Today is the last day of 31 Plays, 31 Days. I posted the above sign on my door to make sure I finished! My wife was very generous to give me a ton of time on my day off to get it done!
This month has been a rush. It's been inspiring. It's been challenging. It's been uplifting. I felt like someone with purpose, with drive, with fear, with excitement, with talent, with no talent, with joy. That's where it ends: I felt like someone with joy. Specifically, a writer with joy. It's been a while since I've felt like a writer, let alone one with joy.
I've enjoyed my characters. I've been surprised by certain images (notably Lighthouse, Paltry, and Swing Dancing). I've tried to make each play need the stage. What I mean by that is I wanted to make sure that each play used sound and light and space of a theatre, the tools. I imagined each one on stage, usually a black box theatre, simple sets. There were some such as Swing Dancing that takes place in multiple sets in quick succession. Swing Dancing takes place in two separate bedrooms, though I saw the play using the same bed for each scene and only the characters changing. We could even see the other characters off to the side, getting ready for their next moments in the "bedroom." I had a vision for each play, how they would work. None of them would require very big sets, many of them could take place on a bare stage, lights giving us the setting. That was important to me.
I'm most proud, or most excited by my first and last plays: Opportunity and Solitude. I called the play A Town Called Opportunity. It was one of very few plays I gave an actual title; most of the plays are called by the word from my friend, Kate, that served to inspire them. A Town Called Opportunity takes place in a desert and has the coming together of a man and a young woman. It has a very clear backstory and the characters are very strong. I would almost argue that the plot and characters are the best I wrote in the past 31 days.
Perhaps it's because of that feeling that I decided to use my final play to bookend the first. I don't see it as a scene in the same play, but as its own play that stands beside the first. Kind of like how Angels in America: Perestroika is its own play in its own right, while being a sequel. A River Called Solitude is a prequel that stands on its own. It tells its own story, even though we revisit the same man from Opportunity. Even though its a prequel, it is meant to be read after Opportunity. If you read them, feel free to read them one after the other, but read Opportunity first.
My fried Kate had given me more than 31 words, so I wanted to use the rest of them in my final play. Here are the words that helped inspire A River Called Solitude:
There's one word left unused that Kate gave me; it didn't fit in this last play: Jinkies! Maybe I'll write that one tomorrow… But this next month, I will write each day, finally finishing a play that I started last year. I can't wait to get started on the new path I've set before me.
There are just 7 Plays and 7 Days left in 31 Plays, 31 Days. I can't believe it's the tail end of things. I feel like I just started doing this. I suppose that's a good thing: to feel as though I've just started toward the end. That means I still have somewhere to go. I'm not finished. Will that mean that on September 1st, I'll write a new play? And another on September 2nd and so on and so on? I don't think so. But will I write a scene? A bit of dialogue? Yes. Get something onto the page every day. Good or bad. That's important to remember.
This past week was a bit of a struggle. I had a rough time getting the work onto the page. I would think and worry all day and feel empty, and then when the time came to actually get words on the page, I struggled. But I did it. I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes and stretched my back and wrote. I wrote, even though my brain was saying, "Wow, Chris, this play is really terrible. Who are these characters? This is pretty unimaginative. You're trying too hard. This is pretty boring. Are you seriously going to put these online for people to read?!" To answer that: Yes. These plays, which I struggled to get on the page and which weren't all that bad when I reread them to type them from my longhand, are available to for you to read.
One of the plays that actually came out really well was Day 23. My word was "Single." I initially saw three people in a cafe, all sitting at separate tables. I drew a picture of it on my dry erase board. And I hated it. I didn't like that idea at all. That evening, we went to a reception at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center for our friend Christine D'Epiro Abbott's art exhibition called "This Island We Live On." There were some mixed media pieces and paintings, some that took up an entire wall, some that were small and shared wall space. I wrote a play about two people in a gallery, looking at a group of 4 collages. It was easy to write. Much easier than all the others (Day 24, "Juxtaposition," was grueling).
What have I learned?
There's less than two weeks left in 31 Plays 31 Days left. I've actually been able to complete a play each day and am really surprised and amazed that I have been. I've always struggled with finding daily time for writing. How could I possibly find time in between the job and trying to decompress from the day job and dinner time and bath time and story time and my own bedtime and then it all starts again. I relied heavily on "Writing Days," those days that I was off from work, when my wife was at work, and my son Jack was at daycare. Then it was off to Starbucks or some other coffee shop and I would write. It worked.
I'm planning on continuing this momentum when this month is over. I have 12 days in which to further solidify this new habit.
How are you all doing with this?