Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
M.F.A. in Playwriting Candidate Kathleen Cole Burke discusses her upcoming thesis production
I’m pretty sure I’m winging it, this whole playwriting thing. When I was younger and more silly I used to think that inspiration was very important and I would wait for it, like it was a present from Santa. I’m slowly learning, to the chagrin of my silliness, that inspiration doesn’t have much to do with writing. Or at least, it doesn’t have nearly as much to do with my writing as showing up does. I’ve learned that writing goes best when a good idea finds me already at my desk. Because if I don’t write every day, what am I? Am I a writer? I want to be able to say, “I’m a writer,” and not have to add caveats like, “well I was a writer last month when I had some free time, but then I got really busy with blah blah blah…” But sitting down to write is often harder than the writing itself, I’ve found.
My thesis play, Conversations I’ve Never Had, started out as a beautiful little moment of inspiration. It was super romantic. I was all by myself on a train in England going to visit Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time, the summer before I started at CUA. Doesn’t that sound like a treatment for an indie romance? I would be played by a beautiful actress like Anne Hathaway and my thesis would be played by Eddie Redmayne. Anyway, on the train to Shakespeare’s birthplace I overheard Father Jonah and Felicity talking to me so I wrote them down. And that was that. Over the next couple years, I would sometimes feel “inspired” and work on the play, write a few scenes, then promptly forget about it. Then it was time to write a thesis and I realized that my darling inspirations weren’t worth a whole lot when it came to actually writing the thing, putting out some pages. So I had to learn to sit down with it every day and that, for me, has been the hardest part about writing my thesis and the most important lesson of graduate school. Writers write. That’s it, but that’s obviously not it; that means a thousand little things. That means playing “Thesis, may I?” as my roommate calls it. “Thesis, may I see a movie tonight instead?” “Thesis, may I check Facebook instead?” An embarrassing amount of the time I do what I want and don’t listen to my thesis, and then it suffers and so do I. So I’m trying to learn that if the writing hasn’t been done for the day, then I gotta do it before I do other things and that’s just that. I am currently writing this blog while I know I have a scene burning in my mind that I need to fix, because I need to get it to the actors, because they have to put on a play in a few weeks. I feel really blessed to be here at Catholic learning from Jon and the five smartest playwrights I know (nine if you count the graduated ones, which I do). I’m learning to prefer hard work over being romanced by inspiration, though it’s still nice when inspiration calls. I love playwriting because there are other people involved, my brilliant actors and fabulous director, all of whom want to read the scene I am at this minute putting off. So for them, I’ll write it soon. When I see my opening night on February 14th, I’ll see my play and I’ll see all the great, smart choices the other artists involved made. However, a small little part of me doesn’t care how well it goes because I’ll see the times I managed to die to my wants a little bit, sit at my desk and do some work. For me those boring, consistent desk days are far more romantic than any inspiring train Romeos, any day. Conversations I’ve Never Had runs in Hartke Theatre February 14th, 18th, and 20th at 7:30pm and February 15th and 21st at 2pm