At the start of February, I was fortunate enough to have my play “Prima Donna” included in CATCO’s New Works Festival. I’ve previously written plays for CATCO’s season for families and young audiences, so audiences primarily knew me as a writer for younger audiences. During the talkback that followed the staged reading of “Prima Donna,” someone asked if this was my first play for general audiences. Instead of answering quickly with “No, I’ve written many others,” I thought about the progression of my plays and suddenly charted a connection from the plays I was writing in graduate school to “Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras” (my first play for families and young audiences) to “Prima Donna.”
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my theatrical “voice.” I remember years ago, I was at a Dramatists Guild event, talking with a group of people between a session. There was a young writer who asked about “voice.” Specifically, she asked if writers had the goal of writing dialogue through the individual, specific voice of each character, how does “our voice” as author come through? I had never really articulated my thoughts on this, but I came up with an answer.
My book, Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras, celebrated its one year anniversary of being published in January. I didn’t get to celebrate with too much fanfare since I was preparing for rehearsals of Peter Pan Jr., which I’m directed for the Worthingway Arts Program. I look back at my journals and see the planning of the play version of Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras beginning to be created. It really is a situation of the chicken and the egg: which came first, the book or the play?
Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras began as an idea for a children’s book. You can read more about the evolution of the story of a baby duck to a book-loving girl named Penny here. My old journals have characters that were cut from the original version of the play: penguins and a giraffe. Cowgirls don’t ride penguins, they don’t want their tuxedos to get dirty. Cowgirls don’t ride giraffes, they’re too busy knitting scarves for winter. The giraffe existed somewhat to get a “winter is coming” joke in there, but also it’s ridiculous and funny to see a giraffe knitting a scarf worthy of the Fourth Doctor.