Posts tagged: robin byrd

Writing About Death…

by Robin Byrd

Death, spirits, the ghosts of memory, these are the things that turn up in my plays.  I used to think that I was weird, not that weird is a negative word to me.  I am peculiar and I am okay with that.  In Proof by David Auburn, Catherine states while talking about her dad, “He’d attack a question from the side, from some weird angle, sneak up on it, grind away at it.”  I love that sentence, it’s all we can do in our world of doing art – attack from our perspective and grind away…

I have been reading The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat. What I mean is I have read it several times 4 and a half times to be exact.  I am working out the processing of my mother’s death.  She left this earth in April of this year.  It has been difficult to write it yet write it I have – to request to drop classes I was in at the time of her death, classes I have had to repeat and get past the point of her death in each of them. One, I made it through, weary but victorious, the other, I am still weathering.  It is amazing the depth of grief.  I read somewhere that grief causes forgetfulness, that and the lack of sleep…   Except I know the forgetfulness of sleepless nights well and this thing – it is scary and it is a demon whose head I am chopping off with a twice dull blade.  I will be rid of it.  I have found comfort in the stories that Danticat shares in The Art of Death; at one point, she asks her mother, “Did you rage enough?” this in response to Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night:

“…Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” by Dylan Thomas

Similarly, before the thin veil of denial left me, before I bought the ticket and made the journey home, I spoke to my mother’s spirit, “Mommy, do not go gentle into that good night wait for me, I’m coming home…”  And, I watched her fight until the end unsure of the road…  She almost died 3 days before, we sat in the nursing home around her bed for hours but she would not leave.  She wanted a reprise.  She wanted to be bathed… Almost like a baptismal service, two young nurses, bathed my mother from head to toe in preparation for the day.  She lay there knowing it would be her last bath with breath in her body, resolved to meet the day…clean….  Clean from the blood that had begun to seep from her body in clots of pain, clean from the last of things no one can carry with them into the presence of God. I took to sitting through the night with her, on guard.  I did not want her to die alone.  I blessed the room and sealed it (in the name of Jesus) from anything that was not like God…so she could rest in peace until that appointed time. I had asked God to let me be there and had traveled from Los Angeles on a ‘red eye’ to make sure I was there the entire month of April.  I asked Him, rather demanded that He let me be there, “I want to see her when she leaves, not in a dream, like with Dad, and the others, I want to see her!  I must be there, it will not be alright if I am not there.  I do not want to get that call.”  So, there I was by the grace of God, sitting beside my mother’s deathbed…taking notes in my spirit… and then it happened, and God let me see:

I saw her when she left, the lift off, her eyes shown like glassy circles of pure glee, the hologram of her Self barely visible but not her smile, it was wide and happy because she knew I saw…my mother, my mother – the wind of God…

I wrote and read a poem on behalf of my mother at her funeral titled, “Getting it Right” – the thing my mother had on her mind the last days of her life.  I had sat by her bed every day from April 1st till she passed at the end of the month, 2 days before her 83rd birthday.  She continually told me to “Pay attention Robbie, you’re going to have to write about this…  We got to get this right.”  How could I fail?  “A mother’s song should be heard in the voices of her children”…it should never be lost to time.  I found her song in the space where breath had left her and became her voice for a time…  I could feel her there with me… adlibbing…

Part of getting it right is forgiving and letting things go.  We all must do it…

It is difficult…these days… not because I do not know that my mother is with Christ…

“…We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with Christ.” Paul the Apostle, II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 8

It is difficult because the moments have germinated and taken root and are sprouting trees so tall it is hard to see the sky.  It is renewing and stripping but best of all, I did not lose on the moments that the last of things said to me by my mother set in stone her confidence in who I am – a Writer…

 

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Robin Byrd

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

Why Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop…  by Robin Byrd

Lulla Bell Jury has lost her momma; all she has left is the fiddle her mother gave her and the beauty and pain of life in the Appalachian mountains. Sometimes you lose so much it’s hard to see what you’ve gained. Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop is an Appalachian tale of music, loss, family, and land.

Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd

About Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop: The piece began as a short story created while I was a student at Indiana University; it consisted of only the first scene which you will see here in GLO 2015 (Green Light One-Acts), the remainder of the play is scheduled for development, so stay tuned.

The short story was written in a creative writing class. Writers tend to work out things in their writing as a way to find answers and closure; I was working out my own sense of loss and Lulla Bell became my voice. In a very broad sense, this piece is semi-autobiographical. Universally, it is a story many can connect with as we all struggle with loss and the journey that life puts us on after that loss.

Part of my family originates from Appalachia which I only learned of in the last few years when writing another story set in the area and looking at the map of the Appalachian region of the United States. One of my grandfathers and an uncle worked the coal mines before migrating to the Midwest. My other grandfather still has family as well as a family cemetery located in the region. I think my comfort of putting Lulla Bell on a mountain came from an ancestral/genetic memory of place; it’s like muscle memory for a violinist/fiddler, any musician – there are songs that come through my fingers that I have forgotten I knew how to play and sometimes that I have only sang and never played before but they start to play themselves because the memory of these songs is more alive than even I am fully conscious of.

From short story to stage play: Ben Harney (Tony Award Winner for the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”) developed the short story for performance (at the time, aptly entitled “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma”). Upon reading the piece, Ben suggested that it was a theatre piece that should be staged and I should perform it. It was at this time, Lulla Bell Jury’s story became stage worthy. Ben encouraged me to rework it and flush out areas that I eluded too but did not go into fully. He taught me to attack it from several point of views – the audience’s, the actor’s as well as the writer’s – making sure that the scenes were rearranged in the right order. I learned as much about writing as I did about acting. The exhilaration of performing her on stage was as wonderful as creating her on the page. I am forever grateful to Ben for his mentoring.

Expansion: Over the years, Lulla Bell Jury has made it known to me that she was not finished talking. Taking my cue from Lulla, I began to expand the piece which became Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop. In Fiddlin’…, I tune back into Lulla Bell Jury to see how her life is going and how she has weathered the storms. In Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop, I would like to share just what weathering storms means…

About the Playwright: I am a product of the Midwest, mine is a Midwestern voice with flavors of the South. I am a playwright, poet, screenwriter and actor. I love to incorporate authentic regional flavor into my work. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to my affinity toward southern themes and language in some of my pieces. My work also deals with things of the spirit; I am known for sifting through memories and ghosts and other intangible things for stories… I have studied acting to enhance my voice as a writer. I play the violin; I am more comfortable calling myself a fiddler.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Presenting at the Conference

by Robin Byrd

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.

Robin Byrd, Laurel Wetzork, and Debbie Bolsky sitting in on the opening presentation after our workshop "Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation" at the Dramatists Guild Conference: Writing the Changing World, #writechange.

Robin Byrd, Laurel Wetzork, and Debbie Bolsky sitting in on the opening presentation after our workshop “Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation” at the Dramatists Guild Conference: Writing the Changing World, #writechange.

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…”

 

 

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange

This is the first day of the Dramatists Guild Conference in La Jolla, CA.  Such an empowering day!  LA FPIer’s Laurel Wetzork, Debbie Bolsky and I presented a very successful workshop: Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation.  John Logan’s One-on-One with Joey Stocks was wonderful.  He gave some wonderful insights to his journey as a writer. The regional reps met with their group members and the conversation was about getting to that next place as artists and how to use community to do so — the community of writers  who make up the regions.

The drive in was 3 hours, one wonders how there is traffic at 1:30 am but there was.

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3

 

 

SWAN Day Action Fest (Saturday, March 28th 2015): a Festival of Women Playwrights & Directors

 

SWANDayLogo2

Action Fest line up:

 

BOX by Robin Byrd, directed by Julianne Homokay

Synopsis: Elpis and Pandora are sisters.  There has been a death in the family.  What if they could have one last chance before they have to seal the box?

Elpis: Shanel Moore
Pandora: Gayla Johnson
Mother: Marlynne F. Cooley

____________

THE PROPOSAL by Carolina Rojas Moretti, directed by Laura Steinroeder

Synopsis: Benny was lost before finding his True North, but can he stop himself from destroying the compass?

Benny: Andrew Loviska
North/Lily: Renee Ulloa-McDonald
South/Mother:  Melanie Alexander
East/Employee:  Daniel Coronel
West/Niki: Megan Kim

____________

THE MIXING BOWL by Leslie Hardy, directed by Gloria Iseli

Synopsis: Stephanie thinks her partner Alicia’s parents are simply coming for a visit.  She’s in for a surprise.  Sometimes the ingredients of our lives do not make for a great recipe.

ALICIA: Trace Taylor
STEPHANIE: Amy Stoch

____________

MANKIND by Beverly Andrews, directed by Alexandra Meda

Synopsis: New parents have a serious discussion by the river’s edge and reaffirm the people they really are.

Elizabeth: Kat Johnston
Mitchell: Eric Toms

____________

THE MISSING STAIRCASE by Morna Murphy Martell, directed by Lane Allison

Synopsis: The Staten Island Ferry passes Ellis Island. A strange man tells about a staircase there that changed his life. One woman knows the secret of the missing staircase.

Woman: Constance Ball
Girl: Nili Segal
Man: Dean Farell Bruggeman

____________

ILL INFORMED by Raegan Payne, directed by Courtney Anne Buchan

Synopsis: Owen is bad at stalking. Olivia is bad at living. It’s fortunate they are meeting.

Owen: Tim Stafford
Olivia: Kristina Drager  

____________

Micro-Reads Actors:  Dylan Quercia, Pauline Schantzer, Anna Simone Scott, Tippi Thomas, Harriet Fisher and Tinks Lovelace

____________

 Come join us this Saturday, 28 March 2015 from 12 – 6 pm at City Garage Theatre located in the Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica, CA 90404

For more info: http://lafpi.com/events
FB Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/898010020244015/
If you tweet we’re @TheLAFPI; we’re also on Instagram @thelafpi.  #SWANDay #LAFPI.
Also connect with our hosts, @CityGarage (Neil LaBute’s Break of Noon opens April 3 http://www.citygarage.org/). 

The LA FPI Blog Celebrates 4-Year Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to the LA FPI Person of Interest Blog!  Today we celebrate four years of blogging.

by Robin Byrd

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.

Drive, She Said“.

How much more drive does it take for a woman to succeed than a man?  Can it even be measured?   Who cares?  Trying to keep myself moving.  No time to research how a man does it unless it helps me.

Writers are always “On a new path…” to stay motivated and to be able to encourage oneself to do one’s art which is supposed to lead to “When you hear your words in someone else’s mouth…”  You hope.  One hopes.

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.

 

Bookstores and the Books that Live There…

 by Robin Byrd

Bookstores are becoming sparse; books are becoming electronic.  I wonder how to reconcile my love of browsing with the lack of things to browse.  If it’s not there, they will order it for you, they say with a smile ever so clueless to the fact that it’s the walking through the aisles searching the shelves for treasure that brings joy.  I can order it myself and not have to give up the getting mail part in the process – what can I say, I like getting mail…

I rarely come out of a bookstore without a book — this past weekend, I did — too much open space, too much of a lack of that library appeal without the constraints of utter and complete silence.  The space caught me off guard; it was bright from the lack of shelves and heavy from the lack of books.  I felt grieved in my spirit and had to leave the store.  Time is running out and I know one day I will have to go to a library if I want to browse.  My favorite spot is going…going…almost gone…  Better renew my library card.  Bookstores could possibly become plug-in shops to download e-books and my relaxation tool will be obsolete. My days of browsing for hours in my favorite store are numbered but I’m not going out without a fight and a few more books.  You never know what you’ll find in a bookstore.

Lucky for me I have more than one bookstore on my radar.  I found a book in Samuel French (my other favorite spot) called “Hoosiers in Hollywood” by David L. Smith.  This book is filled with over 600 pages of information on Indiana artists dating back to the silent era – a nice bit of history, fun, and encouragement.  When I found the book, I was in the middle of a thought about the Midwest and how it is underrepresented in the arts.  Guess I was wrong.

The really nice thing about books is being able to hold on to them and catching them on sale – a benefit of browsing.  The best part about books is they always inspire the writer in me to write…

Dormancy and the Big Wake-Up…

“I’ll try.” from the last chapter in Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

by Robin Byrd

For years, I have been carrying around a story not knowing how it should meet the page but knowing that it had to get there somehow.  A few months ago, I decided it would be in poetry – carried the pages around with me trying to shake the order and the theme out.  No luck.

Then… a play I needed to submit somewhere refused to speak to me and I thought what if I take these notes and make it into a play.  Decided on the characters and began to write for three days till “The End”, proofed it, let a few close friends read it and sent it off.

The end result was as intense as the writing of it.  It struck me as odd that this story lay dormant for so years then exploded on the page like it did.  Out of order on my list of things to write and not in the genre I picked.  Dormant for 32 years then the alarm goes off waking me up from the exhausted sleep deprived state working too many hours on my day job has caused.  It spilled out in 3 days like nothing I have ever written before.  But then that’s the thing about writing each piece should be better than the last.  Funny to have a story shut down on you because another one wants the roadway.  I almost missed the signal but when I told friends I was not going to be able to finish the play I was working on but had this idea that I might be able to pull off in time, they each said, “go for it, what do you have to lose.”

I said, “I’ll try…”

I guess all you can ever do when you hit a wall is to try something else.  Timing is everything.  Who knew story notes had alarm systems attached?

 

Interview with Playwright Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd weighs in:

LA FPI Blog Editor Robin Byrd

LA FPI Blogger Robin Byrd has been blogging since day one. Hers is an authentic voice determined to be heard.

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?

I guess I sort of evolved into one.  I started telling stories at three and a three year old usually acts out a story so it’s theatrical by nature of the storyteller.  I had regular story time for my two younger sisters up until I was eight.  Even then I was acting out the story using spectacle and character development.  Decades later, I joined a very large church and in the orientation, someone said that a way not to get swallowed up is to join one of the groups so I went to a theater group meeting. This theater group would meet every month to discuss what the annual production would be.  Nothing seemed to pass the preconceived “Bishop Test”- based on biblical principles and something he – Bishop Blake – would approve of for his congregation.  This discussion went on for months.  Out of frustration, I suggested we write our own play. I wrote a synopsis which I didn’t know was a synopsis at the time; everyone in the group liked it and the president of the group, the late Stuart Brown, told me to write it.  I would bring in pages to the meetings and we would read them and then Stuart would go back to that darn synopsis and say but I don’t see this part and I’d have to keep writing till everything in that synopsis was in the play.  Everyone in the group was very helpful with pushing me to write and giving feedback.  After the play was completed, we did a workshop production of it.  I met Charlayne Woodard, theatre artist extraordinaire and she greeted me like I was a playwright and that is when I knew I was on this theater artist journey. (Funny the things you remember.) Thus, with “In Times Like These (Is He the One?)”, I started writing plays; by the time I wrote the book for the musical “For This Reason (A Love Story), I knew I was a playwright and I could see my voice as a writer introducing itself to me.

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?

My favorite play is always the one that I learn something more about craft or my voice as a playwright.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?

“The Day of Small Things” would be it because my family flew out to Los Angeles to see it.  My father was too ill to come but he was so proud of me.  There was one scene where something went wrong with the lighting queues so the actors had to improvise and walk onto the stage while the lights were up.  The scene was right after a funeral.  The actors walked slowly onto the stage as if in shock of the events, they had to play their “just before moment” on stage; they walked in a synchronized movement as if to an inaudible dirge.  It was magical, performance art at its best, had we been able to run the play longer, I would have asked them to do it again. (Actors – got to love good ones who can commit to their character and are able to react in character without losing a beat.)  Moments like these are what make Theater so alive.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

There are a few plays for different reasons: “The Zoo Story” by Edward Albee made me take craft really serious; “Body Indian” by Hanay Geiogamah made me contemplate sound as a character; “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry made me look at family dynamics; “A Star Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hole In Heaven” by Judi Ann Mason made me look at family secrets; and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, taught me to embrace other dimensional storytelling; it’s a memory play and my whole life I’ve dealt with memory in some form.  As a child the beginning of most of my sentences was “’Member when…” so when I got to high school and “The Glass Menagerie” was on the reading list, it not only reminded me of the late night PBS filmed plays I loved to watch.  It felt strangely familiar.  “The Glass Menagerie” bears witness to writing remembered things; it is a testament to what can be done in a play, that boundaries should be lifted like a fourth wall, if it will help to tell the story.

In my work, I deal a lot with memory, flashbacks, visions, and dreams.  Writers are normally told to stay away from flashbacks, write what you know, write what you want to know, keep the story forward moving.  What I know is flashbacks and pushing forward beyond them so it is inevitable that flashbacks would show up in my work.  Perhaps, because I already had a good knack for remembering things, this made me susceptible to flashbacks.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that as a survivor of rapes (plural intentional), flashbacks ruled my life from the time I was 18 years/7 months/28 days old well into my twenties.  Writing is therapy; sometimes you have to make your own closure.  My way of dealing with the negative events in my life has been to channel it into my creative work.  I like being able to take down the fourth wall – as it were – of the past as it intersects the present, that’s the moment of change for me, a moment of lingering inner impact where new futures can be forged in the flames. It’s like dreaming and opening a door you just walked through only to find it leads somewhere else but doing it on purpose, like throwing jacks several times to get a better layout which will give a better end result.

Tom Wingfield, “The Glass Menagerie” (at least it is my interpretation) hits this intersecting of past and present on more than one occasion; he discusses his wanderings and how un-expectantly he could see his sister beside him in memory and how he tries his best to get away from those recurring moments:

“…Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!  I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger – anything that can blow your candles out!”

In his memory she blows them out.  But he doesn’t change anything.  He doesn’t go back; doesn’t start again. He just stays in his hell.  I found that to be so sad.  He never found a way out of the perpetual maze.  He didn’t know how to dream another dream.  I never want to be found not able to dream again…

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?

I am not sure I have a favorite.  I do go on binges, devouring everything I can by playwrights that catch my eye.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?

I have become more confident in my gift.  I know my sound and I try to be as fearless in my plays as I am in my poetry.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?

I mostly write dramas but I also tend to have music in my plays, it just happens and I tend to write my own music.  I have always loved musicals but have only written one to date with music, in addition to the composer’s music. I wrote a 10-minute comedy on purpose once just to see if I could do it.  I tend to have laughter in my plays naturally but I do want to write a full-length gut buster one day. I don’t write experimental or avant-garde plays, that’s not to say I might not try at some point.  I don’t care much for the abstract in art, poetry or plays.  If I can’t tell what it means, I tend to move on to something else.  I do write a lot about the revealing of secrets and the journey from bondage (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical) to freedom.  I think what draws me to the subject matter is the fact that I am a survivor and I want to leave bread crumbs albeit in the form of stories for others to find.  I believe my plays take me to the door in the dream over and over again and each time I change the outcome on the other side as long as I can believe what I see in my mind’s eye can come to past.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

I write poetry.  I got the nicest rejection letter once saying how my work was so lyrical which I think is due to my poetry background.  I started out wanting to write fiction, one of my monodramas “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma” started out as a short story.  My professor at Indiana University said it was so full of dialogue it felt like a play.  Some years later, I took an acting class with Ben Harney (Tony Award winner for the original Dream Girls) and he encouraged me to tweak it so I could perform it.  I did.  I found out more about writing drama by taking his acting class than I had in any book I read about drama.  I’ve studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute in their certificate program and plan to write more screenplays.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

Jennie Webb, one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative walked up to me at the second meeting for LA FPI and asked, “How is your life going right now?”  Fine, I answered (not if you count everything that was going WRONG but I was in denial so technically, I was fine.)  She smiled.  “You want to be the blog editor?” Blink.  Nod. “Be the blog editor.  Yeah?  Yeah.”  Then she walked away to “herd” someone else to do something else.  And I, never having written a blog article in my life, wondered loudly in my head, “What the hell, did I just commit to?”  I sent copies of my first article to playwright friends on opposite sides of the continent – one in Sacramento, the other in Brooklyn – to get their opinions, because I was completely unsure of myself.  I barely knew what a blog was, let along write one.  But it has been the best experience and blogging helps tremendously with writing the essays sometimes asked for in submission packets.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?

I love all the different voices of the ladies who blog; they cover such timely subjects.  I am not sure if I have a favorite of my own but I do feel that “Write it Scared” was very instrumental in me putting together a manuscript of poems that dealt with some scary dark places. And, just looking at my level of “going there” enabled me to become more free.  In “She, Who Was Called Barren,” I wanted to experiment with creating an event depicting what it is like to survive trauma and how it can be a roller coaster of dark and light moments and what that feels like.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?

I have a few influences but I would say Ezekiel, the prophet, mostly.  God was always telling him to go do something theatrical to “show” the Israelites what was coming in their future.  And, his language is so poetical.  He used a lot of symbolism; I like to use symbolism as well and have received many a “rejection” letter commenting on how lyrical my writing is.

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?

I found my voice a long time ago; it was recognizing that I knew my sound that came after I began calling myself a playwright.  Because I started telling stories at 3 years old and oral storytelling requires one to have a way of telling, I think that helped me a lot in developing my voice.  I like finding new nuances of my voice, that’s exciting to me.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?

“Always be writing…” that is my mantra.  I do a lot of internal work first so I turn over stories and moments in my spirit before any one story makes it to the page.  I have to live it in some way before it will release authentically even if it’s a snippet of someone else’s story.

14. How do you decide what to write?

It is usually something that I can’t shake.

15. How important is craft to you?

Craft is very important to me.  At one point, I had thought that playwriting was not for me because I was not sure how to do it on a level where I could be respectful of the craft it takes to earn the “wright” in playwright.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I studied acting and have performed one of my pieces as well as my poetry.  I also have co-directed one of my plays and made costumes.  The reason I came to Los Angeles in the first play was to study fashion design at Otis/Parsons (now Otis College of Design) – to specialize in costume and men’s wear – that didn’t work out so I had to do a paradigm shift which lead me to writing plays.

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

As an audience member, there is something for everyone.  As a playwright, I feel left out.  The worst part is when I have submitted something to a theater/company and go to see new work that has elements of what I submitted in someone else’s piece.  I would like to think that it’s a coincidence but when people can’t look you in the eye, you know they ciphered from your well.  It makes one a little skittish, although, I must say that this has happened to me outside of Los Angeles too; I try to take it as a compliment – a rude one – but one nonetheless.

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)

A lot of prayer and rehearsing of positive results – a place that I go to remind myself that my gift will make room for me and bring me before great men.  I have to know who I am and what my gift is and why it is.  There is always a little “buyer’s remorse” but it passes; it usually only turns up in the submission process.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

Family secrets, ghosts and surviving trauma.

20. What are you working on now?

Being more fearless – a play about Race and a book of poetry on loss.

 

For more articles by Robin Byrd go to http://lafpi.com/author/ladybyrd/.  Robin’s first blog post is titled “Being a Playwright…being female…” dated April 19, 2010

Robin’s Bio

Robin Byrd is an Indiana born playwright and poet residing in Los Angeles. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to the playwright’s affinity toward southern themes and language in some of her pieces.

Her plays which include The Grass Widow’s Son, Tennessee Songbird (the place where the river bends), The Book of Years, Dream Catcher, The Day of Small Things, For This Reason, In Times Like These (Is He the One?), and, Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma have been read and produced in Los Angeles as well as read in Nebraska, Maine, North Carolina, and recently in Washington, D.C. Robin has performed Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma in Los Angeles; the piece was also read at the 1st Annual SWAN Day event in Portland, Maine in March of 2008. Her plays Tennessee Songbird and Dream Catcher have won “Best Concurrent Play Lab Script at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference” and been selected as a semi-finalist for the 2008 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, respectively. Her poetry has been read in venues in Los Angeles and Indiana and has been published in two International Library of Poetry books.

The playwright is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., the Theatre Communications Group, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, Native Women Writers (at the Autry),  and the American Film Institute from which she holds a certificate in screenwriting. For more information on Robin please visit her website at www.ladybyrdcreations.com.

Robin acts as LA FPI Blog Editor.

WordPress Themes

X