Stories from Anywhere…

by Robin Byrd

Listening for “First Words” – took me to a poem I started 10/26/12:

 

he got the tattoo

–so they would leave him alone

across his face

the skin once

smooth and beautiful

now marked

as he was marked

–for things no one should ever have to see

 

Today, 3/29/16, I continued:

 

he got the tattoo

across his face

–so they left him alone

the skin elsewhere

intact

not marked

–by things seen in places no one should ever have to go

 

he got the tattoo

–in a place no one should have to go

marring the skin

once smooth and beautiful

across his face

it, the self-marking of himself

–with words that say leave me alone…

 

he got the tattoo

–for things no one should have to see and places no one should have go

flung

across his face, across the smooth beautiful skin

in loud display

–leave me alone, it said, i will not take lightly to any more disruption

 

I title it “On the Occasion of Going to Jail…” and I wonder if there is a story trying to get out…

 

“First Words” :  Being a Playwright…being female…Voice…; On the Matter of Subject…

 

The Voices that Grow Within Us…

by Robin Byrd

I have mentioned this before but lately, it been getting more pronounced.  Ever had someone tell you that they don’t mind if you talk to yourself but will have a problem if you answer?  That is when – at that moment — I have to say that I do in fact, answer myself but “only when I’m writing…”  They usually catch me answering anyway… What writer do you know who can carry on conversations with the characters and not “appear” to be talking and answering their own self?  I get the best inflections when I hear:

(Off stage whisper) the voices

(SOUND: loud clearing of a throat) THE VOICES!

Yeah, them.  Only profession I know where you can actually have more than one personality speaking out of your mouth almost simultaneously and not be labeled a “Schizophrenic” – or rather, be committed…to an institution.  Whole worlds going on in your head and you ain’t crazy, just a writing somebody.  J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, were friends – both of them had some really strange and fascinating worlds in their heads.  Octavia Butler’s Kindred blew me away especially the part where (spoiler alert) the arm got stuck in the wall — read it.

I can always tell when I need to sit down and write, the talking gets a bit much.  Stories busting at the seams need to be fitted for the page; they get tired of walking around in bloomers and say so.  If I stuck to a regimen, I would have it down to a minutes but I like to write wherever…, whenever…  I break up the wildness with little structured writing windows from time to time, letting the voices put on formal wear and heels or formal wear and combat boots.  Fehlge Burt is wearing combat boots — literally — and she’s ready to speak.  I have no idea when and where she enters but am looking forward to hashing it out…  I looking forward to hearing her voice that has been growing down inside of me for a few decades and I am hoping she does not slack on her words….

 

Tell A Good One…

by Robin Byrd

There is a place for all of us – writers… on the page, on the stage, on film…  We may not get into the venues we want to get into but there is a place for our stories.  Don’t give up.  Don’t settle for not writing your stories down or telling them out loud… record them somewhere – the library of congress, your website…

I think of this because of the book “Sounder”, the author’s note in the beginning admits that an old black man told him this story – an old black man that was his teacher and was sometimes allowed to pray in the white church from the balcony – a sign of the times.  The author couldn’t even remember the old man’s name but he remembered the story.   William H. Armstrong recounted the story of Sounder omitting all the names of all people in the book, the only name given was Sounder’s.  The old black man was probably the boy all grown up.  The lack of names gives the story a very poignant universal air now I can’t forget the story.

I am about to read Tennessee William’s first play, A Candle to the Sun.  Why?  He can tell a good story.  I’m working on Suzan-Lori Park’s Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1,2 & 3.  Why?  She can tell a good story, too.  They do it so well…this thing called writing… so well, it makes me try harder…  Makes it a little bit easier for me to just do the thing and let come what may…as long as I telling a good story and doing my best to tell it well… someone somewhere will read it.

I finally finished a play I’ve been mulling over for about five years, Fiddler’s Bridge.  Felt good to get it out and even better to see my evolution as a writer  — not so much that I am different but I know my craft better and it’s easier to just do the thing…  Now all I have to do is stop putting Fiddle, Fiddlin’ or Fiddler in the title…but then again, titles have to fit the piece.  I imagine after I have completed more of my 80 plus projects there will be an evolution to the handling of subject matter that can be seen.  Or not…  All I need to do is keep telling good stories…  How about you?  Told any good ones lately?

Celebrate International Women’s Day…

 

How will you mark the day?

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

The Playwright’s Voice and/or Intentions…

by Robin Byrd

The collaboration part of theater should not to come at the expense of the playwright’s voice and/or intentions. Is that a true statement?

I have been thinking about this — how intent/vision plays a big part in the end results of play production. But, whose vision should win out – if there is such a thing as winning in this case. Should it be a battle to get the story you wrote told, should you have to pick which part you will let go for the sake of someone else’s vision? Getting it to the stage is a big deal, getting collaborators who see the play as you do is an even bigger deal. I think the collective vision should be the playwright’s vision, first and foremost, and all other visions should move that vision forward, not stifle it, change it, ignore it but add to the layers of it. Tied up in all that intent, is a playwright’s voice which is life…blood, the culmination of many journeys, a song whose rhythm is pain and joy, a sound flung up to heaven echoing back at us…

I wonder about these things. What if after all one’s striving over the perfect line, it is missed in delivery or rearranged or deemed non-important; I hope my intent as a playwright is not lost…and I hope collaborator choices bring something wonderful to the piece and do not take away from my intent or my voice. I hope they ask me questions… while I am a living playwright.  But, most of all, I hope that I speak up if and when I need to, whether or not it is expected or welcomed to make my intentions known.

Intent. What is the playwright’s intent? That question is asked in literary settings when studying fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama; it is also asked in acting class during scene study. It is a question that I strive to answer in all my work. It is the thing that makes a story stay with you…

Some interesting articles I found about intentions:

Pulitzer Winner Bruce Norris Retracts Rights to German Troupe’s Clybourne Park Over “Blackface” Casting

Playwright Katori Hall Expresses Rage Over “Revisionist Casting” of Mountaintop With White Dr. Martin Luther King

Playwright David Mamet Halts Play over Gender-Bending Casting

Heated exchanges at La Jolla Playhouse over multicultural casting [Updated]

Mike Lew – Playwright on Casting Actors of Color

‘For Colored Girls’ Movie: Ntozake Shange’s ‘No Madea’ Rule

 

I think about these things because I want to make sure that all of my work is filled with my voice and my intent without confusion and I don’t want to have to worry about it once the piece takes wings.

So, Yes; it is true that the collaboration part of theater should not to come at the expense of the playwright’s voice and/or intentions…  What do you think?

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Robin Byrd

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

Why Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop…  by Robin Byrd

Lulla Bell Jury has lost her momma; all she has left is the fiddle her mother gave her and the beauty and pain of life in the Appalachian mountains. Sometimes you lose so much it’s hard to see what you’ve gained. Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop is an Appalachian tale of music, loss, family, and land.

Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd

About Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop: The piece began as a short story created while I was a student at Indiana University; it consisted of only the first scene which you will see here in GLO 2015 (Green Light One-Acts), the remainder of the play is scheduled for development, so stay tuned.

The short story was written in a creative writing class. Writers tend to work out things in their writing as a way to find answers and closure; I was working out my own sense of loss and Lulla Bell became my voice. In a very broad sense, this piece is semi-autobiographical. Universally, it is a story many can connect with as we all struggle with loss and the journey that life puts us on after that loss.

Part of my family originates from Appalachia which I only learned of in the last few years when writing another story set in the area and looking at the map of the Appalachian region of the United States. One of my grandfathers and an uncle worked the coal mines before migrating to the Midwest. My other grandfather still has family as well as a family cemetery located in the region. I think my comfort of putting Lulla Bell on a mountain came from an ancestral/genetic memory of place; it’s like muscle memory for a violinist/fiddler, any musician – there are songs that come through my fingers that I have forgotten I knew how to play and sometimes that I have only sang and never played before but they start to play themselves because the memory of these songs is more alive than even I am fully conscious of.

From short story to stage play: Ben Harney (Tony Award Winner for the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”) developed the short story for performance (at the time, aptly entitled “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma”). Upon reading the piece, Ben suggested that it was a theatre piece that should be staged and I should perform it. It was at this time, Lulla Bell Jury’s story became stage worthy. Ben encouraged me to rework it and flush out areas that I eluded too but did not go into fully. He taught me to attack it from several point of views – the audience’s, the actor’s as well as the writer’s – making sure that the scenes were rearranged in the right order. I learned as much about writing as I did about acting. The exhilaration of performing her on stage was as wonderful as creating her on the page. I am forever grateful to Ben for his mentoring.

Expansion: Over the years, Lulla Bell Jury has made it known to me that she was not finished talking. Taking my cue from Lulla, I began to expand the piece which became Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop. In Fiddlin’…, I tune back into Lulla Bell Jury to see how her life is going and how she has weathered the storms. In Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop, I would like to share just what weathering storms means…

About the Playwright: I am a product of the Midwest, mine is a Midwestern voice with flavors of the South. I am a playwright, poet, screenwriter and actor. I love to incorporate authentic regional flavor into my work. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to my affinity toward southern themes and language in some of my pieces. My work also deals with things of the spirit; I am known for sifting through memories and ghosts and other intangible things for stories… I have studied acting to enhance my voice as a writer. I play the violin; I am more comfortable calling myself a fiddler.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Diane Grant  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Diane Grant

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

All About Harold and Me by Diane Grant

Diane Grant

Diane Grant

All About Harold is one act play that eventually became a two act play called Has Anybody Here Seen Roy?

It began with my daughter who used to work for a visually impaired woman, named Jean, who had been married to a man named Harold. Jean had many stories about him and the one I loved the most was the one about the big black Cadillac. That triggered the play.   Harold also conjured up in my memory a man named Roy who once picked me up in the university cafeteria, chatted me up, wooed me, and then set me up with his friend who was 5’4”. (I have never topped 5’. Indeed, it’s stretching it to say I’m 4’11”). And then Roy disappeared. Like Harold.

I don’t know if either Harold or Roy sang but I’ve always felt in my heart of hearts that most male singers, tenor or baritone, are just a bit treacherous.

I started to write when I was very young and began with stories. The first one was about my piano teacher who would excuse herself from the music room to take some of her medicine. When she returned, her breath always smelled somewhat different. Sweeter. Stronger. My second teacher enjoyed a sherry with my Mother after my lessons, which got shorter and shorter. Somewhere around Chopin’s Nocturne #2 in E Flat Major and the last glass of sherry, I stopped taking lessons but am still writing.

Although I was part of a radical troupe of actors in Canada, called Toronto Workshop Productions, and threw myself into political writing and performing, I’ve always loved and written comedy. The humor in my plays is always about something underneath, something that keeps us going or stops us from living fully. And I hope it makes people laugh.

About the same time I worked with Toronto Workshop, two amazing and energetic women, Francine Volker and Marcy Lustig, asked me if I wanted to join them in forming the first professional women’s theatre in Canada. I did and we called it Redlight Theatre and wrote about women! Most of my protagonists are still women because, well because I’m a woman, and because they are interesting and funny and complex and bound to run up against a man or two.

I’m so pleased to be part of GLO, and thank them for giving women a voice and the joy of working together.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Diane Grant  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Karen Howes

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

On Writing “Gentleman’s Pact” by Karen Howes

Karen Howes

Karen Howes

The tap on the keyboard that began the writing of “Gentleman’s Pact” was a desire to take a new look at the age-old “affair.” For good reason, adultery is typically kept a secret, so I wondered what would happen if the secret was made known and the person who was the “outsider” took an action that changed everyone’s roles. Enter the meek “other man” to ask his friend if he can marry his wife. What would be the response? How would the play go? I wondered the effect that such a proposal would have on the relationships of the people involved and I wondered what it would do to each person as an individual.

As a playwright, I was most interested in the dialogue. I enjoy getting to know characters by listening to how they respond and speak, so writing this play was a lot of fun. I came to know the characters as I would real people. What they said, even though sometimes a lie, was a building block that enabled me to understand what they really wanted. It was an intriguing process to be involved in a chess game between three characters who had a lot at stake. I was curious as to how the friendship, marriage and affair would devolve, and I was eager to see a love triangle in which the power and sides would continually shift.

As an unexpected plus — the rehearsal process with the play’s director, Michelle Joyner and the actors at Green Light Productions enabled me to go deeper into this play and discover the threads that weave the larger tapestry. The experience has given me the insight to develop the play into a full length, which I have already begun.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Karen Howes.  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Katherine James

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

The Plan by Katherine James

Katherine James

Katherine James

The characters in my play The Plan are young women I have met in every decade of the six decades of my life. Young women who put their hopes and dreams aside for the hopes and dreams that others have for them.

This would be sad enough.

What is truly amazing to me is that the hopes and dreams that supersede their own have been the same two over 60+ years: marriage and working for the family business.

It didn’t strike me hard until my older son (who is now 36) was 18 and I met yet another “Anna” who was his contemporary. Anna is the character whose parents have come from another country to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their success here depends on this child giving her life to the family business with the promise of her own child some day being allowed to have the right to her own hopes and dreams. The “Anna” who was the contemporary of my son’s had not been able to take the S.A.T.’s because her family made sure she was working in the family restaurant that day. As they did every day. I looked back and realized I had met that same girl again and again from the time I was little. I have continued to meet her since, the latest “Anna” a brilliant actress whose parents didn’t want her to get an MFA. They needed her to run the family business and to translate for them.

Will I ever stop meeting “Kiki”? The girl whose family wants her to marry the nice guy and put her hopes and dreams on hold while she helps him achieve his? I hope so. But so far so bad.

What I hope The Plan does is to wake us all up to the fact that our young women with hopes and dreams need to be mentored by those of us who have realized our hopes and dreams. The most soul searching part of the play for me is when the audience realizes that these girls had mentors. Mentors who didn’t follow up with them.

Some women who have read The Plan don’t believe that family pressure to abandon hopes and dreams still exists. They think that when The Feminist Movement of the 20th Century “was no longer needed” it was largely because girls like Anna and Kiki no longer existed. Of course I would say they were wrong on both counts – Feminism is still needed and in large part because Anna and Kiki still are struggling.

I say about today’s Annas and Kikis, “They are our girls.” Let’s give them the encouragement that their families might not be able to. Let’s help them reach their “American Dream”.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Katherine James.  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Celebrating Stephen Schwartz

by Robin Byrd

If you weren’t there, you missed a PARTY!  You missed a SHOW!  Other than all us playwrights, here is who was there celebrating Stephen Schwartz in song and song and words and music and song, did I say song?  And not just any song but songs by Stephen Schwartz, oh and Stephen, himself, sat down at the piano and took us for a spin!  Can you tell I am still excited about it?  Michael Kerker was there moderating and if you have ever gone to the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops held around the country, you know how much fun it is to have Michael and Stephen in the same room.  Brent Barrett and Susan Egan performed – you have not heard a musical till you’ve heard it done right, in character, full of life, exquisitely executed.  Songwriting/musical writing collaborators, Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner performed — stop playing!  Them some bad boys.  Their presentation should be a musical!   John Boswell served as musical director/accompanist; he did not miss a beat.  I just wanted to know how he knew all those songs – the repertoire was seamless.  Thank you ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Dramatists Guild for letting us all enjoy this evening extraordinaire.

Stephen Schwartz, Michael Kerker, DG

Pictured L to R backstage after the concert: ASCAP’s Michael A. Kerker; Winnie Holzman (librettist, Wicked); Lisa Kron (TONY award winning lyricist and librettist of Fun Home); Stephen Schwartz; Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (composer/lyricist of Broadway’s First Date)

Picture from ASCAP page “Honoring Stephen Schwartz at the DG Conference” http://www.ascap.com/playback/2015/07/faces-and-place/musical-theatre/stephen-schwartz-dg.aspx

Stephen Schwartz is one of the most generous, down-to-earth persons, I have met.  He shares his talent on so many levels, all the time; Stephen Schwartz is a national treasure.  I have learned so much about the spark of creativity and how to mine for gold from just sitting in on his talks.  As a person and as an artist, he deserves every accolade and I am so happy that we can celebrate his musical genius and let him know how much we love him…

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