Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On risk and rejection, part 15

Today's entry seems particularly apropos. I received the following in my inbox this morning:

Over 100 rejection letters for "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street".

Over 100, Sue.

The question isn't "Are they going to reject it?" The question is "Are you gonna let their power shut you down? Are you gonna let them stop you from having fun and writing more works?"

Because, clearly, we're not doing this for the money.


Thank you, SOCK, for taking the top to post and for offering your encouragement. And at the same time, I received a rejection email from the 6th Annual Estrogenius Festival, which I actually thought I had a chance at (silly moi). So it was particularly timely (and appreciated!) to get SOCK's email as I started to absorb the sadness from yet another rejection. I agree and don't agree with SOCK. That is, I am NOT going to let the bastards stop me from writing. At the same time, it hurts like hell every time someone says no. I understand that the festivals are not rejecting ME, because they don't KNOW ME. I understand that the festivals are being innundated with submissions (Estrogenius said they got over 250 of 'em), and it's hard to know who to accept (last week, the Riant Festival said no to me). And yet...and still hurts so bad. It just does. I stopped auditioning as much as I had, because there's nearly nothing as painful as performing a monologue or doing a cold reading and KNOWING, just knowing, that they aren't going to choose you. You can tell by the palpable silence, by the looks (or lack of looks) the auditioners exchange, by their response ("Thanks for coming by. We'll be in touch.). It's just like a blind date that ends awkwardly (and in this case, waaaay too soon). It's worse, b/c you dearly want this and you know the other party isn't interested. And you think about how much fun you'd have in the production, how many people you'd meet, and the high you'd get from performing, and you swear you'll never, ever audition again. And then you do. Though less and less these days, b/c this audition really rips me apart.

But writing is something I HAVE to do, and no festival will stop me. I was born to write--I've been writing since I was old enough to do so (and was scribbling on everything in sight before that)--and it's not because of festivals but because it's something I'm compelled to do. I talked to a student I was advising last night, and we both agreed that it's best to be creative on the side(his father is a musician who is a practicing doctor because music didn't pay the bills). So I don't depend on the money, thank GOD, as SOCK rightly points out, but I do long for the days when someone wants to produce my work. As of now, there have been two festivals (though "Uncharted Territory" WILL get a full staging in late September/early October by the Arlington Players) and all I can do is keep writing and submitting my work and hope that it clicks with SOMEONE. It's bound to happen. But you can't let the bastards get you down. Dr. Seuss didn't, Hemingway didn't, and if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me. It's especially hard at times like this, when work is really stressful, money is especially tight (but then, when isn't it?), and I'm feeling rather down. I use the gym to diminish the stress and keep me healthy (and tonight I've got yoga--good day to do it), I try not to binge eat, and I am bound and determined to go back and revise "Accept This!" tonight, so I can send it to a festival looking for 12-minute plays (funny length, but what the heck). Tomorrow, I visit my sister, niece, and nephew from Florida at my other sister's house in Western Mass, and the combination of four nieces and a nephew under the age of 9 should certainly wipe away any unnecessary focus on me. That's a good thing at this point. And the beat goes on.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Musings on a cloudy Sunday in July...

Well, I wish I were feeling more optimistic about things at the moment, but I'm not. It was a REALLY tough week for me in many ways. I had to pay a $250 parking fee to my landlord's condo association, something I've been fighting for weeks (not in person, as I wasn't allowed to!), and I finally had to give it up and pay it. Not only does it burn me, b/c it's completely unfair, but I really, really didn't/don't have the money, and now my checking account is extremely slim, to be generous (read: no money in there). I have huge debt (probably around $15,000)--thank God, no student loans outdue, at least, as they've already been paid off)--and see no easy or short-term way out. Happily, my car loan should be paid off by the end of November, but I then need to put money toward paying off debt UNTIL I am forced to get another car (which, granted, could happen anytime, since I have a total lemon in my used Kia).

I have given up on the dating thing (I can't even get an email back from the Boomer Gang, a Boston-based singles group, and I would probably be younger than nearly anyone in there). I had a tough doctor's appointment this week (looks like all was healthy, thank God and knock wood) that I won't go into here, but it was very traumatic, and little things seemed to just not work out all bloody week. Things started to feel better once the work week ended (and not a minute too soon, as I spilled my iced tea and pricked my finger on a staple just as I was leaving.) Friday night, A. and I saw "March of the Penguins," which is a really cool film--beautifully and lovingly photographed, quite touching, great for kids and their parents--and I had a nice, hard yoga class on Friday afternoon. (I typically go on Sunday mornings, but I'm feeling rather lazy today, so I'm going to stay in, read the newspaper, watch the British Open--yes, I DO love to watch golf--and work out later this afternoon instead and take a 7:30pm yoga class tomorrow night after work).

I went to Art Beat in Davis Square, Somerville yesterday, a local arts festival, and ran into D.'s husband Jim there, so we watched some local bands (not bad), chatted, and walked around. (This after a 90 minute work out at the gym which I felt I NEEDED, and God forbid I ever lose another ounce of weight.) It was warm out, but we found shade and there was a nice breeze that developed that made things feel great. And then, around 6pm, D., her mother, and A. (who hadn't been feeling well) showed up. It was really fun initially; we had smoothies at a small cafe, just chatted and laughed, and enjoyed being with one another. But eventually we had to go to the church where the short play festival is being held, and then things started to feel REAAAAAALY bad for me. It was pretty hot in the church (only air conditioning in the back room, not in the auditiorim itself) and A., Jim, and I were volunteering (a nice thing to do and saved us the $10 ticket, and every $10 saved counts at this point). I just handed out brochures, so it was pretty easy, but what kept swimming in my head was, THEY DIDN'T PICK YOUR PLAY AND THEY DIDN'T CAST YOU. As I saw a couple of actors, directors, and other personnel, it kept eating and eating at me.

I have to be honest--I think the people in this theatre company are nothing but nice and honest and supportive--but it doesn't mean that I have gotten over the double rejection, b/c I clearly haven't. I usually do, eventually, but then I rarely go to plays I wasn't cast for (if I tried out), and in this case I had to, to support D. (and I don't regret going, as she deserved every bit of support we could give). In this case. I felt like it was coming at me from all over, what with the program in my hand (seeing the actors and playwrights chosen) and D. sitting next to us, of course, just made me feel more and more at ease. (Not that the stuffy air in the auditorium helped; no air conditioning as I noted, and it was pretty humid yesterday, though I will never complain about the heat, but only lack of cooling available.) I watched the plays and kept thinking, Why did this one get chosen, or How did she get cast and not me? To be honest and fair, most of the actors were strong--the plays varied in quality, but that's just my entirely subjective opinion--but I couldn't take myself out of the equation, as hard as I tried.

I had also received a rejection email from a festival on Thursday morning (naturally, right before my painful doctor's appointment), and then on Friday D. heard from another company for whom she's directing (and I am not quite certain my play didn't get chosen, or I would have heard), so I am having NO luck in that area. My only hope at this point is that one of the two local companies holding short play festivals in the Fall will decide to choose mine, or either will cast me, but I am in no way holding my breath at this point. It's beyond frustrating. Oh, and remember that on Monday evening my short play "Peanut Butter Sandwiches" received pretty lackluster responses, and a day latter a co-worker responded with disdain (or...well, utter lack of anything) to a play I thought he might enjoy, my new 10-minute play "Accept This!" (He didn't.) So, I am not receiving any optimistic news on any front these days, and dammit, it's hard! If things were going really well in another area of my life, I wouldn't care so much, but in fact that simply isn't the case. I would love the arts to just be a SMALL part of my life, but that will require other areas to take front and center, and I can't find other satisfying areas of my life (perhaps my gym the exception, but my knees are feeling rather achey these days, dammit all to hell).

So...that's all I can tell you, except to say that D. directed a pretty tough play (too much going on in too little time, and very serious to boot, not the best plan for a 10-minute play) brilliantly, and we were all very proud of her (plus her lead was extremely strong). D. certainly has a knack for directing, and I think it's a direction she intends to pursue. I have considered the same, as I used to direct an improv troupe, but I haven't decided for sure. If I continue to experience the rejection I have in both acting and writing, then I will certainly try that direction, not as a fallback, but just another route to take. I have always preferred being out front to being in the background, but I know I'm a good director, or was, so maybe that is the way to go, at least for a while, and I'm certainly open to it. For now, I'm heading back to bed, paper and Sobe Power Beverage in hand, and let the day flow over me. And try to revise "PB Sandwiches" (though I'm pretty lost at the moment) and maybe "Accept This!" (Jim gave me a great idea that might work, a twist at the end) when I'm feeling appropriately motivated. But not coverage awaits.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I'm back!!!

Sorry I haven't written for a while; I've been around, but I just haven't had much to write about, related to the arts. That's still the case, but I'll plug as deeply as I can to find something of interest. :) Actually, there are things going on in my life, but I'd prefer not to post them here. I don't think most are of general interest and some are personal, and I'd rather keep on track. Anyway, I'm working 11:30-7:30pm today, to cover a co-worker's day off, so I thought I would check in. I won't comment on 7/7 in Britain, except to echo those who agree that it was tragic, that the United States and cohorts need to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible (and I still don't feel we ever should have gone in; WMDs and Sadaam Hussein indeed), and it is a tribute to the Londoners that they have gone on with their lives in a brave fashion. We live in a truly scary world, which the 24-hour news stations only contribute to, I'm afraid, by reminding us every moment of this fact. I prefer to watch Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, read The Boston Globe, and get on with things.

Not too much to report, as I noted. I read my play "Peanut Butter Sandwiches" at the Write On writers group meeting on Monday night. It was excrutiatingly hot, as it had been in June, and of course that's the only hot day we expect to get this week! The meeting takes place on the 4th floor of an old building in the Back Bay, with no a/c or fan (and the windows opened did little to alleviate the heat and stuffiness), so it made it hard to concentrate, as beads of sweat pealed down my back. Nonetheless, the 10 hardy souls :) in the room managed to prevail. (I am being facetious, of course; it was hot, but so what? It could have been snowing out, and no one HAD to stay.) Anyway, PB Sandwiches went up and didn't get a particularly good response, as I had feared. It sounded pretty awkward when read, and I'm not sure what to do about it. One writer noted that it was "too literal," meaning that it came solely from the daughter's point of view and gave the actors little to work with, and I think she's right. I guess I wrote it without a clear enough objective, so it doesn't really GO anywhere, and I need to think about the mother's motivation as well as the daughter's (who's been taunted by friends and feels alone in the world). I'm not sure how much work I'm going to do on this piece, but I will return to it at some point (people seem to feel it was worth reviewing).

Some pieces just don't flow, and this is the first one I worked on in my writing class at the Boston Center for Adult Ed, so it was a bit of a warm up, I guess. I've had poems and short stories that never seemed to flow, and then ones that have; I'd put this in the latter category. It's fine; live and learn, and it's always good experience. My play "Accept This!" was much easier to write (and felt more cohesive), whereas this one still feels ambiguous. I will ask D. to look at it again (she offered to), but it might need to be shelved for a while or indefinitely. The rest of the meeting went well, and we definitely had a good conversation about all the pieces, so I didn't feel badly, just a bit confused about where to go from here. It is so helpful to hear the work of others, and I really enjoy talking about writing, as I always have.

In the meantime, I have still not heard from any theatrical festivals and don't feel especially hopeful, except in the case of AYTB, a local company that had expressed interest and is looking for up and coming writers. Their deadline for the Fall Festival of New Works is this Friday, so I should hear by the beginning of August if they've chosen anything. I know how devastated I will feel if they don't choose anything, so I can only hope that's not the case. D. is continuously reminding me that I shouldn't take it personally--there are so many writers and so few slots--and I try to internalize this but, as with acting, it's so hard for me to. It's not that I put so much effort into my writing, although I do, but more that it's such an important creative outlet for me. I realize that I need to find OTHER outlets as well, so that each rejection becomes far less important, and I will try to do so for the Fall, though I'm not really sure where to look. I had a great experience recently, when D. and I went to a local film producer's house to evaluate films for the upcoming Northampton Film Festival (he also produces the Woods Hole and Underground Film Festivals). I had such a nice night. David the producer is in his 60s, D. and I are in our 40s, and I suspect everyone else there were in their 20s, but it didn't matter. We all bonded quite quickly (some people knew each other, some didn't), enjoyed the films or didn't (and laughed hysterically over a "found" film from the 60s that was deliciously bad), and just had fun. I felt as if I had eaten a really fulfilling meal when I left; that is, I felt full and satisfied and curiously energized, and realized that I had to do this more.

I also had fun seeing three films at the French Film Festival at the MFA this past weekend. D. is a volunteer for the MFA, so she worked the door and I got two free tickets and a discounted ticket. Two of the films were just okay, but "Changing Times" with Catherine Deneauvre (sp?) and Gerard Depardieu was amazing, and it was satisfying to see such a fine film and before widespread distribution. D. is working a few more afternoons, so I will go on July 24th to see three films, if not this Saturday, and I'm really looking forward to it. D's play begins its run, along with its six cohorts, this Thursday at Theatre@First, and A. and I are going to see it this Saturday night (and do tickets, so we get free admission, a nice bonus in a time when I am sincerely broke). D. said all the shows are professional, and I really hope hers goes well. I am still pretty upset about the fact that I didn't get cast, since I had a strong audition, but I realize that there were far too many strong women and far too few female roles, so I really didn't and don't take it personally (I'm just disappointed, though the time commitment would have been huge, so maybe it's just as well).

D. thinks I should audition for "Merry Wives of Windsor," their Fall production, but I would prefer to try for contemporary roles, and since they tend to choose from within their board and regulars (like most companies), I think my chances of getting a decent role are limited, so why bother? It's time to be realistic about my chances. Instead, I will audition for both Another Country's SlamBoston offerings and AYTB's Fall Festival and leave it at that. I did get praise this past Monday at Write On's meeting for the two roles I read (one was from a 25-minute one-act, and I did a strong cold reading), and I wondered why, if I could do so well there, I couldn't do quite as well at other auditions (or p'raps I did, but the competition was just too strong). In any case, it's better NOT to focus on auditioning unless the chances are decent, b/c, as I've discussed so many times, the rejection is killer. When I think about how many roles I haven't obtained in the last several months and how many I could have (thus adding to my very scant theatrical resume), I feel pretty upset, so it's best to look forward and to also be realistic. It is certainly helping that I've ended my involvement with ImprovBoston, since the fit just wasn't good (and hence am not auditioning for their Fall production, "GoreFest III," though my friend T. is, and I really hope she gets cast, particularly b/c she didn't even get a callback from their June auditions for new cast members, to my complete surprise). I also have completed ended my involvement with YESAnd, b/c it was too hard to read about other's successes, particularly in the area of improv. Best to stay focused and within myself and see what transpires, I reckon.

On the positive front, I am reading a lot more, since I have time to, and really like Nick Hornby's new book, "A Long Way Down." Since I'm not a novelist, there is no sense of competition. ;-) I would love to find a playwriting class for the Fall, if I can fit it in amongst advising and teaching the Year One seminar and my late work night on Monday nights (which I suppose is negotiable, if need be) and can find one that is affordable (that is the toughest part). We'll see. In the meantime, I have to really work at NOT spending money (when I say I'm broke, I mean it), finding a new therapist, working out without hurting myself (my left arm has some sort of strain, which concerns me, though my knees are better, knock on wood), finding some new idea to work on in the playwriting area, not binge eating (I'm actually doing okay in this area; not terrifically but better than in the Spring), and really enjoying the Summer, since it's so short in Boston. And now I'm off to work, where I'm thrilled to report that a new Registrar was hired, and an internal candidate whom I really like, so that's one less thing to worry about, always a good thing. I guess Registration will be manageable. I also get to see my two sisters and four nieces and nephew in two weeks, and am extremely excited about that. I also booked a flight to Florida for early October, and my sister is helping me pay for the ticket; there are good things ahead. Let's hope the arts is included in the equation!