As my introductory blog entry, this will serve to represent a metaphorical champagne bottle to be smashed against the prow of my website, as it ventures out into the Sea of Metaphors Taken a Bit Too Far. So, as a way to introduce myself, herewith is the tale of How I Became a Playwright.
I’ve always loved the theater, from the time I was about six years old and went to see a stage adaptation of The Hobbit, and was completely awed. I remember very little of it now; the one image that lingers is the eerie red lights in the goblin caves that transformed the sets and platforms into a wonderfully scary hellish landscape in which it was totally plausible that dwarves and hobbits and goblins could be wandering around in. As a kid, I loved playing make-believe, but here this was make-believe taken to a much higher level. And by grown-ups, too!
Later, in middle and high school, I was able to take part in this make-believe myself by appearing in the school plays. As these plays were always musicals, and as I had never mastered the skill of singing in a consistent key, I was usually stuck in the chorus, or tiny roles like Bob Cratchit’s non-Tiny-Tim son. No matter, I had fun. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I finally got a big-sized part, that of Ali Hakim in Oklahoma! (a juicy, non-singing role). It was a real opportunity to step outside of myself; hitherto a severely introverted, nerdy kid who was good in math and science but hadn’t shown any sign of non-academic skills, I could really cut loose as a scenery-chewing Persian horndog.
Hey, this was fun! So, I continued to act in student and community productions for the next couple of decades. I even toyed with the notion of trying to go pro, but I knew I wasn’t that good, and anyway acting as a hobby is a lot more fun and less heartache than acting as a career.
As a naturally bookish person, I was also interested in writing, and from a very early age decided that I would someday make a living with my pen (metaphorically speaking; my handwriting is terrible enough that anything I actually do write with a pen is illegible). This was a dream I could not shake, despite the difficulty I had in actually sitting down and starting to write. When I would finally, through sheer force of will, sit myself down and make myself churn out words, I would quickly get bogged down in writing descriptions or characterizations. The prose would curdle and congeal, and soon my writing ground to a halt. The only thing I seemed to be able to write with no problem was dialog.
The solution to this all seems obvious now, but we always have to figure these things out in our own time. In my case, it happened when an idea for a short play popped into my head, and the only way I could get rid of it was to write it. And so I did, and having exorcised it, I could safely forget about it. Which I did, for over a year, until the opportunity to direct a short play as part of a festival of short plays came up. I thought it would be fun to direct something, so I looked for a ten-minute play to direct. But I couldn’t find one that caught my fancy. And then the thought came, how ’bout the one you wrote? So I went back to take a look and thought, you know, it’s not so bad. I revised it, and submitted it to the board of the theater company, half-expecting them to turn it down. They did not turn it down. “Wow,” I thought, “That’s pretty amazing. I’ll have to write another one.” I did, and submitted that… and they accepted that one, too.
The two plays were presented (as part of the festival) in the summer of 2005 at MIT. To my delight and, well, relief more than anything else, people responded to them. (These two plays, “The Little Death” and “Possibilities,” remain among my most successful.) For the first time, it occurred to me, “You know…. maybe I could keep on writing plays….”
And that’s how we ended up here.