Having an idea is one thing. Bringing it to life is quite another. Countless ideas form in our head, only to wait offstage in the darkened wings until we give them the time of day. How often do we allow our ideas to take the stage? In my case, one idea did. Literally.
I’d never written a play before. But I wanted to. Very much. During the fall of my sophomore year, I’d written a magical realism short story titled Lost and Found. The following spring, I saw it published in Chapman’s Literary Magazine, The Calliope.
Although I enjoyed writing the short story, I felt constrained by the limited pages. In my mind, the characters were begging to have their stories told in greater detail. A short story wasn’t sufficient. I had to take it a step further.
Fast forward to the spring of my junior year, when I was studying abroad in England. In times of trial, I turned to the characters of Lost and Found for comfort. Writing their stories wrapped me in a cocoon of warmth. Their words, thoughts, fears, and dreams became a dialogue. When I returned home that summer I had the beginnings of a script. But what to do with it? I was a communication major. I wasn’t in the Department of Theatre. Or Dodge. Sure, I was a double major in Communication and Creative Writing, but my writing classes were primarily focused in the areas of literature and fiction.
Not playwriting. Not screenwriting. Was I wrong to want to pursue an area I wasn’t formally studying?
I found my answer in the fall of 2016, during my annual meeting with my Communication Studies advisor, Dr. Miller-Day. Toward the conclusion of our meeting, I mentioned that I had started to write a script. Dr. Miller-Day asked to see it. I showed her. She didn’t tell me I was out of my mind, or out of my league (although I certainly felt that I was). Instead, she offered me the chance to complete the script for credit, as an Independent Study. Thankfully, my jaw did not literally hit the floor. I was nevertheless astounded. A goal I’d thought unreachable had suddenly opened up to me, through the exact same major that I believed was preventing me from pursuing it. Over the course of the fall semester, under Dr. Miller-Day’s guidance and with the help of an informative book titled, “The Art and Craft of Playwriting,” I wrote a full-length play, also titled Lost and Found, based off of my short story.
My previous Communication Studies’ classes proved incredibly useful throughout the writing process. In fact, I turned to Uncertainty Reduction Theory, which I learned in Communication Theory with Dr. Dorros. This theory set the foundation and drive of the play (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). For instance, as uncertainty remains prevalent within the characters’ interactions, they must all engage in uncertainty reduction strategies. To add further, as the vast majority of my Communication Studies classes were focused on examining interpersonal relationships, I was able to apply my studies towards Lost and Found, as the play explores the interpersonal relationships of eight protagonists over the course of two acts.
In December of 2016, an official reading of the play was held in front of an audience, with Chapman Theater students and local actors reading for the characters.
The night was magical. But the play won’t stop there. This November, from the 9th-12th, Dr. Miller-Day and I will be producing Lost and Found in its premiere stage performance at the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills.
In addition, during the first week of October, Chapman University will host a Discover Research and Arts Week (DRAW), a week that explores the consolidation of ideas from multiple areas of study at Chapman. On Monday, October 2nd, I am taking part in a DRAW workshop entitled Draw the Curtain: How Does an Idea Become a Play? From 11:00am-12:00pm, in AF 209C. The workshop offers insight into how an idea becomes a full stage production. Dr. Jocelyn Buckner, a Chapman Theater Professor and resident Dramaturg at the Chance Theater, will host a discussion on the process of conceptualizing, writing, developing, and producing a new stage play. The event will include a twenty-minute reading of Lost and Found. One of the taglines for DRAW encourages us to: “Discover the people that will help you create anything imaginable.” For me, such people exist in the guidance of Dr. Buckner and Dr. Miller-Day, who I am extremely grateful for.
To conclude, I encourage you not to let your major(s) prevent you from exploring other areas of interest. Who knows? Maybe your major will lead you to the thing you want to do most, without you even realizing it. But most importantly, if you have an idea that begs to be heard, shine the spotlight on it and allow it a chance to shine.