Remember, I’m out there for the International Thespian Festival, which is kind of like the Super Bowl of high school theater. Or maybe the Euro Cup. Or maybe not like either of those things at all really, outside of the celebratory nature. High schools from across the country (and all over the world, really–we had students from Australia and Dubai in the mix) bring the shows they’ve been working on all year, put them on for other high school kids, take various classes, and generally get to immerse themselves in the theater world for a few days. Good times. That’s what they do. Here’s what I do:
1. Travel for 13 hours from Houston to Lincoln. This includes two hours in the Houston airport, a flight to Chicago, a few hours there, some sitting on the plane, a flight to Omaha, an hour there, and an hour van ride to Lincoln. Somehow, I had thought that going from Houston might be easier than going from NYC. Oh well.
2. My main reason for being on this trip is to serve as dramaturg for a play writing by a high school student. I probably mentioned this before, but my job as dramaturg is to help the student understand what her play is about, then help her work on ways to make sure that the play is doing exactly what she wants it to be doing. This involves a lot of question-asking, a lot of suggesting-making, and usually, some tricky psychology to keep the writer from feeling attacked or insufficient. I’m happy to say that my playwright this year needed no such coddling; she came to town ready to work, she worked, she learned, she kept a super pleasant attitude all the way through. I’ll be writing about her play later this week.
3. I eat some soft serve ice cream. Actually, I eat a lot of soft serve ice cream. Actually, we all eat a lot of soft serve ice cream.
4. The other main thing I do out there is teach a class on playwriting. This year, my class morphed into something I started calling “10 Things Every Playwright Should Know.” It’s a bunch of pretty basic and straightforward stuff, but I feel pretty confident in its importance to any playwright, especially any young playwright. I get about five students a session for that class under its old name (Basic Dramatic Structure), but I anticipate a crush next year with the new name. It’s all about your brand.
5. Seriously, I eat a ton of soft serve.
6. You always end up cultivating outside relationships with people in these things too, students especially. One of our actors wants to talk about his own writing–you have the conversation. Someone asks about where they should go to college–you have the conversation. Someone asks about the Theater of Cruelty–you give him an example that is pretty unrepeatable here in print. Basically, the job is to be excited about theater for a week. And that’s why you go on trips like this (because it’s definitely not about the money)–to refresh and re-energize your connection to the business.