On Playwright Binging
One of the problems I've encountered with 10-minute plays (which is what I'm focusing on at this point; more opportunities for them to be produced and less stress for me) that try to be funny is that they try too hard or just...well...aren't funny. Or I don't think so. They're stupid or riddled with cliches but they aren't funny. There are notable exceptions, of course. Mark Harvey Levine's play "The Rental" is brilliant, as it shows us what happens when a woman receives a 24-hour-boyfriend for her 30th birthday. It's the type of play I've always wished I could write (so I need to try), since my boyfriend-related stories often turn bitter (though some of my monologues from "Workin' Progress" were farcical, rather than angry or frustrated). I've seen a few other amusing plays, particularly those of Rough and Tumble Theatre, but most struck me as condescending or painful (but certainly not all). I gravitate toward more serious plays (not obscure, mind you, but darker or more thoughtful).
I realize it's hard to get deep in a 10-minute play, but that's what I tend to write and what I tend to like. Still, as a former improviser who did enjoy playing on stage once in a while (despite the serious scenes that often developed), I do appreciate humor (read: The Daily Show), particularly smart humor. So I'll try this weekend to see what I can do. I also want to pluck some material from my short fiction, since much of it is dialogue-driven, but it's also pretty morose, so I'll wait until I've worked on something funny. I have to try, at least!
In the meantime, this binge has really gotten me pumped. I've started exchanging emails with fellow playwrights (which makes me feel more legit, and is just interesting and exciting, and heck, they ARE real people ;-)) and have learned about all kinds of opportunities I wouldn't know about otherwise. I don't have time to dwell on any one submission, b/c there are always more to focus on. Unlike auditioning, where the opportunities are few and far between, there are a multitude of theatres seeking 10-minute and one-act plays (as well as full-length ones, but I haven't written one yet), so there's no excuse for being lazy and complacent and discouraged. I was pretty discouraged when I got the "No thanks" email from Another Country regarding SlamBoston nights in September (next week, I guess) and November. I was equally, if not more, discouraged when I inquired about an audition that took place tonight and was told that there was really no point in trying out, as it was likely I wouldn't be cast. In fairness, I did want to know, because I'm trying to avoid rejection where possible, but I certainly hoped I'd be told to go, because I'd felt my audition for them (2 1/2 hours, only three of us in the hot seat) was strong this past spring. Apparently not.
I was about as low as I'd felt in months last week, and then...along comes playwrightbinge! I'm so grateful and want to take every opportunity. If you submit 30 times, the chances of your being successful are...well, somewhat decent, assuming the plays are production-worthy and the submissions are appropriate. (I am being attentive to guidelines and each theatre or festival's mission statement, if applicable.) I realize that if nothing comes of these submissions, I'll be pretty despondent, but I'd prefer to focus on submitting and writing and let the plays fall where they may. I'll keep you informed, of course. I am enjoying the process again, and that is what is most important. Additionally, I realize that auditioning is just not working out for me, and after I audition and am rejected, I no longer want to see the production from which I was rejected (understandable, I think). The more I audition, the less plays I'll go to see! This seems counterproductive, and since I like going to plays and do NOT like being rejected, I'll think I'll keep the auditioning to a bare minimum. My focus will be back on writing, where it once began, back in the day (or when I was six), and maybe this is the avenue where my creativity can be better utilized. I certainly like acting, but I know it's not my forte, and I can enjoy it and yet not feel like I need to do this but rather get the chance to on occasion. The less pressure I put on myself, the better I'll do.
This was borne out during my "Autumn Premieres" audition (and came up during a discussion with Rich, the executive producer, last week) when I felt stiff during my monologue and Marlene reading, and yet felt loose and comfortable during the reading for the waitress, since I thought I had no chance. How interesting! And yet not surprising, because what typically gets in one's way is being in one's head, and that's clearly where I often and where I wasn't when the stakes seemed far less great. I don't want to overstate this--there's a lot of serious shit going on in the world right now, with the continuing war in Iraq (still there, people, and Americans and Iraqis are still dying) and the fallout from Katrina (I am only grateful that I didn't know anyone personally, but I read everything I can about it on salon.com and in the Boston Globe, b/c I feel as if I need to know, to understand, and it's my way of caring and of being humane, I suppose, as I hope there's a fundraiser I can participate in soon, since I don't have any money to donate). But my life has been about disappointment and about feeling deprived and not good enough, and maybe I'm at a crossroads where I start to experience success and feel good and able to validate myself both with and WITHOUT external approval.
I realize that this burst of energy and enthusiasm won't last forever, but I'm going to ride the train as long as I can, and I hope I'm securing a permanent seat for myself. Yoga is useful, exercise is important, work is satisfying (usually, as well as stressful at times), but I HAVE TO BE PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS. Music and writing sustain me, and this is where my energy needs to be directed. I have also decided that, if possible, I would like to get a guitar for my birthday in April and begin writing songs (I mentioned this in an earlier post). Whether or not this happens depends, in part, on my financial situation (Norbert the accountant and I met on Saturday and he thinks I'm doing better but have a long way to go, and I agree), but writing is free (well, fairly free) and a lot more healthy than real bingeing (which I've been pretty good at avoiding over the past couple of months), so let the writing fest continue!
One last thing I wanted to note: I saw "Urinetown: The Musical" at the Lyric Stage w/ A. yesterday and we were both somewhat disappointed by it. The singing and acting were fine (though the actors should have been better miked, and we were eight rows back, not 18 or 80) and the choreography in particular was very strong, but the play itself just didn't do it for us. D. and her husband saw the play on Broadway and thought it was really entertaining; A and I thought it needed to be more over-the-top and I fault the writing, particularly the lyrics, more than anything else. Good conceit, not so wonderfully executed. The second half worked better than the first, with a Fosse parody especially fun, but the ending was as dour as the beginning, and I felt as if the play was schizophrenic. I'm nothing but an amateur critic, but I wonder why this play has garnered so much attention and praise and if I'm just too critical.
A. and I weren't enthralled with Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing" at the Huntington Theatre last Wednesday, either (the fact that we couldn't hear a third of the lines from the balcony, when so much depends on Stoppard's wordplay, could have been a factor), so I'm starting to wonder what it will take for me to get charged by live theatre again (we've seen two other plays in the past month, and we liked but didn't love one of them and really disliked the other). Of course, if I go to a play with little or no expectations, I'll be less disappointed, just the way I need to approach writing submissions and any future auditions I attend. But it's not always that easy, though I think it's a worthy goal. What is most important is to remember that this is supposed to be fun. If I can approach this as a worthwhile diversion and keep it in perspective, I think we'll all be better off.