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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Voices of BTM XVI: Hortense Gerardo

"No photos, please." Hortense Gerardo
The Boston Theater Marathon, like its namesake running event, has become a rite of spring to the theatrical community, thanks to the vision and sustained excellence in stewardship of its founder, Kate Snodgrass. I've never run a marathon, but I do like running in short bursts. Three miles at a time, tops. In high school I was on the track team, and I liked running low hurdles.  Hundred meters. And I was fast, but I kept undercutting my time because I couldn't help looking behind when the baton was being passed to me in the relays, or looking to the side in a heat when someone was about to pass. I think those bad habits are emblematic of the way I used to approach my work as a playwright.

It's good practice to study the work of the great playwrights from the past and to continue to be inspired by the playwrights whose work you admire; the equivalents of looking behind and to the side, at it were. However, if you're always looking back, or looking to the side, you are not concentrating on the need to "keep moving forward!” as my coach used to say. Like the focus needed to ignore the pack and keeping your eye on the finish line. So, I learned a valuable lesson from my track days which I can apply to my work to this day: a certain amount of wherewithal is needed to ignore what has come before and around you in order to dig down to hear your own voice as a writer. But there's something to be said about not being able to ignore the pack, and perhaps this is where being a good hurdler and being a good writer parts ways. Part of good writing entails not being able to ignore the pack, but rather, paying very close attention to the "thing-ness" and "what-ness" of the creatures within it.

Having a 10-minute play accepted into the Boston Theater Marathon produces the same endorphin high I felt in high school after winning a race. There is no doubt that it's a tough application process that includes part crapshoot, part luck. And there's no denying that it's disappointing when your play doesn't get in, which for me, is the case more often than not. This year, I got lucky, and I can't wait to see my play, Kith and Tell, produced by Boston Children's Theatre.

But I think over the years I've come to realize that, whether or not my work gets accepted, I'm still going to write, and I'm still going to submit to the Marathon, because for me it is no longer just about the metaphorical finish line of having one's play accepted. In the challenging economic times of the last few years I have come to really appreciate being part of a larger effort to raise funds for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund. Also, it's just a heck of a lot of fun being part of the Marathon Weekend events to cheer on the other playwrights, directors, actors, tech crews, stage managers and volunteers who make it all happen.

This year, in an effort to give more writers a chance to be a part of Marathon Weekend, Kate Snodgrass, Alexa Mavromatis and I have inaugurated the One-Minute Sprints as part of the Warm-Up Laps the day before the BTM. The One-Minute Sprints are one-minute plays that will be read without a stage reader or props, by professional actors who will be on hand for the Warm-Up Laps. One-Minute Sprints were accepted on a first-come first-served basis, until we reached thirty plays – the maximum number given the time constraints on the day of the Warm-Up Laps. As their name suggests, they will run fast. And they will serve as an encouragement to the playwrights out there who might not have received an acceptance for the Boston Theater Marathon, to just keep running…keep writing…keep running.

Don't miss Boston Theater Marathon XVI on May 11! Tickets 

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