I just checked my computer for verification, and it tells me that I created the document that eventually became An Invitation Out on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009. Which means I’ve been working on this script in some form or other for a little over five years now, hoping that one day it would fully exist. See, just like a tadpole is not yet a frog, a script is not yet a play. There is still more growing to do, a few more appendages to acquire. You can dot the last i, type out the final stage direction, but you didn’t write those words to be read. You wrote them to be seen and heard, and for that you need other people.
Deanna Jent read one of the earliest drafts of my script back in 2011. At the time, it was precisely one bazillion and eight pages long, and full of ideas that were interesting in theory, but pretty much a mess in practice. Yet even in that state, she saw something in the sprawl, believed in it, and decided to take a chance on me. In the summer of 2013, she had someone unexpectedly drop out of a playwriting seminar she was teaching, and invited me to fill the empty slot so I could work on the script in the company of other playwrights. It was perfect timing. I’d essentially been working in a vacuum, and had reached the end of where I could take the script alone in a room by myself. 8 weeks later, I walked out of that classroom with a completely new ending, a tighter focus on what the story was, and a host of connections with actual human beings. Deanna said she might be interested in producing it for Mustard Seed Theatre if I’d be open to making some more revisions. I kept at it, and in early 2014, I got the official good news: the play I’d been working to see onstage for what seemed like ages would be a part of Mustard Seed’s 2014/2015 season. At the very end of it. So, four years of waiting down, one to go.
For most of the last year, this upcoming production hasn’t seemed quite real. I’d spent so much time thinking about it that it became more of a fuzzy idea that people would ask me about occasionally, a theory rather than a tangible fact. But then, early this February, we had the first cast read-thru. I entered the theater, and there it was – the tables pushed together with clusters of chairs around it, the stack of scripts, the pencils, the cups of coffee – all the signs of a rehearsal process. Suddenly, there were tech people talking about how on earth to make the things I’d written actually work, the sounds of actors chatting in the lobby. Then Nicole came in – an actor and good friend who’s been in both of the other shows of mine that have been performed so far. On the way to her seat, she gave me a huge hug, and just like that, it didn’t seem like only a script anymore. A play was coming together. With my arms around her, it finally flashed through my mind. “So this is a thing that is happening now.”
March 24th was our first rehearsal. Before the actors arrived, Maggy and Katie – our S.M. and A.D. – snuck me into the theater where our crew were already hard at work on the set. It seemed gigantic. Even in pieces, it was already grander than I had imagined. I just stood there and stared at it all until Maggy asked me what I thought, bringing me back to lucidity. All I could stutter out was “All of this is here because of something I wrote down on a piece of paper once.” The implications of that seemed enormous, but Maggy and Katie just smiled.
A script is not yet a play. You can dot the last i, type out the final stage direction, but it doesn’t become real until other people pour in their talents, their time, their passion even when it’s very difficult work. “This is a thing that is happening now.” But it doesn’t happen alone.