Unpacking is the Hardest Part

by Dahveed Bullis

Greetings dear readers!

Initially this week’s entry was going to be a first in a series of three posts about the three books that changed my life… and that will still come, I promise. But this week I had a revelation and felt it takes precedence instead.

A little backstory.

A few months ago we shot on a sample of the SPL Lab experience video for a grant application, and we used a piece that I wrote. Now, I’m a workhorse and just love putting stuff together and checking boxes. I approached the work of writing the piece as an item on a checklist to do. I gave it full focus when Scott and I did the doctoring process, and while we did the actual 4 hours of Lab time with it, my head was in multiple places at once. Scott would ask me how it went for me as the playwright and I’d just grin and say, “I’m still unpacking the experience”

And boy was there a lot to unpack.

First was the sessions of Script Doctoring with the director. The draft that was first created was a capable piece. Easy enough to understand, the characters had a relationship from the beginning and it was all so pleasantly easy. As we talked through the piece, we made discoveries about it that got my wheels spinning. Namely, that it was pleasantly easy. Scott hit me with the one sentence I needed to hear.

How big can the mountain be between these characters before they actually come together?

Tick… tick… Boom. From that session bloomed a newer version that pitted our characters not as friends, but as opposing forces with no choice but to find middle ground. They had to do that first. They either fight to the death or they truly connect… Okay, not thaaat dramatic, but I mean to say the stakes got raised like a roof in the 90’s. It’s always the simplest things that open doorways. And then came the 4 hour session with the actors.

I watched as my own words were staged in front of me. Scott leaning back to me and asking if my intentions were shining through, the actors treating the characters as real humans and people they understood and wanted to present truthfully. At the end, I thanked everyone for putting so much into it and they simply said, “Thank you for your beautiful words.”

The emotional reaction was truly unpredictable and I now know why.

For the first time as a playwright my voice was heard, my characters were seen and in an unforeseen reversal everyone involved thanked me?

I want to see every playwright in Spokane (and the PNW) experience what I did. To see your own work being realized before your eyes is how you change your own life through story. Personally speaking, I’ve never felt more like my voice not only matters, but is worth hearing. Actual people gravitated to the work and put time into something that originated in my brain… How wild is that?

Thanks for reading my stream of consciousness.

I’ve included a shot from the promo that crystallizes how it all felt for me in one frame. Yes, my eyes are wet…

Happy writing,


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