I was rehearsing to perform one as well. Tuesday, April 28, as eight of my students prepared to perform their collaborative one-acts for SOURCE, Lenoir-Rhyne‘s Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression, I was preparing to perform a script of a different sort, one that I’d co-written with two other members of the Board of Directors for the community theatre group Foothills Performing Arts.
Though I had seen the students’ plays once, in class, I wish that I could have seen their encore performances at SOURCE. I had no idea that I would have a schedule conflict, much less one of such coincidence. I had designed my students’ genre assignments–including the one for their collaborative one-act plays–in early January, before the semester began, with no way of knowing that a month later, organizers of the volunteer celebration for Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care would ask Foothills Performing Arts to provide the entertainment for their banquet in April. They wanted a skit about the importance of volunteering. So I volunteered, along with Michelle and Chrystal.
Writing an eight- to ten-minute skit is no eight- to ten-minute task. It requires hours and hours of work, and in our case that included finding a way to to honor the work of volunteers who help people during their most difficult hours. We would be there to entertain them, not to remind them of that, though. And volunteering is all about help and support, the very antithesis of the tension and conflict essential to drama and to all storytelling. And then there was the theme for the banquet, elegant safari. How do you work the idea of volunteering into a safari, an elegant safari?
With all of that in mind, I drafted the first pages of the script that Michelle and Chrystal and I developed into a five-page meta-play about writing a script, one that broke the fourth wall with this sequence:
JANE: But we don’t have a story, or rather this is the story. What we have is a skit about not-having-a-skit.
CHRYSTAL: What we have is writers in desperate need of help. (SHE pulls binoculars from the bag.)
MICHELLE: We could get volunteers.
JANE: How can we get volunteers? We can’t just snap our fingers and suddenly have a roomful of volunteers . . .
(JANE, MICHELLE, and CHRYSTAL exchange glances.)
CHRYSTAL: Then again . . .
MICHELLE: It’s worth a try.
The process of collaboration was worth a try as well. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity, in part because it’s my practice to do what I ask of my students, including writing along side of them, composing the same assignments that I require them to write. But when I wrote a one-scene play in March as a model for theirs, it wasn’t the product of collaboration. I couldn’t show them the script I could show them now–one that I’ll offer to my students as a model in semesters to come.