Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Congratulations Michael Gellman!

Posted By Dan Kitrosser, Playwright and Writopia Lab Teacher

Congratulations Michael Gellman, 14, for winning the middle school division of the Young Playwrights Inc. Write a Play NYC festival this year, with his play Intersection! Intersection is a funny and surprising story seen in real time at a bus stop, where two random strangers find out that they have more in common than anyone would expect. Michael spent six weeks conceiving, writing and rewriting this piece--his very first play--at a playwriting workshop in March and April with five of his peers. Congratulations to each of the amazing, award-winning writers in the group--Emma, Leanna, Rafi, Lily, and Michael--for taking on this new, intimidating literary challenge.

Playwright Moss Hart once wrote “The four most terrifying words for a playwright are: act one scene one.” Starting a play is thrilling, scary process—you drop yourself in the middle of a new world and all you can do is sit and listen to you characters talk to one another. It’s a form dominated by dialogue, stories presented by what people say and sometimes what they don’t say. For some of us introverted writerly types, working on a piece that--due to its form--demands that people express themselves in their speech, can seem daunting. In contrast, one of the great things about prose or poetry is that there is a quiet, intimate relationship between one reader and one writer. For plays, not only are the playwrights' words intercepted by a cast of actors before they hit the audience, but to top that off, an audience for a single performance can be ten, a hundred, sometimes over a thousand people.

Plays are not intimate in their nature—yes, they can be small, and yes, they can be personal—but when all is said and done, they are meant to be performed in buildings in midtown.

So what kind of person wants to go through the arduous task of writing something that has to be personal, honest, meaningful, all of those things Rebecca eeks out from writers in her memoir classes, and then have them displayed by other people on a stage in front of a group of pretentious strangers?

Well, we’re a peculiar bunch, us playwrights. We crave both the solace of the writing room and the spotlight of the theatre. We explore the depths of the human condition inside our heads and then ask underpayed actors to speak our brilliant lines. We play each character in our mind as we write them, yet play none of them on opening night. We’re extroverted introverts and introverted extroverts.

I love LOVE writing plays. I love hearing actors say, “Dan, this is a hard monologue.” I love watching actors and audience members alike not only witness the written journey of my play, but actually take part in it themselves. I love how alive theatre is—and how no matter if I’m acting in, writing or even watching a play, I am forced to take part in the process.

Plays are the most immediate form of writing. They happen now, in front of you. The actors breath the same air as the audience. When a play works, as in the case of plays by William Shakespeare or Michael Gellman, it’s just thrilling. Writing a play, being a part of that wild beast called the theatre, pushes you to explore both the extrovert and the introvert inside you which is one of the most exciting, vital, electrifying experiences in the world.

Congratulations to Michael for taking on this experience in full! I am excited to hear an excerpt of his play, Intersection, read by professional actors at Hunter University next week at the awards ceremony. And I am looking forward to working with more Writopia writers this summer and in the fall.



Yael Wiesenfeld said...

I am not surprised in the slightest- when I took home the anthology from the Bryant Park reading, I immediatly noticed Micheal's play. It really is a great work. Congratulations!

Lily said...

Congrats Michael! Playwriting, to my small experience, is very hard and it is amazing that you won. I really enjoyed workshopping with you in the Lab and at home. =)

Dan points out something very interesting--it is possible to be an "introverted extrovert and an extroverted introvert." Michael is a great writer, and also a great actor so maybe he is both introverted and extroverted as Dan described.

One other different aspect of playwriting that could be noted is that all of the description must be conveyed through dialogue if the writer wants it to be heard rather than seen. As someone who loves detailed description of places and ideas down in many words, I found this difficult to cope with.

I love how Michael dealt with these challenges with his fresh dialogue and cool ideas, and can't wait to see his next play.

Michael G. said...

I want to thank Dan Kitrosser for everything he has done in order to conceive this play. Yes, conceive in the sense of giving birth, because I really believe that it grew inside of me, no matter for only six weeks and not nine months. This play, my first piece in this genre, truly evolved, starting as a seed, and eventually blossoming into something far greater than I ever hoped or expected. When I had my doubts, Dan was always there to reassure me (and my characters) that we were okay. I owe it all to him and his expert critiques and insights and I am so glad to have participated in a playwriting workshop. I highly recommend it to all, even the ones that don't think playwriting is for them (I'm talking to you Leanna Smith!) Thanks Dan, and to the rest: I'm glad you like it and thanks for giving me feedback!

Emma said...

Congratulations Michael!!!!!!!! i agree with Yael-- I'm totally not surprised. Your play is so original and fun to read. It's really just a fantastic piece.
Dan said "The four most terrifying words for a playwright are: act one, scene one". I agree from first hand experience as I started a million different plays which I threw out after the first sentence :-). So I think its especially incredible that this is Michael's first play! Lily's play, too, was phenomenal and I just want to say that it was very brave of you two to face the challenge of "act one, scene one".
As one who loves watching plays though not so much writing plays I found this piece very interesting because it gave me the perspective of a playwright or an "introverted extrovert". any way sorry this comment has been so long-- it was pretty scary trying to match Michael, Lily, and Yael's long deep comments :-). Congratualtions Michael!!!!!!!!!

Pema said...

:) For writing a whole play itself deserves congratulations, and writing a worthy one is even better!

I've written a short play before, but I think stories and poems are more my thing. Which means I've got even more serious respect for playwrights - especially skilled ones!