Tag Archives: naplwrimo

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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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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