Last November I entered a stage-play script competition. The theme was “Achieving the Dream”. The rules were that it could be no longer than ten minutes, it had to be one act, and could have a maximum of five characters. I disregarded all of these guidelines except for the character count. Despite this, my play, along with four others, was chosen to be produced in Tarrant County College’s Festival of New Student Plays. My play, The Scholarship, was directed by Paul Fiorella, a theater professor at the college. He specializes in stage tech so he took care of the lighting, props, sound and costume for the play. I tried to pitch in as much as I could. I was able to select the cast members and assist with any directorial questions that Mr. Fiorella had. I loved every aspect of the production and had a great time working with Mr. Fiorella and the cast.
We had two months to prepare for opening night. Everything went smoothly (at least as smoothly as can be expected in theater) until a few days prior to opening night, a cast member’s mother made it known that she had a problem with one of the last scenes of the play. I won’t ruin anything, but at the end of the play the American flag is used in a not-so-traditional way. As it turns out, one of her son’s lost his life fighting in Afghanistan. The flag symbolized many things to her, among them, her son’s honor and blood. She threatened to start a boycott of the festival if the last scene was not edited.
When I first heard that someone was planning a boycott of my play and the festival I was furious. I wasn’t aware of the circumstances behind the boycott and I didn’t ask. Enraged, I made a bitter post on Facebook about the sanctity of art and stayed in a disagreeable mood that whole night. I was amazed, flabbergasted even, that someone would disrespect me in such a way. I didn’t have to change much of the play, but I was upset that my work was not being appreciated the same way I appreciated it. I considered dropping out of the festival and denying them permission to show my altered play. Thankfully, after cooling down and talking to friends and family, I agreed to edit the play as long as there was a sign stating that the version of the play being shown had an adapted ending.
After opening night, the five winning playwrights had a Q&A with the audience. A few questions about the production of all the plays came forth, and then an elderly woman wearing a wrist brace raised her hand. She looked at me and started to cry. She told me that she appreciated the delicacy and respect with which the American flag was handled in my play. She said I honored her son with my play. She was the bereaved mother who threatened to boycott. I humbly and, most likely, inaudibly said thanks, the previous anger I held towards the woman evaporated out of my body. The entire crowd clapped. For her. For her son.
That night made me realize the power that stories can have for people. I know The Scholarship isn’t the most amazing piece of literature ever written. But, I am proud of it for touching at least one person, even if it was against my will.
This is a link to the original version of the play. For your reading pleasure — The Scholarship — Final Draft
Originally published at www.thesyndromeirregularly.com on July 30, 2013.