WHY: This show is a combination of humor, wit and charm. At its core, it is about self-discovery. What starts as a love for books and a series of nudges from the universe leads Nancy Beverly on a personal journey toward finding her true identity. Is Nancy a boy or a girl? It’s a question she is asked as a child and it’s one that stays with her until a spiritual awakening brings her to the answers she seeks. Every moment of this solo play is a precious, well crafted masterpiece, which is not surprising because Nancy Beverly is an accomplished writer. But, there’s also the added layer of warmth and vulnerability in her performance that adds so much heart to the piece. The tone of the play is lighthearted and sweet and the performance is thoroughly engaging.
I have enjoyed our diverse group of voices. I have enjoyed the moments when after reading these ladies or watching a video or film, I break out into laughter or tears – those moments when I am found…. There is nothing like being in a funk and have someone write “Oink! Oink!” or having to leave my desk to shake myself after reading “When Playwrights Get Old” which came about after “Too old?” left me numb and very contemplative. When I look in the mirror, I see me and have to remind myself that the first set of students at the university where I work my day job have graduated and are in their thirties now. The few that have stayed on in employment shock me when I run into them yet when I look in the mirror I don’t see age — I see me. One wonders if after all the “Taking Stock” we do if a change is gonna come – ever – but we keep hoping and pushing and fighting for that “Stillness” that drives us.
The goal is to be a working artist. By that I mean, you don’t have to have a day job to pay the rent, pay for submission fees, or afford you food while you write. Living in near poverty to be an artist should be against the law especially because that same art could end up being a national treasure; the following terms are not interchangeable: “Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist“.
Zora Neale Hurston author of Their Eyes Were Watching God died in poverty; her work was rescued from a fire after her death (Florida had a habit of burning the belongings of the dead). Zora Neale Hurston’s life work is a national treasure…
There should be no limitations or rules on where or in what form a writer creates story as there are no rules to who can be “The Happiest Person in America” or one of the happiest people – let us do our art and we are there… Gender does not dictate what shared work will change the world in some way — “And The Female Play at the Tonys was…” and it should not dictate who has access to the stage, the screen or the bookshelf. Great stories all start the say way — with words and the “Voice…” of the writer. All are needed, each soprano, alto, tenor and bass… There should not have to be “The Bechdel Test for the Stage“; there should not have to be a Bechdel test at all – why can’t all stories worth telling be treated equal? Why can’t the journey be easier? Why can’t handling “Our Expectations, Our Fears” as artists be easier? Perhaps even this tug-of-war on gender parity fits into the “Everything Is A Creative Act” category; it is, after all, fodder.
I especially like what Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Lisa Kron said at the last Dramatists Guild Conference “Having Our Say: Our History, Our Future” about what she does when something rubs her the wrong way “I’m going to write a play about this” — The Veri**on Play is what resulted.
Just wondering, do you have any favorite LA FPI blog articles?
Bloggers Past and Present:
Jessica Abrams, Tiffany Antone, Erica Bennett, Nancy Beverly, Andie Bottrell, Robin Byrd, Kitty Felde, Diane Grant, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Sue May, Analyn Revilla, Cynthia Wands and special input by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.
1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?
Mad Magazine. No kidding. My friend Gena and I would read it out loud into a tape recorder. We’d also make up our own stories and fake ads and tape those as well. I also got tapped on the shoulder (literally) by my grade school principal to be in a stage presentation (it wasn’t exactly a play, more like a patriotic celebration) because he’d seen what a live wire I was just in the hallways of school.
2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?
It’s always the one I’m currently involved in — in this case it’s my nutty comedy called COMMUNITY. When I’ve heard it out loud and when I read it to myself, I just fall down laughing.
3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?
Too hard to pick. It’s more like I have favorite moments — Lisa Temple doing the monologue “My New Best Friend” — again, I literally fell out of my chair laughing; Hannah Crum and Mandy Dunlap doing “Happy Wanderer” and I’m brought to tears…
4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?
EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS that I saw at the Geffen (Robin & Jennie were there that night!). Horror was conveyed so simply (a monologue near the end of the piece with hundreds of photos on display behind the actor).
5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?
Don’t have one, I just enjoy plays on a moment by moment basis.
6. How has your writing changed over the years?
Yep. A lot more depth now. I’m not afraid of emotions like I was when I was a kid.
7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?
Dramas filled with comedy. I like linear storytelling, so my stuff isn’t avant-guarde or experimental.
8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?
I’ve written screenplays, a webseries, a lot of essays… the truth is the truth. Still trying to figure out how to be effective with the screenplay, though.
9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?
The energy in the room at Topanga during our first meeting, all of us crammed together in a dressing room, shivering, and yet in high spirits. What a great group. I wanted to be part of it.
10. What is your favorite blog posting?
Can’t pick just one, but the moments when I learn something about myself when I’m writing the blog come to mind. (Same is true of my plays, I always end up learning something.) That said, one that I wrote last year called “Less is More” about a final rehearsal of OF MICE AND MEN where they had no props, no costumes, no furniture and yet I was a puddle of tears at the end… is a fond one for me.
11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?
Whatever play I’ve just seen. If something’s really good, I’m in my theatre seat thinkin’ “Oooo, I wanna do that!”
12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?
When I wrote A NEW YOU, my first produced full-length. The voice is always a work-in-progress, and actually, writing is more about finding the voice of the characters in the play, not about finding MY voice.
13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?
If I’m working on a play, then every free night and several hours on the weekend get devoted to it. I have a quote on my desk from Woody Allen that I’ve had posted since grad school. In part it reads, “It’s the steadiness that counts.”
14. How do you decide what to write?
Man, it really has to GRAB me. If an idea is superficial and won’t take me deep into the water, then I won’t work on it for all of the months it takes to make something good. It has to be a puzzle to figure out, not pre-digested and formulaic.
15. How important is craft to you?
Very. I re-read parts of Buzz MacLaughlin’s The Playwright’s Process every time I’m working on something new.
16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?
I’ve done performance art and took classes to develop pieces with Danielle Brazell (former Artisic Director at Highways). Loved it. Loved creating something in the moment inspired by just the slimmest of suggestions.
17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?
It feels like a real community — witness the Fringe Festival last year.
18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)
Go see inspirational theatre. Go to my writers’ group Fierce Backbone every Monday night in support of my fellow writers. “It’s the steadiness that counts.”
19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?
Yes — there is joy, love, contentment, satisfaction in the present moment. Not the past, not the future.
20. What are you working on now?
Finding a director (AGAIN) for my film SHELBY’S VACATION. And keeping my fingers crossed for the production of my play COMMUNITY.
In addition to Cloud’s Rest,which is part of the 2012 Hollywood Fringe Festival through the writer/actor group Fierce Backbone, Nancy Beverly’s most recent theatrical adventure is her play Community, a comedy that takes place at a community theatre, where, on opening night, everything that can go wrong, does. It’s slated for a full production from Fierce Backbone in 2013.
Her most recent award was the selection of her screenplay Shelby’s Vacation for a staged reading in July 2011 in Randolph, Vermont, under the auspices of Pride Films and Plays which operates out of Chicago – and the same script made the semi-finals for the Chicago readings.
In 2010 her one-act Chicago (a.k.a. The Happy Wanderer), was part of “Shorts and Briefs,” a sold-out afternoon of play readings at the Stella Adler’s Gilbert Theatre that were all written and directed by women. The venture grew out of a discussion she, Jan O’Connor and Mary Casey had earlier in the year about the sorry state of women getting their plays produced. They decided to do something about it.
“Shorts and Briefs” was produced under the banner of The L.A. Women’s Theatre Project. Additionally, Beverly’s full-length play Handcrafted Healing was featured in L.A.W.T.P.’s dynamic weekend of play readings in October 2009 – again, all written and directed by women. Beverly developed Handcrafted Healing through Playwrights 6, a writer-run group in Los Angeles, where she was a member from 2001 until 2009.
In August 2007, also in conjunction with P6, Beverly produced her drama Godislav at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica for a month-long run. Additionally, Godislav had the honor of being chosen in 2006 to be part of the Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region in Denver.
West Hollywood’s Celebration Theatre gave Beverly’s coming-of-age dramady A New You its world-premiere in the summer of 2001.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Beverly worked at Actors Theatre of Louisville as the Assistant Literary Manager. While at ATL, she had several short plays produced in ATL’s twice-yearly short play showcase. Attack of the Moral Fuzzies, one of those 10-minute comedies, was published in an ATL anthology of short works and has been performed several times a year for 25 years by theatres all around the U.S. and Canada.
Beverly has also written for the Showtime series Women, knocked out 70 articles for the how-to website ehow.com, conducted radio interviews for KPFK’s weekly show IMRU, and gotten up and done performance art under the direction of Danielle Brazell, the former Artistic Director of the performance space Highways in Santa Monica.
She’s also worked in network television as an executive producer’s assistant on and pitched stories to such hit shows as Desperate Housewives and Ghost Whisperer.