Mentors Mentoring


On this Thanksgiving day, I want to say a public thank you to my playwriting mentor. 

Yes, I have a playwriting mentor. We’ve known each other for years, and I still go to him for advice. He still gives me books to read. He was reading my work when no one else was. 

I won’t embarrass him by giving out his name. I’ll just call him The Coyote (not Coyote—that’s a Joni Mitchell song—The Coyote). I hope he gets a kick out of being called The Coyote. It reminds me of a 1960s British spy thriller. Beware The Coyote.

Back when I was a young playwright learning to walk, I gave my first play to The Coyote. This was the play that blew it all open for me artistically. I threw everything I had into the play. A week later, The Coyote told me he had read the play several times, but he didn’t have much to say about it.

–You should get it produced, Jen. He said.

–But what about the ending? And the beginning? And the middle? I asked.

I had questions. Lots of questions. I was young. I was supposed to have questions.

–No Jen. GET IT PRODUCED. The Coyote howled.

The play was produced, and The Coyote was right. All my questions were answered in rehearsal.

Fast forward to now. Or this past June. I mentored a young playwright for the Young Playwrights Festival at the Blank Theatre.

I read her beautiful play over and over again. I had no notes for her. We needed to get it into rehearsal. I spoke with the playwright on the phone and asked her where her play came from. She sounded older than her years as she talked about her inspiration. She knew what she was doing. In fact, she could teach me a few things about playwriting.

Still, I felt like I was a bad mentor. I supposed to help her. I was supposed to give her guidance. I was supposed. . .

Then I remembered The Coyote.

Sometimes mentors mentor by not mentoring at all.

And I hope the Coyote gets to eat plenty of turkey today.

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