Interview with Derick Edgren

How would you define “drama” as a category in creative writing?

First answer: A series of births and deaths. Small ones, mostly.

Second answer: Fun!

What drew you to playwriting? What do you think makes it unique from other genres?

My mother took me to Borders. We sat with stacks of books and magazines. She never read any for long before turning to me to recite something she liked. I didn’t know it then, but she was priming me to treat words on a page as things to which we must give voice and share. To read aloud as we do in the theater. To be wary of too much silence or solitude.

In my mind, there are no hard lines between any genres of writing, but I will say this: I find playwriting to be the form freest of self. In nonfiction, the author is right there, which sounds like a lot of pressure. In fiction, especially when written in third person, the author is also right there, even when pretending not to be. Poetry is certainly more concerned with voice, but most poems limit themselves to one at a time, that of the author-speaker, who is then still kind of right there.

Where is the author of a play? Maybe in the stage directions, maybe everywhere at once. Which is very fun.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about playwriting or the drama genre in general?

That writing plays is not fun. It is fun! And easier than most people think. It is so much easier than you think to make a play. If you can forget red velvet seats, if you can forget act curtains, if you can forget expensive lights and sound and venues, then you can make a play. Some of the most memorable pieces of theater I have seen have taken place in apartments, basements, and classrooms. With scripts in hand. Without costumes. Et cetera. (I hated hearing this in college, by the way.) So if you are curious about going to or writing for the theater, let the spaces available to you inform your making. Write a play for your friends to perform in your living room. Write a play for your community to perform at the park. It’s not all that different than other kinds of writing, except that you are making people read the words aloud. Theater happens everywhere. Don’t discount the tiny or alternative venues. Big Theater cannot stop you from playing and making up stories with your friends. It gets all its good ideas from you anyway.

How does stage production and the presence of an audience affect your writing process?

People are far less inclined to walk out of a live and in-person performance than to put down a book or turn off the television. Doesn’t mean they won’t. There is always a threshold, but it is much higher in the theater, and I’ll say I’m grateful for that.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in playwriting or just beginning the genre?

Do it! Write a play! Just not the play. Please do not try to write the play. Trying to write the play will prove disastrous. It will paralyze you. You’ll begin to tell people you have made-up diseases like “writer’s block.” Forget about the play. You’ll never write the play. No one will. You will write a play. Let that be enough. Let it be fun.

Feel free to use this part to put anything else you would like to add!

This was fun.

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