Tag Archives: directive 47

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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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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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!

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A trip to the library

Time for a quick little update while I’m waiting for my friend Christine at the coffee shop. I haven’t updated much lately. There was the holidays, and now I have a massive deadline for the first draft of my play about the excommunicated nun. It has to be done by January 1. Which is really rough. But I took off today and tomorrow, and my office has Friday off instead of next Monday, so I have the rest of this week to go nuts and crank this draft out.

Today I wasn’t focusing too well from home, so I decided after eating a quick lunch to head over to the local tiny branch of the Boston Public Library to work for awhile. I settled into a nice table in the corner near an outlet, which is vital for me. I hate running off the battery and having the screen start to dim if I sit staring at my words for more than a few seconds.

I was actually feeling productive and getting some work done when this guy, who based on references to being in high school two years ago must have been younger than my youngest brother, started chatting me up. And I’m really, really bad at just telling people to go away. I’m too nice. And, you know, why am I blaming this on my being “too nice”? It’s not my fault… it’s his. When you ask someone if you can sit next to them and they tell you, “I really have to get this thing written” and for good measure add “it’s on page 30 and needs to be on, like, 80 or 90,” you should NOT proceed to sit down at their table. Even if you’re crazy. You shouldn’t sit with someone who’s obviously working. And then keep talking. And talking. When they try to go back to their writing, you should LET THEM.

You also should not hit on them. Especially when they make it clear that they have a boyfriend and that it’s going very well. You shouldn’t ask for their number. You shouldn’t ask if you can kiss them. When they politely say no to both of those things, you should not tell them “maybe tomorrow” or that you’ll wait until their current relationship fails. Girls (and I’m assuming guys) don’t like to hear things like that. That will not make them like you more.

You should be allowed to be a shy, nice person who writes plays at a library and NOT get hit on by creeps. Is that too much to ask?

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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.

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New Rep and new play

My poor website is so sad and neglected. I’ve been busy and crazy. But what else is new?

I haven’t mentioned it in my blog yet, but I’m doing a writing program at New Rep this year! I am a New Voices playwriting fellow, along with former BU classmates Emily Kaye Lazzaro and Anna Renee Hansen, and James McLindon, who I had never met before but who is also awesome. It’s going to be a really great group to work with, and I’m excited about it.

The first workshop of my work is going to be November 7th. I’m working on starting a new full-length that I’d had in my head for over a year now but had sort of put on the backburner because I didn’t know how to approach it. It’s going to be based on the true story of a Catholic nun in Phoenix, Sister Margaret McBride, who was an administrator at a Catholic hospital and approved an abortion on a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child because the woman’s life was in danger. Doctors said her risk of mortality was “near 100 percent” if they continued with the pregnancy. The abortion was performed and the woman lived. Once Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted heard that the abortion took place, he automatically excommunicated Sister Margaret. There’s a lot of actual press on the story, but check out the wikipedia article for a quick overview.

I’m still doing research (i.e., scared to start the actual writing, see previous blog entry), but there’s obviously a lot going on here. The Catholicism stuff won’t be too much of a problem because I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools my entire life, so I have a decent handle on their way of thinking and the church’s policies and mindset and all of that. My main concern right now is figuring out how to tell this story without being overtly political or coming across as preachy. I don’t want an “issue play.” I need to find a way in, through exploring a relationship or faith/salvation/something like that, and use that as my means of exploring the topic and let the politics and controversy and all of that sort of arise out of it naturally. argh. I’m worried about it. I’ve also never written anything based on a true story before, so I still feel kind of weird inventing characters based on these people who are still alive and going about their everyday business. But not much about them as people is really out there. I’m hoping to get a decent start on it and get help with all of these questions from the group.

I’m also going to attempt to get out a draft of it during NaPlWriMo, or National Playwriting Month, the playwrights’ counterpart to the much larger NaNoWriMo. You basically join this group of awesome writers at all different stages of their careers around the country and the world in writing a new full-length play during the month the month of November. I first heard about it in 2007 but didn’t take part that year, then I got a comment on my old blog in 2008 from one of the moderators suggesting that I sign up. I figured “why not?” and I’ve been there every year since. The past two years was full of cheating on my part because I was in grad school and had to work on several projects during the month instead of one full play, but I was still on the forums because the community is just so great. I’m going to be a bit of a cheater this year too and start before November 1, but that’s because the New Voices group will need copies of my work in progress by 10/31 in order to prepare for the workshop on 11/7. But if I write a draft longer than the minimum 75 pages in November then maybe I can still count it as a “win.” Either way, it’s fun. There’s still ten days to sign up! You know you want to do it!

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8 Ways to Rationalize Not Writing

I should be writing right now.

That’s something I find myself saying a lot. I say it way more often than I actually listen to myself and start to write. I’m an expert in procrastination and rationalizing my reasons not to write. Here’s some of my rationalization favorites:

1. I’m so tired/stressed/overwhelmed right now that if I tried to write, anything I wrote would just be total crap.
This is bullshit. Often it just takes the simple act of getting started and lines start to get written. It’s like magic… you sit down to write, and writing happens. Insane, I tell you! I spent basically all of undergrad feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and sleep deprived (hooray for double majors!), and I still got all my work done. And (usually) did well. And even if what I wrote that day WAS total crap, there’s a little thing called revision to fix it all later. “I’ll fix it later” really is a wonderful mantra.

2. I’m in the middle of [insert book title, or better yet, book series], and I should finish that off before I start a new writing project, because otherwise I’ll get distracted from the book and forget what’s been happening.
There’s probably a reason why I decided to finally pick up Harry Potter this past spring. On book six now! But yeah. It’s called “read a little after that night’s writing session.” Problem easily solved. And yet it’s one of my favorite excuses.

3. The cats like to climb all over my desk and my chair, so I can never get any work done.
Coffeeshop, anyone? Library, perhaps? Or even just “work from the couch”?

4. Updating my website or posting to twitter counts as being “writing related” because it’s part of the whole “self-marketing” thing.
Because it will do a LOT of good trying to get local theatre companies to learn more about me if I never have anything to actually send them. And as you can see, I’ve had trouble lately even feeling like I have something inetersting enough to blog about. Still, this is a particularly dangerous excuse, because techically I am doing something tangentially related to writing, which can easily be rationalized into feelings of productivity. Ohhh yes.

5. Watching this movie or tv show or reading this book is helping me research my next play.
This is something that totally CAN be true. Research is good and often necessary before diving into the writing stage. But there’s a point where it becomes a convenient way to put off starting the actual writing. I’m good at this one because it’s kind of related to #2 on this list, only it’s much easier to rationalize because the time-waster is at least somewhat writing related.

6. I don’t have to get this done for another three weeks because that’s when my writing group is meeting next.
This one is probably my biggest problem. I’m terrible at getting things done if I don’t have a deadline staring me in the face. Then I inevitably stress out and churn something together as it gets down to the wire. I have to stop working like this. Or at least get better at pacing myself.

7. I suddenly need to vacuum the living room rug, scrub out the bathroom sink, do the dishes, and organize my bookshelf by genre, author, and book size.
I think one speaks for itself.

8. I am suddenly obsessed with these videos of people playing 80s and 90s hits on Mario Paint and I need to watch them for an hour while Final Draft sits open in another window.
This almost killed me when I was working on the final paper for my Pulitzer Prize-Winning Plays class.

Does anyone else out there have any other favorite forms of rationalization? Or any tips on combatting them and just getting started?

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