Killing: On the Stage and on the Page

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the final performance of David Meyers’s play Broken at Shetler Studios in NYC. I was drawn to the play for a number of reasons. David is a friend who appeared in a reading of my play Losing Our Heads: The Guillotine Play a couple of years ago at the Chain Theater, and I wanted to support his work. But I was also intrigued by the topic: a play about a mass shooting.

The play did something which the media often fails to do: put a human face on someone who has committed an atrocity. In the play, a psychiatrist, Dr. Palmer, skillfully played by Michael Pemberton, attempts to delve into the mind of mass murderer Kevin McFadden—very believably portrayed by Meyers.

David Myerers (L) as Kevin McFadden, and Michael Pemberton (R) as Dr. Palmer in Broken. (Photo by RJ Lewis.)

One line of questioning Dr. Palmer pursues with Kevin is his relationship with his parents. That struck a chord, given my recent musings. (See “Murder, Mayhem and Motherhood.”) But early in the play it becomes clear that much of Kevin’s murderous angst stems from his unfulfilled dreams to become…

What? A Writer! Hmmm….

This got me thinking (as good theater always does.) Writers—and many creative people—often set themselves up for a life in which they must constantly deal with rejection. The process of submitting work and receiving feedback can be brutal. Each “no thanks,” can take a little nibble out of a person’s soul. I’ve learned to stop getting my hopes up. I send things out into the universe and forget about them.

I’ve also started to take control of my own creative life. In part, this is what this blog is all about. I might not have any control over whether my next play gets produced or if my novel gets published—but I can publish as many blog posts as I’d like. (And yes, I know, I can self-produce my plays or self-publish my writing. There are many avenues these days for taking control of one’s creative life.)

They key is, not to constantly rely on a gatekeeper.

That said, gatekeepers exist for a reason. If someone is saying no to your writing over and over again, maybe it is time to take a long hard look at yourself and your writing. Maybe your book isn’t ready to get published. Maybe you need to spend more time improving your craft. Maybe you need to do another rewrite or take another workshop or put your manuscript in a drawer for a couple of years until you are ready to look at it with fresh eyes. I’m currently working on rewriting a novel that I was told needed some trimming. Turns out, I really could cut the first 50 pages. It just took me a couple of years to realize that.

So I’ve chosen to “kill my darlings.” I’ve cut some of my favorite parts. After all, too much exposition can be deadly. Perhaps that is what Kevin McFadden should have done instead of entering a mall with a loaded gun.

I didn’t expect this post to go in this direction. I sat down to write a blog about a play about a mass murder and somehow it turned into a blog about the novel I’m revising. It’s interesting where a piece of theater (or any piece of art) might take us. Or maybe I’m just incredibly self-centered. Well, I am a writer.

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