Tag Archives: writers

Leaving LA

Recently, a writer friend and I started talking about LA. Do we really need to be in LA? We asked each other and ourselves.

The beauty of being a writer is that you can write anywhere and you don’t have dress to go to work. You just need a place that inspires you. So what do you do when LA is no longer inspiring? What do you do when the bright sunshine is too bright and the lack of rain is a little obnoxious? What do you do when sitting in traffic is no longer amusing?

Is there a point when you should leave LA? Someone once said that you should leave New York before you get too hard and you should leave LA before you get too soft. I don’t consider myself a bathroom towel, but is there some truth to that?

Really, what is here? No matter how much we try to build it up, it is a theatrical hinderland. Sure, there’s probably the largest pool of actors in the world here, but how many can really do stage acting? Sure, as a dramatic writer, you can work in film and TV. Nice work if you can get it.

Yes, there are theatres and writer groups. There are odd spaces with strange parking and plastic cups of cheap white wine. There are little cliques of self-congratulation and tiny bubbles of hot air.

Folks don’t come to LA to do theatre. Folks come to LA to surf and get famous. I’m not famous and I don’t surf. What the heck am I doing here? What else is out there?

Simple Gifts

I’m learning to play the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” on the guitar.  It’s a humbling experience as I have no innate musical talent and there are a lot of pesky eighth notes scattered hither and yon throughout.  But I love the song and keep at it.

This winter I sent a full-length play of mine off to three high-falutin’ workshops scattered hither and yon about the country where you-the-playwright get to work with actors and a director on your play for two solid weeks.  Joy, joy, happy, happy as they used to say on Ren and Stimpy.

When I started to write this blog entry, I’d been turned down by two of them (one received 500 scripts for five slots… so the odds were a lit-tle long).  Today in the mail I found out I’d been turned down by the third one (they did feel my script was of particular merit; dang, it was the workshop in Idaho with the glorious mountain scenery).

But this winter I also got to work with two wonderful actors – Hannah Crum and Mandy Dunlap – in my living room.  That’s about as bare-bones as you can get when it comes to theatre.  And I had a blast.  We spent a few hours blocking and rehearsing an excerpt of my short play The Happy Wanderer (a.k.a. Chicago) that they were about to perform at Shorts & Briefs (see my previous blog).  The actors found moments, brought it to life, we made moments better, I trimmed and rewrote a little, we had a lot of laughs, and I had a lump in my throat a few times. 

One of the things I hated about working in TV was the lack of connection between the writers and the actors.  Writers would hole up for hours and hours, churn out a draft… have it read ONCE by the actors around a table, and then go back into the seclusion of  the writers’ room and work until the wee hours once again to churn out another draft.  Coming from the theatre, I thought this seemed insane.  How can you figure out if anything works unless you have the actors right in front of you as co-conspirators in the energy?

So I won’t be flying hither and yon across America.  But the evening in my living room with Hannah and Mandy reminded me why I do theatre, why I love it, why I love working with actors.  A simple evening, a simple gift, but a wonderful one.

p.s.  Oh, yes, and yesterday I had a voicemail letting me know that The Happy Wanderer – the full one-act version – has been chosen to be part of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights’ and West Hollywood’s collaboration to celebrate Gay Pride month in June with play readings at the Celebration Theatre (June 1st, 7:30 p.m.).  Joy, joy, happy, happy!