Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From the Vault

I'm totally living vicariously through Kody Keplinger, who recently blogged about her plans to spend the summer living and working in NYC. She'll be working hard, but I've already romanticized her experience, probably because I spent my summer after freshman year earning minimum wage in a dusty old film library in rural Illinois, lonely, poor, and BORED.

I wanted to be a writer, but didn't know how to go about actually becoming one. The whole "butt-in-seat" concept was a little beyond me, so instead of writing I decided to do some reading. Our university's library reflected its strong drama department and housed rows and rows of plays. My plan was this: I'd choose a letter of the alphabet and read every playwright in it. I wanted to learn to write good dialogue, and figured this was the best way.

I randomly selected the letter S. Perfect, I thought. Shakespeare, Strindberg...uh...Simon. Yeah, I started my great reading experience with Simon, Neil. I read 15 of his plays that summer, and never got to Macbeth or Miss Julie.

From those plays, not-so-funny me learned how to be funny on the page. I learned rhythm. I learned timing. I learned so much about language and how to make words do what you want them to. It was an education, and Neil Simon taught me more than any professor in my subsequent creative writing courses.

I loved every play that man wrote, but I did have my favorites. They were:

1. Barefoot in the Park (Recently on Broadway starring Amanda Peet.)

2. The Odd Couple

3. Simon's autobiographical trilogy: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Lost in Yonkers

Check out your local theater--chances are you'll find one of Neil Simon's plays being produced. Or add the film versions to your netflix queue. Not only are Robert Redford and Jane Fonda hilarious in Barefoot in the Park, but the fashions are to die for! Enjoy!


  1. You're right: I've seen Brighton Beach and Lost in Yonkers at various little theaters.

    I love glimpses like this into other writer's lives. Thanks for this!

  2. I can't believe I've never seen Barefoot in the Park. I sense I'd love it. Must rectify this situation very, very soon.

  3. First of all--New Follower! *waves*

    I'm not sure how I've missed your blog, but I love connecting with other writers, so I'm glad I've found you.

    And second, you are so right about how much you learn from reading plays. In my case, I went to film school, where i was required to read one screenplay a week. It was pretty grueling fitting that in with my busy homework schedule, but MAN I learned a lot about pacing and dialogue. And how to keep my scenes short.

    Great post! Look forward to getting to know you better through your blog!

  4. Hey, Caroline! We all have our stories about how we were "formed", right? I love hearing other writers' stories, too.

    LiLa--Barefoot in the Park should go to the top of your queue. Seriously. You will love it.

    Hi, Shannon!! Welcome to my world of random. So jealous you went to film school. Do you write screenplays?