Enigmatic Adaptation

with Alan Mehanna - 2016-04-20

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou

Two years ago, after having finished my Masters of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting, I was itching to write something new… but as all writers know the ideas just were not flowing as I had hoped.

I decided that to try and browse online for ideas. I read articles, short stories, heck I even went and found some idea generators online. Alas, none gave me what I was really looking for.

Lo and behold, I happened upon a website that archives one act plays that are currently in the public domain. I started scanning through them and after a few hours of reading, I found the holy grail… Ok maybe not the holy grail but close enough, and little did I know that this one act would stay with me for the next two years.

A one act play written by Flloyd Dell entitled Enigma… it tells the tale of a couple who have been together for 4 years in an emotionally abusive relationship, reach a point where they have to decide what to do next. Though the plot seems simple on the surface, at its core are two very complicated characters.

Enigma became an obsession of mine because of how badly I wanted to produce it, and I still do. The challenge with it however is not the production but the actual adaptation of Dell’s play. It was written in 1912, so all of you can imagine the stylistic choices that Webber took when writing it.

I needed to modernize it and so I spent months doing so. Yet now I find myself with another dilemma.

When reading the newest draft I discovered that my voice was nowhere to be found. This was simply a modernization of the text and not necessarily an adaptation of it. This is no easy task I assure you, and it is quite troubling when a writer realizes something like this… at least, it was to me.

I know needed to find “me” within this play. What did I want to say through Webber’s text. As a screenwriter and director, I believe I was given the ability to give a voice to those who have none. I am the kind of story-teller that is pulled towards character driven material. 

I have always been interested in the layers of human beings, specifically when it comes to relationships and sexuality. And everywhere you turn there is this piece of advice that spreads across all screenwriters, “Write what you know”. I constantly try to apply that in everything I write. I plan to pour a lot of myself into this short film and make it a very personal tale.

Thus, the new chapter of getting this short screenplay written. Adaptation is no easy feat, but I do believe that it is something I am up to do.

And so, I write this short blog post simply to share this new challenge. I am currently retracing the characters and trying to find myself within both of them. Trying to find what complexities I want to tackle, what conflicts I want to solve, and whose story I want to tell. 



Alan Mehanna

Instructor, Faculty of Information & Communication