The Brelby Theatre Company is proud to kick off it’s Ninth Season with The Night of Shorts. An evening filled with short plays created by Brelby Artists who were given the prompt of “imagine,” “create,” or “inspire” to write their shows. We at the Brelby Buzz are very excited to give you this sneak peak into each of their shows through our This Artist Writes… series! From the amazingly inventive mind of Brelby Collaborative Artist, Ilana Lydia, we present Imagine, a creative sci-fi piece that tackles a lot of interesting issues in it’s short life.
Why I wrote Imagine
By Ilana Lydia
I set out to write the following: a science fiction story with four characters or less, a metatheatrical piece, and something that might get a genuine laugh. I attacked the list in that order. Shelby had given me the word “Imagine” as a starting point, so I used it as the title. I then stared at the heading for the characters until I came up with two science-fictiony ones, Charlie the Bug-eyed Monster and Pete the Bug-eyed Monster. I thought I’d come back and change it later, but the lightness of the aliens had the right feel for the piece. This was one of those plays where the characters developed before the words. I wrote down Little Girl and Little Girl’s Reflection without knowing who they were or how they were related to the Bug-eyeds, but the story fell right into place after that.
I’ve always wanted to tell a story about bug-eyed monsters. I loved Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Star Trek: the Next Generation from a young age, and many of the aliens in these series were of the “bug-eyed” variety, literally or figuratively. In general, they’re presented as scary or evil races, but I wanted something different. I didn’t want my characters to be the inside of a Dalek, I wanted them to be the heroes . . . at least until they were forcibly evicted from that role.
The play shows how two teenage-like creators would handle a sentient life form becoming self-aware, in this case, the sentient life form being a little girl. She’s a normal human child who gets left with the power on when the monsters go out to play. When they return, she’s evolved considerably. I was delighted to have a vehicle for developing a complex female character in such a short space of time. Someone who has endured eons of being put on hold would naturally become brilliant, or else, mad. I took as an inspiration the historical figure of Cleopatra, who had taught herself 37 languages in her free time from ruling the most sophisticated culture of her era. I wanted Little Girl’s Reflection to be quite formidable.
The very end of the play is where I delved into metatheater. I turned Little Girl’s Reflection into an authority on our world, the surroundings of the theater and stage. Even though the bug-eyed monster created her, only she can see into the audience and has reached true awareness. There are several themes that emerged while writing. My favorite is the male gaze vs. the female experience. The gender breakdown of the show is the two bug-eyed monsters are male, while the two humans (or the human and the superhuman, as it were) are female. I wanted to have a scenario where the power of the male gaze was turned on its head, and the female experience included self-empowerment. On one level, this is a good old fashioned tale of revenge, but I make sure not to end the narrative on that note.
I was inspired to create this piece from Brelby’s Write Club, which is a free writing group that meets once a month and reads and discusses each attendee’s work. I’ve belonged to a number of writing groups, and have generally found them frustrating or even stymieing to my process. Write Club is comprised of many different viewpoints, but all of them are supportive and the facilitator keeps the discussion relevant and quick-paced. For any aspiring playwrights out there, I would extend a personal invitation to go to the Brelby Facebook page and find when the next meeting is, then write a short (or bring a section of your longer work) and come have it read. We meet at Shot of Java on the last Saturday of the month (typically, see schedule) from noon to three, and it’s a lot of fun.
My favorite thing about writing shorts is you have the freedom to get in and get out. You don’t have to over-develop a scenario that doesn’t call for the extra time, and you are encouraged to make bold and unexpected choices. Why not? If it flops, at least it’s over quick. And if it flies, well, you have something to put into The Night of Shorts.
Our thanks to Ilana for sharing her inspiration for this show and passion for writing new works! Write Club will be back with an all new year starting in January; if you’re inspired by the words of these playwrights and want to check it out visit brelby.com/learn for more information. We look forward to seeing this and all the other new works presented at this amazing night of theatre. Tickets are available now for this limited run and check back to the Brelby Buzz for more behind the scenes features on all the other short plays you will see at The Night of Shorts!