Tania – female, Chinese-Canadian and thereby looks young for her age
God – Omniscient, good sense of humour, non- corporeal form, eternal
A living room in a small rental apartment in Bellevue, decorated with a mish-mash of furniture cobbled together over the years from Craigslist and IKEA. It is a cool summer night and there is the occasional sound of loud footsteps and laughter that comes from the thin ceiling above.
TANIA: What should I do?
GOD: Ah… your favourite question.
TANIA: I’m way too predictable.
GOD: Take playwriting.
TANIA: What? You’re actually answering me?
GOD: Yes. Playwriting.
TANIA: I’m not sure I---
GOD: You’ll enjoy yourself.
TANIA: But the I-90 traffic is--
GOD: A mess. But at least there’s no tolling.
TANIA: I don’t know if I’ll write anything worthwhile…
GOD: …Trust me.
…and the seed was planted. I finally enrolled in Playwriting I last fall because I wanted to better understand how to effectively use words. I found that while oftentimes my words failed, I still had a tendency to use too many.
Lo and behold that in the second week of class, I learned that words didn’t need to do all the heavy lifting because there was so much mystery to be tilled with subtext. Moreover, as someone who struggles with grammar, I secretly derived glee from punctuating incorrectly to create my own rhythm.
The final homework assignment was to create a ten minute play based on the theme, “I Get No Kick From Champagne.” Although the entire writing process was challenging, my biggest hurdle was to develop a premise that could sustain my interest for ten minutes. I bored myself with my first two writing attempts because I tried too hard to be clever or funny at the expense of emotional truth. Since the assignment deadline loomed, I released my need to write a lighthearted play and decided to heed Elizabeth Heffron’s advice to “write what disturbs you”.
I gathered my courage and wrote about two broken people and the painful aftermath of their dysfunctional relationship. After the initial feedback from some friends, I was upset to discover I had accidentally written a bad soap opera. But as I proceeded to make some revisions, I chose not to change the core story because this very messy play was an inadequate but honest expression of my heart.
For our last class, my classmates and I had a night of play readings for an intimate audience plied with bubbly in honour of the theme. Far from my worst fear that my writing was woefully inadequate, I was touched to see that my play, along with my classmates’ excellent interpretations of the characters, could move people’s hearts.
My first ten-minute play is far from perfect but I’m proud of it. Yes, God’s guidance was spot-on (again). But I couldn’t have done it without Elizabeth Heffron and Dickey Nesenger’s instruction and encouragement, nor pushed through the self-doubt without all the support from my classmates and my friends.
And here’s my toast to my entire class: I get a kick out of you!
For over 20 years, Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio has been offering a variety of acting classes year round all taught by working professional actors, directors and playwrights. Classes include beginning acting, solo performance, improv, playwriting, directing, voice and movement classes and much more. For more information, go to: http://www.freeholdtheatre.org