Thursday, April 20, 2006


Well, I'm great about sharing bad/difficult news, so here's something happy to celebrate: I was accepted into the TCAN (Natick's Theatre Center)'s play festival in June! They took my 10-minute play "Peanut Butter Sandwiches," which seems to be popular, b/c it was the one that also got into Middleboro's Theatre One Festival (and was subsequently snowed out in February). I don't know who the competition was, and I don't care. I'm just excited that my play was chosen, that it will get a full staging (not just a stage reading, though those are cool, too), and that it's LOCAL, so D. and I can see it. :) Ironically, it's the same weekend as weekend one of "Five," the Arlington Players Festival. However, it's being performed both Friday and Saturday nights, so I can go to Five on Thursday and Friday, go to Natick on Saturday with my sister and her husband in Western Mass, celebrate Father's Day at my mom and dad's on Sunday, and then go back to Five the following week.

As one of the producers and a playwright, I would like to attend most of the Five performances (there are six altogether), but I can miss one or two--I'm not the director or one of the actors, of course (though I wanted to act--now it's a good thing I wasn't cast, since I wouldn't have been able to see MY play in Natick). And on the writing front, I plan to revise one or more of my plays this Saturday (I have the WHOLE day open, which is very rare), and then am seeing a new play called The Man Who, based on Oliver Sacks's work, on Saturday night with A. I usher for AYTB's play, written by friend John Shanahan (congrats on the new baby, Daddy Shanahan!), on Sunday, and then attend the CentaStage's benefit. So I'm going to be pretty busy, BUT have tomorrow night and Saturday available. But PLEASE God, do NOT have the jack hammers start up again at 7:30am tomorrow morning! There is nothing more awful than waking up to the sound of a jack hammer (trust me). Tuesday, Wednesday, and today I was greeted by that delightful sound, and I can't take it again. I even DREAMED about it last night (freaky). I think (hope) that they are done, though there might be another day of it. Just let it end by Saturday (happily, they didn't begin the work until Tuesday, so my birthday was not spoiled by the evil sound), so I can sleep in again (or just...well...wake up in a natural way). I did have a very nice birthday with my parents, and I got GAP gift certificates, which NEVER go to waste. :)

And finally, on a sadder note, my 96-year-old grandfather is in bad shape and my dad is flying out to Florida to spend the weekend with him. Grandpa had a wonderful life, and I hope he goes quickly, so he is not in pain and leaves on a restful, happy note. My dad is very sad, of course, but I think he's accepted it, and that's most important. And my mom is going out to see my sister in Western Mass and the nieces tomorrow for a few days, so she won't have to be alone. I wish my grandfather a peaceful death, and hope I can enjoy some of the contentment he has enjoyed for nearly all of his adult life.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy birthday to me...

I guess. I mean, sure, why not? I turn 43 tomorrow, though I feel and look a lot younger (sounds corny, but it's true). My sister in Florida says I act much more like someone in her 30s, and I agree. I don't feel 43, whatever 43 is supposed to feel like. I don't look middle aged--in fact, the term makes me cringe. I guess if I'm going to live to 86, that's technically correct, but my grandfather turned 96 (!) on April 6, and if I have his good genes, I won't be middle aged til I'm 53. So that's 10 years from now. I prefer to think of it that way, or to say that 50 is the new 40. Or whatever. Because I exercise pretty much every day, b/c I'm single and doing stuff all the time, b/c I wear GAP clothes, etc., I am so now what I think a 43 year old should/would be (or is). So age is really just a number. I used to think a birthday was a big deal. It used to be fun. Now it's just another year that's passed, and a new one that is just beginning. That's really all. Some years are better than others, but you have to try every day to make it as good as possible, or as worthwhile as possible. That sounds ridiculously corny and Zen, but I do believe it.

It's one reason I dislike work, at least the CONCEPT of work--it pays the bills, it gets you out of the house, and there is quite a bit of worth to educating students--but I think of all the things I'm NOT getting to do every day. I don't get to go to the beach or Walden Pond to walk, to sit and contemplate, to read and write and breathe in fresh air or smell and taste the salt and walk on the sand to the sound of the calming waves. (Nothing in the world is as nice as sitting on a beach, watching the pink sunset, and listening to the surf.) I don't get to see the US or the world; I've been to maybe 10 states, give or take, and four countries. There's so much I haven't experienced yet. I don't want to wait until I'm retired (IF I ever get to retire, which doesn't look too likely right now) to get to travel and to really live. I still think that if I had one day off a week (Fridays, like I did last fall), it would help a lot, b/c that's the day I could write, and exercise, read and watch movies, and just relax, and know the weekend wasn't crammed into two short days. It doesn't look like I can get the time next fall (stupid reasons like everyone can't have that, but I have been at my college for ELEVEN years, and I have five weeks of vacation per YEAR, and you'd think that would count for something, though apparently not so much). And really, I do need more time to write.

Someone just posted to one of my blog entries that I need to find out more about writing. To that person I say, um, huh? I do know what commedia del'arte is, I have an MFA in Creative Writing, I've taken playwrighting courses, and I'm reading Gary Garrison's books on writing the 10-minute play and "keeping the drama out of your life and into your writing" (or similar). So I do the research, and I just need more time to work on the craft. Time that is precious and fleeting, b/c there just isn't enough time, and so much of it is spent in an office, doing mundane tasks (and that's for nearly everyone, and less for me than for many other people). Anyway, there it is. I am going to see my parents tomorrow for a trip to Newburyport (an annual outing, which isn't far from their home) for lunch and maybe a pair of earrings if I can find some I like. (I'm not girly, and I don't wear bracelets or necklaces or fancy rings, but I do like cool earrings.) And my nieces and nephew will call to sing happy birthday, which is incredibly cute and always makes me feel better.

And tomorrow I can put off writing, stop thinking about the audition I had Saturday that resulted, once again, in my not being cast (PLEASE, don't let me audition for ANYTHING anymore, no matter what I say), stop thinking about the play festival rejections I have received and may well receive in the next weeks or months, in the plays in which I'm stuck, in the boyfriend I don't have, in the condo I don't own, and so on. I can think about how lucky I am to have loving parents and sisters and nieces and nephews, how lucky I am to be able to exercise every day, how lucky I am to have nice co-workers and students who appreciate the work I do, how lucky I am to live in Boston, where the subway is so accessible and where there are always plays to see and paths to walk and bookstores to shop in and architecture to admire and restaurants to try. For one day, I can just be. And I can try to make this a year where I am able to just be more often. It's a worthwhile goal. It can't hurt to try.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Love my family, hate submitting writing

To start, I had the best time with my family this weekend. The four nieces, nephew, two sisters, brothers-in-law, and my parents (along with me, of course) all gathered for my dad's 70th birthday (Tuesday) and my Florida sister's 40th birthday (April 14th, three days before mine). It was just so wonderful to see everyone with no one sick! Back in November, I had a horrible cold, and in February, my sister's family and I all came down with the flu. This time, we were all well (a rarity!), and my dad was so wonderfully surprised by his 57 inch flat screen, HD TV (he watches a lot of TV and he will really enjoy doing so now). He also works out and is a substitute teacher, but TV is his relaxation, and now he can truly enjoy it. I want one, too. ;) Actually, I don't, though a 32-inch flat screen would be wonderful, considering the number of DVDs I watch every week (usually two). That isn't happening--I will have to be content with my 25-inch Panasonic from six or so years ago--but someday I'll be a bigger, flat screen one (after I pay off more debt, so no time in the immediate future).

As for my Florida sister L., she was surprised--truly surprised--by a party in Boston with her three closest friends in Boston and their husbands. She was shocked--she had no idea (my dad did, though he never expected such a *nice* set)--and it made her feel so happy. Then Saturday, everyone arrived (as did the TV), and we had a great day. The fact that it was close to 70 degrees out (last week at the same time, it was 30 with a horrible wind chill) didn't hurt. :) We had a birthday party with balloons and cake at a Chinese restaurant to cap off the weekend, and everyone had a great time. I miss my nieces and nephew and L. so much now--I feel very sad today, not surprisingly--but I do get to go back to Florida for six days in June, when L's husband is celebrating his 40th in Hungary with his two best friends, one of whom lives there--so that will be really nice. I have trouble when I go more than a few months visiting the Florida family, but it's now just over two months away, so I can hang on til then. :)

As far as my writing...well, that's a different story. Two more rejections this week, totalling 1,000,000 (not really, but it *feels* that way), and I just don't see anything promising on the horizon. One producer wouldn't tell me why, and the way in which he said it bothered me (too many entries, blah blah blah, yet he was very friendly BEFORE the rejection occurred). Another won't bother, I suspect. HOWEVER, Kate Snodgrass, the producer of the Boston Theatre Marathon, did provide me with extremely helpful feedback, and it was much appreciated. Yes, it's hard to hear that your plays are like "TV sitcoms" (really?!), but Kate didn't agree (hurrah), and I am working on expanding "Not A Competition" (she liked that better than "Accept This!"--maybe that one just doesn't work, I'm sorry to say), and I hope that will turn out really well when I finish the revision. All the same, I do wonder if my plays have anything at all to say or have any appeal. I KNOW I can write, but can I write plays that anyone wants to read, or that actually work? That is still up in the air. You can say it's all random, and I agree to some degree, but I also have to think, as the rejections pour in, that it isn't all subjective.

The funny (not really) thing is that I've read so many 10-minute plays that seem utterly banal to me, yet my plays seem to generate no interest at all (except "Peanut Butter Sandwiches," which some say should be made longer). Someone on the binge listseve said she no longer spend any time on 10-minute plays, b/c they don't work for her, and she believes that longer plays work better. I am starting to think she might be right. After I work on NAC, I may just go to the one-act I want to write (well, it could even be full-length). Maybe that's what I'm meant to write (I don't seem to have the hang of the 10-minute play down, though I've written six of them so far). I think they need to be clever but not...well, I don't know what not. They have to hang together, and I guess they need to justify the actions, but I feel the latter is often not the case. In fact, the sillier they are (in most cases), the better they seem to do, b/c the expectations are so low. Just repeat the same thing over and over in different ways and you do fine. Alexa's piece "Bone China" is an exception, b/c it's beautifully written and doesn't attempt to do too much, despite its sadness (and the results are clear, as it made it into the Turnip Festival in NYC and the Boston Theatre Marathon, amongst other, and it was certainly worthy of both). So I just don't know at this point. I haven't written for two weeks, and the break doesn't *seem* to have helped, but maybe when I get back to writing (perhaps tonight after ushering at the Sugan after yoga, perhaps next weekend) I will feel differently. I

am excited for the "Five" Festival, of course, but that is from last year's winning one-act (see? a one-act!), and since then, pretty much nothing but rejection. So I'm reevaluating what I write and I hope to figure it out a bit better over time. I said I wouldn't submit anywhere, and then I proceed to send out to at least six festivals over the past 10 days or so. I'm a total liar, I guess (plus I just want to taste the sweetness of victory, or what have you, again). Of course, if my pieces aren't strong enough, I can submit til kingdom come, and the results will remain the same. So I need to keep busy with other activities, and come back to my writing again with a renewed confidence. Meanwhile, I can enjoy the plays I usher for (three in the next week, if not four!), can enjoy discussing plays and reading more full-lengths for the Boston Theatre Works Unbound Festival (where I've found some very weak pieces so far, and hope the writing improves as I continue to read new works), and can work the hell out and try to eat less so I'll look fit for the summer (and so my clothes will actually fit again, at least the summer ones!). And as far as work goes, well, it goes, sometimes better than other times, but I'm trying. Howard Zinn, the famous political activist/instructor spoke at the BAC this past Friday, and he was so inspiring. I love to learn, and I have to make sure I continue to do so, not b/c it means *I* am necessarily doing anything as a result but just to keep my mind alert and to feel invigorated for its own sake.