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In Memory of Inbal Kashtan

A playwright in our community, Inbal Kashtan, passed away yesterday. In addition to being one of the first playwrights to complete the 31 Plays challenge in 2013, she was a member of San Francisco Playwrights Center and she was a member of the PlayGround Writers Pool. She was a determined and warm person who will be missed by many.

Congratulations, Playwrights!

Congratulations to all of the writers who participated in this year’s 31 Plays in 31 Days Challenge! Whether you wrote one play, seven, or 31, the fact that you put fingertip to keyboard is something to be proud of.

This year, we received 1556 submissions from 92 playwrights

Of those 92 playwrights, we received 31 submissions from 42 playwrights! (Though looking at the submissions figures, I suspect that 44 playwrights wrote 31 plays but didn’t upload a couple of them by mistake—I almost had that problem until I double-checked my submissions at the last minute).

Now is a great time to go through all of your scripts and pick some that you’d like to revise and send off to theater companies or produce yourself! If any of your 31 plays develop further, please let us know.

We’ll be back next year with another challenge to write 31 Plays in the 31 Days of August, so mark your calendars and we’ll see you next year!

Tracy Held Potter, co-founder

Prompts: Day 31

Today the 31 plays in 31 days challenge ends tonight at midnight. You survived! Not only that, but I’d bet you wrote some great plays along the way. Here’s our final prompt for this year. You can still share work with us on twitter and facebook, so be in touch! 

Until next year, playwrights. Happy writing! 

Topher Cusumano
(31/31 Blogger) 

Prompt #50: Begin at the Beginning 

Return to the subject/location/characters of the first play you wrote during this year’s challenge. Write your last play inspired by your first play! 

PLAY DATE: Sean Pollock

For our last Play Date of this year’s challenge we spoke with Sean Pollock about the plays he wrong this month, his time at The National Theatre institute, Macabre Theatre Ensemble (of which he’s a member), and writing horror plays, and more! Check it out below. 

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How has the challenge been this year?

            It’s been great! That being said, it is really easy to get distracted. This month I did a lot of things other than writing: I went on vacation, got a new job and now, I’ve started school. So, naturally life gets in the way sometimes. But what I love about 31/31 is that a few days can pass without writing and then I can come back to it at full force and just write my heart out (and for the first [and probably only time ever] I even wrote ahead, if you can believe that). The challenge this year has been able to help me dig deep into my imagination and pull out some ideas I’ve had on the back burner for a while now, and the prompts have really help me shape some of those ideas—and have also given me inspiration for totally new, great weird ones ideas well. There’s a lot of plays on there as well that came to me the day of, completely by the prompts which is always exciting, because then it allows me to write completely impulsively.

            I also have been writing a full-length naturalistic play called “Shelly Sells Seashells Down By The Shore”, which is not normally my style at all (I hardly ever write in realism) the process of which has certainly been turbulent, but as Dorothy Parker said “I hate writing, I love having written” which is sort of the case with “Shelly”. However I don’t totally hate writing it, it’s just outside of my comfort zone which is ultimately a good thing, I think—and I’ve had a total ball creating the world of this play as well. A lot of information I got about Seaside Heights featured interviews I conducted Civilians-style in my recent vacation to Seaside Heights, New Jersey (I’ve included pictures of this trip in some of the “Shelly Sells” entry).

Two years ago, you shared some of your work on your website. What was the response from readers? What did you decide to share your 31/31 plays with the world?

            I haven’t gotten a lot of public response, but most of the feedback from certain individuals I’ve shown my work to has been positive. I don’t share the link very often, mostly because it annoys me when people over-promote themselves—especially with a project like this, which is more about getting in the habit of creating and writing constantly and not necessarily generating perfect plays (a lot of my plays are super flawed on here. A lot of them have typos, and were written in the early hours of the morning more often than not).

            I decided to share my plays publicly when I first did the challenge a few years ago because it forced me to keep writing them. A few days would pass and I’d be like, “I don’t want people to see I’m slacking off!” which would keep me writing them, even though I knew I didn’t really have that big of an audience—but I wanted to at least *appear* productive, no matter who was reading.

What have been some of the highlights from this year’s challenge? Any plays your excited to continue working on past August?

Oh god, there’s so many highlights. Well, there’s been a few. I would say I’ve really enjoyed writing about Y2K a lot, which I’ve now done in two plays, "Back To Reality" and "The Y2K Play”. “The Y2K Play” in particular was an idea I had for a while—to write a play about a world where Y2K did actually happen, but someone went back in time and changed it—but I had no idea how to go about writing it until I wrote “Back To Reality” which was inspired by the prompt from that day. Also my play "The Ice Water Challenge" which is a really absurdist take on the Ice Bucket Challenge has gotten a lot of positive response, and one that I was practically crying laughing while writing because it’s just so ridiculous. However, I plan on working on “Shelly Sells Seashells Down By The Seashore” for a while, and hopefully it will be ready enough to send to festivals by the end of this year. I’ve also been writing a lot more autobiographical plays this year, some of which I will hopefully be able to use in my autobiographical independent project next semester where I plan on writing a short memoir devised of plays, comics, poetry and personal essays which should be fun. 

What are some tips you would give to a playwright hoping to complete the challenge next year?

            As Tracy Held Potter says, Don’t judge your work! Don’t judge your work and…don’t judge your work. If you have an impulse to write about an idea, write it—and if you want, you can always break larger ideas up into parts! I’ve had to do that a lot, especially if /and/ when you want to tackle a full length. And at the end of the day, you’re writing these plays for you, so I encourage many of you to write closet dramas such as myself, which are works that I write that I don’t necessarily intend to have staged, and write mostly for my own enjoyment.

This year you had the chance to participate in the National Theatre institute at the Eugene O Neil Theatre. Congratulations! Tell us a little about the experience. What did you work on during your time at the O’Neal?

            Thank you! It was a real honor. The National Theatre Institute Theatremakers Program was totally theatrical boot camp in almost every sense and was a huge challenge for me both mentally and physically. You’re creating theatre constantly—from 7 am to 11pm—every day of the week for six weeks, one of which is dedicated to observerships at the National Playwrights or Music Theatre Conference. I also saw a lot of wonderful theatre at these conferences, including The National Puppetry Conference that was unlike anything I had ever seen—not to mention, I totally fell in love with puppetry while I was there. The process of NTI was totally insane, wonderful and different from anything I had ever done. The only think I could even think of even remotely comparing it to was my experience at the French Woods Festival of Performing Arts that I attended when I was a teenager, only with the volume turned all the way up. They call it an intensive for a reason, because it truly is very intense—but totally worth it. It really helped me find where I was an artist at this point in my life, and what I need to work on going forward. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the playwriting program and only did directing—but got the wonderful opportunity to direct a one-act, a radio play and a musical, as well as take place in two devised pieces in addition to doing scene work in class. I was also an assistant director for GT Upchurch at the National Playwrights Conference on Lindsay Ferrentino’s “Ugly Lies The Bone” featuring Jedidiah Schultz of “The Laramie Project” which was fabulous. The play is about a woman named Jess who returns to her home in Merritt Island, Florida early after getting severely burned in Iraq and the struggles she faces in re-adapting to civilian life. She also is the test subject of a new kind of physical therapy: a video game simulation of a snow world where she is supposed to build a new life for herself in this virtual reality world. It’s an incredible play and is thankfully getting staged at NYU this fall by Jedidiah himself, who played the character of “Stevie” in the reading.

            I experimented with a lot of different forms of theatre I had never done before, such as contact improv butoh, mythical realism (although I injured my shoulder/forearm doing it), rasta boxes, neo-futurism and radio plays—all of which are totally awesome, and I will try and apply them moving forward as much as possible. The slogan at NTI is “Risk, Fail, Risk Again” which is totally awesome. I was failing constantly—almost every day when ever I had to do yoga, droznin movement or what have you—but it was ok, because I was trying…and at NTI I learned that it is okay to fail because making impulsive, strong choices is more important than necessarily making a “right” or “wrong” choice. Many times at NTI we’d rarely have more than two days to put together assignments—and in several instances, we’d have less than a day—and it really made me learn to make bold choices and trust my instincts and just make art without any excuses. I also had a wonderful ensemble of seventeen other amazingly talented individuals that I was living, sleeping, eating and creating with 24/7 who are some of the most amazing artists and inspiring people I have ever met. Because of my depression and anxiety, it took me a while to let my guard down and trust and love everyone completely and fully, but once I finally let go it was really quite wonderful. I also have to give a shoutout to the Artistic Director, Rachel Jett and the coordinators of Theatermakers—my big sister, Eliza Orleans and Lexy Orleans—all of whom are incredibly inspiring individuals who believed in me 100% even when I was being batshit crazy, helping me conquer the vampires in my mind and being totally honest and amazing mentors. I would also like to thank all my teachers at NTI who are reading, especially Jonathan Bernstein (who is going to lead NTI’s premiere sister program, The National Music Theatre Institute), Suzy Agins, Gregg Wiggans and Greg Allen who taught me a lifetime’s worth about directing in such a short period of time.

            To any college students out there reading this right now—do this program. I am firm in the belief in that it is the best training out there, and that it will totally transform you as an artist in the best way possible. It may be agonizingly hard at times—but I beg you, I beseech you—that if you are serious about pursuing a career as a theatre artist, do this program. It will change your life for the better.

Tell us about the Macabre Theatre Ensemble.

            Macabre Theatre Ensemble (www.facebook.com/icmacabre) is a theatre company I started as a freshman at Ithaca College and is the love of my life, the reason why I get up in the morning and go to sleep at night (or don’t go to sleep at night) and has been the highlight of my college experience—I would not be the artist who I am today without it. I am shamelessly proud of the work we do, and I don’t care who knows it. Our work tends to be unfiltered, provocative, offensive and totally darker, weirder and different than any other student theatre group that’s at IC right now which is what really sets us apart. We are an ensemble of twenty-three now (we originally started with ten) made up of writers, directors, actors, stage managers, producers, media coordinators, costumers, props masters (as well as one music director and a few choreographers) that dedicated to creating horror/horror comedy, science fiction, experimental, avant-garde theatre. However, shows that also have overlying themes of mental illness, psychological-horror, psychological-thriller, murder mysteries, Theatre of Cruelty, Theatre of the Grotesque, and gothic-style burlesques qualify. Basically if it relates to death and has overtones of dark themes, it’s Macabre. We’re also beginning to produce some performance art and street theatre as well this season, which is really exciting—an idea that was largely inspired by my time at NTI—because one thing that I really loved about NTI was that we were creating art anywhere and everywhere on campus, and it was so exciting and fun and one thing that I have tried to apply to Macabre as much as possible.

            We also have a great rags-to-riches story. We started as being this small theatre group that emerged out of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which was produced by another student theatre group, IC Players. Macabre was basically myself and nine other freshman that people would make fun of constantly and the brunt of all the jokes in the theatre department. We were totally disorganized, pretty much only produced adaptations or parodies of horror films and had no idea how to market ourselves and had virtually no theatre majors in the organization besides myself and a handful of others. Since then, we have gone on to produce some really wonderful original pieces and mash-ups and have generated a large cult following, now involves a large amount of theatre majors and have produced some really quality work on- and off-campus. One of our biggest achievement to date, I think was the first college production of Carrie: The Musical, as well as both productions of our original show “You Know What They Say” by my Asst. Artistic director Maxie Mettler, and our 48-Hour Play Festival. Last year, IC Players also handed over “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” over to us which we are incredibly grateful for, and will be producing again this year as well. We have a very exciting season planned ahead, and I don’t want to give too much away—but it will be a great mixture of musicals, non musical, original and devised work and some adaptations as well. 

You use a lot of elements of horror and fantasy in your work. How do you think these genres translate different for the stage when you compare them to films?

Well, I’m a huge fan of “Geek Theatre” which doesn’t have a set definition, but as I would describe as: theatre that appeals to a “geekier” community, interested in dystopian, futurist musician and non-musical performance that appeals to those interested in sci-fi, comic books, RPG fantoms and video games. The problem with sci-fi and horror theatre is that they are both genres that are accomplished so well in film that people often think it can’t be replicated on stage. One of my best friends once claimed you can’t scare a live audience—which is totally not true, because I’ve felt scared by stage productions, and I’ve scared audiences with my work too and it’s a great feeling. I feel like on stage we can go anywhere, so why not take audiences to the wildest places impossible? Another thing I really love about the horror/sci fi/fantasy genre is that the rules of the world you create can be whatever you want them to be, which is really quite liberating. Also, horror theatre has been around for ages, with theatre of cruelty and grand guignol theatre—the genre that actually inspired thriller and film noir—so it’s really nothing new, it’s just that less people are doing it now because of the film industry. The fact is that I really enjoy exploring the darker side of the human condition and really breaking down what scares us and why we get scared. Some people are really scared of blood, or the devil. Some people are scared of walking into a party filled with people they don’t know or taking a test. I’m also just interested in creating the kind of the theatre I would want to see, and this is the kind of stuff that interests me.

Any final thoughts?

Theatre can be anywhere. Theatre can be anything. Theatre can be meaningful, or totally vapid of meaning. But ultimately, theatre, like all art should reflect life—and there is not just one way to reflect life. Write what you do, but also don’t be afraid to write about what you don’t know and the unknown as well. Don’t compare your success to others. The only person who gets in your way is you.

            And finally, write the kind of theatre you want to see, and don’t allow anyone to pigeon hole you into writing just one certain “type” of play. Our style and tastes naturally change all the time, and it is ok to change as an artist. Just because you write horror theatre with no dialogue that’s completely written with impossible stage directions now doesn’t mean your next play can’t be a five-act family drama written in realism. Your art is your art, and no one can take that from you.

Write a short scene inspired by the scariest moment in your life.

(Lights rise in a dingy basement of a high school. L, H and S are all standing in a hallway)

L: Dude, what’s your problem?

H: Yeah man. You made a group that’s called “Free Aaron”? What’s that about?

S: He’s my friend. I don’t think he should be expelled.

L: And why’s that?

S: …I think he’s innocent.

H: Woah, woah, woah. Do you really not believe me, dude?

(H moves in closer)

H: Seriously? Do you think I’m on drugs? Do you think that I’m crazy? Huh? Do you think I’m fucking. crazy?

S: I—

H: Because I’m not. Ok. I was there. He followed me into the girl’s bathroom and sexually harassed me.

S: I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.

H: Oh yeah? Well I have something to say to you—

L: Calm down. Calm down.

(Tears begin to form in H’s eyes)

H: It’s just…not fair. It’s just not fair.

L: Do you see what you made her do? Do you see what you made her do?

S: I…

(The bell rings. Blackout. When the lights rise, we are in a separate space outside of school. S is standing outside, along with M)

M: How’s it going?

S: Terribly. This whole Aaron thing has been blown all out of proportion.

M: How so?

S: Well she got all mad at me today. She found that group I founded on Facebook.

M: The Free Aaron one?

S: Yeah. I really regret doing it now.

M: What did she say?

S: She basically got all up in my face and was like “Do you think I’m a liar?” “Do you think I’m on drugs?”

M: She’s such a crazy bitch.

S: I know. It’s like, Aaron wouldn’t do that. He was just high and followed her into the bathroom as a joke.

M: I know he’s such a sweetheart. He wouldn’t do that.

(We hear police sirens. S and M look in the distance, confused. Enter C from the sound of the sirens)

M: What’s going on?

C: Oh, did you not hear?

S: No…?

C: H is having a seizure. I heard L mention that it was brought on by stress.

S: (looking ahead) Oh my god…is that her in that stretcher?

C: Yeah.

(S’s face grows red)

S: Oh my god…oh my god….

C: What? What’s wrong?

(S begins to cry. Lights fade…)

Write a short scene inspired by your childhood dream job.


Note, my childhood dream job was to be a fireman. Not a…well, you’ll see.

(Lights up on NIKO and JAMES in James’ apartment. Niko is dressed in a fireman’s outfit—suspenders, a wife beater, a fireman’s hat. He is holding a prop hose. He might have a facial piercing—or a few. James, an older man, is taking pictures)

JAMES: Yeah, baby. Give me some more attitude. Vogue for me. Yeah.

(Niko tries various types of poses. He smizes)

JAMES: Damn, you are so hot. Take a strap off.

(He does)

JAMES: You gonna soak me with that hose? Flex those muscles. Yeah.

(He does)

JAMES: Now…uh…take the shirt off.

NIKO: Ok.

(He does. One of his nipples is pierced)

JAMES: Damn, look at that hairy chest. That is a sexy muscle bear right there. Pinch your nipple. Pinch your nipple.

(He does)

JAMES: Now bite your lip. Bite your lip. Bite your fucking lip. 

(He does)

JAMES: Alright…now take your pants off.

NIKO: Are you sure?

JAMES: Yeah.

NIKO: Ok.

(He does)

JAMES: Look at that sexy fucking fireman. Ok. Yeah. Alright. Tease us a little bit. Show us some skin down there.

(He does)

JAMES: Ok. Yeah.

NIKO: Are we done?

JAMES: Yeah. Just one more, and.

(He takes one last picture. He turns off the camera)

JAMES: Good man. You look good.

NIKO: Thanks.

JAMES: Yeah.

NIKO: So um, are you gonna pay me in cash…or a check…?

JAMES: Let me just.

(James brushes Niko’s chest with the back of his hand)

JAMES: You are irresistibly handsome.

NIKO: Thank you.

JAMES: Do you know how attractive you are?

(Niko laughs nervously. James begins to make his way down)

NIKO: Listen man—you didn’t say anything about physical stuff. The ad said you just needed someone to model.

JAMES: Shh…

(He grab’s Niko’s junk. Niko backs up)

NIKO: Listen man. If you want to do that you’re gonna have to pay me extra. Now where’s my cash?

JAMES: (suddenly very forceful) I’ll pay you. Don’t be difficult with me. Cmon. Do it. Do it for a horny old man. Cmon.

(A beat. A chill runs down Niko’s spine)

NIKO: Don’t take it personally but I’m…I’m not in the mood to do that.

JAMES: What?

NIKO: Yeah. I’m sorry. It’s not you. Please just, if I can have my cash—

JAMES: Aww, come on? Why not? You don’t like me? Why don’t you like me?

NIKO: Look man this is getting weird.

JAMES: C’mon. Just play with me. Play with me.

NIKO: I’m gonna go.

(James blocks him)

JAMES: Don’t go. Cmon don’t go. Stay with me, sexy. Cmon. I’ll pay you. I’ll pay you.

NIKO: Dude, just fuck off and give me my money.

(Niko pushes James out of the way)

JAMES: You shouldn’t have done that. You really. Really shouldn’t have done that.

NIKO: Dude you’re freaking me out.

JAMES: I really wish you wouldn’t have done that.

NIKO: …

JAMES: Now you’re gonna end up just like the other fireman.

NIKO: What?

(James takes the hose suddenly attacks Niko. He strangles him with the hose. Niko struggles to break free)

JAMES: (between clenched teeth) Don’t fight me now, boy.

(After a few moments of hesitation, Niko finally drops to the floor, dead)

JAMES: (to Niko’s dead body) All I ever wanted was a sexy fireman. Was that really too much to ask?

(He sighs)

JAMES: (under his breath) Guess I’ll have to put him down with the others…

(He drags Niko down to his basement. Blackout)

Prompt: Day 30

Prompt #49: Photoseed 

So today is partially a prompt, partially a resource suggestion. As I was hunting the internet for a photo to use as today’s inspiration, I stumbled across this incredible website. It’s called Photoseed, and it’s a private collection of vintage photography. Here’s some more info from the photoseed website: 

PhotoSeed, representing an evolving online record of this early fine-art photography movement, is a private archive with simple goals: beauty, truth, scholarship and enjoyment for all who visit. A rich collection of photographs representing numerous vintage processes will be found on the site. From delicate platinum to exquisite hand-pulled photogravures, images produced singularly or published in portfolios and journals, as well as vintage source material, this resource will reward the intrepid or curious.

It’s an amazing resource for playwrights. Especially since the front page of the site randomly generates images for you to browse, so the ideas practically jump of the screen. Check it out here: http://www.photoseed.com/ 

Only two days left to finish up your 31 plays! You can do it! 

Happy writing, Playwrights. 

PROMPTS: Day 29


Prompt #47: Taxi Cab
Your play takes place in a cab. 


Prompt #48: What’s Poppin? 

Mary Poppins turns 50 today! Get inspired by the wondrous nanny, the themes of the story, or it’s setting!  

Prompts: Day 27

Prompt #45: Bard For Life

Get inspired by your favorite shakespeare play! Retell the classic story in a new and exciting way. 

Prompt #46: Love & Marriage 

Write a scene about a young couple first meeting and falling in love. Then write a follow up scene in which that same couple has been married for twenty five years. 

PROMPTS: Day 26

Get your helmets ready, playwrights! Today our prompts cover sports, and plays for older actors. Also, have you purchased your 31/31 T-shirt yet!?  If not, now is the time!! http://teespring.com/31days31plays   

Prompt #43: Golden Years  

All the characters in your play are between 60-100 years old. 

Prompt #44: Good Sport

Find inspiration from your favorite sport! Competitive games have a built in conflict. Think about creative ways that a group of actors can perform a sport on stage! 

PLAY DATE: Aleesha Nash

It might be the last week of the 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge, but that doesn’t mean we’re stopping the fun! We have another awesome Play Date for you from one of our talented 31/31 playwrights, Aleesha Nash. Check it out! 

You moved from Ohio to New York City to pursue your masters at NYU. What there a big culture shock for you?

New York was definitely a culture shock in both good and bad ways.  The thing that stands out the most is the cost of living.  I moved with $1700… in Ohio that would have covered some of the essentials for a while.  In New York… not so much.  For starters the person I was staying with lived far into Jersey and I was paying $40 a day to commute.  That forced me to find a room before I found a job.  Getting around was a shock.  I moved to pursue a Master’s Degree at New York University and it took me several tries the campus.  I would see the NYU area on the MTA subway map but for some reason I could never quite find the place.   I would get off the train and walk.  I discovered some great places but never NYU.  One day I just ran into it by accident.  Thank God I got to NYC two months before school started.

The best shock was the energy of the City.  I’m still in love with this even after 7 years [collectively] of living in the City.  The weird smell of the liquid that comes from the street cleaning machines and the moment when the sun starts to dry the streets to make way for a busy day… it’s magical!

Tell us about your play Yours Truly, Vincent.

Yours Truly, Vincent. (referred to as “YTV” hereafter), a production about the life and works of Dutch Post-Impressionist artist; Vincent van Gogh. The monodrama based on his 900-plus letters, generated dialogue that fostered a one-to-one relationship with the audience offering Van Gogh the freedom to ultimately, share the inner drama of an artist’s consciousness.

Over the years, Van Gogh has been the subject of several studies most of which report that his life was full of sorrow and strife.   In creating YTV, it was my hope to depict the compassion and intention behind Van Gogh’s life.  I say intention because I believe that he consciously elected to be what he was—a voluntary outcast and an artist that worked in isolation.

I believe that Van Gogh’s story is the story of many rising artists.  Sadly, popular culture has begun to glamorize the ideals of being a “tortured artist” and many artists are attracted to this aspect of Van Gogh’s story.   With the use of Van Gogh’s story, this play will help to dispel some of the misperceptions about the life of an artist and put a bigger focus on his ability to be consistent, his willingness to learn, and the level of sacrifice for his work and self-proclaimed life purpose to bring happiness to others through his art.

Yours Truly, Vincent. is a love affair with language, a celebration of all that is beautiful and poignant in life.

What was your writing processing for creating a piece of devised theater?

This was my first experience with creating work for the theater.  The inspiration came from an audition that I went on [as an actor].  The producers of the show had a stack of poems and we were told to pair up with another actor and create a 1-minute play using only the words of the poems.  I don’t know what we came up with or how the audition went because my mind was busy thinking about the process.  On the train ride home, still pondering, it hit me… “I can write a play about Van Gogh using his [903] letters as dialogue.” At the time that I thought it … I thought it was the best idea EVER… not knowing that others had done the same thing.  I was so focused I didn’t have any time to discover these other works about Van Gogh.

I didn’t start writing immediately.  I think I was more fascinated with having the idea… so I entered it into the Emerging Artist Theater’s (EAT) New Works Series.  To prepare for this I started reading lots of one-person shows and started reading Van Gogh’s collection of letters.  To be fair I had already ready them once… so I had sort of an idea of what years / dates to find what information I wanted to convey through my play.  To apply to be apart of the EAT series you only needed to supply an idea.  After a few weeks I hadn’t heard from them so I wrote to check on the status of my application.  They wrote back and said if I were still interested they had an opening.  The available date was six weeks from the day I called.  I happily agreed.

My first draft was awful.  I didn’t know anything about dramatic structure and was trying to recreate Van Gogh’s voice.  I went to my writing coach and in a nutshell he told me… “Your job is not to write in this case… your job is to edit.” I walked out of this meeting crying like a baby (which is another great thing about NYC… you can do what you want and not look crazy as you walk down the street sobbing).  I called one of my friends and told him what happened and he agreed to lock me in his house, take away all my electronic devices away, feed me, and sit with me while I wrote another draft.  When I arrived to my friend’s house the next morning he decided that he should take my shoes so that I could not run.  I sat for hours writing, wanting to throw up, and then writing some more.  Eventually, around 5AM I finished.  The next day I sent to my writing coach and his response was… “You take direction very well.”  I was so happy that I cried again.

So this is how my first piece was devised.  My current process is a little more structured.  I repurposed a process that I learned from Screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black.  I start with research.  Every idea goes onto an index card.  Behind that idea is all the support research, reminders, thoughts, quotes, etc. When I feel like I have some sort of a story I start laying the the most theatrical moments out in the order that they may appear in the script.  After all the cards are laid out I take away the cards that are no longer needed to tell the story.  I stare at the order of the cards making sure I’ve made the strongest choices.  I arrange, rearrange, and drive myself crazy for hours or even days… and then once this madness has ended I begin writing the script.  The cards help me to stick with my ideas and not abandon them in moments of feeling stuck or discouraged. I read somewhere that “Discipline is remembering what you want.” This process helps with that!

You completed the 31/31 challenge last year, and you used social media as a tool. Tell us a little about that.

Every day I shared the prompts with my FB friends and using that to update them on where I was or how I was feeling about the process of writing a play every day.  It helped me to be accountable.  One of my friends when they felt like I needed some support joined in the fun with me.  They wrote a play a day for 5 days.  We set a time, during those days, and then we sent our plays to each other.  We read them and then talked about them over the phone.  It was really allot of fun.  It really showed me that writing, though mostly a solo experience, can be more fun with others.

As I was writing this someone from my Facebook community just wrote to me and asked… “are you doing that writing a play a day thing?” I responded yes.  And they proceeded to tell me that they want to write a [musical] verse per day.  They continued by saying that writing has always been therapeutic for them and they miss that creative outlet!  Very cool!  I’m glad I could be apart of bringing this out of someone and that my FB presence allowed them to feel comfortable… Keep sharing and keep writing! :)

Your working on a new series of short plays that all deal with child abuse and use fairy tales as a framing devise. What brought you to make this connection between fairy tales and abuse?

My day job is working at a non-profit organization in that primarily serves underrepresented youth.  Over the years I have noticed that children, when facing hardships, have a way of normalizing their problems thus making them apart of their regular day, including playtime.  My goal for this collection of plays is to put young people on the stage to share their stories from their perspective.  But to also have adults look closer at how young people respond to the bad things that happen to and around them. 

Okay, ready to play?! Write a short scene inspired by a time in your life you forgave someone.

[LEE (male late-40s)  is sitting in the living room watching television when RENEE (female early 20s) walks down the stairs. RENEE is just waking up for the day.  It’s  early afternoon.]

LEE

Good Morning sleepyhead.

RENEE

                                                (sarcastically but saying “hello”)

…Dad.

LEE

I made some breakfast….  You want to eat something?

RENEE

Sure.  Why not? 

(LEE stands up and goes into the kitchen area.  RENEE sits at the dining table - with her cell phone in hand.)

LEE

I didn’t know what you liked so I made pancakes, eggs, some bacon, and a little oatmeal.  I can make some toast too if you like.

RENEE

Eggs are fine.

LEE

…Eggs it is!  (beat) You know.  I’ll make some fresh ones for you so that they are nice and hot.

RENEE

The ones you already made are fine.

LEE

Don’t be silly.  I never get to see you.  The least I can do is make some fresh eggs for my oldest daughter comes to visit me. (beat) Are scrambled okay?

RENEE

Yeah.

(after a few beats)

LEE

…It’s all in the seasonings.

RENEE

——-

LEE

…Garlic powder. 

RENEE

——- 

LEE

…Yup…garlic powder.

RENEE

———

(LEE continues scrambling eggs and RENEE sits at the table looking through her cell phone.)

LEE

When you were a baby you would laugh so hard.  I would call you a“giggle box”.

RENEE

——— 

LEE

It was cute.

RENEE

(after a few beats)

How’s Kendall?

LEE

She’s good.  Looking for a part-time job.  She’ll be over later.  She wants to catch you while you’re here.

RENEE

I feel bad that I don’t reach out to her as much.

LEE

It’s ok.  She understands.

RENEE

It would be nice to have the same relationship with her as I do with Annie.  (beat) Living in the same house with someone really helps…

LEE

Don’t worry.  I’ve been telling her about you guys since she was a baby.  I think she’s just happy to know she has two sisters.  (beat) She’s young anyway… 

RENEE

…That pic you tagged me in on Facebook was cool.

LEE

I was going through some old albums and there were  a bunch of baby pictures of you and Annie.  (beat) I added Kendall to the photo. 

RENEE

——

LEE

…All my girls together.

RENEE

——

LEE

(after a few beats)

I saw a good flick the other night. (beat) Pulp Fiction?

RENEE

Mom never let us watch movies with allot of violence.

LEE

——

RENEE

I can really smell the garlic powder…

(LEE puts a plate of eggs in front of RENEE)

LEE

Anything else I can get you?

RENEE

Thank you. No.  This is great. 

LEE

                                                                        (after a few beats)

So what else are you into nowadays? 

RENEE

School and work pretty much takes up my time.

LEE

I knew you were going to grow up to be a smart girl… I just had this feeling about you.

RENEE

——

LEE

——

RENEE

…Thank you for the birthday card by the way.

LEE

I’m sorry if it got there too late.  I tried to mail it so that it would get to you on your birthday…

RENEE

No… perfect timing. (awkward laugh)  I celebrated the whole week.

LEE

I didn’t have much to put in it but I wanted you to at least be able to get yourself something good to eat. 

RENEE

Don’t worry about it.  (beat) Thank you.  I appreciate it.

LEE

(after a few beats)

I know of a great hamburger place.  We can go later on if you like…

RENEE

Sure.  We’ll see how it goes after breakfast.

LEE

….burgers are amazing. 

RENEE

Sounds good.

LEE

….good.

RENEE

(after a few beats)

How’s grandma doing?

LEE

She’s good… Talks on the phone all day.

RENEE

You think we can go over there today?

LEE

Later might be a good idea.  She can really talk.

RENEE

I don’t mind.  She has really looked out for me over the years.  The least I can do is let her tell me the latest gossip.

LEE

(after a few beats)

She’s always done right by people.  Anytime I couldn’t get you girls’ presents for Christmas or birthdays she would buy them and send them to you.

RENEE

——

LEE

…I really appreciate her. 

RENEE

 (awkwardly laughs)

Yeah for a while we thought your handwriting changed.  Then we figured it out.

LEE

——

RENEE

…It’s the thought that counts.

LEE

(after a few beats)

I wish I could have done more for you girls.

RENEE

——

LEE

Time passed and then you girls were grown up.

RENEE

…we don’t blame you for any of that stuff anyway.  (beat) Sometimes hard choices have to be made…

LEE

——

RENEE

(after a few beats)

You should call Annie sometimes. 

LEE

Yeah?

RENEE

Yeah.  I know she was a lot younger when you and mom separated but she’s still wants to know who you are.  And I think it would help—

LEE

——

RENEE

You’re a nice guy.  She needs to know that.

[END SCENE]

 

PROMPTS: Day 25

It’s important to remember, the point of the 31/31 challenge isn’t to write a perfect plays…or even always good plays…the point is to just keep writing. So we ask you to do just that with these two prompts. 

Happy writing, Playwrights. 


Prompt #41: Bed Ridden (Submitted by Topher Cusumano)

One of your main characters is stuck in bed for the entire play. 

Prompt #42: A Newborn Question (Submitted by Richard Rosario)

What if babies could talk?