I have enjoyed our diverse group of voices. I have enjoyed the moments when after reading these ladies or watching a video or film, I break out into laughter or tears – those moments when I am found…. There is nothing like being in a funk and have someone write “Oink! Oink!” or having to leave my desk to shake myself after reading “When Playwrights Get Old” which came about after “Too old?” left me numb and very contemplative. When I look in the mirror, I see me and have to remind myself that the first set of students at the university where I work my day job have graduated and are in their thirties now. The few that have stayed on in employment shock me when I run into them yet when I look in the mirror I don’t see age — I see me. One wonders if after all the “Taking Stock” we do if a change is gonna come – ever – but we keep hoping and pushing and fighting for that “Stillness” that drives us.
The goal is to be a working artist. By that I mean, you don’t have to have a day job to pay the rent, pay for submission fees, or afford you food while you write. Living in near poverty to be an artist should be against the law especially because that same art could end up being a national treasure; the following terms are not interchangeable: “Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist“.
Zora Neale Hurston author of Their Eyes Were Watching God died in poverty; her work was rescued from a fire after her death (Florida had a habit of burning the belongings of the dead). Zora Neale Hurston’s life work is a national treasure…
There should be no limitations or rules on where or in what form a writer creates story as there are no rules to who can be “The Happiest Person in America” or one of the happiest people – let us do our art and we are there… Gender does not dictate what shared work will change the world in some way — “And The Female Play at the Tonys was…” and it should not dictate who has access to the stage, the screen or the bookshelf. Great stories all start the say way — with words and the “Voice…” of the writer. All are needed, each soprano, alto, tenor and bass… There should not have to be “The Bechdel Test for the Stage“; there should not have to be a Bechdel test at all – why can’t all stories worth telling be treated equal? Why can’t the journey be easier? Why can’t handling “Our Expectations, Our Fears” as artists be easier? Perhaps even this tug-of-war on gender parity fits into the “Everything Is A Creative Act” category; it is, after all, fodder.
I especially like what Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Lisa Kron said at the last Dramatists Guild Conference “Having Our Say: Our History, Our Future” about what she does when something rubs her the wrong way “I’m going to write a play about this” — The Veri**on Play is what resulted.
Just wondering, do you have any favorite LA FPI blog articles?
Bloggers Past and Present:
Jessica Abrams, Tiffany Antone, Erica Bennett, Nancy Beverly, Andie Bottrell, Robin Byrd, Kitty Felde, Diane Grant, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Sue May, Analyn Revilla, Cynthia Wands and special input by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.
1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater? I was a dancer after college, but after finding myself in Italy with a sketchy Vegas-type show, I decided the time had come to hang up my dancing shoes… and write about the experience. It led me to screenplays, and some TV, but the heartbreak of not seeing my work produced made me write plays. And in a way, I came home because theatre was where I came from…
2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why? My play Easter in Tel Aviv is my favorite play because it represents where I am as a playwright now. It’s also an example of a story being born from a very specific — and slightly messy– situation that, one day, revealed itself to me as a play.
3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why? I haven’t had that many… but I’ll say this: every time a group of actors come together and speak my words, something new and magical is revealed.
4. Who is your favorite playwright? Why? It’s so tough to say… Tennessee Williams is at or close to the top. He gave us such iconic characters, who spoke such a colloquial language expressing desires that, even then, weren’t often readily expressed. he gave them the right to be profane, to be base, to be real.
5. How has your writing changed over the years? I’d like to think it gets closer to expressing that core question I have at the center of who I am, the one that prompted me to write in the first place — not necessarily answering it, just asking it.
6. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it? I write — or aim to write — comedic stories with a dramatic arc. I try — emphasis on try — to walk that line between comedy and drama… to find funny moments in slightly tragic situations, moments that don’t call for laughs, but for recognition — “oh, shit, I do that too” — the deep belly laughs that we know means a nerve has been touched.
7. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting? I write personal essays and TV stuff. I find playwriting to be much more free, and often feel restricted for instance when writing for the screen — that ‘get in, get out’ idea always hampers me.
8. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?I LOVE this community. I’m so grateful for it. To be able to commune in this way, to share stories and touch a nerve with other playwrights — it’s a thing of beauty. I also love the freedom of blogging, but also having deadlines.
9. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why? So many people — mostly my creative network and the way it inspires me. other female playwrights who are just doing the work, every day. I am humbled and inspired by them.
10. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it? I thought I found it in my first play. Then, writing the second, I found it again. I continue to “find” it, because even if it’s in me, it’s also lodged somewhere in the story, in its tone, in how its characters are feeling and acting… so it’s constant process of discovery.
11. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process? It’s not a good one lately. I haven’t written a play in a while. Right now I’m working on a spec screenplay and a spec TV pilot and I tend to get work done in spurts, mostly after 3 PM because I feel like crap in the morning, usually. I have a lot of guilt around my willy nilly schedule of late — is that obvious?
12. How do you decide what to write? It comes to me — characters, situations…
13. How important is craft to you? You know… yes and no.
14. What other areas of theater do you participant in? I’m an actress, which I came to fairly late in life, but which really rounds me out as a storyteller.
15. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles? I think it’s vast, and that makes me so happy, knowing there’s so much creativity happening in a city dedicated to that ‘other’ storytelling mode. That said, I wish it had more pride and confidence in itself. I wish it would solidify as just that: a theatre community, rather than let its voice be in the hands of the ‘establishment’ — CTG, etc. Some of the best theatre I’ve seen here was in a small theatre, often 49-seat house. Those artists need to be supported, in terms of audience, monies and award recognition.
16. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing) I meditate, say mantras, prayers, and novenas. I also keep in touch with fellow creative souls who understand that voice and battle it themselves. I used to have a daily calll with a fellow actress, just to bolster each other. I need to do that again.
17. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work? Yes — the theme of self-discovery. identity.
18. What are you working on now? I’m working on a screenplay and a TV pilot and I need to get back to writing plays ASAP.
Jessica Abrams’ play The Laughing Cow had its world premiere this past April at the Meta Theatre on Melrose and received Pick of the Week by LA Weekly. Her short play, Melissa, is currently part of New American Theatre’s Short Play Festival in Los Angeles. The First To Know (the full-length play of which Melissa is a part) was read in the MaD Play Reading Series last Spring, and her solo piece If I Look This Good, Why Do I Feel Like Sh*t? was read at the ExAngeles Writers Collective’s A Month of Sundays Reading Series this past October. Her television writing credits include The Profiler for NBC and Watch Over Me for Fox/MyNetworkTV. She was a guest artist at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive in 2010 and is a co-founder of the New Leaf Endeavors Theatre Company. She attended Barnard College of Columbia University in Manhattan.