I groggily grab my phone to stop my alarm. It's 8 am, and the sun is pouring through the classroom windows. With 3 hours of sleep under my belt, I stumble to the public bathroom and brush my teeth, cursing over my bloodshot eyes and waiting for my second wind to kick in. I'm emotional, frustrated, excited, anxious, exhausted…
I'm having the best time of my life.
Chalkboard Theatre Project is a beast that needs a full 24 hours to be tamed. And in those hours, you balance a teetering workload of planning, memorization, and a pinch of goofing off between the lines.
When I first participated in the CTP, I came in as a writer. I figured that, since I've been writing plays since I was 12, this would be a walk in the park. And honestly, I was right. But for all of the wrong reasons.
The classroom door became a coat check for my ego. I created a beautiful and funny 10 minute play, with crazy curveballs and crazier people, because of a willingness to listen and cooperate with the people around me.
That's the biggest separating factor from every theater program I had been a part of for over a decade, and I became stronger because of it.
With a few years of CTP writing under my belt, I took on a more supervisory role of "Dr. Snorris," and dedicated my 24 hours to helping newer writers find that same passion that I did. Students brought me their scripts, and I had them answer questions to keep their brains ticking. Dozens of pages of dialogue, filled with rewrites, questions, and a yearning to find the perfect flow.
Eventually, I donned the cap of a director and helped put someone's words into action. I led our actors through silly exercises and meaningful discussion, which helped the writers find the right words for the pithy scene. And when the dialogue rang true, the team worked together to keep the heart of each scene pumping the lifeblood of the words.
CTP is more than an art project. It's an ends to a means. I joined as an opportunity to grow my writing portfolio, and I continue to join because I can't stand to be away from these unique individuals. Teams built around unique and differing personalities helped shape new characters and possibilities. Each voice contributed an equal amount to the conversation, helping to take myself out of the equation and witness true cooperative play.
That's what makes CTP different. The yearning to make a collaborative piece, like cogs in a machine, and share them with the world in a single day. Each of our skill sets weaving into other roles, with words like "what if we amped up the emotion in this moment" and "maybe we can take an extra second of silence after this line."
I became a writer, director, actor, leader, follower, preacher and listener, as the teammates around me did the same. We threw caution to the wind, and continuously experimented until we found the results we wanted. We didn't stop for a 2 hour nap until we had a destination in mind, and that nap became a victorious reward.
There are thousands of metaphors I can keep making to describe the experience of being a part of this project, but I'll leave it at this. I've been a part of CTP every year for the past 4 years. There's a reason I keep coming back. And when you take a jump into this weird family, you'll find a reason, too.