Well, I think I’ve finally gotten it. In spring of last year, I attempted to write a ten-minute play as part of a broader project, a night of thematically-linked readings which ultimately didn’t happen. My piece went a little long – it wound up being fifteen pages, running between fifteen and twenty minutes in performance – but even so it felt rushed at that length. So when it became clear that the initial project wasn’t going to take place, I started tinkering with the play further, to see if it made more sense as a longer one-act. I know have.a thirty-page script that somehow manages to read faster than the original version, that feels like it’s the length and shape it should have been all along. And as luck would have it, there is a perfect submission opportunity for this piece, and the submission window is occurring right now. So obviously, I’m writing this right after filling out the necessarily online forms to send along the draft, right? Or will be doing so immediately after I finish this?
Of course not.
You see, the play is set at Halloween, and references the old Celtic and pagan practices the holiday is based on. The darn thing is even called How to Pronounce Samhain. (“Samhain” is the ancient Gaelic name for the ancient festival that took place on what our calendar calls October 31. As you might suspect from my title, it’s not pronounced the way you probably think it is.) So naturally, even though the draft has been read and proofread and read and proofread again, and there is absolutely no reason for me to wait, I am not going to submit the piece until Halloween is here.
I do this a lot.
Some years ago, when the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries competition was still active, I made certain that my political satire revolving around Sir John Falstaff was submitted promptly on July 4th. (Falstaff may not be American, but I didn’t exactly see a need to satirize the political machinations of medieval England.) Another play whose inspiration stemmed from a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which I performed in college, many long years ago, was submitted on Friday the 13th, which is always a designated alumni day for us. (Long story.) I’ve made a point to submit on the birthdays of figures related in some tangential way to my script. I’ve waited to submit precisely on the hour, or when some auspicious series of digits show up on my laptop’s clock. If I’m not racing to hit a deadline, then I’m deliberately waiting to hit “send” at that one precise, fortuitous moment. To make sure that, if destiny is on the side of anybody’s script, it’s on the side of mine.
This is silly.
But like any superstition, it gives me the illusion of control. By timing my final keystrokes to some specific, portentous moment, I can let myself believe that there’s more at work than the whims of programmers, or the simple numbers game of submissions. That there’s some unseen lever at work, and like all such levers, if I grab it just right I can move mountains – or at least guarantee myself a production. This is almost certainly not the case, but it’s comforting to think it is.
Plus there’s always the chance it might work. That would be a nice, spooky story for Halloween.