Category Archives: Playwright

Crash Landing on Plot

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.

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.


Thoughts on Black Stories…

There is always discussion on the right or wrong/ness of other ethnicities writing stories outside of their ethnicity.  As writers, we all know that you have to write the stories that want to be told through you.  Not long ago, black stories were only allowed to be told through white writers as black writers were considered “less than able” to tell our own stories. A classic black story is Sounder which garnered both Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations for the late Cicely Tyson, an extraordinary actress who lived with purpose.  Had the story not been written, she would have never had the opportunity.  The white author of Sounder admits the story came from his black school teacher.

“But one night at the great center table after he had told the story of Argus, the faithful dog of Odysseus, he told the story of Sounder, a coon dog.  It is a black man’s story, not mine.  It was not from Aesop, the Old Testament, or Homer.  It was history – his history.” – Sounder by William H. Armstrong 

The unfortunate thing was that author couldn’t seem to remember his teacher’s name to give him actual “story by” credit.  Undoubtedly, the story of Sounder was to be shared, had to be shared… And, we are grateful for this sharing. 

Serendipitously, I caught a Close/Up with the Hollywood Reporter Writers Roundtable  on YouTube hosted by Scott Feinberg with: Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version), Sam Levinson (Malcolm & Marie), and Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami*, Soul), the segment discussed some interesting insights on working through the Pandemic safely, directing their own screenplays (*One Night in Miami is directed by Regina King), the change in how the work is seen by the audience and the question of who should write what.  The writers are very candid. 

The challenges will not go away over night or over decades- it has seemed -but we must try to do our best in telling our stories and pushing to not limit ourselves or the work.  Being Black can mean, in a lot of cases, that we are mixed with other things; we have the right to write those stories too. 

As a people, we are affected by the mutation of Eugenics and how that has wounded us – from our ancestors to ourselves and to our sons and daughters. Sterilization / castration without consent is something that still happens.

“Then he grabbed stuff, this and that and that and this and this and that and that and those – Scissors.  He inserted them and CLIPPED!! Babies, I thought of babies.  I looked him in the eye, this white man who was raping me with stuff made of steal.  He looked at me.    An expression.    A small detectable grin. ‘Oops!’ he said.” – Oops! by Robin Byrd

Some of these stories are hard to tell; we wonder why it’s still happening. Fighting for equality promised to us by law is exhausting…

“but bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma/ i havent conquered yet/ do you see the point my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender/” – For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

We have the right to tell the truths of our people and to write about how we are surviving more things than being shot in the streets, in our homes… We have the right to be awake without apology…

We also have the right to walk in love without that being mistaken as a pass for more abuse…

More books to read:

Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts.

RAIN

by Diane Grant

It’s the New Year and yesterday it was raining!  Hooray!

It wasn’t a big rain. There was a sprinkling on the windows and the roads are getting slick, but I’m not breaking out the umbrella yet.  (I always keep one by my desk at work – an old habit.)

When I was a kid in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, rain was a good part of my life.  I had a beautiful white slicker, red gumboots, and many different colored bandanas.  Ready for anything, hoping for a squall. 

One of the delights of childhood was in watching the worms in the rain puddles (cheap fun for all and of course, the boys would jump on them.) And it was so lovely and comforting at night, lying warm and cozy in bed, listening to the pounding on the windows.

No one ever said, “Help, it’s raining.”  We said, “There’s a bit of a mist today.  Better take an umbrella.” And we said that about seven months of the year.   I remember more than one of those umbrellas being blown inside out by the wind and rain working together.  Great fun!

 One of my favorite movies of all times is Singing In The Rain

Perfect casting, great plot, and dancing to die for. (I saw one interview with Debbie Reynolds, who said that they rehearsed the dancing until her feet bled.)   Every once in a while, my brain starts “Moses supposes his toeses are roses” and I feel happy.

THE NEXT Day

Well, that was wishful thinking.  It’s another beautiful clear day without a hint of mist!  But I’m hoping.

And, of course, I can go for a walk in the sun!

Love to all,

Diane

Kitchen Sink Trauma

by Leelee Jackson

I’ve always  hated the  term Kitchen Sink Realism. Not that I  hate the plays that fall under the category but that’s not my reality. I keep coming  back to this hard truth. The reality that I am a person who has lost love over dirty dishes. It is the most embarrassing reality I’ve had to face in my adult life, and I’ve endured some major failures. But this by far towers over them all. 

So I want to write about it. 

I used to consider myself a pretty clean person. It was clearly subjective, because of course I think that, I’m supposed to think that. No one’s ever like, “i’m hella dirty, lol, wanna live together?” That would be stupid. But over the years I’ve learned that being clean (or not so clean) is not only subjective, it can also be a response to trauma. 

If you grew up in a working poor family and identify as a person of color, being home alone might feel  like a for real luxury, because growing up, rarely ever was the home empty. Cousin need a place to crash until they can get back on they feet and there’s a couch and shelf in a closet so there’s space. Uncle just got out of prison and grandma begged your parents to take him in because her house is full and the foster people don’t allow former convicts in the house with kids anyways. Brother got his  girlfriend pregnant and her parents kicked her out. And the babies sleep in the other room gon be there until we find where they mama or daddy is. 

I grew up  with at first two working parents, and then just 1. As my father’s physical health declined, he was forced to leave the workforce and remain on disability for a great portion of my life. From ages 11 until 23, I saw my  dad cook, clean everything (or yell at us for not cleaning everything) and watch grandbabies. I was fortunate  to get to see him in that way. See him all the time at home, watching tv. Even with  my dad being at home all the time,  we (whoever was living there) was expected to clean up after ourselves. Though, we did not. 

The year was 1998. I was was 9 and my sister was 11. My grandmother fostered a kid who was between the age of my sister and I and at the time, we lived in my maternal grandma’s house, with  a bunch of uncles and cousins. And of course, we were responsible for cleaning the kitchen. In my family, cleaning the kitchen is washing the dishes, every single one of them, cleaning the counters and stove top, sweeping and mopping the floor and taking out all the trash. Nothing should be left out. Nothing should be sticky. My paternal grandma, she didn’t play the whole dishes in the sink game. She didn’t play none that dirty shit. I honestly loved going over my grandma’s house in Oakland (paternal) partly because she let us eat whatever we wanted and I never had to clean the dishes. But my maternal grandmother cooked every meal and with so many people living in one house, the dishes quickly piled, spilling out the sink onto the countertop and floor like a neglected infection. From breakfast to lunch, it would look like a restaurant scene in a movie where the caught dine and dashers have to roll up their sleeves and bust some suds. And every evening, guess who had to clean it? The preteens. Not my brothers and older cousins who were in high school at the time, and not my little cousins who were too young to clean right. The big kids. Personally, as a 31 year old, I wouldn’t trust a 9 year old to clean dishes right. And I didnt! I would throw away dirty dishes to avoid cleaning them and not bother to even rinse off the stubborn fruity pebbles before I put the bowl in the dishwasher (yes I grew up with dishwashers) which doesn’t clean but santizes. I left all tupperware in the sink to “soak” and I’d always have to redo the dishes in the morning for doing such a bad job in the evening. And still, I was expected to do a good job. But this one time, my sister was washing, I was rincing, and Sean, (the fostered 10 year old boy) was supposed to be putting the dishes away and wiping down the counters, helping. But he was in the den with the bigger kids talking about some, “clean my dishes woman” and all them foo’s was laughing and carrying on. My sister was so mad. She said, “As soon as I finish this last dish, Ima just take off on him.” I was going much slower then she was and had already thrown away a few knives anyways so I didn’t care too much that he wasn’t helping. I knew my grandma was gonna give him a whoopin for showing out like that. I couldn’t wait to tell. But my sister was serious. After tossing the last fork in the murky rinse water,  with soap up to her elbows, she went in there and beat his ass. I remember her shadow from the  den,  bleeding  in the  kitchen like a Kara Walker art  piece that made you feel pain and pleasure.  And all the big kids laughing at Sean getting whopped by a girl. She beat that boy so bad, my grandma had to take him to the hospital. 

After moving out of my grandmas house (that time) we got a little two bedroom apartment. I have 7 brothers and sisters. At any given moment, with cousins, friends and girlfriends, we would have up to 13 people staying with us at one time. Again, a lot of dirty dishes. My parents tried to assign days and weeks but it didn’t  work. They’d come home to not one clean cup to drink water from. They would go off on one of my brother’s and he would go off on me. Toss me around. Force me in the kitchen and block the entry way until I cleaned every dish. I’d throw things at him and punch him as hard as I could but he wouldn’t budge and he wouldn’t let me out until I had to take out the trash (again, full of dirty dishes). And no matter how many times they told us not to at church, I knew then what hate felt like. I hated being in that kitchen, screaming and crying until I lost my voice. And I hated my brother for forcing me to stay there. 

My sister and I often reminisce about our first apartment together, “I hated living with you. You never cleaned the kitchen.”I argue with her and tell her that it’s not true. That I would clean the kitchen all the time and didn’t have a problem with cleaning it and she retorts “when you feel like it. NOT when it needs to get done.” which is true. I don’t like to be forced, (ya think?!) but I didn’t have the language then to explain  something as simple and real as my feelings. 

Later in life, my housemate at the time (and my favorite cousin on my dad side) would talk to me often about cleaning up after myself. She would never yell or anything but I’d get really anxious and start accidently breaking dishes and scrubbing them really fast and hard to the beat of my heart. 

In undergrad, I had a housemate  who brother lived with us on campus. She would clean up after him and sometimes we let the dishes get crazy (no dishwasher). I remember calling a house meeting to strategize what would work best and she just started cleaning everything all the time. I think she felt bad that her brother was kind of messy and he was living there rent free. So she went into overdrive and became really clean and particular about everything. He moved out after the first quarter and I felt like it was because of me, or she felt like it was because of me. But instead of talking about it, she just got upset when I left dishes in the sink or smoked on the balcony or had friends over. But it was all taken out on the dishes that I didn’t clean. 

For a long time, I thought I was just lazy. That’s all I had known lazy was, a person who didn’t clean up after themselves. I accepted but I didn’t feel like a lazy person. Maybe messy, but not lazy. I had issues with being told or forced to clean up after myself. When I lived in an international housing community for a few years, we also had days of the week where one person was responsible for cleaning the kitchen (though we all were responsible for taking care of our dishes and our guest dishes). It sometimes worked and sometimes it didn’t. Maybe I had finals and wouldn’t even think about doing my day, or a different housemate who was a teacher, would not even bring her dirty dishes from her car the first few weeks of the school year. So we didn’t expect her to clean the kitchen and because there were 6 to 7 people living there, we were pretty flexible. It often got dirty but never too dirty, restaurant dirty. Every Monday evening after dinner, we all cleaned the kitchen together. All of us. One washing, one drying, one collecting dirty dishes and one putting away the leftover food. We would all clean the kitchen and I never felt angry, or hate or forced. I honestly felt good. Whenever I go over a friend’s house, I always offer to clean the kitchen, like I want to do it. I love serving them in that way, especially after I ate all they food. I didn’t feel lazy then. But I felt lazy in my home. 

Lazy- feeling your heartbeat out your chest and being so exhausted with the thought of being in the kitchen that you need to sleep it off for a while. Work up some courage. 

I didn’t have the language then to know that I was responding to a traumatic experience over and over again. It wasn’t until my last housemate (and one of my best friends) moved out and though he didn’t tell me, I know it was partially because of how fucked up the kitchen would get and for how long it remained that way. I’d sometimes wake up in a panic, feeling  like I needed to clean the kitchen before he saw it, just to see that he cleaned it already. I hated that he cleaned the kitchen, I mean I was grateful he was doing something I didn’t (and sometimes couldn’t) do, but in a way I felt like that was a soapy fist to my jaw. I’d swear to myself it wouldn’t happen again, like a triflin man trying to get back with his girl after breaking what’s left of her heart, “baby please, I won’t do it no mo’!”…until I do. 

My housemates had nothing to do with my trauma, though I can see how they must have felt disrespected by my lack of action. Maybe even like I was trying to attack them personally when I was just trying to defend myself. I had no clue. I didn’t mean to. I  honestly just thought I was lazy. 

In a workshop I attended led by poet Morgan Parker, as a writing prompt, she asked us to write about the room we were in. It could be any room from any time and we  had to write a poem about it. What it looks like. How it smells. I was transported to the hall leading to the kitchen I was trapped in as a child. All the doors were shut and the black trash bags of dirty clothes enveloped me. It  smelled like mildew. The only  safety was the  kitchen. A tiny window on the wall for fresher air. I thought I’d rather be here, but I should have known. 

Trauma is the worst! My friends who I lived with, who I don’t talk to anymore and who I once called love, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for my trauma to get on you. I’ve always hated the term kitchen sink realism anyways. They say it  as if kitchen is a neutral location. A place where women gossip and men eat and ponder big  decisions. But what about the fights that broke out over  stained pots and pans? The punches thrown with no resolution? After the food’s gone and the audience has left, who’s  stuck with the mess? 

I have so many stories that flood my memory about  fights breaking out over in the kitchen  or  over some dirty dishes.  First fights  and screaming matches that on stage would feel like a  bad play  you wanna  get out of. I don’t have a healthy solution. Other than writing and  going to therapy, I often have to remind myself that if I do it wrong or later, I won’t be punished. I ask for help if I need it and try not to get upset. I put on music and dance, liberating my body’s inner child and soaking last night’s dinner plate, telling her, “see it aint so bad sometimes.”. Decolonizing the space and my body that has to be there.  

the Price of Settling…

by Robin Byrd

There is a cost for everything – the biggest question is how much do you want to pay?

Lately, I have been researching a lot of things that seem random and disconnected – history, geography, post-traumatic stress, women’s issues, world class lies, isolation, and COVID. As a writer, mining for story is a regular event.  The problem, this time, is the mass intake of information and not knowing what it will be used for.  With all this extra knowledge, I feel like I should map directions to a new project.  I am just not sure what that project needs to be.  There is usually an arrow that lights up “go this way” but this time there is no arrow just continuous downloading of information. 

Questions, I am asking myself:

If you find out something was a lie, how do you handle the material that you wrote based on that lie?  Is it now considered a fictional account? 

Do you settle for what you now know to be false and leave it as is or do you correct it? 

What will it cost you to leave it?  Sleepless nights, self-esteem, integrity, or simply a ripple in time…

What is the price of settling, if you do nothing and just move forward?

What is the cost if you go back with what you know now and rewrite?  Rewrite.   That’s a word that triggers anxiety, it’s like losing your whole identity.  Paradigm shifts are hard especially when they are tied to your life and your work.

The act of writing can be an act of purging… I just want to always write my truth even when it changes, even when the bread crumbs that have just now become visible lead me to a place I had no idea existed.

I guess the price of settling to me is worth revisiting… it’s more about getting a sure footing in order to move forward and less about what it costs to get that sure footing…

A New Word and Old Word

A year ago, I don’t think I had ever heard of Covid-19.  When I did hear of it, I knew it sounded nasty.  Why 19?  I looked it up.  It’s an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease of 2019. 

Now, suddenly, everyone’s heard of Covid-19!  Should it be Covid 19-20? I hope not Covid 21!

It looks like this:

According to a report on my computer’s last update, October 21, there were 41,104,946 confirmed cases and 1,128,325 deaths in the world.  Astounding!

When I was a child, we heard about the bubonic plaque.  Horror stories were passed about in school and I remember one story about a woman in France, who knocked on a door, went inside when the door opened, and WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN. There were sayings, “He avoided me as if I had the bubonic plaque!

(It’s still around, apparently but can be cured.  It’s not the Black Death of old.)

And then there’s that new old word Zoom!  I have always thought that Zoom was something that the road runner did – beep, beep, and then he’d zoom far out of Wiley Coyote’s reach!”

Well, I looked it up!  The word means whizz along, which is certainly what the road runner does.

1886, of echoic origin. Gained popularity c. 1917 as aviators began to use it. As a noun from 1917. The photographer’s zoom lens is from 1936, from the specific aviation sense of zoom as “to quickly move closer.”

Then, of course, I had to look up “echoic” –  adjective – of or like an echo.

I have a very old motheaten Oxford dictionary which I’ve kept for sentimental reasons. I haven’t looked at it yet to see what it has to say about zoom.

It’s such fun to work on a computer because you can zoom!  And learn things so fast!

However, I still like to find a good book and curl up in a chair and read.  When I was young, we had a big floral living room chair that I loved and I could sit there for hours with my nose in a book.  My brother loved to see me sitting there and when all was quiet, he would creep up and suddenly shout, “Boo.”  And I, of course, would shout, “Mother!!!!”  And someone would say, “Leave your sister alone.”

I no longer have a big floral chair but I still like to curl up and read.  Today, my husband and I went for a walk and came across one of the delightful kiosks of free books.  And had a look, of course.  We found Famous Father Girl, A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein, by Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie.  Joy!

So, I’m off to read!

Sending love and wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Diane

Analysing your script

What do you do after you’ve finished writing your script?

Well, you can have friends read it, which these days can be quick and easy. Just read it on Zoom. A reading is helpful because after weeks of reading it to yourself and laughing at your own jokes, it’s time to let it out into the world to see if people think you’re as funny as you think you are. I say this, because I have found the play and fun again in writing a script.

If you’ll remember from an earlier post, I would write in a situation for my play that may have nothing to do with the story, but had to be present. That for me was a shirtless man. I’m not sure why that started, but it made for interesting storylines and justifications on why this character had to be on stage the entire time. Lately, I’ve found other things that make me giggle and may not make it into the final script, but to get me through the first draft, I need something. Which helped me get through a first draft. But when you have a reading of your play, your listeners may not understand that particular line and don’t find the joy in it that you do. For me that conversation came in the form of working with a dramaturg. I had included a line from a country song as part of dialogue and the dramaturg pointed out how it made her feel about the character and their relationships. Which was interesting because all I was hearing was the complete song with was more than cheating, which is what my dramaturg got from it. With further discussion I found a line that was even better and I imagined it being said out loud.

After the first read through of the script, the dramaturg asked questions of the actors of their understanding of the play. This was supremely helfpul because I was thinking “no one is going to get what I’m saying”, but they did. Success. As I fielded questions and comments from the actors and dramaturg, the storyline became ever more obvious to me and a few more tweeks would satisfy me.

I have one more meeting with my dramaturg, in which we’ll discuss some of the notes she took during the reading. While looking at them, I think of them from the perspective of an actor. I wonder how much of my own story am I bringing in my character decisions that actually are in no way related to the script at hand.

This first read through was also helpful as I have been having a love hate relationship with stage directions. After taking a writing class earlier this year, where the instructor made us keep our stage directions to a minimum, I was all in. Set the scene and let ‘er go. But now, I am adding some back in. Tell me, does it matter that the lines I wrote there is an argument happening, and as the actors read it, it was so tame. Do I need to add she moved aggressively towards her to make the point of a fight? and will the director care about that? will the actors see the fight coming? Do I have to add more !!!!!!!!! to emphasize the point I am trying to make?

Oh, did I mention this is just a 10-minute play. 10-minutes that I felt I really had to stretch to make happen, but after the meeting with the dramaturg I’m up to 11 pages. Woo hoo! You mean you can’t read my mind and see what I’m trying to say? That’s probably better anyway. Right?

So I am off to complete my edit so they can start rehearsal. But there’s just one thing. What’s another way to say “hill of beans” because right now I’m making up colloquialism I’m sure exist. Suggestions appreciated.

Keep writing!

Jennifer

SPARK: Writing Exercises for your Fuzzy Brain

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

Spark!

Earlier in the week, I worked on a rewrite of a 5-minute play (my contribution for the upcoming Los Angeles Short Play Festival, What’s Going On?, produced by Company of Angels. For more info on this festival, please visit: https://www.companyofangels.org/whatsgoingon) that shouldn’t have taken too long to work on but, in fact, took me almost the whole day. It’s not like re-writes come easy to me (an overthinker) but more so than that, my brain has been a little fuzzy as of late. It’s not hard to believe that with all that’s going on, and is continuing to develop, we (because I’ve heard this from other folks too) might not be as focused on the writing/work before us.

Fortunately, I am working with a really wonderful director, Sylvia Cervantes Blush, who quickly picked up what I was going through and gave me a writing exercise that really helped SPARK (hey, hey, there goes the title of this post!) something for me. This all started making me think of some of my favorite writing exercises that have, in this instance, helped me with the development of a current project, or some of which have just been super memorable because they allowed me to reflect and/or think outside the box. I’d like to share some of those here in hopes that it might help clear your fuzzy brain.

SYLVIA’S EXERCISE

To help me clarify what the message of my play was (because trust me, I lost it for a bit), Sylvia offered an exercise to me that consists of three parts. Part 1 asks you to take 20 minutes to go through your play from beginning to end, including stage directions and highlight the words/phrases that HAVE TO BE IN THE PLAY.

It should be noted that 20 minutes was more than appropriate to actually go through an entire 5-minute play. If you’re working on a full-length, well, than of course, give yourself an appropriate amount of time to go through the play but not so much that you have the time to dwell over every word/phrase you possibly can (assuming you’re an overthinker like me).

Once that time is up, comes Part 2! Here, you will take half the time you took in the first step—so for me that was ten minutes—and re-write the play with just those words. Don’t fret, Dear Reader, you’re not starting from scratch! Essentially, you’re blocking out everything you DID NOT highlight and then observing the play in its new little Frankenstein form.

I have to say, this was personally my favorite part. Reading the words/phrases I highlighted from my 5-minute play, blocked off from all the other clutter, sort of felt like diving into some poetry. 

Now, Part 3 made me a bit anxious. Part 3 asks that without looking at your original and Frankenstein drafts, you re-write the entire play! My hands just got sweaty typing that…

I did this third part in 30 minutes. Again, for folks writing full-length plays, you’re going to want to adjust that time appropriately.

The draft that was developed during this phase was most definitely not the final draft of my play BUT it was super helpful in going back to work on it, as influenced by these new interpretations of it.

LOVELL’S EXERCISE  

While part of the Son of Semele writers group, fellow member, Lovell Holder, gave us an exercise that made me start writing a play I often think about. For this exercise, we were asked to write a two-person narrative (play, prose, or poem—whatever you choose). Through out our writing, the proctor (in this case, Lovell) called out random words that we were to use in our piece. Of course, if you were already on some train of thought with your writing, then the random words were bound to  throw you off, but on the other hand, it could also drive your story somewhere pleasantly surprising, which was the case for me. Definitely a good lesson in rolling with the punches.

LTA/LA WRITERS CIRCLE EXERCISE

As a former member of the Latino Theatre Alliance/LA’s writers group, we would have notable LA playwrights visit our sessions and give us master class/workshop of their choice. This next exercise is from that time BUT, I honestly CANNOT remember WHO gave us this exercise. K sad (“How sad” for all my non-Spanglish readers).

This two-part exercise required that we draw ourselves in a place of emotional significance, but additionally, we are to include someone in that image who may or may not necessarily belong to that space. The second part of the exercise then asks that we then write dialogue between both people in that image, taking the space into consideration. To start you off, the first line of dialogue should be, “Do you really think you know everything there is to know”. Going back to space very quickly– I hate to admit this but I’m not always so good at following directions during exercises like these, either because I didn’t fully grasp what was asked of us or because… I just didn’t want to. I say this because NONE of my dialogue had nothing to do with the location of my play. I can’t say I was a rebel for going against the rules of this exercise, in this instance, I more so just didn’t listen because I got distracted. In any case, this was a super memorable exercise for me because I got to draw myself (in my preferred pants-free state) in my assigned dorm room at the University of Sussex when I was studying abroad. Not to brag, but mine was the BIGGEST dorm room on the floor, so yeah, I was having solo dance parties in there FOR SURE. But back to the exercise… Included in my drawing was my sister’s dog, Lita, who has long been over my shit, so the dialogue portion of the exercise was fun and biting.

This assignment, overall, just did the job of taking me out of my fuzzy brain and putting me in a good mood, so at the very least, I would recommend it for that.

Me and Lita <3

Anyway, if you are experiencing fuzzy brain, I hope that you feel inclined to try one of these exercises. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know how it went.

the speed of sound…

by Robin Byrd

the dead are speaking

literally…

I ran into my mother’s voice; it came out of nowhere – attached to a file on my computer

hit me like a bolt of lightning

I gasped, I cried out, “Mommy!”

I was a ball of emotions

I played it over and over again, oh, how I’ve missed the sound of her voice

She’s been in my dreams for the last month

“what is he reading?” she asks, upset that death forbids her tend to it

the collage of her is everywhere

even my breasts are mommy’s breasts now, courting gravity like a first kiss, surprised yet not so impressed

my hands are starting to cook like hers, I bought a new pot so I can make her stew

been craving it for years, I am my mother’s daughter, her face is in my face

and I think she’s ready to tell her story

She’s coming to me like my characters do but she’s more forceful – like coming back to the middle of a semi-heated conversation we were just having to say one more thing

so familiar

“WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, ALL OUR SINS AND GRIEF TO BEAR, WHAT A PRIVILEGE TO CARRY, EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER…”

Her favorite song rises out of the silence in my head

yeah, she’s ready…

and then, last night, I was reading old blogs of mine because I couldn’t sleep nor could I remember me before–

and there, in the comments was Erica (Bennett) telling me she hopes I feel better – the words were audible, clear

“Erica?”

“I hope you feel better…”

“I miss you, Erica…”

and in the background, I could hear another friend saying, ”God loves me.”

He was walking briskly towards me so full of joy…

the dead are speaking…

it’s making me shake myself like Samson and get to swinging

’cause I got things to do…

They are reminding me to redeem the time because the space between now and eternity is as far away and as close as the speed of sound…

Riding the Air…

by Robin Byrd

Is it like riding the air?   movement…   

I seem to have forgotten – stuck here like I am in the hardly bearable heat of these walls and the “go nowhere” doors from sun up to moon down.  I tell myself that I am not going to faint or lose heart, that I am going to subdue this beast one hour at a time, one day at a time, by the Grace of God…

but I really want flight, I yearn for air… I want wings and I want wind to ride. I been looking for signs of movement, looking for a great big wind to come skip-to-my-lou all through this mess, dislodge some rivers for baptisms, root up healing herbs and toss some around for everybody to have.

I want to relax, I want to float like a leaf and land picturesquely on the grass showing off the beautiful colors of my whole self.  I don’t want to apologize for nothing not for floating, landing or seeking air.  If I push myself, I bet I can land far enough away from here so I can breathe new/fresh pockets of wind…bet I can land somewhere east of here, near appalachia, up where lavender lilies bloom, where rose of sharon sings… 

I can’t breathe here no more in this heavy porous atmosphere, it’s dropped down way too low, to the little grassy piece of earth I live on and I just can’t breathe.  I thought I was imagining it but it’s real – the air is thick; thick and sticky like a glob of peanut butter caught in the throat daring you to drink water, threatening to thicken regardless…

I need air and space and

God cracking the skies…

Oh, God, blow on us, shower us with rain and the latter rain, deliver us, heal this land…

Heal the land, Father… we humble ourselves and pray

we pray

we Pray

we PRAY

We dream of riding the night winds again, of sleeping well and waking rested

send Your wind, help us fly

lift us up high enough to catch hold

let us mount up with wings as eagles — send the wind, Lord, send the Wind…

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 King James Version (KJV)