Posts tagged: Tiffany Antone

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.

 

Panem et Circenses

By Tiffany Antone

I’ve let all of my professional memberships lapse this year.  It’s not because the value I place on them has lessened, it’s because I’m absolutely living-off-my-credit-cards broke.

Every time I get a Dramatists Guild newsletter, or an LMDA listserve digest, I feel guilty.  And sad.  I consider tacking their membership dues onto my “I’ll never pay it off anyway” Mastercard, and then get even more depressed because the last thing I need to do is collect interest on membership dues in addition to all the interest I’m already collecting on gas, food, and toilet paper.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately.  I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the Universe is testing me or if I’m only perpetuating my personal crisis by trying to find meaning here in the “What am I doing wrong?” zone of under/un-employment.

And maybe this week’s Black Friday Bludgeon-a-thon tipped me over into even drabber waters, because I really can’t help but be so focused on the deepening divide in this country between the “Haves” and “Have-Nots”.

We are not so far from a Hunger Games world as we think.

Which has me thinking: While there are certainly movies and plays being made that address today’s big issues, why aren’t there more  being produced that tap into today’s economic and social crises?  I admit, living in AZ – and now TX (yeehaw!) – has me at a disadvantage; I do not have my finger on the pulse of American theater.  (I’ve had to let my TCG membership go as well – I miss you American Theater Magazine!)   But I continue to read books and plays like a fiend and I consider my $5 movie matinees a forgivable splurge.  I also spend (too much) time online, trying to stay abreast of theatrical conversations and to feed my artistic self with updates about what is happening.

I try to stay up to date on what people are writing about and what audiences are gobbling up.

And I’d like to see more stories about the struggles going on in the trenches.

I read The Hunger Games series shortly after it came out.  No, I take that back… I devoured that series shortly after it came out.  I listened to friends talk about how the author didn’t “demonstrate the best craft,” and rolled my eyes, because they were eating the books up almost as fast as I was.

You see, the story is gripping.  The characters are compelling.  And the issues at play in the series are indeed very relevant, because – thematically speaking – we already live in a panem et circenses era.

Therefore, Hunger Games Fever is stoked not only by the story’s entertainment factors, but by our own class issues, hang-ups, and battles as well.  And it’s a HUGE box office success which means the story is reaching people.  There are many films, plays, and books that never enjoy the kind of commercial success the Hunger Games has achieved – so I’m not arguing that we need to make commercialism our goal!  But what I am suggesting is that audiences, while still wanting to be “entertained”, are also starved for relevance… and that IS a worthwhile goal.

We playwrights need to ask ourselves, thematically, what’s going to move today‘s audience?  To make people laugh harder, gasp louder, and think more fully?  To create the kinds of worlds and characters that compel an audience to act?

I don’t want to pacify an audience.

I don’t want to be part of the circus.

I want to break the circus down and get people up on their feet!

But that’s a big wish.  Even the project I’m referencing – The Hunger Games – which had a profound effect on my busy little mind, is still “just” a book.  “Just” a movie… I don’t see people refusing to buy up bits of tabloid what-not written about Jennifer Lawrence because – as is dramatized in the story – they now see that PR is all just illusion aimed to distract us from the pain behind the “circus” of life.

Still… I’m also probably not the only person making such a connection either.

We writers are all throwing stories into the ring, hoping one will catch the eye of the Ring Leader so that he/she will present it to the audience in grand fashion.  (Unless we become Ring Leaders ourselves…)  Isn’t every story just a part of the circus until someone receives it as more than?

I might be stretching the analogy a little thin…

All I know is, I’m out here on the perimeter looking in – as many writers and artists are – observing this spinning world from my own little nook, trying to say something worthwhile.  It’s a tough place to be sometimes, what with also living on planet Earth and locked in near constant financial aerobics in order to stay afloat.  I don’t always have the perfect words.  Sometimes it takes me months to get a scene “Just right”.  But people ask me what kind of plays I write, and I realize that the one thing my works all have in common is that they always tackle something bigger than myself.

Whether my intent is to make my audience laugh or cry, I always want them to leave the theater thinking.  I don’t want to distract them from the ugliness that is around them – I want to point at it, analyze it, laugh and scream at it…

There are a lot artists out there trying to achieve the same thing: to awaken the audience.

I just didn’t realize how important that “awakening” was until my life became less about “Which new boots am I going to buy with this week’s wages?” and more about “How am I going to eat this week?”

And, unfortunately, until I can stop answering that grocery question with my Mastercard, it looks like I’ll have to continue putting off paying all those membership dues.

But I’ll still be here – applying for jobs like motherf***er, trying to write stories that really move people, and hoping that enough someone-elses want to hear what I have to say that those stories I’m throwing into the ring start sticking.

 

Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist

By Tiffany Antone

It seems I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about whether or not artists should be paid/expect to be paid/pay their own way for the art they make/etc., and it’s making me grumpy.

It’s making me grumpy because in every case the author presupposes so much on behalf of the artists they purport to speak for/hypothesize on behalf of.  In every case, the author claims that (paraphrasing here to be sure – every article has had it’s own particular focus) “Artists shouldn’t expect to make money with their art – they should do it because a fiery passion to make art burns within” and “So, get a second or third job, surrender any hopes that you will ever own anything nice, and do what you love because you love it – not because you ever hope to make a living with it.”

Gag.

And B*llsh*t.

Let me be clear: I tell every student who wants to work professionally in the theater that it’s NOT an easy road.  That many of them will find that their paths take them in different directions than they intend.  That it’s okay if one day they decide they don’t want to be an actor/playwright/director after all.  I tell them that being an artist may not meet their economic standards, and that – yes – you need to really love this crazy profession in order to pursue it, because sometimes that’s all you’ll have separating you from a complete artistic meltdown.

Because it’s not a field where you can walk into ridiculously high-paying gigs fresh out of college or simply by making the right connections.  It’s not a field that pays highly, or “fairly”, or even sometimes at all.

In fact, much of the time, it pays nothing at all.

(sigh)

But I don’t tell them that they should suffer for their art, even though they might.  I don’t tell them that an artist should not ever expect, nor anticipate, nor (even) hope for, a paycheck someday.

Because if I do, then what does that say about how I value their art?

Art takes time.  It takes materials.  It takes energy.  If I write a play, I have to put in incredible time: the time to hone my craft, to write the script, to edit it, not to mention the time it takes to shop it around… That time isn’t “free” if I have to balance it against other jobs that pay and hopes for a personal life.  I’m carving that time out of the hours I’m supposed to be living/nurturing relationships with friends and family/making love/experiencing the world around me/etc.

Time is not free.

And then there are the materials an artist uses to make their art.  As a playwright, I have to own a laptop or a desktop or at least a notebook and lots of pens in order to get my words down on paper/or/screen.  I have to have a place to make my art – whether it’s my apartment or Starbucks or the park.  I have to feed myself, clothe myself, pay my electric bills… all of these “material goods” go into my ability to write.

And in order to hone my craft, find the time, and to supply the materials, I need money.

So, if I am working a job that is not in the arts to earn this money I need to make my art (as many of us do), then I am essentially working (at least) two jobs at all times: the one that pays and the one that doesn’t… yet.

Why is it so wrong then to hope that one day the play I write might pay me back with a bit of extrinsic gain in order to help my body and soul enjoy the intrinsic?  That “gain” may take the form of royalties, speaking fees, or a faculty position – and it may not be a lot, but receiving something other than a pat on back goes a long way in validating years of hard work put into evolving one’s artistic self.

I don’t think it’s asking a lot for artists to seek compensation.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for artists to value their art more than just “art for art’s sake”

I do think that those who pass on the “You’ll never make money with your art and you shouldn’t want to” lie to other artists are merely perpetuating a malfunctioning system’s philosophy of self-preservation.

It’s not evil to hope that your art will one day help pay the bills instead of merely adding to them.

It’s not delusional to think that our current “Eat or be eaten” system can be improved.

There’s nothing wrong with theater companies seeking out new business models in the hopes of creating a life for their artists that includes less suffering and more art-making through financial support, be they commissions, salaries, or even just good-old-fashioned stipends.

Stop telling people what they should intend with their art.  Stop telling artists that giving it away for free/or/next to nothing is just the name of the game.

Because that kind of condescension does nothing to change the game.

~Tiffany

In Which I Ask A Lot Of Questions

By Tiffany Antone

Something about my previous post stuck with me this week… I couldn’t quite put a pin in it until today.  At the end of the piece, I mentioned “I can’t presume to tell a woman of color about her own life anymore than a WoC should be telling a transgender white woman about hers.”

It stirred the question, “Where do transgender playwrights fall in this fight for gender parity?”

Does our drive for equal representation on stage scuttle transgender authors into Male/Female categories, or do we recognize them with a third gender category, thus indicating that an ideal season would include plays by men, women, and transgender playwrights?  And, if so, how would those genders break down from there?  Does a truly balanced season include an exact number male/female/transgender playwrights of color/queer/disabled/et al distinctions?

I guess what I’m getting at here is that in our bid to be better represented on stage, we become but one segment of an assembly of segmented voices demanding to be heard.

So…

What does this mean for theatres on the grand scale?   Should they try to appease each and every piece of these divided masses?  Could they?  What would a season look like if they did?

And what does this mean for playwrights on an individual level?  Is it possible to fully engage theatres en masse, or do we ultimately split time between our soap boxes and our desks, desperately self-promoting our own brand of whatever it is we’re selling whenever we’re not talking about everyone else in our “group”?

Is this just the way of things?  Are we all really just choosing the battles that lie closest to us, and to hell with the rest?

And if so, how can theatres – besieged with criticisms from so many groups – be expected to satisfy everyone?

Unfortunately, the answer for theatres is they cannot.

In order to “revolutionize” their production schedule in a manner that would satisfy our collectively diverse demands, theatres would need to be indifferent (at best) about alienating their patron base.  (The bigger the theatre, the more true this statement.)  A regional theatre that has primarily produced classic works by white men, for instance, would face a marketing and attendance nightmare were it to do a complete 180 – because it takes time (not decades, granted, but time) to grow new audiences*.

Smart purposefully-diverse substitutions in a theatre’s season, on the other hand, can serve to satisfy a theatre’s established audience as well as bring in new audiences previously deterred by what may have been perceived as static programming.   And when I say “smart” I mean searching for work that will challenge your theatre’s audience without alienating it.  If your theatre is in a city with a strong Latino community, and that community isn’t frequenting your theatre,  finding/producing work by Latino artists could be the first step your company takes towards diversifying your season.  If your company exists in a community with a large gay/lesbian population, but that population doesn’t visit your theatre, you should be seeking out playrights who can speak to that audience over and beyond playwrights that wouldn’t.  And if you’re one of those theatres producing Neil Simon after Mamet after Donald Margulies, you might be able to spice things up without mystifying your (probably) primarily white audiences just by bringing in some Sarah Ruhl or Theresa Rebeck.

Yes, adding one new voice to your season – new to your theatre and to your audience – could quite the change make.

In each instance, you are working towards a more balanced and robust season one new play at a time without moving too far beyond the circles of what you know your community will support.  You are contributing to a shifting theatrical landscape that continues to diversify and grow at a pace that allows audiences and hesitant administrators to keep pace.

Yet, would such incremental season changes be enough to make us happy?  If a regional theatre includes two plays by white women in their season where before they had no women at all, do we credit them as moving closer to gender parity, but berate them for ignoring playwrights of color?  Or do we decide on an individual level whether or not the fact that they are producing two works by women is satisfying and encouraging “enough” to us as women playwrights that we sort of “settle” down for a bit and direct our energies elsewhere?  Do we then look at other artists demanding the theatre give voice to their cause and say “Good luck!” or do we allow their fight to color our “victory” less victorious?

Which brings me back to my initial query – when we say we are asking for “gender parity”, what does that really mean?  And does it supercede or walk in step with the fight for diversity on stage in total?

Do we, in aligning ourselves with the fight closest to us, become a hindrance to those walking beside us?  Or can we all fight for our chosen “team” and still fight for all of us together?

It seems to me that the answers to these questions help us decide how we talk about gender parity/racial diversity/etc. with theatres and with one another, and it decides what we want to happen as a result of those discussions.  If we can agree that diversity at large is the goal, then we can work to encourage theatres to adopt changes in programming that best reflect the communities surrounding them by giving voice to the artists who serve those communities.  This might be a more realistic and attainable goal than asking theatres to give stage time to all of our voices at once.

So, the question becomes, is it a goal we can all work towards together?

 

* The topic of growing new audiences is worthy of a deeper discussion in and of itself  – of which there have been many.  For a fresh take and very insightful article on the topic, check out David Schultz’s Soil, Sunshine, Fresh Air, and Water on HowlRound

 

 

#Solidarity and Gender Parity Onstage

By Tiffany Antone

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week.  It’s been good for me, because much of the recent conversation I’ve been observing has been coming from the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen perspective, and although I’ve got my own little Twitter account (and a rockin’ Twitter name!), I barely ever actually surf the Tweet Stream.

In other words, had it not launched beyond the Twitter-sphere, I probably would have remained completely unaware that such an intensely important conversation was taking place.

So, there’s today’s Twitter promo.

If you are a fellow part-time-Luddite and need a run-down on just exactly what it is I’m talking about, then take a moment to check out this link regarding the hashtag’s origin.  Then read a more personal accounting of it on XOJane HERE, and lastly – if you’re as fascinated as I’ve become- you can read a response to all the hubub by the hashtag’s originator, Mikki Kendal,  HERE.  Go ahead and do the clicking… it’s worth it to get the full picture and this post will be here when you get back.

Good, you all caught up?  Is your head spinning a little with the enormity of it all?  Me too.

I took Women’s Studies as an undergrad at UCLA.  I sat in class, did all the reading, felt that undergraduate tingle racing up my spine (making me sit up taller and pay more attention than I did in my History of the Beatles class…)  Because here was a class that was genuinely interesting to me because it was about me.  I didn’t grow up underserved because I was female, and I didn’t experience discrimination simply because I was female.  But I could feel a feminine fight stirring inside me as I read and discovered what ground the women before me had tread.  I was moved by the stories of my peers.  I was touched by the togetherness of those who marched and fought and made a difference.  I felt a sisterhood in those pages on in our discussion groups, because here were women who were interested in being their best selves and making sure the world honored and respected the female of the species.

It was awesome.

And then the semester was over.

So I put my textbook on my bookshelf and plowed on.

But by simply living in the real world, I found myself coming back to that book again and again as a sort of touchstone for my female reality…  I wasn’t out in the world getting abused because I had breasts, but I did find myself wondering how much of the daily crap I saw myself and my girlfriends wading through was more than just detritus from the unfinished work our mothers (and their mothers, and the mothers before them) had handed down to us.

The work is never done.

We never stop fighting for equality, no matter who we are, as long as a “majority” continues to swell against an “other than”.

This is as true for today’s feminist breakdown as it is for racial divides as it is for gay rights as it is for class warfare as it is for…  No matter where you fall in the Human Being Periodic Chart, you will struggle against the lines between yourself and “them”.

I’m a woman.  I’m white.  I’m straight.  I live slightly above the poverty line (or, at least I was before I became unemployed).

In witnessing the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion, I come back again and again to a feeling of ostracism because my straight white mantra of “Women will achieve gender parity by building and maintaining an equal voice.” was not, apparently, equal at all.

Have I been a closet imperialist feminist all this time?  Am I part of the problem because, in maintaining feminist intentions based on my own socioeconomic background vs. the “movement” at large, I haven’t really been part of the conversation?

Or is it because I’m white?

I write plays.

I write plays with female protagonists.

My female protagonists are usually “white” in the sense that I am writing from a Caucasian perspective.  That doesn’t mean my heroines can’t be played by actresses of color – they certainly could and should be – but my characters aren’t speaking from WoC perspective because, well, I’m not a WoC and I can’t possibly expect to tell their stories better than they can/do.

But does my primarily pale perspective make me, as a playwright, part of the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen problem?

If the Guthrie committed to producing a whole season of work by women playwrights, but only two of them were women playwrights of color, would those of us angling for gender parity be appeased, or would we then stand up together and insist that true gender parity includes racial parity as well?

My hope is that we’d all fight for the latter.

My fear is that in order to achieve it, we need to be even more specific in what we’re asking for.

The discussion at large really must be: What does gender parity look like?  And in order to answer that, the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion needs to bleed over into the arts.

Because in order to really become a force to be reckoned with, we have to reconcile our divisiveness and create a dialogue that is productive.  I can’t presume to tell a woman of color about her own life anymore than a WoC should be telling a transgender white woman about hers.  Each of our perspectives is grounded in our own personal experience of the world – which is why we need to listen to one another.

And why we need to tell more stories.

We need to gather round the listening place, open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds, and bear witness to each story with shared passion and respect.

Then we need to promote one another’s stories with the same kind of passion and dedication we give to our own.

This is what being a feminist and a playwright is all about.

Playwriting Stall

By Tiffany Antone

Eight years ago, I was excitedly sitting in on my first graduate classes as an MFA playwright.  E.I.G.H.T. Whole. Years.  Ago.

I didn’t know what the future would bring – I just knew my Muse was alight with passionate glee.

Oh, and I also knew that I had three years to write “something awesome” because after graduation, The Real World (and Sallie Mae) would come crashing down around me with all of its grubby demands.  Demands like “You better pay for that education!” along with other necessities such as gas, food, somewhere to live – you know, the basics.

Well, the basics plus student loan and credit card debt.

(sigh)

But I read an article today in the Huffington Post that has me re-evaluating the way I’ve been handling The Real World since graduation.  The article was titled “Where You Should Be vs. Where You Are”.  I clicked on over to check it out because, like many an artist, I am constantly compelled to compare my actual career trajectory to the one I think I should be on by now.  Also, like any good perfectionist, I like to read up on all the ways I’m not yet meeting my fullest potential so that I can berate myself about it later.

Which is, of course, exactly what the article’s author, Emily Bennington, is telling us not to do.

Emily tells us that she had her “Just what the heck is wrong with my constantly unsatisfied self?!” moment when her son told her how sad she was making him, what with all her yelling and irritation – you see, her shortage of patience with her self had dribbled over and onto her family as well.

I don’t yet have kids to hold a mirror in front of my face, though – so I suppose it means I have to find a way to hold one up by myself.

I’ve always been a fairly positive “You can do anything if you put your mind to it!” kind of person.  It’s why I work so hard to improve my own short-comings: If I’m doing my best, I will get as far as my best can get me, right?  But I how can I be doing my best, when I’m constantly picking myself apart in search of said shortcomings?  Don’t you, at some point, start to peck into your own self-confidence with all that drive to improve?

Well, somewhere along the way, I got so bummed out by the constant self-analysis of my own “slow” trajectory as an artist that I froze – mid-takeoff – in abject panic.

Because the business of theatre eludes me.

When I’m wearing my Playwright hat, I sit in a room and type and type and type and TYPE.  Then I send it out to play contests and theatre companies, and I wait.  I wait and wait and WAIT.  Sometimes the response is “Hey, we like this!  We are going to give it to actors and invite people to hear your words!” and sometimes it’s “Hey, we like this!  You should keep writing!” And, of course, sometimes it’s crickets.

That’s the nature of the business for a playwright, right?

I mean, is that really all we can do?

So about two years ago, I took a hiatus from all the pitching and mailing and waiting, and instead began producing small play festivals in a small town in AZ.  I expanded my producer skills, learned that I was not actually afraid of directing (and that I, in fact, actually enjoy the high-stress immediacy of it), and dedicated myself to creating other theatre opportunities to feed my creative soul.

And I enjoyed it.  I really did.

But I never escaped the feeling of heartbreak and ineffectiveness of a writer whose plays weren’t getting produced, nor the guilt-ridden dissatisfaction with myself for neglecting to write.

I’m not good at feeling powerless.

But I’m realizing that part of my “problem” is that I turned the mystery and frustration of my playwriting career’s seeming lack of progression into a mentally insurmountable hurdle.  I sat down and stared at that hurdle for a while, kicked some stones its way, and decided to go left instead.

Only, left has really just been this other trail alongside the one I disembarked, and I’ve been looking over my shoulder the whole way.  It’s like walking along a length of wall guarding the palace you built.  And I put up more wall with every blessed step.

You’d think knocking down a metaphorical wall would be super easy…

But I don’t know how to knock it down except to maybe stop counting up the things I “don’t have” and just get on with my bad self.  So…

Okay.

I don’t have money.  Who does?  I’ve really got to move on from this one.  I’ve got to stop lusting after “things” and realize – at this juncture especially – how much simpler my life will be when I stop tallying up how much money I’m NOT making and all the things I CAN’T do with an empty wallet.  Instead, I’ve got to figure out how much I need to earn in order to create space and time in my life to focus on all these words needing to be put down on paper.  I repeat:  It’s. Time. To. Move. On.

But then what am I going to do to make that money?  A small amount of money is still an amount.  Just because I stop hating how small my sack of coin is doesn’t solve where I’m going to get the coin from in the first place?   I mean, I really hate working desk jobs!  And I don’t know how to get a teaching gig, and, and, and…  Holy cow!  How can a person display so much ingenuity on occasion and yet find herself stuck again and again on others?  I just moved to Waco – there’s time to explore and get creative and get serious about this desire I have – this strong instinct towards saving my own sanity – and to carve out a pleasing paying gig.  Instead of bitching about not knowing where to find those elusive university teaching gigs, how about creating my own opportunities to teach and write?  (Massive DUH thought bubble)  I need to focus on figuring out how much I really need to earn to survive – and then make it happen.  There is no reason not to feel confident in this.  Move.  On.

Okay, but the saddest bit of truth here is that I don’t feel happy when I look at my plays anymore because I just see the unmet potential.  WAAAAAHHHHH (crumbles into a mess of ugly, fat, tears of disappointment)  Ummm… Gross.  That’s just gross.  And sad.  And it just feeds my guilt about not writing, thus making the whole ugly thing worse.  This will go away when I stop being angry at my plays for not being scooped up by producers after I’ve sent them out into the world.  I need to forgive myself for not even really knowing how to get my plays to the people doing the producing.  I need to forgive my plays for not getting a big production yet.  But I also need to celebrate my plays who have had productions or very nearly.  I need to tally up the pats on my back instead of just the unmet hopes.  And I need to just write more damn plays – to get the machine working again instead of cursing my rusty hinges for being “ineffectual”.  In essence, I need to knock.  It.  Off.

And write.

And move on.

Because here’s what I’ve realized:  When I’m honest with myself, I can see just how much energy I’ve spent these past few years developing other great theatre skills at the cost of neglecting my own passion for the written word.  I love writing, and I love teaching – and that’s where I need to put my energy.  I did learn that I also, strangely enough, love producing and enjoy directing… but I can’t be a whole (or healthy) artist if the part I most readily identify with – my playwright self – has been put in the corner for the crime of not traveling up the Playwright Ladder fast enough.

It is time for me to stop comparing myself against all the things I haven’t yet done… it’s time to find joy in where I am now, and that it is MUCH harder to put into practice than I’d like to admit.

But that’s where I’m at, right now.  And I’m going to celebrate it.

 

Interview with Playwright Tiffany Antone

Tiffany Antone evades questioning:

Tiffany Antone

LA FPI Blogger Tiffany Antone is one of the six bloggers to kick off the LA FPI Blog back in 2010. Direct, bold and innovative, Tiffany not only creates with words on the page; she creates venues for art to happen.

1.  How did you become a playwright?  What brought you to theater?    I grew up an actress – I was always auditioning, performing, and staying in the theatre till the last possible second.  I moved to LA in 1998 to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts… but I wasn’t the most amazing actress ever, and I hated auditioning.  I decided to apply to UCLA in pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree.  I took a playwriting class in my first year and fell in LOVE.  I had always written, but this was the first time I had written a play – it felt like exactly what I should be doing.

2.  What is your favorite play of yours?  Why?  My favorite self-penned play is Ana and the Closet.  The play is incredibly fantastical and (I think) poetic.  I’ve been fortunate enough to see several readings of the play (including an AMAZING reading at the Kennedy Center), but it hasn’t yet been produced.  I think it’s to do with the fact that there are a number of “theatrical” moments in the play requesting multimedia projections, flying people, and a black river that writhes on stage beneath a crumbling ledge… (I know, I know… I’m not asking for much, am I?)  But even though it’s a wild show, it has it’s heart a very moving story about traversing the abyss of deep loss. I look forward to the day a director envisions bringing these moments to life with Bunraku artists in charge of the magic… Theatre is nothing if not inventive.

4.  What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?  Argh!  I hate these types of questions because they limit the field so narrowly… Okay, I’l pick three – how about that?  Three of my favorite plays are: Sarah Ruhl’s Euridice (HOLY COW – the lyrical nature of the script and the you-would-think-impossibly-contradictory-succinctness, the fantastic staging… oh, I was in love with the first read!), Anything by Albee or O’Neill (the men are story genies!), and I’m going to list two final plays in tandem because I LOVE how they are – in principle – both family dramas, and yet each ignite into something much more perverse, combustible, and ultimately delightful on stage:  August Osage County by  Tracy Letts, and The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris.

Yeah, yeah… I know – that was way more than three (sigh) but I tried!

5.  Who is your favorite playwright?  WhyCan’t pick just one… just can’t!  But top honors on my bookshelf go to Martin McDonough, Sarah Ruhl, David Lindsay-Abaire, Suzan Lori Parks, and of course the great Albee, Shephard, O’Neill & Williams.

7.  What type of plays do you write?  (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …)  What draws you to it?  This is always a hard question for me to answer, because I don’t just work in one medium or style.  I have written fantastical plays, “sci-fi” plays, and kitchen-sink dramas, and – I’m currently working on my first absurdist piece. The thing that draws me to write is the world, and the “how” of its writing is dependent on the story I’m trying to tell.  My only “rule” when it comes to drafting a script is does it pass the “Who gives a shit?” test.  If I have an idea and I ask myself (honestly) “Who is going to give a shit about this play/screenplay?” and the answer is “Probably nobody” then I don’t waste my time developing it – I just scribble the idea down in my little notebook and turn the page.  That way, I’m not cluttering my calendar with brutal work on material that would probably be better off written as a poem that will sit in the back of my desk drawer – because if I’m the only audience for something, it’s probably not going to be a very good play.  If I feel an audience exists for the story in my head/heart, then I set to figuring out it’s mood, style, and shape and start writing.

8.  Do you write any other literary forms?  How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?  I am also a screenwriter, which terrified me when I first sat to developing the skill-set for it.  I think working in both mediums makes me a better assessor of story, and enables me to create/inhabit very different worlds. And if I ever sell a screenplay, I’ll be a much happier playwright :-)

9.  Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?  I jumped on board because there are so many layers to gender parity in theater – why not start delving into/and/writing about them?  I love the sense of togetherness LAFPI supports! 

13. Do you have a writing regiment?  Can you discuss your process?   Snacks.  I have to have snacks in every nook of my desk.  I also have to be careful with my “other” life, meaning Tiffany Who Pays the Bills must not work so much that Tiffany Who Writes gets buried in exhaustion.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?   I find myself doing a lot of producing lately, and teaching acting/production/writing.  It’s good to be comfortable in all of these areas (especially since some of them actually PAY a girl), and I’ll probably continue to work in these areas as they provide a different brand of satisfaction – that of realization (vs. the incompleteness of a play un-produced).  Writing is definitely my “Ahhhh” place, but I don’t think I’ll ever be of a mind to stop my other theatrical endeavors… I like wearing more than one theatre hat.

For blog articles written by Tiffany Antone please go to http://lafpi.com/author/tiffanyantone/.  Tiffany’s first blog article is titled “It Takes a Village” dated May 16, 2010.

Tiffany’s Bio

Tiffany is proud to have received her MFA in Playwriting from UCLA’s prestigious school of Theater, Film, and Television, where she also completed her BA in Theater.  She also holds her A.A in acting from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Tiffany was a 2008 Hawthornden Fellow, which included a writing residency in Scotland, and a 2009 Sherwood Award Finalist with Center Theatre Group.  Tiffany has received the Tim Robbins Award for plays of social importance, James Pendelton Foundation Prize, Hal Kanter Award in Comedy Writing, Dini Ostrov Stage Spirit Award in Playwriting, the Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Scholarship, and the Florence Theil Herrscher Award.

Her plays have been read and/or performed in Los Angeles, New York, D.C. and Minneapolis.  Her plays Twigs and Bone and Ana and the Closet were both Jerome Finalists and O’Neil semi-finalists for 2009 and 2010.  Ana and the Closet was also presented at The Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival in 2009.  Her play In the Company of Jane Doe was a Princess Grace semi-finalist in 2006, a winner of the New Plays on Campus series with The Playwrights’ Center, and winner of the 2008 New Works for Young Women contest with the University of Tulsa.  In the Company of Jane Doe premiered in January 2010 at The Powerhouse Theatre (LA Theatre Ensemble). Tiffany’s play The Good Book was a winner of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway play festival and is available through Samuel French publishing.

Other plays include The Low Tide Gang, Ham Brown’s House (Princess Grace Semi-Finalist, 2008), Little Phoenix, Stalled, My Pet George, and From the Rubble. Screenplays include The Sisters Roberts and A Disappearing Woman (Golden Brad Finalist 2009).

Tiffany currently lives and teaches in AZ and runs Little Black Dress INK, a producing org for female playwrights.  You can read more about Tiffany at www.TiffanyAntone.com or on her blog www.AwdsAndEnds.com.

Tiffany acts as an LA FPI Graphics Consultant.

Most Unsuccessful Playwright Ever

Yep, right here. Most unsuccessful playwright ever. And I hate superlatives.

Hello Lafpiers,

It’s my blog week here on LAFPI. So I had a whole big comic riff planned for my Monday post. I had planned to talk about how I had absolutely nothing happening in my playwriting world and how I was now aiming for a lack of success instead of success and how once I realized that I became a happier person even though to desire a lack of success instead of success is very un-American.

Then last week I got an email from Tiffany Antone. Darn you, Tiffanyyyyyy!

Tiffany is producing an evening of plays about pets, and I had sent her some monologues which I had totally forgotten about. Anyway, she’s putting my monologues in her pet play evening and would I be interested in writing another monologue?

Of course I wrote another monologue. So now, I have something theatrical happening and I can no longer be the most unsuccessful playwright ever. I’m bummed. I’m seriously bummed.

Meanwhile, on the cover of the most recent LA Weekly was a drawing of William Shakespeare with a laptop and the headline: Why Be a Playwright in LA? Inside, Steven Leigh Morris wrote a very engaging profile of four Los Angeles based playwrights. The article can be found here.

Personally, I’ve never been very good at being a playwright. I can’t figure out the secret handshake, and my wardrobe is all wrong. I just like to write plays that are crazy, sexy, cool.

But I could relate to the LA part of the headline. I’ve been looking around LA and asking myself why am I here? Sure there’s a great acting pool, but great actors can be found all over the world. Sure seventy degree February days are nice, but so is rain. Why am I in LA? I don’t have a witty answer for that one. I just know it’s April 2013, and I’m still in LA.

But. . .But. . .But

Last month, Tiffany Antone put her writing heart on her sleeve on this blog. She kept coming back to the phrase but I’m not writing full length plays as she talked about everything she was doing—and she does some great stuff.

I totally understood her pain. She was going through the Buts. Yes, I have the buts too. I might be writing away and kicking ass on a new play,  but. . .but. . .but. I might have sat through a really successful production of a short play I wrote, but. . .but. . .but.

The Buts have caused me to start smoking (which creates real butts, hahahaha), drink too much, and curl up into a little ball with my eyes tightly closed and my fists clenched.

How do you fight the Buts? I do not recommend smoking, drinking too much, or curling up into a little ball. I fight the Buts by doing yoga (skipping the little ball part), sailing, and just plain getting on with it.

Sometimes, you just gotta get on with it and say, okay, what next? Actually, that might be a good phrase to counter punch the Buts. What next? Also what can I do now?

And Tiffany, don’t worry about them full length plays. According to Wikipedia, Chekhov wrote less than ten full length plays. Less than ten. Okay, so he was a prolific short story writer. Okay, so five of those plays are considered classics. Okay, so he was also a doctor. Okay, so he died young. Still, he did the work. Remember it’s quality not quantity. Insert inspirational quote here.

It’s your time now. What are you going to do with it?

Hello Again Hello

 

Happy Week one hundred and twenty three, LAFPI Blog!!! Woohoo! Has this blog really been up for over two years? I swear, it doesn’t look a day over six months.

When I first started blogging for LAFPI, I figured I would stop when I ran out of ideas. Well, this is my eleventh time blogging here, and I’m still going. I wonder how many times I have to blog in order to get an LAFPI baseball cap.

My playwriting coffee has been percolating nicely. Last month, I traveled to Prescott, Arizona for yet another theatrical extravaganza produced by Tiffany Antone (producer, playwright, fellow LAFPI blogger, and the more I know her, the more I am tempted to put the words, ‘the great’ in front of her name).

My short play, POP, a meditation on the financial crisis told with balloons, was part of an evening of short plays called From the Mouths of Babes. It was great fun returning toPrescott for a second time and seeing folks I hadn’t seen in a year.

POP was directed by Cason Murphy who directed my play last year. Once again, he made a production that was dynamic and exciting. I just sat back and delighted in it. It was a moment in time that happened and then popped like a balloon. Yes, it was good. I was a happy playwright.

Cason also wrote about directing my plays, and you can read his words here.

This week, I plan to put up new posts every day Monday through Friday this week, so check back for more playwriting fun. I promise there will be no posts about how difficult it is to write because it’s August and too darn hot for any of that.

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