Robert Hugh DanielOnce a week, on my “weekend,” I accompany my husband on his commute to Birmingham. I visit with a friend, hang out in public areas and read what other people are thinking on the Internet. The day serves as a temporary respite from the solitude I feel during the week.
When the office workers go home, I take a walk that lasts several hours. Usually I cross Birmingham’s Downtown Civil Rights Trail. When I think of it, I stop to read the historical markers. Inevitably, I wind up in front of the BBVA Compass headquarters, where there’s a metal statue of Birmingham philanthropist Robert Hugh Daniel. For several weeks now, I’ve stared at the statue. Sometimes I even touch it. Then I read the biography plaque. I don’t know why.
During last week’s Birmingham trip, I took two people out to dinner at a new restaurant in Five Points South. After we finished our sandwiches, we read my new play aloud. I took two parts, plus stage directions. They each had a part, respectively. One person had some acting experience. The other worked in the medical field.
A few hours before the dinner, I thought of canceling it. I was scared because it’s been five years since I heard anyone read my work out loud. I didn’t know how I’d feel afterward.
The play is a one-act comedy with four characters – one set. I wrote it last fall to see if I could still write plays. Sometimes, people lose the ability to write in a form. I heard Bob Dylan say that once in an interview. I remember it well because it rang true for me. I used to write poetry, that’s how I got into college. But I don’t write it anymore, though I wish I did.
When I wrote this play, I decided to make it tightly structured and light. Since I have no contact with actors, directors, playwriting groups or theater companies, I didn’t veer off into daring territory. I wanted to write a fun play. Even more importantly, I wanted to see if I could set a goal and succeed.
The reading went far better than I could’ve dreamed. Both people liked the play a great deal, laughed while reading it, and seemed happy to be there when we finished. For my part, I didn’t feel humiliated or ashamed for writing it. It doesn’t need a rewrite. Neither person saw distracting elements that I need to fix.
Where I live, it isn’t easy to find people who will read my work out loud. I’m grateful that I found people who would do it, and that it was a good experience.