Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two SPF Festival Plays in Two Days: The Nightshade Family and Alice in War

Went to see The Nightshade Family by Ruth McKee and Alice in War by Steven Bogart on Tuesday and Wednesday night this week. Both plays are being presented by the Summer Play Festival at Theater Row through this weekend.

Left The Nightshade Family at intermission. It is a very domestic comedy (?) about a troubled brother/sister relationship. A nice supporting acting job by Laura Heisler as Emily was not enough to keep me in my seat. Soap opera-style complications and odd, uncomfortable dentist office dance routines left me cold.

Alice in War, on the other hand was stunning!! The design work on this ‘workshop’ (which rivaled many big-budget productions and was more pleasing than my experience at Second Stage’s Eurydice earlier this month) was magical. Kate Cusack’s costumes and Lucrecia Briceno’s lighting were visual treats and stole the show on several occasions. The play is a (sort-of) fractured dreamscape re-telling of the Alice Through the Looking Glass story where a contemporary Alice is thrown into a desert war.

Lisa Joyce’s performance as Alice firmly places her as possibly the best actress of her generation in my mind (especially coming off her amazing work in Red Light Winter and the Doubt tour). It cannot be easy to convincingly portray a precocious ten-year-old girl, and her portrayal was rich with feeling and gloriously surprising, utterly authentic, and never precious. The play itself is a confection of twists and sweetly shocking developments, most involving children’s theater-style performances and genially-deranged characterizations from an astonishing cast of supporting actors. Major, major kudos to director Alice Reagan, who is so perfect for this gig her name is even Alice! I can’t even imagine pulling together a cast of this caliber, designs of this intensity and vivacity, and I haven’t even mentioned the astonishing original score by Raky Sastri. This was a beautiful arrangement of strange sounds and impulses that grabbed me in the pre-show phase and never let go.

The play has the military shooting down an angel at the start—you see her later, shattered by the missile. That alone puts it firmly in my oeuvre and got me hooked. Also a great moment when Alice discovers a “war machine” and gets a lecture on how it operates from a spot-on Glenn Peters.

Not sure I liked the intermission—I would rather have gone into this full immersion. And I can see a little room for trimming the second half. But, all in all, it was a great night at the theater. Recommend this one highly. Even if you aren’t as blown away as I was, I still think the decadent visuals and engaging design work will carry you along. Go, go, go!!! And it’s definitely going to sell out, so order tix in advance.

Bring a jacket, the theater is an icebox.

Stretch: A Fantasia, New Georges' Ice Factory Workshop

UPDATE: Friend e-mailed me to point out that I made a very stupid mistake and credited this play to Sarah bernfield, when it is in fact Susan Bernfield. Major apologies for carelessness! I have corrected it. I looked at the program while writing this, too! Need to get my eyes and brain checked.

Saw Susan Bernfield's Stretch: A Fantasia at the Ohio Theater on Friday. This is the New Georges workshop in the Ice Factory 2007 summer festival from Soho Think Tank. Unfortunately, it has closed, or else I would HIGHLY recommend it! I thought it was wonderful. I am hopefully that it will be produced soon.

Went by myself and took some notes on the first half or so of the play in my journal, until Susan (I think, might have been director Emma Griffin?) came up to me in the middle of show and whispered that she thought I was disturbing the actors by writing and would I kindly put my notebook away. (!!!) I complied and felt guilty thereafter if the actors stumbled on their lines-- although they did this extremely rarely (maybe three times in the whole show that I noticed) and I afterward thought it a bit odd that I should be blamed for their actors calling "line" once or twice-- especially since there was a curtain speech at the beginning where the audience was told this was likely to happen. And I don't think I was obtrusive. One of the downsides of trying to make your blog interesting!

Anyway, strange happenings aside, the play is a delightful memory play accompanied by original musical underscoring. It centers on Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s personal secretary from his congressional career to his presidential downfall. She is now in a nursing home, brooding and dreaming fitfully on her historic past and refusing to engage in the contemporaneous 2004 presidential elections that are mobilizing the rest of the rest home residents to political action. She is also learning to relate to a slacker druggie young man employed as her caretaker. The play was accompanied by an orchestra that had a typewriter as one of the percussive instruments- fabulous! That was the coolest thing ever. Kristin Griffith was phenomenal as Rose—picture perfect in a cute 60’s sheath dress and managed the complex and detailed direct address monologue with total grace and lovely presence. I take full responsibility for the couple of times she called for line (which were not really noticeable at all) because I am a worthless audience member. Particularly loved getting to hear Rose’s fictionalized opinions on Condie Rice and Karen Hughes as an old-guard Republican woman commenting on the new-guard. And her frank opinions on desire for power and the presidential office (“Heck of a lot to go through being president if power’s not your thing.”) seemed refreshingly honest. Timothy Sekk’s character of the slacker orderly also had a wonderful moment that I thought was extremely resonant where he tells his bud a dream about climbing an Elm tree as a child. He falls and breaks his leg and then remembers that the City removed the tree years ago when it succumbed to Elm’s disease. This seems to be a wonderful metaphor for his character’s struggle to understand the larger themes challenging his patient Rose, like: shelter, rise to power, fall from grace, and abandonment. Loads of intricate and detailed history went into the play and the language was just gorgeous. Particularly liked the subtle touches—Rose hates peas and bemoans the sweetness of peaches- because both foods are contained in the word “impeachment.”

Felt a little shut out by the end scene, which was going for naturalistic and poetic, I think, but hit closer to ‘obscure’ for me. And I was a little disappointed by what a thorough slacker loser the Orderly was throughout most of the play. His scenes with his Bud were extremely well-played Adam Rapp-style aimless 20-something vaudeville routines for the most part. And I think the youth of America was actually pretty highly politicized (well, relative to other American generations) in 2004. Maybe that’s a fantasy on my part. Also, I really don't think the title is good enough for the play. It is hard for me to remember (I keep wanting to call it Sketch) and doesn't seem resonant with the brilliant text.

I thought it was a great show and am sure you will be hearing more about it as it thunders along to great acclaim.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Evacuated from Work! 2 Blocks North and 3 Blocks West of Explosion

I work at 43rd and Madison, in a building connected to the Grand Central tunnels. And I picked a hell of a day to work late! I didn't personally hear the steam explosion that happened tonight, although one of my coworkers says she did.

I was staying late to work a little on my play and around 5:50pm or so a terrified coworker came over to my area and said "A bomb just went off-- a building exploded-- you need to leave! Leave now!" I took the time to shut down my computer and pack it up (well, it had my play on it!!) and put on my rain boots then hightailed it out of the building. The stairwell was packed with people running downstairs.

When I walked out onto 43rd Avenue I was still wondering what had happened and found myself facing a huge column of smoke. Oh, I thought, that's what happened. At the time, everyone on the street was saying a building exploded. I quickly decided that my usual commute home (taking the 6 from Grand Central Terminal to Lexington and 59th) was not a great option, since the explosion was in the direction of Grand Central (good decision on my part). So I walked up Madision to about 51st and then walked over to Lexington and up to 59th.

I managed to leave a message in my parents' home voicemail saying I was all right. Then the cell phone service shut down. The streets were packed with people and no one knew what had happened. I heard that a building had come down and that an electrical turbine had exploded-- but nobody knew anything. I walked passed one delivery truck that was blaring its radio for everyone to hear, all I was able to hear as I walked passed was "people are running from the building." Which was not encouraging.

I got to the 59th and Lex stop and found out that the 6 was not running at all, but the N train pulled up within seconds and I had an event-free ride back to Queens. My cellphone started working again and I got my dad on his cellphone. He was sitting in a pizza parlor in Chicago at a conference. He hadn't heard anything on the news and was not worried.

Looks like I will be working at home tomorrow and until they clear the area for asbestos gas. I am glad it was not more serious!

Unflattering Picture from Chris Shinn Workshop


Not sure why I am posting this, since I made some unfortunate wardrobe, hair, and lack of make-up decisions before this photo was taken. But here I am with Chris Shinn and attendees and staff at the EST Lexington Art Center a few weeks ago. Chris Shinn is standing on the left side of the picture, I am sitting in the front next to him in the colorful socks that I don't know why I wore now. For reasons of huffy female vanity, I am posting a make-up rich, flattering photo in the about me section of the blog as well. Aren't the grounds pretty?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Unnamed Trilogy Outline

Here is a rough writer's outline for the trilogy I am working on . I have about 50 pages written on Angel Eaters. I may be cannibalizing an old desk drawer play for the second play, The Cruel Kind, and if I do that, I have quite a lot of that play written but needing adaptation. Have about 20 pages on 8 Little Antichrists. Hoping to finish the whole trilogy by the end of September.

There is no name. Tentatively calling it "The Legacy of the Angel Eater" Trilogy. But not entirely happy with that. Offer up possible names if you can think of anything.

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PLAY ONE ANGEL EATERS. Set in the Oklahoma dustbowl during the depression. A young girl (JOANN) discovers a dark and evil talent (she raises the dead and steals people's goodness-- the opposite of what the southern Sin Eater does) and her curse is exploited by two traveling con men (FORTUNE and ENOCH). Also her sister (NOLA) has an unwanted pair of twins out of wedlock.

PLAY TWO THE CRUEL KIND. Set in a Texas trailer park in the 1980s. The ill-born twins and siblings are plotting to kill their mother (NOLA) for the insurance. A cousin arrives (JOANN’s son) and they try to exploit his dark legacy. This play might have flashbacks with the characters from Angel Eaters showing family secrets about the second generation's birth. We learn that there is a prophecy dogging the family that eight antichrists will be born, touched by the family's dark power, and bring about the end of the world.

PLAY THREE 8 LITTLE ANTICHRISTS. Set in 2020 in southern California. Futuristic thriller. The third generation of this ill-fated family is exploited for their power by a strange religious cult called the Procreationists. The Procreationists have huge warehouses where they put thousands of female cult members in large vats of amniotic fluids, pump them full of fertility drugs, and encourage them to deliver serial multiple births to expand the cult. The inheritor of the angel eater curse accidentally steals the goodness from and re-animates an in vitro set of octuplets and triggers Armageddon. Also a noir-style futuristic crime plots unfolds as a clone triplet investigates the death of her clone-sister. Will probably use at least one big puppet.

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Sort of a crap summary of the plays. But that is what I am working from. Careful myspace blog readers will note that I posted a scene from 8 Little Antichrists about the Procreationists back when I was using that material for a play I never finished called microORGIES. Am cannibalizing that material for this. Me big play cannibal.

Flux, Eurydice, 10 Million Miles

I saw two plays (well, a musical and a play) and went to the Flux playwriting group this weekend. Also took in a service at the Unity church on 58th and the Bastille Day festival on E 60th.

My co-worker Mary and I went to see 10 Million Miles at the Atlantic theater, a new musical with music and lyrics from Patty Griffin and book by Keith Bunin. It closed this weekend, so my recommendation is coming late-- but I thought it was wonderful. The music was sublime-- sort of country/folk enfused ballads for the main part. Patty Griffin is a goddess, obviously. The book had a few missteps, sure, but it didn't really detract from the experience much for me. And when the book worked, it really worked well-- you were drawn into this blue-collar, unlikely love story in subtle and natural ways. Both Mary and I had the impression that they had gotten really, really close to something utterly unforgettable and with just a few dramaturgical nudges the piece would have been devastating, searing, life-changing, and able to defeat Voldemort in place of Harry Potter. It still acheived outstanding, touching, and lovely. Mare Winningham gave one of the finest performances I have ever seen. Loved it.

Playwright Pam Turner came into town to see Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Second Stage on Saturday and I joined her for that and dinner. She is at the Kennedy Center this week at their annual playwright's intensive (where we met last year) and we had a great time gossiping and catching each other up on what we are working on. I had already seen and loved Eurydice with at Circle X in Los Angeles. But I have to say that I preferred the Los Angeles production quite a bit to this one. Granted, I had a crappy balcony box seat at Second Stage (BB 1, the worst seat in the house, no one will argue) so that may have a lot to do with it. It is hard to fully appreciate the stunning visuals in the show from such a sharp, perpendicular viewing angle. And so much of the magic in that script is the surprise of things--so it is hard to go into a second viewing with exactly the same sense of wonder. But it was not what I remembered from the Circle X show somehow. Circle X had a much more intimate performance space and I really think that worked better for the show.

Went to the Unity church service on 58th Street and enjoyed it. Any church sermon that is mainly about Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey cannot fail to please a writer. Not sure if I am going to become a church lady-- although with the religious bent to all my scripts, I did find it very interesting from a playwriting material-gathering perspective. Went to the Bastille Day Festival afterward on 60th Ave and had some gazepacho. Kay went and had a little chocolate cake thing that she thought looked better than it tasted.

Then we went to the Flux Theatre Sunday writers workshop. Worked on pages 25-50 of Angel Eaters (which I finished on Friday). This section is a little too talky and could use a trim here and there. The story is taking off, but it was light on supernatural appeal. I think it will work though. Play is becoming more based in slippery plot points than I anticipated. We will see how well I sustain things. Want to finish the draft (am about halfway through) before I do any big revisions.

Isaiah directed this time because Enoch was not in these pages, and we had a whole new cast for Nola (played by Liz), Fortune (played by Jamie), Doc O'Malley (played by Will), and Joann (played by Erin). That was fun. Liz and Will are the cast members doing Gus Schulenberg's Riding the Bull in the Fringe Fest next month. Will also wrote an insanely clever play called William Shakespeare's Christmas Carol that we read the first part of and enjoyed outrageously.

Trying to keep this week quiet so I can possibly finish Angel Eaters and start work on the second play, The Cruel Kind, which gets bloodier and more awful everytime I think about it. It is definitely the darkest play in the new trilogy. Did I post a summary of the plays in the new trilogy? I will look back, and if I haven't, I will post that. I don't have a name for the trilogy, yet, so you readers can amuse yourselves trying to name it if you like. Later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Flux Theatre's Sunday Play Development Group, Play Progress, and My Exciting Upcoming Weekend

Sorry I haven't blogged more this week. I have been writing and daydreaming about a new trilogy of plays, and so my head hasn't been firmly planted. But I will try to do better.

Went to Flux Theatre's Sunday afternoon new play development group on Sunday. I thought I was a veteran of play development groups and knew the drill going in. I brought my friend Kay who has agreed to help dramaturg my play (Angel Eaters is set in 1930, dustbowl Oklahoma, and I will throw in anachronisms, so it is nice to have another pair of eyes looking at the script for inaccuracies of time and place). And discovered that Flux has a whole different process from what I am used to.

I expected to just read my little scenes and get feedback-- that is how it normally works at these events-- but that's not how they do it. Instead you get assigned a director and a cast and rehearse your staged reading for about an hour and then they perform at the end of the evening! Wow. I was not expecting to have a polished little performance of my fresh-off-the-printer, fresh-out-of-the-brain, messy little baby. I would have done a little more editting! But it was really a marvelous experience. My director Kelly dived right in, and I had the most amazing cast-- very well put together and they were all having fun.

I don't usually like to be in the room much when the actors are stumbling through things. I am more of a show-up-for-first-read-through-see-you-in-tech sort of writer, if the director allows that sort of (bad) behavior. Watching actors go through awkward phases makes me squirm in my chair and summons the demons of self-doubt usually. But, this was really different. The actors are those nice, blessed sort of actors who go for immediate, gut-level choices and have preternatural apprehension about their characters. So they quickly o'r-leapt awkward and went straight to polished. There are a few places where the script is a little over written, but they tried to sell that amiably.

Had a wonderful moment where actress Cotton screeched eerie birdsong (as angel Azazyel-- who will be in all of this trilogy in addition to his appearance in my play Godsbreath) to a delightfully eager Marnie (playing Joann). That convinced me to go in that direction more for Azazyel's scenes. Somehow I also need to get Azazyel talking, but that is a problem for later in the script. And actress Candice had several amazing moments as the hard-as-nails Myrtle, who is desperate to have two carny hustlers (brilliantly portrayed by Greg and Isaiah) resurrect her husband. She did amazing things with a cake cutter for an axe, Greg's head, and a fake chopping block.

Also saw a lovely scene from a new play by Erin (didn't catch her last name) called Narrator, gorgeously acted, about an unresolved love affair with external narrators. Can't do it justice with my description, but it was searingly beautiful. And had a breathlessly exciting excerpt from Gus Schulenberg's new play Sea Concerto, which is poetic, haunting, and features dead children (which I love-- on stage only of course). This was also skillfully acted and features money and greed prominently which is something else I love on stage.

So, I haven't yet written the scene/scenes I am going to work on this Sunday (these meetings are weekly). But I am excited. I may actually skip over and do the opening scenes of the third play in the trilogy, 8 Little Antichrists, which is a futuristic coninuation of the dark family legacy begun in Angel Eaters. Not sure. Should probably forge ahead with Angel Eaters. Will see what comes out.

Am going to see 10 Million Miles at the Atlantic Theater tonight. And meeting my friend Pam Turner from Atlanta to see Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Second Stage tomorrow night. I saw the Circle X production of Eurydice in LA and realy loved it, so I am looking forward to seeing it with a new cast.

On Sunday, Kay and I are going to check out a Unity Church service and see if we like it. I like the idea of going to a church-- I just wish it were a weird and fun church like the one I outlined in The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn, although perhaps a little less violent than that. But, I will give Unity a shot-- I liked the lectures I went to at the Unity Church in Orange, CA. Then we will go to the Flux meeting at 2pm.

Re-joined (joyfully) the Orange County Playwrights Alliance as an associate member. Am very excited to be back in the fold with Eric Eberwein and my OC-playwritng buds. If the full members don't have enough material for the reading series, I can submit stuff for OCPA events again now. Look out OC, here I come! Again.

Friday, July 6, 2007

New Dramatists Opens the Kimono on the Admissions Process

Went to an interesting meeting at New Dramatists last night. They talked about fifty or sixty interested playwrights through the selection process and application process to "dispell myths" that are prevalent about how they choose new members.

My friend, playwright, and musical lyricist Al Penedo from the Chris Shinn workshop went with me. And I found myself sitting next to and chatting with Brown MFA student Enrique Urueta (http://backdatassupenrique.blogspot.com/) before the panel. Also recognized J. Holtham, TCG New Generations Fellow at New Dramatists, who was sitting on the ND staff panel -- J. and I folded programs together briefly at the Partial Comfort Battle of the Bands fundraiser a few months ago. Amlin Gray was also on the panel to give some perspective on ND alumni participating in the selection process. I don't know him, but I did see his email on the Flux Theater Playwrights workshop invitation-- so he is a part of that group and I might get to see his work developed at a meeting at Flux sometime this year.

The other staff members sitting on the panel included: Todd London, AD; Emily Morse, Dir. of Artistic Development; and John Steber, Dir. Playwright's Lab.

Todd started off the meeting saying the guiding forces for selection of new members includes "artistic eclecticism and diversity." And emphasized that the new members are chosen exclusively by the committee, none of the staff members at DG influence the decision. The selection committee is comprised of 3-4 current ND members, 2 outside theater professionals (directors, designers, producers, etc.), and 1-2 ND alums (like Amlin Gray, who served a few years ago). The committee members change every year.

Todd also talked about how some people apply between 5-15 times for admission before they get in and this is not uncommon. Also, applying multiple times does not 'build up credit' since the selection committee is entirely different every year. It is more of a crap shoot. And often people will send in the same application two years running, and get thrown out in the first round first year and invited to membership the next year. There is really no predicting. Also, contrary to rumors, "horse-trading" is discouraged at the meetings. Committee members are strongly discouraged, in other words, from making deals with other committee members outside the meeting room along the lines of "you let my friend in, I'll let your friend in." Everything must be discussed and consensus reached in the room.

Emily talked next, outlining the exact process. She emphasized that it is a process that the selection committee takes extremely seriously and is always emotional. She said that every year in the later meetings people cry over having to reject writers whose work they have been championing. (!!??) Which makes me think that someone should really write a play about the selection process, if it is really so dramatic. She also said that the September 15th date is not a postmark date, and it is a really dumb idea to wait to the 15th and walk your application in. Every year they get about 150 walk-ins and application drop offs on this date. The interns do nothing that day but collect applications and it creates a huge bottle-neck.

Last year, they received 306 entries and selected 8.

Each playwright submits 2 plays (play A and play B). Before the first meeting of the committee (held in early Jan). Each comittee members reads 10 plays every two weeks until every playwright who submitted work has had their play A read. The only exceptions being-- it you get a recommendation letter from a current or former ND member-- your application is AUTOMATICALLY advanced to the final round. They put your plays aside and don't consider them until the final meeting. Also, every member of the committee is allowed to automatically advance one submitting playwright to the final round at will.

At the January Meeting, every committee member gives a brief book report on the plays they read and a thumbs up or thumbs down on the playwright. If another committee member thinks the play sounds interesting, they can volunteer to read a play that has been rejected at this point and keep it alive for the next round even if the first reader hated it. Also, if a first reader thinks that the play they read just isn't to their tastes and is not getting fair consideration because they don't like that style of writing, he or she can ask that it be re-assigned to someone else for fair consideration. Last year at this meeting they winnowed the 306 applicants down to 102 at this meeting. The meeting typically lasts 15 hours or so. if you are sent a rejection letter in late January or early February, it means your play was cut at this meeting.

Then the play A's go back into circulation until at least 3-4 members of the committee have read each playwright's play A. Committee members are also free to read play B from certain playwrights at this point, if they are on the fence with play A, but it is not required.

The second meeting is in March. Also takes about 15 hours. This is the meeting where people start crying because they start cutting good writers. Last year, they winnowed the 102 down to 21. If you get your rejection letter in late March, you were rejected at this stage.

For the finalists under consideration, every committee member and the ND staff read both Play A and PlayB. Also, the statements of interst and the letters of recommendation are gone over carefully.

The final meeting is in early May. There is usally a target number (between 5-8) given to the committee for how many new members the staff wants, but it is up to the selection committee to decide how many offers they will make. This last meeting also lasts 15-16 hours. And I think Emily said they read all the statements of intent outloud at the meeting.

Todd talked them about the usual composition of the incoming freshman class. He said there may be 1-2 playwrights who are 'fresh off the boat' in each class, but the majority of new members tend to be 'accomplished.' A quick scan of this year's new members has me scratching my head as to who the 1-2 FOB's are. They all look pretty accomplished to me.

They took pains to unscore that a great, great deal of care and concern goes into the candidate consideration. The plays and applications are taken extremely seriously by everyone involved. ND members who do not seem to be consensus-building are not allowed on the selection committee.

They also talked about how the Princess Grace Award selection process is similar, although the early rounds are judged by outside readers and there is a points system (1-10) applied to assess the plays. This year's Princess Grace had 226 entries that were winnowed down to 13 finalists. My play SANS MERCI was one of those thirteen, so I thought that was pretty cool.

Finished the second scene on my new play Angel Eater today. Have decided that that will be the first play in a new trilogy. Will be reading the first two scenes at Flux Theater's writers group on Sunday. Will let you know how it goes!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lovely Summer Retreat with Christopher Shinn at EST Lexington Art Center

Got back from the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s weekend retreat with Christopher Shinn yesterday. It was a wonderful workshop, and I wish you had all been there! I am so glad I went. I was dragging my hills because I didn’t like the sound of “bring bug spray”—but I felt so rejuvenated afterway I am glad I went. The Lexington Art Center where EST holds it is exceptionally pretty, with lots of beautiful hilly overlooks, lolling grass lawns, and picturesque turn-of-the-century buildings.

Faithful blog readers will remember that I was afraid of the turn-of-the-century buildings and where we would be housed—but it turns out that most of use were put up in the Staff House in perfectly cute little rooms with real beds. It was a bit cold, but I didn’t suffer and actually slept a lot better than I do in the city. We had our classes in the Barn Theater, which is a barn that has been converted into a 99 seat performance space. The view from the barn porch was particularly enchanting. I did my writing assignment there, looking out on the hills and a field of tall grasses.

There were only seven other attendees and four staff members. I thought the small class size was great—we all really got to know one another well and it was a good group, our personalities meshed well. We met with Chris on Friday night (after most everyone drove up together in the van). I was surprised to find Ken Urban attending! He and I attended the Pataphysics workshop with Paula Vogel together last year, and I was in the premiere of his play New Jersey Trilogy at Rude Guerilla a few years ago where I also met him. We are running into one another at workshops all over the place now, and I will definitely see him in September when he has a show opening in New York.

Our first session was from 7 to 10 (or so) on Friday night. We introduced ourselves talked about favorite and least favorite plays. Then we went around the circle and talked about why we wanted to attend the class. Then Chris talked about his process and how he writes, which was candid and fascinating. Then we wrote 4 page scenes that night and the next morning. Each person got about an hour of discussion on their scenes then on Saturday, where Chris talked about his revision process which centers on analyzing the character conflict and looking for internal conflict. Interspersed with the scene discussions there was more general writing talk. My scene was sort of crap, so that hour of the day was sort of a wash for me, but it was interesting hearing my classmates scenes. Their scenes were more narrative, mine was ‘poetic dreamscape’ or something similarly eye-rollingly obnoxious and didn’t work well under this type of analysis. I always write stupid class exercises. But I get the concept and how you do the analysis and might apply it in the future.

I thought we really got a chance to see Chris’ brilliance in this part of the class. His ability to look at four pages of dialogue and analyze the complex human dynamics underlying the action was lightening fast and startlingly insightful. I couldn’t imagine spending an hour discussing four page scenes before we did it, but several of the scenes could have been discussed for much longer. And it was nice to have a long time to explore each person’s writing. I thought several of the scenes could be turned into full length or one act plays.

Then the last day was devoted to practical questions, which was nice. We spend about 2 hours talking about business. That was all very interesting and we had such great people in the room, it was a group discussion most of the time. Talked about rights of the director, behavior of the playwright in rehearsals, common issues that come up, benefit analysis MFA vs no-MFA, etc. All very interesting and, again, more candid than I was expecting.

Then we had lunch and drove back to the city, chatting all the while in the van. Promises all around to stay in touch. I felt very energized afterward so I am glad I went.