Script Selection: The Squishy, The Stuffy and The Scary

All my life, I’ve been compelled by the magic of a good storyteller, telling a good story, in a good way. It’s no wonder that this is my compass — my mantra, even — when designing a new theatrical showcase (which I find myself doing, from time to time).

Or to put it another way: all I really need to do, as Script Selector, is to uncover a piece — or pieces, if it’s a festival — about interesting people doing interesting things in interesting places, that is interesting.

Perhaps I am oversimplifying it. I am certain that many a true literary critic (armchair and certified alike) are rolling their collective eyes at this sentiment. But I remain convinced, for the time being, that this is pretty much the gig.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say – it is one of the most wonderful, horrible, inspiring, and emotionally wrecking creative experiences I’ve ever known.

Every damned time.

And there have been lots of times.

It’s a bit surreal to think back on my first foray into this particular discipline, about a dozen years ago. I was sitting next to a dear friend of mine at our theatre group’s annual awards celebration, and I remember asking him if he ever considered writing. It was as evident to me as the color of his shirt that he had a natural gift for it (you couldn’t hear this man speak three words without sensing the wordsmith within) but he had yet to really throw himself into it. He certainly hadn’t thought about trying to write something that would then be produced, and legitimately performed

But that’s exactly what we did — not just a one-act play written by this fine gentleman, but short pieces by 4 others in the group with whom I had similar conversations — thanks in large part to a veritable village of people from the group supporting the effort behind the scenes, who were (for whatever reason) inspired, and wanted to join us in elevating and celebrating our hidden playwrights. When I think of humanity at its finest, I think of those amazing people, who dared to take a chance on this weirdo and her crazy ideas.

A year later, we produced our group’s first one act fest (aka, the OAF — because who doesn’t love an ironic acronym), to sold out audiences and rave reviews galore. Which led to those festivals happening every year. As a matter of fact, they’re still going — auditions for this year’s OAF are actually happening today.

But none of that could have happened — nor does it happen now — without the blood, sweat and tears of getting those darned scripts.

So many conversations and texts went into that first one. Suggesting while trying not to push. Encouraging while attempting not to nag.

Until the deadline. Then there was lots and lots of nag.

As the festival evolved over the years, and more people got wind of it and started to write in preparation for it, so did the storm that is script selection rage in all new ways. Now I didn’t have to implore people to just please write something that ties words together in a way that somewhat resembles a plot, because the scripts were now rolling in, and the challenge had changed.

The challenge of making choices.

Ugh, those choices. How do we put it all together to make a cohesive night of theatre? What about that one story that was so intriguing and different and yet if we chose it, it would only leave room for a handful of others? How do we best serve the festival and the writers — when sometimes those two goals seem to conflict?

And after the choices are made, that devastating, heartbreaking day where you make all those phone calls and send the emails to people who worked so hard and stepped out of their comfort zone to put a short play together, whose work didn’t make it in.

Yet somehow, many of them keep writing. Many of them move on, try again. Remain inspired.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

Which makes me wonder, maybe that’s why I got into this creative line in the first place. To do something that makes this world a better place. To do something that inspires.

Maybe, underneath it all, that’s the real magic that has compelled me, all along.

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