by Robin Byrd
I am not sure what kind of heavy artillery hit me but the bruises have left me sluggish, a little disoriented (darn freeway expansion, nothing looks the same, I never know where I am, blink and I’m lost) and then there is the constant checking of body parts after slamming toes and fingers in any place en route to anywhere not to mention being ticked off about always being caught off guard. I wish somebody had yelled “incoming”.
Every single thing I do to calm myself down, I have been unable to do lately. Being ticked off most of the time is really exhausting. I have got to find another sport that is active after basketball season is over. I promise yelling at games is a really good way to release stress. I am at the point where I want to wrap my ankles and start training for a marathon – that or find a gym so I can pump some iron. I am so on edge, my teeth hurt.
Why all the stress you ask?
Not able to keep writing past 3 am (what can I say, I like the night hours). I weary of having to shut down creative juices so I can go to bed, so I can beat the traffic in the morning (never happens), so I can think about building coordinators and personnel actions and what I am going to eat for lunch (it’s a really big chore) and why my paycheck never gives me a break. I long for change…, long for time to edit little lines of non-rhyming poetry.
I don’t like to rhyme.
Free verse is what I’d rather write. I get allergic rhyming right. I just adore the jagged view. Words without meter, forgive me it’s my park avenue…
I get notes about trying different forms of poetry – the Pantoum and the Villanelle, for instance. I’m trying. It’s not easy yet; it feels forced. I figure it’s a good exercise for where I really want to take my poetry. So, I have been seeking out the work of other poets. Recently, I was listening to Yusef Komunyakaa on the internet reading some of his poetry, afterwards someone asked him why he didn’t rhyme more often – he said you can only rhyme with rain so many times. (He may have used another word.) I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair which is why I can’t remember the exact word he used. Apparently that’s about 495 times you can rhyme with rain. I’d be throwing up rhymes all over the floor by 100; none of them worth salvaging for the page.
All I want to do, right this minute is write a totally awesome poem that I don’t have to wonder if it is mediocre or not.
I loathe that word. Well, not the word but what it means.
Eventually, I want to write an epic poem, line upon line till “the end” so I guess I am training myself to take on another genre – hoping not to keep bruising so easily in the meantime. Hoping that if I can write enough poems in succession, I’ll get the same adrenaline rush I get off writing plays…Tweet
Happy Anniversary to the LA FPI Person of Interest Blog! Today we celebrate four years of blogging.
by Robin Byrd
I have enjoyed our diverse group of voices. I have enjoyed the moments when after reading these ladies or watching a video or film, I break out into laughter or tears – those moments when I am found…. There is nothing like being in a funk and have someone write “Oink! Oink!” or having to leave my desk to shake myself after reading “When Playwrights Get Old” which came about after “Too old?” left me numb and very contemplative. When I look in the mirror, I see me and have to remind myself that the first set of students at the university where I work my day job have graduated and are in their thirties now. The few that have stayed on in employment shock me when I run into them yet when I look in the mirror I don’t see age — I see me. One wonders if after all the “Taking Stock” we do if a change is gonna come – ever – but we keep hoping and pushing and fighting for that “Stillness” that drives us.
How much more drive does it take for a woman to succeed than a man? Can it even be measured? Who cares? Trying to keep myself moving. No time to research how a man does it unless it helps me.
Writers are always “On a new path…” to stay motivated and to be able to encourage oneself to do one’s art which is supposed to lead to “When you hear your words in someone else’s mouth…” You hope. One hopes.
The goal is to be a working artist. By that I mean, you don’t have to have a day job to pay the rent, pay for submission fees, or afford you food while you write. Living in near poverty to be an artist should be against the law especially because that same art could end up being a national treasure; the following terms are not interchangeable: “Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist“.
Zora Neale Hurston author of Their Eyes Were Watching God died in poverty; her work was rescued from a fire after her death (Florida had a habit of burning the belongings of the dead). Zora Neale Hurston’s life work is a national treasure…
There should be no limitations or rules on where or in what form a writer creates story as there are no rules to who can be “The Happiest Person in America” or one of the happiest people – let us do our art and we are there… Gender does not dictate what shared work will change the world in some way — “And The Female Play at the Tonys was…” and it should not dictate who has access to the stage, the screen or the bookshelf. Great stories all start the say way — with words and the “Voice…” of the writer. All are needed, each soprano, alto, tenor and bass… There should not have to be “The Bechdel Test for the Stage“; there should not have to be a Bechdel test at all – why can’t all stories worth telling be treated equal? Why can’t the journey be easier? Why can’t handling “Our Expectations, Our Fears” as artists be easier? Perhaps even this tug-of-war on gender parity fits into the “Everything Is A Creative Act” category; it is, after all, fodder.
I especially like what Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Lisa Kron said at the last Dramatists Guild Conference “Having Our Say: Our History, Our Future” about what she does when something rubs her the wrong way “I’m going to write a play about this” — The Veri**on Play is what resulted.
Just wondering, do you have any favorite LA FPI blog articles?
Bloggers Past and Present:
Jessica Abrams, Tiffany Antone, Erica Bennett, Nancy Beverly, Andie Bottrell, Robin Byrd, Kitty Felde, Diane Grant, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Sue May, Analyn Revilla, Cynthia Wands and special input by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.
by Sue May
For your viewing pleasure.Tweet
By Jessica Abrams
I have a life coach. I realize this reduces the entire scope of my personality down to a few key points of demographic data, but there you have it. To say she’s wonderful and has changed my life is another blog post. I mention her because one of the ideas that she’s dragging me kicking and screaming into believing is that the more creativity you use, the more creativity you get. Basically nothing is a waste of time — that, as a creative person, it’s all creeks feeding into the same river.
This is a tough one for me. Somewhere along one of the tributaries of my past, I became indoctrinated with the idea that life is frequently a bitch and then you make time to create. And you better damned well be focused in that hour you’ve carved out with a surgeon’s knife because in the next one lurks a call that has to be returned or a bill that needs to be paid or a baby shower that needs to be attended. I also always believed that I must be choosy with the projects I invest time into, as if somehow I had a crystal ball and could look into the future and see a production or a script sale.
I’m by no means renouncing the laser-like focus it when it comes down to simply getting the work done. But what if everything — that annoying baby shower that takes up way too much of a Sunday, for instance – what if it’s all a part of the same creative organism? Or just the same life organism? What if it actually gives you more than it takes away?
I’m trying this on for size. And by that I mean, repeating the idea to myself a few times a day, as I’ve been instructed to do. It requires letting go of my ideas of where something will or won’t take me. To continue with the river metaphor: the goal may be to get to that great big ocean, but what about the new growth that springs up when a once-fallow area suddenly becomes irrigated? I realize I’m in way over my head in environmental science arena, but I think I’ve made my point.
If my own past serves as a lesson, I’m reminded daily of the job I took as a social science field interviewer–a job I knew nothing about– which, in short order, led to an amazing friendship and creative partnership, the aforementioned life coach and a web series called KNOCKING ON DOORS (based on said job) that is currently on YouTube. Recently I was in Indiana doing just that, knocking on doors, and in between my own private bitch sessions about the lack of decent food, I came up with ideas for more webisodes. Years ago, a studio job I held for three long, miserable years became fodder for a play set in — you guessed it — a movie studio.
But something tells me it’s not just about material to use in my writing. It’s looking past that and into the great beyond — life itself, and the weird and wonderful places it will you when you commit and give and then let go.
I’m working on it. Like I said, I have a really good coach.Tweet
By Jessica Abrams
Last Saturday I had one of the most amazing experiences a playwright could ask for. No, it didn’t involve megastars or a cash prize that could allow me to pay rent for the next two months without worry AND take a vacation. I had coffee with Kate Bergstrom, the director of the Santa Barbara “arm” of the 2014 Female Playwrights Onstage Project (of which my short play, “Happy Returns” is a part) and Emma Fassler, the actress reading the lead part in my play.
The enterprise — as it should be called — is the brainchild of our own Tiffany Antone, whose energy and passion I really wish they could bottle and sell. The project involves readings of short plays all over the country, plays chosen by a unique peer review process. Tiffany can describe it better than I can:
Little Black Dress INK invites you to Santa Barbara this weekend for an evening of new plays, yummy wine, and creative introductions! Experience our ONSTAGE Project at Left Coast Books this Saturday, April 12th at 7:00 p.m. Directed by superstar Kate Bergstrom, this event features seven new, short plays by Katherine James, Anne V. Grob, Christina Pages, Jessica Abrams, Inbal Kashtan, Sharon Goldner, and Katherine Bergstrom. This is the first of four semi-finalists festival readings occurring across the states this month, with a reading of our finalists going up in LA in May. Over 60 artists are coming together in 5 cities to bring 28 new plays to life – we SO hope you’ll be join us this weekend in Santa Barbara as we kick off the festival in style!
So there you have it. 60 female playwrights in five cities all over the country. Which means in Waco and Ithaca and Santa Barbara plays by women will be read, enjoyed and discussed.
I entered my play because I absolutely love the idea of the peer review process. I love reading the work of other women and having them read mine. We learn so much about each other — about who we are and what we’re writing about and, above all, why we’re writing from the process. I am honored to have been chosen.
So, as the fabulous Kate and the amazing Emma and I sat discussing my play and plays in general and work and life under the Los Angeles sun, I had to pinch myself. This is perfect, I thought. This is why we do it.Tweet
Guest Post by Diane Lefer
The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival came of age last week, marking its 21st year. Given how hard it is to keep an arts nonprofit thriving, it would be remarkable enough that co-founder and president Adilah Barnes has presided over more than two decades of an annual presentation of solo works by women from LA, around the country and sometimes from around the world. The quality of Giving Voice–this year’s offering of performances from 20 artists at the Electric Lodge in Venice from March 28th-30th–was cause for celebration, too.
Yes, all women. Yes, all solo shows, often excerpted to fit the time, but nothing repetitive about this festival. Just to give some idea of the range and variety, audiences saw Cynthia Ling Lee’s “rapture/rupture” through which she engages postmodern dance with classical Indian dance; Kate Rubin’s multi-character comedy, “How I Died”; spoken word from The Lindz; Tia Matza’s aerialist performance; Mwanza Furaha’s jazz cabaret; social commentary via physical theatre in Dacyl Acevedo’s personal take on the economic crash, “Will Work For”; and more. Besides stylistic diversity, the festival is committed to racial and ethnic diversity onstage which carried over to the audience where, incidentally–please take note–there was age diversity as well.
On Saturday, putting Ciera Payton and Karen A. Clark on the same afternoon bill was an inspired pairing. Payton’s excerpt from her full-length show focused on her relationship with her incarcerated, crack addicted father. When “Ciera” transformed into her father, she didn’t just put a light blue denim prison shirt over her white tank top. Her voice, her posture, her face transformed as well. Their prison visit captured the complexity of emotion: the joy Ciera feels in her father’s embrace, the awkwardness, the anger, the pain and confusion.
Here’s where I give a shoutout to the POPS club at Venice High School which offers a platform for creativity to kids with a parent in prison and where I think that onstage, Payton’s joyfilled and charismatic presence provides reassurance that the little girl from New Orleans grew up strong, beautiful, and able to laugh in spite of all the troubles she encountered.
Clark, compelling in her own way, proved you don’t have to go through a traumatic or dysfunctional upbringing to have an engaging story to tell. Combining family stories with song, she shared positive memories of family life, a “legacy of love.” Her warm and intimate performance style kept the audience invested in her parents’ happy and devoted 57-year marriage–in spite of which her mother, Ora Christine, kept eight bank accounts in her own name. Her counsel to her daughter, that women should always hold onto some money of their own, led Clark into her own memorable song styling of God Bless The Child.
I felt lucky to have been introduced to their talents, glad they were scheduled alongside the performance that initially brought me to the Electric Lodge: Estela Garcia’s “Remedios Varo, La Alquimista” (in Spanish with projected English supertitles).
Many years ago, I walked into the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and was stopped in my tracks by a painting: Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst). The woman’s white hair rises, curved, like horns. Her eyes are deepset, haunted. Her face is partly covered, a mask hangs beneath her neck, and another mask or face dangles, about to be dropped, from one hand. I had never before heard of the artist, Remedios Varo.
Garcia’s performance not only filled in much of Varo’s life-story for me, but like the painting, took my breath.
In a brown, almost monastic robe, she portrayed a woman traumatized by Franco’s dictatorship, war, exile in France and then Mexico, and the submersion of self in her lover’s world. Varo struggles to find her place as an artist and as a woman haunted by “cosmic loneliness.” Garcia leaves the stage to return elaborately masked as the artist/alchemist. Slowly, ceremonially, she brings Varo’s dream imagery to life as she grinds up a star and feeds it to a reluctant crescent moon which she rocks like a baby until the full moon is revealed.
The magical process of creating art brings about theatrical magic. Words capture the artist’s contradictions: the uneasiness of being lonely and the excitement of being alone.
That uneasiness and that excitement–a woman alone on the stage–seem a fitting way to talk about the anxiety and joy at the creative root of the festival’s triumphant solo acts.
* * * *
Other performers this year were: Karen Bankhead, Sofia Maria Gonzalez, Ingrid Graham, Jennifer S. Jones, Jozanne Marie, Ansuya Nathan, Marlene Ondrea Nichols, Anita Noble, Sloan Robinson, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Tracy Silver.
You’re too late for 2014 but if this whets your appetite, don’t miss out again next year. The 22nd annual festival is already scheduled for March 26-29.
Artists wishing to perform in 2015 should check out the application requirements at www.lawtf.org/ The deadline for submission is August 31.Tweet
The SWAN Day Action Fest was a success!
We will post highlights in the coming week or so. The room in Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop was packed, the plays were well written, entertaining, thought provoking, etc., etc., etc., the actors were talented and the audience was great!
Thanks to Little Black Dress INK, The Vagrancy Actors, Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop for partnering with LAFPI and to everyone who pitched in and participated. And, a very special thanks to our fearless, faithful, get-it-done leader — Jennie Webb!
- 10:30 a.m: Refreshments + Connections / Deadline to Submit Micro-Reads Pages
- 11:00 a.m.: Playreadings -
- 12:00 p.m.: Micro-Reads - Directed by Lynne Moses
- 1:00 p.m.: Refreshments + Connections / Deadline to Submit Micro-Reads Pages
- 1:30 p.m.: Playreadings -
- 3:00 p.m.: Micro-Reads - Directed by Laurel Wetzork
For more information, visit lafpi.com/eventsFB Invite here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1406328506286140/Follow us on Twitter @theLAFPIMicro-Reads, guidelines here: http://lafpi.com/events/micro-reads-guidelines/)
by Kitty Felde
Are you like me? If you had your life to do over again, you wish you’d gone to graduate school for playwriting? Now you have a grown up job, maybe kids, no money, no time. Oh, well.
There is an alternative: create your own Masters of Playwriting program.
No, you don’t have to join the faculty at UC Irvine. All you need to do is identify what you need as a writer and find the person or persons who can teach you.
MY MASTERS IN MARCH
It’s been an interesting month for me as a playwright. Last weekend, I took a Megabus trip up to Philadelphia to attend an all-day playwriting bootcamp with Paula Vogel, courtesy of the play development program at PlayPenn. Today, I’m sitting in a classroom at Catholic University in DC for an all-day intensive with Michael Hollinger. Next weekend, I’m having a table read in my living room of my LA Riots play “Time of the Troubles” directed by Linda Lombardi, the literary manager at Arena Stage – who I met at another play development program in DC known as Inkwell. Fifteen hours of playwriting instruction in a month with a price tag much cheaper than graduate school!
IDENTIFY THE WRITER YOU NEED TO LEARN FROM
LA is a city full of wonderful writers. Is there one you’ve always wanted to have coffee with? Write them. Ask them. They may say yes.
FIND OUT ABOUT WORKSHOPS
LA also attracts a who’s who of wonderful writers who pass through town. Is there a talk back session after their play? Are they teaching a master class somewhere? Paula Vogel was in Philly for the opening of a new play. PlayPenn invited her to teach her bootcamp on a day when her show was in tech. Forty writers paid $200 each to spend the day soaking up Vogelisms.
CREATE YOUR OWN
What about a writer who has no immediate plans to come to LA? Put together your own master class.
My DC playwriting group Playwrights Gymnasium decided to invite Michael Hollinger (“Opus,” “A Wonderful Noise,” “Red Herring”) to come to town. We figured out a budget (his travel expenses, lodging, food, a stipend), found free space at a local college to hold a seminar (in exchange for free tuition for a pair of grad students), figured out how much other playwrights would pay for such a seminar ($99 with lunch and an early bird price of $79), advertised on a Facebook page (filled up in a week!)
WE ALSO LEARN FROM OUR OWN WORK
There’s nothing like hearing your own work out loud to learn what works. And what doesn’t.
Staged readings are fairly cheap – particularly when you’re doing them in your own living room. Costs include printing, plus coffee and wine and nibbles. Gas money for actors is helpful. A small check is even more welcome.
You can get feedback from your troupe – or not. Or invite playwrights you trust. Or a dramaturg. Or a director. Or thank your actors and send everyone home.
I’ll let you know what I learned from my reading. And from my Masters in March.Tweet