Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy Holidays! Some musings on the holidays and the arts.

Well, it's been a pretty slow couple of weeks for me, mostly b/c I don't celebrate Christmas and my friend A. is still in Florida. :-( I don't think things are going too well with her father, but whenever I try to call her, she tells me her cellphone minutes are low or gone, so we can't speak. I will try again tonight. I really have missed her during this break between Christmas and New Years. It was so nice to have a close friend to spend some time with, and I actually have time, which won't be the case in January, when I have to deal with portfolio reviews, registration, and classes beginning at work. I think she's having a pretty tough time with her dad, but her brother did join her a few days, so I hope that helps. I will definitely check in today to see if she has any updates. I hope she's able to come home soon.

I've actually managed to fill the time better than I had feared. I worked til last Friday, and then on Saturday worked out and joined the Hollywood Movie MVP club, which means I can take three movies out at a time for five days (intro offer of $9.99 for the first month, then $14.99/month). I rented Hotel Rwanda, which was very intense and well-worth seeing, In Good Company with Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace, which was light but better than I'd expected, and A Very Long Engagement, which I DID find very long and turned off after a half hour. The nice thing about this plan is that I can return movies and not feel guilty about spending $4 or $5 for something I didn't want to watch or didn't bother with. I returned the movies and picked up three others: 21 Grams, which I've wanted to see for a long time, Mad Hot Ballroom, about the students in NYC learning to dance, and Off The Map, an indie film that got good reviews. You can't rent just-off-the-shelf movies, but I don't mind waiting a few weeks, since I am always behind, anyway. I hope to watch these by Saturday, and then pick up a few more for the New Year, since I have nothing to do Sunday or Monday. The location is close to work, not home, but it's easy enough to get there, and I'm typically at work, anyway (I think there's one in Coolidge Corner, but I suspect you have to go to the home store to pick up/return).

I saw my parents on Sunday, and we had Chinese food and saw The Family Stone, which I thought was pretty mediocre but they liked (it's a good holiday film, kind of corny and heartfelt). I did finish up the Santa play, for good or for bad, and sent it to Poco Loco Players (I'm not sure Doug would consider another play by me, but he said he'd read it, since the deadline is December 30th) and a couple other places. I've now sent four plays to the Dragonfly Festival at the Devanaughn. I do not feel confident that Rose will pick any of the plays, b/c she never has chosen my work or cast me, but you don't know unless you try. I feel the same way about her as I do about Lesley at Theatre Cooperative: nice people who just aren't interested in me or what I have to say or offer. I could be wrong, of course, and hope I am, but that's just my gut talking. I sent a letter to Lesley last night asking if she could give me any insight as to why the Ritalin Readings rejected both of my places--I honestly thought that "Not A Competition" would have worked well, given what I know about some other plays they took, but they clearly felt otherwise. Anything specific she could say would help, but I suspect I'll just get a generic letter, saying they got over 100 plays and couldn't take all, just 15 of them (yep, already know that). Oh, well.

You really do have to ask, I think, if it's a local company. If she concedes not liking my work (as the director at Rough & Tumble did when I inquired whether it was worth my while to audition for his latest production; he said no, though he wouldn't be more specific than that, though I asked him to be), I will know not to try there again. It was a hard decision, but I have decided to see D. and A.'s play at the first night of the Ritalin Readings. I feel as if they deserve the support, so I will swallow my pride and just enjoy the evening and take notes on the plays and how they are presented. I'm particularly looking forward to D.'s play, as I was one of the readers when she presented the work at Write-On a few months ago. (Of course, I was asked to be in D.'s play, so I need to keep that in mind. If asked today, I'd probably say yes, but I was hurting too much at the time.) Then it will be put on at Theatre One in Middleboro in February, the same afternoon as mine, so it will be cool to see the differences. I am really eager to see how "Peanut Butter Sandwiches" goes over. Peg Holzemer loved it, and I have a fondness for it, but we'll see if it works as a short piece. I hope so, of course. :-)

I haven't received any rejections or acceptances lately, but some of the deadlines were at the end of December, so I should be hearing something from at least a few places soon. It's just so tough, but still easier than audition rejections. I am holding firm to not auditioning anymore. If it doesn't work, then why keep forcing it? I will certainly try out for the Arlington Players' summer festival again, but that's it. I have an in, so that helps. :-) I can't help admitting that I check my email far too frequently to see if any acceptance emails have arrived, very dangerous. I need to stop thinking about them and just focus on the present (and on writing). I try to integrate them from yoga (which I miss, as the Sunday classes have been cancelled til the week after New Years--damn you, holidays falling on Sunday!!!), where Shannon urges us to to not worry about the past or the future but remain focused in the moment, in the present. I haven't done any writing--yet--but I hope to start tomorrow, and maybe pick it up Friday and over the weekend. (I worked yesterday, so I had an excuse not to write. Monday, I worked out, watched TV, and read, so no excuse. ;-)) I find I really need to be motivated to write, so it's tough, and will be tougher this winter, when I have to work on Fridays again, alas (though I will manage to take off days here and there, and do have the trip to Florida in early February). I don't expect to get much, if any, writing done in January, when I'll be too busy trying to survive portfolio review hellweek and registration! If I can just stay well, I'll be doing fine.

I was also pretty disappointed when C. from Buffalo enthusiastically wrote about coming to see me from Friday-Monday, and then when I called her Sunday to confirm, told me that no, she and her husband WERE going to Florida, since they had the tickets set and a friend's house to stay at. I don't blame her AT ALL, but I did get my hopes up, though my sister Laural had warned me not to (of course couples want to be together for NYE). Sigh. Another new year sans partner. Sometimes I think it really is utterly hopeless. I will spend First Night with D. and her husband and maybe a friend of hers, who is single and sounds nice, and I'll manage to fill New Years Day and the following one with video watching, working out (though no yoga :-(, sigh), and reading and writing, but it would have been far more fun to have a friend with me. It does suck to be single over the holidays. The other thing I wanted to note is how much I've been binge eating lately. I can't quite understand why. I am working out as much or more than ever, so the damage isn't as bad as it could be, but it's bad enough, and I have to watch it. It's been Tostitos, Goldfish Crackers, and lower-fat chips, but why?! I am fairly busy. What's up with this? The cold? (And it hasn't been as bad lately.) Just the general sadness I feel this time of year? Deprivation? I don't know, and it worries me. I feel like an alcoholic or other dependent personality at such times, as if it's something I can't control. Of course I can--just don't bring the stuff into the house! I've gotten better with spending in general, but eating; lord, that will be a life-long problem. I know if I ate less, I'd look good, b/c of the exercise. Dammit, stop taunting me, junk food!

Today, I am off to see my sister in Western Mass and my three local nieces today for lunch at Bugaboo Creek and then hanging out at my mother's for the afternoon. That should be nice. Tomorrow, I will eat lunch and dessert with D. and then see Brokeback Creek (excited to see it) with my book club friends (there are now four active members, including me, and I like the other three a lot; the new members didn't really work out, so Angela will have to invite more people, including some men, I hope! ;-)). Friday, I will see either my friend K. or my parents in Boston, and then of course it's NYE. I enjoy First Night, especially when I get to do it with friends. Oh, annd one more thing before I sign off. I read two packets, 10 plays each, for the Boston Theatre Marathon. The first packet had a surprising number of strong plays, which was both encouraging and a bit discouraging (the more good plays, the less chance one of mine or D.'s will be chosen; yes, it's all about us ;-)). Then I opened packet two, and wow, nearly ever play was horrible! I even gave one play a 1 and two others a 2 (meaning dreadful). They were pretentious, precious, and nearly unreadable. Any time a play has "existential" in the title or has characters named "man" and "woman" or two parts of a heart (seriously, left and right ventrical), run as fast as you can! One play was even written in the style of a Roman piece, but with Biblical references! Why oh why would someone do that?! Do you think you can top the Romans? I think not. I am pre-disposed to naturalistic plays, no question, but I try to be openminded. Still, these plays tested my patience, and with one exception (and of course it was modern), there were none I could recommend. I guess that was a bit of a relief, and of course it's always helpful to see what others are writing, not only to get ideas but to see what works and what doesn't. I think the chances of my plays being taken are slim to none--it's a very competitive festival--but even to be a semi-finalist would be an honor. And yes, I know, stop thinking about it, right now! D. and I can compare plays tomorrow when I see her. Meanwhile, someone, like my plays and offer me a spot in your festival! I won't disappoint! :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another acceptance! Two, actually! My cold's nearly gone! Yippie!

I learned last night that my three-minute play, "My Six-Thirty," was accepted by Theatre One, the theatre that is putting on "Peanut Butter Sandwiches." I won't be able to see it performed, b/c it's short and it's on Friday night, and there's NO WAY I can drive all the way out to Middleboro on a Friday night, but it's still gratifying to know that the festival was interested in it (truth be told, I had forgotten I had even sent them that one). The festival producer, Peg, wrote me a couple of very nice, very supportive emails today, and like I've said, external validation cannot be underestimated. I'm really excited about meeting her and seeing PB Sandwiches performed. THEN I got an email today from a director in New Mexico, informing me that "My Six Thirty" is a semi-finalist for the Poco Loco Theatre, and if it wins, it will be made into a film! This seems a little strange, in that it's only a short piece, but I believe it's for a high school or college (I could be wrong), and they probably want to work on short pieces.

In any case, I felt honored, and how cool would it be to see the work made into a FILM? It's also interesting that these were not the first two plays that come to mind when I think of my strongest pieces, and yet, here we are. So you never know, and you have to just keep on writing and submitting. I have not heard from Another Country, and don't think I will; acting is fun, but it isn't going to become a central part of my creative life anytime soon, clearly. But I have writing, and I have time during the holiday break, and so I need to think of some new ideas and then get to writing. I am still struggling with "Out for the Holidays," the play about Santa Claus coming out to his college-age daughter; I think it's funnier/more interesting in premise than in execution, sadly. I haven't given up on it, and I emailed it to A. in Florida today, who is still there, caring for her ailing father, and since she has a good sense of what I like to write and what works, I hope she can come up with some creative suggestions. It feels like a jigsaw puzzle: the picture is there, but the pieces just won't fit together (and maybe some are missing, or there are too many, and they need to be extracted, like teeth). I don't know. It's frustrating, but I'm going to put it aside again and see what A. thinks. I need to move onto other things, anyway.

And thank GOD my cold seems to have broken this morning, and I actually feel almost back to normal. I'm tired, and a little congested, but nothing like yesterday (or this past week, or two weeks earlier, for that matter). I just hope that it actually stays away this time, b/c I felt like hell for far too long, and I'm a lousy patient. I enjoyed the book swap with my book club friends, and I had the most delicious b.l.t. (minus the t, b/c I abhor tomatoes) at "Flour" in the South End, but I still felt very out of it, and the walk back to the gym in the cold (the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees in two hours) didn't help. I managed a pretty good workout, though, and maybe that's what allowed the cold to break. In any case, after Tuesday, things will really calm down at work, and then I have all of next week, save Tuesday, off, which should help a lot. So let me just say again how wonderful it feels to have my work accepted, and how proud I feel, and how I wish that high would last forever. Yoga is great, but acceptance emails are even better.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another cold, another audition, more waiting

Well, not much to share this week. The dreaded cold returned (how and why, I'm not really sure), and I'm home today, Friday, resting in sweats, though I do plan to head out tonight with D. to see a play at the Boston Center for the Arts that sounds like fun. Despite the dreaded head cold, I did attend the auditions for Another Country's 10-minute play festival at M.I.T. on Tuesday night. I debated whether it was worth doing so quite a bit. I had to work until 8pm (advising), then write up notes, and finally head out in the extreme cold (it was about 5 degrees out, and when you have a cold, in particular, that hurts). I decided I would go for it, because it was the only night that AC was holding auditions, and you can't win if you don't play. I kept coughing (though not while I was actually auditioning) and really felt lousy. I'm not sure how that affected my audition, if at all, but I do know that I haven't been contacted yet, a bad sign, though I was asked to read three times, a somewhat promising sign.

After each audition, and its resulting dead air, I wonder if it's worth it, and if I really ought to stop putting myself though this (usually) inevitable rejection. What I still find puzzling is that I am able to read quite competently, if not better, in my playwrighting groups. On Monday night, I was asked to read three times for the Write-On group--two roles were major--and I thought I did quite well, bringing the appropriate amount of intensity and emotion to each. And yet, when I go before the auditioners, I suspect that this enthusiasm dries up, and all they see is someone either pushing too hard or not pushing much at all. It's hard to say, as no one critiques my readings (as I've noted before), but I get the sense that I am just not in the moment enough. I really don't have the money to spend on auditioning classes (and I mourn the thousands of dollars I wasted on improv classes), and I cannot find an auditioning buddy, so I have to continue going this alone. I am certain there was at least one or two roles I could do well, but I probably won't ever have the chance to show the director my ability. It's quite disappointing, but I realize it's completely out of my control, and so much of this is arbitrary, so I really do have to move on.

As far as playwrighting goes, nothing to report there. I did revise the ending of "Accept This!" and have sent it to a few more festivals. I got a rejection letter from Fullerton College in California this week for my one-act play, but I since I barely remember even writing to them, I'm not too upset about it. I haven't written anything new, b/c I haven't felt well enough and haven't had the time to pursue anything, but I hope to have some time over the break. While I'd like to work on the long piece, based loosely on my friend A's relationship with her long-time friend/boyfriend, there are so many sad elements (including severe depression and terminal illness, as well as the relationship itself) that I'm not sure it's a good idea for me to tackle this over the holidays, when I usually feel blue enough as is. And the Arlington Players met last week, and we discovered that we do not have any directors, plus we need a fourth play and actors. Thank God the festival isn't until June! I am a bit concerned, but since I'm not one of the producers, it really isn't my call as to how we proceed, so I'll just lay low and see what happens. I would still REALLY like to be in Monica's play, but that isn't my call, so I just have to wait and see what she and the director (who may or may not be someone else) decide.

I wish I had more to say at this point, but it's hard to think, let alone write, with a bad cold, and I haven't engaged in much this week. It will be fun to see a play with D. and her friend tonight, and somehow I have to get over to B.U. to pick up a couple of packets of plays for the Boston Playwrights Theatre Festival (and I only have until the 22nd, so I'm running out of time). My book club is also meeting tomorrow for a book swap/holiday get together, which would be better if I didn't have a cold, but should still be enjoyable. (GO AWAY, COLD!) For now, more rest, more liquids, and more sniffling.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Yes, not only am I posting for the second time in one day, an unprecedented event, but I am posting with good news: one of my plays just got accepted into a local play festival! My 10-minute play, "Peanut Butter Sandwiches," the one I had basically given up on (or had, in fact, given up on, at least as a 10-minute work), was accepted by Theatre One in Middleboro, MA for their "Slice of Life Festival" in February. It's a pretty intense play about an unhappy 12-year-old girl and her somewhat out of touch mother, and I had been given feedback that too much happens in too little time and that the dialogue didn't really ring true. Whether or not that's the case, this festival wants to give the play a chance. Happily, I will be back from Florida in time for their festival--I would have been so disappointed if it had a week earlier--and A. should be back from Florida, where she's caring for her dad, as well, so we can both go. YAY!

This, my friends, is the email I desperately needed. I don't care what anyone says (or I do, but it doesn't work for me), external validation is at least occasionally needed, and acceptances feel one million times better than rejections. That's rather an obvious comment, but it's amazing how much better I felt after getting the email. There was, indeed, a spring to my step, and I was eager to share my good news with A., the playwrights binge group (who were very gracious in congratulating me), and my sister in Florida and parents, all of whom were very excited. I am rather shocked (my sister and mother were both surprised that I was, and my mother pointed out that when I hang in with things, they often pan out, so I just need to be patient) and extremely pleased, b/c producer Peg Holzmer noted that she "loved" the play, and that means so much to me. It's a play that I really care about (of course, it's sad, but it ends on a hopeful note, just as my longer play, "Uncharted Territory," does), and I had hoped it would strike a chord with someone (well, A. always liked it, though she felt it could be longer, and maybe it still can be). Now I see that it has, and for that, I'm very grateful.

As I noted earlier today, I needed something to bring back my enthusiasm for writing, and perhaps this news will help motivate me. (I still don't know what to do with my Santa play, and hope people have specific ideas at my playwrighting group on Wednesday.) But I left the house, in order to grab a bite and usher for a play at Boston Playwrights Theatre, a lot happier than I would have been without the news--again, I had written both the festival and the play off, neither with good reason, I suppose--and I just feel good inside. I'm not sure I should need this external validation to feel good about my writing--I probably should feel confident enough in my writing ability to do fine without it--but the truth is that I don't, at least not yet, and I need some happy news sprinkled amongst the bad. So thank you, Theatre One, and let's hope I get to a point where I really do enjoy writing simply because the process is gratifying (which it clearly is, but I still need a positive end result). Now I can't wait to see it performed. :-)

Colds--the great equalizers

For those of you who were dismayed by my last post, I would just ask you to give me another chance. I was, in fact, clearly my anger in that post, despite my protestations otherwise. In addition, I was in the midst of a terrible cold that took nearly two weeks to go away (and by cold, I really mean a cold/flu, that completely took me out, and during the holidays, to boot), and I was pretty depressed and frustrated. Suffice to say, I'm finally feeling much better, as the cold continues to slowly leave my body, and am a bit more level-headed than I was when I wrote that last post. I have considering editing or deleting it, but I believe in bravely going forward, and I also believe that this post documents my thoughts and feelings at a particular point, and will hopefully demonstrate a progression of ideas over time, so I will leave it and move on.

The Thanksgiving break was particularly frustrating for me. I don't really like this season, anyway, as the weather grows increasingly chilly and the nights come on more quickly, and I rather envy those who celebrate Christmas or have boyfriends/spouses to spend New Year's Eve with (hell, a *date* would be fine). But it's a lot harder to contend with when I'm feeling sick, and boy, did I get beaten down by this particular strain of cold. Since I was already feeling rather worn down before it arrived, my immune system was low. My friend C. from Buffalo was in that first weekend, and I didn't get enough sleep the first night she arrived, and then we were very busy the entire time she was here. That was great, and exactly what we both wanted, but between the chilly temperatures outside, contending with the IKEA adventure, and a lack of rest, I didn't have the chance to nip it in the bud (which may or may not have been possible), and by the time she left, I was really feeling awful. I went home early from work both Monday and Tuesday nights, and stayed in bed all day Wednesday, but the cold didn't get any better, and I drove out to my parents' house in Northern Mass feeling terrible by Thanksgiving morning.

All I wanted to do was sleep, but I also wanted to spend time with my sisters and their kids, and yet I wasn't up to it. I could barely taste the yummy food, I didn't have any energy, so couldn't really play with the nieces and nephew, and felt as if I were in a vacuum that had trapped me permanently. It was even hard to sleep at night, b/c I had difficulty breathing. I kept waiting to feel better, but I didn't, not the entire weekend, despite doing very little, resting, getting a lot of sleep, drinking a boatload of liquids, injesting major quantities of over-the-counter medicines, and so on. It was so disappointing to feel so awful, since the whole family only gets together once or twice a year, and I had really been looking forward to seeing everyone. It was scary, too, b/c I just felt so lousy (the way you feel when you have the flu), and I didn't know when I'd feel better (and I didn't start to feel like myself until this past Wednesday, so about 12 days after the cold's onset). The one thing colds do, however, is force you to slow down and to stop feeling so emotional about things. There was no way I could summon the energy to be really angry, or depressed, or anything. I was just focused on getting better.

As a result, when I got the second rejection email from a local theatre for my 10-minute play "Not A Competition" (this is the theatre that took five of my friends' works but not NAC or "Accept This!"), I could barely muster a response at all. It hurt, but far less than it normally would; of course, I also assumed that would be the case, so I was prepared for it. The rejection allowed me to move on, and I have. While I have no intention of attending either night of readings--I have to protect myself, after all--I am also not bitter or angry anymore, just disappointed and somewhat frustrated, and these are certainly manageable emotions, and reasonable ones as well. Yesterday, I got a listing about another local festival looking for short works, and I sent them off the two 10-minute plays that I sent the other theatre. I have been rejected from this theatre before, both for my writing and my acting, and I don't really see that it will be any different this year, but it was easy enough to email off the submissions, so I did. There was no fee, and there is no limit to the number of submissions one can give, so if I am to write another play that is perhaps a bit more tragic (they look for that emphasis), I'll send it along as well (the deadline is sometime in January). I am now going to forget that I ever sent them the plays, so that I will be less disappointed if/when they reject them (as I fully expect them to do).

D. is sending them a few works as well, but perhaps one under a pseudonym, for personal reasons, and I think that's a good idea. I rather wish I had done the same (and had I thought of it, I would have), b/c then it would have been a better indicator of whether I was truly being rejected b/c of the work or whether my identity had anything to do with it (and you can say it doesn't, but I don't believe it, unless the pieces are read blind, and I don't think they are, as opposed to, say, for the Boston Playwrights Theatre's competition, at least in the initial round). What I also feel right now is a general apathy and lack of motivation toward writing. I did spend about an hour revising my Santa play, but I can't honestly say that it reads much better than before, though I would like someone else to read it and give feedback (there just seem to be some awkward transitions; maybe it's simply too long, though it's now down to 9 pages). I met with my friend and former co-worker E. yesterday for tea in Coolidge Corner, and he asked if perhaps there was something I could do with the other two plays if they were consistently being rejected (e.g., work on the dialogue, the characterization, or the plot). But I honestly feel as if both plays work as is--I could be wrong, of course, and if no theatre ends up taking either one, perhaps this will be borne out--so I would just as soon leave them alone and move onto other material.

The issue, as I said, that I'm contending with now is this general lack of excitement about my writing. There is no question that the recent rejections have contributed to this, along with a general languour I encounter during this season, and of course my continuing recovery from this cold/flu. But I sit down at my computer (and granted, it's damned chilly in the winter, particularly when it's windy out, as it is today, b/c it's next to a drafty window) and I just can't muster the needed enthusiasm to work on anything new. I hope this won't be the case during the long holiday break, b/c I truly would like to work on the full-length (or one-act) dramatic piece I have in mind, and I'm not sure I'm going to feel like it. And if I don't, I don't really have a lot to do during this break. A. had to leave for Florida to take care of her ailing dad (he fell and badly injured his shoulder last weekend, and he's 85, with a dying girlfriend), and she probably won't be back for at least a month and maybe longer. This is a tough loss for me (and, naturally, is a lot tougher for her), and she is my playwright/movie buddy, confidante, and play reader/encourager. She told me I could send her plays via the internet, as she will have some access--more than she usually has--while she's in Florida, and I can certainly do that, but it's not the same.

I am volunteering to usher at a play tonight at Boston Playwrights Theatre b/c I want to see it--it's a new piece--and b/c I need to get out of the house, desperately, especially when I feel rather down. It's critical that I spend time with people or in areas where others are congregating (e.g., at a Starbucks). I can't be alone in my house for long periods of time; it's just not healthy for me, and I always need my time to be structured, but especially during this time of year. Unfortunately, we are also due to receive snow tomorrow, and I hope that won't keep me from going out to my parents after yoga (finally, I get to go again, after a two-class absence!) to watch the Patriots game. If it does, though, at least I will have gotten some exercise and I can read the paper and watch the game, so I won't be sitting around the house, idly twidling my thumbs. Really, though, I hope that my enthusiasm for writing will return soon, and maybe it will be back next weekend, when I again have Friday off (yesterday, I got my inspection sticker for my car, after receiving a $20 fee, had bathroom repairs done, exercised, and then met with E., so it was a busy and productive day).

Interestingly, I'm looking forward to two auditions coming up, this Wednesday for a new Kirsten Greenridge play, right before my playwrighting meeting, and next Tuesday for Another Country's SlamBoston festival in January and February 06, more than I am to writing. Funny thing, but I may have a chance (if I can just figure out how to have stronger auditions this go-round), and after talking to E. about acting for quite some time yesterday--he took an acting class at Harvard last year, while acquiring his M.Ed., so we discussed the process for a while--I got excited again. Hopefully, not too excited. Meanwhile, I wait for the Jordan's Furniture guys to come with my new bureau, at last (all of my clothing is on my bed, so they better show up soon!), and then I can do a light workout (if there's time) and get to B.U. for the show. I have managed to fill the weekend rather well, and that may seem sort of sad, but it's a necessary strategy for me this time of year. Most importantly, I do feel much better--please, no more colds or the flu this season!!!--and so I hope that the eagerness to write will return, as my good health, knock on wood, has. Monday night after work, D. and I are going to discussion about making it in the arts at Boston College, and that could be somewhat interesting. I need to stay involved and in touch with people, and I can only hope that this will positively impact me. I'll keep you posted.