I know the word “Creationists” can stir emotions, but I’m not talking about religion today – I’m talking about the theater, and more specifically talking about young artists in the theater.
I’m co-teaching an acting camp with 10-16 year olds, and they’re blowing my mind – because no one is telling them “No”, or “You’re not right for the part” or “You can’t do that!”… and they’re enjoying every minute.
They’re enjoying every minute of “Yes.”
And I hope the world gives them more a lot more “Yes’s” as they grow… because it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the “No”s, “No Thank You”s and “Not Yet”s…. it’s easy to let them add up and weigh you down.
Lately I’ve been dreaming of driving off into a new town, new life, new everything – not because this life is awful (it’s definitely NOT – thank goodness), but because lately I’ve felt like I don’t know how to move this life forward with purposeful motion… motion in the direction I so aspire to move.
So I’m practicing the art of not worrying about it… of just sitting with the present for a change… I’m sitting with the joy of teaching young dreamers. And they’re encouraging me to let go of the “No”s I’ve got sitting on my shoulders and just get back to playing.
Because that’s what we do – we dare to play…
It’s time to write but the internal mulling over process is growing branches – more like veins – and they’re burrowing…going places I did not expect. I have been reading a lot of poetry lately – writing more of it than I have in years. I have entered my sacred circle, searching for stories never expecting to find them in poetry but there they are – visible more to my ear than my eye, writing an old thing a new way. I found a new poet, too. Nikky Finney – who is not new but somehow she was hidden from me all these years. Perhaps, I wasn’t ready for her; she’s intense. Her poems help me understand the ache in my own poetry to be more than… They’re like short stories – her poetry. Raw, refined and full of truth – her poetry is a lesson in the deliberate… Deliberate as in: Intentional, on purpose, premeditated, calculated, planned, and not accidental. Every writer should have/develop the ability to deliberately tell their stories, their way – to flip the switch that turns off all outside interference and just say it…
I am noticing a greater freedom in my poetry lately. Now that I am focusing on it; it seems to have evolved into another form of storytelling. It even almosts writes like a play. In the past, I have written monologues in poetry but I never thought much about the connection to a freedom I haven’t had in my plays. Not that I am not free already but in poetry, one can be sparse and direct and move on to the next thought. This is the first time my poetry has become part of my circle where I thought of it as story first. Putting together a manuscript recently, I found myself looking at the context of the whole, the arch, the subtext of the whole, the imagery, the story… And, now, I can hear pieces and parts of poetry whispering to me from the shadows; on the verge of the light of day yet always just able to crawl back into their hiding places – too many to catch. They want me to sit with them by the fire and listen as they slowly tell me – everything…they promise to tell me everything… But, I have been so busy lately; there has been no time to linger in my sacred circle longer than a moment. Especially, since I was expecting characters from a play to speak and not fragments of poetry.
Maybe the poetry will end up being a play… At any rate, if I deliberately go with the flow and write whatever wants to be written now; I am sure it will enhance every area of my writing life. May be the break will bring me back to the characters more refreshed and ready to rock and roll. As long as I can meet my deadlines…
Saturday I was listening to This American Life on KCRW, my favorite radio show since way back. It was a re-broadcast of a live show that featured a variety of guests telling stories and being entertaining. One of them was Joss Whedon, the uber-talented writer-director-mad genius behind such TV shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dollhouse. The reason for his radio appearance: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, his Web sensation – which may have caused computer servers to melt (or whatever they do when overtaxed) because 200,000 people an hour were trying to download it. Joss-on-the-radio sang a very amusing song about doing commentary for a video release of this musical.
I knew Joss way back. He was a young whipper snapper writer on a little TV show called Roseanne. You may have heard of it. I worked on Roseanne, too. I was a writers’ assistant. It was Joss’s first TV production job. It was my first TV production job. He went right out of there to a gig writing on Parenthood (the first TV version; why did they resurrect it recently? Were there no original ideas this season NBC thought worthy of broadcasting? Hmm, apparently not…) and then to the movie and TV versions of Buffy… and fame and fortune. I did not.
I almost turned my radio off Saturday so I wouldn’t have to listen to the clever song – not because I wasn’t amused by the song and not because I don’t like Joss (he was a smart, kind, and funny guy when I knew him and still is, as far as I can tell). It was because of the jealousy thing. Joss’s professional life took off like a rocket and every time I see him or his work, I am reminded my professional life is more at a steady hum. It’s a nice hum but it’s not a rocket and is not accompanied by the cascades of cash that one can have in Hollywood. I sometimes just turn things like this off and get back to work.
But by keeping the radio on, I got to hear the next piece – a story by Dan Savage about his mom dying and his grappling with being a lapsed Catholic. It was hilarious and sad and I sat glued to the radio, laughing and milliseconds later crying. Stories like that remind me why I like to write – to connect to people, to move them.
So THEN I turned the radio off… and got back to work. Feeling inspired instead of jealous. A much better place from whence to write.
I’ve finished the first outline of my new full-length play this weekend.