At last year’s holiday party, I was amazed by the high spirits of my fellow dramatists. I had expected a rather desolate celebration because of how COVID had taken its toll on theatre. Submission opportunities, live readings, and in-person productions had dried up as the Delta variant surged, and we were now reckoning with the Omicron variant. How were these dramatists staying so optimistic? I decided to find out, so I asked them the following questions: “How have you continued to be a dramatist during the time of COVID? Has COVID changed your work in any way?” Here’s what I learned.
G.M. Lupo: I continue to develop stories that I can convert into scripts and have created some plays out of several stories. I had planned to get more involved with local theatre groups and the pandemic shut everything down, preventing that. I’m attending plays again but wary about engaging further.
Peter Hardy: I have continued to write during the time of COVID—I actually wrote more. Mostly screenplays (something new to me), but I’ve also begun a new play. I don’t know that COVID has changed my work, except that having more time to focus on writing has made it only more clear how important the writing process is to me. So, I have become more disciplined and more ambitious.
Amanda Vick: COVID has stopped me from doing anything but laying on the couch. Before I had COVID, I was writing often and was more productive.
Pamela Turner: I participated in a small and select writers’ group that met every week (with just a few exceptions) from late 2019 to the present. The commitment of the members to writing and the depth of feedback kept me going forward. I expanded on participation in workshops since I could access these events remotely and got to meet people who wouldn’t have crossed my path. I began a process of self-evaluation regarding my writing process and style and simultaneously began a “self-education,” trying out prompts and experiments from other artists to push myself into new territory. In some ways, my work hasn’t changed drastically because my writing time has been dominated since late 2019 by a commission for adapting an award-winning novel to a stage play with considerable original music. This means that I am working closely with a (wonderful) composer and need to respond often to collaborative shifts and changes even though my approach to the book has been the central engine for this project. One aspect of working closely that has changed a bit for the positive is that our Zoom work sessions are more concentrated, intimate, and extended. On the more difficult side, there are many stakeholders in the project, so the material and the expectations, though already elevated from the start, are even more so through a sort of “plague” urgency. Perhaps the way that COVID has changed our work the most (other than its persistent shift from “hurry up” to “wait until”) is through constant interruptions. We’ve had to change our ways of meeting and doing invited readings, but there are also interruptions during our work and presentation sessions while participants talk about their current state of being. Finally, with the forced times of sheltering by myself at home, I expected to have more time and mental space to write. The opposite has happened because my day job took more effort to work online and because the emotional toll of that sequestering took up a great deal of my energy and imaginative capital.
Overall, the consensus is that COVID has given us more time to write, even though we face physical and mental health as well as technological challenges. Perhaps this difficult time will be remembered as an era when our writing was reinvigorated and our purpose renewed.