Persons of Interest Blog


Thanks for checking out the LA FPI “tag team” blog, handed off each week to one of LA’s interesting playwrights.

Who are they?  Click Here


A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about choices.

An actor makes choices — some conscious, some not — about how she or he lives in the moment.  Sometimes the choice happens on its own as a result of information that the actor is given; other times the choice is deliberate.  Whatever the genesis, that decision sets the tone and, ultimately the trajectory for the scene, play, movie, TV show or Youtube video.  Because once that choice has been made, the story gains new life.  It moves in a new direction with new choices — again, some deliberate, some not — that present themselves.  My point is, there’s no going back.  The story is in motion, and you’re along for the ride.

In other words, you can’t go home again.

Or can you?  I’ve recently been exchanging emails with a fellow writer/actress who, after years of slogging it out in The Big Apple, has moved back to her hometown in Kentucky.  She will continue being a writer/actress; she will just do it from a place where she can hear the cicadas at night as opposed to police helicopters.  A place where, upon hearing what she does for a living, people actually respond with “Wow, that sounds exciting!” as opposed to a raised eyebrow.

I am intrigued by people who do what we do outside a major metropolitan area.  I often think about moving back to my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  And when I say “think”, what I mean is, I am lured by a romantic notion that includes a rambling house that I either own or rent for next to nothing with a wraparound porch and a slightly uneven wood floor, twilight cocktails on said wraparound porch, quiet walks in the woods unsullied by the sound of cop choppers overhead (yes, this is a serious pet peeve), and a small group of like-minded people all committed to doing good work.  But wait a minute — don’t I already have that?  That last part?

If there is a center in Los Angeles, I live in it.  Hancock Park/Hollywood is, in many ways, both a geographical and emotional center of this vast patchwork of communities.  The copters — yes, those again — idle overhead when Paramount Studios hosts a big to-do.  Through the windows of my Hollywood bungalow I hear my neighbors talk about auditions and scripts and making a video to jumpstart their songwriting careers.  This often unhinges me when I’m trying to write, and lately I long not so much for a wraparound porch but a tent in the woods and no one for miles.  The radio static of all the creative energy and eagerness to “be something” in this town can get to me.  Try as I do not to care about keeping up with the Joneses — or, in most cases, the wannabe Joneses — it’s hard not to be in a state of constant personal evaluation: Am I working hard enough?  Why did she sell a script and not me?

Then there’s just the energy of it all.  If you believe in it — and I do — a city filled with people striving creates a certain energy that isn’t necessarily the kind that calms you down and lets you look inward.  In fact, it pulls you outward, away from your center as you gaze with envy (and then self-loathing for feeling the envy in the first place) at those around you who seem to have it together more than you do.  But there’s another aspect to that energy: creativity.  It’s here and in spades.  Scratch the surface of almost anyone you meet in L.A. and you find they do something interesting.  New.  Freely and without limitation.  An actor has a food blog.  A food writer plays in a band.

And again, if you believe in energy, I live in a bungalow that once housed writers and producers who were under contract at Paramount in the ’20′s.  In the fifteen years I’ve lived here I’ve come into my own as a writer, and more importantly as an artist.  As a person.  I found my voice here.  I found myself.  I credit the bungalow almost as much as my own determination.

Could that have happened in Chapel Hill?  Or Charlottesville or Austin or Louisville?  Possibly.  But as a single woman not hell-bent on getting married and having a family, I found my people here.  “Here” being L.A.  “Here” being at my acting school, an amazing creative community.  “Here” being with my playwriting group, with my writer friends.  “Here” being literally right here, on this blog.

A better question might be: Maybe you can go home again, but do you really want to?

Becoming the Body

I found an inspiring talk by Amy Cuddy on “body language”.  And it resonated with me in all the ways that words become scripts become characters become bodies.

As an actor I’ve worked with some stage directors who were all about the floorplan, “Move left three steps, raise your arm, turn away, walk to the wall.” There were times when I was asked to do some physical bit of business, that was not organic to my process, that made me feel like a puppet on a string. Other times, I would find becoming the body of the character in the challenge of doing something that wasn’t my idea.  And sometimes it was all about finding the shoes that my character would wear, as the footprint of the body would tell me how I would walk in that play.

But what I related to most in this talk, was the idea that “I don’t belong here.”  I’ve done a lot of shape shifting in my life, in my travels and shows, and that concept of “belonging” has been a large part of my hunger and identity. Being able to be part of the LA PI blog gives me a place to belong

The clip is 21 minutes long.

Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk

The artist is Catrin Welz Stein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spontaneous Sexism

I’m watching a social gaff on Facebook unfold into an example of what happens in real time in social media.

One of the writing groups I belong to found this Facebook posting for a community college production of “The Three Musketeer”:

“Boobs and Swords! Send me an haiku about swashbuckling and win two comps!

(limit 10 pair per performance. Ten pair of what? Comps. Pervert.)

Solano College’s ‘The 3 Musketeers,’ a swashbuckling success”

The director, who was surprised to receive negative feedback for this posting, then created a kind of apology on his (public) Facebook page:

“I really offended a group of total strangers on Facebook of late. I apologize for the offense, it was unintended. I just love my show so much, and my cast is so amazing; some of us have taken to shouting the phrase, “Boobs and Swords!” throughout the rehearsal process, because — well — the show is The Three Musketeers and as it happens, there were an awful lot of boobs and swords in everyday culture back then.”

As a feminist I really object to this guy’s use of language to sell his beloved show. But then I thought, you know, I’ve said some really unfortunate things in my lifetime, onstage and offstage, and I’m really glad that no one seems to record or remember those comments.

But then I read more of the apology:

“What is, for some of us, a happy watch-cry is, for others, extremely offensive. In my enthusiasm for the production, I neglected to consider the feelings of other people. So, for everyone who was offended by my use of the phrase, “Boobs and Swords!”, I apologize. For those of you who don’t know, a warning: The Three Musketeers is set in 1625. There’s an awful lot of … um … ladyjiggles … and even more swordplay going on throughout the show. Now that I’m on the subject, I suppose I should warn everyone that several of the men wear pants that are very tight. If you are not imaginative but also easily-offended, this could be a problem. If you come see the show, whatever you do: do not look at any of the actors’ … manflappies. In fact, it would probably be best if everybody who comes to the show studiously look away whenever ladyjiggles or manflappies can be seen OR imagined in, through or near clothing. Honestly, our budget is not very large. So this presented a problem when costuming the show. As a result, we could only afford one Puritan. Everyone else is a libertine and, sadly, dresses the part. If this will make you uncomfortable in any way, I urge you to stay away.”

So, actually, I think that the director of this show is a complete knucklehead.

Facebook post from the director

And now comments and concerns about this apology are now fluttering all around tweets and Facebook groups and blogs. Like this one.

 

 

If you’re not a bean counter than you might be an artistic director?

This was an interesting interview with Carey Perloff at the ACT Theater in San Francisco in Howlround.  Here is her bio:

“Carey Perloff, a vigorous proponent of unusual classical literature and a passionate advocate of new work and new theatrical forms, is celebrating her twentieth year as artistic director of A.C.T. Perloff has directed dozens of award‐winning productions for A.C.T., including the American premieres of works by Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, and Timberlake Wertenbaker, world premieres by Philip Kan Gotanda, Constance Congdon, and Mac Wellman, and new interpretations of Schiller, Webster, Euripides, Gorky, Gogol, and Molière.”

Great bio. How many women playwrights did you count in that round up?  One.  Constance Congdon. But then Carey Perloff is also a playwright. So make that two.

I think it’s great that she’s a champion of child care in the workplace. And she has some great things to say about what has prevented other women from getting to leadership positions.

“There are many, many threads to tease out of this. One has to do with women playwrights and women’s stories and why those are so underrepresented.”

But then I read this in her interview:

“One reason this gender conversation has been incredibly valuable is that I’ve never done things like bean counting. I never actually sat down and made a list of the twenty women directors I wanted to hire. When all this conversation came up, I thought  “I should do this, because who is out there that I don’t know? Tons!” I looked at the Goodman season, and half the plays were being directed by women I didn’t know. I thought, “All right, so one of the things is to keep the running list in front of me, so it’s right there. I should get to know the next generation. I should keep the former generation alive too. Are we forgetting who is out there? Sometimes having the list is good. I really don’t like bean counting because I don’t think it’s the solution to diversity.  On the other hand, it makes you think.”

We all work in different ways, but how well informed are you as the artistic director at ACT if you don’t know who half the new women directors were at the Goodman season?  Is her aversion to”bean counting” really an aversion to being held accountable to the very statistics that she cites as a “bottleneck” or a “pulling the ladder up behind her”?

Read the entire interview at the link:

Carey Perloff’s Interview in HowlRound

 

Remembering dodgeball

I seem to remember a game of dodgeball where you would line up against a schoolyard wall, and some psychopathic child would try and smack you with a hard rubber ball.  There would be screams and laughter  and bruises, and if you wore hideous cats eye glasses like I did, invariably you would get smacked in the face and your glasses would get broken.

Writing my newest script reminds me of  that game. Trying to get out of the way of the ball, running into walls and people, and chaos and pushing and yelling.  All this because an unwelcome character showed up in the script this past month. I knew I was writing towards him, but he isn’t what I expected, and there he is.  I’m going to refocus on another script while I think about this dodgeball character.

What has really helped cope with this change in direction is sharing the script/writings with another playwright I really respect.  The comments and feedback have been a kind of tough love/insight I couldn’t give myself.  (Thank you MD~!)

From the ICWP (International Centre for Women Playwrights) Nina Gooch posted an article that really lifted my spirits. Ursula Le Guin is working with the Portland Playhouse & Hand2Mouth Theater on a new stage version of her  The Left Hand of Darkness. What she she wrote about the rehearsal process brought me back to that circle of magic that I was once a part of.

“Sitting in on a rehearsal is a strange experience for the author of the book the play is based on. Words you heard in your mind’s ear forty years ago in a small attic room in the silence of the night are suddenly said aloud by living voices in a bright-lit, chaotic studio. People you thought you’d made up, invented, imagined are there, not imaginary at all — solid, living, breathing. And they speak to each other. Not to you. Not any more.”

Ursula Le Guin – In rehearsal in Portland

 

Catrin Welz Stein is the artist.

Catrin Welz Stein is the artist.

Art (& Empathy) in a Time of Terror II

Continued from yesterday’s post:

Of course, we know that art matters. Especially – and mostly – those of us who work within it.

Still, it’s difficult to conceive of why I should bust my butt to get people to see a play while Watertown is locked down.

Short-term, all I need to remember are the happy faces of kids who think going to the theatre is fun, and parents relieved to find a place that welcomes families. Not only do they not have to find a babysitter, they can enjoy an experience together.

So that helps. It really does.

Even then, my conflicts usually come to the surface because there has to be something else – bigger, better, that reaches more people – there has to be some faster way to spend my time to create a better world. Right?

Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe I’m in the exact right place to introduce more people to more stories that create empathy in their lives. Marketing has such a bad connotation to it, when in fact I should be called an Audience Ambassador. My job(s) is to find a way to bridge the vast gap between quality family programming and the elusive where the parents are.

(It’s not really so elusive. We know where they are: in schools, in parks, at work, visiting ill family members, volunteering at their school fund-raisers, writing blogs to tell their own stories.)

Last Friday, I had to go to 24th ST Theatre. I had two guests taking photographs of the guest clown rehearsing his performance. As the staff transitioned from a performance space to an arts education/after school space, I worked in the lobby. There something happened which is not unique to this space, but which always manages to get me.

A young kid – 9-11 years-old at the most – saw my MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) sticker on my laptop and asked me about space.

So we talked about it. We talked about robots on Mars and what that teaches us about our own world. We talked about what life means, and why alien life forms may not be anywhere close to human form. Maybe they are. We don’t know yet, and we could find more information in his lifetime.

Then he had to go to After Cool, where the main parts of drama they teach include: expression, public speaking, story-telling and empathy.

Part of my job is to then tell their great stories from class to increase the program’s exposure and maybe funding down the line.

Back after the Newtown shootings, I also had a reason I had to go to work that day. It turned out to save me. I had to go, even though all I wanted to was crawl into my cave and cuddle with my dog.

We had a Parents Night for After Cool. This being my first time, I had no idea what to expect. Students of all ages packed their parents into our space and showed them vignettes of their greatest fears and their greatest hopes.

100_7205

 

The best part: their parents heard them.

Back to last week.

It is incredibly difficult to simultaneously look at to-do list and live stream of a bombing close to where a high school boyfriend told you he loved you. It is difficult to call your parents and want to know they’re okay, want to just hear their voices as you look at this horror, and they need to discuss something else entirely with you.

How can you bug me about calling my grandfather *again* and not being excited enough about good news form the family when THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?

That is what I want to scream.

But they don’t know that I just needed to hear their voices over the police scanners and the twitter rumors.

They don’t know that because I don’t tell them.

And what matters to them when they hear from me is to figure out how to ask me to make two phone calls (even when they know I will get mad at the messenger).

And when all I want to do is figure out how to make a better world, I can actually start with my own family.

2 phone calls.

Maybe adults could use a Parents Night just as often as kids lucky enough to be in an after school program.

If I had to tell my parents my greatest fears:

That Dad returned to the Marathon because he missed quality time with his girls and as a result, got caught in the bombings.

My greatest wish:

That I could have the life I love without being 3,000 miles away from the folks who helped me create it.

Empathy has to start somewhere, often closer to home.

Maybe I should start with why I had time to write this blog post but not enough time to make two phone calls.

Next: Clowns and Hope

Art in a Time of Terror

It’s hard for me to justify plodding along with all of my work on a day like last Monday. The Boston Marathon was an annual trip with my father and sister, walkman buds in our little years, switching radio stations between the race and our latest music tastes.

Then of course remembering that attacks like this happen all over the world every day and this one just happened to be in my hometown.

snoopy

 

Life moves on, and “Tragedy Social Media Plan” was implemented among my clients. The fact that I even have such a thing depressed me.

Yet there was still work to do.

There always is.

[to be continued....]

Interview with Playwright Analyn Revilla

Analyn Revilla is deposed:

LA FPI Blogger Analyn Revilla, a blogger since day one.  Analyn delves with surgical precision into the heart of inner thoughts and lays bare the road living and growing in a writer's voice.

LA FPI Blogger Analyn Revilla has been a blogger since day one. As Thinker/Sage/Truth-seeker, Analyn delves with surgical precision into the heart of inner thoughts and lays bare the road to living and growing in a writer’s voice.

How I became a playwright is through a writing class I took with Al Watt back in 2007.  I wasn’t working, and he offered a free session at the library.  I enjoyed and got a lot of value from that introductory class so I joined his writing group.  The small group of writers had to submit a sample of their work, and the following class he announced to the group, “We have a playwright!”  That moment is akin to a newly adopted dog from a shelter, and being renamed by the new owners.  The event is like being given a new identity.  “You are no longer ‘Codi’.  Your name is Goliath!’.  (These are both true stories.  I just adopted a puppy and renamed her Goliath.)

I came to the theater by a serendipitous route.  I was working at a café on San Vincente and Hauser, and the title of the story was “The Unimagined Life”.  I sat at table by the window and looked across the long stretch across San Vincente to big letters spelling “Imagined Life”.  Weird.  I walked across and knocked on the door.  A woman answered, and I asked what the place was about.  She called to another person, and the next woman that came to see me was my writing mentor’s wife.  Yes, it was Al Watt’s wife, and I recognized her, but she didn’t know me.  She said the Imagined Life is an acting studio, and she teaches young children about creativity.  I’m a big believer in signs and so I decided that this is a path I need to explore.

My favourite play of mine is a short one that is set in a salon (or “beauty parlor”).  It’s a place where tongues tend to get loose, because customers are vulnerable and exposed while they are being worked on.  It’s therapy at many levels when someone is analyzing your hairstyle and the health of your hair.  Our heads are our crowning glory, and we’re so open to ideas or sometimes we get encrusted in our ideas of who we think we should be.  I have so much trust in my hair “caretaker”, and we’ve become friends over the years, and shared so much about ourselves.

The play that has moved me the most was watching the CTG’s production of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett.  The acting, the set, the time of day, the story…  I was moved through and through and cried my eyes out.

That answer segways to my favourite playwright who is Samuel Beckett.  I wish I could’ve lived his passion and romanticism through and through.  He took risks in his own life, and the nature of his personality lives in his plays.  There’s also the dark side of his ideas, which I say dark, but not ominous by nature, but fullness.  Life is light and dark, and the shadows are the meanings between the lines.  I like his ideas and how he enlivened them.

My writing has evolved in its depth.  I think I write more succinctly and directly now.  Maybe that’s what comes with experience of life.  I feel like I want to say more with less.  Sometimes not saying anything at all conveys so much more.

I’m only working on one play and it is drama and avan-garde, maybe even experimental.

I like poetry.  I was a poet first before being a playwright.  I like journaling too, though to some people they think it isn’t really writing.  Both forms are important I think, because it’s exploring inwards and outwards.

I became a blogger for LAFPI, because (laugh…) I was one of the first people to volunteer.  (Thank goodness they allowed me to do it.)  I had been writing and blogging for other groups before, and when those opportunities dried up, the LAFPI came along to save me.

Favourite blog posting?  That’s a toughie.  There’s a lot of good ones out there.

Amy Goodman is one of the influences in my writing, because the type of news reporting she does for DemocracyNow! is about issues that we don’t see in normal channels.  I appreciate the deep investigative and responsible reporting that organization does.  I read their news daily, and I also donate to the organization because I think it’s important to support advertisement/corporation funding-free sources of information.

I found my voice as a writer while working with LAFPI and also working at the Imagine Life studio.  And yes, I am still honing the sound and tone of my writer’s voice.

I don’t have a writing regiment, and the little I have are stolen moments which bugs me so much… It really eats at the inside of me, and it hurts.

I decide to write by what I’m thinking and feeling…. Something that gnaws at me is a sign that I need to explore this.

Craft is important to me, if I understand the question correctly… craft is a skill that shows that the writer cares about the work, and gives soul and a head of responsibility to the work.  When I think responsibility, I think the ability to respond to what the work is asking of me and the audience.  Is it moving the situation forward or sending us back to non-evolution, non-communication, non-understanding i.e. less compassion and empathy towards others.

The theater community in LA is thriving, because there are a lot of hands and feet keeping it going by volunteers – people who care.

I battle the negative voice by drinking wine.

The theme that comes back to me a lot in my work is the first line of the song “Alfie” by Burt Bacharach… “What’s it all about?  Alfie?  Is it just for the moment we live?…”  So on.

I’m just finishing answering the questions to our anniversary blog, and I’m going to work on Original Sin again, workshopping it this time around.

Thank you.

For blog articles by Analyn Revilla, go to http://lafpi.com/author/analynrevilla/.  Analyn’s first blog is titled “Going the Distance” dated May 24, 2010.

Analyn’s Bio

Analyn is a new playwright, and she is currently working on her first play, “Original Sin”. This play has been in the works for two years, though it had its first public reading in April 2010.  Like “Alice” in Lewis Carroll book, she gets deeper into the rabbit hole of the story and emerges from the burrows with a wealth of subtexts about her humanity and the characters in her story.  Analyn imagines a life of living fully in the theater, but for now she supports her imagined life with a career in Information Technology.  She believes our humanity lives in our imagined life and contributes by actively supporting LAFPI and in writing, imagining and writing some more.

Interview with Playwright Diane Grant

Diane Grant takes the stand:

         I think we are all born to tell stories and to listen to them.  Leslie Marmon Silko says “I will tell you something about stories. They aren’t just entertainment. They are all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don’t have stories.”

LA FPI Blogger Diane Grant, has been blogging since 2010 – the beginning. Diane’s thorough research of subject matter makes her work not only entertaining but educational as well.

1.  How did you become a playwright? 

As I child, I learned to love stories.  My father was a wonderful storyteller who could take the ordinary events of family and of daily life and spin them into something that always made us laugh.  My Aunt, my dad’s sister, also told stories.  She was the National Secretary of the Women’s Temperance Union in Canada and would travel from town to town with her felt board, speaking and reciting.  I was very impressed.

When I was in middle school and I can still remember being mesmerized by hearing a performance of The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.  Our school auditorium was full of rowdy students when suddenly a man dressed all in black appeared on the stage and began….

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

 The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas….”

It’s hard to imagine now but that auditorium was utterly quiet until he came to the end.  I thought, “Oh, I want to write something like that.”

I’m a Canadian from Vancouver, British Columbia, and my desire to write was reinforced every time my mother, grandmother and I would go to Theatre Under the Stars, an outdoor musical theatre in Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park, where the singers had to compete with the seals barking and the peacocks screeching.  Magic!

2.   What is your favorite play of yours?

I just did a performance of my one act comedy, Rondo a la Condo, with The Kentwood Players, which remains my favorite play.  I don’t know why, except that I’m crazy about the characters, who are all trying to find a little peace and quiet but who keep each other on high alert much of the time.

3.   I loved a production of another short play of mine, called Sex and Violence.  It’s a difficult play to do because the comedy is dark.  The protagonist has grown slightly mad and his wife, who despises him, has to be played as a cold, ambitious woman, indifferent to his pain.  This production captured all of that and got all the laughs that were there, too.

4.   What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

One of the plays that most moved me was The Glass Menagerie, which I grew to know well because I played Amanda Wingfield in two different productions.   I hate productions of it in which Amanda is played as a self centered shrew.  Her story is so contemporary.  She’s a single mother, abandoned by her children’s father. She makes terrible mistakes but she loves her children and tries to keep everything afloat in a time of depression.   Her son also deserts her and his sister, and his guilt is at the heart of the play.   And the language is superb.

5.   Who is your favorite playwright?  Why?

I have a few favorites.   Right up there is Shakespeare with his wit and insight and gorgeous language.  It’s amazing that so many of his words and thoughts are still part of our lives.  I wonder how many books there are with titles taken from his plays. Tom Stoppard’s sophistication and crisp language is thrilling.  (I keep looking for revivals of Arcadia.  Saw a very moving production at Vox Humana a few years ago.) Ann Jellicoe was an early influence.  I admire her immediacy, sense of place and culture, her zest for life.   She also plays with style and is not afraid to work outside a conventional framework.  Shelley or The Idealist is one of my favorite plays.

6.   How has your writing changed over the years?

I’ve learned to cut, cut, cut.  I still overwrite and am fortunate to have a husband who is a fine editor and who spots every comment on a situation, every repetition.  I’ve also learned to enjoy rewriting.  And rewriting.

7.   What type of plays do you write?

Although I’ve written plays with political themes and dramas, generally speaking I write comedies.   I like to call them “profound comedies.”  And I don’t know if I’m joking about that.  I don’t start out to write in any style.  Comedies are just what happens.  I often use music, too, and like the way it enlivens the proceedings.

What also influenced my style was working in a company that built new plays from research, documentary material, and improvisation.  We’d write as we sat on the stage, put the pages on their feet and go.

8.   Do you write in any other literary forms? 

I write poetry on occasion.  I’ve used poems in my plays but have usually turned them into songs.  My husband and I used to write screenplays, which involved a lot of walking around the block.

9.   Why did you become a blogger for the lafpi?

The fab trio, Jennie Webb, Ella Martin, and Laura Shamas asked me to become part of the lafpi and I was absolutely delighted. Women are still not adequately presented and represented in the theatre and we need to raise our voices.  I don’t know if I volunteered or was drafted to blog.

10.  What is your favorite blog posting?

Catching Up, which is about my fellow bloggers.  The bloggers’ voices are so diverse and wide ranging. I like getting to know their different worlds and approaches to writing and life.

11.  Who do consider an influence where your writing is concerned?  And why?

My first mentor, George Luscombe, the Artistic Director of Toronto Workshop Productions, encouraged me to write.

12.  When did you find your voice as a writer?  Are you still searching for it?

I think I found it early on but couldn’t describe it.  I’ve been criticized for being too implicit but I like nuance, subtext, and irony, and have been writing like that for a long time.

13.  Do you have a writing regimen?  Can you discuss your process?

I used to write every day and kept a daily journal but have found that the business of marketing has intruded something fierce and I write more sporadically.  I just read a quote from Bertolt Brecht that says, “It’s not the play but the performance that is the real purpose of all one’s efforts,” but he doesn’t say tell you how you get to the latter.

14.  How do you decide what to write?

I don’t think about it consciously.  When I have made a conscious decision, it has often been the wrong one.  I tried for over a year to write about the friendship between Paul Robeson and Albert Einstein before I realized that I’d never be able to make it work.

15.  How important is craft to you?

It’s key for me.  Searching for conflict, clarity, a character to root for, a beginning, middle, and end are what I look for when I rewrite.

16.  What other areas of the theater do you participate in?

I’m an actress.  At one of the lafpi  meetings at Theatricum, I got to stand on the Theatricum stage and thought I’d die from joy.

17.  How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

I’ve seen some great plays and some rotten ones but there is always something going on that’s interesting.  The Black Dahlia’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot was out of this world and I still think of a number of plays I saw at the Odyssey, Tracers, to name one, with real pleasure.

18.  How do you battle the negative voice?

The negative voice is my default position, so I deep breathe and walk a lot.  It’s thematic in my life, walking.

19.  Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

I realized recently that I write a lot about betrayal and abandonment.  But I also write about love, and betrayal and abandonment are part of that.

20.  I have three rewrites that I’d like to settle down and work on.  When those are finished, I hope that an idea will immediately attack and start the words flowing again.

For all blog articles by Diane Grant, you can go to http://lafpi.com/author/dianegrant/.  Diane’s first blog is titled “Gender Neutral” dated May 10, 2010.

Diane’s Bio

Diane Grant is an award winning playwright and screenwriter, whose film Too Much Oregano won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.

She was a co-founder of Redlight Theatre, the first professional women’s theatre in Canada.  Her plays, which have been produced and published in the US and Canada, include Nellie! How The Women Won The Vote, Sunday Dinner, Sex and Violence, The Piaggi Suite, Four Women In Search Of A Character, Rondo a la Condo, A Dog’s Life; and The Last Of The Daytons, a semi-finalist for the 2007 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Will To Win, a documentary on the Southern California Shakespeare Festival, written by Ms. Grant, and produced by filmmaker Kerry Feltham, previewed in Los Angeles and the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2007 and is recommended by the Royal Shakespeare Company of London.

Ms. Grant has performed at the Stratford Festival and the National Arts Centre of Canada.  She was Literary Manager of the Los Angeles Write Act Repertory Company, a mentor for the young playwrights’ group HOLA, and a member of  Los Angeles’ Wordsmiths.  She’s a member of the Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the International Center for Women Playwrights, and is Vice-Chair of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

Diane acts as LA FPI Task Force Coordinator.

Interview with Playwright Kitty Felde

Kitty Felde sequestered:

Kitty Felde

LA FPI Blogger Kitty Felde joined the blog team in 2010 during our first year. A generous artist who shares her many talents on and off the page, Kitty’s is a voice to hear; she’s fearless.

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?  I’d always loved to perform. In fact, I was an actor for about ten years – mostly commercials, but also a Woody Allen film (Radio Days), an equity show at SCR, and tons of commercials (including Skippy Peanut Butter with Annette Funicello).

I’d written a revision of a Jean Claude Van Itallie one-act in college, but that was about it, as far as playwriting. Until I had a day job that bored me out of my mind. I had a quiet office and a keyboard at my disposal. I wrote my first play – a melodrama called “Shanghai Heart” that the LA Times favorably reviewed. I haven’t stopped writing plays.

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?  My NEW favorite is an unproduced piece for young adults that no one may ever produce since it has a character in blackface. It’s “The Luckiest Girl” – the story of a ten year old African-American girl who moves to Holland with her grandmother, a lawyer at the war crimes trials. Tahira’s homesick and latches on to the Dutch holiday tradition of Sinterklaas – and his politically incorrect sidekick Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Her grandmother – as you can imagine – is horrified.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?  I think the premiere of “A Patch of Earth”, my Bosnian war crimes courtroom drama. The Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo flew me upstate in glorious fall, put on a terrific production, even gave me the Maxim Mazumdar Award. The play’s been produced worldwide since then, but I remember that production best.
I also loved “Gogol Project” – a truly collaborative adaptation brought to life by the talented Rogue Artists Ensemble. They make magic on stage with puppets and masks. I think I wrote 14 drafts for them.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?  I saw Bill Cain’s “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” at South Coast Rep a few months ago and wept buckets and buckets. It isn’t a perfect play – certainly needs a trim – but I connected on a personal level, having lost my own mother several years ago.

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?  These days, it’s Enda Walsh, Bill Cain, and Ellen Struve.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?  I think I’ve gotten braver, more personal in my writing. Being glib is easy for me. It’s digging deep that’s tough.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?  I’ve written a musical comedy, a melodrama, a radio play, a courtroom drama, a one woman show, a play for young adults, ten minute pieces, you name it! It’s the story and characters that draw me in.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?  I’m a public radio journalist by day. Sometimes, the stories I cover inspire a theatrical piece. More often, it wears me out so the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit down at the keyboard again.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?  I support the work of LAFPI! Particularly when you can count on one hand the number of productions a theatre has produced by women playwrights. It’s a wonderfully supportive group! And as an ex-patriot Angeleno, it keeps me in touch with my LA community.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?  The one about how to best use feedback from a staged reading.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?  My mother, a teacher, who encouraged and nagged me and offered to loan me the $2 thousand that I spent on my very first computer if I ever needed it. My high school English teacher for four years, Sister Judith Royer, who now heads the theatre department at Loyola Marymount University. And Jean Giraudoux, the French playwright, who saw magic in everyday life and dared to write about it on stage. I was in 3 of his plays in high school, wrote a paper about him for English class, then acted in another of his plays in college, directed by the professor – Robert Cohen – who wrote the book on Giraudoux!

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?  I’ve always written like I talk. And when I go back and blush as I read romantic short stories from my early school days, I can still hear that same voice.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?  This is the hardest thing for me: finding a structure to write. My day job consumes me. Theoretically, because I’m on the east coast, I have an extra three hours in the morning before the folks in the Pasadena office are aware of me. That’s when I SHOULD be writing. But the reality is, I need tea – lots of it. And I drink it while reading the paper and tweeting and clearing the emails. Then it’s a mad dash to cover stories.

So, I’ve decided the best time for me to call my own is at dusk. My brain is clear (hopefully) of the debri of the day. I can escape to a desk down the hall – or to the stairwell steps around the corner – and breathe. And think. And write. I usually start with a freewrite – not the three pages advised by “The Artist’s Way” – but as much as I need to slough off the issues of the day to clear space in my head. I’ll return to it when I’m stuck, just to brainstorm with myself, trying out ideas. I’ve also created a new file for myself while I write: leftovers. This is where I’ll put lines of dialogue – or entire scenes – cut from my play. It’s somehow comforting to know it isn’t lost forever, that I can go back and retrieve it if I need it. Sometimes I do. But usually I don’t. (Maybe someday I’ll write a play just with these leftovers!)

When I have a draft I can stand to hear out loud, I like to schedule an informal reading. It’s usually in my living room with lots of wine for me and the actors. A more formal reading by a company or a festival is the next step, with lots of rewriting in between. Then, if the stars are in order, a full production.

14. How do you decide what to write?  It’s either a story that won’t leave me alone (like the war crimes play “A Patch of Earth”) or something that’s been bugging me (like “Clybourne Park” which I thought got desegregation all wrong and it led to my ten minute play “The Flier”) or characters that I’d like to spend some time with (my current project, a romantic comedy set on Capitol Hill).

15. How important is craft to you?  Very. I try to learn from other writers – how did they do that? Why does that work? What doesn’t? I find writers groups enormously helpful – hearing other plays in progress, figuring out how to make them sing.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in? I’m a Helen Hayes judge here in DC. That’s the local version of the Tonys. I see about 3-4 plays a month. And I think if I left my day job, I’d work in a costume shop. I LOVE to sew and create clothing!

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles? It’s interesting to contrast with DC: both are STRONG communities. Both have larger theatres that snub local playwrights. Both have a strong group of smaller theatres reaching out to local talent. I miss my LA writing group at Ensemble Studio Theatre. And I miss ALAP (Association of LA Playwrights). And there’s no LAFPI in DC!

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)  I have a weekly Skype appointment with a wonderful Omaha playwright I met a few years ago at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Ellen Struve and I spend an hour every Wednesday night, sharing pages, talking about plays we’ve seen or read, and sharing the insecurities we all feel as writers. She gives me courage to face blank pages for another week.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?  Justice. And that nagging question of why neighbor turns against neighbor, almost overnight.

20. What are you working on now?  It’s a five person comedy set on Capitol Hill – a modern version of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Statuary Hall.”

For all blog articles written by Kitty Felde you can go to http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde .  Kitty’s first blog article is titled “Act Two Hell” dated November 1, 2010.

Kitty’s Bio

By day, she’s a public radio reporter covering Capitol Hill.  But in her real life, Kitty Felde is an award-winning playwright.

Felde’s written everything from a courtroom drama about the Bosnian war (A PATCH OF EARTH, winner of the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition) to a one woman show about Alice Roosevelt Longworth (ALICE, winner of the Open Book/Fireside Theatre Playwriting Competition) to an adaptation of a trio of short stories by Nikolai Gogol (GOGOL PROJECT, winner of the 2009 LA Drama Critics Circle Award.)

Her one-act TOP OF THE HOUR has been chosen for the Provincetown Theater’s Fall Festival for a reading and will premiere in New York City in December.

She’s a co-founder of Theatre of Note, a Helen Hayes judge in Washington, DC, and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild, ALAP, and FPI.

WordPress Themes