Operator Error: A Drama Post

       Whenever I write anything, I think about myself. It’s not an attempt at making a replica of a memory, but more of a flash—a mood, an item, a few fragments of dialogue. This time, however, I took a little bit more—the stressful and often incredible job as emergency room operator. This is something I’ve always wanted to incorporate into some creative project, but poetry never felt like the right vehicle, being as the memories I have are entirely auditory and exist only in dialogue. Yes, there are ways to show this in poetry, but a dramatic scene felt like the best form. I admit I was afraid this would be a disaster when translated onto the stage, mostly because all I have are the auditory memories and any physical memories are me sitting in a cubicle taking call after call. I didn’t know how that might look onto the stage to the audience. Could it be interesting, visually? The other thing I was concerned about was the fact that this was a personal memory. It’s happened before when I’ve tried to be the most true to a memory and it limits any kind of possibility beyond the reality I remember, and I end up being completely blind to the phoniness I’ve created by trying to be so true. But I went for it anyway. I stuck with a few conversations or topics of conversation (such as the suicide calls, oxycodone-refill-death-threats and ill-transferred angry callers) and wrote from there. I removed myself and left the fragments of dialogue, which ended up being a lot of fun to put together and fill in.

        As I reached the end of what I felt like was a scene, I realized how much The Typists and The Tiger seemed to subconsciously inspire me. The physicality of The Typists emerged with the simple fact that there are two people both using technology—phones, in this instance—and neither character is where they want to be. The typists don’t want to be typists, and my characters don’t want to be suicidal or phone operators. The pureness of The Typists is what I was drawn to. There is little besides typewriters, desks and chairs. All of the tension relies heavily on dialogue. After watching my scene performed, I saw how distracting it was to have my characters constantly messing with phones and books. The tension of the dialogue needed to remain primary and the physical aspects could supplement it. Perhaps the best way to fix the scene’s clumsiness with phones would be to have a headset or a phone on the speakerphone option. Enough for the audience to understand that it’s a phone call, but removes the necessity to actually hold a phone.
The Tiger inspired me in the conscious shift of power. The abductee comes out on top in the end with subtle hints within her dialogue that lead us there. This extreme attention to dialogue and the way the things characters say shift relationships was something I wanted to try. The phone operator is in a position of power, but essentially has no power because she’s stuck within her own thoughts, unable to help anyone else—even more detrimental when someone like a suicidal caller actually needs it. This upheaval of expectations and changes based on dialogue is something I want to continue to experiment with and strengthen within this dramatic scene, because I’m interested in power shifts and simplicity. I don’t know if this dramatic scene will turn into a full-length play, and I see that as a success—I was so focused on the entire plot of the potential full-length play for much of the beginning stages of writing, that I had to remind myself that a scene is just a scene. I don’t need to have the entire thing planned out in my head to write a scene. The pureness of the dialogue and how each line works to create the scene is where the focus needs to be.