We have a great community of amazing playwrights here at Theatrefolk that contribute to our collection of middle and high school plays. We hope you’ll enjoy this peek behind the curtain as they share how they approach the creative process, how they overcome challenges, and what advice they have for young playwrights. Don’t forget to check out their work!
Meet Theatrefolk Playwright Taryn Temple – the author of The Redemption of Gertie Greene.
What was your first theatrical experience? How did it impact you?
My first theatrical experience was playing a narrator in a 3rd grade play about health and nutrition. My lines guided various fruits and vegetables on and off the stage. Around the same time I also performed in children’s stories at church with my dad. He played “The Whistler,” a character who only “spoke” in whistles, and I was his trusty translator who occasionally provided suggestions and moral guidance. As a kid I found it fascinating that when I was on stage grown ups would listen to what I had to say. I also loved the supportive looks on the faces of people in the audience and it was always a highlight when something we said or did made the audience laugh.
Why do you write plays?
I wrote The Redemption of Gertie Greene
because as a teacher I watch kids stereotype each other & judge each other until they’re so trapped in boxes it’s hard for them to become who they really are. For example, once a student is classified as an athlete he may be hesitant to try drama or theater or art or band. But people are so much more than who they appear to be on the outside! I think theater is an excellent venue to explore a character’s internal journey as she tries to figure out who she is amidst everyone’s opinions of her, and a tool to cause students to question this status quo. One of my proudest moments developing this script was when a parent of an actor in the show passed along these words from her daughter: “You know, next year in school I’m just going to be myself and if people make fun of me then that’s their problem, not mine.” I hope I can give more young adults that kind of confidence!
What’s the most challenging part of writing a play?
I would say two parts of the writing process are tough for me. First it’s difficult just coming up with solid ideas in the first place, ideas that have enough to them to support an entire storyline and character arch. Once I start writing I usually have a plot in mind, but often as I write new characters insert themselves into the show and flip everything on it’s head. It can be hard to let go of my previous ideas and let the script go in a new direction.
How do you address/overcome those challenges?
I keep my ears and eyes open for plot ideas everywhere. They usually float into my head at random times and I’ve finally learned I must write them down or they float away again. Since I always have my phone on me I text myself plot snippets or kooky characters that have the potential to grow into a script. Then as I write I don’t edit much. I leave everything in, following the story several different directions until one flows the best. Everything comes to a head during the editing process, though. I have to be heartless and cut out things that I really like but that don’t necessarily contribute to the story. That can be difficult (and I don’t always succeed)!
What advice do you have for young writers struggling to finish a draft?
Line up a director and publicly schedule auditions and a performance so there is a cast and a director expecting your script on a specific date. I write my scripts for a summer camp where I work so I have no choice but to finish them. When I procrastinate (which I often do) it causes a stressful week of really late nights, but luckily I’ve found something frees up in my brain & I often write better when I’ve had very little sleep. Having a concrete deadline also prevents over-thinking things. At some point you just have to let your script go and see what actors do with it. I would also add that the best way to find the strengths & weaknesses in your script is to put it in the hands of actors. Hearing it aloud & seeing it on stage helped me fix numerous pacing issues, incongruities, etc., plus the talented kiddos gave me great new ideas, too!
Read sample pages from Taryn Temple's plays here!