I had a thought today that maybe in the script of life your 20’s are the rough, first draft, and your 30’s (and beyond) are the re-writes. Maybe there is an age, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you feel like the vision you had for yourself is fully realized, and maybe that age never arrives. This is the kind of introspection I’m sure most people face in the final inning (really? a sports metaphor? eh, sure) of their 29th year. That first decade of adulthood fading off into the sunset and the big 3-0 slapping you in the face with “like-whoa, I guess this adult thing is really happening.” It’s really sort of incredible all the different lives we lead…married, divorced, single (hello, again–I am), children, no-children, successful, struggling, etc. 30 looks so different on each of us, yet signifies, as all landmark birthdays do, that ever present passing of time.
It’s been an interesting and, as usual, utterly unpredicted few months since I blogged last. A break-up sparked an insane art binge that created well over 100 paintings in less than 3 months and just as many poems. The painting then evolved into ink line drawings, all of which, along with my paintings, are now for sale in my recently re-activated Etsy shop: www.andiebottrell.etsy.com Did not see that coming. I’m working on trying to get a handwritten and illustrated poetry book published (no idea how to do that, everything I’ve read has said basically “poetry is dead” “there is so little money in it no publishers will ever read your submission” “seriously, when’s the last time you bought a poetry book?”–actually, I bought, like, 5 last month, but I’m learning I’m more unusual than I ever expected). And I have my first art show coming up in May (my 30th Birthday month)…it’s called the “Break-up Art Show” (;
In June, I’ll be going back to Tent Theatre–I wrote about my first experience there on this blog. It was a momentous experience for me. It got me my EMC card. I am so excited to be a full-time actor for an entire month again! The play is Unnecessary Farce which not too many people seem to know about yet, but it’s hilarious and has a lot of great, quick, fast-paced wit and creative physical comedy (haha, I couldn’t think of the term “physical comedy” so I googled “body humor”).
There hasn’t been much writing aside from poetry. It’s been just poetry and painting and acting lately. Which at times I struggled with feeling guilty about–I should be writing a script. I should be re-writing that play. I need to make a feature film. But, you know what? Screw what every writing blog says about writing when you’re uninspired. I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written when I forced it. I feel blasphemous even saying that because I feel like that just becomes an excuse for the undisciplined, but I truly think you have to just listen to your heart/inspiration talking-piece when it comes to creativity. And there are other ways to access your creative geiser–sometimes being uninspired to write something just means you need to find another way in. At times I also feel a lot of pressure from people to do just ONE thing. To only focus on acting or only focus on writing, etc. When you split your focus among lots of different things, how can you ever get really great or successful at any of them? And I don’t disagree necessarily. It’s annoying saying all the hyphenates of my artistic endeavors (actor/writer/director/editor/artist/photographer). It sounds pompous and it takes a long time to list. But those ARE the things I do on a regular basis–those are the ways I express myself and use my voice as an artist.
I’m learning that my personal artistic flow is cyclical and that my obsessive nature means that I often clamp down hard on one or two things for a time, while doing all the other things in smaller frequencies, and then rotate out to another skill set and do the same. I thrive when being surrounded by many tools to express myself and giving myself the freedom to go from one to the next as inspiration strikes. And I will no longer allow myself to feel bad or pigeonholed into “picking” just one thing when my heart demands the space to speak through several different instruments. I am an Artist. That is my life. My creations take many forms. That’s just who I am. I think part of turning 30 will be saying “That’s just who I am” a lot more. Not to say I’ll quit evolving (god, no, never!), but just that I’ll no longer feel bad about those few core parts of myself that I know to be true.
As I enter 30 I wonder if my art will ever sustain more than just the will to live, but become my actual livelihood. I’m struggling to figure out how to price my work, how to say that my art is valuable and you will have to pay me to have the privilege of using/seeing/working with it. At the same time as I’m struggling to tell others it’s worth paying for, I am also more confident than ever in my work. I can access things easier. I have more control over my skills. It doesn’t feel as hit-or-miss as it has for the majority of my 20’s. I have a lot more life experience to draw upon. My perspective is constantly expanding. I care less and less what I look like, but am working harder than ever to feel good in my body and take care of it as I have started noticing how quickly the body can start to deteriorate if you don’t. I’m more and more impressed at how resilient people are and their capacity to adapt to situations beyond their control–and the incredible things people have achieved. I see now, more than ever, the amount of work and sacrifices people make along the way to realize their dreams. I’m inspired by the massive guts (figuratively speaking) on so many people–and am constantly telling myself I’ve got to be even braver.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Oh my goodness! Korama! That sounds like a personal problem that you and your writing partners should discuss together.” Ordinarily you would be right. I’m an adult(ish type person) who likes to handle my problems in a (mostly) adult way. Talking to my writing partners would be the adult way to handle any issues. Except that they aren’t just my writing partners – they’re your writing partners too.
“What?” you just exclaimed “I don’t have any writing partners.” Or perhaps you wondered “Why does Korama think Lewis and Clark are d-bags?” (Side note: This imaginary conversation thing is really amusing to me) The particular writing partners I’m talking about are not of the human variety, but the nagging-voice-in-the-back-of-your-head variety; I’m talking about self-doubt and insecurity.
Everyone has self-doubt and insecurity in varying degrees, but the effects are most felt by people who do creative work. You can doubt yourself when you do a spreadsheet, but at the end of the day the spreadsheet reflects facts and figures, not your thoughts and feelings.
I have a particularly hard time with these silent partners – maybe it’s because, despite the fact that I consider myself a creative person, I am most comfortable with facts and figures. I am very clear with right and wrong, black and white, good and bad. Subjectivity scares me. I start to doubt that what I am doing is good or worth anything at all, like Semele started to doubt what she previously knew to be true.
For those of you who need a refresher, Semele was one of Zeus’ many lovers (not to slut-shame him, but good god, who wasn’t one of his lovers?). Hera, jealous of her husband’s human lover (who was pregnant with Dionysus the god of theatre!), disguises herself as an old woman, befriends Semele and convinces Semele to confide in Hera/Old Human Lady that she is banging Zeus. Hera then plants seeds of doubt in Semele’s head. She asks her how she can know it’s truly Zeus if she hasn’t seen him in his godlike form. On the one hand, that’s a valid point because dudes could totally be walking around pretending to be Zeus in an effort to bed women. On the other hand, douche move on Hera’s part because she knew exactly what would happen next. Semele asked Zeus for a favor and he promised, no swore, he would do whatever it was. She asked to see him in his divine form. Zeus reluctantly agreed and obviously seeing him in his true form killed her.
The story has several morals, the strongest of which is that doubt will literally kill you.
It’s hard not to succumb to self-doubt and insecurity – they are strong opponents. What I do these days is remind myself that I’m stronger. I’m not Semele or Hera or Zeus, at least not completely. I have a little bit of all of them: Semele’s humanity, Hera’s ingenuity, Zeus’ strength. All of these things are what makes me, and my writing, special and unique.
It’s easy to get comfortable with the right/wrong, good/bad dichotomies of this world, but if everything is one thing or another it loses part of its rarity. Walt Whitman once said “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes)” To allow yourself to exist in the spaces between black and white, to contradict yourself at turns, is to contain multitudinous, enormous beauty. I won’t allow doubt and insecurity to squash that, to make my work ugly with fear.
So screw you, writing partners. I’m working on my own from now on.
Marilyn MacCrakin is an award winning playwright and photographer. In 2011, Marilyn’s play, “The Family Tree” was a finalist in the “New Voices Playwriting Contest” for Images Theatre in Sacramento, CA. In 2009, her play, “Dressing Matilda” was produced by the Grand Players in Omaha, NE and went on to win “Best New Play” from the Omaha Arts Council. In 2006, her short play, “Photo Sensitive” was produced at the MET’s Playwright’s Intensive in Kansas City, MO in conjunction with Arthur Kopit. In 2000 her play, “In The Time It Takes To Breathe” won Edward Albee’s Yukon Pacific New Playwriting Award. Several of her plays have been presented at Edward Albee’s Great Plains Theatre Conference and the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. Her other plays include: “The Brethren,” “Baptista,” and “The Sound of Hope.” Marilyn’s photo, “Blackbird’s Singing” won an Award of Merit at the 2013 California Fine Arts Competition and in 2011, two of her photos, “A Cat in Mykonos” and “Island at Emerald Bay” won Merit Awards, also for the California State Fair Fine Arts Competition.
I met Marilyn MacCrakin at the very first Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska in 2006. It was the very first playwright’s conference that I had ever attended. Attending the conference from 2006 – 2008, we ran into each other each year and have kept in touch encouraging each other and reading each other’s work. On one of my check in emails, Marilyn mentioned giving up on writing – not something I could understand because she is an excellent storyteller. I have admired the way she went into a whole other art form and excels in it… Hoping to get her to change her mind or at least explain why she felt not writing plays anymore was a way to go, I decided to interview her for LA FPI. Maybe if she had to answer questions about that decision she’d rethink it. God forbid that gender parity should play a role in her decision but I wondered how many female writers give up, need extended breaks to rejuvenate themselves, how many reinvent themselves…basically, how do you keep doing art when you seem to be hitting wall after wall after wall?
Robin Byrd: Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Marilyn MacCrakin: I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. I was a theatre arts major at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA and I thought I was going to be an actress so I stayed in the Los Angeles area for a while. When that didn’t work out, I moved to Nome, Alaska to work as a DJ in radio. I also became involved with the Nome Arts Council, establishing a Community Theatre there. I lived in Nome for six years, producing and writing plays for a “live theatre starved” audience. In a town of approx. 4,000 people – we sold out every night. The people would bring their entire families – they would dress up and almost act like they were in “church” – very respectful of the arts. It was very rewarding, if it wasn’t for the darkness and the cold weather, I might still be there.
RB: How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?
MM: I studied acting and theatre in high school and as I said, I had aspirations of becoming an actress so I majored in Theatre in College. After college, I joined a writing group; I thought I would write novels. In the writing group, we all read from our work out loud and one of my fellow writers said, “I like your story, but you know, most of your book is dialogue.” The light bulb turned on. Of course, I started writing plays immediately and had my actor friends read them all. I thought plays were “just dialogue.” Even though I had acted in many plays, I soon realized I really didn’t know “how to write” a play so I went back to school at California State University, Sacramento to study playwriting.
RB: What is your favorite play of yours? Why?
MM: My favorite play that I have written is “Baptista” – a play I wrote about John the Baptist. I studied everything that was written about John the Baptist because I wanted to make John into a “real” person — a living, breathing, locust-eating zealot who could have been living it up in the temple as a priest (he was in the priestly line and they were treated like “rock stars” in that time) Instead, he retreated to the desert to listen to the voice of God so that he could prepare to take on the most corrupt political party of his time and turn their thinking upside down! I found John to be a revolutionary man. It could be said that he was “up-staged” by Christ (yes, I know this was exactly the plan – and John prepared the way). But therefore, I believe John doesn’t receive enough credit. I’m very proud of the play because it is based on truth yet I’ve weaved my imagination (based on historical writings) into some of the gaps. (Plays are fiction, right?) In any case, it continues to be unproduced because it seems to be too religious for a secular audience and too controversial for a “spiritual” audience.
RB: What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?
MM: My play, (really the first play I ever wrote), “The Sound of Hope” which was produced in Nome, Alaska. It just “worked.” It was a play based on a series of monologs which weaved into a story about the brave women of Alaska — about their experiences which had been recounted to me while I lived there. A white missionary woman who was raped in a remote Native village, a Native woman who struggled with alcoholism who sobered up after giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome – a young Native school teacher whose grandmother had been born on a dogsled in the middle of a blizzard. They were all strong survivors. The play just told their stories – no judgment, no easy “solutions.” I just remember watching the audience as the play was performed – they were fully engaged. It was very rewarding to me.
RB: Do you have a favorite playwright? What about them inspires you and how?
MM: I would say my favorite play is “Last Train to Nibroc” by Arlene Hutton. I saw this play at B Street Theatre in Sacramento, CA. I was enthralled by its pure simplicity, the humor and the unabashed hopefulness that “love conquers all.” I was so inspired, I went home straight away and wrote a complete play in two days. It was a two character play about love. That is where the similarity to Arlene’s wonderful play ended as my play was awful but I wrote it, just the same.
I also admire Edward Albee, Theresa Rebeck, August Wilson, Mercedes Ruhl, Horton Foote, Tom Stoppard and did I say Theresa Rebeck? And the amazing Robin Byrd of course!
RB: You are very kind. Now if that could just catch on. What would you consider the hardest part of being a playwright? How do you feel about the theater community?
MM: I would say the hardest thing about being a playwright would be the fact that most of the time you’re “writing in a vacuum.” It’s hard to find playwriting communities that will “workshop” your work. It seems that most theatres these days are looking for “production” ready plays. I understand that theatre is a business. But I have found that even for a “play reading” series at a theatre or conference– they seem to want the play to be “already perfect.” I can’t seem to find places that want you to submit “almost ready” plays that can be read and critiqued by an audience. With a little tweaking – a lot of my plays could be production ready.
RB: You have mentioned that you don’t really write anymore. What would you say has put a damper or hindrance on your writing? You’ve been produced. You’ve won awards. Knowing your work personally, I can’t imagine you not ever writing another play. I feel your voice as a writer is needed. Is this a break to rejuvenate or have you really given up on your craft? Will you ever come back to playwriting?
MM: I would hope this is just a break from playwriting. In the last couple of years, I have continued to write, continued to submit my plays and although I am very thick-skinned by now, I was amazed by the non-response to my work. There wasn’t any criticism, there weren’t any questions, there was NO RESPONSE. I can take, “I hated it.” Or I would love to hear, “I loved it.” I can sift through the comments of how they think I should re-write it. But NOTHING, I cannot take.
RB: You are also a photographer. What is it about photography that draws you in? Do you think it is a form of storytelling?
MM: Photography is a form of storytelling to me. I was on a trip to Greece several years back, and I had purchased a new Nikon camera. I saw a black cat in Mykonos, (there are many cats in Mykonos) against one of the white stone walls there, so I took the photo. Only later, did I realize that it told a story of a curious cat captured in a perfectly composed picture. Someone said I should enter it into the CA Fine Art Competition at the CA State Fair, so on a lark, I submitted it and it won a Merit Award. I thought it was beginners luck! Since then I have won two other merits awards and now I realize that it’s very difficult to be accepted into this juried competition!
RB: What else do you do to keep your creative juices running? What type of art do you create now other than playwriting and photography? Where do your passions lie?
MM: I have an Etsy shop for my photography and vintage art items. Etsy has a “treasury” component that I find very creatively fulfilling. Basically you find 16 items that you like and put them together into a 16 “frame” work of art. They can be color coordinated or some even tell a story. Of course, I love the story kind. Plus, I find it “promotes” my photography shop and also promotes other artists who I love to support and in turn, most of them reciprocate and include my photos in their treasuries — so it’s a win, win.
I find myself sort of addicted to making story treasuries. It’s a challenge to find Etsy items that match your story. I did one called “Film Noir” – I found a seller who was selling vintage film reels and a bracelet that looked like a piece of film – vintage fashion posters etc. The final effect is like a work of art in itself.
Another unique component to treasury making is that there are “teams” on Etsy who support each other. Most teams are about selling and promoting. Other teams are groups which band together by theme items or art or photography. Some teams support each other like a “support group.” One Etsy member found out that one of her favorite shop owners was going to chemotherapy and started a team to support her. She made encouraging treasuries with inspiring photos and posters etc. She named it the “BRAVE” team. Within weeks the team had grown to 75 members from all over the world, some who have shops with handmade knitted scarfs or necklaces or handmade jewelry, others are photographers like myself. Other members are care-takers of loved ones who have cancer or an illness – some are supporting parents with dementia or they themselves are going through some kind of health or mental or emotional issue. They started “Thursday Night Brave Stories” treasuries – the results are amazing! We all find that a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. I never seen anything like it.
RB:. How have you evolved over the years as an artist? Do you feel that it all comes together in some way – the creative outlets? Do you consider yourself to be somewhat of a renaissance woman?
MM: Well, I listen to my voice and I really try to be true to that inspiration. Early on, I tried to “copy” the way other playwrights write their plays. Now, I write what is true to me. I guess I must say, this “being true to my voice” has not necessarily been successful in getting my plays produced so I wonder how to balance my voice with the desire for my voice to be heard.
RB: When did you find your voice as an artist? Are you still searching for it? Where do you feel it is most clear?
MM: Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I “hear voices.” (yes, I know how that sounds). But I find “characters” from my play that I’m working on. They just start talking and pretty soon I have to get up and take dictation! This happened to me very clearly for my play, “The Family Tree” — a very proper Southern woman was talking to her neighbor about the Mississippi River! It doesn’t always happen that way, but I find this to be the “magical” part of writing.
RB: How do you decide when to move to a different creative outlet or when to give one a rest? How do you know what will fulfill your need to create? Can you discuss your process?
MM: Usually, I will be writing one new play and tweaking another. And if I get stuck then I switch to photography. Photography to me is like “instant gratification.” You take a photo – you edit it – you put it on your website and you immediately (usually) get a response. And for me that response is quite often very positive so it usually gets me through the dry patches in writing.
RB: . Do you ever feel that being a female artist puts you at a disadvantage in any way?
MM: Well, I would like to say “No,” but unfortunately, that wouldn’t be true. For some reason, male playwrights still seem to get produced more often than female playwrights – I think this is slowly changing but it’s too slow. I know there are many professional theatres and conferences that include in their mission to seek out female playwrights, but then I look at the list of plays that they are producing or featuring at the conference and the majority of them are male. I don’t get that because I know other female playwrights are submitting?
RB: How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)
MM: Well, usually I adapt an “I don’t care what they think” attitude. But then I re-write a play to death to try to “please the elusive someone” – the audience, my critics, my mentors – and the edited play doesn’t work, of course. I think that’s why I’m taking a break so I can quiet the negative voice and just get back to writing what flows out of my voice.
RB:. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work? How do you decide which medium to use?
MM: I think one theme that reoccurs a lot in my plays is “broken people who find healing or redemption.” I like to focus on positive things that happen in life – even when in reality many, many negative things happen before the final positive outcome.
RB: What are you working on now?
MM: A play called, “The Patina Principle.” I wrote it last year after I had to take my mother to visit an emergency room late at night. The emergency room took on a “support group” type of atmosphere that was amazing to me. People who didn’t know each other at all were bonding together about their illnesses and brokenness and then in a weird coincidence, I ran into my neighbor there who was having a panic attack from a broken relationship (i.e. a broken heart.) I didn’t know that about her and I’m her neighbor! So, I started writing this play to mirror what happened in my life because of it but it isn’t coming out right yet. So I took a break from writing it, so I can return to it with fresh eyes. The last time I tried to take a look at it – it was like it was written in a foreign language so I guess I’m not ready yet!
As a storyteller, when I create the worlds for my stories, I must believe them to be real worlds. If I believe it, the audience will believe it. If I believe it, my characters will know I believe it and they will talk; they will tell me their secrets and show me their hearts. We can sit a spell and work it out on the page. We can see what the end will be… We can find a way of telling the truth about things considered intangible/ethereal/surreal/too terrible to speak of/so hush-hush, the revealing can blow the mind. As a storyteller, I have to be open to conversations with the truth – whatever that truth is… I have to be brave enough to share it… and let the chips fall where they may…
The singer,Brandy. I watched an interview with Brandy “Behind the Music” where she mentioned one of her albums that didn’t do too well. She said she was supposed to be “sexy” then she revealed, “I didn’t believe it. And, if I didn’t believe it why would you?” I remember that album of which she spoke and I remember thinking, “What is she doing? Why doesn’t she just be herself and sing?” I did not buy that album – her voice was different – her sound was off. And, I love me some Brandy; I think that her gift is phenomenal. I love the deep colors in her voice – how one can feel the graininess of the “Shekinah Glory” in the tone, and hear the octaves rising and falling like a breeze on a warm day, telling stories in flats and sharps like nobody’s business. I’ve been missing that sound until recently when Brandy teamed with Monica on a song “It All Belongs To Me”. Hearing the first notes, it’s easy to see, “She’s back!” You can best be sure she is not trying to be sexy, she just is and that voice…she is definitely telling a story that she believes and that makes me want to hear it…
As artists/storytellers/writers/painters/sculptors/singers/dancers, we must stay true to our authentic selves striving always to the perfecting of the gift as we translate it through our vessels. We must strive to stay on course and learn to get back on course should we ever lose our way. I am convinced that sometimes the best part of the story is how it is filtered through the artist. If we don’t believe in ourselves and what we have to say and how we say it, is it fair to expect anyone else to believe in us? We are different for a reason, unalike to serve a purpose, not-the-same because being the same was never the point. It’s the collective sound of harmony in the many voices of a choir that makes it a choir, the collective sound of the woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments that make up an orchestra and that collectiveness facilitates a symphony; and it’s the collective sound of a people that make its culture. If we are listening, we know that all the parts are needed to give a true reflection of the sound of our times. We must continue to believe and act accordingly.
Believing involves more than the worlds we are trying to create, it also involves the world we are in – the here and now – and the pieces that inevitably we leave behind.
They were camped less than a mile outside Cooke Barracks in the empty field on the way to town for months. The young children would wave at me as I passed by. I would walk because, 1. I was in tip top physical shape and, 2. I did not have a license to drive in Germany. Everyone on Base noticed them – the gypsies – camped like something out of a movie. Dark haired, dark complexioned – a beautiful and intriguing people… One weekend, the children waved as usual but the teen-aged girls called me over to have me show them how to put on makeup. I showed them how to apply eyeliner, mascara, blush, lipstick… losing my stash of course to their giddy “May I haves.” I asked them if they were gypsies, “No, we are German” they answered. Adamantly, Wir sind Deutsch. We are German.” The next time I walked to town, they were gone…
I think about them sometimes – German, not Armenian, not gypsies – and the freedom I felt standing there in their camp. I think about their claim to a land, a heritage not expected by outsiders or even by insiders with standardized tests. They did not look the part but the field settled softly beneath their trailers disguised as carts disguised as trailers. And the trees hung over them shielding their skin from the penetrating sun as if ordained as covering since the beginning of time. And when they were gone, the trees sagged and could be heard moaning for the children.
Gypsies; part of the world but not confined by the world, always ready and willing to move anywhere to find home – never losing the authenticity of self. Owning their space and place in time, they drew you into their story…made you look…made you want to know…
Sometimes, I feel like a gypsy (submitting work authentic to me and clearly not on the same-dar as what is being selected). Sometimes I consider “what if I changed”…but never do because it’s the me way down on the inside that’s got so much to say and there is somebody somewhere who needs exactly what I write, how I write it, because the feeling of freedom when I write is worth the waiting period needed for that gypsy spark to ignite. It must be the softness of the ground beneath my feet begging for seed during the planting season promising fruit during the harvest that keeps me pushing on head first into the wind and rain…into the fray…because I belong…because I am a storyteller…
When contemplating words and worlds, sometimes I go to the movies to see what other stories are being told. It inspires/fuels/rouses me to create another day… On my last such outing, I went to see THE GREYby Joe CarnahanandIan Mackenzie Jeffers(based on the short story by Jeffers titledGHOST WALKER). It is a wonderful movie, wonderfully told. There is a poem in it that made me think of my life as a writer… in this time just before…
Sometimes I feel as if my timing is off. I miss my freeways exits. Miss my lunch. Miss events. Miss the post office. Miss calling family in other time zones. Then I sit down to write and all the goofy day-to-day stuff doesn’t matter anymore. I fall right in sync with the world I am creating. I find my rhythm and start my dance. When I am done and must return back to the world where I’m a step off and slightly out of place, I’m a little less weary of the drill even though timing where my writing is concerned can be a decade off. The hard part as a writer is coming to grips with the fact that what you wrote/write may be too early, too late, or worse, too different and it locks you out of the proverbial box. And, you – as artist, as representative for your work – don’t fit in a box yourself so you can’t just sneak into the “box” without being noticed. And, though you shy away from boxes, the box is where all the children must play per se…for now…
Box – part of playing area. SPORTS in sports such as baseball and soccer, a marked-off part of the playing area used for a special purpose, or subject to special rules.
Sport – competitive physical activity. An individual or group competitive activity involving physical exertion or skill, governed by rules, and sometimes engaged in professionally (often used in the plural).
Play – activity. The free-ranging and varied activity of something, e.g. the imagination. perform dramatic work by somebody. To perform the work of a particular dramatist.
Free-range – not caged. Free to move about and feed at will, and not confined in a battery or pen.
Pen – writing. The written word considered as a means of expression. confine somebody or something. To keep somebody or something in a pen or other enclosed area. female swan. A female swan.
Swan – SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day. Anew international holiday that celebrates women artists. It is an annual event taking place on the last Saturday of March (Women’s History Month) and the surrounding weeks.
Artist – creator of art. Somebody who creates art… skilled person. Somebody who does something skillfully and creatively.
What if – the box were bigger and included more sand so there would be room for more children to play?
What if – the box was an archaeological site and all the children were allowed to pretend the sand was a cave and put their gifts just beneath the surface to be discovered and valued like scrolls found near the Dead Sea?
What if – there were “perimeter free” cards that could be used to override “un-box-able’ children so they could play from the perimeters of the box even though they weren’t actually in the box?
What if more swans were allowed to play? Would the sand turn to water and would the water be a better channel for sharing?
What if – there was no box? Would timing matter then…? Or, would all art being created equal be allowed…to be…?
If Gilbert & Sullivan played within three hours of us, we saw it. We bundled in the car, return trip full of patter songs and arguments on the character interpretation or a set piece. I auditioned for NYU with Pinter and was accepted, mostly because I astonished the Dean with my resume, listing only male roles and whores.
I know we all mostly are slashers (actor/writer/producer, for example), but this list just feels ridiculous.
As much as some of those day jobs were hated, they fuel my creative bank. Who doesn’t like a good story about temping in an adult products factory? Seriously. Everyone in LA has the crazy day job story. It’s a rite of passage here, like visiting the Getty for the first time or realizing you can’t get to the 101 south from the 134 west.
In May it all added up, when I started calling myself a Storyteller. The title encompasses all the ways I tell stories: outreach, novel, poem, play, PR, resume, blog, branding – and now, I tell stories all day. It’s pretty cool. Honestly, it’s the only thing I actually know how to do. (Did I mention both my parents are also librarians?)
Now that I love every hour of my work, I hope I won’t lose that connection to completely random people in Los Angeles brought only by the day job. That would be a shame. Most of my stories originated within the hours when worth is measured by a time-clock. At least that’s the story I tell myself when I need a temporary gig.
In art, there is a technique called “Windowpane-ing” used to help the artist focus on the details of his/her painting. The artist creates a windowpane – an actual square or rectangular cutout. This windowpane is placed on the canvas and only the part seen inside the pane is worked on to bring out the color, shadows, light, accents, etc. of the picture. Working within the pane intensifies the focus of the artist. As the pane is moved across the canvas, it is overlapped to create uniformity in the changes made until the entire canvas is completed. Finally, the last portion of the canvas is done resulting in a finished picture that is well balanced and well expressed.
I use this technique as I write not only for the sake of what is on the page but because there have been several times when the world around me – the one I live in – is in a whirlwind. In that sense, I use this technique to help me tune out the extras. I don’t get writer’s block but I do have to work on focus in the middle of tornados. Being from the Midwest, tornados hit pretty often during my childhood. We spent many days and nights in the basement waiting out the storms. I remember the sirens would go off letting us know to get to safety. Because we had to stay away from windows during the storms, we didn’t move much – there was a lot of sitting still. While the storm was raging, my mother and father would have us do other things like read books, tell stories, or sing songs to get our minds off the weather.
Writing through a storm requires one to sit down and to focus. So, for me, as long as I can calm myself enough to sit down (at the computer or a tablet) and not move, I can get something in written form. And, since physically writing also calms me; it is to my benefit to focus and get at it. Writing is an excellent way to express what one is feeling and getting it out is good for the soul. A nurse I know once told me that what she tells her patients regarding gas is that “it’s better out than in.” There’s not much difference between gas and stress; they’re both upsetting to the stomach. Thus, stress-related trauma/drama is to gas as burping is to writing “the end.” Better to get that story out than to suppress it. There is always going to be a reason to not write but a little focus and some work on the windows can fix that…
“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.
The above is one of my favorite scriptures. I hear it in my head when I am chug-a-lugging along pushing against the stones. It is a sort of affirmation for me; encouraging me to continue the study of seemingly unconnected things – dirt, music, planets, etc… I am always reading tidbits here and there about this or that…studying…to release stress or because I run across something that gets my attention. The information bits always come in handy especially when I need to meet a deadline and don’t have time to research (because the play I just spent all my time researching is not ready to be written so I have to write something else and write it quickly). I notice that my subconscious will unflinchingly pull a tidbit from the annals of my mind that will fit…perfectly…into whatever I am writing. I used to think that I had all this useless information in my head and what wasn’t useless was so disconnected that finding what to connect it to would be a serious challenge. Except…when interpreting dreams, I find the tidbits come in handy. In dreams, all information is relevant as it can reveal the unknown, all that disconnected information finally serves a purpose. I believe that is why dream sequences show up in my work; it’s part of who I am as a woman, part of that “write what you know” thing. I know dreams, flashbacks, and things of the spirit…
There is a play, Body Indian, by playwright Hanay Geiogamah. In this play, Geiogamah uses the sound/symbolism of a train; his notes set up the business of the train.
“6. There should be a loud, rushing sound of a train starting off on a journey to signal to the audience that the play is beginning and Bobby’s entrance can be emphasized by the distant sound of the train.” Hanay Geiogamah
I could hear that train for months after reading the piece; it was haunting… moving…beautiful. It affected me. It made me want to create moments like that in my own writing. As long as I am stretching myself as a writer, I know that eventually I will be where I envision myself. When I write, I hear sounds in my head sometimes but I had never thought to make the sound a character until I read Body Indian. Perhaps that is just my response to the piece but the train was a profound presence. An acting instructor of mine told me that if I could see it so would the audience. I could see that train as I read; I must admit, I have been devouring Geiogamah’s work ever sense. How to make the sounds visible — that is the question.
In the night, as I write, I like to listen to music, especially violins. I have begun a play called Fiddler’s Bridge; it is my hope to make the sound visible in this piece. I am listening — as it finds its way to the page — for the sound of its song…
Those of us, who ride the night winds and the morning breezes, who straddle the fence of crazy and sane, must study…always…at our craft. Earning the “wright” in playwright through diligence and preparation…unashamed and unapologetic for the feats we attempt. We are the catalogers of our time and must all play our part in marking his/her/our/story. We must continually grow as artists so our gardens are full of fresh vegetables and herbs and words…that communicate humanity or if so be inhumanity…
Most of my life, people have tried to put me in a place.Thisplace is usually wherever they think I should be based on who they think I am.In my quest to know myself and to know my voice as a storyteller, I have had to make it a point to stay true to who I know myself to be.Round pegs don’t fit into square holes; square blocks don’t fit into round holes, nor, do 41-inch hips fit into a size 4 pair of pants.Tried it.You might get inthem by some miracle but you aren’t getting out of them without a fight or a pair of good cuttingshears.Lost a favorite pair of jeans that way…oh, the memories…I had purchased them when I was stationed in Germany, they were black and had straight legs, and – I digress.I was stuck in them for two days, thank God for undies that snap.There is nothing like a jolt of reality to make you pay attention to what happens when things don’t fit which is why one must know one’s own place in this world.The wrong influence can send you off on a wild goose chase or land you in a pair of pants that you have outgrown.Growing, in itself, is not a bad thing but ill-fitted clothing can be a hot mess.Knowing yourself as an artist will help you navigate the waters no matter what changes around you.
Some years ago, I attended a conference where the playwrights were assigned directors to direct the reading of their pieces.One of the playwrights at the conference got a director who chopped her 20 minute scene up so bad; we weren’t able to give her any feedback on her original scene.The whole purpose for the playwrights to attend the conference was to hear their work read.I had to stop the same director from adding lines that did not belong into my 20 minute piece.I explained to this director that I wanted to hear what I had written; if, after hearing it read, I wanted to change something, it would be my choice.I knew my piece. I knew what I had written and why and I wanted to hear it as written; I also knew my rights as a playwright (see Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights http://www.dramatistsguild.com/files/DGBillofRights.pdf) so, I spoke up – not only to the director but also to the conference runners in the “after conference” survey.The magic that is supposed to happen when a piece has the right director is something to aim for (I’ve had it and oh, the ride is rich and full of surprises, confirmations, and just out and out joyous moments.).Twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time; it wasn’t a showcase on directing though a reading done well does just that, it was a snippet of a play read for the playwright’s benefit.From my 20 minutes, I was able to tell that the audience liked my story and wanted to hear more which let me know I was on the right track.I asked the other playwright why she allowed the director to move things around in her piece (which even with the disjointing of the scene we could tell she was an excellent writer, we just didn’t know what her story was supposed to be about); she said she didn’t know she could stop the director from making changes.I told her to join the Dramatists Guild www.dramatistsguild.com .Information is liberating.
As a playwright, collaboration with other theater artists will enter the process; it is a given.Part of what makes theater so powerful is the collective gifting of the playwrights, directors, actors, set designers, costumers, lighting and sound techs, etc. who all add to the theater experience.Just last August, I had a play read in North Carolina.The group of actors and director who came together to breathe life into my words were so phenomenal.A character thought to be unnecessary (by panel members) at a previous reading proved to be quite necessary in this one.The director understood the character. The director, also, knew how to pull this character out of the actress portraying the character.The actress knew her craft and knew how to stretch…Where I was unable to hear the true voice at the previous reading, I was blown away at the second one.I had suspected that Indigo had something to say and am eternally grateful to the actress, Antonia McCain, who gave Indigo her moments.I am, also, grateful to the director, Melinda J. Morais, and all of the other actors and actresses who contributed to that reading for list see http://ladybyrdcreations.com/byrd_sightings.I could hear the harmony building from page to voice, hinting at the stage…
The quest for harmony is an intricate part of what I do when I create.I try, with each play, to access the artists circle – a place, my place, where all things are equal.There is neither male nor female in my artists circle – only songs of the soul and rhythms of the spirit – and that circle is sacred.If I did not know what my place/purpose is, I would never be able to regulate where I should be at any given time.My journey would be undefined.I would not know which stories are mine to tell and which ones are for some other writer.Knowing my place in the artists circle helps me stay focused on keeping the “waste of timefactor” out of the equation – out of the place where stories are born…