My nearly-three-year-old got sick. He yacked all over the place, and then I felt like I was going to yack all over the place, and he definitely yacked all over my husband, and I definitely almost yacked back, so that took several days to recover from.
We’ve been traveling. My husband presented at a conference. The tot finally got better, then we got on a plane, and then we got to spend a day at the beach. Who wants to hunker down with their laptop when the San Diego beach is in your face?
I have grades to enter. Students to email. Lesson plans to make. It’s Thanksgiving break, and I’m thankful for the time it gives me to get caught up.
My toddler is screaming. He has a poopy diaper, but he likes it that way (apparently) because he is screaming at anyone who approaches to try and change it. Speaking of poopy diapers…
Donald Trump is president.
I wake up everyday with trepidation… What will happen today? Whose shoe will be the next to drop? How am I supposed to write when there is all this news to obsess over?
I’m pregnant. My back hurts. I’m tired. I’m making another human, even as I panic about the world going to absolute shit, and I wonder how irresponsible it is to be creating life in the face of so much global disaster. It’s exhausting.
The cats are meowing. They want some of my cinnamon roll… well, they want the butter I slathered on top of it. They’re adorable. I definitely need to spend the next thirty minutes trying to convince them to sit in my lap and snuggle.
My imagination is tired from imagining how many ways the apocalypse might come, what shape it might take, and what we’ll do when it gets here.
Buckle in, readers! This post’s soundtrack is LET’S GET RADICAL by Gogol Bordello.
*DISCLAIMER: There is a prominently placed F bomb at the start of this song.*
Did you know the LAFPI is almost 10 years old? Crazy, right? On the one hand, it feels like it’s been much longer than that, and on the other is the old adage “Where has the time gone?”
I’m sure there will be much room for discussing what has changed in the ten years since LAFPI started instigating its parity-focused programming, so I’m not going to try to do that here. BUT, I mention this upcoming anniversary as a precursor to the following question:
And I don’t just mean for the LAFPI, but for female playwrights and theatremakers everywhere. What are we doing/going to continue to do to make an impact not only for ourselves, but for each other?
This is a question I ask myself a lot—and I’m sure, if I were a more selfish writer, my own playwriting career would be a little more… distinguished. But I believe I have a responsibility as an artist to not only to make art that makes me happy/fulfilled, but to put my skills as an artist to work in support of a making this world better.
And yes, I know there are a lot of men out there doing great and important things, but this is the LAFPI, so I’m going to focus on the women. I’ve been hugely impressed by the fact that the overwhelming majority of theatremakers who have been joining our producing efforts through Protest Plays Project are women. I’m hardly alone in making this observation when it comes to some of the contemporary socially engaged theatre initiatives of late.
In Chantal Bilodeau’s article, “Why do Women Climate More Than Men?” she notes that the majority of theatremakers involved in supporting the theatrical work she organizes in climate change, are women. And theatremaker Claudia Alick recently noted in a roundtable discussion I participated in for HowlRound that the majority of organizers applying theatre and art to gun control issues were female.
Its obvious that female theatremakers are engaging in political and socially active theatre in impressive numbers, and no wonder: there are so many problems facing the world, and our nation, right now that it can feel hard to focus on anything else.
I’d love to hear what YOU are scheming up/working on/dreaming about taking action on. I’ll even start you off with my own #TheatreAction wish list!
A nation-wide outreach designed to teach people how to talk to one another again. Seriously, why isn’t this already a thing?! We have lost the ability to engage in political discussion without dissolving into partisan mud-slinging and it is tearing us apart! This project could create collaborative opportunities for theatre makers, psychologists, community organizers, and mediators to develop effective non-partisan programming.
An expanded engagement with plays written by playwrights working from a community perspective. Why aren’t theatres reading more works about their own communities alongside plays about communities in different parts of the nation? I’ve tried to make some progress on this front with my Heal the Divide/Heal the Divide on Campus projects, but I don’t own a theatre and I don’t have the ear of that many Artistic Directors. If we all made a concerted effort however…
I am currently trying to get theatres to put #TheatreActionVOTE! Plays into their theatres. These pieces are written to be performed pre-show (they’re only 1-3 minutes long!) and are non-partisan and available royalty free. It’s harder then you’d think it is to get a theatre to join this effort- even when the message is as non-controversial as “Please Vote!”
Why aren’t more theatres collaborating with local non-profits in their communities? There is such an incredible opportunity not only to increase their community outreach/effectivenss (aka, demonstrate their commitment to non-profit community-centered work) but also to just expand their audiences.
Bring theatre to the people! I wish I could do/see more theatre in unconventional spaces, whether that theatre is entertainment for entertainment’s sake or more efficaciously-minded, the people who need theatre most (and it’s power to teach empathy/compassion) are often the people who see it the least. Price and access are very real issues, and I love the many organizations who are taking strides to improve access. I think individual theatremakers have more agency to create theatre in The People’s Spaces than they thing. You can make theatre anywhere! If you believed that, where would you make theatre next?
So there are a few ideas from me. What are YOU working on? What do you wish you were working on? Let’s talk in the comments!
Hey, it’s me, Tiffany! The used-to-live-in-LA-but-now-I-live-in-Iowa playwright who launched Little Black Dress INK, had a baby, and then (because I wasn’t busy enough – duh) started Protest Plays Project too. I’m pretty much busy ALL THE TIME now, and it got me to thinking…
It’s all Jennie Webb’s fault.
She’s the one who invited me to the first LAFPI meeting all those years ago. The meeting where I got a taste of she-playwright POWER and decided I needed MORE! I knew I was moving to AZ, far away from my cherished playwright coven, but what the hell? If Jennie Webb (with Laura Shamas) could unite the female playwrights of Los Angeles, I could certainly found and operate a female playwright producing company in Arizona, right?!
And now we’re in our 7th year. We’ve just announced 2019’s Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Theme. I’ve been privileged to get to know a ton of amazing female playwrights from all around the country (along with some international playwrights as well!) It’s been a hell of a ride, and a TON of work, but it’s also been totally worth it.
But I wanted to do MORE, remember? Especially since I was politically mortified with the results of the 2016 election. So I founded Protest Plays Project (PPP). My initial aim was to collect plays about social issues that theatre-activists could use for protest or fundraising* purposes. (*Specifically, fundraising for non-profits working for positive social change.)
Well, PPP has been busy. Super busy.
And I want to take the start of my blogging week to tell you how you can get involved, in case you’re that kind of theatremaker!
First, we’ve got our #TheatreActionVOTE! Initiative going on and all you have to do to get involved is commit to presenting Vote! plays or monologues in your pre-show.
You can write your own piece for this purpose, or select pieces from our Collection. The plays in our collection are:
1-3 minutes in length
Available royalty free
Written to be presented pre-show in whatever location works for your theatre
You can sign your theatre up to participate HERE. (It’s free, it’s easy, and we won’t spam you!)
We’re also collecting plays on Immigration. The AMAZING LA playwright, Diana Burbano along with the awesome playwright Ricardo Soltero-Brown, are curating the collection – and we’ll be encouraging theatres to present readings for fundraisers. You can find more info and send us your play, HERE.
Protest Plays continues to support #TheatreActionGunControl and if you want to put up a reading, we have links to a number of excellent collections on our website!
But does it ever feel like enough? Does political theatre work? Can we truly effect change with passionately written, socially conscious plays? I plan on examining these questions later this week, right here, on the LAFPI blog.
So stay tuned, stay connected, and if you see Jennie Webb – hug that wild woman for me!
An hour ago, my toddler wouldn’t have let me sit down with my laptop.
A week ago, I wouldn’t have had time to blog ANYTHING.
A month ago, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about Protest Plays’ new #TheatreActionVote initaitive.We can write all the socially engaging work in the world, but if our audiences aren’t registered to vote/aren’t showing up at the polls, our work/our audiences’ work is only going to reach so far. But when we shout out – and take action – together, we can create change on the macro level.
And let’s be honest—we need MACRO changes right now.
I hope you’ll join us in our effort to get audiences to the polls! Plays/monologues must be 1-3 minutes in length and non-partisan. Their goal should be to activate audiences to register/to vote. It’s that simple!
Hot jelly and biscuits, is there a lot to talk about!
A fewweeksmonths longish time ago, when the LAFPI crew asked if I’d like to get back on the blogging bandwagon, I said “Hell, yes!” because I was feeling productive and all kinds of mouthy with super important sh*t to say. But now my week is here, and it’s almost too much because Little Black Dress INK’s final ONSTAGE lineup from 2017 has a reading on Jan 15, and then a bunch of this year’s ONSTAGE semi-finalists have readings all over the place on Jan 21 as part of International Women’s Voices Day, (oh, I run Little Black Dress INK), plus the Spring semester starts on Weds, and I have a letter of rec to write, revisions to do, and a toddler to keep track of…
So I don’t have time to write the deep, thoughtful, life-changing post I intended to. If I could, though, I would probably have some witty/deep things to say about the following:
The Golden Globes
Were they feminist enough? Too feminist (is that even a thing??) Will Oprah be our new president? Was that woman from 50 Shades of Grey giving Angelina Jolie side-eye during Jennifer Aniston’s speech? I mean, I don’t have cable, but the news coverage is enough to make me want to stuff cotton in my ears and unplug the router for good.
What’s that you say? You don’t believe me? You’re saying that if I haven’t stuffed cotton in my ears and unplugged the router after the monstrous orange shit-show of a year we just wrapped, that I must be engaging in a healthy hyperbolic outburst and nothing more?
You’re probably right.
I’m trying it out. Anyone else write for that site? I like some of the writers a lot… Maybe, if I write some truly epic stuff there, I’ll get more traffic on Medium than I do on my personal blog… sh*t, I don’t have a personal blog anymore? Why not? Oh yeah, because I don’t have time…
Heeeyyyyyy, do you think, MAYBE, that I might have a problem with over-committing myself to things? I mean, could I possible suffer from (faux gasp) Artistic FOMO?
(Yes. The answer is yes, yes I do.)
I love my son. He is the apple of my eye, the sugar on my cornflakes, the laughter in my ears… but he’s also the little tyrant screaming at me to escort him to the washing machine twelve times a day, where he will sit for interminably long periods of time flipping the dials around in abject pleasure, waiting for my eyes to gloss over with boredom so that he can QUICKPUSHTHESTARTBUTTON! before I catch his hand with mine and remind him that he is not yet allowed to do the laundry on his own, and can we please go back to the living toy room now so that mommy can sit on the couch and check her Facebook for a hot second?
New Year’s Resolutions
Are for chumps. And perfectionists. And people with stronger will-power than I possess. So be nice to yourself, even if you’ve already failed at whatever ridiculous demands you put on yourself last week. I signed up for Red Theater’s playwriting challenge last November and didn’t even make it past the first day. The FIRST DAY. Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and tell your expectations to take a hike.
I’m not too busy to tell you you should check out one of our ONSTAGE readings! If you’re in Los Angeles on Jan 15, make sure you swing by the Zephyr Theatre for the final reading of our 2017 Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Festival: Hot Mess.
And if you’re in Los Angeles (or Bemidji,MN; or Columbus, OH; or Magnolia, AR; or Milwaukee, WI; or Prescott, AZ) on Jan 21st, check out one of our Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Festival: Volume Control readings! They’re sure to be a hoot/make you feel the deep feels (and all that other cathartic magic that theatre does) PLUS you’ll be supporting International Women’s Voices Day, which is all kinds of awesome! Here’s a LINK for more info.
Tune in later this week for more words/sentences composed by me (along with—hopefully—some deeper thoughts)
It’s that time of year again, time for Little Black Dress INK’s annual Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project to begin!
And that means we are looking for some seriously fabulous female playwrights to participate!
Little Black Dress INK is thrilled to continue creating production opportunities for female playwrights through its Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project; a short-play festival dedicated to producing peer-selected works by women. In addition to contributing to the selection of plays, participating playwrights are able to review and revise their work during semi-finalist readings, and are encouraged to blog about the process along the way.
Submissions are now being accepted from awesome female playwrights for consideration in this year’s festival! This festival utilizes a peer-review process for evaluating submissions, so please make sure to read over the following guidelines carefully before submitting.
This year’s festival theme is Hot Mess. Playwrights are invited to submit short plays and/or monologues written on this theme. In the past we’ve also had great success with short scenelets (10-minute plays comprised of a couple of scenes, which we can sprinkle throughout the line-up)
LBDI strongly suggests you do not submit plays or monologues longer than ten minutes. Keep in mind that in all instances, shorter truly is better. Plays running longer than ten minutes stand very little chance of making it into the festival, as we strive to produce as many playwrights as possible.
Little Black Dress INK utilizes a peer review process for evaluating plays. By submitting to this fest, you agree to participate in this unique opportunity to help select plays for production.
Once our submission window is closed, you will receive a selection of plays to read and score using the LBDI online eval form. You MUST read and submit your evaluations by the required date in order for your play to remain in consideration.
Submitted works will be read by other participating playwrights and LBDI artistic personnel. By submitting to the festival, you agree to share your work for review in this process.
Submission materials must be emailed to LBDI by December 10th, 2016 and should include:
The following information in the body of your email:
The title of your play
Your contact information *It is very important that you use a reliable email address as all correspondence will be done via email!
A blind PDF of your script – do NOT include your name anywhere on the script!
Email materials to submissions@LittleBlackDressINK.org
LBDI will be producing readings of the top scoring plays at locations nation-wide. The top eight to ten scoring plays will also move on to full production with Little Black Dress INK.
For those who don’t know, I am not only a playwright, but the Artistic Director (slash/Mad Woman) behind Little Black Dress INK – a female playwright producing org that produces an annual peer-reviewed short play fest. Over the years we’ve grown our fest from a small group of playwrights produced in Prescott, AZ, to a now nation-wide new play reading series with productions slated in both Prescott AND Lafayette, LA in 2016. I couldn’t be more proud of all the efforts our supporters, artist, and producers have put into this fest—and I am ecstatic that we continue to grow.
This year, we’re adding an online component to the festival—one that will allow us to produce online versions of full-length plays. It’s called the ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast, and our very first one is now live!
Since it’s our inaugural podcast, we chose to focus on interviews with some of our VIP artists, and included excerpts from past ONSTAGE plays. You should definitely check it out – the women we work with are all kinds of amazing! And the great thing about podcasts is that you can listen while you’re working out, driving, cooking, and pretty much anything else-ing!
I think we can agree that this year has been a busy one, full of newsworthy events capable of derailing sensitive souls everywhere and sending them into a pit of despair over the current condition of the all-too-human condition.
I’ve had a couple days like that recently. (It doesn’t help that I’m 7 months pregnant and full of hormones that have turned even the most ridiculous of commercials into automatic tear-jerkers.)
But I realized something in the midst of my most recent news-induced funk: I’m a playwright!
I can write about the stuff that’s wrecking me emotionally.
And that snapped me out of my depressive couch-potato state, and my muse started brainstorming and plot-outlining, and even though I haven’t yet decided if I want to write the play I began crock-potting inside my playwright brain all those weeks ago, it has helped me feel actionable!
And I think that’s important.
As an artist, it feels sometimes like there is just too much suffering to bear — and, as an artist, it also feels like I have very little to contribute in the ways of actually affecting change.
But I can write.
I can try to create pieces of theatre that bring my view of things into focus, and that—if I do my job well—invite others to look closer at these things with me. To mine them for possible solutions. To create conversation and empathy, and to MAYBE make things a little better?
At least, I can try!
Because although I very much enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake, I also believe in theatre’s power to stir conversation, incite action, and engage an audience’s problem solving skills. Why then, can’t I create theatre that does something?
So, while there are a lot changes coming my way in 2016 (new baby, probably a move to a new city after my husband finishes his MFA program this Spring) and a lot of changes coming on a bigger scale (US elections and God knows what other crazy world events heading down the pipeline) I’m feeling a sense of optimism and anticipation about it all that was eluding me a few weeks back, as I sat on the couch, and wept for the world (and at those damn holiday commercials).
And so, I leave you with this: May your seasons also be brightened by the recognition of your own word-smith powers! Now, get to writing!
Eventually, closing night will arrive. Your actors will take their final bows and the people who worked so closely with you to bring your play to life, will go their different ways. All the work, all those sleepless nights, the worry, the bleeding of money, will cease. And when it’s over, you’ll be left with a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s tinged with a degree of sadness.
You’ll also likely realize a few things you wished you’d known before you started. That’s what this post is about. It’s the cheat sheet of the whole Self-Production series with some “if only I’d knowns” tossed in. If you went to school for theatre management, all this may be overly simplistic. But for those of you who came to theatre production via an alternate path, here’s what I can tell you after having self-produced:
The Budget – Put together a reasonable budget, based on recent research in your area, talking to others who’ve produced and by getting bids from possible hires. Figure out where you’re getting the money to pay for your show and have most of it raised before you begin rehearsals. You shouldn’t count on selling tickets to cover your late-in-the-run costs. And worrying about how you’ll cover your commitments instead of your play will only lead to misery.
The Where – Select a theatre—in budget—which suits your play viz a viz the size of your set and cast, as well as for its geography. Make it easy for your audience to come see it. Think about a non-traditional venue for a non-traditional piece—a museum or a restaurant. Audiences enjoy novel experiences. LA based writer/producer Eric Rudnick suggests selecting a theatre where support is offered in the form of staff and equipment, and “Make sure you get names and numbers of everyone—box office, technical directors, concessions people, etc.— and establish communication early on.” Will they help you strike the set when your show closes? Make sure that’s in your contract.
Hiring your director, co-producer, stage manager, designers and builders—Rudnick says make sure you get hard quotes from all the members of your team or you might suddenly find your budget blown on one line item. Playwright, Mary Portser, goes further saying, “Make sure you get solid commitments from all your hires for the time period you need them or you may find yourself scrambling at the last minute.” Ask questions—even if you feel silly doing so. Once rehearsals started, Rudnick discovered his otherwise fantastic stage manager had neither a car nor a smart phone. So she couldn’t be reached, nor could she be counted on to bring snacks and water to rehearsals. “Take nothing for granted,” he says.
Casting – Select actors who are committed to their careers AND to your project. Vet people. Choose actors who ideally come with their own fan base who will be a draw to audiences. It’s a little sad but having an actor of some renown in your show will sell tickets. And if you’re a no-name playwright, self-producing your own work, this becomes even more important. You’re competing with so many other plays, TV shows, movies—you have to give people a reason to come see your show. If you’re using Equity actors, familiarize yourself with the union rules in place in your area.
Promotion – If you can afford a publicist, hire one—ideally someone with social media savvy who knows how to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And whether you have a publicist or not, establish your show’s social media presence at least as early as the start of rehearsals. Get your cast and crew onboard with promotion and sharing posts, tweets and any videos or pictures. If you’ve selected your play and team wisely, you’ll create a buzz through the exponential power of the Internet. Don’t forget to GGG—get good graphics! Have a visually provocative campaign with an intriguing logline to put on posters, postcards and ads.
Ticketing – Register with all the ticket outlets to maximize visibility across all the possible platforms where tickets can be purchased. Develop creative strategies and synergies to sell those tickets. Offer discounts and giveaways, and develop cross-promotions with local businesses and restaurants. Try to get local business to have a stake in your show.
Critics – Try to get critics excited about your show and to promise they’ll see it as close to opening night as possible. If you have a publicist, he/she will be working on this for you. However, if it’s looking like the only way you’ll get a review is to pay Bitter Lemons, decide if it’s worth it to you. A lot of reviews and reviewers don’t carry much weight. You might be better served using that money to draw audiences in a more creative way.
Prepare for the unexpected because it will happen on the way to Opening Night. Rudnick suggests things will go smoother if producers keep the channels of communication open, “You don’t and can’t know everything so remain open to possibilities even while having a vision. Listen and try things before saying, ‘no.’ “
Know it’s likely to be stressful. If you’re the type who gets stressed, figure out— ahead of succumbing—how you’ll deal with it. Playwright Portser says she didn’t realize the amount of work there would be the month before opening. “Between being at the theatre–for rehearsals, letting tech people in, cleaning the place, contacting people online, and then hunting for props, picking up flyers, programs, etc., it was full time.”
Surround yourself with kind, competent people with good follow-through and take care to be kind to EVERYONE who is helping you. The corollary to this is: If you are unkind, apologize immediately. It’s unlikely you’re paying people what they deserve. So if you go berserk on your production designer because an actor quit on you, say you’re sorry for taking it out on her. As Tiffany Antone says in her Little Black Dress Blog http://www.littleblackdressink.org/for-kendra-and-all-the-other-playwright-producers-in-the-room/ sometimes you’re the pain in the ass so be nice.
Lastly, keep good financial records (or hire someone to do it). Hopefully you made money or at least broke even. But if not, and you’re facing a loss on your production, you may be able to write off those losses, particularly if you are a financially successful writer or actor in some other medium. But don’t quote me on that because I’m not a tax professional. A tax professional would probably advise a less risky venture.
For myself, I had a blast self-producing my show, and in recounting for you my experiences doing it. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I used to hate 10-minute plays.
I don’t know why exactly… perhaps it’s because—as a playwright—I found it a real challenge to create a satisfying story in just 10 pages. My first 10-minute play attempts always seemed to bleed into more pages, and felt unsatisfying in their rapid resolutions. But as I’ve gone on to do more and more with short plays, I realize that the thing that used to bother me about 10 minute plays was that I just wasn’t very good at them yet.
I’d like to think I’ve gotten better writing short pieces—of conserving space and creating tighter, more exciting worlds—and that by becoming more aware of the real-estate value a blank page actually represents, my longer pieces have become tighter, more exciting, and richer as well.
And as a result, I’ve become a huge fan of these tasty little 10-minute morsels of playwright excellence. So much so, that I dedicate a sizable portion of my year to supporting and producing other short pieces… and yesterday I saw 15 truly awesome short plays brought to life here in Waco and can’t believe that I have to winnow this list down to just 11 or 12 pieces for production.
I’ve written a lot about producing from a playwright’s perspective this week, and I hope it was helpful to those of you who—like myself—have felt stuck, frustrated, or fed up with the stasis of waiting. But I also hope that, even if you have no intention of ever donning a producer’s cap, that you feel like you’ve gotten a little insight how/why some of these festivals work the way they do. We’re all in theatre because we love something about it’s incredible contradictions and magic, but the true power of theatre is the unity of intention it requires on all who come together in order to make it happen.
With that, I’m wrapping up my blogging week in love of writing, writers, and all who take joy from the realization of imagination! If you want to stay in touch, you can follow me @LadyPlaywright or you can follow Little Black Dress INK @LBlackDressINK – we’ll be posting more updates on this year’s fest as it heads to LA for a reading of our winning plays at Samuel French Book Shop on July 11th, and then production in Prescott, AZ August 6-9.
And then we’ll get started on the 2016 Fest, and do it all over again!