Tag Archives: family

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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Things I get from my dad

My dad died suddenly a year ago. It’s been a really hard year trying to adjust to things. Until this past year, when I’d think about him, it would often be about things I never, ever wanted to have in common with him. I thought cigarettes, especially his goddamn Newports, were disgusting. I wanted to go to college and make sure I was educated and have a career. I would never do half the crazy things he did when he was younger. They joke that girls end up marrying someone who is like their father; I knew that was never going to be me. I wanted to marry someone who wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did and wouldn’t have to struggle as hard as he did.

But now when I look back I find myself searching for similarities. Things that are parts of me that are no doubt because of him that I can take with me everywhere. That if I have kids I can hope they will inherit. And it’s nice because, if I stop and think about it, there’s more than what’s evident just on the surface. Some good and some not as good but indelibly a part of who I am.

1. The slight wave to my hair.
My mom’s hair is super-straight and fine. My dad’s was curly and incredibly thick. He used to joke that he could ride down the highway in a convertible and it wouldn’t move. Mine is decidedly somewhere in between. Not too fine, but not thick. Not curly, but not pin-straight like my mom’s.

2. My nose looks more like his than my mom’s.
I only noticed that several months ago. In some pictures where he turns to the side at certain angle I can see it better.

3. My hypersensitivity.
I get my anxiety and propensity to worry straight from my mother. But the being super-sensitive is I think from him. We’d often yell at him to stop being a baby if something upset him and he’d storm off. 😛 But I’m a lot like that… I let people’s comments hurt me too much. I just deal with it differently.

4. My interest in music.

We had different tastes–I was more rock while he got into a lot of 70s singer/songwriter type sounds, but we appreciated each other’s styles. My mom could care less about music–for her it’s basically enjoyable background noise. My dad understood its importance. He loved his goddamn gigantic speakers on his record/8-track player. He’d spend so many hours just out in the kitchen with the radio tuned to our classic rock station, and you could always tell when a song he really loved was on because he’d get so into it. I learned a lot of classic rock from him, and I have a great memory for anything musical. And some of the best memories from college are actually rides home with him when we’d just turn up the radio and play music the whole way home. Sometimes it would be my tapes of 90s music so I could share it with him. And he was the only one in the house who never seemed to have anything else he’d rather be watching or listening to when my brothers would play their drums and guitar in the basement. He wanted to be right down there with them, rather than demanding to know when they’d be done. Music was a way of bonding with him.

5. The few strands of scraggly grey hair that started appearing when I was still only 22.

6. My ability to just talk-talk-talk about stupid insignificant things.

7. Related to that, my inclination towards long, detailed stories. I, of course, don’t tend to tell my life story to random strangers in the parking lot thankfully. 🙂

8. My love of all things outer-space.

He didn’t nerd out over NASA and the space program the way I do, but he definitely appreciated going for a walk and seeing the moon looking particularly bright or big. I knew he’d get it if I pointed out how awesome the moon looked on a given night.
Plus, I think I discovered this “sequel song” before he did. I was a baby when it was released, so it makes sense that it would slip by him.

9. Singing random songs around the house.

I know there’s countless other things too. And so many weird jokes and quotes that he provided over the years, sometimes unintentionally. 🙂 I also think I can attribute at least some of my writing talent to him. Not the actual skill of writing–I don’t ever think I saw him write anything except lists so that he wouldn’t forget when he took his pills–but what goes into it, all that unspoken research and observation on what makes people the way they are–growing up with him, I probably absorbed SO MUCH… about how people respond to struggles, about the way real people talk, and especially about how to deal with horrible crappy circumstances with humor, which is a total hallmark of my writing style. He used to call having his seizures his “shake rattle n’ roll.” It’s terrible, and you laugh, and then feel bad for laughing, but then laugh again afterward. And it’s ridiculous jokes like that that I think always come out in things I write.

So thanks, Dad. I hope you realize the influence you had on everyone close to you.

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Hanging on

My father died unexpectedly a week ago. He was only 57, and it was a complete shock to my whole family. Those of you who know me pretty well know that he had ongoing health issues, mainly that he had seizures due to a brain injury from a car accident he was in a few years before he got married. They were issues that my family and I had learned to deal with. It was normal for him to have to be sent to the hospital once every few months. He also survived prostate cancer a couple years ago and a pretty serious gum and sinus infection from a polyp in his nasal cavity. We all knew he had ongoing health concerns, but they were under control as much as possible. When he suddenly had trouble breathing last Monday morning, my brother called an ambulance right away, but no one expected it was going to be as serious as it was. He had stopped breathing, and by the time they got to the hospital, there was nothing they could do. The doctors think it may have been a pulmonary embolism.

My brother called me from the hospital. I had been outside searching for my cat Oskar, who had somehow gotten outside the night before even though he hates the outdoors. I had to go into autopilot to throw my aerobed and laptop into the car and have my boyfriend drive to pick up my youngest brother and then head to the hospital. My brother was there with my mother. He had to go pick up my third brother from the train station. It was just horrible.

But when we got home from the hospital, our house was already full of people. One of my mother’s sisters was there, as were about four or five of her really close friends, with coffee and donuts. My mother’s brother had been working on my grandmother’s living room in the apartment upstairs from ours, so he was there too, and one of her other sisters was on her way over with pasta and the ingredients to make sauce. Two more of her sisters showed up later that afternoon. The day felt so long—from the hospital to the funeral home a few hours later and then the florist—but it was made bearable by the outpouring of support from everyone we knew. I felt lucky that my mother was part of such a big family (five sisters and one brother). They all lost their dad far too early too, so they understood in a special way what we were going through. My dad’s oldest brother was there at the funeral home with us, and his other brother and his family flew up from Florida and visited on Tuesday.

My friends were also the most amazing people in the world. Friends and even parents of friends came to the wake and the funeral. Coworkers stopped in, and the company sent beautiful flowers to the funeral home. My entire MFA class still living on this coast came to the wake. People have been emailing or calling daily just to check in and see how I’m doing, and my college roommate came to visit this weekend to make sure I was ok. I can’t tell you all how much it helps having such good people in our lives. After the wake Wednesday night, there was a large group of friends and family at my house cheering on the Bruins in Game 7 as they won their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years. My dad would’ve loved it.

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