Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Beginnings are hard. Middles are hard. But endings are hard.

When something is good, a book, a play, anything, my usual thought, my subconscious drumbeat, is “please stay good, please stay good." There are just so many ways to start well, and – in my estimation – only one way good to finish: The ending should feel both unexpected and inevitable.

That is, I want to feel a gasp or surprise and pleasure...but when I look back over the play I should, for a moment, believe it couldn’t have ended any other way. It should fulfill some promise that has been made to me, but in a way I wouldn’t have thought of myself. All of which is to say, I don’t know how to end my play.

Cause again, they can feel like verdicts: so this is what actually happened. This is the author’s point of view on the characters, the ideas. If an ending is too pat, the play wafts away. But if it feels too opaque, it leaves me grumbly and cranky and unsatisfied.

There are some canonical plays that I would offer disappoint deeply at the end and everyone knows it (I’ll offer my nominations over drinks if you like). And there are plays that muddle along until the last 10 minutes, and only then become thrilling and thus become hits (again, ask me over booze).

But back to me and HUNTERS AND THIEVES. Like all plays in progress, I suppose I’ll just have to write and write and write different versions of the ending. Read one by reading the whole draft, then read the whole draft with a different version. Curl up in ball and throw all the pages out. Wait for a deadline and write another version. Do it badly. Rewrite. Hope that one day I have a shock of understanding and do it right.

- David Zellnik

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