I find it kind of funny that my first post to my travel blog about playwriting is about not being able to travel. This year, I’ve had four different playwriting opportunities but was only physically there for one. Unfortunately, despite feeling deeply rich in my fantasy world, I am miserably poor and can’t fly out every time my play gets picked up.
And before I go any further, I definitely want to make sure to say this is not a complaint. An unfortunate side effect of gaining traction? Yes. But would I want to slow down my traction so that I could be there every time? No, of course not. Ideally, one day, my plays will be happening in so many different cities, simultaneously, so if anything this is practice. This is seeing what happens to my play/words/work when I’m not in the room.
Okay, putting my aside…aside, on January 14, there was a reading of my play, Good Bad People, in Tampa at American Stage Theatre Company. I couldn’t be there because on January 18th I was flying out to be in Chicago to workshop my play, Well-Intentioned White People, with Stage Left. Basically, I had to pick. Tampa or Chicago? How did I make that choice?
Let’s press pause on that because on January 20, there was a reading of my play, Well-Intentioned White People, as part of Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region II partnered with International Women’s Voices Day. So really my choices were: Do I go to Chicago, Tampa, or Pensylvania (at the Indiana University of PA)?
Am I laying this all out to brag? Kind of. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to need to be in three different cities all at the same time. Am I really mentioning all of this to talk about the impossible decisions playwrights have to make all the time? Yes.
There are probably better ways to make the choice than the way I made mine. Full disclosure: I knew about Chicago before I knew about Tampa or Pensylvania and I got to choose the dates. I mostly chose the dates because they worked well with my work schedule but I also mostly mostly chose the dates because not only am I a long distance playwright but I’m also a long distance best friend. And guess what city my best friend* lives in? That’s right: Chicago.
And at the time, it felt like the right choice. I really love the city of Chicago (despite frequently joking that I hate it), I went to school in the area (essentially), and I miss it all the time. I’ve been living in the south for seven years now and I’m still much more midwestern than southern. Which of course is hilarious because I grew up on the west coast.
So I could be in a cool city, see my best friend, and still get to work on my play with a room full of amazing actors? Yes please.
Looking back now, I wonder if I made the right choice. I still have never been to Tampa and visiting a college could’ve been cool. I’ve only driven through Pensylvania but never actually visited long enough for any formative memories. And with everything stacked on top of each other, it was an exhausting (but wonderful) couple of days.
In Tampa, the company asked me to skype in. I was super hesitant about it. I didn’t want to be a distraction to the audience or the actors. I’m pretty sure I said no a couple of times but somehow, in the end, the company convinced me to say yes. So I skype-d into the reading and without getting too deep into the details, it made me desperately wish I had been there, in the room. There were little things I could’ve made clearer, moments I could’ve pushed for, moments I could’ve worked on, asked for more rehearsal, etc. but the dream is letting my plays live on their own, right? RIGHT?
Despite all of that, Skype-ing in was pretty great (the future is here, y’all). I got to feel the room without actually being there. If you can’t be there, I highly recommend Skype-ing in. Do I hate the way my face looks and that it’s sorta impossible to avoid? Yes. Did I get over that as soon I saw how people responded to my play? Definitely. It was a fantastic experience with one, tiny problem: I was supposed to be packing for Chicago and prepping people at work for me being gone.
Fast forward a bit: I’m in Chicago. I made it. I’m in the room, working on my play with a theatre company I had been trying to work with since 2011. It was an actual dream BUT while I was getting notes from one group, I had the school back in Pensylvania sending me notes as well. And they were conflicting.
So now what? Do I write three different versions of the play? One for me, one for Stage Left, and one for Pen? OR do I just write what I want and say eff to it everyone else? Or do I just pull my hair out and hope this problem somehow resolves itself?
Turns out, I did a combination of all three.
And then I went to a bar and smoked on the patio and thought to myself: maybe I should write down the name of this bar for the blog I’m going to write in the future because it’s a really cool bar. Just kidding. I didn’t think that. But I do hate that I can’t find the name of the bar on my google places. Since you know, Google stalks you and keeps track of every place you go to. Which is equally helpful and terrifying.
Anyway, all that to say, even when you’re travelling and going to these amazing, amazing cities, you’re still somehow also a long-distance playwright. I wasn’t home but I also wasn’t there. It’s a strange feeling to reckon with (reckon might be the wrong word there. As a writer, I’m hilariously bad with words. And asides. Hope you like scattered thoughts).
Either way, it’s something I am definitely still coming to terms with. That even as I travel, I’m still missing something. And the more people interested in doing my plays, the more this will happen. The more rooms I won’t be in.
Bonus Tip: There’s a tea shop off Belmont (in Chicago) called Argo Tea Cafe. You have to pay for the wifi and my code never ended up working but it’s the kind of place people from small cities who then move to large cities imagine existing. There were THREE different men in the cafe literally drawing buildings and at least two different writers not including me. It’s also super close to about three different comic book shops if you’re into that kind of thing. (I recommend it for the Hibiscus Apple Cider and people-watching)
*Because I think one of my best friends will literally kill me if I don’t have this aside, I have two honest-to-God best friends. One lives in Chicago and one currently lives in Denver. I also have other very dear friends who were once best friends who will read this and be upset by it and I wanna say the whole notion of best friend is a little nuts. If you matter to me, you matter to me. Order isn’t a real thing.