For a playwright, the interval of time between having your play selected for production and the performance’s opening night can only be described in two words: ‘Ebullient anxiety.’
When my play, Connection, was selected for this year’s Maine Playwrights Festival, I experienced the adrenaline rush I’m sure all playwrights know. Because up until now, it’d existed in a world solely inside my own head. After the first draft, questioning almost every line, every plot twist. Delete. Write. Mutter to myself. Revise.
And then you send it out into the world – unleashing your new script on some unsuspecting theater company – having no idea what the response will be. Anxiety builds until, like now, with the Maine Playwrights Festival, someone says, “Hey, we like this.”
Joy. Rapture. And then more anxiety. Will an audience like this? Lately I’ve been writing plays that mess around with time. My play Connection bends time in a way that allows characters to interact in ways that seem – at least today – impossible. Will the audience go along? Will they question my sanity? Question their own sanity?
The Maine Playwrights Festival process uniquely addresses the anxiety most playwrights feel. The staged reading happening this weekend allows me to hear my lines, for the first time, read aloud by seasoned actors. I’ll listen closely to how they interpret the characters, the nuances they’ll add. I’ll pay attention to how the director, Paul Haley, puts the pieces of the puzzle together and offers his own vision.
And I’ll try to read the audience. Most of my plays have included good doses of comedy, so of course I listened for which lines drew the most laughs. Ironically, I began writing Connection as a comedy, imagining what would happen if a character was able to play with time to his distinct advantage. But somehow the stakes rose to such a point where interactions between the characters got pretty intense.
So I won’t be looking for laughs during this reading, but instead for whether the audience seems to be engaged. Tracking along. Or at least stays in their seats!
And afterwards, I’ll look forward to feedback from Paul, the actors, our playwright-in- residence Kate Snodgrass, our dramaturg Dan Burson. Then … more revising. Deleting. Muttering. But I wouldn’t replace the experience of being in the MPF for anything in the world.