PLAYS ARE LIKE BABIES
by Park Theatre
My first play, What You Do To People, turned my life upside down.
The first draft was written half an hour at a time, every night as soon as my two toddlers were asleep.
No time to look over what I’d written the night before; some nights it all just spilled out, other nights I just had to force myself to write something, anything, continuously for those thirty minutes until, some months later, I eventually had a document. Something with a beginning, a middle of sorts, and an end. Lots of holes and not much sense, but it was something I could then begin tortuously to rewrite and reshape.
Much of that play was written from pure instinct. As with babies, there is little the manuals can teach you. You muddle through, you make mistakes, you fuss and you lose a lot of sleep.
Second time around, you approach the whole thing with experience on your side. Instinct still informs you, but so does a certain amount of technique and, you like to think, a little touch of wisdom. In my experience, second babies and second plays emerge a hell of a lot faster – and at last you give yourself the chance to enjoy the early days a whole lot more.
Right now I’m writing my third play – and before you ask, I have no intention of testing the baby side of this comparison. If I were to have a third baby, however, I hope it would pop out as easily, quickly and gladly as this one has done. At the same time, I hope it would be less troublesome in its infancy.
Tonight Is Your Answer almost wrote itself – but I’m not done with it yet. It’s a mule of a play, refusing to conform to practical necessities. Gentle coaxing hasn’t worked; perhaps it’s time to turn disciplinarian.
And this is where the analogy ends. Because with plays – only the plays, mind – the next step is to hand them over entirely to the care of another. Wave them a tender goodbye – and get on with making more.