Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
A reflection of her playwriting experience of “Legacy Street” by M.F.A playwriting candidate Lauren Redmond.
Here’s something no one tells you about building a career as an artist: everything is terrifying.
Let me back up. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I was writing fifty-page detective novels in fourth grade without even realizing this was something people do for money. But in fourth grade, no one reads your work except your parents and your teachers, all of whom are conditioned to love what you create no matter what it is.
In grad school? “Professors” (a.k.a. teachers when you want to sound adult) aren’t so passive. They may still be nice about your work, but they won’t let you get complacent. Their job is to push you further every day, to make you grow. But…how do you measure growth when you’re an artist? We don’t have tests. We have characters, and plots, and themes, and don’t even get me started about structure.
Writing isn’t just for fun anymore, like it was when you were ten. It gains…responsibility. You have to start thinking beyond your characters, beyond yourself, and into the rest of the world.
What is this play saying?
How would this play affect someone?
How would it affect someone like me?
Someone completely different from me?
The ones I love?
The questions swarm in every time you open your notebook, or your laptop. You feel a weight growing with every letter typed. And you worry it’ll become too much. That it’ll paralyze you, and your writing. Your characters. That maybe, just maybe, you should just give up, because it’s easier to never try.
My thesis play, Legacy Street, is nothing like my life. I don’t speak like my characters. I don’t act like my characters. I don’t live like they do, or look like they do, or eat like they do, or spend my time like they do…you name it, I’m not it. If the rule is true that you’re supposed to “write what you know,” then I’m a fraud, a pretender, a failure. I’m irresponsible.
Every day I’ve worked on this play, the doubts have crowded in. Every time I questioned my characters, they questioned me back. And everything became terrifying.
And then, another question: Why do I write?
When I was ten, I was writing without expectation. I was learning to improve.
So when did I start thinking I was done learning, and that I had to be perfect?
My characters aren’t perfect. They’re people. My play isn’t perfect. But it’s a play. And I’m not perfect. I’ll never be perfect. But I’ll always be learning.
Art is my lifelong process of learning, and my learning needs space. Space for encouragement, space for questions, space for fear, and space for failure. But most of all, I just need space to try.