Overcoming Obstacles and Setbacks

July 24, 2017
What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've ever faced in creating a play? How did you move past it? YouthPLAYS authors respond.
Kit Goldstein Grant: I had a pretty major setback on a project a few years ago. I'd been rushing to finish a piece on commission, when the company I was writing it for had some internal difficulties and decided not to produce the show. At this point, I'd been working on it for several months night and day, trudging through the frigid upstate New York winter on my typical writing walks, and it was quite a blow. Other projects were badly in need of attention, and so I stopped working on this one even though it was very close to completion, and then didn't feel like going back to it. Time did the trick, though, and a year later I found I could revive my initial excitement and finish the job, even with out knowing what I would do with it next.
Nancy Brewka-Clark: I'm working on a modern take on the eternal fairytale triangle, old wicked witch—girl in her charge—handsome rescuer, with a modern medical angle. I was glad to see that recently educators and psychologists have concluded that the maturing process isn't an illness. I've always thought kids are over-analyzed and over-medicated. But trying to turn that into a comedy is hard, because depicting illness on stage is such a delicate balance between authentic action and parody. I haven't quite moved past it yet but am almost there.
Steven Stack: I was writing one play that I really liked, but I couldn’t come up with an ending that was strong enough. Normally I know what the ending of a play will be in advance, but with this one, nothing I placed at the end felt right. I worked at it for a couple of weeks, and finally I had to step away and work on some other projects. About a week later, the ending came to me while I was writing a completely different type of play. I instantly wrote the ending, and that play has become one of the most-performed plays that I’ve had published.
Nina Mansfield: I feel like I am working to overcome an obstacle right now. I’ve been working on a play for a long time in which I am attempting to merge these various time periods and worlds that are completely unrealistic. I’ve realized that I need to be a lot clearer about the rules of the worlds that I am creating.
Barbara Lindsay: There is a full-length play I’ve been working on, off and on for about 25 years. I started it after a bad marriage and bad divorce. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to an autobiographical play, which is perhaps why I’ve never been able to get it quite right. Some parts of it are absolutely spot on wonderful, but as a whole, it has never quite worked. I’ll bring it out every so often to have another go at it. Usually I’ll start by putting together actors for a reading so that I can become reacquainted with it, and also get some new feedback. Then I’ll try a different approach (for example, in one version, it became a play about a playwright trying to finish a play she’s been working on for 25 years) to see if I can crack the code. I may never get this one right, but I will also probably never completely abandon it, because I do believe there is a good play lurking there underneath the layers of my psyche that keep getting in the way.
Adam Goldberg: There are plays that I haven’t written, that I’m probably not capable of writing, knowing the one-sided way I feel about them. It’s always easier to create a conflict, or find something external where you don’t have a huge stake, than to try to fairly portray how your family acted, or how you feel about a time and place you were part of. I can’t write about my family or slam poetry in any real compelling way; the things that happened weren’t part of the story circle, weren’t worth hearing in that way.
Brian Armstrong: When writing my final play for my Masters degree, I had several course leaders quit before the final project was due (nothing to do with me, they left the school), and each time a new person took the helm, they insisted upon a new direction for my play. I just forced myself to sit down and write several hours a day, every day. I made writing that play my job. I wrote 11 versions of that script, and by the end, I gave in so much I couldn't recognize it. But I got my degree and years later I looked back at it and I am still tweaking it to get it how I really want it. 

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