Sunday, November 29, 2009
I finished my play, but it's only 40 pages long--35 pages short of winning.
But, I still feel like I won.
Sure, NaPlWriMo says it's all about crossing the finish line--but I think the important finish line is not necessarily the 75 page finish line--there's something BIGGER at stake, if you can believe it.
What's important is that we created a community for such a solitary practice. We committed ourselves to working on a play and attempting to finish it. We gave ourselves the space for our practice--and that is something.
So I still feel like a winner, even though I don't get the nifty badge this year.
Up next, working on the edits for 'Sand and Water', submissions for different plays in December and January and finding someone to write a letter of recommendation for me for a workshop that's due by December 31. This is harder than one would think.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
November has just flown by!
I am finished with my play for NaPlWriMo, but it's not a winner. 40 pages is not long enough, but that's okay. I still feel pretty good about it, because it's done.
So now I'm working on other plays and submissions and I was seriously chomping at the bit for it. I don't know what it is, but the only being able to really work on one play for a month makes me want to just work work work on other projects. Very strange, but it's good for focus. I'm still in NaPlWriMo as the moderator and cheerleader.
I started up a site meter right before NaPlWriMo, and I have seen people on here from ALL OVER THE PLACE! Who are you guys? Are you NaPlWriMo people? Random people? How did you find me? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Since then, I've become something of a kleptomaniac when it comes to nice pens. I'm not talking nice pens, like they cost $50 and have refills and fancy holders and such (although I do have a very nice wooden pen set given to me on the occasion of my bachelor's degree by my wonderful friend, Minda, and her amazing husband, Bill, two of the best friends a girl could ever ask for). I'm talking pens that leak just a little bit. Pens that have a good scent to the ink. Pens that feel good in the hand. Pens that write swiftly. And if you give me a pen to sign a form and it happens to fall into one of those categories, the odds of you getting it back are slim. Be forewarned.
I've also become a huge fan of paper in general. If you were to see my office, you would see I have nice journals, lots of those notebooks that go for 10 cents on sale during school supply season, multi-subject notebooks, strange odds and ends from Big Lots, loose leaf paper...you name it, I probably have it. It's actually becoming something of a problem.
My name is Toni. I'm addicted to office supplies. Don't get me started on labels, notecards, high lighters, folders, binders...we could be here all night.
Then there's some things that are tools that are more like habits I have developed. And one of them is a problem for national playwriting month: writing long hand. It's a habit I cultivated in college that has worked very well for me, even to this day, and even through my bout with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There's something more primal and immediate for me about writing long hand--the paper, the pen (this is where the smell of the ink comes in). It's the tactile experience of writing that keeps me going. I've tried to type first drafts, but it's harder for me. The inspiration doesn't come; it just isn't comfortable. Handwriting my drafts means I really have NO IDEA what my page count is until I actually type it up. Last year, I tried to type it up, without editing, as I went along. Perhaps this year I will wait until the very end to type it all up. We will see.
The other is something that some of my writer friends have marveled at my ability to do, and that's watching television and listening to music with words. When I was in college and I didn't have a television, I listened to a lot of music and downloaded tons of it from the internet (shhhh, don't tell anyone!). Stuart Davis, various 80s music, Duncan Sheik, ABBA--it's all in there somewhere in my college plays. Now, it's the music of Jonathan Coulton, They Might be Giants, Paul and Storm, but added to the soundtrack is television. Project Runway, Law and Order, The Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy are all involved.
I have to have some kind of noise going on because I have this part of my brain that doesn't want to do anything but freak out and get distracted by shiny things. I call it my monkey brain--because it simply goes ape. So without some kind of noise, and some kind of noise that I am familiar with and I don't have to pay that close of attention to--I'm good to go.
So I got my giant basket of pens, a stack of notebooks, and my family guy and futurama DVDs. I am armed with my weapons for NaPlWriMo.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I can tell you where the inspiration to write a play about the Holocaust came from. There was a Polish-Jewish pediatrician, Janusz Korczak, who had an amazingly and achingly human story that was just begging to be told in these times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Korczak for those interested). He had about 200 children in his orphanage's care during the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, and eventually they were liquidated to Treblinka, where they died (at least we think they died--no one knows for sure, but no one saw or heard from them again after they were liquidated). Without going into great detail, Janusz was an incredibly loving, incredibly flawed, incredibly beautiful person, and his has left behind a legacy of learning about children and how they grow that is still extremely important, if not more so today. But I digress.
I wanted to write a play about him since I was introduced to him in Winter 2000, when I took a class called 'The History of the Holocaust', and he has stayed with me for going on a decade now.
So how does that relate to the Goebbels children? It was interesting, because I was thinking about these children, who grew up as the offspring of one of the biggest monsters the world has known, with their godfather being probably the most evil man who has ever existed. But they were children.
Something about them tugged at my heart. I looked beyond where they came from, who their parents and godfather were, and realized Hedda, my heroine, could very well have been me. I grew up with parents who were much older, who both had heath problems, and with a father who was an alcoholic who drank himself to sleep in his chair every night, and eventually to death. As a child, I thought this was normal, until I met the parents of my friends. I realized it was far from normal.
But these children, this life would be normal for them. They were very sheltered and had no base for what to really measure their reality against. So what was it like for them in the last 10 days of their lives? What did Hedda do? What did her siblings do? We know from history some details, but the exact details are lost to time.
What this long drawn out ramble is about is your idea for your play. If you're still looking for an idea, you can look to history, and see what lessons we need to know, and translate them through your heart and mind into something new. You can look to your own personal history, or the history of anything you're passionate about. If you love it, if it burns for you, let it set your world on fire.
Maybe you have a little something in mind, maybe, like me, you have something heavy on your heart, burning there, wishing to be put on paper. There's no time like, oh, 9 days from now, to do it.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Today I ended up working a 12 hour day and I will work 3 more eight hour shifts before I am off on Sunday. I have homework, writing, crocheting of a baby blanket for Ruby due in November (not my child, because REALLY, all that would be even more insane), my fiance's job search, and my duties here And a 55 hour work week. I already said that. I'm tired.
Anyway, apologies for the rambling. The point is to not have a contest about who has more to do (like I did with some of my co-workers today), or make people feel bad for doing or not doing things, or to scare anyone off. The point is, I have grown to LOVE my life busy like this.
Ever since I started at a community college in 1996 until I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2005, through working a full time job and working at Comedy Sportz Quad Cities, all while being an improv newbie, through being cast in a play and working the current full time job, up until just about a couple weeks ago, I've been insanely busy. It seems I'm not happy unless I have about 85 things I love to do at a time.
Plus, being tired weirdly makes me feel like I'm alive.
Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and The Long Quiet Highway, among others, says in The Long Quiet Highway:
"Recently I dorve alone from Minneapolis to New Mexico in late December, the darkest time of the year. I had to cross the souther border of Minnesota, drive straight through Iowa, across Kansas, into Oklahoma and Texas...The half moon and one evening star were directly in front of me. A train roared by on my right. The moment was over and I was tired, puling into a Best Western at ten P.M. in the town of Liberty on the Oklahoma border. What I wanted was to love all of this: my weariness, the wind lifting as I got out of the car at the Texaco....Every moment is enormous, and it is all we have...There is not a short cut from Minneapolis to New Mexico. My car had to cover every mile. We learn with every cell and with time, care, pain, and love....We all must go down that highway. Our life is the path of learning, to wake up before we die... (xii-xiii)."
Tired reminds me that I'm alive, that everything I'm doing, every moment is all I have. And being tired from doing things I love--that's the best.
So don't be afraid of being tired in November, even with a pile a mile high of everything you have in your life, plus writing a play. It will be worth it. I promise.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
To commemorate this, I want to tell you a little about something called Monomyth, The Hero's Journey. This is a pattern common to many stories from around the world. Joseph Campbell explores it in his book, 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces'. There's seventeen stages to this. I'm not going to get into all of them in this post (this isn't school for God's sake!), but I would like to discuss the Call to the Journey, the first step in the journey.
"The hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown." (Wikipedia)
This is where we are all at, Rhinos. We heard the call to write an at least 75 page play in November. Right now, we're dealing with the 'mundane'--working, going to school, taking care of our families, dealing with our worldly obligations. I put 'mundane' in quotes, because I don't want to lessen the importance of these obligations--we all need to eat, we all need to get our educations, take care of scraped knees and hungry pets. These things are important. But it's also important that if you are hearing the call to writing, that you listen to it.
This call is to head off in the unknown--but it might not be completely unknown. We might actually have an idea of where the play we want to write is going to go--I personally have a real life historical structure for the beginning, middle and end. We might have characters in mind, we might have even seen the entire play in the fog of dreams or in the clarity of our mind's eye, all set out on the stage, waiting to go. Some of us might have a title or maybe a vague idea. Whatever we have, it's still the unknown.
I don't know if any of you deal with this, but I have a serious issue with dealing with the unknown in reality. It's surprising I up and moved to Arkansas two years ago--this is NOT something I would ordinarily do. But I had the call--actually several calls--but the overwhelming one was one of change in my life. So I did it. I went off into the unknown. I fell down a lot, had a lot of bumps in the road, had to have my meds adjusted, but there's more good than bad to my story, my own journey, which started with the call to the journey.
So I urge you today, think about the call to the journey of NaPlWriMo. Think about what you want to accomplish--of who and what you want to write about. Whatever you do, don't ignore the call to the journey.
It is life-altering.
Happy 11 days left, Rhinos!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This play was first drafted in 2006. I had been in the aftermath of a massive break-up and I had been on the rebound with a fella I thought was pretty great, even though there were ten million red flags abounding in that relationship that ignored. The inspiration of the play came from the issues surrounding meeting this guy's family. I had met his mom, who happened to be blind, so he doted on her quite a bit. His father was another story. If I'm remembering correctly, his parents are divorced and his father had a new wife. It was like pulling teeth to try and meet his Dad. Finally, he relented and as I recall, that evening with his father and his new wife was pretty terrible. The process of trying to meet his Dad inspired the play.
What if his father was really dead? (This was before I knew he was alive, kicking, and kind of a douche). What if my father and his father were conspiring in Heaven to get this guy and I together?
That's where the play came from.
The play involves a lot of supernatural aspects and a lot of playing around with the Christian pantheon. I had thought about my Latin classes back in college and about how the Romans and Greeks treated their gods. They ascribed them very human like tendencies--having affairs, getting angry and changing people in animals as a punishment, envy, etc. It was very fascinating. I wondered what would happen if I took God and St. Peter and Satan and gave them all human like tendancies, the good and the bad. And the supernatural aspects of the play came out. As I have God and Satan playing games and gambling, I was brought back to the story of Lot, which was God and Satan in the Old Testament basically doing the same thing they are doing in my play. Fascinating.
I don't want people to think I am doing this because I don't really ascribe to being a Christian per se. I don't want people to think I'm doing this to make fun of Christianity or anything like that, but I know that's always a possibility, and I hope that people can see past that and see the funny aspects of the play.
So I went back and re-read the play, writing down the settings and the characters and all that good stuff so I can work on a summary and character list for eventually submitting the play. And the play is actually in pretty good shape. I have a couple of things I need to fix and look at, but for the most part, it's ready for people to read.
This play was a thorn in my side for three going on four years. I liked the play, I loved the characters and I wanted it to work, but for some reason, like with every play I work with that has a supernatural aspect, I have a hard time dealing with that aspect. Part of having supernatural and dead characters makes my life easier as a writer. No one knows for certain, regardless of spiritual proclivity, what happens with the afterlife or with the supernatural. But with this freedom comes some problems of creating rules for a world and sticking to them. In reality, we have to, for the most part, stick to the rules of gravity. If we break them, there's a reason, but they are rules that we all know and follow. But if you create a world and rules, and then break them, you run the risk of losing and angering readers and viewers (hence my hatred of 'The Lovely Bones').
The point is, this play is getting close to a final first draft--almost four years later. It's inspiring and good to see the process I've gone through, because the process really is the important part--not the destination.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
That man can TALK. He talked for 2 hours and would have kept going if he had been allowed to. It was pretty fascinating, to learn the history of comics and to learn how to read one. The talk was pretty dense, it was a lot of information thrown at the audience, but it was a fun and fascinating talk. How often can you say that you saw a speaker call an audience a bunch of anti-Semites, and have the audience crack up at it? Of course, there's context, but he really makes you think about a lot of things: about race, anti-semitism, comics and where they fall in the spectrum of art, if they are art, sex, you name it. He's a pretty fascinating man. Check these out of you are interested in his work, as well you should be. Maus is beautiful. I haven't read In the Shadow of No Towers but I might change that in the future.
Okay, so what does this have to do with playwriting? As I was listening to him speak and watched him pick apart comic pages and as he talked about the architecture involved in comics, I realized, I had SO much to learn from them! Part of writing a play does involve thinking about the visuals of the work and because comics blend words and images, I would argue that reading comics can inform writing plays incredibly. There was something that rang so true about the building of a strip and how much work went into them that I could relate to--I could call Mr. Spiegelman a comic-wright, but that would sound strange. But it makes sense--there is a lot of building involved, a similar construct. It is helpful to think of writing a play and creating a comic as being a similar kind of building--a long long long lost cousin.
Another thing that drew me to his work is the fact that the play I'm working on for National Playwriting Month (http://naplwrimo.org), or rather, WILL be working on, is about the Holocaust, 'In the Bunker'. I kept wanting to ask him a question about constructing the work, about the play and how it's not the kind of play I would normally write, or maybe I'm just saying that because I know that Hitler will be portrayed in this play, and I don't want to look like a sympathizer, but how does one construct something and not look like an asshole? I couldn't figure out how to vocalize this question because there's more to it than not wanting to be an asshole, and I think that some of it comes from my goy background, and how does a goy write about another group of goys, but this particular group of goys like killing Jews? See? It's still not making sense. It's just a struggle I've had with 'In the Bunker', and I suspect he would tell me to not worry about it and let the story be the story. Probably after he called me an anti-Semite in jest of course.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
It's amazing how your mind can trick you into thinking something is so hard to do. I just had to figure out a way to outsmart it.
In other news, I am gearing up for NaPlWriMo and doing some research on the play itself ('In the Bunker'). I am going to need to spend November working on the play itself, not doing research, like I did last time. So in addition to working on submissions, I am also doing research, and school, work, the cats, Bill, and crocheting are all in there somewhere too. Busy little bee, that's me!
The recent arrest of Roman Polanski brings to mind an argument I had with a dear friend, Randy, about his win of the Oscar for 'The Pianist'. Randy (and I am paraphrasing) was of the mind that Polanski didn't deserve the award because he should have been in jail. I will give that yes, Polanski should have been in jail, but the work and the man are separate. And I've been thinking about that recently as well. I still believe the work and the man are separate, but what of the artwork of Hitler? Because of 'In the Bunker' I've had Hitler on the brain. It's a hard topic to talk about, because no one wants to say Hitler was a good artist (and he was mediocre at best--he couldn't draw people from what I know of his days of being an artist), because of who he was. But what if he had painted 'Water Lilies'? Or 'The Mona Lisa'? Then what?
I don't have an answer for anyone but myself, but I would have to separate the man from the art, as despicable as the man was. My dear friend, Dorothy, posted a really sweet article about the girl that Roman Polanski is accused of raping, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/note.php?note_id=287132570166&id=41993989526&ref=mf and it was very interesting. If you have any opinion on the whole Polanski thing, be sure to read this. It will give you an interesting perspective you might not have had before. And you will definitely think this woman is the bravest woman ever, with a good heart.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This November marks the second year I will participate in National Playwriting Month. I am planning on working on 'In the Bunker' and that I might be working on naplwrimo in other ways as well as being a participant. I will know more tomorrow night. Suffice to say, I am excited, and I hope that I can do more than just participate, although participation is a great thing on its own.
To dedicate yourself to writing an entire play, or novel, or whatever else you might decide the month of November should be of writing is a great thing. A humbling thing. And a personal thing. It's humbling because you have to do more than just talk the talk. You have to write the writing. And every day, you come to the group and tell them what you've been doing and how far you've gotten. And it's a personal thing because you dedicate yourself to actually working on something for yourself. Not for your family or your job (unless you're lucky enough to have a job in the theatre already). Something just for you.
And it's hard. I won't lie--it's no picnic. There's going to be times where you want to quit. I got to the point where I had to just sit down and barf out as much as I could in one sitting, near the end of the month. But I did it. It turned out terribly (and this is not just self-depricating humor--the play is uneditable and unreadable--I'm not sure it ever saw the light of day--which is good in the end). But coming through to the end--making it through to the end--seeing it through, solidified even more that playwriting is what I need to be doing and will be doing.
So, if you are reading this, and that sounds like something you need or want, please hit up the link above. You might just change your life.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I've been stuck on 'Squall Lines' for months. It's been a mess, but a doable beautiful mess. And there were two theatres that it looked like it would fit in with really well. And one of them has a program going on where you can submit mostly completed drafts. So I dug the play out again and really started to rip it apart. And it's definitely being pulled apart: characters being revealed, scenes being ripped from where they were and cobbled in where they belong, subtext is getting its due and things are starting to make more sense, the less reality I put into the play. It's funny, because it seems like the outside world always intrudes in these plays and makes the world I've created make no sense and makes me want to scrap the project all together. I can't let that happen though. There are rules in the worlds I am creating, and as long as I adequately explain the rules and have them all be obeyed, things are going to be okay in the end.
I'm just happen 'Squall Lines' is starting to come together better. It makes me happy.
Now if 'Sand and Water' would come along, but seriously, I should just be happy that this is happening. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
A: "Why did you take the wrap for me?"
B: "Because it was between my best friend and my favorite singer. One was already dead. How else was I supposed to save you?"
Saving that for something blooming in my brain.
Bloom, baby, bloom!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
For years now, I had been driving myself mad with writing these damn things. For a while, the very word 'synopsis' would have me depressed and away from writing for a week. And I know I'm not the only one.
And every time I had to write one, I would go back to the books and websites I had found to help me along. And every single one of them would mention how a synopsis is sort of like the blurbs you find on books--the two or three short paragraphs designed to sell the book.
And then it hit me. READ SOME.
So I ran into my office and grabbed seven or eight of my favorite books that had these blurbs on them, and read them. And read them again. And again. Until I understood what made them tick.
Within an hour, I had dashed off a better draft of the synopsis for 'A Death in the Family' (still with Mr. Robert's help!).
I know it's not the easiest thing, but thinking of it in terms of the jacket blurb is much more helpful than all the exercises and warnings and crap.
That was the first breakthrough.
While Bill's parents were in town, I had limited writing time, and I was trying to rework some of the next play I was going to send out, 'Pleased to Meet Me' ('A Death in the Family' needs to sit around for a month while it percolates from Paul's suggestions--thanks, Paul!). Before the weekend was up, I managed to re-read the play and put notes down about it. And I had one scene, that was a sloppy, drunk mess (just because the characters are drunk and sloppy doesn't mean the writing needs to be). And I knew that there was a lot of stuff I needed to cut, re-arrange, and the thought of it was daunting. So instead of cutting and pasting on the computer or in real life, I just re-wrote the scene from scratch by hand. I cut out three pages of repetitive nonsense and I think the script is better for it. I had to cut some good stuff out, but I left the better stuff. So you know, be happy that the great stuff is still there, you know?
I sent out a play yesterday. Goodspeed to it.
I know the process of getting a play out is hard, but I really think I was making it harder on myself than was needed because it is so hard. Does that make sense? I kept whining to myself, it's too hard, too much, I don't know what I'm doing. Well, I won't know until I do it. So here I am.
Things are much better on the writing front. I know I need to be creating but I feel like this is what I need to be doing--the uncreative submission process. What's the point of creating more if no one is ever going to see my work? I have to give my children their way into the world.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
And I really thought that 'A Death in the Family' was ready to go out to theatres. I really did. I even wrote a synopsis and everything, which, as we knows, is the bane of my existence. And I even went as far as finding theatres to send it to.
Last time, on Dramatecture, I mentioned the people who have helped me a lot. This has been both a great and bad thing. The great thing--I'm getting much needed feedback from both people involved with theatre and those who have an interest in it, but aren't exactly playwrights or actors. The bad thing is that I have A LOT of revision to do.
But this is also a great thing. It's probably the best thing to have happened in a long time. Obviously, if the play is not ready to go, I need to work on it. At the same time, I just want to be able to start sending out packages. I suppose I could do that and continue to work on the play while I'm waiting for responses. God knows it usually takes awhile and in that time I could really do some hardcore revising on it.
That's probably what I will do.
In related news, I have done one read through of 'The Dramatist's Toolkit' by Jeffrey Sweet. I'm starting to go back through it and really read each of the chapters carefully and jotting down notes. Sadly, I have noticed many deficiencies in my work. But happily, I know how to fix them, or, at the very least, I know how to attack them now.
My work generally suffers from issues with high and low context levels. Mostly I end up with characters, like in 'A Death in the Family', who have known each other for YEARS--their whole lives--they are family after all, even if the kids haven't been home for the last four years. There's one character--Belladonna--who isn't just a newcomer for the purpose of providing a way for high context information to come out from the family--she's got an agenda of her own, which is in direct opposition to the male lead's agenda. The funny part, I never even really thought to use her for the purpose of disseminating high context information, except one time during the play, so I guess that's a good thing. I just have to figure out a way to get all the high level stuff out in the mannerisms, the actions and words of the characters without saying, wow, this family sure fights a lot. It's good that I've noticed it, now I just have to figure out how to fix it.
Part of me is bummed by all the work this is going to entail. But I know in the end, I will be a stronger playwright and my work will shine more. But still, it's a bummer.
I just have to remember, I've only been writing plays seriously since 2003. I've come VERY FAR in six years. I just am a perfectionist and want to be even further in those six years. But daily work on the play and listening to and looking for the red flags will do more to help me than anything.
And having readers to help is amazing too.
I will just let myself have a pity party about it today while I'm at work and then come home and do more work on the play.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
But it's finished. Which is great.
Well, it's not finished but it's almost there. Thank God.
My secret? First, I had a Robert to help me get started. Second, I grabbed a pile of really good books off my bookshelf and carefully and repeatedly read the backs of them. I paid attention to what information was given in the jacket blurb. And then I went to work.
That's it. Reading the backs of books I know well.
Now let's hope I can see that play.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I spent the first week or so kind of feeling sorry for myself when it came to my writing. And then I realized something.
I need to kick my own butt into action. So this is what I am going to do.
I am going to edit the crap out of everything I got and start sending stuff out. Constantly.
I am working on the newest draft of 'A Death in the Family'. I've already found a bunch of theatres to send things to, I just need to get the draft done. I am about half-way finished.
I think this is what I need. I'll admit, I've been spending a lot of time, kind of pretending to spend time submitting to theatres, meanwhile, floundering around, being jealous of other people who have done the submitting and are travelling all over the country, seeing their work, working with people, and getting somewhere in the world of theatre. And I realized that if I want to get anywhere, I need to pay my dues.
So I am.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I won't lie, writing has been a struggle recently. I've been working through a couple of different playwriting books just to see if they could help. I mean, I'm not writing anyway, so if I use a book of theory to help and I get something, it's good. If not, I found out more about my process.
I did get the Jeffrey Sweet book, 'A Dramatist's Tool kit' and it's really quite good. And I have one other. And beyond that, I think I'm going to be try to trust this idea of working through the hard spots. It might not work, but anything I try is going to be a learning experience that can do nothing less than help me learn to write more.
Trusting myself in the moment and just running with it is not a strong suit of mine. Running with the first thought, which, in improv, we learn has the most energy and is less incumbered by the censor. Sometimes, I am good with trusting myself. Other times, not so much.
Like 'A Death in the Family', I had this long long monologue which featured a character that didn't come back in the show at all, and it was kind of gratuitious. Like, the next scene talks about the things that happen in the monologue, so i jut dumped it. Every draft I've had, I've wanted to cut that whole first scene, and just grow some ovaries and do it. So yeah.
just trust yourself.
Otherwise, I am working on polishing stuff for sending out. I figure, I should do that when I'm not being creative.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The 'Frank Lloyd Wright play' has a name: 'Sand and Water'.
When I realized what the name of the play is, I was kind of taken back. I first heard the song by the same title as done by Beth Neilsen Chapman. It was on an episode of 'E.R' that I think I saw when it first premiered in 2000, although I could be wrong and I might have seen it in reruns. Regardless, this song really worked well with the subject matter of the episode and I really kind of hung that song on the wall, in a way, waiting for the right moment for it to come out.
And it did come out. It fell off the wall and right into my play, right where it fits perfectly.
Another piece has come to me.
Now if I could really get these characters talking.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Anyway, Debbie was wondering about the three events in the character's life that gives shape to who they are at the beginning of the play. She wondered if they were set in stone or pencilled in as guidelines. My answer to both is yes and no.
Now this is where things are gonna get a little wacky, so you might want to strap in for this. Or don't, it's your funeral.
When a character first comes to me and starts to tell me about her life and what has shaped her, I write it down. And I have some preconcieved notions of what I want her to be. This isn't always who she is, and if I try to force that too hard, she will stop doing anything and cross her arms and blow raspberries at me. Sometimes, as was in the case of December in 'Hauntings', she wouldn't talk at all. I had to poke and prod at her for days before I finally got the story out of her. I mean, she was embarassed as to what she had done, so I didn't blame her, and she was paranoid that people thought she was a bad person, so it's no wonder that she took forever for finally open up. But still.
So basically, my preconcieved notions of my characters have to meet somewhere with the character's reality. Sometimes it matches mostly with what I've come up with on my own. Sometimes it meets halfway. Sometimes, I'm completely wrong. But it differs with every character.
In all honesty, there really isn't that much about my plays that ends up set in stone. As was in 'The Rope Swings', the original ten minute play that spawned 'Hauntings', I knew my set would be a set of weight bearing rope swings. That wasn't going to change. The first set of characters I put on the stage didn't work. They just kind of meandered about and the dialogue was crap and then I realized these characters were not the characters for this play. So then I was stuck with a day left to write the play before the submission deadline and I was definitely toast. And then Margo and December came along. Margo timidly sat on her swing while December baited her and baited her until Margo finally explodes and there you have it. The play was written in an evening. Sometimes you just don't have the right characters for what is set in stone, but I am slowly realizing, you don't set much in stone.
Even with that said, I have the Frank Lloyd Wright house set in stone, or rather, on top of it. The top is being put back on the mountain as Mr. Wright himself said of this triptych that he designed that never saw the light of day. But it will in my play.
And these are the right characters. Sometimes it just takes longer to get them to show their spots as it were.
On the back of 'The Dramatic Writer's Companion', the blurb on the back begins:
Moss Hart once said that you never really learn how to write a play, you only learn how to write this play.
The more I write, the more I realize it's true. It doesn't matter how many plays I've written, how many characters have come to me with their stories, none of it really matters to the play at hand. It will be coming from freshly tilled ground, with freshly spread fertilizer and freshly sprayed water. No two summers of snapdragons will hav the same ground, fertilizer and water. It will all be new every time. And you might not grown them this year, as big or bold as the year before. But you will find your own way to the big bold snapdragons. They will just be new. Completely new.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
With this play so far, I can see in my mind's eye the actors on the stage. There's two women and two men. And I can see what they are wearing, what they look like, but they aren't moving around or doing anything. They just stand there, as if in an archival cast photo. It's kind of insane, actually. I came up with the idea for this play nearly a month or two ago, and all I see is the archival photo.
So, here I am, sketching out the 'herione', Julia. And she's coming more and more into focus. I've been dubious of doing actual sketch work on characters that list their birthday, height, vital stats, etc., which this one does, but it focuses more on things like Julia's childhood and the best thing it asks me is something to the effect of 'what three things happened in the character's life that are the most important and shaping and how and why did they shape who the character is at the beginning of the play'. AWESOME.
As I'm sketching her out, I'm getting ideas for scenes and situations, and how things should go. I have several large blanks to fill in, and this is definitely helping with that. I am hoping that once I get through sketching all four characters, it will come together well. Here's to hoping.
And here's a quote I think I'm going to use for Julia's credo:
"At times, our strengths propel us so far forward we can no longer endure our weakness and perish from them."
Sunday, April 26, 2009
'All in the Family' is now called '(in)conceivable' and suddenly, everything is roses. After days and days of struggling and such, one thing changes and everything is better.
I feel relieved. I told my friend, J.R., the other night that not being able to break through the writing is like having heart constipation. It's like I got something waiting in there, and it just won't come out. And it sucks. And there's nothing but time for it. There's no amount of emotional fiber that can help.
So here we are again. Writing is on fire. Let's take care of business before the fire dies down again.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Without going into too many details, I talked to one of my favorite dramaturgs ever, Robert, and explained the time frame. I knew that I was really putting myself on a ledge for no good reason, because he gave me some suggestions that will make things work better and also, some fun things to think about for the play that adds to the 'magic' of the play. So this was good. I was just getting all tied up in knots about it, and was so worried I wasn't serving the play in the right way. Robert told me to not worry about that part. But I think worrying about how I am serving the play and the characters is a good thing to worry about. I only marginally (read none) worry about what theatres might think--and that's what really led to me talking to Robert about the time frame issue. I didn't want a theatre to get a finished draft of 'All Shook Up' and read it and be like, WTF is this playwright doing? She has no concept of time in this play.
So that's been solved. Now I just need to find some time to write. I'm glad the block is over for now. And 'Almost' is on the horizon too.
November can't get here fast enough.
Monday, April 6, 2009
move along like I know ya do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along just to make it through
All American Rejects
This won't be the last time I quote lyrics. This will happen a lot. Early in my writing career I would hear a song and write a story (prior to becoming a playwright) straight from the song. It wouldn't be from the music video, but when i would hear a song, i would start to see characters in my head and the work would be born. It's still that way, although not as direct anymore.
This is less about what insprises me and more about how moving along is the best thing to do sometimes.
Yes, keep writing. Yes, write through.
These are good suggestions and often they work.
But they were not turning out anything for me as of late.
So I backed away, got sucked into homework, and suddenly, a play i thought of when I was still at the University of Iowa, after I graduated, came back to me and started to form clearly in my mind. And now I'm thinking and working on it. It wasn't the play I wanted to work on, but sometimes you don't get your choice.
So moving along in my writing life can be two things:
moving along through the rough parts. writing against the tides, the avalanche, and somewhere you will dig out through to the other side of hot writing.
moving along to a different play.
the work will let you know when you need to stop pushing it and pulling on it. And if you don't listen, it can be very bad for you.
Trust me on this.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So I need to learn to love the chaos.
But it's still damn hard to see the characters on the stage in my mind, to even see parts of the stage, but it's in the fog, just on the edge. It wants to come forward, I want it to come forward, but it's not time yet.
Not yet time.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
But, I did start working on a play, 'Man Out of Time', simply because I wanted to edit it and make sure it was ready for submission. I discovered it was so far from being ready that I am pretty much revising the whole damn thing. I might now sound happy about this, but I actually am.
My struggle with my writing and subtext has continued. I know that the masters make it look easy, but damnit, I'm a human who has subtextual conversations all the time with people. I should be able to do this.
But it's okay. I'm working on character motivations and what is underpinning their behavior and all that. It seems to be helping. I guess I won't know until later, you know?
Here's the other thing about 'Man Out of Time'. It's really more disturbing to me than it was before. Which is good, I should feel some emotion from it, otherwise, why would i have written it? I shouldn't have otherwise. I'm afraid it might be just a rehash of stuff from before, but who knows.
Also, I can't BELIEVE I am having as difficult of a time as I am getting an informal reading of my play together. Seriously. This is ridiculous. People are busy and that's cool, but let me tell you, it's getting a bit out of control. I think I am just going to have to try and get some people together and just do it. I wanted to have some theatre people involved as well as other people, but man.
Friday, February 27, 2009
It's definitely affecting the theatre world. Ticket sales are slumping, donations from corporations are slumping, theatres are closing, theatres are pulling back on accepting new plays, being more picky about what they accept and some are putting on hiatus new play development, contests, etc.
What's a young playwright to do?
First, be depressed. At least that's what I'm doing. See, here's the problem I've had. There's people better than me out there, so they will get the stuff I want (readings, productions, whatever). Paranoia of that sort. Then add in that I have NO IDEA what I'm doing when it comes to submitting, and that equals depression.
Then, I will make a plan. This includes:
- being more aware of where I am sending work. My budget is tighter too, so I will send stuff to people I think I have the very best chance with.
- being more aware of what is going on online. There's a playwright's website I've been involved with, and I will try to be more involved with it.
- reading the vast library of plays I've accumulated. Hendrix had a library sale last year and I came away with a crate of plays. A lot of them I wasn't familiar with, many of them were by playwrights I knew of, or plays I had heard of. So I need to start reading them and learning from them.
- keep writing. it's the best way to get through until things get better.
I'm still wrestling with 'Grace Kelly' and I am going to get some plays together and such for my weekend writing retreat with Bill next month. I'll be doing some work on 'In the Bunker' for sure, so we'll see how that comes along.
Subtext is hard to learn about. I'm working hard on it. It's been the single biggest struggle I've had with playwriting so far, but I think it's going to be VERY good for me in the end. When it breaks through, it will BREAK through.
Back to the grind with school. Writing retreat is coming.
I don't talk a lot about my personal life on here, but I got engaged a week ago. :)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I didn't want to say I was taking a break from writing, even though that's what I'm doing. It's my other career related (Certified Dietary Manager through University of Florida and I want to be done with it all in October and I have a long way to go). I'm working along at a good clip, but I had to make a sacrifice somewhere, so I'm keeping actual writing to a minimum.
I did discover something interesting while taking a break. The time I do have for writing (which, because I'm thinking so much about 'In the Bunker' right now, it involves mostly research) that time is extremely focused. I am off my day job this weekend and I am going to spend some time at the library this afternoon at Hendrix while Bill is working in his office and I am going to look at some books on Goebbels and Nazi Germany. There's precious little information out there about Goebbels' family, virtually no books about the children themselves, so I have to take what I can.
Whenever I'm doing something pretty rote, my thoughts turn to Hedda. I've developed some interesting ideas, but I haven't quite gotten a hold of the final days in the bunker. Once I have those down, a feeling that was running through, etc., I'll begin writing. But that might be next week before I get to that.
I was very bummed out about this when I first realized I had to put this on the back burner. I didn't want to do it. I don't feel it as often, but sometimes I would feel pressure to keep writing and editing so i could get my plays out there to get done. This is, in essence, a good pressure, but I think I was getting too caught up in it and it was making me depressed. So taking a break is also good on that front.
Back to the coffee break. I'll be back soon though. I can't stay away. It's like holding your breath as long as you can--you come out gasping for more.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Actually I know what to do, and I will do it, but I just have to get these fears out of my system.
It's no secret to those who know me that I have a very (un)healthy interest in the Holocaust. It's just so fascinating, I don't understand how something like that could happen the way it happened. It just blows my mind, especially if you look at the intricacies of how it happened.
But this post is not about that. I don't even really want to discuss it because that isn't even what the play is about.
This is about children.
There's a Polish doctor, Janusz Korczak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Korczak) who was taken into the Warsaw Ghetto with a whole mess of Jewish orphans under his care. Eventually they were liquidated to Treblinka, where he and the children more likely than not died in the chambers. His story is fascinating, and I was struck by this man from the time I took History of the Holocaust when I was at Black Hawk, all the way back in 2001. Yes, this man has stayed with me for eight years, and I still plan to write a play about him. And I've tried. I've come up with a couple scenes, but the play wouldn't budge any further.
A couple months ago, I ran across a show on the History Channel about the Goebbels' children (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goebbels_children). This was totally fascinating as well. It looked like the six children who were in the Fuhrerbunker during the last days and who were eventually murdered with cynanide by their own mother, Magda, who could not imagine a life for her children beyond the Reich, may not have known precisely what was happening to their world or to them. I am particularly fascinated by Hedwig 'Hedda' Goebbels, the almost 7 year old. I see writing a play from her point of view.
Now, I do realize, children are much smarter than they give us credit for, and not only do they often know when something is wrong, but they often find any way possible to blame themselves, so no one has to mention that. I was a child once, with sick parents.
What fascinates me is what happened to the innocent children of the Holocaust, on both sides of the issue.
And the wheels in my brain are turning, and I both love and abhor the direction they are going. Can I put 'Aryan' children and Jewish in the same play? They both suffered the same fate, and if I focus more on them being children rather than 'Aryan' and 'Jewish' it might work.
But I don't know. The more I think about it, the more scared I get about doing this, but the more it pulls me. Hedda and the Good Doctor, they're both pulling on me.
Also, I just looked back at the last entry I wrote with these two tags and I wrote pretty much the same exact entry a little over two months ago. Oops.
The point to this is, I am going to see where Hedda and the Good Doctor, and King Matt, I want to see where they are going to take me. It's going to be quite an adventure.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I can't seem to write subtext.
Chekov I ain't, that's for sure.
Actually, I wasn't even going to call it subtext. But I think that's what it is.
When I'm working on a play, I often have very explosive emotions I'm dealing with. I often have very personal, private, emotional issues. Children coming out of the closet. Lovers cheating. Love revealed. Pain, happiness. But how do I do it without saying 'i don't support you', i support you', 'i hate you for cheating', 'leave your lover', 'i've loved you always'. How do I get there without using a regular map, the well beaten path?
On the playwrights' forum (www.stageplays-forum.com/), I had posted about this problem. And I felt like a total moron doing this. I mean, I should know how to do this, right?
Wrong. I'm the 'heart on the sleeve' kind of person, and not everyone is. So, it's hard when you're dealing with characters who aren't, and plus I think it's more interesting when there's things that are unsaid.
So now I'm dealing with the subtext of the plays I'm working on, especially 'Grace Kelly'. I'm trying to get this one revised, because I want to get it ready to be read by my friend, Terry. He said he would help me with it, so, I'm working on it.
I'm just too close to the characters, but too far away to actually make the play work. I guess it just needs more time.
I hate dealing with this sort of blockage...thankfully i don't usually have to deal with this. But I need to deal with this, or I'm not getting any further with my work.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I got this from my wonderful boyfriend for Christmas this year. It's fabulous. People certainly find it as amusing as it is puzzling; a lot of people haven't met a living playwright. It's funny, because when I was a fiction writer or a journalist, I never heard someone say, hey, I've never met a (fiction writer/journalist). I guess we are a few and far between breed, but it strikes me as odd.
Anyway, I digress.
I've always said to people, even when I was a fiction writer, that everyone and everything is in danger of being in something I write. I've been told, you can't write about this, right before someone tells me something very awesome, and it always makes me sad. Well, not sad, because eventually I will write about it in some way, shape or form, but that's an invitation to write about it. Forbidden fruit and all that.
Sometimes it's worrisome to write about people I actually know, especially if it was something that wasn't so flattering. I don't want to get sued, but sometimes, the events of other people's lives that I have either witnessed first hand or heard about from friends or on the internet, are just too damn good to not write about. There's one particular event in my life where I was scared to death that I was going to die at the moment, but knew that I was going to write about that particular moment in a future play. Now, two-ish years after a girl insane with jealously broke into a guy's house that she and I both happened to be dating (the guy, not the house) and waved a flashlight around screaming, I have managed to find humor in it and used it in a play I'm working on. People who know me and the girl best will know what the scene is harkening to, but no one else will, I don't think.
You've been warned.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Anyway, this is not about me being overweight. This is about my play needing a diet.
I just finished the seventh draft of 'A Death in the Family'. It's around 100 pages long right now. As I was just working on my last two correction notes for this draft, I was realizing, as I was writing it out, that all that I just did needs to be cut. There's a lot of repetition, a lot of unfocused writing, a lot of running around in the same circle. It's time to cut the fat.
So what is the proper diet for a play?
Good question. Not really sure. I think it varies from playwright to playwright. First, I'm going to let the play sit around doing nothing for a while--ideally a month. Then I will print it back out, read it, and write down comments and look for where the fat needs to be cut. I might actually give it to someone else to read for help. Then I will take my pen and cut things out. There's several things I really love that I might need to cut--time to kill my babies again I guess.
It seems appropriate that I'm talking about killing my babies. That's what led me to this blog anyway.
So what does a playwright do when one of her plays is off dieting? She works on another play. Another draft.
God, I love rewriting. Seriously.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Move along, move along
like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along
just to make it through
All American Rejects, Move Along
Sunday, January 4, 2009
They have been all my life. I won't even get into my hardcore belief in having a happy ending in life (failing to realize over and over and over again and will over and over and over again in the future that happiness is a process, a path, NOT a destination). I'm talking about having happy endings in my plays.
My plays have them. I just don't know how I feel about them. I'm of two minds.
1. The typical happy ending. You know the one. It's the one in fairy tales where the princess gets saved by a knight in shining armour, the princess awakens from a curse with true love's first kiss, you know the stuff. The one where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow and there's a happily ever after.
2. The atypical happy ending. This is the one where the hero or heroine gets what he or she wanted but it wasn't exactly what he or she had hoped for. You know, like in 'The Shape of Things'. This story is just as messy as the first example, but just is messy still at the end.
I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending. The scene in 'The Wedding Singer' where Julia realizes it's Robbie singing on the plane--that makes me cry every time. Let me amend that earlier statement--I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending when it's done right. It has to tug the heart strings the right way, and the only way to do that is to actually get the audience invested in the characters. If the characters are crap--partially formed or, even worse, just random stereotypes, investment is hard. If there isn't investment, there aren't tears at the end of the play on the part of the audience--there won't be a reaction--at least the one the writer intended. I don't know about other writers out there, but the worst thing when I'm writing is to have the completely opposite of what i wanted out of the audience--not satisfaction that the ending was happy, but annoyance that it was drawn out of them--that they were TOLD how to feel about it, not allowed to feel whatever it is that they would feel.
Perhaps that's the problem I have. Actually, it IS a problem I have. I have a tendency in my work to tell people how to feel instead of drawing it out in the writing. And I'll be honest--I don't know how to fix that. I don't think I do it all the time (if I do, SHOOT me please and take the pen of out my hand), but I know I'm doing it at the end of 'A Death in the Family'. It's the final scene where everything gets wrapped up neatly and it's a good happy ending. All the arguing is done, everything is forgiven, but I guess I'm not sure how to make it work.
I guess the only thing I can do for my happy ending with this play is to just keep working on the happy ending. Maybe watch good examples of happy endings. Read good examples.
All I know is that I need to get this thing tied up. The play is in its seventh draft, and with the exception of some bits and pieces, the last scene is a mess that stands in my way. There's transition problems and then there's the happy ending problem.
Guess I have some work this week.
Happy New Year!