Commas & Ampersands
Commas & Ampersands - $10
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On December 19, 2006, I stumbled upon & read much of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays, in which she published 365 plays which
she wrote in 365 days, which is a year, which you know. On my drive home from the bookstore, the reaction surfaced: “Yeah, I can do that.” That night I began my attempt to write a short play every day. At the time, I hadn’t set myself a goal, but I eventually settled on a year. A year is a long time. I had to drop the play-a-day project in mid-February when an overly-demanding schedule of school & a couple productions I was working on forced me to sleep in my few hours of free time that I had each day rather than spend another hour or so writing.
I added six more plays as “official” parts of the project, but let it die at number 63. To be clear, what the project meant to me
was not to just write daily, but to produce a finished product daily. The challenge was to have written, before I went to sleep each
day, an interesting & dramatic short play that could be called “finished” without being revisited. In other words, the plays that were
written as official parts of the project were to be conceived, developed, polished & deemed complete within a twenty-four hour period.
A friend of mine once commented in regards to the project that “eventually, these will synthesize.” A lofty prediction, indeed,
considering how much I would enjoy bouncing back & forth between experimental & traditional scripts, realistic & abstract situations, normal theaters & theaters which had been filled with plastic ball pit balls, & so on. Synthesis was not exactly what I had planned. Though, I suppose, all that I had planned was to write plays. & the seven plays here are as representative of the whole project as such a selection can hope to be.
Play 7, to dwell on dreams, seemed a bit disconcerting at first. A week into the project, I was already writing self-referential plays about not being able write easily? It didn’t seem like a good sign. But I wrote it anyway, & later in the project I had the realization that the project was helping me in at least one capacity: I was finding myself comfortable with writing without hesitation. Regardless of the quality of the writing, forcing a product nightly made me find ways to develop Any Given Idea into something worth putting on stage—even if that meant being more honest with my writing than I had been used to.
Play 20, i found this on the street. it’s some sort of thing, is some sort of thing. I had to step away from this one for a bit to be able
to comprehend & enjoy it. Immediately after having written this play, it felt jarring & awkward & I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It didn’t seem like it was my voice at all. Rereading it now, it has a rhythm & fluidity which I didn’t particularly intend, but to which I am drawn. This play feels immediate to me, always as if I just wrote it yesterday.
Play 24, on atlas’ shoulders: third melody, was part of a series of plays all intended to be visually & aurally haunting. If ever produced, I
saw them as interludes among longer pieces. This is the most difficult to produce of the five that I wrote, which of course means that it’s the most interesting. During the project, I enjoyed writing in series or planning multi-part plays, or writing sequels, or anything that made the project feel like it had a through line.
Play 48, remember how we’d be just one room apart but the string seemed so long?, was almost left to sit in its “finished” form as an awkward monologue delivered by the girl about her attempt to listen to the stars—whatever that means. It became much more interesting to me after introducing the parents who, it seems, will be divorcing very soon. I like to think this would be the girl that Calvin from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes would eventually fall in love with.
Play 59, isn’t it great to be alive?, was a piece that I wrote for a children’s theatre production at a middle school in Lincoln, IL. It was
called breathe for that production. I was at the time also working on an experimental movement & light based production called Degree, & some of my journaling developed into this monologuey, audience-interactiony, meditationy play for the kids. I was hesitant
about using it for the older kids (up to seventh grade), but I only remember one kid who was obviously too cool for school. He rolled his eyes & chuckled a bit until he realized his friends were participating. He did a double take, looked mutinous for a second, then closed his eyes & presumably played along. I win.
Play 61, in this light you’re hardly real, is a play about a flickering streetlight.
Play 63, god may or may not be a renewable resource, is one of my personal favorites of everything I’ve ever written. This was the last
play I wrote as an “official” part of the project. It was one of the attempts to start daily again. & though it, like the others, didn’t jumpstart anything, it seems to me now that the last two lines are an appropriate final moment for the project. Am I lying to you? Now that you ask, maybe.
About the Author
Stephen Moore graduated from Millikin University in May of 2007 with a BFA Theatre degree with an emphasis in directing & a love of lighting.
His work in theatre has ranged from director to actor to stage manager to designer to playwright. You can see some of his work at stephenjmoore.com, a website. Steve lives in St. Louis, a city. You can call him smoore.
If you scratch him behind his ear he will act like a puppy.
Events & Photos
1.18.2008 Binding & Release Reading Photos