Category Archives: Playwright

Succinctly…

The things that make us who we are and the fodder that fills our pens can be some very scary stuff.  

‘Succinctly’, that is not a word that describes how trauma behaves in the lives of the traumatized.  It is not a brief episode; it will not go away momentarily.  Trauma lingers for a lifetime informing the world of those affected by it and it is not neat – it leaves dregs all over the place.

I like to write about secrets, this has been mine.  Not that it unknown just not something I shared openly, outside of a story or a poem.

Recently I shared that I suffer from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).  Decades after the traumatic events that caused it, I said it out loud in a full sentence – “I suffer from PTSD.”  One person asked me, what caused that?  My next words were, “I am a rape survivor – a several*-time rape survivor.”  I have no idea why after 40 years (from the first event) that I suddenly could say that PTSD is a factor in my life.  It is a breakthrough for me and a big one.  Dealing with trauma is a 24/7, 365/day affair.  One cannot put a band-aid on it, take two aspirins and call it life.

It is never that simple. I came into puberty fighting off hands…

The first 5 years after the rapes, I suffered horrific flashbacks every day.  I would sleep run…  I found myself on a few occasions in the middle of the road in front of my father’s house, dashing toward the busy street lights.  Mid-stride I would stop in the pitch black, not knowing why I was running, what I was running to, and how I got out of the house.  I really had to pray about that.  I prayed that God would wake me up and He did, I started waking up at the door, then in the room and then the running stopped altogether.  Flashbacks are few and far between because I know to try hard to veer away from triggers.

Flashbacks show up in my work.  I was once told that writers should not use flashbacks.  I am unable to follow that rule.  Writers tend to write what they know.

It is a journey – a long one.  There is a book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S. Kushner, that I read, after the dung hit the fan, that kept me from dwelling in the land of, “Why me?”  This book has some good points in it.  Another book, “The Body Keeps the Score (Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma)” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., that I have read recently, several times, has been instrumental in me getting to the point of being able to claim the monster.  In the section titled “Breaking the Silence,” Van Der Kolk says, “If you’ve been hurt, you need to acknowledge and name what happened to you…  The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know.  That takes an enormous amount of courage.”

I am striving for a fierceness in my work and that takes courage to do also.  So, what now?  Same as always, I continue to press toward the mark…because I refuse to stop…

I am writing my world whole…

To others on this or similar journeys toward wholeness…Blessings…

 

 

On Finding Endings

by Chelsea Sutton

This is may be a trick. I’ve been tricking myself all summer long into thinking I had to accomplish a certain amount of writing work in order to call this arbitrary three months a success.

I usually don’t put so much pressure on summer specifically (on myself, yes, all the time) but this is the first summer I’ve had “off” since undergrad. This is the summer between my first and last year of grad school – a summer where my freelance work, my writing life, and my general mental health was all up in the air. So my list of projects to “finish” grew and grew.

What does this have to do with endings?

As I playwright, I feel like I’ve generally got a knack for endings and for striking images at the beginning. It’s, of course, the middle part that gets muddy.

I love writing endings. I usually know exactly where I want things to go, or at least the emotional weight or the image that a play needs to land on. It might end up shifting around, but when I start something, that ending is already a glimmering oracle on the horizon.

So this is why my summer got messed up. I had a beautiful ending planned: finish this play, rewrite that one, write that screenplay, finish that novel, write this short screenplay, finish the short story collection…I have ALL summer, so what’s wrong with that ending?

The problem is really that it is a false ending. That summer and your writing life doesn’t follow a three act structure and sometimes you have to build self-care time into things (which is not interesting to watch) and you have to put in the hard work and the starts and stops and frustrations. You have to really factor in how much TIME all this stuff takes. None of which is fodder for dramatic entertainment. But all of which is life.

My summer started when the production of my play Wood Boy Dog Fish ended on June 24.

Then I slept for a couple weeks. I felt lost. The constant panic in my chest had gone and it had been replaced with dread.

Then I went to the Sewanee Conference in Tennessee for two weeks as a Playwright Fellow. Met some amazing people I hope will continue to be friends throughout our careers. Then I drove around for five days by myself and experienced the weirdness of Tennessee.

One of many odd things…

Then I got back to LA. Did freelance work. Stressed out. Didn’t write much. Some screenplay stuff. Some rewrites for the new Rogue Artists Ensemble show I’ve been writing with Diana Burbano and Tom Jacobson.

Cried.

Ate too much cheese.

Stressed out.

Cried some more.

Panicked that I hadn’t finished my long list of writing.

And now, as I’m writing this, I am waiting at LAX to fly to France – surprise! Not something I had planned on. A twist ending. A short puppet play of mine is a finalist for the UNIMA call for young writers, and they invited the finalists to come to Charleville-Mézières, France for a paper theatre workshop, a reading, and the award ceremony. So I said…sure. Let’s go.

Because sometimes twists just show themselves and you end up following that path you didn’t see until it was right there.

When I fly back on September 25, my second year of grad school will start two days later and my summer will officially be over. This summer “play” (re:my life) began in bed sleeping off the hangover of the past 9 months, and staring at fire flies in southern humidity. It will end in Paris. It doesn’t actually make any sense. This play would be ripped apart in workshop.

But its a false ending. Because nothing is over. The summer is just three months. And things happen in the time they happen, and when you force a something (a play, a life) to work in a way it is just not capable of working, you’ll get stuck, staring at the page. And crying. And eating too much cheese.

I intend to eat quite a bit of cheese in France.

And as far as endings go, even false ones – that’s not too bad.

New on the LA FPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Inda Craig-Galván

Inda Craig-Galván

August, 2018

Alyson Mead interviews playwright Inda Craig-Galván about questionable mothers, Carrie as a role model, and a better Scott Baio. The Playwrights’ Arena premiere of  I Go Somewhere Else plays at the Atwater Village Theater through September 17th.

 

Listen In!



What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LA FPI Podcasts

Let it go!

First off, let me start by apologizing if you have “that” song stuck in your head.  But it is something I have been thinking about lately.  Letting go and just how you do it.  After having some deep thoughts about what to write about next, I find old starts to plays that I never got around to finishing.  Be it from losing interest in the subject, or getting lost down the rabbit hole of research, these tiny gems of writing deserve to see the light of day.  Or do they?

When I started them, I was passionate about the story and felt I needed to tell it.  But as interest waned, so did the story.  I did not love it as much anymore, so I stopped writing. At times I thought I should just push through the pain and agony I felt of writing, but other times I would think why work on something you don’t love.  And if the latter is the case, will I fall in love with it again?

As I sit here sorting through my note cards of brilliance (as I like to call them) I feel the sparks of love that were once there.  But will the spark turn into a forest fire, or just fizzle out in a light breeze?

The next thoughts that seep into my brain are:  “Well, this story is kinda current in the news right now; maybe I should finish this piece”.  Again is that a good enough reason to look into? There is no burning desire to work on it; it’s just “yeah, it’s there”.  But I also don’t have anything burning a hole in my notebook that I must write about.  (Sidebar: what’s with all this burning?)

Why do I even worry about this?  Why am I now expending so much energy on this topic?

I am thinking about this, not only for my writing, but other aspects of my life as I take a look at what I have done thus far this year and how I’m stacking up with my to-do list.  Looking at new job possibilities and the freelance lifestyle that I currently have going on. When is enough enough? When do you shut down these passion projects that were once integral parts of your life, as expiration dates creep up, you start evaluating whether you want to go on or not.

So I ask you, when is it good to “Let it Go” and when do you push through for writings sake?

Keep writing!

by Jennifer Bobiwash

Done!

by Jennifer Bobiwash

I had forgotten the exhilarating feeling of enjoyment of writing. I have been working in a supervisory roll, meaning I sit back and wait for something to happen, and most days I literally just sat there. I could bring other work if I wanted, but I chose to sit there, glancing occasionally at my phone and social media, but that got boring after a while. This of course was after clearing out my podcast backlog. Who knew it was that easy to go through 100+ episodes of just one.  I had to start looking for other things I was interested in. I cannot tell you what a motivator this was to me and it made overseeing the job not so quiet.  I could sit there with my phone on speaker or just one ear bud in, and take notes of the interesting points of view from that day’s topic.  It also helped my writing. When I write, I try to work out all angles.  I play my own devil’s advocate. I should look at it as giving my characters different points of view and more depth, but for me it was to try and hit both sides of the argument, because even though I might share only point of view, I tried to construct how my argument would happen.  I never thought of this as dialogue, I just wrote it out, but realistically, that what it is. Giving my characters depth and being able to present current issues in a well rounded point of view.

After a few days of procrastinating and working things out in my head, I finally narrowed down what I wanted to say.  I also only had 2 days until the submission deadline. What made it easier for me was to write out the rant(s) that my character needed to say.  After listening to the variety of podcasts though, the rants were all over the map.   When I was finally sitting down writing out the scene, all the things I wanted to say were distilled and my protagonist found her voice.

Next problem, was figuring out how I wanted it to end.  I finished it and submitted it with a whole day left to spare.  It was like a weight had been lifted and I wondered why it had taken me so long to write this 10 minute play, but it felt so good!  The only drawback now, what’s next?

How do you feel when you’ve finished that first draft?

Let’s write! Right?

Ok, so you’ve finished a play.  You feel super excite and ready to write more.  You are wondering what the next project is and why you have not been doing this more.  Then you get so excited that you start Googling and researching (which, let’s face it is your demise, because you get so into your research, that you aren’t actually writing anything) and then the hammer drops and you need a glass of whine wine because you now feel down about yourself because you are finding all these people you know that have been writing and working, while you have been hiding from everything and listening to way too many self-help books that gave you a shot of encouragement, yet fed your love of knowledge and made you read more about self-confidence instead of actually writing (which is what is was supposed to do). You are seeing all your peers (right? they are your peers because you’re both writers) getting stuff done and you feel like an imposter.  Wait, did I just say that twice?

Ok, unpack that for a second.  Because we are super self-aware society (at least people want to think “they would never do that – I know myself”) we don’t think we are good enough, or that someone will find out that we are not “qualified”.  I say, we, but it’s the royal “we”.

Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, get it done! So for this week, I hope you will enjoy my journey and I invite you to comment on the struggles you’re facing.  That’s why I blog about the ugly stuff, because I want to connect to others out there who are having similar issues (I was going to say problems, but I’m trying to stay positive). I would read other writer’s blogs in the hopes that I would be able to relate, and most times I just found writing tips, which were super helpful, but not in the ways that I needed help.

So I will post a blog everyday and stop starting every sentence with the word so.

See you tomorrow, and keep writing!

by Jennifer Bobiwash

5 Years Later… She Writes A Play!

by Andie Bottrell

Movie Still from Synecdoche New York

I’m writing a gosh-dang play again for the first time in years and finally feel like I am almost legitimate enough to be blogging for the LAFPI! I’ve spent the last two years working on my webseries SEEK HELP, and making a life-changing decision. After completing the webseries, I was contemplating my next big creative project and I landed on this play I started working on back in 2011 or so before abandoning it for other projects.

I’ve had a one-act play performed on stage, and had readings of my full length plays both in public and private workshops, but never had a full length play of mine produced or published and I would love to go on that journey, if that journey will have me. The salivating, desirable thing about a play (done right), as opposed to a film or tv show or book, is:

  • The Immediacy: You get immediate feedback from the audience.
  • The Hostage Component: The audience is trapped, hidden away from the outside world and digital world’s distractions. They are forced to confront the situation presented in front of them and to enter into an imagined circumstance that demands their engagement.
  • The Visceral Exchange: The audience inevitably affects the performance and the performance affects the audience. This exchange of energy can offer a magical high.
  • The Unpredictable Originality: No matter how rehearsed a play, great performers are always still just reacting to what they are given in the moment and great performers are always still searching for new moments and deeper truths throughout the run. So, no matter how rehearsed, every night is a slightly different show. This is an art form that evolves.

In other words, a play is a living, breathing, growing entity. If you want to explore big ideas, ethical dilemmas, flaws in humanity or culture, expand a communities view on something, I can think of no better way than to build a play. As Chelsea wrote about in the post below, nearly all plays have messages, and the best ones, the ones that actually have the ability to open minds or change perspectives or prejudices, do so in a way that is so entertaining that you don’t even notice the medicine the playwright is slipping down your throat as you watch.

The hard and frustrating work of playwriting is trying to turn those big ideas into genuinely good and captivating entertainment…usually while sitting alone in your apartment late at night. The fun and exciting part of playwriting is getting a group of people together to work on the play, to communally birth a piece of art in a collaborative form. The latter being the part that is currently motivating me through the former. I see pieces of the play in my head; I want to see it outside my head. I want to discuss this topic in depth with others. And there, really, I think is the root of why I write. I want to bring people together. I love structured hangs but hate unstructured parties. I want to have deep conversations, not small talk. I want to feel, think, be challenged and examine myself and others and the world. I want to know I am not alone, and I want to understand that which is different from me in a visceral way. I don’t think I am unique in that–I think many writers write because we want to bring people close to us, to invite them over, not just for a cocktail, but to go all the damn way down…down to the colon! I wanna see your shit–the stuff you’re proud of, the stuff you are ashamed of, I wanna see how you navigate big decisions and deal with life’s pain, I wanna feel your laughter, your joy, see how you love, understand a new slice of life better–I wanna experience it all and I want everyone else to experience it to, because I think that’s the most efficient way to build empathy and understanding, and thereby mend differences and cultivate a peaceful respect for each other.

I love theatre. Deeply. I respect it for the power it has and am captivated by it’s magic. I am excited for a more diverse theatre landscape. There are so many stories we haven’t told, haven’t experienced. We think we’ve seen it all sometimes, but there are so many points of view that have not yet been given the opportunity of a stage and an audience. I am excited for more plays by and about women, people of various ethnic backgrounds, from different countries and cultures, of different ages, of all different gender and sexual identities, of various experiences, to create new works set in and about our time. I think now more than ever we could collectively benefit from unplugging and coming together in a dark room to pass the baton and tell each other who we are and what it means.

Wish me luck (ie. motivation, stamina, intelligence, clarity, artistry, articulation, and courage) as I continue on my journey to prove I belong on the LAFPI roster–I mean, to finish this play and work to get it on it’s feet.

 

Finding Meaning

by Chelsea Sutton

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Here’s the thing. We all want our plays to mean something. In political times like these (or, if we’re being real, at just about any political time ever), the writer stands at the precipice of a canyon of noise and anger and disruption. And we think – how can I possibly make a blip in this mess?

As both a marketing person and a playwright, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince people about why a play is “relevant” – and more than that, why theatre is “relevant” – and why they should spend this amount of money and this amount of time buying into a false reality and be moved in some way, to be challenged or questioned.

It is exhausting.

In our struggle to be “relevant” (a word I might actually despise right now) – we playwrights sometimes produce “message” plays – plays that tend to hit on a topical conversation (gay marriage, terrorism, gun control, abortion) but not only hit on it, hit it right on the damn nose. There’s usually a moment when the playwright-thinly-veiled-as-a-character has a speech that describes why their view on the topic is the correct one. We all have one of these plays because the topic is important to us, because we are trying to be heard above the noise, because goddamnit, art can mean something.

The problem with message plays is that they tend to preach to the choir. My opinion is not going to be changed because you deliver a monologue in my direction. Chances are, if I’m in the audience of your message play, I already agree with you. It’s the algorithm. It is everywhere.

But, I will question my point of view if you give me characters I can relate to and love, a situation that is relatable or complicated and tense, and a slice of humanity that perhaps I had never considered before. Show me the grey area I’ve been ignoring. I might not change my opinion, but perhaps now I can see through the clutter and the postulating, all the way to the person on the other side.

Theatre has to work harder, to be more than a Facebook or Twitter argument. Give me a message, but dip it in character and setting and poetry and beauty and darkness and comedy first. Coat it on thick, pull all the threads together, and make me swallow it with a smile on my face or ugly tears in my eyes. And I will digest that message over the next day or week or months or years – I will feel it there, even if the words don’t come right away.

I don’t want a thesis statement. I don’t want to be able to describe in a sentence what your play was about after I’ve walked out. Make me feel it, show me what its about. Audiences are smarter than you think. Make them work. Even when they are being entertained, put them to work. This is not a passive art. It is not a passive life. We cannot be passive.

Here’s the thing. There are plenty of people out there who say that art is irrelevant (and plenty of those people are in power right now), or that they don’t take meaning from art and that art is not there to mean something. But art always means something, even if you don’t realize what it is telling you. We consume stories and art constantly, even if we never step foot in a theatre.

So I suppose all plays are message plays. But it is how we choose to frame it that makes the difference. Take your message and frame it in different ways. See what life it takes on.

Pick a frame.

We cannot measure our worth as writers based on the number of minds that are changed after two hours of the theatre. Minds are far too stubborn. Instead, we should challenge ourselves to let our hearts explode onto the page and the stage, and hope somehow, somewhere, a shard of the heart lodges into another person, and you are intrinsically linked for the rest of your lives.

The world is changed by marches and strikes and wars and protests and hitting the pavement, but also by one shard of one heart in one stranger.

Here’s the thing. It is exhausting. It is indescribably messy.

And it is always relevant.

 

Where is the end?

I like to call myself an accidental writer.  I didn’t start out wanting to write plays, blog postsr essays, but I always wrote.  I don’t know if I’ve  told you this before, but I, up until recently, had a 3-inch binder full of hand written things on different sizes paper with different incarnations of my handwriting.  It wasn’t like a scrapbook, more of a reminder of what I used to do for fun.  A collection of angsty teen poems that now make me laugh and smile as the memories of those people come flooding back.  This collection is now housed on my hard as I scanned it all to make moving easier and lighter and instead of a binder I now have a collection of tiny notebooks that I bought on sale at Vromans.  I couldn’t pass up the crying tiger.
These notebooks are littered with with half started ideas, and notes from books and websites I have read all in the hopes of finishing something.  I bought four of them in the hopes they would fill quickly with new musings as my hopes to write daily.  Years later I’m finally on my 4th notebook.  It has taken me a long time to get here.  I went through book one the other day and wondered who this author was?  I must have copied “that” from somewhere, I think as I read it.  Who is this person?  Then as I read on, I find the sarcastic humour and inside jokes that I tell and I am reminded that yes, Jennifer you have some moments and why aren’t you sharing this with the world.  What is stopping you?  I also realize that I have to quit thinking of things as accidents.  Writing has obviously always been a part of me, as witnessed in the binder and notebook collection.  I hesitate to call myself a writer because nothing has ever felt finished.  It’s a wonder I finish blog posts. Or maybe I don’t even finish those, come to think of it…Because there is always more to the story that I start writing about and then get caught up in my thoughts and hems and haws and never quite feel complete.  I am getting better.  I think.  Instead of one hapless page of notes, I now try and complete a thought before I stop writing. Maybe I am subconsciously wanting to engage the reader?  Wanting to talk about the world around us in a non-threatening way, and in this digital age it is so much easier to hide behind the anonymity of the internet.  To hide behind an avatar or a picture of you from 5 years ago.  To feel warm and safe when the trolls come out to play.  Maybe that’s why I don’t finish anything?  Because my fear of the discussions I want to have are outweighed by the fear of someone actually reading my stuff…
Yet here I am getting ready to hit “post” on this mishmosh of thoughts.

Until next time,

Jennifer

Adieu to DC’s Theatre Scene

I’ve escaped to the bedroom while a quartet of hardworking young men pack my lamps and my pictures and drag more than a dozen bins of fabric out into the hallway of my high rise. It’s moving day here in Washington. After nearly a decade, living within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol, my husband and I are finally returning to Los Angeles.

It seemed like a good time to look back at my D.C. years as a playwright.

No, Arena Stage did not invite me to participate in their Playwrights Arena playwriting group or commission me for one of their Power Plays. No, Studio Theatre didn’t fall in love with my work. Nor did Olney or Signature or Synetic. In many ways, I felt like I’d arrived in DC about ten years too late. Like the rest of D.C., the theatre scene is very much a relationship game. And those relationships had been formed long before I got here.

But I did find other opportunities. And so could you.

Several D.C. theatres give a nod to local playwrights by selecting new ten minute plays that thematically relate to their mainstage production. My short L.A. riots play got an airing at the Jewish themed Theater J. A development group The Inkwell offers rehearsal space at Wooley Mammoth, actors, a dramaturg, and a director to work on 20 minutes of a full length play. I met my favorite D.C. director Linda Lombardi through this experience. (She was directing one of the other plays.) Another group Theater Alliance hosts what it calls the Hothouse New Play Development Series. It offers a commission, a week of rehearsal, and terrific actors for a one-night staged reading of new full-length work. My full-length L.A. Riots play WESTERN & 96th got an airing there.

That same theatre teamed up with California’s National Center for New Plays at Stanford and Planet Earth Arts to commission playwrights for an evening of ten minute work about the Anacostia River watershed. The plays got a second performance on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. My new ten minute play KENILWORTH – the story of a woman who fought the government to preserve her water lily farm – was read at that festival. And then the story grew and grew into a full length.

Unlike Los Angeles, where big corporations moved out years ago and took their arts money with them, the D.C. government sets aside a huge amount per capita for arts grants. A grant from the D.C. Arts & Humanities Commission and Planet Earth Arts made it possible to produce a staged reading of what is now called QUEEN OF THE WATER LILIES on Earth Day this spring. The cool part is that it was done in a National Park on the footprint of the house where the heroine lived most of her life, surrounded by the water lily ponds she loved.

The D.C. Arts & Humanities Commission also has an annual award for playwriting. I’ve come in second two times for D.C.’s Larry Neal Award. (First place comes with a nice check. Second place comes with a glass of wine and some cheese at the reception.)

Another commission came my way courtesy of the artistic director of one of the very fine children’s theatres here in D.C. The commission wasn’t for Adventure Theatre.  It was to create a one-person show for an organization called Pickle Pea Walks to be performed every weekend on the grounds around the White House for all those tourists who didn’t get their security clearance. My play QUENTIN is about the youngest son of Theodore Roosevelt on the night before he reports for duty in World War I. He’s hoping to reunite with his pals from the years when he lived in the White House. They don’t show up, so instead he takes tourists down memory lane to help him say goodbye to D.C. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Quentin Roosevelt’s death (his plane shot down by German fliers in World War I) and rangers from Sagamore Hill (the Roosevelt home) are coming to D.C. to see the production this July.

D.C. is also home to the fabulous summer Capital Fringe Festival. As an audience member, I’ve seen an opera based on the War of 1812, a 45 minute version of “Moby Dick,” and more political plays than even Washington could imagine. My own entry was a production of ALICE: an evening with the tart-tongued daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Alice was famous for her bon mots (“If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me.”) and lived most of her life here in Washington. The show played to sold-out houses and was named critic’s pick by The Washington Post.

There are also odd opportunities for playwrights in this town. I was once asked to write a play in 40 minutes based on an audience suggestion. The wonderful artistic director at MetroStage – the first person in D.C. to fall in love with anything I’ve written – invited me to take over her theatre on a Monday night for a public reading of my controversial play with a character in blackface THE LUCKIEST GIRL. I was challenged to write a one minute play for a festival at Roundhouse Theatre – one of dozens being performed for one night only. I knew I wanted mine to stand out, so I wrote a naked play METAL DETECTOR. It was great fun to see the sign warning of “brief nudity” in the box office window.

I also served four years as a judge for Washington’s version of the Tony’s – the Helen Hayes Awards. This meant free tickets to some of the best – and some of the worst – evenings of theatre in America. (I’ve learned to ask: “will blood be spilled on the audience?”)

Finding community has been the most difficult part of living in D.C. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. I was lucky enough to find a writing group – Playwrights Gymnasium – and a terrific crew of writers. Unfortunately, the group has been on haitus the past several years. We’re all too busy. And frankly, all that business has left me lonesome here in D.C.

So I’m coming home.

I’m nervous about rejoining the L.A. theatre community. It’s likely that many of the literary managers reading scripts today were still in high school when I was last living in Los Angeles. Most of the artistic directors I know have retired. Or died. It will be like starting all over again. Just like it was ten years ago when I moved to Washington. But Southern California is home for me. I’m looking forward to re-introducing myself.