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Posts Tagged ‘Essays’

Problem Solver- Yes, I think I am

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on November 21, 2009 at 1:16 am

I’ve always enjoyed puzzles.  Not rules, mind you, but puzzles.  Word puzzles, strategy games, Sudoko is like CRACK… and when I was into math, it was always the geometric “What are the angles?” questions that I lusted after.

Because I find great joy in the solving.

The rules thing is probably why I took this passion with me into the arts, however, because I couldn’t reconcile my enthusiasm with a black and white world; I much prefer to dance among the many shades of grey.

And as I write, I find that my greatest moments of triumph and exultation come after I’ve sweated and sworn and banged my head into the keyboard more times than I care to give number to, only to arrive, FINALLY, at the solution to my dramatic complications.

I LOVE these moments.  They are internal, personal moments of supreme victory and validation- and their promises are what keep my nose to the grindstone when faced with every daunting rewrite, edit, or “What the Fuck?” a play brings my way.

I’m working on a screenplay for a producer right now- working from his story outline and treatment – to try and lift the best parts of his work out, dust them off, and reshape them into a shiny, happy, new script.  And there are some significant challenges inherent to this project – Chief among them is the matter of “Committing to Everything, Marrying Nothing” – which basically means that I need to try to use his material as much as possible to solve the story problems before I go blasting away with my own jackhammer, mortar and paste.  And today is one of the days that my crafty little imagination and I found a great solution that requires very little structural change to one of the story’s hiccups.

Which makes me very happy, and which I think will please the producer as well, which helps me feel a little less overwhelmed by the other challenges I know are coming.

It’s something to think about- that the job of a writer is so multi-dimensional.  We are counselor, omniscient creator of worlds, problem solver, and on top of all that (most of the time) our own damn publicist- endeavoring to create worlds so titillating that those with the money and wherewithal to give them life have no choice but to adopt our creative children and do their best to deliver them in all their potential glory.

It’s full of challenges, but the rewards are so sweet, how can I not but follow this exciting path?

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Re-Entry

In Essays, The Daily Drool on August 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm

(I actually wrote this a while ago – January as a matter of fact- came across it in my pillaging and don’t think I could put it any better…)

This is what it is… The coming home requires the donning of the CA coat… all the worries and the work, the hopes and fears.  Going home lets me take it off, climb into comfort and feel that everything will be alright, that everything is alright.  Heading back here to my world, which is ripe with uncertainties, brings with it all the heaviness and responsibility that is difficult to want to heft back onto my shoulders.  Not that I’ll notice it as much in a few days, but climbing back into it?  It’s always daunting and full of confusion.

I was driving into work this morning and there was a Huey chopper in the distance, hovering above the 10 fwy.  I could tell it was helicopter-shaped, but it was hovering with such absolute stillness that, from my car, I couldn’t quiet reconcile what I was seeing.  And I started to wonder, so tenuous is my view of “reality”, if I weren’t really still asleep and that this shape, this cardboard cutout, was maybe really a rip in my imagination.  And that little quiver in perception was all it took to make me look around myself without any sort of skepticism at the world, since absolutely anything seemed possible.  I could see the snowcapped mountains in the distance (for the wind cleared the LA fog) and I felt I could be there in an instant if I desired as much, for the world at that moment seemed absolutely of my own making.  And then I looked back towards the helicopter-shape, still disconcerted at it’s steadfast position in the sky, and I see that it IS a helicopter, it’s a big-ass Huey hovering just off the freeway, and I still can’t shake this feeling that I could make anything, absolutely anything, happen, if I just believed in it enough.

And I park the car, head into work, and start reading a script, because that is what I do, and I realize that although I am home, under the heavy coat of “My life” – I almost always get a vote in how that coat is going to look, feel, and fit.  I just don’t always know how to make the threads fit.   But I try.  And maybe if I can remember that more often, if I can hold onto that feeling, I will be more grounded in my life and less like a little balloon in the breeze.

So I’m sharing this with you so you might understand the way I think; that living in our imaginations for extended periods may lead to somewhat skewed perceptions of the world, that reality isn’t necessarily science but magic too, and that sometimes, a helicopter is way more than a shape in the distance.

Left, Right… Fight?

In Essays, The Daily Drool on August 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

I don’t like to air my political thoughts very often because I think we get enough of people broadcasting on that channel – every once in a while though I get struck numb with the sheer audacity of something and publicly ponder.   Today I’m not going to do that –  Today I’d like to ask you some questions… because I feel like I don’t have enough reach to grasp the answer.

The divide between Republicans and Democrats – something that has been going and going – feels to me to becoming particularly divisive as of late.  I’m speaking of the past couple years, and especially since the election.  Everyone seems to have a very vocal and vociferous opinion about why their side has it all figured out and the other are a bunch of nuts.  People are angry and looking for an outlet – but what is scary to me is any sense of seeming appreciation that this is the place to have debate… that this, of all nations, is one in which we (while agreeing to disagree) should at least retain reason as we struggle to fight for our beliefs without becoming so fanatically committed to them that we cease to see our opponant as a likewise dedicated human being.

Because I feel like this is getting forgotten.  Because we’re not debating anymore, we’re throwing dirty punches – and while the things we are fighting for are life-changing – it’s scary to see so many people apparently loosing their minds in the ring.

I’m not preaching some sort of “Can’t we all just get along” mentalitiy, because I know we can’t.  We’re all of us coming at issues from our own perspective and that will always result in differences, some of which are too strong to overlook.  But I can’t abide by the ignorance of some of the arguments people are making on either side – and by ignorance I mean those who have begun denigrating everyone who disagrees.  Yes, people are angry, and Yes, someone has to lose – but writing off a whole demographic with expletive ridden insults and disgust, just because they don’t agree with you, turns debate into a playground fight really quickly.  It’s disgusting.

So this is my question:  When is the last time we were so divided politically and do you think we’re going to be able to heal?  Are we as a nation going to be able to move forward from our political positions, win or lose, or is this divide going to turn into one giant crack…

Sunshine Spots – more Feline wisdom by Midnite

In The Daily Drool on July 18, 2009 at 8:42 am

Well, the human is too tired to think (oh, poor BABY!)  And since my last post was such a success, she’s “Allowing” me to write another.  Right.  Lucky me.

Lucky YOU.

Because I’m going to talk to you about sunshine.  More specifically, those wonderful soft places that seem to catch it when it comes in the window… if you know what to look for you can spend all day in one of those spots and wake up feeling like the cat that got the canary.

First: make sure the space is available.  If the Human is asleep and the sunshine is there, just start taking it over by subtly plopping your butt in the Human’s face.  They don’t like that and invariably move.  You could try talking to them about it, but they might get physical if you wake them up too much.  The butt is an effective suggestive tool.  They don’t need to even open their eyes to know something’s not right and roll over.

Second: If it’s usually there, and it’s not there this morning, it’s the Human’s fault.  This is when you should yell them.  Holler until they do something about it.  Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes for them to realize they closed the blinds yesterday and voila’ you’ve got sun!

Third:  DON’T BE AFRAID TO DEFEND WHAT IS YOURS!   Sometimes the Human misreads the situation and tries to cuddle you.  This isn’t all bad- If you ignore them and add an irritated flick to your tail they will usually go away.  If they insist, however, and you are not interested in the belly rub at the moment, I find that a little kitty fart works wonders.  I know what your thinking – “Has it come to that?” – Yes.  Human’s hate all things smelly, and the pleasure of watching their ugly little nose wrinkle in dissatisfaction is worth the humiliation of revealed gas.

Alright, speaking of sunshine, there’s a delightful little patch creeping across the floor right now, so I’m signing out of the cyber-world and tuning in to Mother Nature.  Her bright beams are calling…

Real Listening

In Essays, The Daily Drool on July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm

So the kids and I have been doing a lot of listening exercises, mostly because at 15, 16, 17 years old, your head is flooded with thoughts and ideas and working as an ensemble means leaving those thoughts at the door so you can tune in to one another.   And I’ve noticed, out of these warm-ups, that to really listen- listen with your whole body- you have to leave yourself and step into that intimidating shared space between.

It’s equitable to yon castle keep – You can shout at one another from behind your walls, but it takes a strange kind of courage to step beyond the gate into a border-less landscape and look into another’s eyes.

Because walls = safety (or so we tend to think) But what wealth are we missing from behind them?  The very invention of walls if born of protection, and giving that up (even for a moment) can be frightening, dangerous… or really freaking freeing.

And we’re not talking about anything more than listening.  Because that’s where it starts.

It’s not easy.  It can be really difficult to give someone your full attention!  Not only must you send your ego/judge out to pasture, but to actively listen you can’t just tune in for every other word as you secretly formulate your next speech.  You must really engage in their telling, how they are saying it- their bodies, their eyes, their verve…

And while it’s not possible to be this attentive to every moment in real life, it’s a shame more people aren’t as aware of their own listening habits as these kids are getting to be – because the world around us is just bursting with information, energy, and answers – listening, really listening is just hard enough that we rarely have the genuine experience of ever truly hearing or of  truly being heard.

I imagine if people were walking this earth less immersed in the “Me” and more tuned in to the world, they might be amazed at what they’ve been missing/misunderstanding/ and taking for granted… In fact, taking time to stop, look, and listen might be just the ticket to feeling less outside of things.

And wouldn’t that be lovely?

King of (soda) Pop?

In Essays, The Daily Drool on July 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Of all the things going on in the world right now, it is particularly interesting to me that we are scrambling to suffer the loss of a pop icon.  I understand the man touched and changed lives.  I do.  So I’m not proposing that the adoration isn’t unwarranted.  I’m just a little blown away with the ferocity with which people are abandoning the “real” in their pursuit of grief over a man who lived much of his life immersed in fantasy.

And it’s tricky to explore this notion without it seeming that I’m passing judgment on the man or his fans… it’s really not for me to shout opinions about it one way or the other.  Everyone should be entitled to experience his passing.  I’m merely trying to say that I find the global spectacle of Jackson’s death an interesting phenomenon considering all the other horrific events currently happening.

It’s as though his final gift to us was one of nostalgia; offering us all an opportunity to look back at what he once was and cheer.  To remember the good and toss out the bad.  To, in fact, chastise those who would remind us of the strange or unpleasant and instead remind them of all that he once was.

I can’t help but notice similarities between this and our current battle with ourselves.

Struck by devestating economic stagnancy, much of America is trying to fight its way out of the dredges.  People are homeless, bankrupt, unemployed… We find ourselves drifting further and further away from the “Glory Days” of Hummers and limitless credit, forced to downsize our own wants, needs, and base of operations.  We are topic for much speculation overseas, and our shiny halos are holding up their “Needs Maintenance” signs.

It’s no wonder we want to reach back and resurect some hope… some gold dust… And enjoy the success of a man who represented The American Dream-  because right now dreaming is hard.  We are tired.  We are poor.  We are hungry…. hungry for some relief, for some inspiration, and for some magic.

Perhaps what we are grieving is not really the man, but our own innocence…  If ever there were a Peter Pan, he was it.  What will the world be like without his (at times surreal) reminder that maybe we don’t all have to grow up?

The soberness of our current situation is enough to send anyone running down memory lane in search of happier times.

So perhaps the fans have it right.  Let’s celebrate the man and his music.  Let’s do away with the bad or embarrassing and embrace the beauty and the good… if only to remind ourselves what it felt like as we struggle to find our way back again.

Remembering… or not

In The Daily Drool on June 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

It’s been a crazy week – Finally a job, (and a fantastic one at that! ) I’m teaching!  Whew!  But after 2 months of going to bed when I want, and waking up when I want, I’ve become quite accustomed to a different clock.  Waking up every day this week at 7:30 (about three hours earlier than anyone should be expected to rise) has been challenging (to say the least) for this little body.  Not to mention that I am now also forced to eat my meals about three hours earlier than I would otherwise have done.

Let’s just say my body has been, unhappy.

Then there is the issue of all the energy I am now responsible for bringing to these kids.  I’ve got to keep them engaged for 5 hours a day!  So I head in, work my ass off at spreading the positivity and enthusiasm, then come home, stumble to the kitchen for some fuel and sit in a stuporific slump until dinner is ready and I can recharge.

But what’s been really interesting is the process of re-igniting old tools left to rust, and part of that process has meant scouring through old notebooks in search of old handouts and notes from my acting days.

Now, I’m a bit of a packrat.  Not only do I fear that in throwing out some old tattered stack of notebooks I’ll loose the knowledge contained therein, but I just don’t want to make the effort to paw through a large box of memories and try to decide what’s worth keeping and what’s just dribble.  So I’ve accumulated a fare share of these remnants from the past and they sit in a bin under my bed, or in the closet, and grown dustballs the size of feet.  Big feet.  Big, hairy, scary feet.   However, it seems that in this endeavor, my proclivity for “saving” has finally paid off.  I’ve found a wealth of information I can pull from, and pull from it I will.

But academics aside, I also found copious notes and letters I wrote to friends during an interim between years at AADA (my father had a heart transplant and I took a deferment for a year) – and as I read over these letters and notes, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder at this person signing my name to the pages.  I remember so little of the things, people, events I mentioned!

I devoted several letters to the subject of some fellow by the name of James… yet I have absolutely NO recollection of this guy. I mean, nada.  Zip.  ZERO.  I also spend a lot of time talking about drama at RT’s Black Bull, my bar of employment at the time, and yet reading over the letters felt as foreign to me as if I was reading about drama in space.  Of course I remember the place, but the time I spent there must have been dripping with fog.

And I think it’s so interesting that we can forget, or be so bogged down with life’s troubles that we aren’t really experiencing the world we live in, or whatever else is was that caused my memory bank to kick this chunk of time to the curb.

I mean, we spend a lot of time thinking about where we come from… we build whole philosophies around our experiences, and yet we’re relying on a mass of nebulous tissue and nerves that has it’s own rules of survival and self-preservation.

In any regard, it was fun to visit the old me through these letters and notes – a real cause for recollection of who and what I was 10 years ago.  Of course it begs the question, what will the future me think of me now?

Riding the Ebb and Flow

In Essays, The Daily Drool on June 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

Endeavoring to become a professional artist of any sort is hard.  There may never be an end to the need for doctors, chemists, or bartenders, but there is a limit to the number of artists who actually make money at their craft.  Those who make enough at their craft alone are even fewer.

And so, one must be willing to admit that one thinks them-self special, in order to enter into this creative lottery… One must think that he/she is holding the winning ticket in order to enter those upper echelons of artistic success.  Elsewise, why play?

Because it is not merely a matter of work ethic, nor a game of total chance, that determines your artistic success.  It is rather a complicated combination of factors, mostly outside your control, that determine where you will fit.  And this sea of possibility maintains a somewhat confusing, ever unpredictable ebb and flow.

You must learn to relax into the waves as they come if you want to maintain any sense of sanity.

Because it’s a long road, and one that is ever fraught with challenges.  It is competitive, exciting, fantastically rewarding at its highs and devastatingly dark at it’s lows.  The struggling artist must always endeavor to maintain a healthy inner compass if they have any hope of arriving at the hoped for destination, for to allow the fickle waters to determine your worth would be devestating.

This life is full of ups and downs, and an ever present hunger for recognition and success.  We create art not just to satisfy our inner muse, but to change the world!  We desire to be heard, seen, or read… so we must be bold in our faith in ourselves.

For the sea of possibility is a fantastic place, as long as you have a well-stocked raft in which to weather it.

Killing Your Darlings

In Essays, The Daily Drool on June 10, 2009 at 10:10 am

An ugly term for an ugly practice.

Every writer gets carried away now and then by a particularly poetic description of their novelistic heroine’s last meal, or a cleverly wrought bit of poetry, (or in my case a few spectacular lines of dialogue) that upon second, third, or even fourth glance practically jump off the page with genius, but for some reason wreak havoc on the rest of the pages.  Perhaps it’s because these lines are so dynamic, so perfect, that they simply put the rest to shame by comparison.  Or perhaps it’s so striking to us because it’s a moment where our voice has taken center stage and thus it doesn’t belong on the page.  Or maybe we have struck upon the heart of the scene with an insight rarely seen that it demystifies the rest of the trek…  Whatever the case, these little darlings are sometimes the hardest thing to do away with, even though their demise can be the key to a really great script.

Lately I’ve been wrestling with the second act of a play I started last summer.  The first act just flowed out of me, it was unstoppable, and it was exciting, and it ended with punch!  Aaaaand that’s where it stayed for about six months – until I slowly began to try and answer all the questions the first act had asked.  A dear friend of mine has shaken his head in bafflement at my plight, disbelieving I would head into such treachorous waters without an outline.  I of course had to explain that while outlining makes perfect sense to me for screenplays, it’s hard for me to do with stage plays… and even then I felt the excuse was shakey, for here I was in the middle of a muddle with this one.

In any case, I’ve finally got a completed draft, and the challenge has been to pour over it, chiseling away at the dense bits, sculpting the sequencing, and trying to whip it into shape.  And what I’ve found is that while there are a lot of really great character epiphanies, or some particularly pleasing dialogue here and there – oftentimes these little bits are the bits I need to carve off.  But I don’t want to. (stomp, stomp, huff!)  So I circle round, tinkering with something else, until I’ve the fortitude and distance to be able to come back, re-examine my darling, and cut it’s bloody head off.

It’s a fantastic experience, because its rewards are pretty immediate – a lovely and much relieved “Ahhh, now it’s flowing!” – but it oft leaves me wondering about all the little bits, floating around in the ethers with no place to land.

Poor things.  Perhaps I’ll start constructing a notebook with these bits and pieces – give them a gallery all their own.

Until then, I’ll just keep sharpening the scissors.

Because it slips…

In Essays on June 6, 2009 at 11:27 pm

When I was a little girl, I used to be afraid of everything.  Volcanos on the news?  Watch out!  Earthquakes in Indonesia?  We’re done for!  Whatever it was, I was terrified it was coming my way… because the world was precious, and it seemed that it was constantly in jeaopardy.

And now that I’m older, I realize that it’s not “the world” that in jeaopardy, it’s us. We are fragile, fragile creatures.  We can be anything we want to be, but we break apart so easily. And I am tired of being afraid of the wreckage.  Because it comes.  Either way.

See, I’ve always been a little more sensitive to the world and her moments than most people.  I’ve never been able to sit in the midst of “special” without recognizing the fragility of it all…  It makes for hard joy when everything feels that precious.  It sets you apart.  

And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I continue to try and better understand myself and how I work…  I’ve been thinking about my tendancy to hold the world to such high standards, of my habit of heartbreak when I realize that it’s just me seeing the world this way,  and that people really do try to do their best at life, but there aren’t many who also see it while it’s happening.

I’ve been thinking that it’s a gift and a big pain in the ass to operate this way – to feel everything so deeply at times that it seems the earth itself is vibrating.  

Because when I look at the people in my life that are important to me, I see through their freckled skin and into tomorrow’s wrinkles, and it puts me in mind to place more importance on a shared afternoon than they can understand.  I distance myself by my understanding of the moments preciousness, and there’s no reachng across a divide like that, for I am suddenly outside the moment, watching my mortal self laugh… I am no longer just inhabiting my body, but the very wind.  And it’s lonely and far-off.  

And the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that it is this, living on the perimeter of life, that allows me to write the way I do.  It is my vantage point as observer, as lover, as big-time feeler, that I am able to see into the dreams that dance across my mind and breathe their life onto paper.  

A strange gift with an even stranger price.

For although I strive to live and engage in this world, it will always feel confusing to me how people can throw it away like so many hamburger wrappers… thinking an opportunity will come again, thinking that a moment will come again, thinking that they will have any sort of “Again”.  

Because it’s all happening now… Nothing you ever see or do will ever be exactly like it once was.  You will never look or be as young and beautiful as you look now, and the more time you waste fretting over that which is gone is more time you will deny yourself the joy of what is before you. 

So, while I don’t recommend living every second as if it is in technicolor, do something today, something you might normally take for granted – like kissing your spouse, or enjoying a bit of chocolate, or even settling into freshly washed sheets – and just be in that moment.  Relish in the wonder of being.

Because, while I no longer worry about volcanos, I still feel time slipping through my fingers… slipping and sliding across my skin and the skin of those around me.  And when life is this precious, how could we ever pass up an opportunity to celebrate those moments that make it all worthwhile?