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(Almost) Ten Years Gone: Telling Time and Stories

Playwrights’ Corner
Andrea Hiebler

If your family is anything like mine, when the wine starts flowing at the holiday dinner table, so does the storytelling.  We inevitably take trips back down the well-worn paths of memory lane and recount emblematic tales about our shared history and each individual’s place in the narrative.  Just as predictably, we end up trying to piece things together and collectively recreate a timeline based on the details of those stories.  I am terrible with years themselves and annually occurring events begin to blur, so I provide much corroboration along the lines of, “Oh, that was the Labor Day you got angry at me on vacation which was when Princess Diana died so we were definitely teenagers” or “I was in college when we had those season tickets to the Islanders and I had stupidly just started smoking so it must have been 2002 or something” or “Weren’t you still dating that guy that Thanksgiving?” or  “That was the Christmas I got my Casio keyboard which was after the basement was finished but before our parents bought the Dodge Caravan.”

This grand, tipsy tradition of an investigative journey through the past, sorting out who we were with when, what we were doing, where and why, becomes a bonding activity that reinforces and calls into question our perspectives and collective identity.  It’s not just shoddy, amateur detective work, but an act of meaning making.  A ritual which is the stuff of theater. 

And this process is exactly how I find myself approaching the experiences that have formed my near-decade at The Lark, which has become an inextricable part of my life.  Time is marked by when I was an intern, part time or full time.  Who else was on staff.  What office space we were in.  Who the PoNY Fellow was that year.  What play received a BareBones.  Where we held Celebración for the Mexico exchange.  What the lineup was for Playwrights’ Week.  Which local bar we were frequenting after events.  Who went on the summer retreat up at Vassar.  What the theme was for the end of year party.  Time is marked by remarking on how it is even possible that ten years have gone by so quickly. 

As is the case with the construction of any story, tracing those fragments is not only an archival exercise of sorting out facts and figures.  The convergence creates connective tissue and scaffolding for the various plot threads and characters.  My relationship from within The Lark to the shifting roles of people and places has shaped my perspective and in turn that perspective has created one version of a Lark story among a host of distinct storylines.  The way that experiences give rise to a particular perception mirrors the process by which a playwright uses an idiosyncratic view of the world to write a play about a self-created world.

When the imagined worlds take on a life of their own, when one person advocates for a play, or a group of people discuss its finer points, or an entire community or society embraces it, that impact on individual hearts and minds can absolutely influence this ongoing yarn of reality that we all have a hand in spinning.  And that’s because the two worlds are very much dependent on each other.  I’ve observed time and again at The Lark how playwrights are in constant dialogue with the stories they are working so hard to tell because a play isn’t written in a vacuum, but in various head spaces and shared spaces that are being played upon even as the play finds its footing and plays itself out. 

At any given moment, a play is in the precarious position of formation somewhere between where it started and where it could end up.  A seemingly upending insight could be pursued and turn out to be a dead end, or a small adjustment might break the process wide open.  In their chosen form, playwrights are communicating a singular vision as they simultaneously construct worlds that are meant to be collaborated on and interpreted by a team and eventually shared with ever-widening audiences.  The writing and developing of a play requires an incredible amount of synthesizing and exploration on the part of the playwright.  This process of inventing and revising while at the center of multiple moving parts as they continue to forge ahead is the stuff of living in the world as we figure out who we are and where we fit.  The idea of plays or people forever being a work in progress can be both terrifying and hopeful, which is to say, utterly human.  More often than not, I find the prospect optimistic.  If in reflecting back we make use of stories to tell time, it excites me to think that we can look forward and use stories to shape the times.  

So, playwrights, please keep the stories flowing.  And the wine.  Always the wine.

Andrea Hiebler is the Director of Scouting & Submissions here at The Lark.  Click Here to check out her bio!