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Monday, June 27, 2011

Aspiring meets Inspiring

*This post was written by Guest Blogger and play. Discovery (Jick and Dane and Love) playwright MJ Halberstadt*

One time on Arlington Street, I fell in love with a bench. Its slender and curvy frame was carved carefully out of a beautiful and light-colored wood. The back of the bench wound itself in a letter ‘s’ suspended above the seats, forcing two sitters to be faced away from one another. The model was labeled ‘Alienation Bench’ and was displayed prominently in the window of Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers.

This was not a rare outburst of objectophilia, it was the common occurrence of inspiration which will make anyone who knows me roll their eyes. The most seemingly random every-day things inspire me to jot a note in a pocket-sized book that prompts a play later on. Usually the play has nothing to do with the source material and in the case of the alienation bench, the play (His Husband and Her Wife) ended up being about two people whose outlooks on life mimic the position of sitters on said bench: failing to engage in friendship despite being in very similar places and looking for relief from outside.

My antennas for inspiring gems became alarmingly sensitive during my 365 Plays in 365 Days project, itself a product of having been inspired by Suzan-Lori Parks similar exercise. This is where Jick and Dane and Love comes from, which I wrote shortly after listening to Meg Wolitzer’s story “First Love, Long Island” on the Moth Podcast. Wolitzer speaks of her own evolving idea of intimate relations as she matured, a similar journey Jick experiences during the play, antagonized by her friend Dane’s alternate idea of ‘maturity’. If you’re interested, Sufjan Stevens’ song “The Owl and the Tanager” came up on iTunes DJ partway through my writing the final scene, and I credit it as being like a cold shower after dirty thoughts.

There really is no way to pin down what strikes one’s fancy, and I’d love to be able to shut it off so I could sleep rather than feel obliged to write after such mundane experiences as staring at someone’s shoes in a waiting room or burning rice or being served by a disgruntled employee at Panera. I suppose it is equal parts curse and blessing and sometimes pays off in funny ways. For example, Joseph Stollenwerk, a salesman from Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, loved the play about the bench.

*** MJ Halberstadt is Playwright-in-Residence at FV Productions and working towards his MFA in Playwriting at Boston University. He graduated Emerson College in 2010 (BA Theatre Education) where he produced his plays Asymmetry and Lethologica (EVVY Award) and served as Historian for RareWorks Theatre Company. As Literary Intern for Holland Productions and Artistic Director of The Bantamweight Plays(RareWorks Theatre) and 24/24 (Umbrella Theatre Company), he has helped produce and select for several new play series. Jick and Dane and Love comes from Halberstadt's 365 Plays in 365 Days project which contains plays that have been developed, produced and read by STAB, Happy Medium Theatre, Emerson College, Umbrella Theatre Company and Camp Stanley, among others. Many thanks to the production team, CoLab Theatre, Brian and Nicholas.

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