The Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group is a Primary Stages program that cultivates new work for the stage by bringing together eight emerging to mid-career playwrights annually. Each playwright develops a new full-length play (and in some cases, more) and presents their work at the end of the year in the Fresh Ink reading series. The prolific Adam Szymkowicz has been a member for several years. We invited Adam to share a look into his unique playwriting process.
What Am I Working On Now? or The Confluence and Fluidity of Ideas.
Like many playwrights I am always working on multiple projects. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of ideas of projects I want to do and there is never enough time to do them all. Sometimes when I’m between writing scripts I will make a list of the things I plan to do.
A recent list like this contained 20 play ideas, 15 film ideas, 3 graphic novel ideas, 6 novel ideas and a few other-hard to-classify projects. Sometimes I will combine a couple of these ideas to make something. Sometimes I will have a new take on an old idea that suddenly makes it come into focus. And then sometimes completely new ideas appear and demand to be written.
I finally, recently got out of the I-don’t-know-what-I’m-writing-next place that I hate to be in. Right now I’m turning a play of mine into a screenplay for a director who wants to make it. I’m also writing an outline for another screenplay—something I can’t talk about. And I’m writing a new play in the Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group that is actually the fifth incarnation of an old idea.
The play started out as a ten-minute play I wrote for Ars Nova when I was in their writing group six or seven years ago. I was to write a play with the title Bill Clinton for something we were doing called the Wikipedia plays. What I wrote ended up being a play about love, like a lot of my plays, but it was also about this guy who became suddenly successful when he got some of his notebooks published as a book. Below from the play—
“Recently, by some sort of a cosmic fluke, I made two million dollars. I took a couple of my notebooks and gave them to my friend who was this like assistant editor and he made them into an anti novel slacker manifesto called “Runk.” It’s not even a real word. A lot of it was doodles I did when I was supposed to be filing at various temp jobs I held. It sort of has a narrative and it sort of doesn’t. It’s funny in parts. There’s some poetry and some string and some photos of my childhood dog. One page is a coffee stain. My “book” was hailed as a work of unadulterated genius by some and a waste of time and trees by others.”
I have 5,000 words I wrote when I was thinking maybe I should actually write this “Runk” book, perhaps without the string. I also have 7,000 words of a novel based on this idea but instead about the visual art world. I still may do something with them someday, when there’s time. Or maybe part one is the novel about the art world that mentions the book and part two is the book the character wrote and part three is the play that character wrote. Or not.
In any case, the second play incarnation of this idea was when I combined it with another idea, another love story about a guy who is a terrible romantic in love with a girl who is romantically entangled with another girl. There is a stabbing in the first scene. It’s a messy theatrical, violent but humorous thing. We did it late night at the Flea Theater in their late night Flea thing.
Now I have a new incarnation in which I added a new character, a sort of modern day female Ezra Pound, who habitually throws typewriters out her window and who has brought the other two characters to live with her in a sort of artist retreat housing situation. There is a kidnapping and messy love and violence and 20-somethings learning how to be people. Oh and there are like 15 interns in it. One of the characters has a lot of interns. I think it will be fun to write. I’m building the bones of it and bringing it into the group. Hopefully this will be the play I’ll have read in June. Right now there are only 15 or so pages. But deadlines always help.
– Adam Szymkowicz
Want to see the final results of Adam’s most recent work? Get the most up-to-date information regarding the Writers Group, the Fresh Ink reading series and other unique events by joining our mailing list! (Also check out Adam’s awesome blog, which features interviews with over 600 playwrights!)