Category Archives: playwriting

I Don’t Recognize Myself At All

by Andie Bottrell

I went to the gym tonight, as I have every other day this week. This morning, like every morning the last few weeks, I woke up an hour before my alarm and luxuriously rose back up to life with cereal and juice and music and dog snuggles. I’ve been going to be bed early and I make my bed every single morning. I clean up after myself when I leave each room. I’ve been cooking meals and eating them (instead of just binging family-sized chips from a bag in bed).  I shower…regularly.

I don’t recognize myself at all!

The last month or so has been spent preparing my old and new residences for a move. Painting walls back, painting walls…forward?  Packing, U-hauls, buying new things to fill the new space, painting and more painting, unpacking, rearranging, dreaming and planning and doing. Towards the end of August I officially moved in with my best friend into the house he has been renting with another person/people for years.

We have learned and are still learning together how to grow through the challenges of taking a relationship to the next level (even platonically–moving in together is an adjustment!), of learning how to communicate needs and wants and feelings, how to prioritize creative differences and compromise, how to support and love and push each other. While there have been tears and fights, on the whole…now, a few weeks into our new “normal”…I can honestly say I have never felt more balanced, happy, or been more productive.

And there is more than one reason for that. A few weeks ago I casually posted on social media that I was considering starting my own design business. What had happened was a few weeks before that I had been offered a job that would have propelled me into a life I never imagined I’d live, with money I’d never imagined I’d have, doing a job I’ve never wanted to have. It was an incredible opportunity and I was totally flattered and, frankly, salivating a little at the idea of the huge leap in income, but ultimately, I turned it down. I turned it down because 40 hours a week of my life is far too large a sacrifice and because I am Andie Bottrell and I am a goddamn talented, hard working creative entity and I’ll be damned if I can’t make something of myself in the creative realm.

So, I mentioned toying with the idea of starting my own design company–call it Designing Indie or something. Suddenly friends started reaching out to me to create things for them. As soon as I finished one project, another project would arrive. It’s been wild and wildly unexpected. I’ve been so busy working on client projects I haven’t had time to design my logo and my website to officially launch the business!

This constant creative work (on top of the two day jobs I still hold down) has been a lot, but it has been rewarding and validating as hell. I love the challenge of learning new aspects of creating. I’ve made custom stationary, business logos, business cards, magazine ads, a poster, and a website in the last few weeks.

Recently I was back in Los Angeles for week to work on a TV pilot I co-created/co-wrote that we were filming…which was it’s own kind of “growth opportunity,” but I didn’t know if when I arrived back in Los Angeles for the first time since I moved (against my will) back to Missouri 5 years ago…if I would regret last years decisions to stay in Springfield and not move back. But I didn’t. I didn’t at all. What’s more…as I walked through various LA hotspots, I noticed a significant change…I no longer felt weighed down by that heavy need for everyone I met and everyone who could see me to like me, find me attractive, and want to hire me.

I love my life. I love myself. I don’t need to impress anyone to achieve either of those things anymore. This little life I have now…I built that myself and with the help of friends and family near and dear to me. I don’t feel anxious to find love or romance–in fact, I don’t want to bring anyone into my life who can’t match or improve what’s already been built, because it is so good and it’s been so long coming.

My home now is filled with love and creativity, laughs and ideas, music and hearty meals. My life is filled with creating every single day, advocating for kids, spending time with people I love sharing time with, performing, sleeping with dogs in my bed, and living with a feeling that anything I want to make happen…I can make happen. And if I ever start to doubt that…I have several someones who remind me.

I know and respect myself and am learning every day how to speak up for myself and my beliefs.

I don’t recognize myself! The young woman who started blogging for LAFPI five years ago would have never stayed in Springfield, MO and declared it “home,” she would never have been able to walk through Hollywood or any street in this body with arms exposed and not had to fight back an avalanche of self-hatred and the impulse to bang her wrist against hard surfaces, she wouldn’t be able to not apologize for having needs, she wouldn’t be happy to just create…she wanted to create in one specific way, she wanted success in one specific way, she thought she needed to look one specific way, she thought she needed to live in one specific city and have one specific life to be happy and fulfill her destiny… but all of the beautiful details of life, all the joy and beauty and growth… it all comes from letting go of those specificities that you can’t control and embracing, instead, the universe’s divine concoction of whatever happens, plus what you make of it.

You are *exactly* where you are. What are you gonna do with it?

 

PS. If you have Showtime, be sure to catch me in Above Ground starting in October. It’s a movie I did a few years ago that’s now making it’s TV premiere! Who knew moving back to Missouri would land me a big role in a movie on Showtime? Not me!

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.

Ten New Play Prompts

By Tiffany Antone

Well, its Friday, and I’ve just completely slacked on blogging during my guest week!  In order to make amends, I offer you a series of unique photos from Unsplash as writing prompts.  What worlds do these photos inspire in you?  Photo by Aeviel Cabral on UnsplashPhoto by Jimmy Fermin on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by Neko Tai on Unsplash

Photo by Tobi Oluremi on Unsplash

Photo by arvin febry on Unsplash

Photo by Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash

Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

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

When your play follows you around the house…

Nocturne, Artwork by Cynthia Wands, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Cynthia Wands

The last few days I’ve been hearing some wild stories, and revisiting memories that seem directly broadcasted to the rewrites I’m doing . Some of the stories and phrases stalk me and won’t leave me alone until I write them down.  It’s like being followed by a twenty pound cat that just wants to escort you around the house and walk in between your legs.

(That would be Ted.)

 

 

 

 

And I’m hearing unexpected stories about ghosts and hoarding and old houses.

I know it’s because my antenna is on and I’m hearing the words I’m looking for. But it is a bit overwhelming: is my writer’s radar on and that’s why I’m hearing these things? or is a form of psychosis? previous lives manifesting themselves in voices?

It seems a bit mad, to be obsessed with sorting through imaginary conversations and places and things, and witnessing such electric connections.  But that’s the assignment here in the rewriting. I have my work cut out for me.

I’ll just have to watch out for that cat walking next to me in the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Cynthia Wands

On Sunday afternoon, I had a chance to listen to a reading of my new script.

Ouch. Opps. Really. What.

Intermixed with:

That voice! That actress! Love that guy who’s reading. Wow. Oh – I hadn’t thought of that line that way. What? These actors: wow.

And also:

Wait. Where’s that scene? Did I drop that scene? That’s right, I dropped that scene. Maybe I don’t need that scene. Do I need this scene? Where is that scene, the other one – did I even write that other scene?

It was, as is usual for me, an astonishing and brief and intense experience to hear imagined words read out loud. I was alternately delighted and horrified by what I’ve written, and what I heard. I’ve learned to expect to be overwhelmed by staged readings of my work – and I was.

And the comments afterwards –  I wrote them down in snippets so I can remember them, as I tend to rephrase them in my own memory. And it really helps to have a gifted moderator manage the conversation, – Jennie Webb helped guide the talk so I could hear/rather than react to the thoughts about the script.

And the best part about hearing really gifted actors read your script out loud:

They bring their feelings about lost love and attachment and isolation and they’re able to articulate what that sounds like.  They can make a phrase really zing. And if it doesn’t, and you hear that it doesn’t, you hear that too.

I love seeing actors create characters out of memories and hopes and sadness. I’m grateful to hear the voices of longing and anger and jealousy and vulnerability.

At the end of the day, I felt a bit pixie mazed. But that’s a good thing. It’ll help with this next rewrite. My cat, Ted, will be in his chair next to me listening to his rain song.

 

 

 

 

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An open door, a sleeping cat, and the sound of rain

by Cynthia Wands

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been working on this script for a long time.

I finished a rough (very rough) first draft of my next play two weeks ago. I feel like I opened the door to a new room in my house.

I’d been writing on different versions of this script – it seems like forever – and I just stalled out. I had written around the edges, came up with long memory scenes, and did a lot of visual research. Oh did I do research.

(This meant I spent a lot of time with art books, historical documents, auction manifests, and real estate listings for large estates. I especially loved looking at old auction lists: the descriptions!)

And it seemed – no – it was – I somehow got lost in my research: there were so many stories I wanted to tell about taxidermy. And antique crystal. Parrots that sing Mozart. Historical estates with ghosts. Timber frame barns.

I’ve taken a lot of workshops, classes and I’ve been part of several writing groups over the years, but I just had this “want” :  I needed to write this story by myself. I wanted to feel that it came out of my own authentic voice, without any influence or commentary. I just didn’t expect the authentic gridlock that came with it.

Earlier this summer, I just had to end this checkmate. I took a dive into joining the recent Seedlings Dramaturgy Workshop, and for most of the writing sessions, I hedged and hawed and couldn’t seem to go forward. I brought just a few pages in, and heard them read out loud, and it just seemed this time – this is so much harder than working on my other scripts. The other playwrights shared great comments, and I had some really poignant feedback. But when the workshop was winding up, I still hadn’t made much progress.

And then. The teacher of the workshop, Jennie Webb, asked me a series of “what if” questions. Somehow she was able to ask me questions that helped me see what I wanted to do with the script. I still don’t know how she did it. She’s really a great teacher / dramaturg / word artist. Thank you Jen.

And so, after those “what if” questions,  for several horrid hot summer nights, I spent hours writing until after midnight, wondering how I was going to wake up in the morning. I kept the air conditioning on. I drank a lot of ginger beer. I tried out my new “progressive” glasses, took them off, put them back on. But there I was, deep in the script, finding my way through it.

My grey cat, Ted curled up in the chair next to me, every night, and I would play a soundtrack of rain (with birds) and thunder and the wind in the trees. Especially during these hot summer nights, the sound of that rain, and the rumble of thunder made me feel like I was writing in another world.

(To be continued)

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