Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In the Beginning...

Today, i'm on the phone with Lisa Adler, the co-artistic director of Horizon Theatre in Atlanta. She is also the director of my script, The Perfect Prayer, which is about to enjoy (hopefully) it's world premiere in May.

I'm relaying one of the many stories I share with her about discussion with my parenst and friends in regards to his upcoming production and she pipes up with, "Would you be interested in blogging about this?"

"About the process and stuff?" I asked.

"Yes! I think that's a PERFECT idea."

"Sure," I replied.

of course I would. I mean, Perfect Prayer is basically autobigraphical and rather exposing as it is...why stop there? Why not share the process of also growing as a playwright and reveal even more about myself.

It's probably for the best that I do this with words...otherwise i'd be posing nude somewhere.
Not really.

Anyway. Here we are. Let me catch you up:

Almost 11 years ago, I wrote a one act play called SUNSET. I was 19 and was taking a graduate level playwrighting course to bring up my undergrad, sub par grade point average. This is the play that saved my ass. I was flunking the class by midterm, not enjoying the professor nor the responsibilities. When it was mentioned that a rough draft of our final project was due the next and I had NOT a thing down anywhere... I knew I had to work fast.

I spent the entire night awake and only banged out 17 pages of a play that began with the words, "God I feel like hell tonight"...inspired into writing by Sheryl Crow's Strong Enough. When I started with those words, the rest of the play, around 3 am, poured out of me. I recreated recent struggles of my own life with my parents and the resentment I had about being Moslem...in the United States of America.

It was never an intentional, political statement. It was riddled with universal teen-age angst and the common, coming-of-age story . I also thought it was drama, tell truth.

17 pages. I needed 25 or more to be considered eligble worth grading...otherwise, automatic F.
I handed in what I had, along with some story about how I accidentally deleted the rest of the play...
The Professor, who mutually disliked me, said, "Save it, Suehyla."

One week later, we received the scripts...and I flipped to the final page to discover a red C. Scribbled underneathe this forgiving grade was: You've really got something here. Keep going.

And so I did.
It was then chosen as one of the two plays from the class to be staged at the end of the semester; staged at a University where my parents were pretty prominent.
I was given the option to not have my name attached: Suehyla El-Attar (not exactly your every day southern name).

I chose to attach it, anyway. I mean, why stop now?

Much to my surprise, people laughed during the play. They laughed at the moments I thought were the most difficult; the moments in a daily family life...the moments that, when living them, I thought I was the only one to have ever faced them.
Instead, through the first-time audience, I discovered the absurdity and universality of the dysfunctional family.

Best therapy I ever had.

My mother came to see the play and quickly left at the end, hurt by the way I portrayed the family. My father never attended but was beyond words with the attention he received from fellow faculty members who recognized his daughter's name...and his character.

I moved to Atlanta 7 years ago with the full intention of finishing the play and getting it produced. I got side-tracked by life...but was finally returned to my original intention by a season-friend who read the script and said, Finish it.

And so it began...
The one act became a full-lenth 2-act.
Having been exposed to the workshop process at Horizon, I had a bit of notion of how to go about discovering the script all over again...in order to complete it.

I was lucky enough to have Lisa attend one of the readings of her own volition. She immediately took an interest in the story unfolding before all of us...and invited me to take part in the New South Play Festival. Here, my play could (and would) be workshopped intensely for a week and then be subject to a reading for the general public. Two summers of this and Lisa gave me the opportunity of a lifetime by placing my script in the current 2006 season.

This is one of those random stories of right place, right time. I look at my professional, personal friends Lauren Gunderson and Steve Yockey, and wonder exactly what kind of murder I may have gotten away with, here...
then, again, I should probably wait 'til the play is up and running... and see if it's actually any good.
If i'm actually any good.


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