Theater Is My Livelihood
I have no theater background. I have no writing background. What I do enjoy is telling stories. As a lawyer, I do this professionally. The practice of law often boils down to effective storytelling with—if you are lucky—a little law to support the happy ending you hope to convey.
Around fifteen years ago I tried my hand at a script. A local theater was encouraging writers to submit short one act plays for an annual Halloween production. So I took a stab at it, so to speak. The theater liked it, so I wrote another script, and then another. And then a full length script. And so on.
Writing a stage play is like a puzzle—it is a challenge unique to writing. Movie scripts and prose give writers broad latitude to craft a story in any way they choose. The story can be told with as many characters, as many settings, and as many points of view as the writer wants. But a stage play allows for only so many sets, only so many actors, and a limited range of special effects. This forces a playwright to distill a story to the bare necessities. The possibilities are limitless, as long as you can figure out a way to adapt the story to the parameters of a live, staged production.
I love the experience of tech week, watching something that I have written translate into a live performance, with actors putting their stamp on characters and designers creating a visual effect that I could not have imagined. I love sitting in the audience during a performance, hearing them react to the actors and the actors, in turn, feeding off the audience. And I take pride in knowing that I created the story they are all experiencing together. In “Sunday in the Park With George,” George Seurat sings about artistic creation: “Look I made a hat…Where there never was a hat.” I love creating those hats.
Joe Basque is a lawyer by trade and a playwright by choice. His first one act was nominated for Outstanding Script and Outstanding One Act Play by the Theatre Arts Guild in 2002. Since then he has written over twenty other one act plays that have been produced across Omaha. His first full length play, “Ping Pong Diplomacy,” was voted Outstanding Script and nominated for Outstanding Drama by the Theatre Arts Guild, and lead to an Equity production in New York and a Nebraska Arts Council Fellowship. His most recent play, “The Battle of Battles,” played to excellent reviews in Omaha this spring.