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.