Saturday, August 13, 2011

Accepting My Voice

by Thais Harris

Really good incentive. That’s what I need when I start thinking that my voice is not clear enough, clever enough, brilliant enough. Good incentive, attention, and inspiration – that is what I got from Bill Cain’s class at the Playwrights Foundation. These things are bound to get me off my butt (well, actually, on my butt) writing. That someone outside of my head might just get a glimpse of what’s going on in there, and say “that’s great, I get it, now make it more accessible, and immediate.” That someone so much further along than me can hold my hands and say “one, two, three” and lift me up from the ground, keeping me suspended for just a minute while I realize I can step down on my own two feet. This is keeping me writing. This is bubbling in the middle of my heart, reminding me that I am a worthy messenger.

Four days were not enough, but they were enough to have a big impact. Eleven writers came together to learn from Bill Cain how to fulfill the sacred duty of finding their own voices. Our own voices. Bill is one of the most talented writers I know, as well as a Jesuit Priest, a 6th and 7th grade teacher, and a self-proclaimed anger instigator (though with his sweet demeanor this is hard to fathom). He listened patiently, thought about work outside of the class, held the space for us to share it, researched companion pieces, and offered honest criticism and insight.

There were those of us who already had a clear picture of their next play in mind, or were already pretty confident in their style. And there were also those of us, yours truly included, who had a notion of a theme, but felt a long way away from developing it into a truthful, gripping, piece of theatre. There’s certainly much more work to be done, but in the course of four days - by visiting the Bible, Shakespeare, Cinderella, and sharing our work out loud - we were able to walk out with a tangible dramatic question, a clear outline, and a chart of our beautiful, imperfect, unique sound.

We practiced performance and collaboration by singing;
We explored the world of theatre by reading, discussing, and comparing our favorite plays;
We looked beyond the 10 commandments and found the small print that says we have a responsibility to find our voice,
We accepted we don’t have to ask permission, and that it is up to us to realize that what we are doing is great;
And we trusted – each other with our stories, and ourselves with the ability to tell them.

The dedication with which Bill guided us was moving, and the huge steps people took in their work were inspiring. When he posed the questions “Do you think that what you have to say is worth saying; can you say it; and can it be received?” We couldn’t help but bring our most honest voice forward. And now I can’t help but write.
Aug. 1, 2011

Thais Harris

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