Our two playwrights for this year's DBMOAF, Allison Lane (COL '19), author of Four Lemons And a Funeral, and Timmy Sutton (COL '20), author of Hazel & Stanley, shared some reflections on the process of writing these two scripts and what it meant to bring them to life.
Writing my play and letting it breathe…
Getting selected for DBMOAF this year was one of the most wonderfully exciting things I have ever experienced. It was exhilarating and validating and felt kind of like drinking ten caffeinated coffees. Or twenty.
But it was also terrifying. And nerve-wracking and scary and kind of impossible. Here’s a play that I never expected to be selected, actually BEING SELECTED. Now, my friends and classmates and mentors might come and see my words spread out on a stage, totally vulnerable and ready for scrutiny. I wondered for weeks after being chosen if this was something I could handle. I asked myself, should I respectfully remove my play from the season and ask them to pick something else? I didn’t think I was ready. But something inside of me told me to wait it out, to be patient, and to hold my breath just a little bit longer. So I did. And it ended up being one of the most rewarding choices I have ever made.
As the playwright, I was fairly distanced from the actual process of creating the world of the play. I came to a few rehearsals and answered some of the cast and directing staff’s questions, but that was about it. Sitting in the audience as a spectator the night of the show was not only terrifying because I didn’t know what to expect, but also because I was second-guessing every word I wrote and every stage direction and every name and even the title. What if it all went horribly wrong?
But it didn’t.
An amazing cast and phenomenal directing staff put together a show that let my words and the message of my play be heard, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am so proud to have my play beside one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen, Hazel and Stanley, as well as the beautiful poetry of Corpus. I am so glad that I allowed my play to breathe in the hands of my talented peers, and I am so happy that I was able to see my words (my very own words!) become a reality.
The weird thing about junior high is literally everything about junior high. Every hallway is both cavernous and suffocating, every seat too small and too large, every moment terrible, and, I mean, mostly terrible. For the sake of honesty, I will say that I actually had a largely Good Junior High Experience™. My teachers liked me, I had a solid group of friends, and was heavily involved with math team, so I was pretty much killing it. But it was still what junior high is for everyone, which is to say the type of thing that makes you feel like you’re shrinking despite your body physically exploding. Living inside a contradiction is difficult for everyone, no matter how adept they are at traversing it.
When I was in junior high, I liked a girl. Her name was a very good name, but not one I’m going to write here, so we will just call her S. I liked S very much, so, naturally, I never spoke to her at all. And I liked S so very much and spoke to her so very little that I started writing poetry just to deal with that emotional dissonance. This poetry was, of course, very bad, but also indescribably necessary, as most bad poetry is.
So without getting into the nitty-gritty of all the non-details of my non-relationship, platonic or otherwise, with S, essentially from the time I was a seventh grader to when I was moving away at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I only liked one girl and basically never spoke to her. And on the last day of sophomore year, less than 48 hours away from driving across Texas and towards Arizona, I slipped a poem I had written into the back cover of S’s yearbook. The poem was, of course, very bad, but I only barely knew that then and it was all so important and I had to so SOMETHING.
And I guess the point of all of this is just to say that S could have torn me to shreds. She could have taken that poem and laughed at me and told all of her friends what a horrible dufus I was, but she didn’t. She was abundantly kind. She got my phone number from a mutual friend and texted me some very nice things that I don’t remember the words of now, but I do remember the feeling – relief and warmth and every muscle in my body smiling at once.
I have been carried by the kindness of friends and strangers all the way to where I’m standing. Even more relevant, my writing has been carried by the generosity of those reading it. S could have stopped me in my tracks, but because of some extreme benevolence inside of her, I’m here and I write poems everyday, and I wrote a play, and that play is being produced, and everything is different than it would be just because of her overwhelming and unearned kindness toward me, in a time where kindness is kind of hard to come by. And I am all gratitude. And I am just a river of thank yous to everyone who has reached out a hand to me and said “it is ok to keep going.” So thank you. So thank you.
So thank you, for getting me here.