After hearing artistic director David Skelton talk about Nakai Theatre’s 24 – Hour Playwriting Competition on the radio, I decide to sign up. I’m not a playwright , but, then again — maybe I am.
Maybe my passion for writing has been waiting for me to direct it at theatre, at which point my true capacities will be revealed, and I’ll never have writer’s block again.
When I walk into the Nakai office to register, my reception seems to echo this sentiment.
“ Who are you?” Skelton asks.
“ I’m Joslyn.”
He asks if I write plays. “Not yet,” I say.
I have written one play. In a writing class in university. It was ten minutes long. It went over pretty well—I got great marks on it.
I begin telling friends back home that I’m entering the competition.
“ You’re going to win,” is a common response.
These friends know me; I trust their grasp of my strengths. Success begins to seem inevitable. I am a playwright, my brain starts telling me. I have come to Whitehorse to discover myself as such. I’m about to write the play that will launch my new creative path.
I don’t worry too much about planning, about coming up with a story, about exploring any characters, or doing any research on writing for the theatre.
It isn’t until the day before the competition that it hits me: at the end of a 24-hour period I am expected to submit a somewhat-complete play to be read by a panel of judges. A month later , I am to perform a five-minute segment from this play at the 24-Hour Cabaret.
I end up arriving at the Gold Rush Inn on the day of the competition with very little idea what I am going to write about .
Still I am not too nervous. Pressure has always been my creative ally; pressure produces diamonds .
I enter my hotel room excited to begin. I set up my writing station at the desk. I make a few notes, drink a little coffee. My phone rings. It’s a friend from home.
“ What are you going to write about?” he asks.
“ Perfect timing,” I say. “I have no clue.”
He helps me brainstorm a few ideas I feel really good about, and we hang up. I sit back down to start writing.
I decide to take a shower. I live in cabin, I should take advantage now while there’s still time for my hair to dry before the evening dinner break.
I leave my room for dinner break in low spirits. I’m five hours in and I’ve only really just started writing. Everyone else is pages ahead of me. But I’m offered advice and encouragement and I head back to my room a little redeemed.
An hour later I’m lying on my bed feeling terrible. I hate my play. Should I start a new one? I should quit . What’s the point of anything? I should take a nap.
At midnight I join the others for a nightcap , no further than I was before, but at least beyond my existential crisis. I joke about it.
“ There’s still time , ” I say.
At 6 a.m., after three hours of sleep, I begin writing a new play.
At breakfast I joke about this.
“ It’s going to be very short.”
By 11 a.m. I once again hate my play.
At 1 p.m., when the competition closes, I submit what I have. It isn’t much more than an apology for having nothing to submit.
Still, I think I’ll be performing at the Cabaret. I’m just not sure what.
To see my work, and the work of other playwrights, come to the 24 Hour Cabaret on December 4, at the High Country Inn. For more information, contact Nakai Theatre at 667-2646.