Category Archives: theatre

Remembering what’s important

I was searching through HowlRound’s archives trying to find a particular article I liked (about writing characters of a different race than your own) and in the process came across this piece by Polly Carl that really resonated with me. I haven’t posted very frequently lately–I’ve been struggling with a lot of different things–and sometimes it’s really refreshing to read something that makes you want to get back on your blog and share it everyone:

If we let it, life will drown us in transactions. The life of transactions is not a satisfying way to live. I prefer transcendence over transaction. Which is why I have chosen to work in the theater—for those moments in the rehearsal room that lead to something revelatory, something glorious or more than anything I could accomplish on my own. No money is exchanged, and in the very best moments transcendence feels within reach.

One major struggle I’ve been dealing with, though certainly not the only one, is finances. I feel like I don’t make enough to live. I mean, I do, but then there’s rent, student loans that are almost as high as my rent, utilities and other bills, food, and random crap that comes out of nowhere right when you least expect it. Like my kitty Oskar needing to go to the emergency room on Saturday. I have pet insurance, but it’s the type where you pay it all upfront and then submit a claim. I was worried about having enough funds between what’s left on my credit card and what’s left in my bank account to cover it. Luckily, that all worked out, and he come home earlier (and more affordably) then originally expected.

I would put off things that might help some of my other problems and stress, like seeing a therapist, because I was afraid of the copay being too high. It’s often been a game of “can my bank account hold out until the next paycheck comes through?” “Will I have enough to cover the next bill that comes in?” It’s so stressful and so frustrating. I start feeling guilty and beating myself up if I do something “fun” like buying something I don’t need (like the patio chairs and tiny little grill I bought a few weeks ago) or ordering food on days I’m exhausted. Ordering food is extra guilt-inducing because I feel financially irresponsible AND fat at the same time. Between working in publishing and writing plays, I feel like I have one job that pays poorly and another that doesn’t pay at all.

So it’s really refreshing to see this essay talk about the idea of transcendence over transaction. The times careerwise that I’ve felt most confident and happy were when I had moments like this. One I love looking back on is my first Boston Playwrights’ Theatre holiday party. Jake was making a speech about how wonderful the local theatre community is and how great it is to belong to it. I had this moment of “wow, this is really what I want to be doing with my life” where it all sort of made sense. I also felt a lot of this clarity when I got to go on the Freedom Art Retreat last year. It was a whole week of collaborating, of feeling like I could actually contribute to a group of artists and have something important to offer, and of knowing that the things we created together were better than what would have resulted if I’d attempted it myself.

It’s little moments like this that I have to think back to when things get particularly stressful. It’s good that I was reminded of it at a time when I’m trying to get everything in my life back on track. Knowing that eventually things at work will get better, that that will help the finances fall into place, and that my whole life shouldn’t be spent letting this anxiety get to me because I risk missing out on the moments that make all of this worth it.

AND I just realized we have chicken nuggets in the freezer, so I don’t have to grill the chicken that I’m not entirely convinced is still fresh! Lazy dinner that does not involve spending money on ordering food. yay!

*EDIT: I just want to add that the rest of the article goes on to say pretty much exactly how I feel about the state of theatre in this country and it’s a great read. I was just jumping off one little quote that felt really personally relevant right now.

Leave a comment

Filed under theatre

Revision!

The reading of my newest play, Directive 47, at New Rep is in less than two weeks. I have no idea how it came up on me so quickly. I still have SO. MUCH. REVISING. to do between now and June 9, when the reading begins at 2pm.

This is the play I blogged about months ago, the one inspired by the true story of a nun who was excommunicated for allowing an abortion to be performed at the Catholic hospital she worked at. It’s come a long way since I last mentioned it in the blog, but it’s still nowhere near where I’d like it to be this close to a reading going up.

It took me till a few weeks ago, during a meeting with my writing group, to realize that I was basically writing another family play (is that all I know how to write?). That what felt lacking to me, and why I kept walking away from table reads with the thought of “this play is to talky,” was that the characters are basically a little family, but they’re not really acting like one right now. The plot has been there, but the characters have been sort of too bogged down by it instead of caught up with each other. Which is the exact total opposite of how The Prayer Bargain developed. In that play, the characters were there and present almost from the very beginning, but the plot sort of stumbled its way into existence. It’s weird how writing works sometimes.

But right now I should be working on my latest revision instead of blogging about how I should be working on it. Last week, I met with both Ben Evett, my reading director, and Bridget O’Leary, the head of our New Voices @ New Rep program, and I feel good about the changes that need to be made. I just need to sit down and make them. New draft, coming soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under playwriting, theatre

Long overdue KCACTF photos

What better day to clear some photos off my phone than a day when I’m supposed to be writing!

Back in January, I got to travel to the Region 1 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival with my ten-minute play The Button. I say “travel” even though it involved getting a ride all the way to lovely Fitchburg, MA. “Team BU” consisted of me, Peter Floyd, MJ Halberstadt, and Michael Parsons. My roommate was the lovely Alex Marshall of Suffolk, and my play was once again dramaturged by the wonderful Brianna Marie Wing of Stonehill. Charlene Donaghy of Lesley, who I met last year, was back again this time around, so it was nice to see a couple familiar faces. I took more pictures this time around because I’m pretty sure I’ve been out of grad school too long to qualify again next year, and I might not get another chance like this. Below are some of my photos and photos taken by friends. Actually, most of them are from friends.


Me with Angel Nunez of Lesley, whose ten-minute play Fragment was one of the national semifinalists. Photo by Kate Snodgrass.


Me with my roommate Alex Marshall, whose ten-minute play The Search was the other national semifinalist. Photo by Kate Snodgrass.


My cast rehearsing The Button.


The red button in the hotel lobby.


…And me with the red button. Photo by Brianna Wing.


The set at the opening of Act 1 of Rhinoceros from LeMoyne. Photo by Brianna Wing.


And how it looked in Act 2. Photo by Brianna Wing.


Part of the lobby display from LeMoyne’s Rhinoceros that went up before intermission. Photo by Brianna Wing.

I wish I had a photo from Suffolk Community College’s The Icarus Project, because that was phenomenal. Overall, it was such a fun week where I got to see a lot of great theatre and meet a lot of awesome people, and I’m so happy that I was given the chance to attend.

2 Comments

Filed under playwriting, theatre

Response to article in The Stranger

A friend on facebook (fellow local playwright Lou Johnson) posted this article earlier today: Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves, by Brandan Kiley in The Stranger. The article made a lot of interesting points about the problems that theatre is facing today, so I thought I’d weigh in, point by point.

1. “Enough with the Goddamned Shakespeare Already”: I love the way he puts it that fringe theatre “should be in the game of debasement.” That’s awesome. But we were just discussing this issue of Shakespeare (and other classics) at our last New Voices workshop at New Rep. I’m personally torn on this one. Obviously, as someone who makes new work, I want to see more new work in more theatres. I think it’s vital to the survival of theatre. But I also value the classics. I never got to go to the theatre as a kid, so there’s a lot of classic plays that I love that I’ve never been able to see live. New Rep is doing Long Day’s Journey into Night this spring, and I really want to try to see that because it’s one of my favorite plays and I’ve never seen it live (but I have seen the movie version). There’s so many plays I haven’t been able to see but would love to. And plays aren’t like movies, where you can pop in Gone with the Wind on dvd whenever you want so it’s not necessary to rerelease it into the theaters except for once-in-awhile special occasions. Unless we develop some sort of recording and archiving process that would make at least videotaped performances of the classics (ideally of every play) readily available, I wouldn’t want to see them totally pushed out of theatres. All that being said, yes, more new work! There should be a much better balance between new and old work in regional theatres.

2. “Tell Us Something We Don’t Know”: Again, more productions of new work! More premieres! And I like that he clarifies that even a regional premiere is a good thing. I haven’t reached this point in my career yet, but I’ve heard that it’s even harder to get a second production than it is a first production. So regional premieres that may have been done once or twice elsewhere are incredibly important. But I have to take issue with this remark: “Playwrights: Quit developing your plays into the ground with workshop after workshop after workshop—get them out there.” Don’t you think we WANT to “quit developing our plays into the ground”? No one I know wants to go through workshop after workshop without a production in sight, but often that’s just all that new writers of new work are given because that’s all the theatres have in their budgets to offer us. I don’t know anyone who’d say “no, please don’t produce me, I’d rather workshop my play into the ground until I can’t remember why I wrote it in the first place.” Seriously. It all goes back to the failing subscription-based model of revenue at regional theaters.

3. “Produce Dirty, Fast, and Often”: This I like. It’s not right for every theatre, but for small new companies that don’t have much of a budget, I think doing as much as you can with what you have can yield some really fun and surprising results. It strikes me as the type of thing that would work really well in a collaborative theatre group setting where the playwright, director, actors, and designers team up from day one and just see what they can make. Fun with no budgets!

4. “Get Them Young”: Definitely important. The question is how. New work and lower ticket prices would help, I think. But of course all of that depends on the budgets of the theatres and it’s all a vicious cycle. Maybe different models like live-streaming certain performances where people can purchase a “ticket” to view the livestream at a much cheaper price than a seat in the theatre can be thought about? That way the house can still be full but people who can’t afford the $40 or $50 it costs to be there in person would at least get a shot at seeing it. I don’t know. I think it will be exciting to see what people come up with.

5. “Offer Child Care”: I love this! Only don’t just invite actors to run it–invite the playwrights too! Everyone in the theatre would welcome the chance to make some extra money by playing theatre games with kids.

6. “Fight for Real Estate”: I’m intrigued by this concept of “artist housing.” Is this really a real thing in other cities? Although I’d personally rather just be able to make enough money to afford the cost of living. Being poor is no fun. Also, I am someone who came from from a neighborhood that was gentrified first by artsy and subsequently by rich types… artists aren’t the only ones being priced out of those communities. So are the original residents.

7. “Build Bars”: This would be fun. Last year, I went to Blood Rose Rising‘s workshop performances, and they had a little mini-open-bar in the corner that served drinks all night. And live music to accompany the performances. It was such a cool experience and gave the performance a nice community vibe. They’re offering drinks and live music again this time around as they go into full productions (Episode One opens Friday, February 17 at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville… go see it!).

8. “Boors’ Night Out”: I wish I were sure enough of myself to allow the audience to shout out whatever they wanted during one of my plays. I don’t know. I think I’m too sensitive for this one. Shouting out your favorite lines and singing along is fun though. Just not sure that I’m emotionally ready for cries of “you suck!” 🙂

9. “Expect Poverty”: No. Just no. “Nobody deserves a living wage for having talent and a mountain of grad school debt. Sorry.” I could not disagree more. EVERYONE deserves a living wage for their work, whether they went to grad school or not. No one should have to expect poverty. Expect that it will be tough and that it’s a really difficult industry, yes. Expect that there’s no guarantee of a big paycheck like there is if you do other forms of graduate study like med school or law school, yes. But don’t expect poverty. How do you expect people to do their jobs, whether it’s making art or teaching school or working in an office, if they don’t think they deserve a liveable wage for all the work they put into it? Don’t even get me started on the fact that education costs have skyrocketed in recent years while the increase in salaries has not anywhere near matched it. I know it was meant lightly, but still. Believe that what you offer the world deserves better than poverty!

10. “Drop Out of Grad School”: Again, I disagree. MFA programs definitely are not necessary for success, and “learning by doing” is also important. The problem is, I don’t know about other people, but I had very little playwriting experience before grad school. I didn’t feel like I knew how to write a play. I didn’t know that ten-minute plays even existed. I didn’t grow up going to the theatre. And I had zero connections to the local theatrical community. I NEEDED my MFA program. And to this day I know that going to grad school was the best thing I ever could have done with my life. It’s completely changed my writing life into something that’s now a regular part of who I am instead of something I hope I can do someday. Other people might not need the MFA program in order to do that. But I did. I’m a much better writer now, I have WAY more confidence than I used to, and I actually know what the process is for trying to get your work produced now. I was pretty clueless before.

So that’s it. Just my poorly organized thoughts. What I’ve been wondering about lately is how everywhere I’ve heard that the subscription-based regional theatre model is failing and needs to change. And I totally agree. But because I’m so new to this industry, I’d be interested to hear from people who’ve been here awhile about whether American theatre does really seem to be on a precipice of a major overhaul the way it was before the advent of the regional theatre, or if this is a conversation that’s been going on for decades but nothing ever seems to happen. I feel like change is necessary in order for theatre to grow and survive. Let’s do this, people.

Leave a comment

Filed under playwriting, theatre

The Button video

I’ve been back from KCACTF for over a week now, and I really want to write all about it. I’ve just been So. Busy. I bought a car! I got my learner’s permit! (In that order. Shut up.) And work is its usual crazy deadline-filled self. So for now, until I get a free minute to write about the week and share some photos, check out the video of the staged reading for my little ten-minute play The Button. I’ll be adding this video to this play’s actual page on my website once I confirm the spelling of the names of everyone involved.

Leave a comment

Filed under playwriting

The hard is what makes it great

I mentioned in my last post that I have a deadline for the first draft of my new play on January 1. That’s why I’m actually updating twice in one week for the first time in forever. I posted this video on facebook earlier today, but it doesn’t mean I still can’t blog about it, right?

So, I say horrible things about writing a lot. I complain and I say that I hate it and that it would be so much better without the whole “writing” part. I often take for granted that people obviously *know* that I love what I’m doing and that I just like to complain when it gets difficult. I’m big on the self-deprecating-humor thing.

But a lot of people probably don’t get that this is just how I work, and they may think things like “are you happy doing this? If you’re not happy, why don’t you stop?” or “you don’t really sound like you like it all that much.” I do. I love writing. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and wrote shitty rhymey poetry about the sun and my dog (actually, I don’t think I ever wrote a poem about my dog).

This scene with the immortal Tom Hanks basically sums up my feelings toward writing:

“If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

I totally rip this off pay homage to this line in my play I’m working on.

This is just one of those times where it’s really hard. When I write one line of dialogue and immediately want to go check facebook or twitter, when it takes forever to even advance the script one page, when looking at my god-awful dialogue makes me want to be sick. It will all be worth it in a few days. Then I’ll have a shitty first draft that I can proceed to rip apart for the next few months. hooray!

Leave a comment

Filed under playwriting

NaPlWriMo!

I’ve been really busy this month because I’m once again attempting to do NaPlWriMo, or National Playwriting Month, the playwriterly cousin of NaNoWriMo. I’m working on my play I’ve mentioned here before about the Catholic nun who was excommunicated for approving an abortion at a Catholic hospital.

The NaPlWriMo goal is a completed first draft of a new play that is at least 75 pages long. So far I only have slightly over 10 pages. I did really well week 1 and was ahead of schedule, but week 2 has completely fallen apart. I’ve simultaneously been trying to step up my gym activities, and for some reason it was a lot harder to balance work/writing/gym this week than it was last week. But I had a (very small) breakthrough today. I just took a few minutes in the afternoon and got out my notebook and made a really rough map of my way through the play–detailed enough to give me an idea of what should come next, but basic enough to allow for going off course if the play seems to be naturally heading that way. I feel less lost about everything now.

But after work today I decided I’d let myself take a quick nap before I started up the writing. Annnd somehow when I opened my eyes it was 8:00. And I still felt tired, like I could sleep through the whole night. I missed the NaPlWriMo community’s Google+ hangout because I slept right through it.

I guess that just shows you how much can randomly get in the way when you set out to write a whole new draft in a month. Unforeseen things like falling asleep for three hours, or your trainer not showing up for your gym appointment to get set up for the upper-body lifting machines, can get in your way and throw your whole system off. But then the key becomes not letting that completely screw you up and recovering the next day. I let myself get mired in loss of direction and rest-of-life this week. I need to get myself back on track this weekend.

Leave a comment

Filed under playwriting, theatre