BY ISABEL MEHTA
Germantown Friends junior Isabel Mehta continues her blog series about the process behind the 2019 Mouthful Monologue Festival. She is one of 18 winning student writers.
Most of the writing I do, I do alone. Alone in my room, at my desk, sitting in my bed, in the library. Very rarely do I interact with other slightly nerdy, quirky, passionate writers like myself. That is why I loved Dramaturgy Day #1, because every person I met had their own story to tell, a story that was chosen out of hundreds and given a platform to be shared.
By 10 am on the cold Saturday morning of January 26th, 18 playwrights from all over Philadelphia made their way to the PYP Learning Lab.
Some were dressed subtly, rather nondescript, like me. I wore dark blue skinny jeans and a red sweater paired with off-white Vans. One boy had bright red Converse. One girl wore her flaming red hair in pigtails, and another black tights with a short black mini skirt. Before I get to know people, I first notice their physical appearance. So this is what I noticed first, people’s clothes, shoes, and style. Everybody had a different style, a different way of expressing themselves to the world. It made for a dynamic and vibrant room, and I was thrilled.
It is important to note that I am not an outwardly social person. In large groups, I tend to retreat into my shell. So when I first entered the Learning Lab, I felt slightly awkward in my own skin. I think many other people felt that way, too, but luckily Steve and Stephanie—two of the Festival's directors and dramaturgs—had planned a warm-up game for us all. One person in the center of the circle holds an imaginary pie in their hand, and rotates looking for someone to tag with the pie. After calling their chosen victim’s name, the person has approximately one second to duck before they are "pied in the face". If they don’t duck in time, they are the the new person in the center. It got pretty intense. After the game, everyone was louder, looser, more comfortable on their feet, including myself. It was the perfect way to start the day.
After the lively warm-up, we headed to various locations around the PYP building to meet our dramaturgs, directors, actors, and several fellow playwrights. It was during the next few hours when I would meet three other young female playwrights like myself, and hear their work and mine read aloud and give and receive valuable feedback.
This was my favorite part of the day, because I finally got to meet the faces behind the monologues. I loved "Becoming Friends with David Copperfield", and I finally got to meet and chat with the girl who wrote it. Same goes for "What I Wouldn’t Do" and "What You’ve Done". I also heard my piece read aloud for the first time ever, which was powerful as well. I immediately got a sense of what worked, and what needed to be changed. After meeting so many incredible female writers, I left those couple of hours feeling inspired to revise my monologue to its highest potential.
To close the day, everyone returned to the Learning Lab more educated, inspired, and comfortable than they were when entering the space in the morning. No one was nervous and quiet, people were chatting, laughing loudly, snacking on the leftovers from lunch. We completed the day with a simple but powerful reflection activity. Everyone stood in a circle and took one penny from the jar passed around. The empty jar was then placed on the ground in the center of the circle. When moved to do so, one person at a time stepped forward, shared a short, one-sentence reflection about what they’re grateful for, and dropped the penny in the jar. The “ding” of the penny signified another person could step forward to share. This went on until everyone had dropped their penny in the jar. Hearing everyone’s unique reflections was a perfect way to end the day, because it reminded me why we’re all really here. When it comes down to it, we’re all here because we are passionate people. Passionate writers, storytellers, actors, directors, dramaturgs, teachers, artists, or all of the above.
To be able to collaborate, inspire, and share our stories, to me, was what made this day, and what continues to make this process, so wonderful and special.