Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Asylum No More, once more

When I finish a draft, I read it aloud in order to clean up spelling errors that cannot be caught by spellcheck. I also find lines that don't flow well, other little bits that need cleaning up. This time I realized I really did have to include that final scene that I thought I could leave out. The irony is I had started to write it, then thought "oh no, they'll think the play was over with the last scene. I'd better just cut this out." So I deleted it, didn't save a scrap. When I read the play aloud, I thought what? where's the rest of the play? Just like my audience would have. Too abrupt. Fortunately, I had the beat sheet right there in front of me, so I knew what was lacking. This morning I wrote that scene -- again -- this time, fully, and finally. Much better.
I also took a gigantic risk and sent the play out to a producer who is looking for material for Fertile Ground. I am already planning to have this play in Fertile Ground, but if it is accepted, I will let them produce it instead. I will do something else. I sent the producer two plays. Maybe they will choose the other one. Or neither one. Submitting plays is always a risk, a risk of rejection. But if you don't send them out, they will never be produced. And I write mine with the assumption that I will see them onstage at some point. I love the act of collaborating with the producer, the director, the designers, the actors, everyone involved.
I have co-founded and founded theatre companies myself, so I know the work involved, and I know that it is hard, that it takes a ton of organization, of commitment, and I also know that it needs to be fun. No one wants to work with people who are jerks, or who don't follow through, or don't pull their own weight. I love to do my part. I love to hear what others bring to the table. I like hearing others' feedback about my plays, and I will let it in. I want my plays to entertain audiences, so I try to create good stories. I know that other theatre artists may know more about certain aspects of the story that I'm telling than I do. So my ears and my heart is open.
For one of my plays (The Godmother) I have grandiose dreams. It would make a fun and interesting serial. Either live onstage, or on TV. I don't have the money to produce it myself or I would. Then I would produce live serial versions every year. Why? Because I believe in the characters in this play. Everyone of them is real and deep and interesting to me. They deserve to have their stories told. Maybe someday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Process: A New 10 Min Play

I'm no Mark Harvey Levine. He's had over 700 productions worldwide of his 10-15 minute plays. I haven't seen or read any of them, but I'm guessing he is a master storyteller. If you think writing a full-length play is hard, wait until you try writing a good short play. My play "The Bobbsey Twins Go to Hell," was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and also won a production the same year. It has also been adapted as a short film and is in post-production.
Now that I'm using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet as structure for my full-length plays, I decided that I would adapt the beat sheet for ten-minute plays. First I tried adapting it by number of lines, but that was just too specific, so now I have it by number of pages, just like for the *big* plays. Then I tried the beat sheet out against "The Bobbsey Twins" and found that my play fit the beat sheet structure very well. No wonder that play works, where others have not.
I can begin to create my cast of characters and their back stories now. I know the two main characters already. But who will be my third? Maybe I'll work on creating the back stories for the first two today, and see what that stirs up. There will be more dynamics with a third character, but sometimes the third character is not a person. It can be a city, for example. We'll see where we are tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wrapping that baby up: First Draft Asylum No More

I said I'd finish the last scene today and I did! Look, it's barely noon and I just wrote those magic words: The End. 100 pages. Ten short of what I thought it would take, but actually that's good. That's a good amount of pages. I can still add if I need to, or cut if I need to. Ninety minutes made a full evening and can be run without an intermission. Or if I need to add, we can have an intermission. Either way it's all good. I did this one so it can be rated PG. You could perform this one in Middle Schools. Although it's an adult drama, I'm just sayin'. It could be performed in churches. Maybe. There are a few hells and damns.
There is conflict, both inner and outer. There is soul-searching and there is character arc. There is social change going on. I'm not saying this is a perfect first draft. I'm saying this might be a good play after I get some feedback. It has potential. It has a table read coming up, and it has a staged reading scheduled for Fertile Ground in January. Now to send her out into the world so other readers can lay their eyes on her. Bye bye baby!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting a crush when you're a grandmother

Getting a crush on someone not your own age, when you're as old as I am is a bummer. Let me rephrase that. I have a crush on a young woman and it's a bummer. I know it will pass, because this is one of those crushes that a person gets on a celebrity, or in my case a performer. I don't know her. If I did I wouldn't have a crush because it would be totally inappropriate. Men don't feel this way, apparently. Look at all the May/December relationships. But I am not into that. No way no how. I feel brave owning up to this temporary crush, let alone writing about it in a public blog. The thing is, I feel pretty sure I am not the only woman this happens to. If I am, so be it. I know I'm queer in a lot of ways. This is one of them.
Last night I went to a concert of Edna Vazquez and the Mariachi Band Los Palmeros with whom she's been playing for 12 years. She has the most amazing voice. I first saw her at an event at Latina Gay Pride. A friend of mine invited me to go as she was playing piano that night. I was blown away by Edna's voice, so when I saw her name on the calendar I knew I was going to go see her. But when I saw her last night, I suddenly got a crush. While I was watching her sing, I kept wishing I was 30 or 35 years younger so I could ask her out. I thought about how I was when I was 30 and 35 years younger. I would have asked her out back then. Of course, she probably wasn't born back then. So you see how ridiculous this is. But it is a fantasy.
In real life, I do enjoy her singing so much. I tried to order a CD from her website, but as far as I can tell, it consists of nothing but videos of her singing. (And I'm complaining?) I am going to take my two grandchildren with me to her concert on Sunday. Both are singers and I want them to see and hear her. For one thing I want my grandson to hear a woman who can sing as loud as he can. And for my granddaughter to see a woman sing and play the guitar in person who is not her former teacher, not Taylor Swift, etc.
My crush will go away. Probably by the time I publish this post. If not, it will evaporate in its own time. It's one of those strange things that happens to you as you age that you don't expect to happen -- like pimples. What the hell? You have skin tags AND pimples? How is that fare? I certainly don't expect myself to feel like a schoolgirl about someone who is young enough to be my daughter or maybe even my granddaughter. That feels wrong. Then I remind myself it is just a feeling, nothing I have to act on. And it will dissipate as feelings do. Anger doesn't last. Even grief which is perhaps the longest lasting feeling one can have, doesn't last forever. A crush is nothing compared to grief. In fact, it is rather pleasant.
If you're old enough to be a grandmother, and you have or have had a crush lately, I surely would like to know I have some company if you're brave enough to share. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dark night of the soul -- hers, or mine?

Yesterday the pages flew by ... I described them as a river. Today: a trickle. After I'd been writing for hours, the page count was ... four. Four pages. To be fair, today's pages are mostly monologue, rather than dialogue, so they add up to more minutes than the usual four pages, but still. Difficult to get those words down today. It seems that writing the dark night of the soul is not so easy as I thought it would be. Oh, I so blithely tossed it off yesterday as I forecast today's writing. Oh yes, today I would put my protagonist through hell. Ha. Methinks it was the other way 'round. I am literally sweating today as I write. I realized as I wrote that I am sitting here with the windows closed, even though it has warmed back up to 80 degrees. So, I got up and opened the windows. Doh. Much better. Still, I did feel as though I were pushing the words through a sieve to get them out of my head and onto the computer. I'm hoping the rewrites will be easier.
Tomorrow I'll add to this scene, then on to the next where she will arrive at the solution.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Asylum No More ... Dark Night of the Soul tomorrow

I can't believe I wrote the entire Bad Guys Close In section today. It flowed like a river. I feel so bad for my protagonist! Of course I know how strong she is. I also know what lies ahead. But right now she is devastated. Every thing that could go wrong has gone wrong. As she goes to bed tonight, even her mother is having chest pain and trouble breathing. She seems to live for work and family and her extended family has pulled away from her -- again -- her mother is ill, and she just got laid off from work. Worse than that, her cousin whom she promised to help free from prison is now lying in the violent ward of the State asylum, with no hope whatsoever of being freed and in danger of being lobotomized. Oh things are very bad indeed.
Tomorrow she has to realize that she is beaten. Hope is gone. Then and only then will she realize that she has the solution and think of it. Of course the risks are unbelievably high, but then so are the stakes. Once she thinks of it, she will have to put it into place, start overcoming obstacles, and so on. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Asylum No More ... halfway point

Writing plays has changed for me since I discovered "Save the Cat!" by Blake Snyder. Yes, it's a handbook for screenwriting, but really it's about structure a story. Once I've spent the necessary time setting up the foundation and framework, the rest is like painting the walls, decorating the house, getting ready to welcome the guests. Today I passed the midpoint, I finished page 56. Tee has reached her false peak, where everything seems to have come together. Starting tomorrow the bad guys are going to close in. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. By the time I get through with her, she will be reduced to a pile of wrung out snot. She will be hopeless, clueless, maybe drunk, possibly stupid. She will be ready to jump off a cliff. But she won't. Because while freedom is worth any sacrifice (the theme of this play), it isn't going to require her to sacrifice her actual life. She will somehow find a way out of this mess using her last best efforts to beat the bad guys. Well, we hope that's what is going to happen. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wanting to be a good person

My friend Jenny is doing her Mussar year. This is a year of doing something she has never done every single day. But it is so much more than that. She is also doing something called Mussar practice (see http://www.mussarleadership.org/), telling her readers about that as she goes along, how the practice relates to whatever new thing she has done that day.
I am following along, day by day. And I have been changed by Jenny's writings. I have been led to deep thinking about my own life, my own practices, my experiences. I have written about several of them here. And after today's entry by Jenny, I sought out the Mussar website and read about the practice because I wondered whether it was restricted to Jewish people. I see that it was developed for people of the Jewish faith, but I don't see why a person couldn't adopt these practices in order to become a better person. One would have to read the Torah. I've never read the Torah. I am a Buddhist, I guess I'm actually an agnostic. I believe we are all one in the sense that we are all made of the same materials, we all exist in oneness. I believe in the collective unconscious. I believe in reincarnation or parallel lives or something like it because I know for a fact that as a child I had memories of prior lives as an adult. That came from somewhere. So, I'm not looking to convert to Judaism, because I'm not looking for religion of any sort.
I do believe in morals, ethics, being good to my fellow beings, to the world. And in being thoughtful. Jenny's Mussar practice seems to me to be a practice of deep thinking, one of creating balance in one's life. I don't know whether it is for me. Certain aspects of it have been for me as I have followed her blog this year. Have you checked it out yet? Her post today is one I highly recommend for anyone. It is about all those thoughts that run through our brains when something unexpected happens -- and how she dealt with them, given her practice. Truly something to think about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Asylum No More

Yesterday went fairly well, once I spent an hour completely screwing up my Style format that I had set up to write my new play. I should never try to do technical work before I have my tea. So I stopped that and had my tea while answering email, reading Twitter, looking at FaceBook, reading NYtimes.com, and so on. When I finally returned to my play, thinking I would format it old school, Word wouldn't let me. My format was so screwed up, I couldn't write at all. Copy and move to a new blank document? that doesn't work in Word.
Only one thing to do. Learn how to fix what I had broken. Well, that took another two hours out of my day. Not to mention how many more gray hairs I sprouted, and cortisol hormones I sprayed throughout my body. Probably took a few years off my life as well. But, I did learn how to properly create Style formats! Still, it was 5pm by then, and I decided it was time for lunch. After that I might as well just hang it up for the day.
I didn't though. I kept going, and actually managed to produce some pages. Enough to realize that while I had been busy recruiting actors for the table read I have already committed to on October 4th (oh be quiet, I'll have a draft by then, I will!), I don't seem to have outlined any scenes onstage for one of the actors I have cast. Hm. In my mind, he's an important character. In the outline, he's never onstage. Ruh roh. I foresee a change acoming. Either on the page, or I have to cancel an actor that I really like. It has to be on the page. I like the balance of characters with him on the page. How to get him there? flashback? or do we have to visit him in the Pen? that's no fun. Looks like a flashback scene is coming up. This should be fun. Oh! Put that in the fun and games section! Thank you, Save the Cat!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Asylum No More

My new play is becoming real. There is a lot of work that goes into a new play before the writing of the script begins. At least there is for me, now. Now that I use "Save the Cat!" as my method for scriptwriting. Although the book is a primer on screenwriting, I have found it works for me for writing stage plays. Now before I start writing scenes, dialogue, I already know the spine, the theme, every character, what the protagonist wants, what are the obstacles, what the climax will be, when it will occur, and what the first and last scene looks like. I know what the catalyst will be, and on what page it will occur. Still, when I start writing the scenes, everything comes alive, it is all exciting and brand new and anything can happen! Sometimes things happen that have to be excised. I gently cut them out and put them in another file in case I can use them some other time. So, today I finished Scene Two, and in the next scene I will write in the catalyst that will send me off for the next 15 pages or so. I will bring in two more characters tomorrow and more conflict will ensue. There will be food and drink involved. (Director's nightmare. I'll try to keep it simple. Maybe the conflict gets so intense the food never makes it to the table.) This play already has a table read scheduled. October 4th. So, in addition to writing, I'm also busy finding actors to read the roles. This is exciting too. I have three lined up already of the seven. Two will be wild cards (playwrights) at the meeting, so only two more to nail down. I'm thrilled with the ones who have already agreed to read. This is why I write plays: it's fun. Like being a kid and you say, let's play (whatever), you be the king and I'll be the knight, and you be the dragon, and you two be the fairies, and you be the witch, and you be the queen, okay you can be a princess, and now when the dragon comes in .... etc. Only with luck and a bit of skill, you get to do it for a paying audience and they laugh and cry and applaud. We have a staged reading scheduled for this play as well. Fertile Ground New Play Festival. Jan 20, 21, 2012. 11pm at the Backdoor Theatre. You can come see it for yourself. It will be a bit more finished and polished by then. I promise. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going forward ten years later

This past month, Pema Teeter has written daily, bringing memory to light, showing us a way to grieve, to share our stories at www.storycharmer.com and has done so in many different ways, some painful, some beautiful, some mystical. If you haven't checked out her site, please do so. As for me, I have remembered 9/11/01 and the days after as well as the grief that was reactivated by that horrific day. I've honored my own dead, and have spent some time grieving my past loves and dying friends as well as my sorry ass sins. Not necessarily all in this blog, some only in my mind. Today, I seek peace and peaceful reflection. The opposite of terror and war. And I send peace and healing light and love into the world.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Anniversary of an Adventure in Love

28 years ago today I began my longest relationship. We were together almost 19 years, meaning we broke up in June of 2002. We stayed together about 17 years too long for our mental health. But we are still friends, still bound together in deep ways. We were friends for 3 years before we became lovers, and we would have married had marriage been allowed between two women. And now we would be divorced. Divorced friends. We share the same values, same politics, same ideals. We kept house alike, both love animals, enjoy the same movies. And we make each other laugh. We had many good times, unfortunately they were outweighed by the anger.
We never cheated on each other. There was no alcohol, or drugs. No physical abuse. Well, almost, a couple of times, but we got that in check. But there was emotional abuse and plenty of it. So we saw couple counselors for years. We learned all the communication devices. We tried living apart. For years.
And finally I called an end to trying. After a couple of years I tried with someone else for a few months -- and got my heart broken. I don't want to try again. I think I'm too old. Or maybe I tried too long and too hard for too many years. So today, I'm going to celebrate the anniversary of the day I embarked on a great adventure of love. It was a rocky road, and it didn't last as a marriage, but the friendship endured. That in itself is worth celebrating. Cheers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Honoring our Dead

Today I honor my own personal dead. This is a list of my own. These are the people whose funerals I attended, or bodies I viewed, or graves I visited before I was 8 years old:
Margaret Sue Brown, stillborn. My sister.
Helen Rosalie Brown, stillborn. My sister.
John Patrick McCorkle, lived 1 day. My brother.
Helen "Nettie" McCorkle Bailey. My great-aunt.
Howard Allen McCorkle, lived 1 day. My brother.
Emma Bailey McCorkle, my grandmother.
Albert Charles McCorkle, my father.
Thank you. Please send your own lists. These babies listed above have never appeared on a list before. Howard Allen I remember so clearly. My dad and I were the only ones viewing him when we sat with him in his tiny white casket. He was pale with blue lips. We buried him while Mom was still in the hospital. I was 4 years old. The other babies were all born before me, I was the first child to thrive. I've visited their graves many times throughout my life, and imagined those older sisters so often. My younger sister and I were 2 of 6, only 2 lived. Imagine. I was also 4 when My Aunt Net died. It was shocking to me to see her in her casket, to attend the funeral and see all the grownups crying. And I was 5 when my beloved Grandma Emma died. She was beautiful and tiny, soft and sweet. She had so many grandchildren, and yet I felt special. I've written before about the loss of my dad when I was 7. Tell me about your losses.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On that day: 9/11/01

Today is 9/01/11, not 9/11/01, but we are nearly there, nearly ten years to the day. The day we all remember where we were when it happened. Right? You remember where you were when you heard? I was sitting at my kitchen table, up early, working on my laptop trying not to disturb my soon-to-be ex-partner who didn't want to hear my tap-tap-tapping on the computer. I saw the news alert email from the NY Times: plane hits the World Trade Center. What? I thought it must be a small plane that somehow got confused, maybe there was smog, maybe the pilot had a heart attack. I kept working, then a second alert. I jumped up and turned on the TV and saw the pictures of the bright blue sky, the boiling white smoke, the crawl at the bottom of the screen, and I ran in the bedroom and woke my partner, saying "Get up! Get up! the world's gone crazy!" She didn't doubt me for a second, but came straight to the living room where we stayed glued to the tv. As the commentators began to speculate as to who or what group could have planned such a thing, she and I turned to each other and simultaneously said "Osama bin Laden." Where did that come from? We weren't people who read political op-ed pieces, watched political talk shows, but we had watched Sixty Minutes and obviously those pieces had stuck in our minds.
The day before I had seen the last of the attendants off at the airport from a regional conference of the International Centre for Women Playwrights that a few of us had organized here in Portland. We had a wonderful time here with about 40 women from around the country and Canada in attendance, several from NYC. The New Yorkers were very much on my mind that morning, along with my other New York friends. Before long, one of the playwrights who had just been here called me to ask if I'd heard from the others who had been here. I hadn't. She had witnessed the planes flying into the towers from her own balcony, and was obviously in shock. I did my best to calm her, while breathing in her fear into my own lungs through the landline.
I don't know when I've felt more helpless. To be 3,000 miles away from some of your closest friends, seeing the destruction happen live on television is a disempowering experience of the most humbling kind. I still haven't heard all their stories. Out here in the West we were being fed fear with a shovel. We were terrified of every noise in the sky as all flights were grounded. Any large bird caused us to think we were about to be blown to bits. People didn't know whether to duck into doorways, or run outside. Were we safer in our houses or in the parks? All travel was off, of course.
Meanwhile, how could we even think of speaking or writing of our own fears or experiences when they paled so in comparison with those of our East Coast families, friends, compatriots?
Ten years later. It is time. Time for everyone to tell her story. No matter where you were when you heard. Maybe you weren't even born yet when it happened, but now you've heard about it and you want to write about it. Tell your story. It's time. Be heard.