there is a statute of limitations on abuse and if there is a price on emotional damage, if reciprocity can absolve. Complex questions, heavy at times, but tempered with uncomfortable (and delightfully so) humor.
Initially the small turnout was a concern, and the question of whether to perform it for so few certainly was on the table. Ultimately the show went on (thank goodness) and after the final phrase of the play was spoken, a whole other show, a show of discussion, questions, emotions, alternate solutions, perspectives, enlightenment, critique and praise commenced. This is an exciting honor to be part of the creative process. To be permitted to participate in the nurturing of words is educational as well as entertaining and knowing what goes into the craft enriches my experience as an audience member as well as a writer.
All this to say, I’d encourage you to find yourself a reading to attend in the coming months. The great thing is, you don’t need to be a writer or even an avid theatre goer to take part. You’re qualified just as you are to contribute any feedback you are moved to provide (or not.) Along with Arclight, in the South Bay, City Lights Theatre Company, The Pear Avenue Theatre, Dragon Productions Theatre Company, just to name a few, offer this invaluable service benefitting writers and future audiences on an ongoing basis.