A Playwright’s Currency

By Fanny Garcia

I’ve been kind of MIA from the blogging thing since the beginning of June. I’m not quite sure how it happened. I think I was overwhelmed with everything that happened in the first weeks of the month. I am slowly but surely getting back into my writing schedule. So here is my first blog after a much needed break.

June started at hyper speed. I was at the TCG National Conference all day for a week, and Radar L.A. was happening at the same time as well. So I went from exhilarating theatre workshops during the day to jaw dropping performances by local, national and international theatre companies at night. I was exhausted by the time it all ended.

The day after this “theatrepalooza” in Los Angeles, I went back to my play reading group. We were scheduled to read “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” by Rajiv Joseph but ended up having a pow wow of sorts. I shared my experiences at the conference and Alejandra Cisneros shared her experiences at the Director’s Lab West which had occurred at the same time. (Alejandra wrote a fantastic piece for pLAywriting in the city called “On Being A Stage Manager.”  You can find it here: https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/on-being-a-stage-manager/)

Both of us wanted so much to share what we had seen and heard. We wanted those that had not had the opportunity to attend the conference or the performances or the lab to get some sense of what we had gone through. It was a fascinating thing to share. One that I think rekindled our passion and commitment to our craft. Not just for me and Alejandra but also for the members of the play reading group.

We are all at different levels of our artistic careers. My career is definitely in its infancy. I still walk cautiously under ever-present self-doubt, fear, and the seemingly elusive acceptance as an artist, into a theater community, or by an audience not yet defined. Sometimes it can be paralyzing and it is here where the danger lies. I’m constantly fighting the paralysis.

During the conference Todd London, Artistic Director at New Dramatists, Inc. delivered the plenary session speech. He said, “We all begin as amateurs. The word amateur from the French word love. The love of what we do.” This hit me like a tone of bricks. I am an amateur. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Why do I do what I do? Because I love it. It is my currency, one that I hold on to tightly because I live in a society that does not value art. And if it does, it is always asked in the context of what school the artist attended, who they studied under and how many times they’ve been produced, instead of asking much more important questions.  What is your story? How do you tell it? Why do you want to tell it? How can we stage it?

It may seem idealistic to think of love for theatre and writing as currency but at the moment it is all I have. My value as an artist is what I produce when I sit down in front of my MacBook Pro in my hot apartment and begin to type out a story.  Each time I do that, I am getting better at what I love.

What do I love about it? I love the tingly feeling I get when an idea starts to percolate. I love the frustration that visits me when my brain does not function properly and deciphering the idea does not come as quickly as I wish. I love the rewrites because it brings me closer to the finish product, even though I complain about them all the time.

I’ve often fought my identity as a playwright. Erroneously, my reasons have been based on how others define my value. I haven’t attended a fancy school. My playwriting education comes from a few workshops, reading American Theatre Magazine, “The Art & Craft of Playwriting”, “The Dramatist’s Toolkit: The Craft of the Working Playwright”, and a workshop production of a play that took me five years to write. I list the books because they were a great help to me and I highly recommend you pick them up at your local bookstore if you’re planning to write a play.

I haven’t owned my playwriting skills fully. I’ve let comments from people get to me. The most memorable is: “You’ve only written three plays, does that make you a playwright?” I should have replied with a resounding, “Yes, yes it does.” But instead I cowered and decided not to mention that I’d put my blood, sweat and tears into three plays. Literally. Okay, maybe not the blood but you know what I mean.

Not any more.

My name is Fanny Garcia and I am a playwright.

I may be at the beginning stages of my career. But with each new play I write, with each semester I finish at school, with each writing job I take on, and each rewrite I do… I am perfecting my craft.