BREANNA SPINK has been a fan of theatre and writing for most of her life. But All Things Considered, the script that earned her a finalist spot in the 2019 Thespian Playworks program, marked the first time she attempted to combine her two loves.

The play chronicles a young couple, Leigh and Bryan, as they try to move their relationship forward while grieving the loss of their toddler son. The story was inspired by Spink’s fears about losing contact with her younger brother and her sorrow over the sudden death of a close friend.

Breanna Spink

Photo of Breanna Spink at the 2019 International Thespian Festival by Corey Rourke.

The script is at times heartbreaking, but its message is ultimately hopeful. “I don’t want audiences to walk away from this play with my emotions and grief or to revisit any of their own losses,” Spink said. “This play isn’t really about death; it’s about how people heal from the worst circumstances in their own ways, at their own speed.”

An alum of Thespian Troupe 4101, Spink graduated from Lake Dallas High School in 2019. The native Texan is eager to see where her writing talents take her. “Since the International Thespian Festival, I’ve started drafting several projects, two of which I’m beginning to focus more on,” she said. “I’m hoping to have a first draft done by the beginning of 2020. Aside from my personal projects, I’ll be heading to Connecticut in January to study at the National Theatre Institute. I’m very, very excited.”

What was the catalyst that sparked you to write your first play?
Both writing and theatre have been massive parts of my life since I was little. I’ve always loved fiction in any form, and I was always trying to create my own stories, whether on paper or out in the backyard with my friends.

In 2011, my mom, in the nicest way possible, forced me to audition for a children’s theatre production of Oliver! I’ve been in love with theatre ever since, and it drove me to join the Thespian troupe at my high school. I didn’t even consider playwriting as an option until my troupe director told me about the Thespian Playworks competition. I figured, “Hey, there’s a writing competition, and I have these characters and this story I want to tell. Why not?”

What inspired the story you tell in All Things Considered? 
One of the characters of the play, Leigh, originated from a project assigned in my high school theatre class. In it, we were challenged to create a character from scratch and build a short monologue around them. At the time, I was struggling with my brother’s side of the family. I knew that if I kept fighting them, or if I cut them out of my life entirely, I wouldn’t get to see my brother anymore. I was wrestling with this guilt, feeling it was my fault that I was losing him. I used this theatre project to put that guilt onto someone else in different circumstances. It really helped me, but at the end of the project I was ready to put the character, as well as the feelings, away.

A few months later, after the sudden loss of a friend, I found myself struggling again. But this time it wasn’t only guilt over not being able to help; it was also the bizarreness surrounding the situation, that feeling of “This doesn’t make sense” that comes with an unexpected death. A month or so later, I heard about the Thespian Playworks competition and decided to enter. I revisited Leigh and the story I created for her, attacking it with these new feelings, which manifested in the form of the character Bryan.

All Things Considered was performed at your high school prior to the International Thespian Festival. What did that production teach you about the script? 
Working with the actors who were part of the first performance helped me humanize the characters more. Sometimes a line would seem fine in my head and on paper, but as soon as an actor read it aloud, it suddenly became obvious that it was a phrase no one has used in the past 20 years. I also learned to open the characters up and make them more universal. There were a lot of details I wrote about Leigh and Bryan that didn’t help the story but instead weighed down the characters. I think, in general, I just ripped the original script down to its bare bones and focused on the core of the story. Compared to the first draft, the final script is about five pages shorter, but it tells so much more story in that time.

What was the most valuable aspect of participating in the Thespian Playworks program? 
Getting to work with an experienced dramaturg and playwright, Nick Pappas, was so helpful. He wasn’t afraid to rip my script apart when I needed it, but his criticism usually led to better things. I learned that not all suggestions are going to work, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them to learn what needs work. My dramaturg wanted me to cut an entire scene, but I knew it wouldn’t work for the story overall. I fought him on it over and over, until finally, I sat down and really read the scene. I realized it dragged more than the others. In terms of length, it was one of the shortest, but it was just Leigh and Bryan speaking in monologues to each other. I rewrote it as more of a back-and-forth dialogue, and — boom — it was suddenly necessary and interesting.

What advice would you give other Thespians interested in playwriting?
My advice would be to find your writing space. Find somewhere you can hunker down for a couple of hours without distraction, hide your phone from yourself, and write. You don’t necessarily have to write anything cohesive at first just as long as you put words on a page. You may find you’ll stumble onto some great ideas.

Are you interested in writing? Learn more about Thespian Playworks, sponsored by Concord Theatricals, online.

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