I have always been a writer. From creating epic tales in my parent's basement to writing and performing off-Broadway, I love to craft stories. In my work as a playwright, I am fascinated by the hazy lines between black and white. Like the moment in T.S. Elliot's Murder in the Cathedral when the assassin comes forward and says (and I paraphrase) "you may think that what I did was monstrous but here is why I killed Becket..." It's the delicious grey areas, the true unfiltered reasoning behind our actions - I love them.
Being a playwright is a curious phenomenon. You sit at home with laptop or pad of paper and think how best to explore a topic or character. You stare at the blank screen for hours, waiting for inspiration to strike. Once it does you spend the next weeks, months, and for most playwrights I know years, tweaking every scene, every sentence, each word of dialogue in your script. Then something funny happens.
At a certain point the characters you've created take on a life of their own. You can no more make them say or do something that goes against who they fundamentally are as a person than you can make your neighbor go rob a bank. If it goes against the grain of who the character has become you can't write it. Your play is now a living thing and it needs breath. That's when the rehearsal process begins.
I don't know that I've ever experienced anything as surreal as watching a group of skilled actors, like the company of the Dark Horse Theatre Company, take ownership of the characters who once lived in my mind. I sit in rehearsals and watch as the actors find meaning and depth to the characters of Barbara, Richard, Katherine, and Javier. Led by our director, Natasha, these actors come to know my characters deepest desires, their coveted passions, their greatest losses, and their biggest secrets. The farther we delve into rehearsals the more and more these wonderful actors own my characters. They come to know Barbara, Richard, Kit, and Javier far better than I ever will, and for that I am both grateful and in awe.
For me, this is the real treat of being a playwright. The ability to create a world and then let go. I don't have any children yet, but I suspect it's the same feeling of dropping your first born off at college freshman year. You hope you've done the right things, said the right words. You hope you've instilled enough in them to make them genuine. Then you slowly wipe your eyes and turn back towards the road. There's another script waiting to be penned.