I have always been drawn to the theatre. From my earliest performance as Robert E. Lee in a kindergarten production of “What’s More American Than Cornflakes?” to playing the protagonist in George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” to my college years performing with Theatrikos Theatre Company (often in silent roles), I have loved being on stage. Frequent readers of this blog will know that I also love to write. So, it will come as no surprise that I’ve always flirted with the idea of being a playwright.
I’ve dabbled in playwriting before. I wrote my first play in high school. It was a heavily allegorical one-act script in the vein of Samuel Beckett and Sophocles. In college, I co-wrote three scripts that were produced by the campus ministry center as a small, traveling musical. But I’ve never written anything for a mainstream theatre-going audience. Until now.
Fresh off of writing a novella, I’ve spent the last several weeks laboring on a play that I hope will someday be performed. That’s the real beauty of the theatre. A play literally leaps off the page and briefly inhabits the real world. More than any other form of literature, it is a living story; the themes of which lay hidden in the subtext of each character’s dialogue. A great play can be performed a hundred different ways.
While writing, I’ve also been reading Barefoot in the Park, a masterpiece of comedy by a giant of American drama, Neil Simon. Reading his words has inspired me and seeing how he has unraveled the elements of his plot in the claustrophobic setting of a New York apartment — not unlike my play’s setting — has given me fresh ideas about how to tell my own story of life and death, guilt and revenge, expectation and reality.
In a lot of ways, it’s exciting to write a play. There is something thrilling about seeing the reactions of your audience; something a novelist can never experience. But there is also something terrifying about it. I’m asking a theater company to stake their time and talents upon my words. What if it’s not good enough? What if the reviews are bad and the audience throws rotten tomatoes?
I’m no Shakespeare. I’m not even going to aim that high. But when I’m finished, when it’s gone through a few table readings and polishings, I hope my characters get to stand in the spotlight. I hope people see their own foibles and laugh at my distorted reflection of modern life. Even if it doesn’t rise to the heights of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, I think I’ll be content to stand in the wings and listen to the applause.
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Jonny Eberle is a budding playwright and an actor specializing in playing mute apple thieves. All the world’s a stage, the saying goes, and that includes the world of Twitter, where you can follow Jonny at @jonnyeberle. Curtain.