The Dramatist, Nov/Dec, 2009
Southwest Region, by Dennis Bush, Southwest Regional Rep

In my ongoing effort to shine the spotlight on Guild members in my region, I’ve turned to a playwright whom I’ve gotten to know through her work, in the past few years. Mare Biddle and I have had our plays featured in the same festivals three times and, each opportunity has given me more reason to appreciate what she brings to the page.


Originally from Iowa, Mare has lived in Phoenix for most of her life.  Her degree is in accounting but her passion was elsewhere.  After marrying and having two children, she found herself drawn to writing.

“Several years ago, I began sketching characters,” Mare relates.  “I collected these people and eventually their stories, but I didn’t know what to do with them.” A moment in which she envisioned her characters onstage led her to move in the direction of playwriting.

“Writing is a part of my life.  My pen both tethers me to this life and frees me from the weight of carrying my emotions,” Mare explains. “I write professionally because I feel a responsibility to these characters and their stories. I know the right answer is to write for an audience, but honestly, I don’t – I can’t.”

 

Mare describes her process as being similar in approach to a visual artist. “I accumulate dozens of art magazines and rifle through them tearing out pages that strike me without thinking about it.  I put the pages in a box with all sorts of other miscellaneous items – keys, rocks, postcards, maps, coins, etc. At some point, characters present themselves and tell me their stories.”

Once she’s determined the basic plot components, she begins a spiral notebook for the new work and returns to her box for further inspiration.  “But, before I write, I must know three things about my characters: What’s in their medicine cabinet, their refrigerator and their wallet.” She goes through the same steps regardless of whether the play she’s writing is a 1-minute, 10-minute or full-length work.

Inspired by the work of Edward Albee and Harold Pinter, Mare places great value on economy of language and using silence in creative ways. “I am dedicated to the vast amounts of communication we share in virtually every relationship through silences.  I’m frequently criticized for writing ‘silence’ as a stage direction.  I have no intention of that being a stage direction. Silence is text. Negative space in the visual arts is as necessary as the subject.”

A recent production of her play, Guy from 92, produced by Space 55 Theatre Ensemble in Phoenix, afforded Mare the best experience she’s had as a playwright. “I grasped the Holy Grail of playwriting:  Seeing a play fully realized and knowing to my core that the script works.”

Like most playwrights, she’s struggled with the frustrations of having her work used without her permission.  “And notes. From everyone,” she adds, acknowledging a major aggravation with which we can all empathize. “Including the box office.”

Trying to refocus on being true to her characters and their stories, Mare remarks, “When I was younger – both in this profession and in my years – I focused on production. Having been produced more than once, I am grateful for the experience but long for the writer in me that didn’t know any better.”  To that end, she’s endeavoring to let go of concerns about casting, writing accessible work, and production elements. “I cannot please every audience, director, or actor.  The work will either find a home or it won’t”

The intensity of Mare’s passion and the quality of the work she creates will ensure that her work continues to be valued and appreciated on the page and whenever it’s produced.


Sunny regards,
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of The Dramatist, the Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America