November 2019 Blogathon: Maxwell Plata

It is Brelby tradition to dedicate the month of November to giving a platform for our artists to share their stories. This month our annual Blogathon theme returns to its roots with a visit back to the topic of “My Brelby Story.” We’ve grown a great deal over the past few years, and many of our original bloggers have moved on to new careers, new lives, new challenges, and new cities. Enjoy this year’s series with 30 Days of Blogs.

When you’re 17 years old, the world seems so much bigger than it actually is. It’s scary. It’s actively working against you. 

That’s the mindset I had when, as a high school senior, I met Shelby for the first time. A short play I had written, titled Grace, was selected for a workshop at the Arizona Thespian Festival as part of its Playworks program. Shelby was chosen to direct my piece. It was incredibly dear to me – Grace told an abridged version of a transgender boy coming out to his mom. Given my script’s personal nature, I was a bundle of nerves at the first reading. How could I trust anyone to love my word-baby, let alone produce it with 4 teenage actors?

As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. Shelby was the perfect fit for the job and calmed my anxious 17-year-old heart immediately. I trusted her, because she saw me, in all my awkward, underdeveloped, unwieldy potential and called me an artist. She was committed to making our collaboration a genuine, inspired experience. And at some point, we got to talking, and she told me about Brelby, and offered to plug me into her family of artists. How could I say no? 

I signed on to be the Assistant Stage Manager for Heathers the Musical in 2018. Little did I know, I would get promoted to Stage Manager soon after the process began – it was another one of those “the world is big and scary and difficult” moments. But Shelby and all the wonderful people at Brelby – Brian, the designers, all of the actors, all of the company members – had my back. They made my world less vast and unaccommodating and coached me through the process that I consider the biggest learning experience of my theatre career so far. I learned more in a single six-week rehearsal process than I had in four years of educational theatre. And besides all the paperwork, and the cue-calling, and the “thank you ten!” I learned that I had a real place at Brelby, a place at which I could grow as an artist and storyteller. 

It was my first semester of college when I decided to reconnect with Brelby and apply to stage manage the summer 2019 show Jasper in Deadland. Everyone at Brelby welcomed me back with open arms and bright smiles; it felt like I never left. But fortunately, I had left, and did some growing up, and a whole lot of learning and stage managing at Arizona State. Jasper in Deadland was a bit of a redemption arc for me. I finally got to be the confident, (mostly) put together stage manager that my experience during Heathers had helped teach me to be. I felt I was able to give back to the people that had been instrumental in my creative growth. 

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with Brelby and the family I’ve come to be a part of. Like others have said this month during the Blogathon, going back to Brelby is like going back home. Any time I come around to see a show, the artists I’ve connected with welcome me back and are so excited to ask me about the things I’ve been working on. I’m unfortunately too busy now with stage managing at ASU to come back to my little Downtown Glendale home, but it’s a wonderful feeling to know that when I do get the chance, it’ll be like I never left. The light at Brelby is always on for any artist that is willing to think big and love even bigger.

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