Words

by E.h. Bennett

I love words. I love reading words. Especially when they are able to capture a philosophy beyond pure emotion. I love to hear the pin drop.

But you wouldn’t think so by the number of words I write. My characters speak volumes, just not in quantity.

I’ve been so busy at work it’s been difficult to find to the time to write this post. It’s only 9 PM, and I should be sleeping. But here I am attempting to find the words to illustrate what my subconscious has been stewing over for the last couple of days.

Why don’t my characters speak more words?

Is it something I read from Beckett and/or Edward Albee. Could be. Dunno.

Or it it something personally damaging?

Does speaking aloud = ridicule?
Does daydreaming = a backhand?
Does having an opinion = punishment?
Does editorializing = retaliation?

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. Events shape us. Or maybe it was simply the influence of Beckett and Albee. Could be. Dunno.

And ultimately, does it really matter?

Just keep on writing.

Robin Byrd

How can I write another post and not acknowledge our fearless blog editor, Robin Byrd?

Robin is a trusted LAFPI colleague, peer mentor, and friend, who has done the unthinkable. She has traveled to Orange County not once, but Twice to witness a production and a staged reading of mine. I don’t think I have the words to express how much I appreciate Robin’s generosity of spirit.

In response to your comment to my last post though, I must admit, Robin, that I stumbled this week. I haven’t written my own elements of style. However, per a reader’s request, I did remove all but one return between lines of dialogue and realized that one can equal infinity, if it’s defined somewhere in the script.

Off now to ponder how.

TIME AND SPACE

by E.h. Bennett

I wrote a monologue in August. Too blocked to finish it, I sought out the song of the sea. Not finding my answer there, my next stop was a musical followed by sushi. After which I entered a zone and battered out a fix. Go figure.

The monologue grew into two and the twelve pages were beautifully interpreted at my local college in November.

However, in the end (to date) I’ve written a 52-page “mini epic poem,” “spoken word,” “complete and profound,” ultimately, “difficult to read” play (?) with all its intentional lack of description, formatting, punctuation, and Blank Space on the page.

What to do. What to do. What to do now???

My conundrum is this: I’ve experienced interpreters who are directed to cross out stage directions and (beat) and (pause) and they do not even take the opportunity to experiment with the playwright’s intentional time and space. And this perplexes me. Maybe I’m overreacting in the other direction?

Yet as I’ve discovered, there’s a whole literature devoted to the art of the Pause or as Suzan-Lori Parks has coined them “spells.”

http://umassvenus.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/6/6/13666361/parks_elements_of_style.pdf

http://www.enl.auth.gr/gramma/gramma09/mendelman.pdf

In-the-Moment Moments

by Erica Bennett

“I love new plays,” says a friend and colleague. And, so do I. So, I drove west to the Kirk Douglas Theatre today to witness the work-in-progress Throw Me On The Burnpile and Light Me Up, written and performed by Lucy Alibar. I attended with a friend and another fan of Beasts of the Southern Wild screenplay that Alibar adapted (from her play Juicy and Delicious) with the films director Benh Zeitlin.

As we took our seats, we remarked over the scenic and lighting design from the charming string lights, to the (overly dense) Spanish moss, to the lovely antique twin bed insignia. And, I thought, “look at all those props,” and remembered those words coming at me from my last director, and grinned.

I settled in, and then I remembered the time I unwittingly ridiculed the “swap meet” design of an Americana exhibit I’d seen, within earshot of the colleague who had designed it. And, I felt ashamed. Lights dimmed, and I was perfectly primed; a tremulous mess (ready to feel).

The play is filled with wonderful language told by a magical, gentle-voiced performer who deftly painted her stories in the air for us. But, it was also a lesson for me, as a playwright. I realized tonight that I wished Ms. Alibar had let us see more of the moments, like when Daddy got mad, rather than tell us about them after the fact. Because, it was those in-the-moment moments, that kept me enthralled today.

And, this brings my realization earlier in the week that a play is about Action full circle.

“Drawn to the Womb”

by Erica Bennett

I drove up to Studio City for a quick visit with friends over coffee and chocolate croissants. And, as per usual, I lost track of time when the discussion turned to the topic of his dissertation. But, kindly reminded, I pulled myself away, hit the road, and wound my way through Laurel Canyon to my second stop of the day, the LAFPI gathering at Samuel French Film & Theatre Book Shop. I arrived late by nearly an hour, found parking in back, and took that for a positive sign.

I found myself walking down Stanley to Sunset and east, feeling this sense that I was going somewhere. Certainly, I had the numbered address, but as I walked, I ruminated over having attended the first LAFPI meet (back in the day), and realized that I missed far too many gatherings over the years. So, it was that I approached the bookstore entrance feeling a little like an excited kid and an alien being called home, at the same time.

A gentleman held the front door open for me. I walked in, and was greeted by a friendly bookstore associate who directed me to the back of the store. After walking up a short flight of stairs, I stood in the back, was offered a seat by a lady, sat, and I wallowed (mouth slightly ajar) at the sight and sound of the funny, profane, charming, loving, inspiring, powerful and encouraging female (and male) playwrights, directors, and producers attending the event.

Many of the attendees are participating in the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, as Fringe Femmes. This was their moment to bring in 1-page samples of their work to be heard, and in turn, talk up their needs and wants. And, shine they did.

Then Joanna Bateman spoke of being drawn to the gathering, as if “drawn to the womb,” and I thought, that’s it. That was my feeling. That encapsulated it.

I cannot remember being in the presence of so much loving acceptance from any group. Thank you, Jennie Webb, Robin Byrd, and all who make LAFPI possible.

Write. Write. Write.

LABOR

by Erica Bennett

I’m beginning to feel the itch; the push; the nudge; my water is about to break. I need to write. Maybe it’s the beat of the bluegrass music egging me on. Maybe it’s Dave’s sad eyes. Maybe it’s Robin’s blinding faith. Maybe it’s Rikki’s unrelenting kindness. Whatever it is, I feel the tug from ambition to write something quick and dirty (funny), but there is Joel’s imagined voice, yelling at me again, DO THE WORK.

Okay. Checking out until my gathering and Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up posts.

Ruiz’ Four Agreements

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t make assumptions
  3. Don’t take anything personally
  4. Always do your best

Survival

by Erica Bennett

There is perhaps one thing that is innate to us all and that is the need to survive. I’m not proud of the lengths I’ve gone to protect myself from perceived predators, but I’ve survived. But, I was born with this brain that considers death and guilt and purpose, and wonders if I’m better than a beast. And, I realize right now, that I’m not. And, I blessed the chicken for giving its life so I could eat dinner. I’ve survived, and my intelligence, for the most part is intact. So, with this brain and some time over the summer, what’s it going to be? I am tentatively reaching out: Lunch with a friend, Federal grant workshop with a colleague, LA FPI gathering, Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up, folk music, Crystal Cove Beach Cottages… Baby steps. I gave myself permission to take the time to heal. Not healed yet, but in the process of healing. So, in the meantime, before the writing starts, I curated a speech transcript. A living history. Doing it the Erica Bennett way. No apologies.

Thank you

by Erica Bennett

My heart skipped a beat. Actually, it took my breath away. Tonight, theatre colleagues reached out individually and across social networks to offer me advice and encouragement. Because, and for the first time in months, my brain peeked through the pneumonia fog and made positive relevant connections that they could respond to. I know that I am recovering because I didn’t nap today. I’m actively listening to bluegrass while drinking a stiff strawberry margarita after eating my stovetop cooked bbq chix and Spanish rice dinner. I’ve survived again. And I’m here discussing action in a play. How fortunate am I? Sincerely yours, Eh.

Big Uh-Huh Moment

by Erica Bennett

A friend told me yesterday that he didn’t understand my intentions behind something I recently wrote. Words to the effect, he didn’t understand how I wanted him to feel… “Is crying a bad thing?” That made me curious. Because, I realize that I don’t want people to feel any particular way when experiencing my work, but certainly, yes, feel something.

I’ve been trained as an archivist where being unbiased is part of the mission. I realize today that I must be conjoining archivist-dramatist because, as a playwright, I know I have written other even less focused stories.

Perhaps this has been my fatal flaw. Maybe I need to lead my audience toward what it is I intend to say rather than letting them experience the character’s story and determine for themselves what it means to them and how it makes them feel?

Maybe that’s what they mean by plays are about Action.

10 (theatrical) things that make me cry

by Erica Bennett

  1. In discussing her method of acting now, after years of study, Meryl Streep stated in an interview that it was a lot like driving a car… she doesn’t have to think about it anymore. It was simply part of her. (or words to that effect.)
  2. Reading Jane Eyre on the beach on Cape Cod in the late-1980s and thinking, “Wow. This is literature. What the hell have I been reading all my life?” (and wishing F. Scott Fitzgerald had been in charge of my reading list.)
  3. Thinking I’ve read a ton of books… Before I went to graduate school, became a librarian and discovered myself surrounded by a literal ton of books.
  4. Thinking, if I’ve read a ton of books, I’ve read a million plays.
  5. Realizing that I exaggerate a lot.
  6. When I was an actress, directors wanted to cast me when I projected a foul mood at auditions, and seeing no pay-off for that behavior in the real world.
  7. Bambi.
  8. Tennessee Williams.
  9. If there are no new stories, what are we writing for?
  10. Puppets. Massive puppets. Massive puppets shaped like horses will do.

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