Well, howdy ya’ll. I wanted to share with you about my first foray into sharing my script in a public setting. It was quite a few years ago when I first heard about The Dark Room at the Cleveland Public Theater on Detroit & W. 65th. I was attending Tri-C at the time, and I was devouring all the classes they had to offer in the Film making Department. I had a wonderful teacher named Ms. Simone Barros who taught the Screenwriting class. She was very encouraging and her words gave me a sense of confidence that I had never felt before. She had an eye and an ear for what was good and what was crap. She was honest and very patient. I revelled in the realization that she didn’t have to do what she did. She was very successful in her own right. She had written her own plays and saw them come to life on stage, she had written for major television shows, and here she was, in Cleveland, teaching us closeted script writers…Ok, maybe I was the only one who was closeted. I had for so long, poured myself into my writings that it was too personal for me to share. I had heard that I was good, and had a natural comedic way. That was when I got scared. Yeah, hard to believe, right? People that know me have no idea that under this crass, bitchy, and crusty outer shell, that I am a sack of over-emotional puss and guts just waiting to explode at any time. I also have a very bad reaction to public speaking, almost to the point of crippling anxiety. Sure, I’ve been known for my impromptu stand up routines in general, but when it comes to my writing, I am a totally different person. Ok, so I’m babbling here….let me get to the point already…
The Dark Room is held in the old church next to the Cleveland Public Theater every 2nd Tuesday of each month at 7 pm. If your a writer of any kind, you can bring up to 10 pages of your work to be read, publicly, and on stage. Both writers and actors show up about 30 minutes earlier. After handing in your piece, actors are chosen on the spot to act out each of your characters after a short read thru. Then at 7pm, it’s show time. The best thing is that you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you’ll find yourself laughing so hard you fall from your chair, others you may find a tear slipping from the corner of your eye. Either way, it’s a roller coaster that I’m sure everyone would enjoy!
I had planned to submit a script of mine for some time, but it wasn’t until my friend, Valerie really coaxed me into it. It was a full month before the next meeting, so of course I was full of confidence. As the days flew by, I became more and more agitated. So bad were the last few days that I contemplated backing out. I wanted to call her and make an excuse, any excuse not to have to go. Even as I tried to choose between “my car breaking down” or “my cat died”, I went through the routine of making copies of the script. Eight of them. One for each character. Still trying to decide how to break the news to Valerie; by email or by phone, or maybe even text, I went through each copy highlighting each characters dialogue. I tried to remind myself that I was not made of money and that the ink cost me $65. I felt guilty because Valerie lived in Canton, and she probably wouldn’t be too keen on me ditching her after such a long ride. OMG! It became very clear to me, that I had to freaking GO! I didn’t sleep the whole night before. I tossed, I turned, I almost threw up. It was decided that since I will not drink and drive, that I would buy us some non-alcoholic beers, and try to “trick” my body into relaxing before the reading. So, the “Old John” would have been proud that his 46 yr. old wife was in a parking lot on the corner of W.65th and Detroit where we used to buy dope when we were younger, pounding near-beers in her car. I must confess that I did have 1 real beer that night when we got seated in the Church. It was an Edmund Fitzgerald from Great Lakes Brewery. Whew, for a non drinker, that was strong, and very satisfying. I can’t stress the “stong” taste enough.
As the festivities began, it was announced that I would be #4 on the list. I felt the nerves start anew. I almost had a compete panic attack. Not good. I don’t know how the hell I did it, but I was able to head it off. I think it was the belly full of Labatt Blue NA beers…When my opportunity came to stand up and say a few words to describe my work, I let the moment pass. I knew at that moment that I didn’t really have any concrete control over my bladder, so I sat there, motionless but quaking internally. The actors took off like a rocket. My butt cheeks were so clenched up and tight that I don’t think they were even touching my chair. My thighs were on fire and aching. My head was swimming, I was sweating. Oh shit, for a split second, I thought I was peeing my pants. My armpits were leaking and I felt the beers coming up into my throat, hot and foamy. It was swallowing the regurgitated beer that had 100% of my attention until I heard that first laugh from the audience. When that sound reached my ears, I was sure it was my imagination. Were they laughing at me? With me? Then it came again. Valerie turned to me and offered me a big smile. Holy Crap! They were laughing at my writing. She gave me a nod. I still didn’t have the confidence to turn around and watch the audience’s reaction, as Valerie picked us a nice spot right in the FRONT ROW! I didn’t need to see the faces. I heard what I needed to hear. I felt what I needed to feel.
I hear my husband tell me all the time that he thinks I’m good at what I do. Sure, my mother, my son, and my family support me, but I don’t think they’d tell me HONESTLY if they thought I sucked, or heaven forbid, if I really did suck! But, if you can find an audience that is blind to your work and to you, that’s a true reaction, a true gauge of their feelings. They have no commitment to me, no emotional attachments, no strings. It’s just raw instinct on their part.
Oh, in case your wondering, the Dark Room offers Free Beer, yes, you heard that right, it is Free, but donations are accepted. Don’t hog the brews. Man!
For more info on CPT & The Dark Room, check out their website here. CPT Dark Room