In my newest play War Bride, there is a moment when our titular character is asked politely how she makes her beautiful, origami cranes. “I folded the paper over and over again,” she says. “And when I was finished, I had a crane.”
Yumi, our war bride, isn’t big on details, apparently.
Or maybe, much as I tend to do, she balks at the idea of having to explain her process. Perhaps, this is because she doesn’t know how to, or she doesn’t remember learning it, or, more likely than that, it’s so innate to her being that she doesn’t know how not to make these cranes.
Whatever her reason — and I guess since I wrote her, mine too — the act of telling people how you do what you do can be intimidating. It unlocks the inner sanctum of your creative soul to anyone who wishes to view it. It pulls the heart of writing out of your chest for anyone to, uh, eat (or something)! It tells the world that you are not a disciplined, machine-like theater artist toiling endlessly at your computer, but rather a sloth-like Facebook junkie surrounded by empty snap-pea crisp packages and empty seltzer bottles. Who the hell wants to tell people that is what they do all day?
Not me. That’s for damn sure.
Which is why I will instead tell you about War Bride (in 800 words or less), and what I have learned about my process on this journey to production.
I suppose I should start by saying that War Bride is the most intensely collaborative theatrical experience I have ever had.
It was very. Seriously. Collaborative.
This wasn’t one of those luxurious writing situations where I need cheap therapy one day, so I lock myself in my bedroom, and come out with a new play about (my) bad relationships””No! This was a unique situation where I challenged myself to try something new. To write someone else’s story.Â The story of someone I didn’t know. Better yet, the story of someone I had never met.
As I stared down at my first, second, third drafts, I realized just how hard that was going to be. Told from a perspective outside my own culture, in a time far removed from my millennial generation, this play was genuinely hard to write, and harder still now that these “baby drafts” we had done readings of at SkyPilot Theatre Company (where I am a resident playwright) had shown enough promise to be scheduled for production. With the clock ticking, I had six short months to figure out the universe of this play. To find the voices of Yumi, of Catherine. Two women I’ve never known, a world away.
It wasn’t until I met my actors and my director in June that the world and the voices finally became clear. Though we’d had developmental readings and workshops with other wonderful actors, with my final cast in place, and a vision for the actual production, the little moments I had fleshed out in private became public. They became real, and big. They had purpose, and movement, and peril! Suddenly, the writing became much easier. The play had a home and a community to support it, and because of that, I could write honestly about these lives.
The deadline probably didn’t hurt either.
Anyone who has had the good fortune of having a play produced can tell you that this may be the most accelerated stage of development. It’s where all your hopes are realized, all your failures are magnified, and you still have a little bit of time to make it as good as you can.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have actors who were always willing to try a new line or cut. I had a director, Nancy Dobbs Owen, who gave the play purpose and drive. I had designers who were able to realize my notoriously impossible stage directions. I had a stage manager who ran this production like a well-oiled machine, two wonderful dramaturgs/translators who asked good questions and checked facts, and producers who were willing to take a chance on a new play by an unknown playwright.Â All of these people came together to help make War Bride a success — at least for me (because it actually hasn’t opened yet as I write this piece).
I would now like to charge all readers of this article to champion the development of new work in Los Angeles and everywhere, because without a production, I would not know this play. Support your playwrights, especially the women who have penned only 20% of new plays in LA in recent years (www.lastagetimes.com/2011/03/revealing-numbers-and-raising-the-question-where-are-womens-voices-on-local-stages/ or lafpi.com/the-facts). You never know what kind of magic you’ll get when you put a play on stage for the first time.
War Bride, presented by SkyPilot Theatre Company. Opens Saturday. Plays Sat 8 pm; Sun. 7 pm. Through September 16. Tickets: $20. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood CA 91602. www.SKYPILOTTHEATRE.com. 800-838-3006.
***All “War Bride” Production photos by Heidi Marie Photography
Samantha Macher is an MFA Playwright from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University and a playwright-in-residence at SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Recent notable productions include the critically acclaimed To The New Girl at SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles, The Arctic Circle (and a recipe for Swedish Pancakes) (director Bob Moss) at Mill Mountain Theater in Roanoke, VA and Playwrights Horizons 440 Studios in Manhattan, produced by the New Works Initiative at Hollins University. Macher is a Reva Shiner Comedy award finalist and a Dolce Revolution Playwriting Award finalist. She is thrilled that the world premiere of War Bride is for a Los Angeles audience.