Recently, St Ray’s Drama Club won the 12th Rhode Island State Drama Festival with my play Among Friends and Clutter.
Among Friends and Clutter was the first play I ever wrote. I had written a few scenes for a variety show in university but this was my first project way back when in 1991. It’s amazing how ignorance can be bliss at times: I was directing a play for a community theatre and I wrote the play simply because there weren’t enough actors out to properly fill out the cast. Instead of throwing in the towel I naively thought, ‘Why don’t I write one? How hard could it be?’
So I did. The actors and I got together in the Artistic Director’s living room where we improved scenes on different types of relationships: family, friends and love. I took those improvs and gave them shape. I spent hours and hours in class surrounded by computer printouts (which rather speaks to my lack of marks that year)
We worked on the play because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t question the right, the wrong, the good, the bad. We just did it. Everyone was in the same boat, starting from the same point. I don’t have any memories of strained rehearsals which is hilarious – I had never directed a full play at that point either! We just put together a show. Probably because the hall had already been booked and something had to go up. :)
What I remember more than anything else was sitting on the floor of hall (it wasn’t a theatre, it was a big barn with some chairs in front of the stage) on a cold December night and listening to an audience react to my play. The silence of an audience. The warm bubbling laughter. That even a small house can come to life as they lean in to see and hear what the characters have to say. I’d never had that feeling before. I’m not one for marking moments in my life, (at this exact date and time my life changed forever) except that on that exact date my life changed forever. It’s the first moment I first felt like a playwright. I’ve a poor memory for many, many things, (I am racking my brain for the names of some of the actors) but I’ll never forget that moment.
And now, some eighteen years later the play is still being done. Amazing. How is that possible? Certainly before we published the play many tweaks and turns had to happen. But the core of the play, the shape of the play, and a number of the scenes are word for word from that initial production so long ago.
It makes my heart warm that the core of this play still speaks to someone, that it has something to say. There are few compliments that I cherish more than the life of my words. That they have life long after they were first put to the page.
How on earth did we ever put that play together? Ignorance is indeed bliss….