Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tonight's class, 10.16.07

I will post weekly updates about my playwrighting class with Ken Urban at Harvard Extension School to this blog. I missed the first few weeks. They will be reprinted in their entirety shortly. In the meantime, here goes...

Tonight's class was not a good one. I'm depressed. You know how you have to be broken down to be built up again? Well, I was broken down tonight. I hope the building up part comes soon..

We discussed internal conflict again. Apparently, each character needs to have two. For example: I want to buy a nice car. I want to be liked by people who do not care about material things. (I'm reaching here, but this is as I understand it.) Both characters need two internal conflicts and each character's internal conflicts are in conflict with each other character's conflicts.

To which, I say, HUH? (Do you all have internal conflicts within your plays? How did I write plays without understanding that it even existed? I thought it was all external conflict, brought about by one person wanting something and another person wanting something else and eventually someone won and someone lost or they both came together and hugged one another. Okay, just kidding about the last part.)

Anyway, we read each student's 10-minute play. Some were strong than others. (Some were pretty funny; some were pretty bad; one student wrote a paper on feminist constricts within a film construct. Don't ask me what that means. Another student's 16-year-old boy spoke as if he was 30. He needs dialogue assistance.And a third student's play was just...odd.)

And then there were three. (There are 15 students in the class. There were 16 to start, plus three on the wait list. Someone has already bowed out. It's tempting.) We now all knew we did not have internal conflict in our plays. (At this point, I also knew my play sucked.) But we had no choice. Our plays had to be read. And so they were. And my play read even worse than I had suspected. I was trying to be inventive with my language. Instead, it came across as stilted, plus the plot was simplistic and overt, and there WAS NO OVERRIDING INTERNAL CONFLICT. *sigh*

I'm so confused! I came up with the preliminary idea for my semester project (a 10-15 minute play). It's not a great idea; it's an okay one. I have 10 things I have to put into a 60-90 second monologue for next week that encapsulates EVERYTHING about the play; from characters to location to, you know it's coming...CONFLICT and how it will be resolved. I kid you not. A short monologue (to a particular audience, naturally) that wraps up the entire play? Why bother even writing the play?!

And I thought, back in my naive days (four weeks ago), Heck, I know how to write, I just need to get over my writer's block. And Ken said on the first night, Maybe this class will be too much of a beginning playwrights class for you. And now I wonder how I'll make it through the semester without beating myself to a pulp...

More as it develops.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

And now it's October

It's been a really long time since I've posted, which I think is obvious by the last posting date (about a month ago). There are a number of reasons for this. The primary reason is that I have an inflamed nerve that just won't stop throbbing and throbbing and then throbbing even more. As I type this, I am sitting at my desk on a pillow, which really isn't helping much. (pause) Now I'm standing, b/c it just hurts to much to sit. My new office chair, that I ordered from Staples, is literally due to arrive any minute now, and I'm impatiently waiting, so I can leave the house (I've waited since 9am, and it's a little after 1:00pm now). It's in the low 60s and sunny today, and this is the last sunny day we're expected to have for a number of days, so I want to take advantage of it. I took the day off from work so I could be here for the chair's arrival. I still have to get it assembled (it takes two people and I couldn't do it by myself, anyway). It's a really big deal for me, since I can't sit in my chair--it's only gotten worse over the past month or so--and I clearly can't write if I can't sit down. So I hope this one will work for me--I tried it a number of times and it seemed to be as comfortable as a chair can be, considering my difficulty of sitting anywhere right now--b/c I can't write for class (or answer email or really do anything), and I will have some serious writing to do starting this week. Fortunately, all we had for an assignment this week was to come up with a proposal for our semester-long project, and I could write it up at work (it's only one page, and I attached my play ONE LAST FIGHT, as an example as the kind of writing I currently do).

So, how goes the class at Harvard Extension School, you ask (perhaps)? Well, so far, so good. We've only had two classes, with the third one tonight (16 people, which is large, but perhaps will lessen due to attrition, aka withdrawing, as the weeks progress), but I already feel as if I've learned some basic tenents of writing that I didn't realize (of course, or I wouldn't have learned them!), and I had hoped that would be the case. While I am the most experienced *playwright* in the class (which is really not sayng much), according to the other classmates's descriptions of themselves, and reason for taking the course, I am not the most experienced writer (I'm guessing). There are journalists, novelists, short fiction writers, and poets in the class, as well as musicians and those who are involved with drama as actors, directors, or stage managers. So it's an eclectic group, which I had hoped for, and we can all learn from one another and of course from the instructor, Ken Urban, who has a Ph.D and is a director and working playwright, as well as a teacher. I had researched Ken (he has a website, naturally), to make sure he was a working writer (as were the writing instructors at Emerson, where I received my MFA in Creative Writing, but in short fiction), and he is, which in my mind is key. I believe he has a different sensiblity than I do, which is just fine. (I read a 10-minute play of his that was on his website, and bought his current play, so I could see the kind of writing he engages in, though I haven't read the full-length play yet, b/c I have been busy and b/c I am not particularly organized at the moment, due to pain in large part. I hope to read it this afternoon, after the chair arrives.)

I took the class to help me get over my writing slump. I hadn't written anything longer than a three-page play since the spring, and I was extremely upset about this. How could I call myself a playwright or just a writer if I wasn't writing? Okay, that's stupid--I wasn't writing at the time (or for a long time)--but I had written and I would write again. I hoped. But when? And how, when I was so blocked and so put off by my writing and by writing in general? So I took a class that would force me to write, and to hopefully write b/c I would enjoy it again. Well, I already feel challenged (plus required to write if I want to pass the class), and already feel as if I am not only learning a new vocabulary but am willing to try to write in a different way than I have before. I am willing to take chances. I may not succeed at them, but I'm open to trying. And wow, the idea of writing and wanting to write is the most important thing. I took a look (for the first time in a while) at ONE LAST FIGHT, my late father/son play, after I attached it to the proposal, and went, Hmm, I don't like it that much anymore. I still don't know if it hasn't been produced b/c it's too hard to cast (two males, one 40s, one 60s), it's too depressing, or it just isn't a very well-written play. I don't know yet.

I sent it to a fellow playwrights listserv member, Jack (he is a producer/writer/director in NYC), to see if he wants to direct it SHOULD it get into the Turnip Festival (the American Globe's festival of short new plays in NYC). I am waiting for his take on it. He will be objective and I'm curious and concerned. But until I hear from him, I just have to think about other things. Like my back. (I can't stop thinking about my back, b/c it HURTS LIKE HELL and I can barely sit down. Seriously.) I am in physical therapy--I'm going on my 3rd week--and I was very naive to think I could get this taken care of in a month. But now I don't know if it will be stop hurting in two months! Feh. I did go to the gym for the first time in two months (yes, I've been in pain for over two months now, sigh) and did a half hour on the elliptical. It didn't seem to have any kind of effect, either way, so I will keep going (every couple of days; I'm not foolish enough to think I can go every day anymore) and will keep stretching and walking (not exercising has not proven helpful, which I thought might help--nope) and gong to p.t. and praying I feel better soon, b/c it has cut into my daily life. I complain b/c I swear that it is most debiliating. No, thank God it is not like my mom's cancer--not in the same league, and I had a brief scare in that area a few weeks ago, so let me tell you, I don't take what happened to my mom and happens to many other women lightly, and I never will--but I am still suffering every day (I mean, I can't sit at my desk anymore! I can't stand or sit without some measure of pain, slight or great, throbbing away--I'm currently standing again, b/c sitting on the floor on pillows didn't help), and it sucks bit time.

Yay, the chair arrived!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't wait to put it together and get back to the business of writing at my desk at home without wanting to cry. Seriously.

Okay, so besides that, work is busy (steady), but not insane, at least not yet. The new part of the job--taking care of the incoming class's transfer credits, and other prospective students' questions--has begun, and so I'm getting acclimated without being swamped. That may happen soon, but it's nice to know that I have a network of supporters. (It's huge, really, especially for someone who is as fearful of change as I am.) And besides what I have written here already, nothing particularly interesing has happened. My parents and I are driving to MD in a couple of weeks for my cousin Cindy's daughter's bat mitsvah. I typically wouldn't go to something like this--I am not at all the extended family type, nor am I remotely religious--but since my parents AND both of my sisters and their husbands and kids are going, I couldn't consider the idea of skipping a short but fun family reunion, so I'll take the eight hour drive each way. My mom told me I could bring CDs for the trip (not that she would like, say, Robin Thicke's 2006 release, I'm guessing, although it's fairly mellow, for him, anyway,and many of my albums, like the new Jason Reeves release, is downloaded directly from iTunes, thanks to my friend Somaly's assistance), and I'll find some like Cyrus Chestnut, John Mayer's latest CD, and Madeleine Peyroux that should work well for all of us. We are leaving early Thursday morning and coming back late (well, late-ish) Sunday night, so I'm taking Wednesday-Monday of that week off, and I am looking forward to some time away from the office, b/c we all like that. I just hope the weather is nice (not rainy would work) and we can enjoy our day sightseeing in DC.

Okay, so that's it. I'm off for the day. I hope this post made up for the time away. :) If you'd like to be my myspace friend (I have 98 at the moment, but you can never have enough, right?), try myspace.com/suebrody and you should find me. Cheers.