It had been a long time since I’d been up close and personal with the theater; sure, I’d been in a few plays in high school, but let’s face it: high school was not nearly as recent a memory as I’d like to think it was. While I’d been fortunate enough to participate as an audience member to some incredible NY theater productions, being intimately acquainted with the stage and the processes that make it all possible seemed like a world whose doors had long ago been closed to me.
Cue stage right…
All of that changed during the latest Girls Write Now workshop on Site Specific Plays. We started the day with a conflict — but, thankfully, it was one we created during the Opening Lines exercise. It was amusing how many of us had stories about conflicts taking place on subway cars! As it turns out, a place as specific as a subway car is often rife with possibility for conflict — and makes for endless dramatic entertainment.
We were then introduced to playwright and actor Erika Sheffer, whose first play, Russian Transport, premiered at The New Group in January 2012 and has been read at Naked Angels, Primary Stages, The Woodshed Collective and Personal Space Theatrics. With such a positive reception for her first play, one might think that the writing process came easily to Erika. But she spoke candidly about how long the play took her to write, and how crucial the editing process is to her writing. Sure, it hurts to edit and cut things that have taken so long to write in the first place, but you have to allow yourself to feel the hurt and push through it. To drive the point home she read an excerpt from the final version of her play, followed by the first draft of that same passage. We were amazed to hear how much more developed and nuanced the final version was by comparison.
Erika encouraged all of us to continue taking classes and making connections to fellow writers, especially after college. She stressed the importance of finding time to create, no matter how challenging our daily lives become.
Later in the workshop we took our newfound knowledge about site-specific conflict and broke into small groups, where we co-wrote a skit and then performed it for our fellow mentees and mentors. Suddenly, I was transported back to those high school performances I had long since tucked away in my memories: the giddy energy of creating a believable scene with peers and the joy of performing, no matter how small the role. It turns out that the stage door is always open, no matter how long you’ve thought it was closed.