All in all I've stayed up all night 9 times to write plays for this festival and each time it's different - there are always new challenges and highlights but this time I was more intentional than I have been in the past. I went in knowing myself better as a writer, which helped me to produce a higher caliber of play than I have in the past.
My secret is not so secret: the play has to be ABOUT something. It's more than plot or sketch or jokes/lines strung together, it MEANS something.
Each 14/48 has a theme. In the past I have used the theme a bit vaguely - it's sparked an idea and gone from there. This time I tried to really invest in the themes and write my response to them. This worked wonderfully for my first piece for Friday night - "Dressed In Blood" The theme was Lifting the Veil and I wrote a neat, little ghost story where a man can see a ghost once he's been marked for death. The theme invited me to to think about what it would mean to life the veil, who would do it, why, and what would it mean for the characters. In this case, it meant that the ghost would have a chance to act on her newly-found (only since death) love for all mankind. She sees goodness in every person because she takes the time to get to know them, even though they can't know her. So, when she an finally interact with someone she decides to do what she can do to help him, at great personal cost to herself.
Being driven by the theme was almost disastrous on Saturday night. The theme was Away At Camp, which was difficult to pull out of the literal. I tried several times to write a camp show but found that I wasn't interested in the larger idea of being at camp. I thought about going "campy" but in the end decided to think about what the camp experience is supposed to do for someone - help them grow up. I went with that and wrote "The Clockwork Heart" about a young man on the cusp of adulthood who is sent to a "scared straight" style of camp in a Steampunk Victorian England - This meant going to "Colonel Rochester's Sleepaway Camp for Non-normative and Wayward Boys". I also got to tackle something I've been meaning to for a while - which is incorporating a transgender character.
Interestingly, both of my plays had female characters who were "other". In the first, the only woman was a ghost, in the second she was an automaton. I shan't read too much into that choice though, since the # of men and women in each play was prescribed by the luck of the draw. But it is worth noting that when given 1 woman in a piece I would further isolate/elevate her. Hmmmm....
Anywho - I had a great time and as always the camaraderie involved is startling and warm and wonderful. Yay for stepping outside my comfort zone a couple times a year!