I possess a great love of variety, both in my life and in my art. As a writer, I’ve worked on plays, musicals, radio plays, screenplays, and novels, in a multitude of genres. My wife and I have moved 11 times since we’ve been married, and I’ve spent time as a stay-at-home dad, rehabbed houses, published and edited a marketing newsletter, helped run a theatre company, managed community gardens, written all kinds of stuff, and this year, I started farming.
Farming is a lot like writing–there’s a lot of hard work involved and very little pay. And it’s completely addictive. For me, they’re puzzles that are both intensely physical and intellectual. In both cases I have an audience, my customers, that I hope will have a strong desire for what I’ve created (vegetables/drama). Like being a playwright, in farming there is a lot of time spent alone, followed some pretty intense social time (farmer’s market).
In both cases, what I create is bounded by certain parameters. On my farm, I’m bound by space and time—this year I grew about 20 different crops on just a quarter of an acre. Micro farming, really. But in that small space, 180’ x 60’, my family and I grew more than 3000 pounds of vegetables, which found their way on to the plates of my neighbors and customers across the Boston metro area. To grow all of that produce, I had a very limited amount of time, delineated by the sun and weather and the rest of my life.
For the OMPF, we’re given a very small amount of theatrical land on which to plant our creative seeds and make some sort of viable play. The good news is that there’s plenty of fertile ground to be found, even in just a minute of stage time. For me, making the most of that small time and space means trying to wrestle aside my internal censor/editor, and being open to whatever joy and sadness and goofiness lurks when I sit down to write.
This year, the first play that came out was a farm play, about the harvest and a dying father. It’s a quiet, sad piece, probably tricky for a busy festival, but that’s what came out, and I very much want to see what happens with it on stage. Next was a hidden romance, that I knew needed some inherent physicality. I don’t even know why balloons became a part of it. I was drawn to the shape and sound and dynamism. There were more, one about Superman trying to play volleyball, and another about college financial aid. Who knows what will come out next time.
Just like on the farm, I don’t like to grow just one thing–we even grew four different kinds of kale this season. My customers like trying new and different varieties of vegetables. As a writer and audience member, I like getting to sample new and different varieties of plays. I can’t wait to see what Boston playwrights have managed to grow in the little micro-plots of their imagination this year at the OMPF.
Patrick Gabridge is a playwright, novelist, and farmer. Info on his writing can be found at www.gabridge.com and writinglife3.blogspot.com. His latest novel, Moving (A Life in Boxes) will be released in late December on Amazon and Smashwords. You can read about his farm adventures at the Pen and Pepper Farm website.
The 2nd Annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Boston Playwrights’ Theatre will run Jan 5-7 at 8PM at BPT. Tickets are $20 and available here. The Jan 6th performance will livestream howlround.com’s New Play TV.