Our final Rhino Burst for 2009 comes from Naplwrimo regular writer, playwright, dramaturg and Twitterer extraordinaire, Elizabeth Spreen...
In another life I used to be a massage therapist. I specialized in sports massage and deep tissue work. Have you ever heard of those crazy endurance runs or bike rides? 100 miles through the Sierras or the Rockies. 500 Miles through Death Valley (training in August when you open the door of your hotel room at 5am and are burned by the heat). The Race Across America (a week to ride across the country on a bike)? I was often hired by athletes to crew for them on those sorts of events. I loved it.
Which is also why I like NAPLWRIMO. Writing a play in 30 days isn't as physically challenging as riding a bike across America or running through the Rockies, but you experience a lot of the same emotions and yes, you sure could use a massage therapist with all the typing and staying up all night (if that's how you get it done). But there's also the incredible highs and lows and the feeling like you don't have it in you to finish. There's staying up late several nights in a row and getting to the point of talking to yourself the next day or hallucinating or crying hysterically or simply refusing to get back on the computer and type or pick up a pen and touch paper. Oh. Is that just me?
But there is also, perhaps most importantly, two things. Ok. Three things. First there's the commitment to write a play. November is the month that you get to put your work first and write. It's tough. Everyone has very real obligations - job, family, etc - but NAPLWRIMO creates a clearing - a real and a virtual space for you to write. Yeah. It's you who finds the time to put the words down one after another, page after page, and you who must negotiate that time with those with whom you share your life. Having that month is like finding an oasis in the desert. Okay. You're in the desert, but you've got food and supplies and you're writing a play.
Next there's finish line. Those 75 pages. Your first draft. It's real and you can hold it and it's you who have made it manifest over the month. Hopefully you've stretched as an artist and you've been inspired by the work and the event. Crossing the finish line also means there are more plays in the world than there were 30 days ago. And I happen to think having those new plays out in the world contributes to the health of the theater. I also think that whether you finish or not, you've contributed to theater and to its ecology. You've worked on your play and you've learned, and hopefully you'll take that knowledge and you'll finish your play or you'll write a new one. Finding the theater comes not from doing the classics over and over again, but from having the audacity to bring life to new stories and new worlds, and maybe even finding new forms.
Finally, in between making the commitment and following through, there is the community that forms around the doing - the wrighting, if you will. And that also contributes to the health of the theater. Because so often we write alone. During this month, it's been you who've faced the blank screen or page. You've who've written your play. But you've also had a unique opportunity to connect with other playwrights from all over the world and to get help and inspiration when you needed it, and hopefully, you've asked. Because one of the things that's always drawn me to NAPLWRIMO is the generosity of the community and the willingness to help and commiserate and celebrate everyone's achievement. That's often hard to come by in the theater. But so plentiful here that I'm nourished by it for the entire year.
Elizabeth Spreen is a playwright, devisor, director, actor who is currently finishing her Masters thesis at San Jose State University. Works include This World Is Not My Home, Furious Angel, 611 Supreme, Nickel and Dimed. She was the winner of the 2007 Crane Award for Outstanding Dramatic Screenplay and of the 2002 Dean Goodman Choice Award for Original Writing. She was also the founder and former joint artistic director of Paducah Mining Company, an award-winning San Francisco-based ensemble. Elizabeth writes for the following blogs: ghost light http://ghost-light.blogspot.com/ and Piefurcation http://piefurcation.blogspot.com/