I almost died having the baby. Feet. Breached. Early. Late. Viable. I almost died… I was alone and scared to push. She weighed 8 pages when born. Serious little thing. Made such a fuss to get here – weeks of labor pain, decades in the womb. She made me read to her and talk to her. She requested Nikky Finney’s poem The Afterbirth, 1931; she said you’re trying not to say it. Say it! And Dael Orlandersmith, she said, look at her – good – does she look like she messes around with plays? Tell it! And Charlayne Woodard, do you remember the expression on her face when you mentioned me…remember how even now that look makes you cross your fear…Write it! Straight – no chaser…
She seemed to gain strength there at the end – the baby – even though she almost aborted when Mr. Albee passed, screaming and flipping herself feet first so she could push better, wanted to be standing soon after her toes hit air. You been digging the same well since you met him, time you hit water – it’s a gusher. She pushed and leaned and pushed and leaned… All that leaning on my rib cage made me ill but when she was born, I understood why the labor pains were so great.
She had talked nonstop that last month, and I wrote till I couldn’t write no more then she plopped out, feet first and stood before me, naked and unafraid. She was beautiful, covered in afterbirth, and I am not just saying that because she’s mine…it’s true…she’s been aching to be born…and she wears herself well…
Ever birth a play like that? Hard to write but it won’t let you water it down, won’t let you go till you write it? Because…you have to write it, even if it is a piece at a time. Some plays are just meant to be… Only you can write yours so —
Do your art. You never know how it’s going to shake out or who it will inspire or who it will help survive the storms of life…. In hindsight, I realize that I gravitated to Albee because he distracted me in a the middle of a traumatic time in my life and made me think of better days…and possibilities… The women — Nikky, Dael, Charlayne — they make me want to fly….
“I hope that in the year ahead the art you create makes our country a better place. We need you.” Katherine James, playwright, actor
July 16, 2015 at the National Dramatists Guild Conference. We were exhausted and exhilarated and ready for the rest of the week. Our workshop presentation Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation cover sheet and bios went really well. I don’t know about the other ladies but the content of some of the sessions, I attended, had me spinning. Such profound insight and resolve to do the best work and create the best art – just to be in the room with these artists was inspiring.
Some of my favorite sessions were The Global Impact of Diversity on our Stages with panelists: Lydia R. Diamond, Rehana Lew Mirza, Mike Lew and moderated by Christine Toy Johnson and The DG Fund Presents: Beyond Emerging: The Stages of a Writer’s Life with panelists: Lydia Diamond, Christine Toy Johnson, Mike Lew and moderated by Seth Cotterman. Will talk about those later.
Speaking of the Dramatists Guild Fund, they gave away free T-shirts in exchange for a bit of encouragement sharing. I got a T-shirt with “Always try to do more than you know you can.” – a saying by Edward Albee that can be found in his interview in The Legacy Project: Volume 1. After writing our saying down on a sticky, it was placed on the DG Fund Encouragement Wall. (#KeepWriting) Totally awesome! My saying is “Always be writing…”
I have been working on writing “crazy”. There has to be a way to write it where it can be intense and alive off the page. Not the crazy way out there kind of crazy but the almost perfectly sane, breaking beneath the surface kind of crazy. I have been working internally on this for over a year now because I don’t really rewrite and know that if I haven’t solved it inside, it ain’t coming out any time soon. Yes, I said it. I am one of those. I am not completely averse to rewriting but I haven’t had a play to date that has warranted me rewriting it. I do tweak here and there. My plays live internally so long that by the time they come bursting out I am in need of some serious Kegel exercises to get myself back to the place where I can begin again – conceiving/growing another play… I have never seen a parent of a new born cutting limbs and shoving things in odd places on their newborn so I can’t see doing it to mine… The sheer exhaustion of pushing out a play is enough to make me feel “crazy” without reorganizing parts. Never apologize for how you get the words to your page. I am a firm believer that one of the things that makes Art – art, is how it is filtered through the artist…
I have heard Edward Albee say the following in person regarding rewrites:
Edward Albee: I don’t rewrite. Well, not much. I think I probably do all the rewriting that I’m going to do before I’m aware that I’m writing the play because obviously, the creativity resists — resides — in the unconscious, right? Probably resists the unconscious, too — resides in the unconscious. My plays, I think, are pretty much determined before I become aware of them. I think they formulated there, and then they move into the conscious mind, and then onto the page. By the time I’m willing to commit a play to paper, I pretty much know — or can trust — the characters to write the play for me. So, I don’t impose. I let them have their heads and say and do what they want, and it turns out to be a play.
I adore Edward Albee. He’s a big reason why I work so hard on my craft.
Back to writing “crazy” – I saw “Silver Linings Playbook” today (David O. Russell, screenplay; Matthew Quick, novel, also directed by Russell). What awesome writing! What a story… The different levels and forms of crazy that people can be…it was like being in a “how to” seminar. And, the actors were phenomenal – all of them. This film answered a lot of questions about how “crazy” can be realized through story fearlessly.
Regarding my story — the one I need to write crazy in — I was afraid to let Valpecula have her full say…afraid I would edit her before her words could find air — something I never want to find myself doing because then, I’d have to rewrite.