The middle is always the most difficult thing to characterize.
In theatermaking and in teaching, we often call this “process.”
I spend a lot of time planning in both things. When writing a play, I’ll often spend weeks or months reading, researching, thinking. Thinking while I’m in the shower, eating a cupcake, falling asleep on the subway, in the middle of a conversation with someone, while watching a play. The play is omnipresent.
Teaching is very similar. I build a map, think about where I want to end up with them at the end of 45 minutes, at the end of a 2, 4 or 10 week residency. And I build backwards. What game, activity, set of questions, turn and talk will get us there?
I find a lot of solace in that initial mapping. There is something tangible and concrete I can hold onto and look at. There is a terrain I mean to cover. I just need to wear the right shoes and get enough rest and I should be able to make the journey.
But, on the journey, a torrential downpour will come out of nowhere. The upper of my shoe will separate from the sole. I’ll drop my water bottle in a stream and it’ll float away. I’ll get 15 or so mosquito bites. This is what happens in the middle of a residency when you add the students and daily school drama, absences, classroom teacher burnout. This is what happens on a second and third draft of the play when all the feedback you’ve gotten starts running through your head and you get seduced by strands that take you off entirely in the wrong direction. Then, your characters get angry and start to run amok.
I am in the middle of a lot of things right now. In the middle of a big residency devising a piece of theater with young people. In the middle of a residency around Fela! In the middle of a draft of The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness. In the middle of building the Spring reading series called 2020 Visions at Teachers & Writers. In the middle of writing an article on Philadelphia Young Playwrights for the Spring issue of T&W Magazine.
It makes me feel very messy.
But I am “in process.”
I’ll finish something soon.
I’ll cross a bridge.