In the fall of 1998, I began writing a play based on an idea for a story that came to me a year earlier. A few days ago I finally finished it. The play changed a lot in the nearly three and a half years – but then again, so did I.
I first had the idea for the storyline of what would be the play around the spring of 1997, when I had just gotten unceremoniously dumped for what seemed at the time to be no particular reason. I had the idea to write a novel about an individual who (surprise!) had been in a relationship that ended badly, and how he got past the period of time in which he was in the pain of having just been dumped. I started by thinking of a few characters, a supporting cast if you will, and tried to write a few stories involving the characters so that I would get an idea of whom these individuals were and what their personalities were like. I even tried to start writing the novel, with an entire chapter about how the person’s ex-girlfriend went missing and, years later, given up on by the police. The idea was that, at a family reunion back around when the relationship ended, a family member of this protagonist who was dumped overheard the story of how it happened and decided to take matters into his own hands, so to speak.
The Idea of the Play
After awhile I was having difficulty writing this story, as I had no idea where it was going and what I wanted to happen. Between the summer of 1997 and the spring of 1998 I had the idea that maybe it would work out better as a film than as a book. I had a lot of ideas that I had visualized in my head, so why shouldn’t I be able to visually represent them for my intended audience, however small it was going to be? I think it was seeing Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy in the theaters that gave me the idea that I should put it in film form. I therefore began by writing an opening scene including a minor soliloquy. A good effort, I thought, for an opening scene. When school began, the film got put aside and I focused on studying.
At some point in the semester, I had the idea that perhaps, since I had never directed or produced a film before, it might be better to make first a play that would be very simple in terms of production value, with as few characters as possible (yet fulfilling the needs of the storyline). It helped tremendously that I had started dating a Theater major who gave me all sorts of advice as to the writing of the play. I rewrote the opening scene to fit the new idea that I had, having it be a play, and there it sat for months on end. One scene to a play, without a second scene in sight. This continued until one day in the Spring of 1999 when the inspiration for the second scene in the play hit me like a strong kick to the stomach. I suppose you could say that it was somewhat inspired by real life events, as it were.
I continued writing, getting down another part of a scene which is where I hovered until I realized that once again I had no idea where I wanted the play to go, how it was to end, etc. I found this all to be terribly troubling. As the summer began, I realized that I wanted to write the play, but it just wasn’t happening without some kind of an overall idea of what was going to happen. An outline? How something as simple as an outline could have evaded my thoughts for nearly two years, I have no idea. Nevertheless, it was then that I decided that I needed to write an outline for the play before any more work could be done.
In early August of that year, I spent five days in London on vacation. (I wrote an article in which I described that vacation to some extent for Go Inside Magazine entitled, A Veritable Vacation) Part of the vacation had me sitting in some of the beautiful parks that one can find in London. I watched as people walked by, slowly ate egg & mayonnaise sandwiches, and in two sittings wrote the outline for my play. I think I can safely say that it was the most productive vacation I have ever had. Getting to see “Celebrity” in a theater full of soft leather couches was, of course, a bonus. After London, I spent a few weeks in Israel with my cousin Gadi and his then girlfriend Kira. (I attended their wedding a few weeks ago – they are quite happy, to say the least.) While in Israel, I wrote several scenes of the play, adding bits to the rough outline I had written for myself and making a few minor changes, but generally sticking to the outline.
Finishing The Play
It took an additional year and a half or so, but I finally finished the play. Bear in mind, I did attend school full time and I worked two jobs at the same time, and for a relatively brief period of time I was convinced that I was going to get married. I was able to finish the play in the free time that being in the yeshiva allowed me, and now I have begun the process of editing it.
I think I can safely say that the plays/films (I hope to adapt this play to the screen) I write in the future will be written considerably faster than three and a half years, but I don’t regret it having taken so long for this, my first play. Many plot details were inspired by things that happened over the course of the last three and a half years. If I had stuck to what I was going to write initially and had quickly written it, it would have been an entirely different play – it might not have even been a play at all! The fruits of those initial efforts did not go to waste, as I managed to incorporate bits and pieces of ideas from the book into references I made in the play. I suppose you’ll have to see it to understand what I mean.