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Posts Tagged ‘Playwriting’

Twice the Tiffany for Twice the Clicks

In Playwriting on May 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I’m guest blogging for the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative this week!  Bookmark it and get ready for some genius… or, something aspiring to genius… okay, it’s me sounding off on things playwriting and things female.

Or in other words,  CHECK IT OUT!

Where the heck is hour 25?

In The Daily Drool on May 10, 2010 at 8:52 am

Time… can… be… MADDENING.  Or rather, it’s the LACK of time that drives me crazy.  I find that the older and more writerly I get, the weirder I become about time and the stingier I get about making commitments.  I’m becoming a bit of a time nazi.  I think it’s because there is this backlog of projects just screaming at me at all hours, so if I have to spend, oh, say 32 hours training to be a census taker one week, and those 32 hours begin at the unGodly hour of 7a.m. every morning, rendering me stupid and barely able to put one foot in front of the other at 4:00, much less form sentences… well, you’re looking at one grumpy-ass Tiff.

When I was in the throws of obtaining my BA, I took UCLA up on it’s lovely student counseling offer because I found that I couldn’t realy manage the stress of my impending graduation and the OBSCENE number of tasks on my list.  The counselor did two really wonderful things for me, ONE, she asked me what the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t turn in the most awesome thesis paper ever for one of my gen. ed. classes.  I thought about it, and I realized that even if I turned in a C-grade paper (unheard of in this perfectionist’s file) I would still end up with a high B for the class.  She looked at me and strait faced asked if I could live with that and I was like (chorus of angels) YES!  Pressure relieved… no one was going to care what grade I got in “The Movie Score” class. And you know what?  I actually got an A on that paper and the class anway, minus the agonizing pressure.  The SECOND thing she did for me was drill this phrase into my head “Can I get back to you?” – you see, turns out I was a terminal “Yes” girl to any and all potentially exciting opportunities, leading my calandar to look like the Secretary of State’s.  I was so over-extended that I woke up everyday groaning at all the things I had to do, the places I had to be.  This simple change of thought (yes, I know it’s kind of silly to some, but for me it was mind-blowing) afforded me the time to actually look at that calendar before I piled another task onto my plate.

And all of this brings me to today, where I write so much and spend so much time thinking about writing, that time can once again freak me out with it’s fullness.  I have to be careful.  I have to pay attention.  And I have to keep things in balance.

I mean, this is the big gamble, isn’t it?  This move home was not so I could go out and get some 40 hour a week job (although I wouldnt’ mind the cash!!) But an opportunity to relieve some of the pressures so that a minimal work-week wouldn’t bankrupt me, and so I could pour those hours into my work, my writing… writing that is hopefully going to pay off and pay me eventually… It’s kind of all based on hope and faith and some creative magic.

But in the meantime, it doesn’t mean I won’t stop looking for that elusive 25th hour.

Pressing on… Punching through

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on April 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

I’m working, I’m working…. I’m working on the same damn story I’ve been working on for MONTHS… all in preparation to go to pages (script) and it’s been maddening.  For many reasons.  But the thing I learned this weekend (or was reminded of rather- I already knew it) was that sometimes you just have to push your way through something to get it done… and then you can go back and spiff it up.

My first inclination in just about anything is to try to do it as perfectly as possible from the get go… and that’s amounts to a lot of pressure (on my end) high expectations (again, on my end) and a lot of wasted energy stewing over pieces that aren’t yet in focus.  The reality is that it’s NOT going to be perfect at the onset, there’s no ax looming over my head if the first draft feels like a first draft (I prefer it to feel like a 3rd!) and sometimes if you just let go of something for a while, it sharpens on its own before it comes back to you all BAM-like -in the form of the solution.

SO…. in pushing past some VERY BIG and VERY UGLY bumps in this newest storyline, I was able to be productive, answer the questions I knew, and let some of those bumps work themselves out on their own, in the back corners of my brain, where the muse must have had her thinking cap on.  (thank you Muse!)

I wonder, if I applied this philosophy to life, would it feel any easier?  More sensible?  Less out of control?

I don’t know.  I can only try to be more aware of and understanding of my own process and hope the world and I start clicking again.

Meanwhile, lesson of the post – Punch through the pain, the blood sweat and tears… when you look back you’ll find you’ve usually done better than you thought, and you’ve almost always come farther than you were aware of.

Because I want it to be AWESOME!

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on April 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Alright, how about I get back to a topic I know a little something about?  Like, re-writing.

I’ve written about it before… hmm, I was going to go grab a link to my last “On Writing” post for you in case you wanted to refresh your memory, but apparently it’s been a while since I’ve addressed the process of writing (I’ve been busy writing posts about trash-picking aliens, The Pope, and the cat’s perspective on my move – sigh)

Well… I’ve got a reading of Twigs and Bone coming up in about a week and a half, so this weekend was all about those little rewrites I knew it had coming but hadn’t been able to find.  (Sometimes a deadline is exactly what you need to inspire you!)

So I spent a lot sorry, make that A-FUCKING- LOT of time poring over sentences and periods and BEATs, in the hopes that I was clarifying, tightening, and strengthening the damn thing. I was working on the play’s texture… and I’m pooped out!

But, thanks to some kick-ass notes I got from FallOut Girl, I was able to attack the script from a different perspective.  I think the changes I made did a lot to help elevate the material and add depth… all good things when you have what is essentially a family drama, wrapped up in a haunting, further complicated by a house-destroying hurricane.

Yeah, I know.  Woof.

But the thing is, the thing that keeps bringing me back to this script, is that I know it rocks.  I know it kicks some ass.  And it’s not even been through the rehearsal process yet!  (Oy, the fine-tuning feels interminable!  Rehearsals!)  But it’s this knowing of how close the play is to being AWESOME that keeps me coming back to it.

I mean, eventually, (and let’s be honest Tiff, I think eventually has arrived) I’ve got to stop tinkering and start sending the thing around.  But it’s a tough call, because why send out less-than-your-best when you know it requires a little more glue and grist?

Anyway, all I can say at this late hour when my eyes are falling down stupid and my fingers feel fat and clumsy, is that I feel really good about this draft.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner in my own ability to see the hiccups, interpret them, and help them become beautifully complex moments… and if I can say that now, then I have great hope for my own continued education and evolution as a playwright/screenwriter.  Because I consider it proof of being on the correct path that I still love it, still pine for it, and am still growing as I walk the writerly road.

Goooooodnight 🙂

A Writer’s (somewhat soothed) Panic

In The Daily Drool on March 24, 2010 at 9:29 am

Well, it seems that things will be okay with Mac – apparently my batch had a problem with their logic boards- a totally covered repair. 

(sigh)

So I can breathe again. 

But I’ve got to say, I had grown quite accostomed to my morning routine of getting up, having my OJ and checking all my inter-goodies at hte kitchen table from my dear little laptop.  Right now I am hunched in the corner over my very reliable and friendly PC- I do appreciate it, I really do- it’s just not quite the same.  Probably because the desk my PC is housed on is covered in things that need to be sorted, filed, and put awaay.  It’s like working in a disaster zone, office style. 

Also, my fingers had grown quite accostomed to the laptop keyboard.  The regular size of my desktop keyboard is very, very confusing indeed. 

BUT, that’s the update there.  I think what yesterday’s panic showed me is that I’ve grown quite attached to that little package of metal and magic.  It’s an extension of my thoughts, my brain sort of just plugs into it and when you’re a writer, well, that kind of creative bond is pretty damn important. 

The only major drawback to the repair is that it’s going to take SEVEN days!  I mean, I’m moving on Weds. and I prob won’t get it back until Tues.  That makes me very nervous.  But at least it’s getting fixed. 

Oh, I also had just finished my essay for the Princess Grace playwriting Fellowship before it blanked out.  Yeah, now I have to completely rewrite it!  Or mayb I can go in with a hard drive and ask them to put it all on there for me… I’ve got to call and see if that’s an option.

(sigh) If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  I really, REALLY hope this is it for catastrophe’s for a while.  I thought it was just 2009, but The Year of Adversity and Change seems to have leaked onto 2010… I really hope that this move brings postitive changes and good ol’ Happy Tiffany back to the forefront.

(Tap, tap, tap) Is this thing on?

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Alright kids, pull up your overalls and get ready for some soap-boxin’ – I have just come from one of those meetings that make you itchy all over with Verbage Coloriscus.  (Yes, I just made that up.  And I like how it sounds, so I ain’t deletin’.  I told you, I’m soap boxin’!)

… AHEM…(ready?)

Writers.

We love to read their words, we love to watch their plays/movies/t.v. shows.  We love to revel in the visual representation of their imaginations.  We know it’s slow-going, and difficult to succeed, but somehow, through all the impossibilities that impede a writer’s life, the cream (hopefully) rises to the top of our book-stacks, Blockbuster queues, and DVR schedules.

And we love them for it.

So it makes sense that, after a life spent rejoicing in the fruits of a writer’s labors, the occasional citizen (okay, many, many citizens) feel inspired to tackle the process themselves.  They think “I can do that!  I have a GREAT idea!” and, fighting plenty an obstacle to dissuade them, they set to work harvesting minutes from whatever it is they usually do, in order to indulge the passion that has swept over them.

And it is fun!  It’s exciting!  They have discovered a challenge of great personal reward!  They rejoice in the creation and birth of their idea-baby.  And I applaud mightily those that sweat their way to “The End” or “Fade out” because between having an idea, and seeing it to fruition, lies a trecherous path paved with self-doubt, the skepticism of family, friends, and bosses, irritating day-jobs, and various other personal challenges- some as revelatory as realizing “This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be!”  And so, with that final, blessed period, the average citizen has just done something even seasoned writers can struggle with- they’ve created a First Draft.

And it is awesome.

All those words!  All those thoughts!  A pile of pages where before there were none.  A world of ideas painted by you!

You stand up from your desk and allow the internal dance of happiness and accomplishment to wash over you.

It is awesome.

It is also terrifying.

Because now you must actually hand this precious egg over to those who would evaluate it.  You must deliver it to the hands of (gasp) The Reader.  And The Reader, who may be your mother, your cousin, a teacher, or a professional acquaintance… They will look your baby over and deliver judgement.  They might be kind, scalding, indifferent… you have no way of knowing what an audience will think/see/feel/or even (God love ’em!) say.

Your dance of happiness and accomplishment tries to ignore the reality of this forthcoming “sharing”, and keeps dancing; you’ve come this far, surely the next part will be easier…

But your responding action to The Reader’s, well, response, is where a number of new writers stumble, throw in the towel and grumble.  The dance of joy becomes a tantrum of panic.  “You mean I’m not done?!  But… but… ARG!!! ”  It is yet another hurdle to hop.  It is the crossroads at which those who are content to have just done the thing go back to their day-jobs, and those truly believe (perhaps insanely so) in their work, in their idea, and in themselves, pick up the thing (now battered and bloody) roll up their (tired) sleeves, and set out to make it better.

And so the process goes; With each idea – new challenges and lessons.  With each lesson learned – new skills and stronger understanding of the craft.   With a stronger understanding of the craft – new and better work.

This is the life of the writer, it is one of constant evolution.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

Because we don’t live to be still and we certainly don’t write to be stagnant.  We create to revolutionize – to stir thought and consciousness -whether to laughter, to tears, or to change – it is all born of “I have something to say that will move you.”

Which is why, if you have an idea, you must yourself be ready to move – to take action – to evolve.

Some people don’t see this.  They fail to open themselves up to the transformation that must occur, the metamorphosis that becoming (or accepting your path as) a writer requires.  They stand still and unbending, their “idea” wrapped around them like a steel case, cast and forged of machine, and they are unable to grow – unable to see the sun when it shines, disputing the rain when its drops fall, and forever peering up at the mighty trees around them wondering “Why can I not see what they see?  If I were only as tall as them, why, I bet I could see for miles and miles!”

The Sapling, so eager to protect itself, grows not an inch.  The Idea, born of so much passion and enthusiasm, sees not the light of day from its steel case of Ego.

And to these people, I can only say “I am sorry.”

For it is not enough to look up at me as I grow and ask me why you do not; you must also be willing to listen when I  answer.

You must be willing to try the tools that I hand you.

You must be willing to part ways with old thoughts, if you are to have any hope of absorbing the new.

And I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to pass my hard-won lessons along to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and few roots.  I cannot describe to you the view from where I stand if you insist on staring at (and complaining about) only your own rocky ground.

Because I am moving.

Because it has taken me my whole life to get Here.

And I will continue to evolve as Here becomes There.

And until you respect and understand that writing a thing and becoming a writer are two very different things, all the words in the world will not be enough to make sense of that to you.

Staring too long

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 11, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’ve been working on one particular play, off and on, for the better part of the year.  It is a truly exciting piece of writing, and I don’t just say that because it’s mine… actually I’m probably less wont to say that because it’s mine.  I say it’s exciting because it is, it’s been very well received, people enjoy it, it’s even a semi-finalist for the O’Neill Playwriting conference (which is the like one of (if not THE) biggest-damn-deal-playwriting conference in the US – also incredibly difficult to get into, so we’ll be happy with semi-finalist and over the moon about anything further)  BUT, I can’t get the ending… quite… right…

And I’m trying to polish it up, because some theatre companies have been good enough to ask me for it, and I don’t dare send them a draft with attached waiver “By the way, I know the ending isn’t as satisfying as it needs to be, so, you know, cut me some slack and have faith that I’ll fix it!”  NO!  I need to fix it first.  But I’ve been staring at the damn thing so long now that the surprises seem less-than, the actions tired, and the grand revelations unimpressive… Because I’ve read it and fiddled with it and then re-read it over and over and over and… (yawn) You get the picture?  I can’t see it anymore!

The problem with rewriting is that you run the risk of landing yourself in Tinker Cove – a hard-to-get-out-of way station where sentences become needles in your eyes and beats echo in your ears, and you just want to throw the damn thing to the sharks!

(sigh)

But I’m making progress.

I took some time away from the thing, and now, coming back at it, I’m able to appreciate my words with some of the respect they deserve.  I’m able to laugh and gasp a little… and I imagine the first-timers will be able to gloss over that one bumpy word that is driving me crazy, with nary a worry of their own.

Because I’ve been staring at it so long that I am seeing only the flaws and hiccups, the good stuff is like “yeah, yeah, whatever.” in comparison to the glowing snags… but I have to admit, those snags are (probably) only glowing in my eyes.  The overall shape of the thing is pretty damn good.

So I’m trying to be kind to myself, even as I hash out these last few ripples… I’m trying to be confidant in the improvements I’ve made… and I’m hoping, seriously hoping, that the play wins a spot at one of these renowned development centers currently considering it, for the play brings one helluva hard-working perfectionist (me) with it.

I believe in this engine, it just needs a few more hands to help get it started.

3-Page Challenge

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Here’s the deal – I tend to be a “Write by the seat of my pants” kind of girl – very little discipline and a whole lotta prayers.  I write when I’m feeling ‘moved’ or when I have a deadline, but I also  spend a lot of time allowing myself to watch T.V. or play solitaire.  Not good habits to have.

So I’m issuing a 3-page a day personal challenge.

YOWZA!

Some of you may be wondering “Tiffany, why Yowza?  3 pages isn’t a very impressive number…”  Well, Some of You, 3 pages a day might not sound that hard, but trust me, it is.

A lot happens in three pages!  And making a three page a day quota is pretty serious stuff…  If I do this, really do it, I’ll have 66 pages at the end of the month!  That’s a lot (and I’m allowing one day off a week, although I may not take it)

Since I’m already 22 pages into my current egg, that means I could have the darn thing finished (in rough draft, at least) by the end of the month.

What about you?  Anybody want to join me?  Or do you already follow a page-quota routine?

SNOW!!! (I want it)

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on February 11, 2010 at 10:58 am

A couple of the cast members from Jane Doe asked me the other day, “Why Snow?  Why the North Pole?”  They were referring, of course, to the lead characters subconcious obsession with the place and all it’s parts.  I didn’t have a ready answer, but what I did manage to articulate was that there is just something so romantic about the idea of a great white canvas spread out before you… a fresh page, a clean slate…

But now that the East Coast is blizzarding and photos of snow-covered cities are plastered across my yahoo pages, I find that I am positively lusting after the stuff… perhaps some of Jane Doe’s obsessions were there simply because I love snow.

When I was little I would play for hours in the winter-wonderland of our backyard.  I would imagine that I was crossing over into a frozen tundra from another world everytime I scrambled over the bricks stacked next to the house – a formidable wall, I’ve no idea why we had these piles of bricks! – and once I had shimmied down the other side I was no longer in Prescott, I was in a land far, far away.  The ice, the snow, the tracks in it… all were wonderful, magical events to be cherished.  I spent a considerable amount of time imagining these worlds and the characters in them, and I think back to those frozen adventures with relish.

Which is why I’m looking at these beautiful pictures of snow from the weather-parched “70 and sunny” state of Los Angeles (yes, sometimes it feels like its own country even) and I’m yearning to be over there, mittens on hands, toasty hat on head, rosy-cheeked and ready for hot cocoa by the fireplace.

There is just something about it that screams “Home” and promises fun and comfort… a completely different world than this practically artificial one I now inhabit.

So, perhaps Jane Doe longed for snow because I long to be somewhere with a full four seasons- somewhere away from palm trees and perma-sun… We do write ourselves into our stories more often than we know, after all.

Picking up and Putting out- Outrageous Fortune comes to the Kirk Douglas

In Essays, Playwriting, The Daily Drool on February 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I attended a wonderfully interesting discussion today at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, hosted by CTG about the current state of theater.  The discussion (which has been traveling the country) is born of the recently published book OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE the Life and Times of the New American Play.  The book, which is a study of the state of (duh) New American Plays, laid out some very interesting facts and figures and while I haven’t yet read the book itself, the authors of those pages were very friendly in distilling it to into a one-hour presentation this morning as an invitation to discuss.  Persons present included artistic directors, literary managers, playwrights, and directors, among others.

And while I won’t even attempt to transcribe that discussion here, what I will say is that, being a burgeoning playwright and literary manager myself, it was most interesting to me to note the differences in philosophies amongst  those present- several spoke of the obvious matter, “How do we close this gap between merely applauding playwrights and actually producing their new works?”  And some people said that the solution was to “DO IT YOURSELF”

Which I thought was fascinating.

Especially when I mentioned that one of the things I felt most helpful was in just plain reaching out to new playwrights- in mentoring them and giving them a support base.  I know I speak from experience when I say that one of the things I find most difficult to navigate (as a playwright) is Where do I go for support now that I’m out of school and in the middle of this financially strapped industry? And sometimes just having a relationship with a theatre company where you can call them up or email them and say “Hey, I have a new script, are there any chances we could do a little reading and discuss it?” makes all the difference in the world… because it’s a step, a small supportive step, and a foothold.   Think of it as a mentorship- the theatre is investing time and some hours in the studio in you and your work.

But, and perhaps I didn’t word it all that fluently (I am under heavy cold medicine), there were some immediate reactions along the lines of “No one knows how to do it (be a playwright, get your work done, etc), you just have to go out and do it!”

blank stare.

blank stare.

Seriously?

Isn’t the topic of discussion here how we can increase the communication and cooperation between playwright and producing organizations?

But there are those who believe that since they’ve fought like hell to get to where they are, the last thing we at the starting line should be doing is asking for support…

And perhaps that’s an unfair summation of their reaction, but it struck me that this very little exchange is representative of two of the warring philosophies behind the many reactions to this study: How do we make this system better, and Well, yeah, that’s the way it is. (which is sometimes followed up with a So find a solution yourself, like I did.)

What is the solution for that disparity?

I think it’s in reminding oneself that theatre is at it’s core a community – it’s a miracle born of passion and fever; fever to produce something that moves us (to laughter, to tears, to actions) We find others who share this vision, this compulsion to create, and we pool our efforts in the hopes that we will find an audience of like-minded individuals… individuals who, if we’re lucky, will pay to watch us… pay for the catharsis of our story, the story we so passionately came together to tell.

And none of that happens because of “I” – it only happens because of “Us” – which is my uber corny way of saying that this study, to me, is a call to action for us to reach out to one another as we struggle to find new and better ways to produce new work.  That we need to rethink the old model, but that we need to think collectively.

In today’s economically impossible times, it’s very tempting to pull up the purse strings and protect one’s own above all else.  It’s easy to let fear steer us into self-preserving waters… but it’s exactly this train of thought that delivers us on the sands of some deserted shore, thirsty and longing for the days that we used to glide (perhaps hungrily) amongst the waves.

No, what we should do is continue boldly into the deep, uncharted waters of artistic expression -whatever that means for your particular organization – and extend our arms to the others entering those waters with us.

Because as someone so wisely said, you are your own best advocate.  Why not become OUR own best advocates?