PlayBox Blog: Daneka Etchells 18/12/2021

Earlier in the year, our four PlayBox writers had a one-day workshop of the new plays they’ve written while on attachment with Box of Tricks. We asked Daneka Etchells to reflect on the development process of her play, Rogue Comet(s).

This whole process for me has been more than writing a play. Personally, over the year of working with Box of Tricks, I have come to understand myself more, came out the closet several times, and started to work with who I am rather than against who I am. Stopped writing as the version of a writer that I thought I had to be. And I can only attribute that to the entire Box of Tricks’ team for providing such permission, understanding and encouragement (yes, I am crying).

Firstly, I developed a treatment. The treatment was full of featherless wings, cages, searching for community, multiplicity, time, physics and dying trying to fly in a body that isn’t made for Here. I felt the expanse of what I was writing but every moment I started to write it, my fingers started typing something else. There was a more pressing question bubbling and blocking and wanting to live.

Thus (thus?) birthed Rogue Comet(s).

I felt like a fraud and ashamed and wrong because I couldn’t follow through with the idea I originally pitched. But that idea I pitched was of a writer I am no longer trying to be. And as Rogue Comet(s) started to breathe, I realised how easy it is when you are writing when you’re not fighting.

The first draft came just over a month before the workshop. It was new baby fresh, its head still so soft and it’s eyes not open. I was nervous about sharing it with both Hannah and Adam but they received it so openly. Before sending, I went back to my application email for PlayBox last year, and reflected on what I’d wrote about wanting to find confidence in my own voice and it was nice to pause, take stock, that sending in this play was doing everything I’d set out to do.

The workshop day gave more than I thought an 8 hour R&D could do. I found answers, remedies, mist-clearing approaching clarity but most importantly: more questions. Starting plays is never a formula for me – sometimes it’s an image, a song, a feeling, a theme, a moment, but I always need that Impossible Question. I think I write to try and understand the world, because I don’t really get it, honestly. I don’t really understand why humans exist as we do, why laws are so, why things just happen. So asking more and more questions, was like fuel for my little writing gremlin and petrol for the play which asks ‘what is home when the world isn’t made for you?’

I’m now amidst the redrafting process ahead of our sharing at HOME in January 2022 which has only been made easier by the workshop and generosity of two incredible actors and Adam Quayle. I’ve never really understood how to rewrite and redraft, I don’t really understand what the rules of it is, what you have to do and where to start; but from workshopping, the support from Hannah and Adam and, the most important thing I’ve learned, rest away from writing – I’ve discovered it’s about pursuing question and big ideas and not being shy of the grandness of potential. It’s about writing an ideal and being bold, courageous and brave.

This PlayBox attachment came to me at a divine time. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in journey. I’ve written a play where my identity isn’t tokenised, doesn’t have to be split up or moulded into something palatable. It’s joy, pain, sensitive, loud too-much-too-much-too-much but also just enough. Like I’ve been taught it’s okay to be. Thank you Box of Tricks.

~ Daneka Etchells