Category Archives: playwriting

Writers at Play 3rd Annual(ish) Reading Series

My writing group’s third public reading series is tomorrow night!

WAP 2018

Writers at Play

2018 Showcase of New Work

Michael Towers: On Marriage: A Modern Absurdism
Colleen M. Hughes: Súgán
Deirdre Girard: Resettlement
Peter M. Floyd: Infestation

You’re invited to a sneak preview of four brand-new plays by none other than my writing group, Writers at Play. We’re excited to share this journey of new work created by alumni of Boston University’s graduate program in playwriting.

FREE

Tuesday, May 22nd at 7:30 pm
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Comm. Ave.

Reception to follow!

Cast: Lewis D. Wheeler, Amanda Collins, Christine Power, and Ciera-Sadé Wade

Learn more about we the playwrights, our distinct voices, and the other projects we have on the horizon. Sample a few scenes from each new play, read by the professional actors who support Writers at Play throughout the early development process.

 

Also be sure to check out the work of John Zakrosky, Jr., the fifth member of our group, who was unable to make Tuesday’s reading but who has been hard at work with us all season.

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Where Are They Now?

My plays, I mean. I’m infamous for getting a play about 80% there and then not being able to make the final push to getting it into a producible shape. It’s why I can get myself readings but never anything beyond that. It’s also likely why I tend to get myself discouraged and tell myself I’m just not cut out for this because I lack both the talent and the drive. One thing I excel at though is beating up on myself, and I need to not do that. I can definitely get plays into producible shape. I went through an MFA program and I held my own with classmates who are amazing writers. I may have gone into the program not really knowing how to write a play and know zero people in the local theatre scene, but it’s been six or seven years and I have a good network of people and I’m at least at the level of “oh, I think I’ve heard your name around…???” when people meet me. So, yes, I can do this.

But the plays need to get their collective asses in gear. They’re all in various states of disarray. But I’m working on them, and here now is my commitment to them. I need to do that thing you shouldn’t do on a public-facing site and express nerves about my work, because I’m me and my site is going to reflect that so deal with it. (Confidence?) So here’s where the full-lengths stand as I gear up for this year’s Writers at Play season.

The Prayer Bargain

My first “real” play. My first-ever play was my undergrad thesis fairytale written-in-verse nightmare, but this play was my MFA thesis and could actually go somewhere beyond O’Kane 481 at Holy Cross (I love 481 though, nothing against it). I wrote the first draft of this in 2009-2010, and I keep coming back to it, determined to get it right. I got some really great feedback on it this summer that I am currently trying to incorporate. What I’m struggling with is that something really has to CHANGE (it’s a fucking play, that’s kind of the point), but it’s a family play, and in my experience, family doesn’t change. Problems exist in an evolving but recurring spiral. I’m struggling with getting my characters to effect change because I don’t know how to do so in my own family, so I have no “write what you know” experience to draw from. But I’m working on something happening. When I finish this draft I really want to get another reading up. I’m not giving up on this play. It’s the only one my dad ever got to see any sort of live performance of, so it’s special.

Directive 47

I cannot get this play to sound like me. Normally, I can at the very least do dialogue. Plot I am kind of all over the place with, but dialogue I can handle. This play has always sounded like people orating at each other. And I can’t stand it. I did a reading at Erbaluce last January where it really stuck out. I just wanted to keep drinking wine but I couldn’t get up to refill my glass. The feedback from that reading was invaluable, but I need to have the mental energy for a deep-dive back into this one that I don’t know if I have at the moment. So it’s sort of in a back-of-my-mind letting-the-feedback-stir phase. This play goes through lots of that.

What frustrates me so much is that this play has gotten the most attention of anything I’ve written—I get accepted into more programs when it’s my writing sample, it’s gotten more readings and gotten further in competitions, etc.—but I KNOW that Prayer Bargain is much further developed and that the actual dialogue writing is so much better. That throws me into all sorts of self-doubt. Are people just responding to the topical issues in Directive 47? Or could it be a really good play if I just fucking sat down and fixed all its problems? On the other hand, Prayer Bargain is sooo close to done…does that mean it’s just Not Good and it’s never going to go anywhere even when it’s as good as it can possibly be?

The Travellers

This one is at a completed-second-draft stage. i.e. it is still a mess. I have a section of it going up on Boston Podcast Players in a few months.

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Photo by Boston Podcast Players.

This is my awesome cast recording the play in August with me appearing via Skype (I was in New Jersey). I’m excited for people to actually get to hear the reading because it will have been several months by then. This play is a bit of a conundrum. It’s whimsical and fun, and it could ALMOST work as a young audiences play…except that most of the main roles are for adults. I sort of envisioned it as an all-ages play…one that middle and high school kids would like and could totally perform but one that could also be done by a regular theatre and adults would enjoy it. Like Doctor Who. Who (pun intended) I’m clearly inspired by here. If I went full out and made it a young audiences play, does that make it “less” of a play in any sense? I say no. I love writing for kids. But it also closes it off to so many opportunities and gets it kind of limited. There’s also the Traveller’s identity which is kind of one of those not-so-secret secrets. I need to work it so that the reveal moment doesn’t feel like a Big Reveal (at least to the audience) because it’s like “yeah, obviously.” I don’t want people to think I’m stupid. He looked at me like I was stupid, I’m not stupid. yes.

Time Steps

Poor sad Time Steps is stalled out around page 25. The beginning keeps getting rewritten.  This is my play about tap dance and memories and life and death and friendship, and I want it to be imbued with rhythm and movement and FEEL like tap but right now it feels like girls being catty to each other, and then I get discouraged and I want to throw things. First drafts are fun. I want to keep pushing ahead with this one though. It’s one that will be more fun to work on once it’s written and I can actually play with the dance.

Untitled Sound-Movement-Poetic-Something

This only exists as a line (half a line, maybe) on a page right now. I started it during one of the above-mentioned times that Time Steps was making me want to throw things and 2017 was making me question my existence. I don’t know if anything will ever come of it. It has no concept other than “I miss being able to move and I want to write something more lyrical.” Oddly enough back in my undergrad Creative Writing program where I focused on poetry, I thought I was terrible with having any sort of lyric quality to my writing. I also was at the most miserable, lonely point in my life and all my poetry was looking back on a childhood and a home I could never have, so maybe my writing has improved now that I’m mentally better. I’d like to do something with this. Without it seeming melodramatic and stupid. I’m not sure if I know how. I wish I had a dance studio in my room so I could just move around and play with ideas.

This post was completely self-serving. I don’t mind if you didn’t read it. It was more of a collecting my thoughts on my writing and looking ahead as writing group time starts up than about trying to be clever. Plays, people! I sometimes write them.

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Back in action

Wow, it’s been a long time. So long that it looks like WordPress has updated their New Post window. This is just a quick pre-work update on all of the things that have been inhibiting me from updating (i.e., an excuse blog! I’m great at those).

Speaking of pre-work, I have a new job now! Am I writerly enough to call it a “day job”? I don’t want to sound obnoxious. Anyway. I’ve been here two and a half months. I’m not working from home anymore, and I’m up and at work before I used to have to even be awake. It’s been an adjustment. I hate mornings.

I also moved! I am back in the hometown of Somerville. I moved about a month ago, but I’m still unpacking and getting things settled. It’s one of those moves where the unpacking feels overwhelming and I just don’t want to do it. I probably should force myself to work on it tonight a little.

The hardest update, which is probably why unpacking has been so overwhelming, is that Allan (the boyfriend) moved back to Arkansas and we’re currently doing the long-distance thing. Long-distance is extra-hard when his internet is limited to a certain amount of data because cable and DSL aren’t available in his area, so skyping has to be limited. It’s been hard, but we’re making it work one day at a time.

So all of this has left me completely out of it writing-wise. I’ve worked on a few things lately though, so I’m starting to get back into it, hooray! The other day I was working on seeing what my fairytale play Mirror, Mirror would be like adapted into sort of an early-reader chapterbook. I haven’t decided if it will work yet. I was adding a frame story to it which I like, but I’m not sure if the material I have would be too long for a book in that age group.

In any case, I also want to adapt that play into a play for young audiences. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. What’s held me back is that I think the verse element needs to go. And that kills me. This play was my undergrad thesis, my very first little proto-play, and the verse was SO. HARD. to write. But I need to think of it in terms of theatricality now, not just academics. And I need to think about what will play better on the stage, especially for kids. And if there’s not a good, necessary for the story reason for it to be in verse, I should cut it. I can keep the lyricism and rhythm of the language without being so limited by the form. But like I said, it kills me.

I’ve also been a children’s lit kick lately, and I want to try my hand at writing a book for kids. The play adaptation is serving as a sort of “practice session” for that to play with the form and get more of a handle on it. It’s weird when you’ve been writing drama for so long that you suddenly sit down to fiction and it feels foreign. It’s like, “you mean I just can’t write ‘setting: the bedroom of two young girls’ and have a set designer make it all pretty for me? I have to actually use words to describe it???”

My latest project has been a much-needed revise on The Prayer Bargain. I had one of those flashes of insight while taking a shower the other night, and I think I’ve figured out Molly’s journey and what she wants. Being back in Somerville means I’m on this play’s stomping grounds, so I’m getting more excited to finally tinker with the problems this play’s been having.

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At my own pace

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and guess what… I’m still running! I went through a period where I fell out of it for a week and a half when work was going crazy and I also had to get a lot of writing done, but I’m really trying to make this something I stick with. Because of jumping around and missing a few days, I’m on the beginning of week 5 of the beginner program I’ve been doing.

Today’s schedule was 12 min run/1 min walk repeated twice followed by a 4 min run to round out the 30 minutes.  Last Wednesday was when I finally got back to the gym and started up again, and I did an interval of 10 min run/1 min walk twice followed by 8 min run. I was mad at myself for going a week and a half between running days, and I told myself that I had to set the treadmill on 5.0 for my minimal running pace from now on because everyone else at the gym seems to run at 5.5 at the least. I can run at 5.0… when I was doing shorter run intervals I liked that pace because going slower actually felt more difficult. The first 10 minutes were pretty good… I started at 4.6 and bumped it up to 5.0 after two minutes because my previous run had been at 8 min intervals. The second 10 minutes were harder as it got down to the end. I was clock-watching a lot and that always kills me. When I got to final 8 minutes I could feel a blister starting to form on my left foot and a cramp in my hip on that leg, and I practically was speed-walking the final minute and a half.

Then I tried to run again on Thursday even though the plan usually has a walk day in between run days, again because I was mad at myself for being away so long. I was also missing my dad a lot because it was the anniversary of the day he died, and I sort of wanted to run out all of the sad feelings. But I could barely do it. I managed to run for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I had to split it up into 10 run, 10 walk, 5 run, 5 walk. I felt awful. Friday I fell asleep after barely making it through work. It was a rough week.

So today I started off at the beginning of week 5 of the plan, as I said with 12 min run intervals. The muscle aches of last week were gone, and I decided that I probably needed to stop caring about my pace or my calories burned for now and just focus on building up the endurance. The speed will come once I get the endurance there. That’s a problem I always have with anything I approach. I feel like if I’m not absolutely killing myself then I must not be working hard enough. But I ran at 4.6 instead of 5.0 and, big surprise, got through the 12 min intervals much easier than the 10 min ones of last week. It was still a workout, but I wasn’t left feeling like I must be incredibly weak to not be able to handle the plan anymore once I got halfway through it. I put the speed up to 5.0 for the final 4 min run and that felt good. And I still went past the 2 mile mark and got to 2.25-2.30, which is around where I was last time. And I feel like on Wednesday when the interval rises to 13 min, I will be able to handle it.

I need to approach more facets of my life like this. It doesn’t matter that (what feels like) everyone else at the gym runs at 5.5 or 6.0, and it doesn’t matter if they can go that fast and are also beginner runners. Maybe I’m better at dancing or yoga than they are (and if not, then ehhh, whatever, I’ve never been a super-athlete anyway). And if a friend is way more established as a writer than I am, that’s ok and it doesn’t diminish that I’ve made some progress since getting the MFA. It doesn’t mean I should sit there berating myself while I revise until I start questioning whether I’m actually cut out for it. Or if a friend makes more money/owns a house/is married/has a kid/all four of those things, it’s ok that I’m not there yet. It’s ok that I’ve had a couple major challenges in the past few years and have had to take some time working through them. It’s so much more productive to write/live at 4.6 and stay motivated than to force yourself to function at 5.0 and beat yourself up when you’re struggling to maintain it. Now I actually feel like going out and running again next time instead of dreading it. And when I don’t beat myself up about writing, I usually write things that turn out a lot better. Imagine that.

Remind me to take a look back at this post when I start feeling like I’m not doing good enough with life. Remind me that when I’m thinking clearly, these thoughts make sense and that it does not signify my “taking the easy way out.”

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He catches a ride on a friendly pterodactyl

Because most of the important things I’ve learned in my life can be traced back to Sesame Street.

I’m doing NaPlWriMo again this year (and you should too!), and while I do have a few ideas for full-length plays bouncing around in my head, I’m kind of at a loss of which one to start and where to begin. There’s a blog post on the site raising the question of what makes a play a play. When is something a play versus not a play? Whenever that question is raised, I always find myself back in Kate Snodgrass’s playwriting class and hear her telling us that a play, even in a format as short as ten minutes, needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end–that is, that it has to tell a full story. That conversation never fails to get this old Sesame Street song stuck in my head.

It sounds pretty basic, but when you have to sit there and think about something you’ve written and make sure it has those three distinct parts, it’s actually helpful advice. One thing in particular about the ending in a play versus a tv episode or a comedy skit is that at least one of your characters has to have changed in some way. Again, sounds basic. But when I was writing The Mouse, for example, the draft that went to KCACTF had a different ending than the draft that ended up in the Boston Theatre Marathon (and published). The feedback from the judges at KCACTF was that the current version was just a skit because the protagonist had decided to quit and find a job that took her seriously. In my mind, that was a change because she went from nervous and weak in the beginning to standing up for herself and going after what she wanted. But if her walking out signified not *enough* of a change, she needed instead to pull her boss onto her side and force him to see that she was necessary (even if in his mind she’s a necessary evil). It still kills me to have had to change the original ending because I loved that version. But was it a play, or was it a sketch-comedy skit? I ultimately went with the version that left it in “play” territory. But I’m still not 100% satisfied with the ending.

So it’s not always as “well, duh, obviously” as it sounds. In fact, the major problems with all of my full-length plays, no matter how far along they are, can be summed up by this beginning/middle/end journey:

End: The Prayer Bargain is STILL struggling with its ending. It’s like almost all there except for the one “crystallizing moment” that ties it all together and makes the audience have that “wow, this was a good play” feeling rather than the “ok, time to get home now” feeling. Maybe if I can put into words how exactly Molly and the rest of the family change and spell out what the beginning, middle, and end is, I can get the ending to work better.

Middle: Directive 47 has its structure all set in place now but needs some help figuring out what the events of the plot mean for each of the characters. Their journeys need to be more clearly defined. They all need to find their own friendly pterodactyl to fly away on. (Which–nuns flying on pterodactyls–that sounds like a much more awesome story than the one I’m writing, though it could also be interpreted as fundamentalist “world is 6000 years old” propaganda, and we wouldn’t want that.)

Beginning: Whatever idea I decide to focus on for Naplwrimo, I don’t know where I’m going to start. The song starts off with Seymour waking up… I don’t even know who my “Seymour” will be. Why is it so hard for me to even name characters in the beginning?

So there’s lots to work on. But I bought a Naplwrimo hoodie from their Cafepress store, so now I’m all geared up for writing, because I have a hoodie now, right? That makes it official.

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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!

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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.

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