Allison Page, talking about what she knows best: being an object of derision.
I was every kind of nervous. I realized too late that I hadn’t eaten enough. I started filling up on mimosas instead of food – what else could I do? I don’t know what I was so anxious about; it was exactly this moment that I had been building up to the last few months, and now that I was faced with it, it was really freaking me out! Yes, it was the actor read through of the first draft of my new play. This little baby nugget had to be tossed out of the nest. There was no more waiting, the day had come.
I’m not prone to nervousness. In fact, it’s an extreme rarity for me. I get that from my dad. He’s a pretty calm and cool dude, and so am I. EXCEPT THIS TIME. Sure, I’ve written all kinds of stuff. Plays, even. But they’re not usually full length, and they’re not usually this important to me. And this was a first draft! Actors were coming over to read my FIRST DRAFT out loud! What if they hated it? What if they walked around shouting about how much they hated it? Here are some things I seriously worried about:
1) Do too many people in the play exit to the bathroom?! Everyone’s going to think the characters have digestive problems!
2) This seems like Mamet-level swearing. What if they don’t like the swearing? What if they think it’s like…HBO swearing? Do I care?!
3) I wonder if everyone’s going to feel really weird about the sex scene. I mean, I feel a little weird about it myself. It’s SEX, after all.
4) I bet at least one person will think that I have my character picked up and carried around just because I love being picked up and carried around – because I do. But that’s not why I wrote it!…is it?!
5) What if the director lights the script on fire in the middle of the reading in a blaze of un-glory?
Once we sat down and actually started reading it, I calmed down. Well, I stopped being nervous, anyway…and I started being excited! I think I was twirling a pen around the whole time because I didn’t know what to do with my hands. And I ate a lot of handfuls of cheese puffs. (Sorry, diet.)
This play has been brewing in my head for nearly 3 years. To put it down in typed words had its bouts of ease and of difficulty. Naturally, the day before the reading I sat at my computer from 7:30am until after midnight in order to finish it. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. And even then…there’s no last scene. I have everything else, but there’s no last scene. Ending things is always difficult, I think. It’s so…final! Part of it is that I’m a little afraid of leaving these beloved characters in a not-necessarily-happy state. But I’m also hesitant to tie everything up neatly in a pretty bow. That just doesn’t seem a fitting end to their story; it’s too clean. It seems like I know I don’t want that good old fairytale ending, but I’m scared to do what might be necessary. It’s probably a “DO IT FAST, LIKE TEARING OFF A BANDAID!” situation…but I can’t seem to do that.
I told the actors at the reading that the final scene hadn’t been written yet. Even so, when we got to the last page, they all wanted to know what happens! I told them I had a few different ideas about how the last scene could go, but didn’t really tell them what those ideas are. They had their own suspicions. Deep down, a lot of people want a story with a happy ending – or as happy an ending as possible. But when that doesn’t serve the story – I’m not into it. If Ingrid Bergman had stayed with Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca, the story wouldn’t feel the same.
(Um, not that HILARITY is as important as CASABLANCA, but you know what I mean. Different endings have different effects.) Actually, many of the most enduring stories I can think of don’t have happy endings. I’m lookin’ at YOU, Romeo and Juliet! It’s not something I want to make a quick, impulsive decision about. I’m going to give it some time. I have a little time on my side at the moment, so I’m going to take advantage of that. Am I worried that I’ll choose an ending the audience won’t like? Mmm…yeah, a little. But mostly I want to make sure *I* like it. It’s my ending, after all. I don’t want to regret it. And I want to do right by the fake people who swim around in my brain. (Wow, that sounded delusional. Whatever.)
Oh, and no one noticed the characters going to the bathroom too much. Thank goodness, otherwise I’d be forced to put in a line about them having eaten a lot of spicy food or something.
You can witness Allison’s delusions live at SF Sketchfest on Monday, February 3rd at the Eureka Theater with Killing My Lobster.