|Nervous writer + cel phone = not the best picture.|
A while back, I wrote a three scene, one act play called DRIVER’S ED. The story was based on that terrifying parental experience, teaching a teenager to drive. Turns out driving wasn’t the scariest part of the scenario.
Since I grew up in the 60s, it surprised me that I was uncomfortable when my daughter started asking sex questions; which she invariably did on the drive to school. I realized what I thought I should say, and what I really wanted to say often diverged. DRIVER’S ED arose from the idea, what if the unspoken thoughts on both sides had a life of their own.
The play won a few awards on the circuit then went back into the drawer. On a whim I entered it in a Montana contest in which the prize was production, one night, in a theater, with a professional acting troup and director. And a real, live audience.
DRIVER’S ED was one of the winners.
I’ve had a couple of table reads in my career; both times with other writers. It seems to me that writers are dysfunctional in similar ways, and at both table reads I spent most of my time enjoying the goofiness of my peers. From quiet, internally focused writers to suddenly -- ACT-TORS – cracked me up and made me love ‘em for their willingness to let go and help.
Production on a real stage with genuine actors in front of a real live audience was something else all together.
And I had a week to ponder.
What if they hated it? What if they were offended? What if they were bored? What if they became enraged and formed a mad mob like the one that burned out Frankenstein’s monster? What if someone jumped up and hollered, “who wrote this crap?”
What if I just had a heart attack and succumbed right there in the theater?
Well, Mrs. Lincoln, except for that, how’d you like the play?
I’ve had a few surreal experiences in my screenwriting career. Having an Oscar winning screenwriter hand me my first screenwriting award. Hearing an HBO executive quote my dialog back to me because it sounded cool to her. Listening to the director of a major screenwriting contest report how much the judges were enjoying my story.
Now add to those, sitting in the audience while my play was performed.
The audience laughed.
They didn’t burn down the theater.
Nobody cried. I made up that part.