Playwright Chris Snock took some time to write a blog post for us about his journey as a playwright and his new play The Fire and the Rose that the Arts Center is presenting as part of Rock ‘n Roll Theatre on Saturday, May 6. Chris has been visiting ECC for the past nine years as a teaching artist for Literature to Life stage presentations. He was most recently here this past January with Fahrenheit 451. Chris has become a great friend of the Arts Center and we’re thrilled to be presenting The Fire and the Rose. Read on for a peak inside his playwriting process.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Good storytelling ignites, encourages, and can break through barriers to allow feeling. And theater has stood the test of time for raw and pure storytelling. We can enter its safe confines, escaping social media and other distractions, to take in stories that reflect our lives, times, and culture. This can enable the precious space to think, challenge, or project our beliefs into characters; and as Maya Angelou said – of feeling something worthy through the vehicle of story. Its fearful, almost unimaginable, to think of a world without storytelling. The invention of the wheel once did not exist, but storytelling has since the beginning of mankind.
I’m Chris Snock, playwright of the The Fire and the Rose. I believe stories can be our greatest teachers and I’m honored to return to Elgin. For nine years I’ve conducted workshops at ECC for the American Place Theater’s “Literature to Life” program; this time I’m here for the premiere reading of my play. I know the college very well, worked with many students over the years, and the staff is like family. So Elgin is truly a second home.
I became a playwright after receiving a scholarship at the LAByrinth theater company in New York City, entering as an actor. They challenged me to write and to leave the zone of the “known.” And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes someone sees something in you that you can’t within yourself.
Building a play is like the construction of a home; it’s hard work that can’t be forced or rushed, with levels and layers. It’s the fusion of the two hemispheres of the brain – like the two Greek gods Dionysus (instincts, impulses), and Apollo (order, structure). Then editing and repeating this process endlessly. It can drive you mad when you’ve worked so hard on a scene (months even) then have to throw it away as it no longer fits within the context of your story. Even something that works – as a laugh or a moment of dramatic tension – may not be the right kind of laugh for this story. The play is the top of the iceberg; below the frozen mass of failure, time spent, and back story of the characters. This unseen mass below is the work however that’s vital for what’s above. This play is in its fifth iteration, which has taken fourteen months.
The Fire and the Rose began with a flash (the best ones arrive when the conscious mind is at rest – called “the shower principle”); where I thought of a man from my neighborhood growing up in Philadelphia. A complex, tragic man that heralded himself as the “toughest guy in Philly” and loved the opportunity to prove his assertion. Then I asked, “What if on the way to the fight, he randomly walked into a bar and faced his match?” “What if both faced a rival unexpected, a teacher even, then within this dance found the strength from the other to fight a greater battle – that of one within.” To find out the rest of Jimmy and Patti’s journey – two characters near and dear to my heart – please come see our performance May 6! Thank you very much for reading.
The ECC Arts Center will be presenting Rock ‘n Roll Theatre: Featuring Nashville Songstress Sarah Potenza and The Fire and the Rose: A Play by Chris Snock on Saturday, May 6. For more information and for tickets, contact the ECC Arts Center box office at 847-622-0300 or by visiting tickets.elgin.edu.