Playwriting

Getting Inspired by an Object

3

Professor Musgrave told us to take an object to class. He wanted it to be at least 30 years old, so I was a bit worried – I moved to London just 6 months ago and I didn’t bring any particularly old object with me. Then I remembered that I had a book which seemed to be pretty old. It was Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I had a look at it. I had read it, but I didn’t notice che price and the year it was printed. I knew the book had been published in the 50s. It was so cheap – 60 pence! I had bought it in a secondhand shop in Helsinki.

The smell was typical of old books, and the item itself seemed pretty worn out. The cover was so folded that it could break off. I bought it in Finland when I visited my best friend, who studies music in Helsinki, and I paid it only one euro. It reminded me of another book printed by Penguin which I found in a secondhand shop in Canterbury, and it was The Great Gatsby, which I paid only 55 pence. They had the same page colour, the same font, and the pages were yellower on the corners.

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My copy of Lucky Jim had a pretty simple cover for being a classic of British literature. It always strikes me that someone could get rid of a book, especially if it’s a classic of literature. Anyway, as I gave a more careful look at it, I noticed that it was printed in the US in 1976, even if the book was published in 1953. The book reminded me of my stay in Helsinki. I had read the first page as I was sitting and waiting for my friend to finish her rehearsals at the Music Institute. I had been exploring Helsinki all day and I had been shopping for presents for my friends and parents.

When we brought these objects to class, Professor Musgrave told us to think about a place that meant something to us. I thought about Sarah Lawrence College, the college where I spent a semester last year. So he told us to imagine the object we had in that context and try to build up a scene. I thought about me, reading books as ever and coming back from Bronxville to the campus. I imagined a girl reading while walking on a street surrounded by high trees. There is melting snow on the pavement. She has two shopping bags dangling from her wrists.

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Professor Musgrave told us to formulate some questions about the scene and the object on scene. I wondered how she manages to flip pages. If she’s wearing gloves. What about having just one glove? Did she put something on one finger to help her flipping the pages? Did she forget her gloves at home? Is she cursing herself because she has no gloves? How can she walk and read at the same time? How can she walk, read and not slip or fall on melting snow? Maybe she could have chosen the path with no snow. But is it likely? Why can’t she wait to be back on her bed to read? Maybe she does not want to think about something else and wants to get distracted by reading, or maybe she just enjoys the book a lot. Or maybe she didn’t like it but wants to finish it as soon as possible to start something else? Maybe she is one of those people that feel guilty if they don’t finish a book….

There are many questions when it comes to think about the beginning of a scene, so I can’t even imagine what happens with a whole play. An object can change the whole scene, making it meaningful or completely ridiculous. Then the object can get a central role, or it can just be a source of inspiration and then the scene goes somewhere else. Professor Musgrave told us to finish off the scene at home, and I am going to post it in the section “Playwriting Attempts”.

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