I have a BA in Communications from Penn State. I took a class in writing plays there, not sure if I would ever get to use the skills I learned, but indeed I did many years later. After moving to California, I took additional theater classes, including acting at Santa Monica College; elements of which also came in handy in writing my play, ‘GAM3RS
.’For most of my adult life, I have made my living as a freelance writer for newspapers, magazines, public relations, have written three published books and am working on two more. I have had numerous screenplays optioned and ‘GAM3RS
’ was optioned to be a web series. We are now negotiating to sell the feature film rights.
There is no such thing as an “typical” day for me. I could spend 12 hours glued to the computer writing, or be out running around interviewing people for something I’m writing. Or I could spend it setting up a performance of my play, or traveling to another city where it is being performed. Or meeting with theater owners. Or emailing or calling producers. This morning what I was writing wasn’t clicking so I went to the gym to clear my head. It worked, and I ran home and finished the section I was writing.
I like the freedom and creativity of what I do. I like learning about new things, and each project brings new things. What I dislike is the uncertainty—not knowing if the next project will work or pay off.
Learn the business side
If I had known what a struggle it was going to be to get things produced and published, I might have gone to law school as my father suggested! Kidding! I wish I had learned more of the business side of things though.
Learn everything you can about theater
I would say anyone going into theater should learn everything they can about every aspect of theater. Doing smaller theaters, they are often not ready for us and we have to finish set-up. The person with whom I co-wrote my play, ‘GAM3RS,’ and who also stars in it, Brian Bielawski, knows everything from lights to sound, and his knowledge has been invaluable when we get to a venue and the people there can’t figure out their own system. When he speaks to acting classes, he always tells the actors to learn all they can about the tech side of things and make-up and costumes and the box office and—well, everything to do with putting on a show. It will likely come in handy someday. I just set out to be a writer, but if I weren’t willing to produce and hang lights and run the box office and usher, I’d be dead in the water… The show must go on, and if you are not willing to step into whatever job needs to be done, it may not be able to.
Just do it
When I’ve taught writing, I tell classes that I subscribe to the Nike school of writing: Just do it! Write. A lot. Even if it’s not good at first. (And it likely won’t be.) You will have to write a lot to flush out some of the bad words before you get to the good ones.
Take classes and see a lot of theater
Take some classes so you can analyze plays and learn structure, character development and story arcs. And see a lot of theater. Good and bad. You can learn as much by seeing what went wrong as what went right. Watch live performances of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and ask yourself, ‘Why are people still mesmerized by these plays?’ Watch new works by unknown playwrights and ask yourself what you’d have done differently.
Take some acting classes
Take some acting classes. Saying the words gives you insight as to how they should be written. As you write, it will help to act out your scenes yourself. There are lines that look great on paper, but when you say them you’ll realize no one really talks that way or that certain word combinations
just sound bad. Take out the earbuds at the gym and coffee shop, and as you’re walking down the street and listen to the way people talk. Hear the rhythms and the words. Does the way they are speaking match what they look like?
Get involved in the theater at any level
To get in the door as a playwright, get involved in theater at any level. As an actor, building sets, anything, to be around the scene. Look for a playwrights group in your city. Many have them with workshops and review sessions. Write a short play and try to get it into a festival, like the Fringe. More and more cities have Fringe and other festivals now. It was doing ‘GAM3RS’ in the New York Fringe that really put our play on the map and got it noticed.”