I know, I know…this is a blog dedicated to WOMEN playwrights. I get that, I really do. After all, I created it for that purpose.
Sometimes a dramadude comes along who is so brilliant, so inspiring, — who writes such great FEMALE CHARACTERS — that I can’t help but take a little detour. Right now, that dramadude is playwright Michael Hollinger.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hollinger following the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s performance of his newest play, Ghost-Writer. Warning: I may gush. In fact, I don’t know if I should begin with how stunning, and I mean STUNNING, Ghost-Writer is, or if I should skip to the extremely enjoyable experience of meeting him, or revert back to the first time I saw what is probably his most well-known play, Opus, also wonderful, also at BTE. (I warned you I might gush.)
I guess I want to focus on two things. First, I was impressed with Ghost-Writer because it spoke to me as a woman, a human, and a writer. Here is the crux of the story (I’m bad with time periods, so I’m placing it late 1800s to early 1900s; I do not yet have a copy of the script, so I’m guessing here): Myra, the secretary of famous novelist Franklin Woolsey, continues to type out the remainder of Woolsey’s final book from dictation…or at least that’s what she claims. The problem is that Woolsey is dead, his book unfinished, and while Myra cannot explain how, somehow his words are in her head, as if spoken there, telling her how the book must be finished. It is a memory play, a tragedy, a comedy, and a love story with a strong and wholly human woman at its center. The play speaks to what it means to be a writer — to be alone in a room with only words — as well as what it means to be a human being with feelings that range from elation to delusion to grief. Believe me when I say this play is gorgeous and worthy of notice.
Meeting Hollinger after seeing his creation was more than delightful. He was encouraging and attentive to a young, hopeful playwright. A friend of mine who was speaking to him introduced me by saying, “she’s a playwright too!” I must have turned eight shades of red; that anyone should call me a playwright in such distinguished company felt pretentious and mortifying. I corrected my friend; “I’m an aspiring playwright.” He smiled, shook my hand and said, “We playwrights are ALL aspiring playwrights.” That stuck with me as I spoke with him, stuck with me afterward, still sticks with me today. We playwrights — dramachicks or dramadudes — we are all aspiring playwrights; we are all aspiring to write good work that will be recognized, appreciated, performed. We’re all in the same boat here. Some have just rowed further ahead than others.
My conversation with Hollinger (as well as a well-timed “sometimes you need to grow a pair” pep talk from my former theatre professor) encouraged me to take a step and approach Jim Goode of BTE — another dramadude/playwright whose work, A Midnight Dreary, my husband and I recently performed with our theatre ensemble, Ghostlight Productions — to ask if he would be willing to look over my own play, Drowning Ophelia. As a result, I have received much helpful feedback through a number of conversations with Jim, and Drowning Ophelia has a table reading with ensemble members and interns from BTE scheduled for the end of this month.
I guess what I wanted to express today is that yes, I am a dramachick and I know that women playwrights are underappreciated in the world today. But I think the problem is that GOOD PLAYWRIGHTS, of any gender, are underappreciated in the world today. And I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate one playwright — one dramadude — whose brief influence had a powerful and encouraging impact on my life. Therefore, Michael Hollinger, I, dramachicky, officially dub thee “dramadude.” Thanks for encouraging this dramachick to aspire.