Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I am working on a post about the Tectonic Theatre Project, but I wanted to mention that I am taking a creative sabbatical. It's just useless for me to keep banging my head against this thing, so I am going to take some time off.

I am not going to quit writing. I just need some time to gather my head creatively. While I am taking time away from writing I am going to spending a lot of time reading my vast collection of plays and such and try to get things together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saying Goodbye to November

National Playwriting Month is almost half over, and this year I stepped down from being moderator. I had to. It wasn't that I didn't like the program anymore, I just wasn't trusting in my own work and my own abilities so it was hard to feel very cheerleader-y about everyone else's work. Why encourage others when I can't even encourage myself.

Creative blocks suck. This is my post from today.

For many of you who know me personally, or read my blog, or are friends with me on facebook, you know that I have had an ongoing battle with depression and anxiety. Recently, we started futzing with my meds in order to get me ready to have a baby.
Switching meds is a wholy difficult process. First they take you down to a lower dosage (for about two weeks for me) and then the old meds stopped working and things got hard. I couldn't get stuff done. Forget writing, just getting the housework done was enough for me. And even that didn't get done frequently. My husband, my loving, supportive angel, would sometimes bug me about it and I would feel worse. I would feel worse because i know it's a problem and I am trying to stay strong and have it not be a problem. Then we got the new med on board. Things are looking up, but I am still struggling with writer's block. BIG TIME.
I am conceding defeat this year. I am simply swamped with other things and not being able to keep up with NaPlWriMo is the nail in the coffin so to speak. I am going to focus on working on my other stuff, and give this a go again next year.
Writer's block, I have decided, is definitely an aspect of my depression. It's funny because for the LONGEST time I was afraid of going on a med, simply because i thought a med would make it impossible for me to write. I was wrong, and now it's hard when the meds are all over the place. My writer's block, as I have mentioned before and I'm sure a lot of you can relate to, falls into a voice in my head telling me I'm terrible. And I get an emotional clog in my heart when just makes my chest feel heavy with impossibilities.
When I joined you guys back in 2008, I was in a pretty not good state: Arkansas. I was lonely. I had a terrible job and really all I had was the internet, a future husband, two cats and a really awful job. No friends to speak of. All I had was writing. A speaking engagement by Suzan-Lori Parks helped me along through this and then finding you guys. It was a blessing I cannot measure. Now I am back in my adopted home state of Iowa, I have a wonderful husband, a much better job and great friends. I have been involved with theatre more locally and that is great. The life transitions am dealing with are just more than I've dealt with before.
This is not goodbye. I am going to check in a lot during the month, just to see how everyone else is doing.
Thanks for reading if you got all the way to the bottom of this, and I will see you in the crash.
Break a leg everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012


Clearly, I am not the only one who has thought to re-imagine R.U.R. I have found some interesting versions of it on the internet, and there is even one premiering in NY in 2013. Part of me wants to not bother with writing my own version. But part of me feels like I have something to say that hopefully the other writers haven't said.

And it appears that our Red Herring reading of THE SCARECROW is back on the table.  I was thinking that perhaps I should write a first draft of my prequel to THE SCARECROW. It's been a couple weeks since I have worked on the play, and this might have been enough time to work on it. We are aiming toward doing the reading over Christmas break. We just need to cast this bad boy and then do the reading and see where we sit after that.

And National Playwriting Month is in 5 days. It feels strange to not actually be doing anything with it. I haven't even given a thought to writing something--I suppose I should think about that as well. I think that maybe AUGUSTEND might be a good project for the month. I need to work on it anyway.

I will admit, it will be nice to not be in charge of cheerleading for the event. Because of some recent things in the last year, I have been having problems with my writing. I have been writing non-stop for a couple years, which is really great, but I think I am getting burnt out on a lot of things I am working on. I need to kind of back off and just let things sit. I guess it's one of those things where I am tired of butting my head against a wall and I need to maybe just regroup.

I did see the final dress rehearsal for NOVEMBER by David Mamet at University of Northern Iowa and it was quite funny. I hadn't actually seen a version of anything David Mamet has done that I have actually liked and enjoyed. Perhaps its because it was so timely, but it was quite fun. There were, of course, many things that were offensive about the play, and I'm not even counting the f bomb pile (anyone who knows me knows I love the f bomb). But it worked. UNI theatre did a good job with it. The set was lovely, the actors were well cast and there were some adorable moments in between the last two acts.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Research, Research, Research

I am finished working with THE SCARECROW for now. I am back burnering AUGUSTEND for now, mostly because I am not sure how to approach it. The first version of it was FAR from the time period of THE SCARECROW, and AUGUSTEND was supposed to happen before THE SCARECROW. So that won't do. I just have some lovely ideas, but I need to just let them cook for a bit and then sit down with them, maybe later this week. It doesn't look like we're doing a reading of THE SCARECROW this year, so maybe next year. The play is actually set in early Spring, so it might be good to do it then. Also, I had an idea last night for a venue to do our readings in, but I must speak to the owner and see what he thinks before I mention anything else about it online.

So, R.U.R. I have discovered that this process of revamping the play is taking a LONG time. I want to know everything I can about the play, and maybe read some more translations before I go hog wild rewriting it, but I definitely have some great ideas. As I do my research, I am finding ideas that come to me and I write them in a different color on my research pages. I'm really excited about my reimagining of this play.

Let me start by saying I have ALWAYS detested the character of Helena. Granted, none of the characters are particularly well fleshed out (that's something I want to address), but Helena is the one I want to do the most with. She's so simpering--she bows her ideals to a man she's barely known for two minutes and the next minute she's marrying him. Lame. She come to the offices with a strong stance--to give the Robots their rights--and then decides after hearing some silly explanations about how it won't work that she is wrong. I just don't like the character--so I am going to do some work on her, as well as the other characters. I guess with Helena if she's going to be the only truly 'human' female in the play, I want her to be more complex.

The more time I spend with the play, the more I love it. It's actually quite a lovely little play, and with some extra care, it could be spectacular.

I have found in my research online that there have been a few other attempts at revamping it in the past. I haven't found a ton of information on it, but I realize I am not the first. I hope that I can make it even better.

Research for the Tectonic Theatre Project is starting up. I have the first paper about autism spectrum to read and a movie called 'Loving Lamposts' to watch. The moment work process is a bit different from what I am used to. More improv based--which I am quite rusty at. But it's a good way to create a play--if I ever want to do some work with kids, this is probably going to be a good way to do it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

THE SCARECROW or Well, There's Your Problem!

I don't know if I've ever learned to stop editing. I've been working on THE SCARECROW by Percy MacKaye--a play that is super fantastic and out of copyright. The unfortunate part of it being kind of obscure is that there aren't a lot of good copies around of it. I had to type it up so I would have it to use. This was very time consuming. My friend, Greg, and I are thinking of doing a reading of the play this month, which means I need to get it together. NOW. Yesterday.

And I need to not think about the prequel I am attempting to write to this play as well.

Right now, I'm just fighting with changing the language of the play. There's a lot of archaic language in it--a lot of 'thy', 'thee', 'thou', and I don't know if it needs to stay or go. I was noticing as I was reading the play for the 400th time this week that these archaic pronouns aren't always used in the play, and I started to consider removing them from the whole play. And I don't know if it's a good idea or not.

There's not a lot of information on how to do an adaptation of a work. I don't actually know how much of an adaptation it is. I think it's closer in kin to the versions of Shakespeare that take the language he used and made it modern.

But then I wonder how much of the play I am going to lose this way. There's a beauty to using these archaic terms. It was in the play to begin with--so why mess with it?

Eh, I guess I am going to save a draft with the archaic stuff and one without and see which works better AFTER I finish editing it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This Year's Angel

I met this year's angel last night: Tony Kushner. I had NO IDEA I would meet him, let along be the first person in line to meet him after he spoke, let alone have him ask about my work. He even asked my last name. It's not like he's going to go look me up or anything, but you know, it was refreshing to me to have someone like him actually inquire, even if it was just him being polite.

He didn't give a lecture--he did a question/answer session with Eric Lange, the head of the theatre department at UNI, and then answered questions in the audience. It was two extremely delightful hours. He was extremely warm and funny, with a wonderfully dry and exact sense of humor. It was a political conversation, and it was interesting, not because we are not aligned politically (I believe we are) but because it's so nice to hear someone who is an artist who I respect give strong reasons for his belief in President Obama.

But back to his work. I first encountered his work when I was at the University of Iowa. My boyfriend at the time gave me a copy of both parts of ANGELS IN AMERICA. It took a long time for me to get through it, not because it wasn't interesting. I wasn't ready for it. By the time I was, I was a theatre major and we were finally doing the first part in our department. Our production was gorgeous. The girl who played Harper, Lauren, made me cry the whole time. The guy who played Roy Cohn, Tim, was scarier than Al Pacino in the movie version (which I saw later, enjoyed and own). I don't know any of this other work, but I am going to change that.

One of the things that really stuck with me from ANGELS IN AMERICA was from PERESTROIKA. Harper is talking to the Mormon Mother, and this conversation made me cry when I saw it in the film version. It was near and dear to me then, as I was going through a lot of painful personal changes, and through meeting my now husband and going through the hell I had to go through to get there. 

Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?
Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.
Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.
Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.
Mormon Mother: That's how people change.

Section from ANGELS IN AMERICA: PERESTROIKA by Tony Kushner

Gorgeous, ain't it? And it really does hit home.

So Tony Kushner has been added to the list of my personal angels. His talk last night was just a balm to my writing soul and I feel like I can just go on now.  I feel like I should say more about him. There's a lot going on for me emotionally regarding having made his acquaintance. I feel like it was just meant to be--like a brief encounter to keep me going. Like that old saying about the angel that stands over a blade of grass, whispering, grow, grow.

Now I have Suzan Lori-Parks, David Henry Hwang, Art Spiegelman and Tony Kushner standing behind me, whispering write, write.

There's definitely worse angels to have.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Editor

It's fairly clear that removing half the amount of the anti-depressant I take daily is NOT working.

I am not sure what I'm going to do when I have to go completely off them. My doctor and my nurse-midwife said that I could take Zoloft with no problem (at least for the baby), but Zoloft and Effexor XR are two different kinds of drugs that work on different issues with the brain, and I don't know or think that Zoloft is going to work.

So why am I writing this is my blog about writing?

Because it's affecting my writing and my life as a playwright. Negatively.

I always wanted to keep this sort of thing out of my playwriting blog. And it has a lot to do with how my depression functions.

I don't know how it works for other people, but this is how it works for me. As writers, we are all told to not listen to 'The Editor'. You know, 'The Editor' is that little guy or girl inside us that tells us we aren't good enough, there's too many dirty dishes or too much laundry to do, and really, why are we bothering? You know, that voice? Yeah, well, my depression is 'The Editor' on full blast ALL THE TIME.

And it was 'The Editor' that always kept me from writing about this personal issue on here. 'No one wants a pity party,' he would say. 'No one wants to read your cry for help and all you REALLY want to hear is how good you are and how you will be great and blah, blah, blah. Pathetic.'

Okay, and MAYBE there is a part of me that wants encouragement because, guess what? We all need it from time to time. Sometimes we need a little validation. But this isn't a pity party. It's time for me to out this little bastard once and for all.

It might not make him shut up, but maybe tomorrow I will feel better.

The Editor is really good at freezing me up, with painful barbs and pointing out how I'm basically almost 40, trying to have a family, recently married, and really just a total loser because I'm still working in food service and still trying to get someone--ANYONE--to read my work. And The Editor is REALLY good at pointing out good news from my fellow playwright friends on facebook as further evidence of me sucking. 'Look, so-and-so got a production! So-and-so got published! So-and-so got an award! Clearly, you didn't get any of these things so you suck and you should stop writing.'

The Editor takes the form of anyone who has (inadvertently mostly) discouraged me from writing.

My mother, not long after my father passed away--she told me that my ideas were stupid and I shouldn't bother her with them (I could tell my father my ideas and he usually encouraged me). What I realized after I grew up is that my mother was ill and didn't know what she was doing.

My favorite teacher in high school, when giving me back my assignment for my creative writing class, and the note written at the end about how he couldn't care about the characters. This stopped my juvenile writing in its tracks and I turned to journalism. Eventually, and only at this teacher's funeral, did I actually forgive him (actually myself) for letting this effect me for so long.

I'm sure there are others but I can't think of any just off the top of my head.

The Editor doesn't like his dirty laundry aired. He claims it's because it will make me look like a freak, but in reality it's because exposure to the real world that spells the end for him. Or rather, at least gets him to be a bit less loud. Robs him of his megaphone.

So that's a peek behind the curtain of a depressed writer. Maybe some of you can relate. I just hope that this will make The Editor quiet down.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer's End: Nap Time

I've tried to keep my personal life out of my writing life, but at some point they have to meet up because they inform each other.

My husband and I are trying to start a family and I've been dealing with some issues. I am on an anti-depressant that I must go off of in order to have a baby, and reducing the anti-depressant is a trial to say the least. It's funny, before I went on the drugs, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to write while on them. Now, I'm discovering the opposite is true.

I haven't decided to quit writing, but I think I am going to work on some other projects besides original works. I have wanted to re-imagine a couple works, R.U.R. by Karel Capek and The Scarecrow by Percy MacKaye. I have some really great ideas for both of them so I think I'm working more on dramaturging and directing (maybe one or the other if I'm lucky).

I do have some original works in progress as well. A DEATH IN THE FAMILY is in need of some serious editing, which will hopefully make the play better. I am also researching a new work on Alan Turing, and I will be doing some editing on some other work.

So, basically I am having the classic lady conundrum: what do you do when you have a child and you're an artist and want to further your art. I am tired of putting my work on the back burner because of other stuff, but I know this is going to keep happening, especially if we decide to have children (or rather, when we have children, because we've already decided). I guess what I wonder is what other ladies out there have done as far as balancing their art and home life.

Part of me wants to stop writing, and that part of me is being silly. It's the part that thinks that maybe if I can't submit my work and get it out there, then what's the point? Well, the point is I have to write. I will get through this. It's not the first time, it won't be the last. I've been incredibly prolific in the last few years, and I think that maybe I need to take a creative break. We all need to rest at some point, and maybe it's nap time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I'm sure no one wants to see how a writer actually works this sort of business out in their head onto paper (I'd imagine it really is like seeing sausage or law made), but I'm going to do it anyway.

So when I had my last reading of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY at Reston Community Players through their New Play Project (which I HIGHLY recommend to ANY playwright wanting to see their work shopped with caring, loving people--New Play Project at Reston Community Players), I got a bit of advice about one of the characters that I was all prepared to listen to and just ignore, but now I am having second thoughts.

The advice involved a character, Minda, who is a goth who also happens to be pagan. The questions mainly revolved around how possibly offended people who are actual pagan might be considering that Minda is a goth and a pagan, and the two don't HAVE to go together. Minda uses two actual blessings in the play, both of which I wrote after doing research into pagan religions in general, and I really love them. They turned out really well. The first reading, the actor playing Minda played the prayers straight. The second time, not so much. I am not making a judgment call on choices; either is fine. The only problem with it IS that the other characters are very much caricatures  and I don't want to play it off like I don't have respect for the religions involved. It's the characters that I'm making fun of.

Sooooooo, now what remains is what do I do with Minda? I don't want to eliminate her blessings because I worked very hard on them, but I also acknowledge the fact that I might have played her a bit straighter than I should have. This may end up being filed under 'kill your darlings' later on, but for now, I am struggling with it. I could play it a bit more caricature, but the problem is that it could wander into the land of 'satanic', which is exactly where I don't want it to go. I guess I need to focus on making Minda more ridiculous and what to do with the blessing.

Hmmm, I really thought this might help, but at this moment, I don't think it did much more than serve to make me feel more conflicted and confused about what to do.

Welcome to my editing process. It's a great time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

OLIVER! tech week

We have invited dress on Thursday and we open Friday.

Things are coming together really well. The orchestra was added in last night and it went so smoothly. I haven't worked with an orchestra before, even when I was in musicals before, so it was surprising how well that went. There's so many beautiful voices in this musical that it's great to hear them backed by an orchestra. It just filled out the missing piece of the show.

Let's see. I have learned so much in the last week. I am calling the show from the booth and this is something I have never done. I am a bit nervous about it. I was pretty much off leash last night with the lighting designer, Tomas, on headset, but I think it went pretty well.

It's funny because I realized how much when I'm not in a show in some way, I am wishing I was. And then when I'm in a show, I just want my free time back. I have so many plans for my free time, but I can't really have the rest of the summer to myself until after July 14--my wedding reception.

During the run of the show, I have learned a lot about directing, stage managing and just being involved on the artistic team side. I don't feel confident enough to direct a show myself, but I definitely enjoyed assisting, and would do that again in a heartbeat. I did, however, learn that I NEVER want to mount a large scale musical myself. Certainly I will be involved in one again, but I will be damned if I ever direct one.

I know, famous last words, I'm sure.

As far as A DEATH IN THE FAMILY goes, I am working on editing the script, and trying to not, for the millionth time, question every part of the script. As soon as the wedding reception stuff is done, I am planning on starting to find places to shop it around to.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Death in the Family reading number 2

So, I don't have a lot of time right at the moment to really get down and dirty with this post, but I had to at least share this picture. This was part of the set for A DEATH IN THE FAMILY that was read (YES READ) again at Reston Community Players this past Saturday.

Their reading process is five levels. I wasn't sure was to expect from a second level reading; I know that add more elements as it goes along to the fifth level, which is a full fledged reading. I wasn't expecting a set. I was expecting maybe chairs and stuff marked as items. Not a real fake roast. Not a table with a christmas cloth on it. Not any of this.

No one got a picture of the look on my face, but it was pretty priceless.

There were no tears, just disbelief that someone wanted to do my work THIS MUCH.

Man. Just.


I felt so undeserving of such work. I mean, I know I deserve it, but when it happens, you are just stunned. I was just honored and felt humbled by it. And they did a great job.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Six weeks...

...until OLIVER! opens at Oster Regent. We just finished casting. I am assistant directing.

I have already learned a lot.

1. With auditions--be sure to write down notes--IN DETAIL--after each night of auditioning. Otherwise, you are going to come back even a day later and not remember who you saw or what the reason you wrote 'BOOBS' next to someone's name.

2. Save the drama for the stage.

We had our first production meeting tonight and it went very well. I discovered that I am going to be doing a lot of research (including how to teach someone different English accents, which should be fun!) and then about the time frame of the play and what was going on in the world then, and about the different classes then and how the treatment of each class by one another might color a character's perspective.

I am also going to be blocking a scene.

I was, admittedly, surprised by this. Greg, the director, even said that he might want me to run a few rehearsals too. I won't lie, I am slightly terrified at this prospect. I just need to get more confidence, because even if I do it wrong, I'm still learning and Greg must have some faith in me, otherwise he wouldn't have said yes to me assisting him. Also, I did ask to assist to learn. Ergo...

AND more good news! I am going back to Reston Community Players in Reston, Virginia, for my second reading of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. This is good news, indeed. I am also going to be flying into Philadelphia to visit Nick during that time instead of going to D.C. I miss my long lost twin brother! It will be a good time, and I hope that the edits are enjoyed by the actors and directors and that I get good feedback again from them.

I did a lot of rewrites on the play, but I fear the problem that might keep it from going further in the development process is that I still didn't entirely address the issues with the feline characters. It was observed before that the feline characters might be played in numerous ways, and that maybe there needs to be more description with how the stage directions should be handled. I am torn, because I kind of believe that the stage directions are kind of there as a guideline to get the director started. I try to not put so many in the final draft of the play, knowing, as a director myself, that stage directions will often get ignored (and there are many arguments for and against this, none of which I care to go into here). The point is, I wrote what I saw in my head, and while some of that might be impossible to do exactly as they are written, I did write a note in the beginning stating that creativity is encouraged with the feline characters. I am afraid it might not be enough. Maybe i do need more stage directions. I will wait until May to find out what they think.

So things are looking up. I'm also working on a play called CHOCOLATE CAKE and another play about bees. Sometimes you just have to plow through to make it through.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Whoa Time Flies

I have been meaning to write here. Honest. It's just hard to keep my personal life separate from my writing life, and sometimes I have to just take a few months and really kind of just not be on here. Life happens. Honestly, nothing terrible, just some big life changes coming up.

When one thinks to start a family, it does things to oneself. Or me. Yeah, me. The husband and I are going to start trying to have children this summer. This is a HUGE thing in general, and a huge thing for my writing. Lately, I have been wondering why I write what I do. I can't get anyone to do my work and I am languishing. It's hard to see my lovely friends getting places I wish I could. If I could just go to grad school, I could get there--but then again, there's no thinking that I will get there any faster with grad school--I might just get there with a bigger debt hanging on my back.

I am just struggling with my work, and feeling like a failure isn't helping much. I suffer from depression and while I am medicated, it doesn't erase my emotions. It makes them manageable. And sometimes they aren't manageable.

So when I'm blocked, it gets worse because I wonder why I even write. It's not like my work has any greater meaning than what it is. I'm not writing politically charged pieces that make people thing. I don't write about things that matter in the end. Sometimes my work is just fluff, and I'm fine with that. I just wish I could get something done somewhere!

It's just tough sometimes.