OvationTV.com presents Opening Night Diaries in which artists of every genre share thoughts on a new work, just before it opens to the public. Highlighted artists will include musicians about to embark on a tour, photographers about to have their first major gallery show, and authors with a book about to hit stores.
This week, actress/playwright Stephanie DiMaggio reflects on the process of writing and co-starring in her first Off-Broadway play, 17 Orchard Point, opening April 25.
I’ve been acting professionally for the better part of my grown up life, but this is my first soup to nuts ride into creation. The best thing about making a play is that you can’t do it alone, you need other crazy kids to join you in the sandbox – folks who are willing to spend entire months (often years) of their lives “working” on “playing.” Sounds dreamy – except that the unique requirement for this job is that no matter what your role on the coaster, you must reach into your soul, pull out your imaginatory-guts and put them on a platter to be torn apart, re-plated and devoured before you even realize you served them up. Even if you have an amazing recipe before you, with a new play, nobody knows what it’s supposed to taste like – so there is very little room for ego.
Plays are written to be lived out. It’s an art of breathing, not reading. When you write a play you are creating a bio-rhythmic roadmap of an experience. Sometimes the map takes you to thrilling destinations, and sometimes you just sit at a pit stop for days wishing you hadn’t eaten those two bags of Pop Chips. The minute the words hit the page, they get swept away into someone else’s imagination, which then gets given away to a different group of people every night. Once that happens, you step out of the sandbox and on to the glorious beach, or into a bleak dessert. Sometimes both.You either inspire them or you don’t.
Throughout the process (which has taken a few years, and more than a few tears, fears, and face-plants) I keep reminding myself that the word “inspire” literally means to put someone in their spirit. I can get behind that mission. Every time we make someone laugh, we zap their spirit. Every time someone recognizes their own mother in the character, we zap their spirit. Every time someone sighs and thinks, “I remember what that felt like,” we zap their spirit.
If someone’s willing to share their time (and money) to be a part of a night in the theater, then I am going to do my best to hold their spirit in the highest esteem (and with a huge sense of playfulness). At this moment, I feel filled with beginner’s blind faith. I hope that never changes. When you get to wake up and do what you love with folks who “in-spirit” you, it’s already a win-win day on the playground.