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Posts Tagged ‘theater’

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!

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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 🙂

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.

Bringing it With You

In Essays, The Daily Drool on March 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm

It really is amazing to me, the power of transformation that can occur when attending a play, or a movie, a dance… any form of art really.  It’s amazing because you are bearing witness to the same event as all those in the audience with you, yet eveyrone’s take on it will be different – even if only slightly- because so much of experiencing art depends on what you brought into the art with you.

For instance, the movie UP IN THE AIR…  A lot of people have been enjoying the movie, and it’s won its fair share of statues along the awards path too, but I walked out of the theater completely captured by the film, and I knew it was because my life at present seems so very “Up in the air.”  This film spoke to me, moved me, and I felt like I totally “Got” it – in a way that I was hyper aware of… I even thought to myself “Wow, I don’t know if I would have liked this a year ago, it’s kind of a major bummer.”  But coming into the theater with myself and my own current bag of issues?  I thought it was brilliant.

And isn’t art always like that?

You walk in, and depending on your mood or present state of being, you pull different things from the experience than all the other bag-carriers around you.

Yesterday my dear friend Doc and I went to see this crazy Charles Mee play, BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA.  Now, if you know a little more about the artist Bob Rauschenberg, and then you know a little more about the playwright Charles Mee, this pastiche of image and action might have meant… something… more.  To you.  Than it did to me.

I spent the majority of the time I was watching it thinking about my own work.

But, for that reason, I consider the play experience a success.  The imagery and oddness of the text of this play reminded me to break outside the boxed-in thinking that sometimes happens when I’m immersed in a particular work.  I came up with about four different veins of inspiration from those two hours, and that’s pretty exciting.  So my experience of this piece was one of inspiration, whereas some other people in the audience felt moved to cheer, and others still felt like they should get their money back.

This is what I love about art.  And there was a particularly nice riff in the aforementioned play about exactly this…

You know, that’s how it is to deal with art
because art is made in the freedom of the imagination
with no rules
it’s the only human activity like that
where it can do no one any harm
so it is possible to be completely free
and see what it may be that people think and feel
when they are completely free
in a way, what it is to be human when a human being is free
and so art lets us practice freedom
and helps us know what it is to be free
and so what it is to be human.

I think this speaks to the essence of this post – if Art is freedom, then we are all free to take from it what we see- individually.  Sometimes we want to take it all, and sometimes we don’t want anything to do with it.  But the point is, we’re bringing ourselves into the mix, this salient being… we’re donating it to the experiment, shaking it up and down with an eagerness to see what happens.  We can never view art, or the world for that matter, completely free of our own selves, and so we are inherently a part of things

Or, as Charles Mee would say-

But, still, it often seems to me almost miraculous
how we can put things here in the museum
and ordinary folks
my mom and dad and my own neighbors
and I myself
will come to see things
sometimes things that I myself find completely incomprehensible
and really offensive
people will come to our museum
and think: oh, that’s interesting
or, oh, that’s stupid
but they don’t really hold it against the show
they just move on and look at something else and think
oh that’s cool.
And I wonder:
how do we get away with that?
And I think well, we are a free people
that’s why
and we understand that
in a way maybe other people in the world don’t
we like an adventure
often we might think
well, that’s a piece of junk
but that’s how this fellow sees the world
and there’s a certain pleasure in seeing things from his point of view
we are a patient people
no matter what you hear people say
and a tolerant people
and a fearless, open people
that’s how it is for us

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?

A Serious Man (or) How The Coen Bro’s Just Flipped us the Bird

In Essays, The Daily Drool on January 25, 2010 at 10:59 am

Okay, I might be a little bit off on my movie watching… I just saw A SERIOUS MAN tonight at the WGA (thank you Sara) and yes, it was rife with humor both dark and excluding (I’m sure that some moments were just much more amusing to those more acquainted with Jewish culture )  But at the end of it all, I walked out of the theatre with a great big sarcastic “Thanks a lot, guys” on my tongue.

Let’s just ignore the fact that the main character is so damn put upon by everyone in his life that you start hoping he’ll flip out and hack his imasculating wife/the man she’s cheating on him with/his ungrateful kids/the credit collectors/his insane mooch of a brother, to bits with a rusty ax or SOMETHING… something besides bend over and take it.  All.

Let’s ignore the fact that the movie starts out with a creepy and gasp inducing prologue that disappears as quickly as it arrived, without further explanation or pay-off, leaving you wondering if it really happened or if perhaps you imagined that strange bit…

Let’s talk instead about the end… or lack thereof… Let’s talk about The Coen Brothers’ tendency to throw convention under the bus and offer us an unresolved bit of celluloid instead.

Another dark movie without a proper ending.

Another reason to scratch your head on the way home.

Another instance of these genius rebel film makers telling Hollywood and Us to “Fuck off” with much more style and laughs than those two little words can muster.

Because they do things there own damn way.  Which they can do because they are the Coen Brothers.

The film is disjointed and without resolution… in effect mirroring the protagonist’s confusion.  He asks, and asks, and asks, and life just keeps going on without giving him any answers.  So you walk out feeling just as disatisfied as he…  As though the Coen’s are the Gods of these 105 minutes and they see no more reason to satisfy your curiosity than the rabbis, or God, do for Larry Gopnick.

It’s a trend.

Burn After Reading was another spicy and entertaining story with no more resolution than a “I don’t know what we learned” sumation that made me almost angry… angry that I paid $14 to sit through a twisty, turning, “Who’s doing what” intrigue all for an “I don’t know, you figure it out” before the credits.

And there are people sitting next to me going gaga for this, because they say that the Coens are speaking metaphorically, or allegorically, or they’re breaking the rules to illustrate a point: In BURN, it’s that all this brutality happens for naught… no one learns anything and the world keeps on wanting plastic surgery or other material prizes and I suppose in SERIOUS it’s that life keeps going whether you get an answer or not, so why waste your time asking after it?

But it calls to question (for me at least) what I want from a movie… And a big part of my hunger for stories is a resolution… an answer for the main character.  I want them to show me some wonder, some catharsis, some kind of resolution- for unlike real life, here is an opportunity to at least find some answer for the characters.  I mean, we quite literally cut off at what feels like the end of Act II in A Serious Man.  I’m sitting there, hanging, and there it comes; credits.  And I groan because those bastards have done it again… made me lean into a story only to pull the rug out from under me just as I was starting to care about which thread came next.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that were anybody else to turn in a script like this, the mentor would be quick to ask you for that missing third act.  They would sit you down and tell you “Look, you’ve got to tie this up here… this is lazy!  You brought up some big questions, now you need to at least try to answer them!”

But they’re the Coen Brothers.

So you let them bend you over and give it to you good.

Because it’s “smart.”

It’s different.

They’re rule breakers.

I’d just like to walk out of the theatre feeling like they had at least left me something other than a headache and an empty wallet… That they had other tricks up their sleeves besides dark humor and the non-ending.

I’d like to walk out of the theatre feeling moved to something other than irritation and retributive bird-flipping.

Take a breath… and… WHEW!

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on January 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Well, we did it.  We opened the show.  And… I feel… EXHAUSTED!

I mean, I feel really, really thankful and happy and excited too- but you can only sustain that much internal intensity for so long before your little guts start to object and the rest of your body orders you to “Take a REST, Godammnit!”

Because I am a tense monkey.

And if I had a job right now I would be at the spa, getting a rub down.

We had a really great opening weekend, but tonight- well, tonight the actors all clicked IN.  It was like, a great breath of relief for me, to be listening, listening, and then hear it- “Ahhhh, this really is working.”  Which was followed by  “Ouch, what’s that terrible pain in my neck!?”  Haha.

I am so proud of these actors, and Mary Jo is director extraordinaire!  The set and sound are so awesome…

But I think one of the main reasons I was feeling a little tense these past couple nights is because we had critics in attendance as well- and I’d love for all of our reviews to be AWESOME… so, you know, a little anxiety there.

So far we’ve gotten one really good one  (the rest haven’t come out yet)- I mean, the reviewer didn’t seem to completely understand the play for some reason… but he had a damn good time!  “Antone’s surreal screwball comedy about human cloning makes for an entertaining and quite definitely “different” evening of original theater.”  (read more here)

And all this to say that now that Opening Weekend has been conquered, I’m taking a big deep breath and sleeping in tomorrow big time  🙂  I think I we deserve it.  I only hope the actors get a chance to rest up as well, because we get to do it all over again in 5 days!

And then it’s HERE

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on January 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

Isn’t time funny?  Four months ago I couldn’t imagine what tip-top shape the play was going to be in… I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to be paying rent (by the skin of my teeth, apparently) But here we are, January 2010, and it’s opening night!

It’s amazing.

Because no matter what you imagine your life to be, it always takes its own shape.

Sure, it might be based on your designs, but more often than not it’s like you pointed at a spot on the wall, threw a dart, and prayed that it hit your estimation… And you pray that you like it there!

I read this book a while back called Stumbling On Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert.  Not only is the man funny, but he’s got some really interesting things to say about Happiness, our perception of it, and why (ultimately) we’re pretty ill-equipped to manage it.  But one of my favorite bits goes ROUGHLY like this (I looked through the book but couldn’t locate the exact quote):  We are constantly living for our future selves, treating them like a child “Oh, Future Me will like this… I’ll skip the butter for Future Me… If I do x y, z then Future Me will be happy”… is it no surprise then that, much like a child, arriving at that Future Self, we sometimes look back and wonder (with shock) “What was I thinking?!”

I think it’s interesting that four months ago I thought I knew exactly what I needed to be happy, only it all seemed impossible to reach – therefore, I was going to be miserable for a good long while  😦   But here I am, in much of the same financial irregularity and disarray, but I’m wearing a big ‘ol smile.

Which isn’t to say I could be back to my babbling, confused, distressed and overly-worrisome self soon enough, haha.

But the point is this – It’s damn hard to live in the NOW of things, I am constantly worrying about what’s NEXT… Except that this week I’m just going to celebrate being here.  I made it to one of my “If I can just hold out till the play…” markers, and I deserve to celebrate it.

I can’t believe it’s opening night!

The Dress Rehearsal

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on January 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

I wrote a play.

A fun, interesting play that people seem to like.

A play that has been produced to much applause.

Still, as we head into our final dress (tonight!) I’m reminded of all the little insecurities and whatnot that accompany the powerlessness of being a playwright.  I mean, beyond the words on the page and your staunch endorsement that the actors learn them as they are written, come opening night the play is in their hands.  The designers have put up the lights (beautiful, by the way.  Sohail is a genius) the set is tight (our set designer Marika is pretty friggin’ fantastic!) the director has steered the ship out to sea (I LOVE Mary Jo) – so when those lights come up and the first actor takes her breath… well, you just have to sit back and enjoy the show.

The show that wouldn’t be if you hadn’t written it.

The show that will never bring the same people together again exactly as they are here, because it is LIVE theatre.

The show… the show… THE SHOW THAT OPENS TOMORROW NIGHT!

And I’m super excited.  I’m also super careful not to relax too much, because the jumping beans in my tummy won’t let me.

So, today there are no end to the things on my “To-Do” list to distract me from the nerves, and I’m going to try reeeeaaally hard to focus on them instead of our impending opening.

But this, this feeling right now, it’s one of the best things about doing theatre- the collaboration is coming to fore, the play has become it’s own living, breathing entity, and I get to let it wash over me with the scores (yes, there should be SCORES) of others in the audience enjoying our creation.

Curious?  Get your tickets here!

Oh, the words!

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on January 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I’m really into this “Under Construction” analogy apparently, because as I sit down to yet MORE rewrites on my latest play, I find myself equating it to a build-it-yourself item that, upon sitting back with a happy sigh, you suddenly realize (as you survey your accomplishment) that it doesn’t quite look right and there are a few forgotten pieces stuck behind the tool box.

I’ve been working on this play for a while now- it’s the first one I’ve written entirely sans-workshop environment – so that in itself is pretty cool.  BUT, since that first-draft “I did this alone!” completion I HAVE been workshopping it and its little bumps and hiccups have gotten more and more irritating to me, it’s creator, as we go along.  I finally had to put the script in front of some fresh eyes and am happy to say the discussion born of that labor was incredibly invigorating.

However, I’m going to have to do a fair bit of dismanteling in order to address those fruits, and that, my friends, is exhausting.

Which is why, as I was staring at those words, those many, many not-yet-paying-off words… I decided to hop over here and vent for a moment.  Writing is hard work.  It’s wonderful, delightful, and deeply rewarding, but it’s damn hard work.