Six Months Prior:
I’m trying something utterly new and foreign. I’ve hired two female playwrights based in Los Angeles to transform my book, “The Secret Life of a Weight Obsessed Woman,” into a play. This endeavor is about as comforting as trampling through a snake-infested swampland.
I’m finding the whole process – the contract negotiations and the expectations of our roles and the proposed outcome – to be somewhat:
Five Months Prior:
Much to their chagrin and my stubbornness, it’s a rocky collaborative beginning. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but still feel – because it’s my original work – I know best how to adapt my book into a play.
At first the playwrights are patient. Diplomatic. Supportive. But soon they begin pushing back. Determined. Steadfast in their beliefs. Re-assuring me that under their tutelage, my “fetus” is thriving. My faulty assumptions are upended.
Four Months Prior:
Revelation: A book is finite. Once it’s printed, it’s not fluid, easily changed, reviewed and revised – unless you publish a whole other version or later edition.
A play is entirely different. Re-writes occur regularly. Probably at their wits’ end, the playwrights send me a copy of Neil Simon’s memoir. And “suggest” I read it. I do. It alters my attitude.
Conversational dialogue to my untrained ear sounds trite and leaden. They calm me. “That’s how real people talk. A scene may not read well, but it will play well.”
My perspective slowly changes. Neil Simon says, “It’s what happens to the characters in the story that pushes the play forward.”
Three Months Prior:
Throughout this process, I’ve been proven wrong again and again and again. They think the script is strong – I think not.
My sister – who has an acting background – reiterates, “You are a writer, not a playwright. Conversations come alive through the actor’s skill with movement, tone, facial expression and the reactions of the other characters. For G-d sakes, let these poor women do their jobs!”
I still worry. Will the audience laugh in the right places?
Will the audience like my characters – even when they are behaving badly, expose their flaws, mess-up – say and do unwise, impudent things?
Two Months Prior:
The re-writes are done.
The cast is assembled and sent the scripts, along with my background information and book.
I’m still wondering: Will the audience care? Be involved? Become invested in my journey to be the best version of myself? And will they see somewhere in my flawed psyche, a person fighting with her own demons much like they themselves are waging battle with theirs?
One Month Prior:
The first staged reading is scheduled in Los Angeles, in a small theater which can hold 48 people on Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. The theatre is so small that the actors don’t need mics. There are minimal props. No costumes. Hand-held scripts. One rehearsal beforehand.
Ah, and the audience – the audience is composed of would-be producers and investors, friends and family I know from the LA area and some professionals who work in the eating disorder field.
A glimmer of hope breaks through my layers of doubt.
Maybe the playwrights are right and together we’ve managed to put together a damn good first reading.
As Neil Simon says: “The good things take care of themselves. It’s the bad parts that’ll do you in.” And the bad parts can be fixed. The more live performances, the more we’ll get a shot at improving it.
Twenty-two Days Until Showtime:
That night, the audience is going to filter in, sit down, glance at the one-page program, wait for the lights to dim and the first character to appear. Escape will be impossible. So I’ll hold tight to my husband’s hand and squeeze it with all the strength I have. And pray that the audience – each in their own way – will identify with my struggle, root for my healing, like the characters, and laugh at the jokes. I hope each one will go home feeling not only entertained, but also inspired and ready to spread the word.
And I hope on the feedback form my audience will tell me exactly what’s wrong so we can go home and begin re-writing once again.
Keep Preserving Your Bloom
Iris Ruth Pastor