Okay, okay, we just couldn't resist! This is what happens when you've been honored with an abundance of talented writers, and we couldn't be more thrilled. We're very pleased to share these lovely words from featured playwright James Still, whose beautiful play was developed at the 2018 Conference. Enjoy!
I had the good/great fortune to be the Featured Playwright with the 2018 Seven Devils Playwrights conference… I had been to Idaho but never to McCall, didn’t know what to expect. But one thing I knew for sure: I arrived with gratitude because any and every chance to spend time on a new play of mine is a gift I never take for granted. This writer’s life is an intense mix of absolute solitude and privacy that gradually/suddenly becomes very public. I write plays to eventually be shared with audiences, and Seven Devils gave me yet another opportunity to do exactly that. For sure it’s a vulnerable and thrilling moment in this writer’s life. So WHO and WHERE I do that with is something I try to be thoughtful about because it matters, the experience lingers, it leaves fingerprints on the play.
When I was in McCall for those two beautiful weeks in June, I had the genuine pleasure of being the houseguests of Bev and Charlie Nightengale. Their home is beautiful — but it was their welcoming spirits that made the deepest impression on me. Why is that important? Before the pandemic I was working as a theater-maker on the road about 200 days/nights a year — so feeling comfortable and welcomed is a big deal to me! I could go on and on about my gratitude to the director and dramaturg and actors and Jeni and Paula and the Seven Devils staff that made every day happen when I was there… I could also express my gratitude and wonder at spending time with my play in the Alpine Playhouse which was originally a church. For me, church is theater and theater is church — so that was wonderful too. But I want to share something a little different here. My first night staying at Bev and Charlie’s place, I wandered into their backyard which looks out over a beautiful lake framed by an unbelievable sky. And here I am — this urban guy (with small-town roots) trying to figure out where I was and how the hell I got there. I was awe-struck by the beauty, by this backdrop that would be my home for two weeks. I could feel myself breathing more deeply, making more space for the experience I was about to have with my new play. More gratitude. And then I look up — and I realize I’m not alone. 30 feet away I see a deer. It looks right at me. I’m probably holding my breath. I think I blinked to make sure it was real. I snapped a photo for proof. And then this happened.
And then the deer went on with its dinner. “Only if you listen…” — that phrase was part of the mixed-tape that became my soundtrack during my two weeks at McCall. I did a lot of listening. I listened to my play and I’m grateful for that. I also listened to people in town, I absorbed images and stories that whistled through the giant trees, I listened to the plays by my fellow writers, and I finally got to listen to my own play with an audience.
New plays can take their time revealing themselves, it’s an unfolding that is almost always surprising. I’m grateful to Seven Devils and my time in McCall for the chance to listen. For this writer, every day is a story, every moment is a moment. And every ending is another beginning. But only if you listen. And so it is with new plays. It’s all there — but only if you listen.
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