All posts by ehbennett

15 True Lines of Dialogue.

by Erica Bennett


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  1. I love you.
  2. I don’t know what to say.
  3. You don’t mean that.
  4. I don’t want to know.
  5. I love you, too.
  6. I had a really great day.
  7. You suck.
  8. I love huevos rancheros.
  9. I miss her.
  10. You’re a slob.
  11. My thighs are fat.
  12. I had big dreams.
  13. The Earth is round.
  14. I love you to the Moon and back.
  15. To infinity.

 

Doing the Work

by Erica Bennett

For the last six months, I’ve written in short bursts of inspiration, followed by long spells of enervation. Yet, while I have been fortunate to hear my fruits read on stage, but I am not satisfied.

Three words written to me by a Facebook friend I’ve never met resonate with me, “Do the work.”

For the last several months I’ve been suffering from another long descent into pneumonia and in digging my way back out I’ve done a lot of thinking.

For whom and what am I writing? In the writing, am I fulfilling my vision? Is that even possible in a play format? Why am I not satisfied with the outcome? If not, should I be writing in another format?

Am I writing to get attention? Am I writing because I am addicted to instant gratification? Am I writing from ambition? Am I writing to win an award? Meet a deadline?

Am I telling the story of people? Am I writing for me?

My mentor wrote me, “A play is about action. A novel describes life.”

Can a play describe action? Is action in a play always verbalized? Can a play include movement? Can a playwright write:

“DUCKY pads silently across the plank floor to him, waits. But, the old man sleeps.”

Or, is that directorial? Have I designed the set? And, is any of that allowed?

What I realized this month is that like most people, the characters I write come from some place… Acting 101: Where are you coming from?

If doing the work takes me into another or a combination of formats and down a longer road, who is it I am writing for anyway? Me. Today, I give myself permission to do the work like Erica Bennett.

Modeling my addiction

How I write: In spurts. But, always, I am writing. And, always I am composing in my mind, if not performing the physical act of writing itself. It is my perfect sickness because I ache when I am too long away from it. I grapple with this addiction. I push it aside because I love my other work. Even so, I eventually listen to it, because if I don’t it springs into life anyway, into some type of form, and it’s better when I direct it’s being. Take a juicy apple. Bite off a larger piece than you can easily handle.

Don’t wait for somebody to tell you it’s okay. Just chew.

And, so, it grows.

By Erica Bennett

 

I. I know my life will end

Like my voices told me,

At twenty when I first learned

Someday, I’d die.

 

II. They came upon me

While bathing, like Undine

Rising from the waters

In search of her soul.

 

III. They stayed to taunt me,

Leading me forward and beside,

Never showing me a clear path,

But, a gravel road instead.

 

IV. I couldn’t decipher their intent

In my youth, yet my compass led me

Beyond the sandstone blocks

Of Southern California.

 

V. I drove north westerly,

Made the city my own.

Down Santa Monica Boulevard

In a hazy orange VW dreamscape.

 

VI. I stayed, maybe fifteen years.

And then, waited five more

For the cancer to leave me

Before I rode those voices hard.

 

VII. I find myself now

Aged distinctively by the sun,

My face a craggy coastline,

No cream can soften the blow.

 

VIII. Yet, I fear not this time.

I have not faded.

And hot pink streaks my hair,

No ma’am am I.

 

IX. My voices speak lively words

Inside my head

Not that I could distinguish them

Until those twenty years went by,

 

X. When I finally put pen to paper

Fingertips to keyboard

And spoke their words aloud

For the first time.

 

XI. It was then I heard

The interior life of an aging,

Overweight ingénue, ripen with age.

Growing ever more bold and imperfect.

 

XII. And, I introduced myself

To Angry Old Woman,

Whose guttural English and sailor mouth

Belie a golden heart.

 

XIII. I’ve always wondered

Where the nasty comes from…

But, as long as I let her speak,

Her words on paper, no one is hurt.

 

XIV. There is separation in ink

That the spoken word cannot penetrate.

It is as if evidence of worth

Is only in the recording of them.

Do you hear them, too?

By Erica Bennett

I. I know my life will end

Like my voices told me,

At nineteen when I first learned

Someday, I’d die.

 

II. I fear not this time

I have not faded

And hot pink streaks my hair

No ma’am am I.

 

III. My voices speak lively words

Inside my head

Not that I could distinguish them

Until nineteen years went by,

 

IV. When I put pen to paper

Fingertips to keyboard

And spoke their words aloud

For the first time.

 

V. I introduced myself to angry old woman,

Whose guttural English

And sailor mouth

Belie a golden heart.

 

VI. I’ve always wondered

Where the nasty comes from…

But, as long as I let her speak,

Her words on paper, no one is hurt.

 

VII. There is separation in ink

That the spoken word can’t penetrate.

It is as if evidence of worth

Is only in the recording of them.

A perfect storm

by Erica Bennett

I wrote this little angry comedy last month. Not typical for someone who has been consumed by the rage of a woman done wrong for over four years. And yet, there it is. In the space of two weeks, I wrote a 60-page script almost up to the deadline.

It, too, was spurred by rage, but this time of the “I’ll show them” variety. And, you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, despite the negative inspiration. For rather than slogging through forced language and style and all of the other rules I set for myself as a playwright, I simply let the grieving old woman inside me loose. I fell in love writing the male character. I wrote the son I never bore, and wish I had. And, I wrote a female character to the voice in my head of a tremendous actress I know.

In reflection, I think what I did was successfully open up the myopic vision I had of myself as a playwright and may have found my voice.

Remember the audience

by Erica Bennett

I haven’t finished reading a book for pleasure in a long, long time, and I admit to losing grammar and vocabulary. Of course, I research point-of-need requests, whether they be a new play or work-related, and am up on current events and my professional literature.

I always feel a sense of victory when I find relevant “stuff” and make new connections to material. But somehow, I fell out of love with reading. Could be part bad eyesight and lack of attention span, and with that I realize I have become a judgmental audience, whether it be at the theatre or reading a new piece of literature.

Even so, I jumped in wholeheartedly with the playwright/director whose new work I witnessed last weekend. Two amazing performances and a challenging text; I was there for all of it, hooked. I lost myself in it, through the amazing and redundant parts. And then, towards the end, the playwright/director wrote several speeches and had the actor wag her finger at the audience in judgment. And, I overreacted by getting angry.

I am educated, interested in the world around me, and as a playwright, study people and their behavior. It was clear to me why the character in last weekend’s play behaved the way she did, but to be judged by a playwright as being too ignorant to know made me wonder, who exactly is our audience today? I know… My friends and family, and the actors’ friends and family attend my events. But, does the general public? And are they ignorant? No, I don’t think so.

I fell in love with books when I remembered my grade school teachers reading Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Mrs. Fisby and the Rats of NIMH to us after lunch. I’ve decided to initiate a Storytime program at work, reading literature to students who might want to take a break from studying during finals. (Apparently, there is a study that shows that the brain releases Dopamine and the listener experiences pleasure when being read to, and is positively motivated.) But, what can I do to bring in a busy, over-stimulated, stressed-out audience to see my plays? I’ve decided it’s by entertaining them.

A convergence of events led me to write the first draft of a comedy last month. Ironically, and for the first time, one of my plays is getting tons of immediate attention. While entertaining doesn’t necessarily equal funny, I realized, I do need to stop judging my audience and start loving them. I need to remember the audience, and more importantly, remember they come first.

Waiting for the Shoe

I read Moss Hart’s Act One (more than once). I absorbed Hart’s memoir into the fabric of my being, not unlike how I learned to drive, knowing just the right amount of pressure I needed to apply to allow for the tension in my brakes. Point is, I learned to have expectations; playwright expectations. These expectations have led me, over the last seven years that I’ve seen my plays read or produced in Southern California, to many a raw moment. Consequently, I’m learning to just be grateful. I’ve discovered that changing my nervous, expectant, perhaps entitled, behavior to appreciation has made for happier interpersonal communications between others and me, which has led to happier results.

A review of Bender is coming out tonight. And, I am giddy with excitement, waiting for the notice, expectant and afraid, at the same time wishing I was in New York at Elaine’s in 1955 waiting for the Times to come out in print. Isn’t that odd; to write something, purposefully, for human consumption, and then be afraid of being poorly judged?

I wrote a song about a shoe. Not a good song. But a fun song. About a shoe I saw laying by the side of the road… Have you ever wondered how something got to where it is? Where did that thing come from and how did it get there? I think that I like to write plays because I’m curious to know how all the pieces of our lives fit together.

Fact into Fiction

By Erica Bennett

 

Ruby: You make me feel like I’m nothing but the pimply-faced girl sitting in the corner at my own debutante ball.

Last week I experienced the most profound of four evenings. Four. In a row. I went from dress #2, to final dress, to opening night, to 2nd show of Bender, my new play with music. Each experience became progressively more and more fulfilling. I realize how rare these moments are, and I am extremely grateful for them…

However, as if I had some perverse need to break the winning streak, on the fifth night, I visited my high school reunion for three hours…

For four days I heard beautiful fiction. And, then, I remembered one font from whence the fiction sprang…

I’ve been told to write what I know. I don’t think I’m unique in that… Try explaining it to the folks…

Everything I write is dreadfully personal, and is at the same time, absolute fiction. For, while I didn’t have a debutante ball. Or a Bat Mitzvah. Or a Quinceañera. I did experience teenage acne, and Big dreams of getting out…

Sheriff Frank: Here’s to getting out.

Here’s to Bender for making me to forget what it feels like to be alone in a ballroom full of people.

2 more performances, August 30th and 31st. Check Women at Work Onstage for more details.

To the Readers!

By Erica Bennett

“Do you have anything to add,” asked Pasadena Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Seema Sueko of LAFPI playwrights before each micro-read last night*.

We met to see the Playhouse’s imaginative production of Vanessa Claire Stewart’s Stoneface that features a remarkably versatile cast led by the singularly talented French Stewart, performing as the dissolute master, physical comedian Buster Keaton.

Stoneface actors gave generously of their time, and cold read fifteen wonderfully diverse 1-page works written by LAFPI playwrights. Slated last, I had fourteen Micro-Reads to think of two sentences of introduction to my page of dialogue from Act I of my new play, Sacrosanct

What is my play about?…

What is it About?…

What is important for actors and audience to know?…

Under the pressure, I came up with: “They are two academics, father and daughter, he, a Professor Emeritus in Library and Information Science, a librarian, and she a Professor of Creative Writing and a poet. She is under threat of [insert threat here].”… And ended it at that.

Not bad, I thought.

The actors were tremendous. The audience was appreciative. There was tension, conflict, and significant laughter, all in the right places, imho.

In my earlier plays, I’ve realized, my female protagonists are poet wannabes, I think, because so was I. “Merit” in Sacrosanct Is a poet… I think I’m finally starting to “own” it. I’ve got a long way to go. But I’m getting better at this thing, playwriting.

However, I didn’t grab Sacrosanct out of thin air.

I have four different groups of readers and they all provide feedback in their own ways that is both provocative and inspiring.

It would be a great tragedy, I think, if they didn’t know how much I appreciate their talent and time, and interest and coaching, and care and kindness.

So, I sign off my week of blogging with a great, big shout out to my Readers!!!

 

*Micro-Reads is am LA FPI program providing playwrights the opportunity to hear a reading of one page of their work. http://lafpi.com/events/