Change is difficult for everyone. Let’s start there.
A few years ago I was going through a lot of change: friend groups were changing, my love life was evolving, I was finding out who I was as a person, and I was doing my best to adjust to everything life threw at me. And like any artist, I turned to my art to help cope. I had never written a play before, but I was willing to give it a shot, especially since my entire life had revolved around theater.
The play was untitled for a while. But then as I wrote it – which was more like throw-up on a page than a script – I referenced Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble a lot, and figured that’d be an okay title until I found something more permanent.
The characters and themes in this first draft were horrendous. There were way too many swears. All the characters were two-dimensional. There were a lot of ideas I was trying to fit into what was a fifty page script, and that just couldn’t happen without having absolutely no justification. But hey, it was a cathartic outlet, so naturally it was going to be a mess.
Then I asked myself, “Could this be performed?”
The answer: Not even close.
That’s when I began to revise Don’t Let Me Go. Edit after edit. Cut this. Cut that. Rework. Add this. Rework. Cut that. Add this. Getting colleague after colleague to read it and give me feedback until I had my first reading of the play with a bunch of friends. This was the moment that I knew I wanted to continue working on Don’t Let Me Go and that it wasn’t just a project I left in a folder on my laptop. I had people around me who were excited that I wrote an hour-long one act play. I knew I needed to keep going.
After about a dozen drafts, I knew it was time to workshop my show. I found a bunch of friends who were willing to act and could help me pick out its flaws in three months’ worth of rehearsals. We had a showing at the end of the summer so we could show off the work we had done, but also so I could get feedback from an audience.
The next few months afterward, I continued to do readings and revisions until I had a script and plot I was content with. Now we are here, August of 2016. I had auditions in May, where about two dozen people auditioned, and have since worked with an amazing cast and crew of incredibly hard-working, passionate people. This whole experience has been overwhelming.
While to non-theatergoers it just seems like I wrote a silly script and got people to perform it, there is so much more that goes into a show.
I wrote twenty-three drafts of Don’t Let Me Go. The play is now two acts and runs two hours. I had to hold auditions. I had to cast actors. We rehearsed three times a week for three months while we all held jobs, other commitments, and balanced a social life. We had to sew and buy costumes. We had to purchase and build the set. We had to find or make props. We had to create sound effects. Overall, nearly $700 was spent bringing this show to life. And that’s a low-budget show.
Now Don’t Let Me Go – my child for the past three years of my life – is finally being presented to an audience in a form I am happy with. Proud even. The characters have been fleshed out a lot more than before. The themes are more focused and topical. The dialogue and vernacular has certainly been improved. And it’s been exceedingly inspiring to have so many people around me who believe in me and my work. I hope that, like the characters in the play, we can all realize that we are deserving of love. Flaws and all.
“Don’t Let Me Go,” written and produced by Brookdale theater student Matthew Yee, will open on Aug. 19 at Project REAL in Asbury Park, 805 4th Ave. Performances will be held at 8 p.m. on Aug. 19 and 20. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. Click here for more details.
– article by Matt Yee
Student Voices is a regular Newsroom column written exclusively by Brookdale students. If you would like to contribute a column about college life, campus events or any Brookdale-related topic, email the office of College Relations.