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I really appreciate Playscripts and their work toward creating better theater and theater experiences for all. Jay Muldoon Theater Teacher, Fairfield, OH
General Information
Fear and Loathing

Fear leads to Hate.
Hate leads to Anger.
Anger leads to Writing Plays.

At first I wasn’t going to write about zombies. Zombies always seemed a bit, well, mindless, and I usually pride myself on writing intelligent comedy. (Usually.) And I had already tackled something like zombies in The Craving (which I will discuss later). So when a teacher wrote on my facebook page “If you wrote a comedy about the zombie apocalypse I would die of happiness,” I was inclined to let her continue her life and chalk up the fact that I had not written a zombie apocalypse comedy to one of life’s many disappointments.

But then I saw this:  “Homeland security grants went to zombie invasion preparedness”

And then I got mad.

And then I could write the play.

Now it’s not as if my zombie play 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse is solely about the government’s wasteful expenditure on makeup (and it probably wasn’t that much money anyway), but the point is that comedy, particularly satire, works best when you’re good and angry. I’ve often heard that advice that you should write about “what makes you laugh or cry”, but I’ll also add that you can write about what makes you see red.

Another example. I recently did a talkback after a performance of one of newest plays, The Election. An audience member asked me what caused me to write the play. My answer? “Rage.” Who was I mad at? Let’s see: 1. Republicans. 2. Democrats. 3. Voters. 4. The Media. You know, basically everybody involved. And instead of simply stewing about that, it was not only cathartic, but it was honestly a joy to vent my spleen on the page instead of yelling at the television like normal. By creating a situation which allowed me to hold a mirror up to our behavior and point out its absurdities, I was able to not only write a play that was really funny and worked well, but it was a play that was saying something about our electoral system.

And yet another great thing about a play is that you can tackle all sides of the issue at once. So even though I was angry with the campaign financing system, the play isn’t all about that, and even though I was angry about media manipulation and sensationalism, it wasn’t all about that either. It was about all of those things.

Rage is a good emotion to write a play with, because it gets you up, gets you to the computer, and keeps kicking you in the backside until you finish. It’s a lot easier to write a play angry than to write a play while in love. Another good emotion to write a play from? Fear.

I wrote The Craving when I was in negotiations with a Hollywood Production company about one of my screenplays. Talking to actual movie people in Hollywood is something like finding yourself on the moon, looking around at how amazing everything is, and then actually realizing you forgot your spacesuit back on Earth. You’re probably going to implode in short order.

In order to deal with my unquenchable terror that my movie would be stolen, lobotomized, and I would essentially be left homeless and destitute, I wrote The Craving, which is about a screenwriter (me) who gets his love story taken and transformed into a zombie slasher flick. (See? The zombies were there for me all along!) In this case, I was taking my fear about how things would turn out and writing out a worst-case scenario. In some ways this was therapy. Things couldn’t possibly get this bad, could they? (They didn’t.)

I’ve only been using comedy and satire as examples here, but this works just as well for drama. David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the Pulitzer-winning Rabbit Hole about the thing he feared the most in the world – losing a child.

So if you’re out there trying to figure out what to write a play about, access your ugliest, most primal emotions. What terrifies you? What enrages you? What would cause you to go out into the street, pull up a chunk of concrete and toss it? If there’s something there that won’t let you sleep, you’ve got the genesis for a good idea.

Don Zolidis 

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One response to “Fear and Loathing”

  1. Jewel says:

    The school Hope Academy NorthWest would love to use your play for our student drama club.

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