I need a special T-shirt to wear on August 29. The front should say, “Contents under pressure.”
I didn’t think of it that way when I applied to participate in an eight-hour play-writing competition taking place this Friday. In fact, I booked the day off work just in case I got picked. A few weeks later, an early morning email arrived and I wondered if I dare open it before heading off to City Hall.
First glance told me I’d been rejected: “On behalf of Sarasvati Productions I would like to thank you for your submission…blah blah...it was difficult to choose our finalists…blah blah blah.”
But the second paragraph sent me off to my day job with a bounce in my step: “FemFest is happy to inform you that you have been selected to be one of five participants…”
It’s part of the 2014 FemFest taking place September 13-20 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, an annual festival featuring female theatre artists from Winnipeg, Canada, and the world. It’s put on by Sarasvati Productions, which is dedicated to using theatre to promote human understanding.
I haven’t met the other four playwrights, but the five of us are to show up at 10:00 a.m. when we’ll be given three “ingredients” our scripts must incorporate. Then we each write a short play using those ingredients and submit it by 7:00 p.m.
Then, on September 15, a team of ensemble players will perform the five mini plays before a live audience who will vote for the script they would most like to see developed into a one-act play. The winner will have nearly a year to expand the piece and it will be showcased at FemFest 2015.
When I told some fellow writers what I’d signed up for, my friend Clarice’s comment was, “I couldn’t handle the pressure.”
I reminded Clarice that God changes caterpillars into butterflies and coal into diamonds using time and PRESSURE.
Some people claim to work better under pressure, but I don’t believe it. They just work faster. I don’t think any of us enjoys pressure, but there’s a big difference between the kind you choose to subject yourself to and the kind thrust upon you uninvited.
The kind of pressure I hate is when I am interrupted from one thing and must make a rapid-fire decision about another. Like when I’m writing the next best seller and the children want to know what’s for lunch. Or how to light the barbecue. Or what’s the number for the fire department. I need time to think.
But staying focused on one activity I enjoy for eight hours straight is another story. So going into this contest, I figure if I can hammer out a rough draft in the first four to five hours, that gives me three or four hours of tweaking before I must surrender it.
What’s the worst that can happen? There’s a good chance it’ll turn out horrible, but I have to be okay with that from the beginning. Gordon Drizschilo said, “If you do something that turns out wrong, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it, or at least deny it. But once you’ve missed out on something, it’s gone. There will be the [person] you never got to say the right words to, the band you never got to see live, the winning streak you never got to cheer on, the brilliant retiring professor whose class you never took, the relative you never got very close with. It’s a long list no matter what. Try to keep it as short as possible.”
I like to think that by jumping into this challenge, I’m shortening my list by a smidge. What sort of pressure are you choosing to subject yourself to?