Tag Archives: BTM

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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Filed under kids tv/film, playwriting, theatre

Plugs for my friends!

I’ve been so busy lately. It’s like August decided to blow up and go crazy. Last week I saw the opening night of John Shea’s Junkie at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. It was really good–you should all go check it out while it’s still up. It’s a one-man show about a heroin addict’s stay in a 30-day rehab facility. The actor is amazing, and the script is both funny and heartbreaking. Go see it.

I also grabbed a subscription to the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s upcoming season through an awesome deal on LivingSocial. One of my goals this year is to see more theatre. And to do so I need to take advantage of discounts and special events whenever they pop up so that I can afford to see shows more often. One thing I missed that I was supposed to see on Monday was a reading of my friend Emily Kaye Lazzaro’s play Grief and Surfing at Oberon. I saw a reading of an earlier draft last year when we had our MFA thesis readings, and I was looking forward to seeing it again and seeing how it had developed. I sadly had one of the worst migraines I’d had in awhile and just could not drag myself out of the house.

Other work my friends have coming up soon: those in the San Francisco Bay area should check out Genevieve Jessee’s one-woman show Girl in, but Not of, the ‘Hood at the SF Fringe Festival the week of Septmeber 10. She wrote and stars in it, and I wish I could be there. Walt McGough’s spy play The Farm will be up at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre beginning September 29. It’s another play I first saw in development and then presented at our MFA thesis readings, and it’s equally as awesome as Grief and Surfing but in a totally different way. (That’s why I loved my class so much, by the way… we all had such a wide array of styles, and I feel like I got to learn something new from everyone.) The BPT’s second show, beginning October 27, is The River Was Whiskey by Will Fancher. I also saw this as a reading last year, and I can highly recommend it. It’s full of Southern Gothic awesomeness, and I can’t wait to see how it’s developed since the reading. And finally, starting November 10, Deirdre Girard’s play The Christina Experiment will be up at the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts in Newburyport. They were the company that produced my ten-minute play for the Boston Theatre Marathon, yay! Christina is another play I saw through its development stages and in a reading during our MFA thesis week. Very much looking forward to its premiere.

My friends are up to lots of awesomeness lately. Where, you may ask, is my awesomeness? yeah. I need to do a LOT of submitting of current work and a lot more generating of new work. I’m aiming to try to do two writing groups this fall, which should help with the “generating new work” part. This time last year was more focused on finishing school, and I did more with ten-minute plays. I need to get out there and just send Prayer Bargain out to anyone who will look at a copy. 😛 And I have a few ideas for new full-lengths, ranging from a crazy comics play to a serious play about an excommunicated nun. And maybe another family play. Oh yes.

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The Twitterz, and other possible updates

Today I figured out how to add a Contact page… yay! Now people can email me without my having to publish my email address and get all kinds of spam. Next on my list is to get rid of that “Colleen M. Hughes” in the top right corner, but doing so requires purchasing the Custom CSS upgrade, and I have to do things like paying rent and buying groceries first. Which is no fun.

I’m also wondering if I should maybe break down and join Twitter. I’ve never quite understood it. I don’t understand why people’s names are preceded by an @ thingie (I mean, I know it links to their username, but I don’t get why the @ needs to be visible) or why the “pound sign” is now called a “hatch tag.” And why they’re suddenly all over the place. I sound like such an old lady. I at first balked at the idea of Twitter because I can’t for the life of me be succint because I turn everything into a story. Trying to keep myself to 140 characters is pretty damn hard. But the wonderful Ilana Brownstein pointed out in her Dramaturgy class that I took that Twitter can be a great way to keep up with the local theatre scene by following everyone’s feeds and linking to them when you “tweet” about seeing a show and such. I like that idea. But I’m not sure if I would have anything much to say on my own Twitter that I wouldn’t already share on facebook or here in my blog, so I don’t know. I did read a Twitter feed for one of the first times in my life the other day… I followed the BTM’s feed during the Marathon, and it was really funny. So having a positive experience with Twitter makes me feel better about potentially using it.

And I learned today that I *could* migrate my entire livejournal over to this blog should I want to. Now I have to decide whether that is something I want to do. I kind of want to have my blog all in one place…. but a lot of the stuff on livejournal is rambling and nervous and just plain stupid. It’s not like I want to hide who I am… it’s just that most people probably don’t care about random thoughts I had or surveys I took when I was 23. 😛

Lots to consider.

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My first production!

This past Sunday was my very first production of a script I wrote! I’ve had staged readings before, but this was the first time the actors were off-book and there were costumes and lights and a set. My ten-minute play “The Mouse” was part of the thirteenth annual Boston Theatre Marathon. It was produced by the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts in Newburyport, MA. At the helm of this crazy little play was the wonderful director Tim Diering, and the hilarious James Manclark and Tracy Bickel played Jim and Caroline.

My play was in the first hour (of ten), third out of the entire Marathon of fifty. I was trying not to be nervous–I’d seen a rehearsal the week before, and I knew the play was in good shape and that it had gotten laughs at previous readings–but I was still a complete wreck. It helped to have my mother, my boyfriend Allan, and a few friends and classmates scattered around the audience. And the people laughed! That felt so good. The last thing you want to hear at a comedy is total dead silence. And then it was over, and soon after that the whole first hour was over and the first intermission arrived, so I went out to the lobby to congratulate my awesome cast and director. When I got back, my boyfriend was telling me that he heard random audience members talking about my play during the break… how funny it was, and how they should bring a Donald Duck plushie to their office (that makes sense if you’ve seen the play). That was just incredibly awesome… people talking positively about something you created when you’re not in earshot. And if there were people elsewhere in the audience talking about how much they hated it, at least word of that never got back to me. 😉

All in all, it was a great day, and such a wonderful experience for my first-ever production. Hopefully there will be more to follow!

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