I'm 26. I live in Chicago. I have a dumb day job. I improvise and act and write to feed my soul, with the dream that it will also one day feed my belly. I sometimes write plays for a small, storefront theater on the North Side called The Cornservatory. They're like family.
When I write for Corn, there is always a moment when I become convinced that I've fooled the company into thinking that my play warrants a production. That my story is universal. That people give two tenths of a crap about the words I pushed together, then pulled apart, then pushed back together in round-the-clock coffee shops and diners. And I want to say, “WAIT! NO! STOP! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? I AM A FRAUD AND AN IDIOT!” This is also how I feel when I convince men to date me.
Every opening I stand at the back trying not to throw up, staring at patrons, willing them to laugh and cry when I want them to, and to please, please love me and think I'm relevant.
When I got a message that there was some interest in publishing my recent play from Playscripts, my heart jumped out of my body through my face.
I e-mailed my mom.
“Mom! A publisher from NEW YORK wants to read MY play!”
I e-mailed Steve.
“Steve! A Publisher from NEW YORK wants to read MY play!!”
I e-mailed the girl who sits next to me.
“MEGAN!!! A publisher from *****NEWYORK***** wants to read MY PLAY!”
“Who is this?”
“I sit next to you?”
“Wrong Megan. I'm in accounting”
I sent, and this is a rough estimate, 47,000 e-mails that morning. The morning I found out that an actual, legitimate publisher from the single most legitimate city on the planet wanted to read a thing I wrote.
I was floored. I spent several days looking for typos, and removing the little personal notes I'd written in for my director/best friend, Anneliese Toft. It was her brilliant direction, and the massive talent of the cast, that made my play a hit in Chicago and why this amazing opportunity skipped into my life.
I drafted my e-mail. I attached my play. I stared. I got up and went to the kitchen and heated up some taquitos. I returned to the computer. I stared more. Fingers trembling on my trackpad, I tentatively pushed the cursor toward that daunting “send” button. When did this button become so scary? Was it always like this?
I finished my taquitos. I hit the button. I said, out loud, “No turning back.” I heated up some more taquitos to deal with the instant panic/anxiety/excitement/thrill/terror/glee I felt.
Some time passed and then it happened. They liked it. They liked my play. They want to publish it, if I'm interested. If I'm interested. Something about the gift of choice when receiving an amazing, life-affirming, life-altering offer makes you feel --I don't know-- f**king awesome. I sent 47,000 more e-mails, including another apology e-mail to Megan from accounting. Then I sent the one that mattered. The one that was, “YES, OF COURSE, OH MY GOD, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, HOLY CRAP,” only, you know, worded a little differently.
You want to be cool. You want to be like, “Yes. Of course. This is appropriate because I'm a talented writer with an important message. It was only a matter of time.” But you're not like that. Maybe YOU are. But I wasn't. I couldn't be cool or nonchalant.
I couldn't believe it. How is this my life? How did I get the thing I wanted? The happiest tears streamed down my face as I realized I achieved a dream. I'm a Playwright. I'm a published playwright. I can say that I am the same thing as Caryl Churchill and Martin McDonagh and William Shakespeare. We could eat buffet food together at Playwright conventions. Do they have those? They should.
I am green as can be. I'm in no position to broadcast advice or claim to have wisdom. I can't say how you should do it, because I don't know how I did. It just sort of happened. I think art is the best thing humans are capable of creating and we should create it always and for any audience or no audience or just your parents or Megan in accounting.
When you get the opportunity to reach new audiences, it's a gift. A gift by which I am humbled and for which I am grateful.
The gratitude I feel for the Chicago theatre community, for the Chicago comedy community, for the audience, for the cast, for my parents, for Anneliese, for Corn Productions, and for Playscripts-- it's more than I can quantify or ever adequately express.
Julia Weiss is a 2007 graduate of the Indiana University Theatre and Drama program, where she studied playwriting under the mentorship of Dennis Reardon and Paul Shoulberg. As a junior, her one-act play Mr. Postman was honored by the Indiana University Theatre Circle and was later produced by The Bloomington Playwright's Project. Ms. Weiss's written work has also been seen on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and at The Paper Machete, a weekly live magazine. Ms. Weiss studied improvisational comedy at the world-famous iO Theatre, where she currently performs. We are proud to announce that her latest play Tammy: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex will be published by Playscripts.