Thursday, November 20, 2008

And done.

But not really done.

Yesterday, November 19, 2008, I finished my first National Playwriting Month play. The play is called 'Old Woman' currently, but since it's evolved into a whole other creature, it's title will be 'Highway to Hades' from now on.

This has been an insane 19 days. When I got to around day 7 and I was feeling really lousy about my play because it wasn't as fabulous on paper as it was in my head, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't quit. I owed it to myself to figure out what was going on and finish the play. Part of the problem was that I was trying to write my first draft on the computer. I've been writing long enough to know that this seldom works for me. So once I started attempting to do some of the work long hand, I had break through after break through after break through. It's just something about being intimate with the paper and smell of the ink. I don't know what it is, but it breaks through.

And all my plays have some kind of research involved. This one was probably one of the most research heavy onces I've written since 'Koma' when I took dramaturgy with Art Borrecca at Uiowa. It's all mythology based, there's a chorus and everything.

So this is what the 19 days were like for me:

write about 20 pages, hate them, start doing long hand writing, research, scrap about half the 20 pages, start writing ALL of it long hand, typing it in as soon as I had a scene and a choral ode done. I did this all within 19 days.

I feel the first draft suffers worse for the wear in this instance. I had to sacrifice a lot of quality of the writing in order to get the whole thing done, but it got to a point where I just had to finish. I was 15, 10 pages away from the end, and it was so close, I just had to run for it.

Tomorrow I'll post the play on the website (after I do a spell check, because i didn't do one after the last round of writing on the 19th). And then eventually I will start doing edits.

But I finished.

It still hasn't sunk in yet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

makin' progress

Wow, this has been a crazy couple weeks. National Playwriting Month has started. It's day 14 and I've made extremely good progress, considering I started with 20 pages on around the 11th and decided to strip most of it off and start all over again with a new structure, et al. My friend, Chris Leyva, told me it would be a test of endurance (or something to that effect, I am paraphrasing) and he wasn't kidding! This play, just like my other works, requires a certain amount of research. Some are more research heavy than others and those research heavy ones take time. This one is unfortunately for the time frame of the work, a heavy play. So I've had to squash my process, which is fairly slow and Midcontinental drift like, into a much smaller amount of time. And since I basically care about getting a full length (at least 75 page) play out of this, I'm doing well not getting too bogged down in how much the dialogue needs work, because it does.

WHEW! That's my play I smell and it stinks!

Anyway, this month has been crazy. And it's been a very emotional one for me as well, considering the election. Everyone has their election blog, talking about the day, the lack or abundance of lines he or she had to wait in, where he or she was when the president was announced. I know where I was, I was in bed because I was sick and couldn't make it until 11, when apparently it was announced that our next president was Barack Obama. I did, however, get to see the live by hologram insanity on CNN, but I was too sick to actually enjoy it.

But the country voted the way I hoped the country would vote. It gives me hope. It makes me think that with a lot of hard work, and there is no fooling around with this, there is a TON of hard work ahead of all of us, not just President-Elect Obama, and a lot of togetherness, we can make it through. I believe in Barack Obama. I feel he is a good man with a good heart and good intentions, and yes, I know the path to hell is paved with good intentions, but it gives me a good feeling and hope. There is no other word to describe the feeling I got when I woke up on November 5th and saw the first pictures of our new president. I am getting a bit misty-eyed thinking about it. Yes we can? We can and we did.

Then today, while working on my play, I was catching up on a couple issues of American Theatre that i missed. One, the January 2008 issue had an opinion piece by Naomi Wallace in it. I studied one of her plays, The Inland Sea (actually, I am not sure what the title ended up being, it's the only title I can remember) during my dramaturgy class at the University of Iowa. Her plays are in a word possessing. Her work, like the work of Caryl Churchill, is not the kind of work you might just understand outright with your mind. This is the work of the understanding of the heart. The inner life. And that is why I love Naomi's work. I really hope to get to see some of her work performed and actually take a class with her one day.

But anyway, she wrote an opinion piece called 'On Writing as Transgression'. There's a ton of stuff that spoke to me in this article, but this stands out for me right at this moment. It might not be because of this play in particular, but it's certainly because of something I'm working on ('Squall Lines' possibly?). Here's the quote:
"When I speak of 'writing as transgression', I am calling for a teaching of
theatre that encourages students to write against their 'taught' selves and
to engage, as bell hooks puts it, in the kind of 'self-transgression' and
'critical awareness of self' that will enable the to become, as John Donne
suggests, 'citizens of the world'. Transgression is, among other things, a
dissection of one's self and a discovery of larger worlds. Both processes
(or perhaps they are one) involve questioning entitlement and empathy."

She speaks of the status quo being untouched. Of the really important things being unexamined. Of us knowing more about Bennifer and Brangelina than of how much radioactive waste was left behind by our country at the end of the First Gulf War. Of obscuring what's important by what's trivial.

And I won't cast stones in a glass house; I do it too. I get tripped up on the trivial. It's easier that way. It requires less thought. It's easier to think about the trivial. It's harder to think about the big ideas and the big truths, but they are certainly worth the effort.

This is not the last I am sure I will write about Ms. Wallace. She's opened my heart to something bigger than me. And I think that's what some of my plays need, something bigger than me and my characters to get moving.