- March is Women’s History Month.
- Today, March 6, is the actual anniversary date for LA FPI (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative).
- Saturday, March 8, is International Women’s Day.
- Saturday, March 29, is SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now).
What are you doing to celebrate Women this month…?
Join us at the LAFPI SWAN Day Action Fest to be held at Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood.
In her speech upon winning the 2014 Best Actress Award for her role in Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett said, among other things, the following:
“…those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women in the center, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact, they earn money.”
DITTO for Theatre!
For Cate Blanchett’s entire speech on Oscars.com listed under the Best Acceptance Speeches section.
Four years from March 6, 2010 and still going strong! We’ve grown a lot, learned a lot and stayed the course…
The Los Angeles Females Playwrights Initiative (LA FPI) was started by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb. We thank these ladies for their leadership and greatly appreciate them for igniting the fire…
LA FPI started with the Study to see what the figures were in gender parity in theater in Los Angeles, we still find ourselves taking Stock and looking at/for changes regardless of the size. We continue to celebrate women on stage, we question theaters with seasons void of the female voice, and always look at the numbers problem and why it matters to us and should matter to everyone else.
Thank you for joining us.
Support us by donating at Fractured Atlas:
There is something in the ether that I picked up on and I confirmed it with a search in google using the words “was jesus a pow”. It was a shot that came up with possibilities that fit. Pow for pow-wow and pow for pow’r. Another one was a youtube video from a band Pow woW , with a song “Jesus”.
I chose the link for Angelina Jolie directing a movie based on the life of POW survivor Louis Zamparini. It’s basd on a book “Unbroken”, by Lauren Hillenbrand. From what I gleaned of the history available on the internet about him, he started out as a troubled kid (smoker at 5 years old, school bully by elementary and menace to society by high-school.) His saving grace was his talent for running which qualified him to be invited to train for the 1936 Olympics. When WWII broke out he fought in the war and ended up as a POW when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean and he and his two other crews were taken by the Japanese soldiers.
What initially motivated my search was my curiosity for characteristics of survivors of prison camps. There has been so many war movies made and that continue to be made for many reasons including, “we” as a race continue to make war. I read the book “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl of his account as a prisoner in the concentration camps during WWII. As a psychiatrist his perspective was important to me, because I wonder myself what I would be capable of doing to survive severe conditions in cramped and limited conditions; and equally curious to me, is what are others capable of doing to save their own skin. What is the common thread of like people? (Also, I’m curious about group dynamics in stressful conditions.) On a day to day basis, there are personalities with whom I have an affinity for, while there are those I prefer to avoid. My resistance to the latter makes me more curious about me. What makes me feel that way? What can I change to improve the situation?
Racing towards the sunset at middle age I do ponder more seriously and frequently the meaning of it all. What is in “Original Sin” that I want to explore through a play? Our origins, our path, our destiny, and how do we get there? As companions in life we have our choices of with whom we want to travel with. Stressful conditions bring out the best and worst in people. I want to see what stuff, people I work and hang-with, are made of. To me, the answer is not as simple as “Survival of the Fittest”. There are people who’ve gone down, sacrificing themselves for the better of humanity. Just think of the saints and martyrs (who didn’t think of themselves as such, but the outcome of history has earned them that title): MLK Jr., Gandhi. Mother Theresa.
Specific to Frankl and Zamparini, their separate stories, with its similar conditions, show forbearance with meaning. They are survivors of the worst conditions we can imagine in our comfortable lives, but beyond survival what did they get from the experience? What did they give back during those years of suffering and/or afterwards?
For Frankl, the experience untombed this perspective,
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner’s existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered.
As a summary, he expressed in the preface to the 1992 edition of the book:
‘I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones… I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people who are prone to despair” – Preface by the author to “Man’s Search for Meaning”, by Viktor Frankl.
As for Zamparini, upon his rescue from the camp, he was showered with the accolades of a hero. He ran with the torch for the Olympics in Los Angeles (1984), Atlanta (1996) and Nagano (1998). At Nagano, the route passed many of the concentration camps where he had been imprisoned.
A Houston Chronicler sports writer called it “the very best thing I saw on sports television, period, in 1998.” The press universally praised the 35-minute piece, which later won an Emmy – Source USC News by Elizabeth Segal
The transformative experience of the imprisonment was not immediate for Zamparini. He suffered from the effects of what is now commonly called Posttraumatic stress disorder. He became an alcoholic and was at the point when his wife threatened with divorce before the cycle of his experience started to turn to complete the circle. It was his wife who initiated the conversion after her own conversion to Christianity.
Instead of divorce, his wife turned the other cheek and found solace in the sermons of a preacher named Billy Graham. She tried to get her husband to convert too. At first, he was resistant. “I hated all that holy roller stuff,” he says disdainfully. When Zamperini finally went to a meeting, he was surprised to find Graham “so handsome and clean-cut, not one of those wheezer types.”
During that sermon, Zamperini had an epiphany. “I momentarily flashed to the life raft in the Pacific, the moment when I prayed to God that if He spared my life, that I’d dedicate it to service and prayer – you know all those promises you make when you’re in a jam,” Zamperini says. “I realized then that I’d turned my back on my promises and on God. And when I got off my knees that day in the tent, I knew I would be through with drinking, smoking and revenge fantasies. I haven’t had a nightmare since.”
Inspired by Graham and the Bible, Zamperini toured as a public speaker, channeling his energies into messages of forgiveness. He revisited Japan in 1950, and before large forums of Japanese civilians (as well as the Tokyo Trojan Club), he spread the gospel. – Source USC News by Elizabeth Segal
What I’m learning from absorbing these two stories is there is a closure to their experience. It was not just a matter of getting through it, it was to put a meaning to it and they felt it was worthy to share their own epiphanies with the rest of us. They are teaching us how to survive, not just under extreme conditions, but in our day-to-day struggles with our own selves; that conscience that leads us to know what to do and what to say in situations that challenge us to put up our guards rather than open our hearts.
I feel I haven’t lived enough to be worthy of telling everything I want to show in a play.
Sometimes I just tell myself – Oh heck, just get on with it. Get on with life and forget about your conscience. (I jest!)Tweet
A friend told me he’s having a hard time finishing his first book. My comment was, “because your life is not yet finished.” He paused. He neither agreed nor disagreed. He explained he didn’t want the story to end yet, because he wants to have a few sequels after the first. I started to wonder why my first play is not yet finished done, after the multiple drafts I’ve written. I’ve actually stopped writing for six months now; but I’m always doing research. (And I’m laughing at myself, because research can go on for a very long time, and it’s a bad excuse.) Today as I ponder seriously as to why the play is not done, I came up with an apt analogy. It is not that my life is not over, it is that “The End” is like the endless carousel of thoughts going through my mind. The possibilities of the ending is infinite, because like a chess game each move introduces a new set of permutations.
Eventually however, probabilities will limit the possibilities. After the players of the game have made their choices for each move, the ending does become inevitable, and its ending is also predictable. So in writing, the only way to get to the end is to write. As a writer makes choices as to what the characters say and what actions they do, the story unfolds. Figuratively and literally the miracle of creation unfolds and the story writes itself – if only the writer allows the characters to act out and speak out. I haven’t been letting my characters play at all, and so my play is not finished. I’m in the throes of the second act which in chess is the middle game. The middle game is my weakness. There’s a lot of tension and I’m horrible dealing with tensions. I like things to be neat and orderly – because it’s easier that way, but this is not life, and this is not story. Life Story is messy messy messy.
When I have a situation that is full of possibilities because there’s a lot of tension then I have a tendency to finish the scene prematurely. In chess terms, I make a stupid move and suddenly I’m in check mate or needing to dig myself out of a hole. Writing about this now, I can understand how experienced writers have advised me put the play out there – have a reading. As seasoned writers, they’ve played this game many times before, and they see my dilemma. They know the burden of carrying the decision of when it is done. It just takes practice to let go, perhaps. (That was conjecture on my part.) I’m perhaps afraid to let go because of the “unknown”. Will others think it’s boring, stupid, or crap? Oh well, I won’t know unless I try. For one thing… don’t give up.
In chess games a game clock is used. It has two face clocks with buttons to stop one while starting the other. This enables the players to move in turn without delaying the game. Perhaps if I used a clock like this in writing I can keep the dialogue and action going. It’d be a fun exercise to try, and see what writing comes out of it. Game on. Write already!Tweet
There are those days when the only motivation I can muster is to reach for the pint of Haagen-Daz ice cream, then spoonful after spoonful give my spirit some reprieve and consolation. Each mouthful is a salve of sugar and fat in cold creaminess. It’s a tangible fantasy that yields measurable value compared to buying a lotto ticket. These two questions form the yin-yang in my mind: Am I going to win the lottery tonight? Is there a God?
I’m down to the last half pint of the vanilla flavored ice cream, and yet I’m not feeling any better. Short of psychedelic medication, I’ve tried meditating, but my mind constantly drifts to the ice cream. I “look” at the third eye, the midpoint between my eyebrows and an inch above the midpoint. I feel cross-eyed and a mild dizziness breaks out. The anxiety is worse than waiting at the doctor’s office for the appointment schedule 45 minutes ago, and you got there early to find cheap parking. The ice cream beckons. I’m coming my friend.
(This is a rant! It’s not fair of me to hold you up, like this, you my unsuspecting audience. But didn’t my ice cream dreams give you a hint. Duck! Hide! A baleful of self-flagellation is coming your way!)
You’ve been taking life too damn seriously. When that happens then everything grinds to a halt beginning with the joie de vivre taking the backdoor exit; the cat gives me that look – like she couldn’t give a fig about my mopin’ around; and I have to work and write a blog too.
It’s a tightrope act to balance between the ennui of the abundant modern industrial life and giving meaning to life. I’ve lately been obsessed with songs that have the word “Hole” in the title. Here’s my list:
- Police – “Hole in My Life”
- Alice in Chains – “Down in a Hole”
- Beatles – “Fixing a Hole”
- Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
- Black Sabbath – “Hole in the Sky”
I think all these songs allude to that thing amiss in our lives. The hole is real. But I’ve been trying too hard to get in and out through to the other side. Will there be a revelation (– something/anything) after the show?
I dive back into my books, a collection of metaphysical, philosophies and practices by some of the great thinkers and doers: Paramahansa Yogananda, Edgar Cayce, Rilke, Krishnamurti, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Jr., and a collection of skits/shows by Bill Hicks “Love All The People”. This search for truth and meaning is not an easy path. But we go on. And once in a while we do hit rock bottom, like I’m down to a thin film of creamy vanilla. I pass the carton for the dog to lick clean. Pets. They can take you or leave you regardless of your mood, because they know instinctively that you have unconditional love for them.
Love is not a theory. It is a practice and an experience. I can repeat the words love and forgiveness till I’m blue in the face, but until I actually feel it then it means nothing. Love is like butter. It makes everything taste better, even the bitter pill of life we swallow everyday. This poem about work from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran expresses best what I’m feeling.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
So how does it end? Is the character transformed? Does every story have to have a transformation? Or do we just recycle our energy into the universe and hope, perhaps for a reincarnation in a better life. If karma rules then grace trumps it. We all have it – the capacity for grace. At every turn there’s a choice to be one or to be separate. (I can’t help but think of the lyrics and melody of “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles.)
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you.Tweet
by Diane Grant
Looking back at my blogs, I realize that I have been whining about Writer’s Block (I do think it should be capitalized, don’t you?) since May 10, 2010!
I’ve done a number of things since then but this one play, Rondo a la Condo, would not talk to me. I’d written it as a one act a few years ago and I wanted to expand it into a two act because I loved the characters. And I knew that a two act has a better chance at being produced than a one act. I could do it but How?
“How? How? How?” I asked, and… NOTHING! I had an idea or two. I knew that the first act would be in 1979 and the second act in 1994. I knew the last line would be “What took you so frigging long?” I knew that a new character, Edward, would arrive. And that’s about all I knew.
Yep. For two years. A long gestation period.
I even had a director interested in producing, actors who wanted to see it. But … NOTHING.
Writing is such a mystery. There seemed to be no way to make the words appear on the paper. I tried all the block breaking exercises, meditation, brisk walking, a glass of wine or two. But… NOTHING.
I kept thinking about Edward. I’ve never been one to write biographies of characters but I wanted to know what he looked like. What did he want? Where did he come from? When I knew he would never be called Eddie, I had a glimmer into his attitude. A hint.
Then one day a few weeks ago, he walked in! Talking!
And I banged out a first draft. I don’t know where it came from. I gave it to my husband, the world’s best editor, who gave me notes and asked questions. I thought about them and then I knew what the play was about!
The words flowed from my fingers. Last week, I wrote THE END and I had only one more question left. What took me so frigging long?
by Diane Grant
I’ve been a member of The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights and a vice-chair for a couple of decades now and have benefited from its support, excellent symposiums, and submission opportunities. I’ve met some wonderful playwrights who have often provided insights into the process of writing and marketing, and who have been, more importantly, lots of fun.
Dan Berkowitz, our co-chair, wrote the following about our new venture. It’s late notice – the deadline is February the 28th – but I’m hoping that some of our LAFPIers and bloggers can take advantage of ALAP’s entry into the 2014 Hollywood Fringe.
For 15 years, The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP) has presented a Fall Reading Festival of members’ plays. This year, instead of a Reading Festival in the fall, we’re going to present a Festival of Member Plays at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe!
Plays must be under 10 minutes in running time.
Plays must be inspired in some way by the theme “Sex, Lies, and Social Media.”
Plays may have been previously produced or published, or they can be brand-new works you write just for the Festival.
Plays will be read blindly by a panel of judges who have no affiliation with ALAP.
If your play is chosen, it will become part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, with five performances between June 9 and 29, at Theatre Asylum’s Elephant Studio.
If your play is chosen, you will be responsible for its production as a component of the overall evening, either by casting and directing it yourself or choosing a director and working with him/her. ALAP will support you and offer guidance if needed; if you’re one of our out-of-the-area members, we will put you in touch with the directors in our Database, and you will have access to the ALAP Actor Database as well.
There is no submission fee, and no fee to participate in the Festival. However, playwrights must be current ALAP members to submit. ALAP membership is open to all. To join, visit the website http://laplaywrights.org/ and click “Join ALAP” in the left-hand navigation column.
ALAP membership is $45 a year.
Though ALAP is not a producing organization, it feels that participating in the Hollywood Fringe will give its members another platform from which to launch their work into the big bad world of LA theatre audiences. To this end, ALAP will act as presenters and promoters of the 5 chosen plays – the chosen playwrights will not have to put up any money to participate – which together will (hopefully) create a stunning evening of theatre.
By offering members a chance to self-produce a short play – without having to worry about finding or paying for a venue, or being solely responsible for publicity – we also hope to foster a sense of adventure and self-reliance, and provide an opportunity for members to expand their scope of experience.
Submissions close February 28. The rules and entry form can be found at http://laplaywrights.org/14FestivalEntryForm.pdf or by visiting the ALAP website http://laplaywrights.org/ and scrolling to the bottom of the right-hand column.
Of Sex, Lies, and Social Media, I’m familiar with only two, not saying which ones, so probably won’t be submitting but I hope many of you will be.
Artists observe. We live outside the realm of now, in a place that exists way-back-when and also tomorrow. We search for patterns, for gross inconsistencies, for tropes, for absurdities. We listen to the ever quickening pulse of mankind and then do our level best to translate it into something resembling… something… and it gets labeled art. We deliver this art to those whose feet are more rooted to the planet – the people we’ve been observing – in the hope that it helps them see what we see so clearly from our creative outer space.
We are a weird people. And a special people. Insufferable, determined, scattered, brave – there is something dangerous to living in the grey. Strange things happen in the art-making place. We can be harder on ourselves than we ever are on anyone else.
But it’s Valentine’s Day. A day to be kind to yourself. A day to thank your Muse. A day to look with love at this insane existence, our existence, and just breathe.
Because you’re awesome.