Marsha Jones is a writer and friend of mine from way, way, way back. Despite the fact that she’s up to her eyeballs in production work as she prepares for the premiere of her play, she offered to write this illuminating piece on the creative process and how a writer’s work is apparently never done.
By Marsha Jones
As I write this, I am preparing to direct the debut of my play, “Win…Win,” as part of the Sankofa Evening of Theatre & Jazz.
Based on my novel of the same name, I wrote a play that originally featured two male actors. “Win…Win” now features one male and one female actor – the female actor being me. That wasn’t my original plan. I really wanted to bring to the stage a man’s honest point of view about relationships and dating.
Why don’t I just do open heart surgery on myself? It would certainly be less stressful. Remembering my lines? I should know this right? Wrong. When I write lines for anyone else, I can always remember what they’re supposed to say. In addition to memorizing the words I’ve written, I have to remember when I’m supposed to speak them. I have to be responsible for the props at the same time I’m responsible for wondering if the actors could say his line better. My mind is everywhere but where it needs to be. I have a vision in my head and I’m just trying to get us there.
So how did I get here? Believe it or not, I got here on a dare. A friend of mine, Lais Morgan, suggested that I try my hand at playwriting a few years ago. She said as a writer of books it would be easy for me because playwriting involves mostly scripting dialogue and I already do that. After a bit of nagging, I agreed to enter a playwriting competition sponsored by Mood Makers Books. I decided to adapt my book, “Win…Win” into a play. The novel is about love and relationships set in the world of semi-professional football. The story asks if a man and a woman can be friends if they’ve been lovers. In researching my book, I had interviewed forty men of different ages. I got them to speak about the women “who got away” and to reveal what made these women so memorable. Their answers surprised and I loved what they added to the book.
I knew that adapting the book into a play (even when the book is my own) was going to be difficult, but a few months later, I had done it. Once I’d submitted the play, however, I forgot about it, never thinking it would be selected. But it was.
Curtis Rivers, the Director of the Sankofa Festival contacted me and said my play was one of six that had been selected. Each play would be limited to 30-40 minutes. My first challenge was to condense what I’d already written into an even more compact package. I had to get out a lot of information, while keeping the action lively and allotting time for laughter and audience response. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.
I learned the hard way that your script is never finished. I constantly asked myself would a guy say it that way? Would he react that way? What should he wear in that scene? I made changes and then stopped…finally. The writing was done – or so I thought.
I was informed that I could only use only two actors in my play. That was a problem because my book featured four characters. I wasn’t happy and it took some work, but I managed to retell the story featuring only two men. I was deep in the male mind zone and by the time I was done with my rewrite, I was proud because I felt that the male point-of-view rang true. And then I got my second shock: one of my male actors had to drop out because of a conflict. It’s not what I wanted to hear.
With no other actors available at such short notice, I found myself having to re-write the script yet again. Removing a male voice and adding a female voice was a challenge. After reading my revised play, Curtis said he liked my new rewrite and he gave me his blessing to move forward.
Now, I’m just learning my lines and directing myself and another actor through our scenes. Come Saturday, I’ll get to show people what I have been doing and in a few weeks I’ll do it again with yet another revised script. However, I’m looking forward to being a retired actor. I prefer seeing the stage from wings.