First off, this spring semester I began teaching Theatre Appreciation in the Theatre Department at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW). I created a curriculum (lessons, lectures, exams, etc.) from scratch, which isn't anything new. I've done that almost a dozen times since I've started teaching all of those years ago, but it's still a TON of work each time. The course is going well. I've enjoyed the relationships and class environment that I've experienced thus far.
Is it something I'd do again? I'm only six weeks into it, but nothing's happened that would discourage me from accepting an offer to teach again in the future. Is it something that could replace high school teaching? I don't know at this stage. I assume that I would have to get a Master's in some form of theatre (history, directing, etc.), and to do that I'd have to go away to school somewhere...more than likely. I haven't looked into it, but I'm pretty certain that further education (which isn't a bad thing, other than the finance and impact to family life) would be required at some point beyond my current Master's in Secondary Education.
Beyond branching out collegiately, I have recently been recognized as a first place winner of the 6th Annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival with the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. I don't think I've mentioned that I've written a play in my past blogs. It's something that I wrote in the spring of '14 about 10 months ago. I wrote it during my rehearsals for Arena Dinner Theatre's production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit when I was Charles Condomine.
It's a story that I couldn't shake out of my head...and I just had to get it written down. Upon completing the script, Is This Seat Taken?, my wife and theater friends read it. All of the reactions were positive and everyone was really supportive and prodding me to submit it to festivals. I wasn't so sure. I loved the story. It was emotional for me to write. Funny at times, sad and emotional at others...but it was definitely a story and a play that I wanted to tell. It was a play that as I wrote it I kept asking myself if it was one that I would enjoy watching, and would it be a role that I would be interested in doing. If it didn't meet those parameters, then I wasn't going to continue with it. I was, and am, very proud of how it turned out.
I've had a handful of people ask if I'd audition for it. I wrote it with my voice in mind, however, at this time, I'm convinced to ride out the role of playwright through till the end. I want to see what a playwright experiences throughout the process and run of the show. I've done the actor-thing, but never the playwright-thing. It will be interesting. I have no doubt, no...doubt, that I will be more nervous come opening night for my play than I ever have as an actor. I typically don't get nervous. Excited would be a better wording to describe my pre-show state of mind. Excited is different than nervousness.
By winning the festival, Is This Seat Taken? will have a full staged production at the end of May and early June this year. They will audition actors, cast it, rehearse it, and stage the entire thing for a paying audience with talk-backs afterwards to pick the cast's and playwright's brain. I've revised it a few times since it was picked up. As I tell my students, writing is never done...you just run out of time. I had some notes from people who've read it, and there were some things that I personally wanted to modify. I had the chance to revise, so I took it and just recently sent the finished/final draft off to the director. They'll start auditioning in another month or so, which should be interesting.
Ironically, the day before I found out that I'd won first place in the festival, I was phoned by another theater that I'd placed in their festival too, Vero Voce's New Playwright Festival. However, this festival isn't producing the entire production. FW Civic Theatre will retain the rights to the world premiere of my play. I submitted a sample (10-pages) to Vero Voce, and they're going to produce just those 10-pages. So, each performance over one weekend will include my 10-page sample of Is This Seat Taken? (the first ten pages of the play) along with 7 other playwright's short plays/scenes/acts. This occurs in mid-March in St. Charles, IL.
So, I've already crossed statelines, baby! Who hoo! It was definitely a surprise and honor to be selected. There was something about placing in another festival that just reaffirms my play in my mind. Others have said nothing but good things...maybe they're just being nice to my face...but to have strangers in Illinois, and also panel of judges in Fort Wayne vote on my play as #1 without knowing I wrote it...it's created a special feeling inside me creatively that I've never experienced before. I remember my first big roles as an actor and doing well (in my mind at least) and hearing people saying nice things about my performance, which obviously made me feel good. I remember the way that felt...and this is like that...but different in a way. It's hard to explain. It's probably because I "own" the play. I "made" the play. Yes, I "make" roles that I perform...but I didn't "originate" or "birth" the script, or role even if my take on the character is new and different. It's hard to explain further.
Where will things go from here as a playwright? I don't know. I've joined the Dramatists Guild to utilize their resources online. I'll seek out more opportunities to submit my play. I've written another play that was never intended for people to read. I might try sprucing that one up and submitting that around too. So, I'm not sure where this will lead, but I want to just enjoy the role this first time around as I'm called "playwright" instead of "actor." It's something new, and when things are new, they're exciting too. I'm really looking forward to holding my wife's hand as the lights come up on stage for that very first performance and the characters that have played out in my head with the dialogue that no one has heard spoken (other than myself as I was typing)...it will be live...only then will I truly be a playwright. Pretty exciting.