Thanks for checking out the LAFPI “tag team” blog, below, handed off each week from one interesting female playwright to another.
Who are they? Click Here
Thanks for checking out the LAFPI “tag team” blog, below, handed off each week from one interesting female playwright to another.
Who are they? Click Here
On July 7th, 2020 I sent the first email of three to LA Stage Alliance after I received a forwarded email that was meant to be sent out to members only. As I read the attached letter it seemed to be a letter welcoming discussion, feedback, and opinions – so I sent mine. I never heard back from anyone and this, to me, reflected a lack of resources and a broken system. A system that was not able to hear a wide array of voices nor did it seem to be accessible to share information nor learn more about our expansive theatre community from another perspective.
For the past four years I have been studying, researching, writing, debating + discussing the state of American theatre with a focus on the Los Angeles theatre community. The question I am always left with to ask is: How did a craft that relies so heavily on community and interconnectedness become exclusive? How do we actively create an accessible, available theatre community that makes room for all theatrical talent in Los Angeles to lend their voices to a new American Theatre?
I will say that Independent theatre artists engage in the very act of doing their own work by any means necessary. The very act of self-producing and finding a venue to present their work breaks traditional theatre hierarchies that have been kept exclusive by “Gatekeepers” – and let it be known these “Gatekeepers” are not only affiliated with predominantly white institutions. Power and control manifest themselves in subtle ways and we must beware of their foul intentions in all its many forms and faces. Yet, is there not a way to bridge the gap between academic theatre artists and grassroots theatre artists? Can we find a way to build a theatre community that makes room for trajectory and growth for all local theatre artists? How can we build a community of consistency, where grassroots artists can produce a play at The Complex or The Lounge and have it supported to the next level? It is time we, with love, in love, hold any organization or movement accountable that decides to take on the leadership role of representing the LA theatre community. There should be no lack of transparency nor should there be any fear in holding any organization accountable when it comes to representing the multi-faceted Los Angeles theatre community. It can be easy and engrained to uplift the same voices and ideas but let us not go back to normal and the familiar. Instead, let us honor what time has made way for, and may we rise up together for – a new and better way to build a representative theatre community.
I pose these concerns because I love theatre and I love all the artists I have collaborated with, encountered at theatre shows, as well as the artists I have witnessed on stage, in a variety of performance theatre spaces that often go overlooked. I pose these questions as a form of ritual that is sacred when creating theatre. What does community mean? What does it mean to bridge divides within a community? I always have to go back to Bell Hooks: that empowerment, that activism, that information must be accessible in order for change to truly occur on any level in a community.
Now that LASA has disbanded we find ourselves as a community in ripe times that are not to be taken lightly. We should all be welcoming a fresh slate to the changing and widening landscape that exists in our Los Angeles theatre community. May we lift our voices, show our faces and fight for the type of equity we wish to see in Los Angeles. Can we welcome new ideas, bold actions, and brave visionaries to lead us into creating a powerful, thrilling, and inclusive theatre community? I know we can and are. The time is now.
There is a Town Hall for the LA Theatre community being hosted by a fantastic group, the Joy Jackson Initiative. (There is also a Community Jamboard for members to include their dreams, wishes, hopes, and ideas. You can Click Here to add your voice.) The community meeting will occur on April 13th, 2021 at 6pm PT – TOMORROW!
Link for registering for the Town Hall:
The email I sent to LA Stage Alliance:
“My name is Constance Strickland. I am Creative Director of Theatre Roscius, an experimental theatre company.
My reason for emailing today is due to my concern over the future of LASA + Ovation Awards.
It is a wonderful gift the Ovation Awards has celebrated L.A Theatre for 45 years but I’m truly concerned about how it excludes half of our Los Angeles Theatre community if you are an Independent Theatre Artist your work goes overlooked. This precedent that has been set ignores half of the Los Angeles Theatre Community and cheats us all of being truly connected and there is no real gage of the wide depth of talent existing in our city. For we all do the work for the love of theatre. We all honor storytelling and understand our theatre lineage must be rooted together if we are truly to build a New American Theatre Theatre for our city.
I hope as the Ovation team takes time away. I hope you see that patterns have occurred with many voices left out. That Los Angeles Theatre has many faces and we all win when artists of all backgrounds, Union or Non-Union are lifted up and welcomed into the L.A theatre community. When a widespread of BIPOC and Independent Theatre Artists of Color are being seen, being really supported then we need not have issues of space rental, membership fees, equity debates. There is no elitism and new work can continue to be developed on high levels to be shared and supported because there is acceptability. For we all know we have an unlimited amount of talent right here in our own front yard.
May the Ovation Team enter the next 45 years as visionaries who have the fortitude to see a new and broader Los Angeles Theatre Community that is not separated- instead is interconnected.”
Thank you-Have a powerful week,
by: Constance Strickland
I grew up in the high heat of Arizona. Endurance is a necessary skill needed in order to survive the long summers. I grew up playing + swimming in the community parks. I grew up the only little Black girl in my school between Indian School & Camelback Road. Within those busy roads was a winding street called Lafayette, where I first dreamed of telling stories with my body. I can still remember the age I became aware of the color of my skin from another human’s perspective. I can still remember the awareness of my body’s shape as it took a new form. Its ability to go through space. I soon discovered I would need to find ways to continue in harsh environments. The power ‘to go through’ is sacred, and even now, how I engage physically in space before building a new work has become ritual.
Endurance. I’ve come to see endurance as unseen magic. It spun itself and filled me up with pure will. Endurance made way for me to manifest Theatre Roscius. I used recycled fuel, my backyard, an old friend during the hottest summer, and I set off to build my first play from the ground up. Since then, I’ve created three new theatre works, three interdisciplinary art pieces, a collection of poetry, four short collage plays, and six short films, all using the body as the vehicle to tell stories that seek to heal the body, mind + spirit of women. Although I’m still learning, still finding my voice, I honor the time – the energy it took to get here, to be in this moment right now.
I thank endurance for saving me from myself, for pushing me on days when I didn’t think I could continue. I thank endurance for giving me the courage and the energy to build an anthology of work that is innovative, intimate, and reflects the women in my community who often go unseen. I thank endurance for giving me space to take risks.
Endurance. An old flame. A skill I harnessed. I swear, when hope and courage aren’t enough, I’ve learned endurance is magical adrenaline that will see you through, helping you go through even when you feel you’ve run out of fuel to continue.
Space. Over the past six months, I’ve become quite intimate with and have formed a new relationship with space. Beyond the space that I live in, how does space affect my work, how does space affect my spirit?
In preparing to film Theatre Roscius two new short films I needed to give myself space to think, absorb, and manifest in a pure manner. I had to find a way to trust that space is holding me up, that pushing forward in my own way was/is allowed. I had to give myself space from the collective so that my true voice could ring through all the noise. Space gave me room to breathe. It’s easy to fall back into a familiar pattern with space, to sink into a routine with her and dance in circles but I pushed myself to not succumb to her lyrical wooing in my ear. I stayed focused on the clearing of space. To keep only what I need and to let all else go.
Space has allowed me to shed dead weight and to mourn stale ideas, break away from stagnant actions and false words, and to treat my own voice with care. Space has widened-space has freed my spirit. Space has shown me to accept I cannot control and should not engage in everything. I’m practicing leaving space for the unknown, a wonderful challenge within the work and life.
Space continues to give me the confidence to not hold back who I am, to believe that thrusting all that I am into all I create, reveals hidden pieces of myself but also helps me know when to take what I need and dares me to center my work without compromising my voice. Space has spread my work wide open and revealed to me how I have always been building a sustainable practice from the ground up.
Space has given me the opportunity to blaze my own trail, to not follow the collective, to see that my work exists between here and there, and that I am a grassroots artist whose work only flourishes if I’m aware of what disrupts my community from thriving as a whole.
Space reminds me I can go beyond my body, beyond my skin, and out my flesh. Space reminds me that making way for clarity is practice. Space reminded me, that I’m building an ode to the future now. That Afro-nowism is alive and thriving. Space reveals that my body of work exists because I continued when there was/is no space for me to be a heterogeneous Black Artist.
Space has disrupted how I engage + evaluate artistic relationships while expanding and elevating my work. Yet, most importantly space made way for me to question, test, and push myself honestly in order to continue to build a sustainable art practice.
As British Artist, Phyllida Barlow so inquisitively states, “The spaces, the silences in between, are as much a component of the work as the thing itself.” Leave space to adjust yourself. Trust in the space between what you know and do not understand.
I self published my one act play, Comb Your Hair (Or You’ll Look Like a Slave) this year and I want to share some reasons behind that decision.
I wrote COMB in undergrad in 2016. At the time, I had already considered myself to be a playwright. I had written skits for my church youth group in highschool and was told then that I had a gift. But up until writing COMB, I had only written skits and short films, never a full one act play. One of my professors asked me to send him some of my work and I had nothing to send him. Thats when he told me, “If you want to be a playwright, write.” and I did just that.
After seeing the worst production of The Vagina Monologues, I felt like Black womxn in that play (and the ones who saw it) deserved that same amount of space to talk about something just as taboo (I’d argue even more taboo, since all womxn don’t actually have pussies): Black womxn’s hair. All Black people have some relationship to their hair. The subject as a plot iis relevant in so many Black plays (Raisin in the Sun, Colored Museum, Funnyhouse of a Negro and so many more). So I wanted to respond to what I had seen in my own life mixed with what I was learning in my African American study courses. A play that reflect the time and the people.
I interviewed a few friends of mine who had their own experience regarding their hair journey. Most of the time it was pretty informal. I’d sit with them in their kitchens/bedrooms/BSU lounge to discuss the very topic that had become so taboo (even in those spaces). We talked about our stories together and reflected on what we once hated about our bodies that we now love. Stories of family members/men/ourselves enforcing loving and not so loving ideologies that stuck with us our entire lives. From that, COMB was birthed.
Since then, COMB has had 3 full productions, 10 readings, has been included on the syllabus of a drama course at a UC and has been featured in magazines across the country. The piece is often compared to Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls, which is quite accurate and special. Both pieces focus on Black womxn and the memories that shape her. Both very poetic and of it’s time. I like having COMB being compared to For Colored Girls because that’s how a canon is developed and strengthened.
Though COMB has had a wild amount of success in a short amount of time, it has also had it’s woes. Dozens of rejection letters. Feedback from theatre spaces asking for more “black girl joy” and of course Black men asking why they can’t be a part of the show. COMB has also gotten ugly backlash from Black women who refuse to see it because of the triggering title. I’ve had men tell me “You let us off wayyy too easy!!” (as if it’s a play about them) and agents/managers tell me they automatically pass on work with the word slave in the title/tagline/logline. It’s also a one act, running about 39 minutes live and about an hour virtually. Which means it will never gain commercial success. Some feedback on the piece has been that the characters all feel random, never arriving or returning anywhere, but just sort of existing in their vignettes. That’s intentional. I wanted COMB to move as if someone was watching vine/instagram/youtube. I wanted it to reflect the times of entertainment and to keep up with how it’s moving. But, the criticism/backlash/feedback is fair I’ve always felt. Fair enough to help shape the next pieces I’ve written but not enough to get me to change COMB.
The final draft of COMB (the one published) is the very first draft. The first production took place in January of 2017. Since then, I have not revised the script at all. I’ve altered it for a virtual platform (again, reflecting the times) however, the original piece has never undergone any revisions outside of editing. And even then, there are a few typos here and there. When I decided to self publish, I wanted to offer representation, of course, but it was even deeper than that for me. I knew COMB would never get published as a stand alone piece through a publishing company, because they don’t think people would buy it (which is not untrue. It’s hard enough to get people to go see a play, let alone buy one to read). However, I can’t rely on the opinion of institutions. To date, almost every production we’ve had in person has had a full house. More often than not, people sitting on the floor and standing room only. COMB welcomes and offers community and visibility on stage in a way that most theatre goers have never witnessed (according to a survey taken). There have been a few shows with more empty seats then taken, and even then the impact is powerful and big. I’ll never forget COMB’s and my first regional competition at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, where three white male judges and one white male moderator cried their eyes out at the end of our performance. Like, I’ve never witnessed a man cry so hard from something I wrote. The 7 of us on stage, not knowing how to respond to their emotions. The moderator caught a breath and said still sobbing “Can you introduce yourselves. I need a moment.” and went to clean himself up. I don’t know what was in the room that night but we tore it up. We won regionals. I brought my own cast and they were so good, they created a special award just for them (the Kennedy Center is this country’s national theatre and performing space. COMB went to nationals and had a reading on a stage there).
Earlier this year, I published COMB as a physical book. I used the money saved from my stimulus check to get it done. I had anxiety about it because I knew I wouldn’t sell as many copies as I would have had I went with even a small publishing company, but again, one act plays are not published. Not often anyways. Maybe in an anthology but I had a vision. I saw illustrations (which is very unconventional for a play) and for it to feel more like a coffee table book. Something people might flip through real quick if they saw it is sitting somewhere. All the Black womxn taking up space and being visible. I wanted the book to exist the way the play does and under the rare occasion of actually getting published by a publishing company, I didn’t want to argue my vision if I could just do it myself. I was a fan of Avy Jetter (the illustrator) work for some time now. My friends had purchased some of her work and I followed her on social media. When I produced a reading for COMB, I reached out to Avy to do a flyer for the show which later became the cover. My partner had been interested in learning InDesign and agreed to put it together. That was my team. Together the three of us was able to produce something I’m very proud of.
It’s in the world now. Big girl all on her own. My favorite offering of COMB has to be what it offers Black womxn in visibility. Often times in rehearsals, we spend way more time talking about how relevant the pieces are to our everyday lives. When people see it, they write/text/tell me later “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” because it’s often the first time people have had to see/listen/pay attention to Black womxn. When we had our first virtual production, I ensured the cast and crew that this is the most amount of Black womxn most viewers would have had in their home at one time (or at all) speaking and having agency over their bodies. That makes everything worth. The opportunity to be seen through our very own invisibility.
To purchase a copy of Comb Your Hair (Or You’ll Look Like a Slave) https://forms.gle/HmCL2G1wpqdR5ryE7
Sure, it’s been a year of isolation and Zoom overload, and we’re all pretty desperate to get back into a theater. What could possiblly make us want to stay home and cozy up with our computers? Two women: Sheila Carrasco and Anna LaMadrid. These amazing writer/performers have pieces – “Anyone But Me” and “The Oxy Complex” – presented in tandem by IAMA Theatre Company, filmed live at L.A.’s Pico Playhouse and now available for streaming on demand through April 18.
And if there was any way to demand audiences check them out, LAFPI would be leading the charge! Both shows are smart, surprising and so powerful in their ability to transport us – just the ticket, right now. Lucky us, we had the chance to chat with the writer/performers before their shows premiered.
LAFPI: First of all, so excited by this project and so glad to be able to support it! Can you both speak a bit about where and when your pieces started, and did that shift as you moved forward?
Sheila Carrasco: Margaux Susi, my friend and IAMA Theatre Company member [and Associate Artistic Director], approached me about working together on a solo show last fall. I had been meaning to make a one woman show for years, but I had never taken the leap, so this felt like the right opportunity. I do a lot of sketch comedy characters and so my first instinct was to do a bunch of characters, unrelated to each other and to my life. And then I thought, “Why is that? Why is my default to disappear behind costumes and wigs and voices?” So I started there, and began to build a show around the idea of self-identity, and characters that struggle a bit with this theme. And I ended up with a lot of characters that were way closer to me than I expected.
Anna LaMadrid: The seed for my solo show began in my second year of grad school at University of Washington. I wrote a short piece exploring the ways in which I felt our biology was not keeping up with how technology was disrupting the dating process with apps. (Women tend to jump into bed with men without really knowing them and you become attached to people that might not be the best fit.) At IAMA, [Co-Artistic Director] Stefanie Black was looking to pivot our season into a virtual solo show and I jokingly said I had written something for grad school and wanted to expand it but didn’t know how. She asked to see it and then encouraged me, so I started to shift the lens to look at what it means to go through withdrawal from touch and be isolated with just our thoughts.
LAFPI: Both of these pieces are so distinct and very different, but also share a common thread in that they explore women searching for self in a very complicated world. They really fit together beautifully. Did you two connect while creating them?
Sheila: We actually didn’t know much about each other’s pieces! I purposely didn’t want to read Anna’s play while working on mine so that I wasn’t making creative decisions in a subconscious effort just to be different. In this show, I play about nine different characters. From teenager to elderly, from privileged to working class. I tried to think about each one in a self-contained way while at the same time exploring a range of theatricality and ways of expressing myself and the topic.
Anna: I think Sheila is a brilliant performer and storyteller. And I will say that I think we maybe have both struggled to fit into this “Latina” box that the media creates. Having been told that we aren’t enough by the industry: Not quite indigenous enough to play the help but not white enough to pass. So identity has always been something that I have contended with. There are characters in my show that represent the struggle I feel as a bi-cultural Latina – the outdated models of how a woman should be according to my mother and me not feeling quite like I own this liberated American woman without feeling guilt.
LAFPI: We love that you are both paired with Latina directors. Had you worked with them before?
Sheila: I had known Margaux Susi for years but didn’t actually know she was Latina until this past year! When I found out, so much about how and why we connect as collaborators made sense. Margaux is half Cuban and I’m half Chilean, and our Latin family has influenced our lives and art in such a huge way. At the same time, we also benefit from white privilege and we had many meaningful discussions about our own accountability in that department. This past year demonstrated how Latinos are not a monolith, and the more we dive into the nuances of our identity and celebrate our diversity within our ethnicity and center and uplift BIPOC voices, the stronger we will all be.
Anna: I worked with Michelle Bossy a year and half ago when she cast me in a play called There and Back (which we did in Mexico and at Company of Angels here in LA). Michelle and I are from two totally different cultures, but there is a shorthand and that’s nice. I don’t have to explain certain -isms that I had growing up. My culture is a backdrop that adds flavor to the story. However, at the end of the day we are telling a story that is universal for ALL people. How do we deal with our past trauma in order to find a sense of worth that will enable us to be in healthy relationships.
LAFPI: So, in the Covid of it all, what was it like actually performing in a THEATER! Okay. An empty theater. But how did you adjust to the hybrid nature of this?
Anna: We did NOT rehearse in the theater and that was really challenging at times. It was tough to fully just focus on inhabiting the character when something would freeze, or you couldn’t hear the cue, or your earbuds fell out in the middle of a line. It felt like a breath of fresh air to get into the theater to tech and just be the actor in the room. I missed that feeling so much.
Sheila: Rehearsing entirely over Zoom until tech week was so weird, but also really intimate and wonderful and I’ll cherish that rehearsal period forever. Once we got to the theater, it was so soooo wonderful to stretch my muscles again and get physical. But performing for an hour straight with no audience in a silent theater? That was not ideal. It took so much mental energy and stamina to stay in the moment and also be my own scene partner, and also imagine there were laughs to build upon…
Anna: Since my piece is a dark comedy, sometimes it was tough to gauge if a joke was working. But I just had to let go of how the audience would experience this and just focus on the story. Because the crew also couldn’t laugh since we were taping. So it feels like you are in a void. And one of my characters is in a void. So you know… I just used it.
Sheila: I am so grateful I got to make this show and had truly had a blast performing it, but let’s just say I cannot wait to perform this show live one day!
LAFPI: Can you talk a bit about the technical elements you were able to incorporate in a virtual production?
Anna: I love tech. Which is why I opened my self-tape company, Put Me On Self-Tape, four years ago. Every actor should be comfortable know the business, the craft and the tech. That’s the NEW triple threat. [Check out thenewtriplethreat.com].
But when starting to write The Oxy Complex, I really wanted to take into consideration the amount of pressure put on the performer when we try to recreate the experience of theater over the screen. So Michelle and I leaned into the tech and created a visual language for how the piece would function. I wanted to make sure that visually we are using the frame to keep the audience engaged. I mean we are all so sick of seeing boxes of people. It definitely was an experiment and Michelle treated it like a film shoot. Which was nice. I hope it worked!
Sheila: Aside from Anyone But Me being filmed and available over streaming, I’m hoping it is closer to a theatrical experience than a filmic one. Margaux and I really tried to create that. We wanted it to be as close to pure theater as possible, because it is such a special and unique medium that so many people are missing right now.
So I performed the show as if it were a play, all the way through. There are closeups, however, which you don’t get in a play, so I’m super happy we got to punch in and see more nuance than you would in a theater! Also the show is designed from top to bottom with set design, sound, lighting, costume design… Our designers are all so awesome; we just went to town! We tried to create meaning with even the dumbest of props. (I mean that in a good way). And I hope that the audience enjoys all of the storytelling as much as they would in a theatre.
LAFPI: This production also stood out to us because so many women creatives are on board: both of you as writer/performers, as well as your directors and IAMA Co-Artistic Directors, plus a majority of the designers and crew. What was that like, being surrounded by so much femme energy?
Anna: The rehearsal process was just Michelle, Stage Manager Camella Cooper, Rose Swaddling Krol (Assistant SM) and me for so long and that was really nice. It represented a spectrum of women and when both Camella (who is Black) and Rose (who is white) could relate to something I was saying – or found it funny or heartbreaking – then I knew I was on a good path. It was truly universal. I felt really close to these women because even though the character that I play, Viviana, isn’t all me, it is based on some of my experiences and experiences of other women in my life. Things would get really personal when we dove deep into creating her histories and trauma. So it was nice to feel supported and have that solidarity in the (virtual) room. I felt really safe being vulnerable.
Sheila: Everyone on the team was a true collaborator and really inspiring to work with. What’s cool is that everyone on board related to the characters, regardless of gender. In terms of the rehearsal process, I really valued having a female director and female stage managers because of some of the subject matter we were diving into, but otherwise, every single person’s energy in that theater was incredible and kickass!
For Info and Tickets for “Anyone But Me,” written and performed by Sheila Carrasco and directed by Margaux Susi, and “The Oxy Complex,” written and performed by Anna LaMadrid and directed by Michelle Bossy, visit www.iamatheatre.com. Both shows stream on demand through April 18.
In Edmonton where the winters are very cold and can last into early April the lilacs bloom heartily and they are sweet smelling. A childhood memory is cutting down the tall stalks from the ancient bushes across the street from my home. I made leis and crowns of the little blossoms that I plucked from the frond, like pinching bits of cotton candy from the cone.
The common name of lilac is derived from the Persian word for blue. Here is why:
Where they grow native, a lilac bush will appear in ordinary spaces making them extra-ordinary for a short period of time. I’ve seen a single bush soften the harshness of concrete and metal with the wanton splay of branches, laden with French white lilac blooms. Syrina Vulgaris is native to the Balkan Peninsula where it grows on rocky slopes. Perhaps it is the lilacs’ nature after all.
T.S. Eliot used lilac in two of his poems: “Portrait of a Lady” and “The Waste Land”. In the latter he recognizes the lilacs by…
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
a little further on…
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.
This lilac that has captured my imagination since childhood is more than sweet and heady.
I had to write this last blog because spring is upon us and the lilacs are ephemeral. Since living in LA I’ve been chasing lilacs. There are two places to lose one’s self in lilac dreams. In a few weeks time, by Easter perhaps, they’re expected to come out in blue splendor at Kilcoyne Lilac Farm in Acton, CA. (http://www.kilcoynelilacfarm.com). I just bought a dual membership for Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, CA (https://www.descansogardens.org) where the lilacs started blooming in early March (https://www.nbclosangeles.com/the-scene/purple-for-a-gray-day-lilacs-make-their-descanso-debut/2540949/).
CREDIT ELISE SULLIVAN
b o t
Can I just be honest and admit that sometimes I feel envy…
It’s a hard knock to realize that some dreams aren’t meant for me. This struck me not long after my husband died so suddenly. We spent years building towards a dream. We wanted a farm with our animals and to live simply on love, song and wine. We were getting so close to it, then poof!! All that disappeared one crazy day three years ago.
Sometimes you just want to say ~#$@0WTF!%8*
After convalescing for three years I’ve learned to breathe again. I had jobs to keep things going. I made new friends while some dropped off, and those who stayed have sustained me. Thank you. I learned new skills. I became an urban chicken farmer and a yoga teacher. My three dogs and I, along with sixteen chickens, are generally doing pretty good: there’s space to grow in our little home in South LA, I haven’t caught COVID, there’s internet, there’s food in the fridge and the ‘bestest’ is plumbing! I can turn on the taps and there’s cold water and hot water, and I can mix the two to a perfect temperature, under which I can luxuriate for a decent amount of time. I also have a boyfriend now who keeps me grounded when my head is in the clouds, or lifts me up when I am blue or feeling Holly Golightly’s “mean reds”.
I still beat myself up when I catch myself thinking, “Hmmmm. I wonder what it’s like to drive a new car, especially that sleek Tesla”, or that I’m working at some kind of artsy project. I can even envy a dog with its head out the window of a car while its floppy ears and gorgeous fur is blowing in the wind like some 70’s TV commercial for shampoo. I wish I was like that dog being taken out for a drive to the beach. “Rover” is beautiful and carefree.
I try to practice what I teach in my yoga classes to “Allow and accept where you are today”.
I recently finished reading “Advice on Dying and Living a Better Life” (authored by HRH, 14th Dalai Lama and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins). Rather than focus on what I don’t have, appreciate what I have, because life is short.
Another imagery that brings it home for me are these lyrics from “Time” by Pink Floyd.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I’d something more to say“time” by Pink Floyd
One form of happy is to keep my envy in check. Next time I witness something that stimulates my sense of lack, I pause and tell myself, “Some dreams aren’t meant for me”, then keep calm and ride on, hangin on in quiet desperation.
Sometime today, a man calls his doctor to say he’s running a little late. He is literally five minutes away, and that he’s already in the parking lot and he’s awfully sorry. He’s at the lobby where there are elevators to choose from – one side leads to the West Wing while the other goes to the East Wing.
An elderly man approaches the elevators. He is confused as to which elevator to take. Meanwhile, the other man, already late for his appointment, realizes he’s in the wrong building. He had transposed the building address of 2634 to 2143. The other building is another ten minutes away. Then there’s also the problem of finding parking. The elderly man looks to the left then to the right and then at the address written on a piece of paper. He shoots a helpless expression to the other guy.
Anxious that he is already late, and his doctor had arranged for a technician to come specifically to give him an EEG test, he asks the man where he needs to go. He verifies the name in the directory listing and escorts him to the correct elevator.
Driving to building 2634, he considers calling the office again to let them know he’s running later than he said earlier. He reconsiders. It wouldn’t make sense, because he had already said he was ‘only 5 minutes away’. That was twenty minutes ago.
When he walks into the doctor’s office, the EEG Technician named Melinda is clearly unimpressed. She is due at another location for more EEG exams after his appointment. The receptionist is uncomfortable. He attempts to ease the tension by first offering a box of See’s chocolates to her. She smiles generously with a warm ‘Thank you.’ Then he draws a second box of the same for Melinda, but her trite ‘Thank You’ and tense expression only deflates the mood. She marches him to an examination room.
Inside, she asks him to roll up the sleeve of his left arm, and as he does this he exposes a bruised and swollen forearm. ‘Where did you get that?’, she asks him. ‘At the Endocrinologist’s office when they tried to draw blood.’ he says. That was less than a week ago. Her left eyebrow lifts. ‘Really. Which one?’ Upon giving his answer she says, ‘My husband and I go to his office. He is an excellent doctor, but I never let them take my blood there.” She pauses. ‘They just don’t know how to draw blood over there. Someone should tell them.’
Having something in common between with them, he senses a softening of her eyes and her lips. She assures him the bruising and swelling will clear up. After an hour of running tests, before he leaves, she tells him that she has a sweet tooth and the chocolates are perfect.
by Kitty Felde
I’ve been thinking a lot about plot.
A writer friend recently had a zoom performance of her play, a lovely piece about the power of grief and recovery. The last scene is a reprise of the top of the play, flashed back in time, full of the ugly and raw emotion of loss. Several “critics” urged her to expunge the scene. “It isn’t needed,” said one. “Anticlimactic,” said another. What they were saying was that the script didn’t follow the classic Greek model of rising action, climax, and denouement. Or, the penis model, as I like to call it.
Instead, the writer used a circular structure for the play. Which, some argue, is a more organic way of writing for the female storyteller. Yes, you start at point A and return there, but the protagonist hasn’t necessarily “learned something” or “changed,” which are requirements for the official “circular” plot. The writer just finished the story. Period.
The writer rejected the criticism, by the way.
Sticking to the Aristotelian structure has become even more formulaic in recent decades, something I call the “Save the Cat” effect. The popular book by Blake Snyder has become a template for most movies and far too many plays. It’s gotten to a point that I can pretty much predict exactly what will happen next – something I do, by the way, that drives my husband crazy.
Until I watched Crash Landing on You.
It’s a South Korean episodic drama about a poor little rich girl out paragliding and gets blown across the DMZ to North Korea. It’s wonderful – funny, not too scary, full of social and political commentary, but mostly a love story. It’s also incredibly well written by veteran screenwriter Park Ji-Eun.
The show is a worldwide hit. Viewers in India are reportedly learning Korean. A fan in the Phillipines has written a song about the show. Even Chicago Cubs Manager David Ross is a fan.
And here’s the thing: I could never predict what happens next. I was continuously surprised and delighted. As a writer, I kept asking myself, “how did she do that?”
It’s not just me. A playwriting pal had exactly the same reaction. Neither of us can figure out the structure of the story, yet we couldn’t stop watching. What magic is Park Ji-Eun using? And more importantly: can we steal it?
My playwright pal and I have decided to make a formal study of the series, each of us taking one episode and dissecting it, then comparing notes. We’ll likely be applying whatever structure secrets Ji-Eun uses in our next plays.
And here’s the good news: there’s rumors of a second season!
Are you a circular writer? Have you rejected Aristotle’s triangle of plot structure? Have you gotten pushback? Is there a better way to tell a story?
And can you figure out the structure in “Crash Landing on You” on Netflix?
Kitty Felde is a playwright, podcaster, and children’s mystery writer. Her second book in The Fina Mendoza Mysteries series State of the Union comes out this summer.