As any internet recipe starts, start with an intensely personal anecdote that people might scroll past to get to the ingredients list (regardless, it should mean the world to you). This can be anywhere from your love of pies to your relationship with your grandmother. Either way, for your own sake, always start with something that makes you the person you are. You’ll be spending a lot of time with it.
- 3 tbsp of [questioning when a mouth opens and when it closes]
- 3 cloves of [exploring why we’re together in space in the first place], minced
- ¼ [things you learned when you just listened], roughly chopped
- 350 grams of [interrogation of why you are writing for physical bodies]
- ½ cup of [intentionally using the space and time we have together]
- and, finally: sprinkle [a love for people, people and their pain, people and their desire, people and their love, people and their struggle, people and being alive] to taste.
- I mean: why write plays if you don’t like people?
1. Let yourself make a mess.
Especially if you’re baking a cake for the first time, mess is inevitable. But mess is also surprising. Mess can be fun. Mess can make your kitchen look entirely different. Chances are, if you let the play do its thing, it will thrash around the structure you wish it would stay still in. Let it transform (as all cakes do). Let it transform you, too.
2. Listen to the things your characters say, for they will be embodied by real people. Listen to your own heart, for it speaks to you if you take a moment to check in.
It’s important to check in with your characters not as pawns in a plot, but as realized people who are navigating their world as best as they can. It’s even more important to realize this when you take a moment to think about what it means for a real human being to embody the character you’re writing. Regardless of whether they are “human” or not – a human, most likely, will be the one on stage after all. And they will feel what you write.
Also, you’re human too. Is what you’re writing nourishing you?
3. Don’t hold back.
You’re a playwright, not a director. You don’t need to figure out the impossible things. Produce-ability will poison your batter before you’ve even shaped it. Limit yourself only by your imagination, your own personal emotional threshold.
4. If you forget why you’re writing the darn thing, take time to remember.
Go back to the story at the beginning of your recipe. Why did you start writing this in the first place? If it truly is a personal thing to you, spend time with that thing. I’ve mixed my metaphors enough by this point, so I might as well say: think of the personal thing as your starter. No bread comes out delicious without a well-fed starter.
5. You can have your play and eat it too.
Interpret how you will. The only hope I have for you is for the cake to give you joy.
Brian Dang (they/them) is a Vietnamese/Chinese playwright, poet, and mentor based in Duwamish Territory (Seattle). Brian is a proud resident playwright at Parley. For Brian, playwriting is an act of envisioning an eventual communing and an opportunity to freeze time as we know it. Their writing has been workshopped with Seattle Opera, Pork Filled Productions, Karen’s Secret Army, Theatre Battery, and the Undergraduate Theater Society. Brian was a 2020-21 Hugo House Fellow and their play h*llo k*tty syndrome was supported by 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Brian is also an arts administrator, serving as the Literary Manager of Washington Ensemble Theatre. They’re grateful for having somehow convinced the world they can read and write.