Discovering Plays by Isabella Hansen

Before coming to Creative Writing, my exposure to plays were very limited. I saw “A Christmas Carol” when I was 9 and acted in a “Tale of Two Cities” at 13. I used to have a specific idea of what a play should be in my head: a perfect plot, easy to decipher characters and a message which was usually something about love or a cheating scandal. Throughout this year’s playwriting unit, I learned a very important lesson. Plays definitely do not need solid plots. Our unit’s artist in residence, Connor Bassett introduced a multitude of plays with different styles that experimented with the one question that has directed my whole entire thinking behind playwriting. How do you write a good ending?

The one play that I think really taught me that playwriting does not need to obey a strict set of parameters is “Waiting for Godot” by Samual Beckett. “Waiting for Godot” experiments with the idea that endings do not need to be concrete and solid in order for the play to be effective. Over the course of the play viewers watch as two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for a man named Godot. What really struck me was how unique it was, so unique that during a performance, over half the crowd walked out during intermission. Now it is used as an example of the most stimulating plays of all time. 

The play “Crime of the Century” utilizes other forms of performance tools such as spoken word, dancing and recordings to better emphasize the effect gang violence has on youth. As I was watching, I was drawn to how “Crime of the Century” excluded conventional tools of plays such as plot but still remained potent and influential. Now, one thing I try to think about whenever I write plays is to not stick to the common endings I find myself writing so often and to try and explore different ways of ending my plays. 

Isabella Hansen, Class of ’23

Chair Stacks by Samantha Friedman

I had been thinking about endings as this year’s first semester came to a close. I was relieved, but not satisfied. It was the last period of the last day and I stood in the center of the Creative Writing room, desks sloppily pushed together and a sole candle quivering in the corner of a windowsill. I thought I would have written more, written better. I wished my grades were higher. There was enough left of my list of wants that I wasn’t ready to move onto the next chapter of my freshman year.

For my last story for the Fiction Unit, Heather and I discussed that I needed a different ending. At my computer I cried and screamed. I can’t do endings, I decided. I don’t want to write endings, or experience them, or think about them. Ever. My first semester went by so fast that the memories don’t feel like my own. It’s almost that I wasn’t fully present in the moments I can recall and the lack of awareness and appreciation makes them not count. I didn’t utilize the resources to improve my writing and I backed down from challenges. Looking back on that now, from after the end, is hard.

What makes an ending bearable? It’s not a steadfast finish. The world doesn’t topple over from its axis. There’s always more to come. On the last day of school I promised that in Creative Writing I’d learn from my regrets. I realized good things could come from an end. Our Artist in Residence, Carson Beker had the class listen to When it Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster. Foster wrote this story while ill, and used her ending to create something beautiful. Foster’s short story’s ending had something mine never had, a satisfying ending.

So on the last day before Winter Break, Creative Writing never started. The students were dismissed. We cleaned the room one more time, wiping tables and erasing the whiteboard. I brought the last chair to its appointed stack. Looking around the room one more time, I plopped the chair on top.

Samantha Friedman, class of 2020