By Karen Murphy, playwright, actress and director
For those of us who like to take pen to hand, there’s an old saying we hear a lot: “Write what you know.”
I know Texas — born and raised there — and I know current events — a pop culture, trivia-loving, newspaper-reading, TV-watching, Texas Monthly-subscribing, media junkie. So I can claim that Mattie and her miracle are indeed based on fact. Only the names, and a detail here and there, have been changed to protect the innocent — and me. I don’t want to be hit with any libel lawsuits or claims filed against my writing profits. Although, come to think of it, a part of nothing would be nothing, so bring on the legal eagles if you see yourself in anything I’ve written.
I do have to fess up: I cheated.
First, some background: Mattie’s miracle has been my muse through several literary incarnations. He first appeared in the short story “Will Miracles Never Cease?” that I wrote for a class back in the 90s, hence the play’s time period of 1997. I called upon him again in 2000, when he starred in my short film The Pope of Pontius County. I turned to him yet again when I got the notice for 10-minute play submissions to From the Mouths of Babes.
Now, for the confession: (In my loudest stage whisper) I already had the rough draft.
It was originally going to be my submission for the thrifTheatre festival. By the time the Babes’ deadline came calling, I was knee deep in several other projects at the local theatre. I panicked. Then, it hit me. Mattie’s miracle was predestined for Babes not Thrif. Hey, I was raised a Presbyterian and we’re great at rationalizing stuff. Besides, the Thrif deadline had been postponed, so what was a girl to do? As an old newspaper reporter, I always work chronologically. The deadline up on deck gets priority. I would worry about a script for Thrif later.
My submission for Babes only took a tweak here, a rewrite there, and — ta-dah! — I had my entry. No angst over looking for inspiration; no staring at a blank computer screen for hours on end. I knew immediately that it was going to take a miracle to meet that Babes‘ deadline — and I just happened to have one stored right there in my Documents File. Divine intervention? Lady Luck? Primal desperation? Call it what you like, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I didn’t hesitate a second. I shamelessly clicked that file button. Absolution is immediate when you’re doing the right thing.
Now, if only I can think of another way to incorporate an old Polaroid camera into a different script for ThrifTheatre. Yep, paybacks are hell.
Unless … I wonder if anyone would notice if I tapped my muse one more time? Desperate times call for desperate measures … don’t mind me, just thinking — and rationalizing — out loud …
~ Karen Murphy