It is a unique and exciting opportunity for any aspiring writer to have a conversation with a professional writer about the craft. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Dudzick, the playwright of City Theatre of Independence’s upcoming production Miracle on South Division Street.
LIZZIE: Can you describe your creative process?
TOM: First, I think of a subject I’d love to write about. Then, I come up with a way that characters on a stage could physicalize that subject. Then I check in with my “How to Write a Play” books and follow all their rules. …That’s basically it. The rest is just gruntwork.
LIZZIE: How long does it usually take you to write a play?
TOM: It varies, of course. Three months to a year or more for a rehearsable first draft. I always tell myself that with my next play I’m going to write down what day I started and finished so the next time someone asks me, I’ll know. But then I forget to do that.
LIZZIE: What do you do to help keep you focused and motivated when working on a writing project?
TOM: I’m very lucky. The fun of writing a play is motivation enough. I don’t need anything external. The vision of that end result, which is my characters on a stage telling my story – that’s what drives me.
LIZZIE: What is it like getting to see your writing come to life on stage?
TOM: When it goes well, it is thoroughly satisfying. It’s the big payoff of my childhood desire – to make people laugh. What could feel better?
LIZZIE: What do you hope to gain from each new project?
TOM: Productions, productions, productions. Because those are what affords me the freedom to keep doing what I love. I know as an artist I’m supposed to be suffering, but very little suffering goes on when I’m writing. I’m weird that way.
LIZZIE: What was the inspiration behind Miracle on South Division Street?
TOM: The inspiration was my fascination with the story. The story that a barber believed he was visited by the Blessed Mother, was so moved by this “miracle” that he had a shrine built! And that it happened in my neighborhood, right across the street! I used to go to the man for haircuts. He only charged 25 cents. (There’s your miracle right there!) The inspiration was the burning desire to somehow get this improbable story onto a stage.
LIZZIE: If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring playwrights, what would it be?
TOM: Keep submitting your play, to any venue. Get it read, get it seen. See it in front of an audience and learn from it. Why did this section not work? Why did that section work so well? Get involved in your theatre community. And educate yourself. Keep reading those “How to Write a Play” books.
LIZZIE: In your opinion, what is the most important skill a playwright could have?
TOM: A willingness, nay, a desire to rewrite. As is often said, “Plays aren’t written, they’re rewritten.”
Thank you, Tom, for allowing me to pick your brain.
City Theatre of Independence’s production of Tom Dudzick’s play Miracle on South Division Street runs January 6th through January 15th, 2023 at the Roger T. Sermon Center.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at: https://citytheatreofindependence.ticketleap.com/miracle/