How Not to Write a Play, or Why the Tea is Cold (By The Eventual Author of Maid Marian)

by Jessica Osnoe, writer and director of Maid Marian

      If I sit down to write a play, I’ll invariably want some tea for the process. Of course, making tea is a process unto itself in my house. So, I go first to the tea cabinet (yes, it has its own cabinet) to decide which brew will most suit my mood and the scene(s) I feel like writing today. Do I need a rich, robust flavor that can sustain a touch of milk for ploughing through some dense action? (A fascinating flavor profile is Fortnum and Mason Smoky Earl Grey, which I swear smells like Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.) Do I want something citrusy and exotic to inspire new ideas? (My favorite here: Fortnum and Mason Countess Grey.) Should I go for something floral and fruity with a touch of honey to be series-appropriate? #Honey (Harney and Sons Tower of London is unparalleled for this flavor blend in my experience.) This could go on for a while….
       Once I settle on a tea choice and turn on the kettle, there’s the question of a vessel. A mug or a pot? Does the setup need to be Instagram-worthy? If I make a pot of tea to last me for the duration, of course it should be in the Robin Hood teapot. As I pull the teapot off the shelf, of course I wonder about the story of the action it depicts. Did Robin and his Merry Men actually venture so boldly to the local pub, bask in the sun and raise a tankard of ale? Naturally, I’ll want to investigate this possibility in the legends.
      Whilst spiraling down this tunnel of digital inquiry, the kettle whistles and reminds me to brew the tea which I set out to make in the first place. The smell of the tea brewing (Tower of London, for those curious as to my final choice) reminds me that I wanted to look up different kinds of fruit trees native to English forests that might be relevant to the story. I’ll add that to my must-google list, because I have learned the hard way not to leave tea steeping too long. Having steeped the tea and replaced the thatched-roof lid of the pot, I go to choose a teacup, a process which can be as involved as the tea or teapot selection.
     Fortunately, I’m distracted at this point by an idea for introducing a character, so I stop in my path to sit down and type out the scene. Halfway through, I wonder where in the story it should occur and if another character should or should not be present as well. *Cue mental wandering* Half an hour later, I get thirsty and remember that once upon a time, I made tea. Alas, the tea is cold, but I have a scene. So begins the play.

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Jen Czechowski

Master of Market at Sweet Tea Shakespeare

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