This column first appeared in the Battle Creek Enquirer on January 19, 2014, after participating in TLC Productions’ first StageLab 24. I’m about to do it again this weekend. I’ve already started packing, power cord first.
TLC Productions invited me to be a writer for StageLab 24. The concept was irresistible. A team of writers, directors, and actors would create and produce eight 10-minute plays in 24 hours. It sounded awesome. When the night arrived, however, it sounded asinine.
I had to be at the Village Theatre in Canton by 8 pm. Rain, fog, and snow turned the ninety-minute trip into two hours. My husband drove, which allowed me to be a nervous wreck without the wreck.
When we arrived, my husband kissed me goodbye. I watched him go. I had a laptop bag on my back, an overnight case at my feet, and a lump in my throat. I was a 40-year-old going to camp.
There were two writing rooms – quiet and social. I had requested the quiet room because I write alone. My room had a makeshift progress board. Each author or author team had a column, with rows for working title, synopsis, and characters. A huge clock ticked on the adjacent wall. There was a videographer setting up a camera. He was documenting the event.
StageLab 24 was starting to feel like Survivor.
The lump in my throat grew. Why was I working alone? Why didn’t I pick the social room? The social folks were more likely to form an alliance, which meant the quiet folks were more likely to be voted off the island first.
I looked at my station, which looked like everyone else’s station – a long table near an outlet. Mine, however, had a box of Kleenex. I checked my peers’ tables again. No one had Kleenex but me. Why was that? Did I look like the writer most likely to crack?
I took a breath. I took out my laptop. I reached for the power cord, but it wasn’t there. I left the cord in Battle Creek, a four-hour roundtrip away. The lump in my throat dropped to my stomach. I had nine hours to write a ten-minute play on a half-dead battery.
The Kleenex people were right. I was the weakest link.
Happier laptops surrounded me – a Toshiba, two Apples, a Hewlett-Packard – all guzzling electricity. I looked at my half-dead Dell. A desperate idea took shape.
Quietly, I cased more laptops. Apple, Apple, another HP. I entered the social room and – Yes! There was a Dell!
I stared at the cord, fingers itching. I forced myself to speak, voice cracking.
Who does this Dell belong to?
Everyone turned. A guy smiled a cautious smile.
I started babbling, which quickly turned into begging. I confessed my massive mistake and asked if we could share the power cord like divers do when one of the divers is an idiot and doesn’t bring enough oxygen and the smart diver has to share his oxygen so the idiot doesn’t die or, in our case, write a ten-second play instead of a ten-minute play.
People were laughing. The guy smiled a real smile.
That’s when I hugged him. And, maybe, called him my hero.
Turns out, we didn’t need two rooms. Playwrights understood other playwrights. They knew not to talk, peek at screens, or ask what the play was about. By 7 am, we had eight solid plays. Eleven hours later, we had one solid show. It was awesome.