Thursday, September 6, 2012

In the Same Boat with Anthony Clarvoe

by Anthony Clarvoe
Playwright and NPI Instructor

CELLO by Anthony Clarvoe for
Bay Area One Acts Festival.
Produced by Playwrights Foundation
Pictured (l-r) El Beh, Maria Giere
Marquis, Cooper Carlson.
I confess it:  I am inordinately fond of the writers in my classes.  They bring so much talent, imagination, and energy to the table.  They have striking stories to tell, strong values to argue for, remarkable personal histories and daily lives.  They are committed, brave, and thoughtful.  It’s no surprise to me that a sizeable number of their plays have gone on to receive public readings, workshops, and full productions.  They are also generous and supportive colleagues, attending each other’s plays, continuing to get together on their own after class is done, forming an enthusiastic community of writers.  I admire them and look forward to seeing them every week.

Right about now you may be saying to yourself, “I was thinking I might take a class.  But these dramatic paragons don’t sound much like little old me.  I bet I wouldn’t fit in very well.  I’d probably make an ass of myself.” 

Read on.

GIZMO by Anthony Clarvoe
Produced by Penn State Center Stage
Pictured (l-r) Erik Raymond Johnson,
and Timothy Riley.
In an effort to understand what people are hoping to get from the course, one exercise I ask them to do is to write on an index card, in class, without putting down their names, why they think they haven’t yet finished writing their play.  Sitting around our big table, they write on their index cards.  Then they hand them over and I read them aloud.

When I first asked this question, it was with the hope of learning what technical challenges the playwrights were facing, what dramaturgical issues they were struggling with, and in general how to help them develop aspects of their craft.

A few, of course, do have questions like that.  More of them point out that their busy lives place demands on their time and energy that make it hard for them to write. 

But the following responses are verbatim, and are by far the most typical:

“Fear that I won’t have anything to say.”

“The story doesn’t seem to be unfolding on paper quite like it is in my head.  Then I get frustrated and stop.”

 “Fear that it’s all pointless since I’m not that good anyway and I might as well watch TV.”

“My idea is lame.”

 “Fear of not being honest; fear of being inauthentic or disingenuous.”

 “I am most afraid of writing when I think, ‘What’s the use? You are not talented and have nothing new to tell the world.’”

And as everyone hears everyone else’s terrible lonely fear, they start by glancing curiously at each other, then they start nodding in recognition, then they start laughing, and by the end that big table feels a lot like a boat, the same boat that we are all in together.  And off we go.


If you are ever afraid you’re untalented, uninteresting, and unoriginal?  Congratulations.  From what I’ve seen, that’s a pretty sure sign that you’re a wildly talented writer with a play just bursting to find its way into the world.  And I’ll say what I tell other people like you:

I look forward to seeing you in class. 

For more Info on Anthony's upcoming class, learn more by clicking here

Want to check out other classes offered at Playwrights Foundation? click here

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