This is a play for which I’m dramaturg, contracted by ScriptWorks and Teatro Vivo. I’ve been working with Mercedes, and the play is delightful. It’s incredibly hard to cast – a perfect cast would be trilingual (English, Spanish, ASL), with a variety of ages and identities – but to whichever company makes it happen, it will be worth it.
Sunday, I’m going to be Houston for the reading of Dogfuckers.
(7pm if you can make it)
I’m also doing a writing workshop that afternoon on space and place and its role in generating playwriting — affectionately secretly titled F*ck the New York Apartment.
For years, when I was Lit Manager for Barnyard Theatre, I read play after play set in the old NY apartment; when I started playwriting in earnest, I started in resistance to these settings…
Trainwhistles = my version of the bedroom breakup scene (two gay runaway teens near the train tracks, sleeping on a rusted sofa).
Game = set in a grungy laundromat, in opposition to the plays set in sparkling cafes…
Even Dogfuckers is set on the porch and the interior of a house that is very much not a living room apartment…
The slow progress of the development process can feel like a curse. Not only because it means that some of us have to be patient as we scramble our way into the theatrical ‘pipeline,’ but also because the playwright and the world changes over the years. I wrote the first draft of She Gets Naked four years ago, and I’m in many ways a different person. The present moves past.
I love commentary comedy. I love The Daily Show, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Colbert, and the others. Satire responds to the world of the moment. It is impatient. In contrast, the slow cooking of art means that it often must respond to a social condition rather a specific event.
She Gets Naked in the End involves homophobia that, at the time of the writing, was enshrined in American law. Since the writing, the laws changed, we can get married, and I wondered if this made the play dated. Certainly, the two women are experiencing a heavier level of internalized homophobia than external or structural — no-one ever howls ‘faggot’ or ‘dike’ at them, they are not prevented from adopting a kid or something — and the internal temporally transcends law, but a naive part of me thought the play would become more of a museum piece as the changing law reflected changing cultural mores.
As a playwright, I’m a better gauge as to how much a piece reflects what I wish to say and not how the audience eats the play, but I found myself saying at Monday’s reading, yes, this is what I want to say right now, these are my questions and concerns for right now.
It’s a terrible backwards gift, isn’t it? “Oh, yes, this is still what I want to say, even more so now. FUCK! WHY HASN’T THIS CHANGED?? This has only gotten worse.”
Right now, all art is about Trump. He’s inescapable. He is the inappropriate use of power. He is the bloated embodiment of rape culture. He is the screaming pile of America’s racist garbage, of white anxiety, of of of…
I felt it when the lead character’s mother, a clearly downwardly mobile white southerner, screams that she is not white trash, she’s better than the latino characters, calling them ‘illegal.’
Every advance a man made on “she” felt nakedly about Trumps comments. “No one cares about ugly woman,” the mother says. She might as well be the president. The President judges women based on how big their breasts are.
At least a grab without consent results in a man getting his hand broken.
Yeah. There’s a gut check of a gift for a playwright. Guess, what, B, your play makes sense. The plays optimism about the future, that’s what’s misplaced… All art is about Trump right now, whether we like it or not, and this is about Trump.
The quotation marks are wonky, but I struggled to figure out those anyway… How many commas does the long version of the title have? God, I don’t know. If you’re just doing one title or the other, it’s easy.
Or, “the one with the dogs”
I don’t know.
If you’re in the area, come on out. I’ll be there. I may be teaching a workshop in Houston, too.
Rumor has it that my friends at Acme Theatre will be producing The Jungle Book this spring. I say “rumor” because it’s not on the website as we’re finalizing the legal deets.
– o –
I’m almost finished with the performance draft of my play for junior high students. It’s a swashbuckling melodrama comedy that combines elements stolen from Moby Dick, Treasure Island, The Goonies, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Tempest. I still haven’t found a friggin title that doesn’t make me want to throw things, so right now it’s The Untitled Pirate Play.
This will be my tenth full-length play I’ve written since I graduated from UT less than three years ago.
You can tell I’ve been focused on writing it because I’ve achieved a high score on the Chrome dinosaur game that I play when I’m stuck…
It’s been a while since I’ve updated, and so I vow that this New Year, I shall update every month.
Gentrification finally got to my block, and a nearly 50% rent hike broke up the Rainbow Confetti House in East Austin and swept me south of the river. I’m only now catching up with all of the lost work, including posting about my most recent show…
In Two Truths and Lies, a group of teenagers reinvent themselves at a summer camp.
The impulse for this play was to have teenagers play teenagers in a realistic world. Each part would challenge each actor. I’d previously written Very Best Coffee and [a different] Romeo & Juliet and Nameless in the Desert for my teenage actors, and each of these has some element of theatricalism to the world. I knew that it was time to work with realism, and so I went about fashioning this world.
As the world of the summer camp emerged, it became clear that it was about the lies the kids were telling each other — and themselves. One kid pretends to be from England and that her brother is not her brother; another pretends to be the ghost of a kid’s dead brother. Summer camps frequently appropriate from the cultures of native people, an occurrence that This American Life pointed out in this episode, and the myth-making of the camp became a driving force. The backbone of the play is one kid, Eric, who searches for “the truth,” and believes he’s seen an alien…
In these pictures, you can see our little theatre.
As a side note, the poster was designed by one of my students. I gave him not instructions on how to do it, and so he was surprised by how delighted I was when he finished it. He didn’t realize how much it echoed the book covers of the YA novels I read when I was his age, the I Know What You Did Last Summeror R.L. Stine Fear Streetlook.
Contact me if you want to read the current draft. It’s an ensemble play, about 100 minutes. I’ll be putting up a page for it when I get a chance.
This project consumed most of my time, but I also managed to work with 14/48 Austin again and squeezed out a ten-minute play about a woman chased by wolves.
Short plays used to be my bread-and-butter, and now they are occasional desserts….
Burnt orange t-shirts abound at Oil-Can Harry’s, and I have a stack of unread books about Improv and musicals in an HEB bag I carry around like a homeless person. This can only mean one thing: the school year is starting.
This summer began with The Briars at Theatre Emory, as I’ve mentioned. I also borrowed Big Idea Theatre and a few actors for a second read, and so I must thank them for the assist.
Following this, I worked on drafting the full-length version of Small Steps with Caleb Britton. Short summary: Sick of online dating, Skip Powers volunteers to go to Mars — and they say yes. I’ve downloaded several dating apps as research, not that I’m unfamiliar with online dating, and I find this strange internet marketplace fascinating, addictive, and exhausting.
I also, gloriously, get to spend time reading about the Mars rovers and watching videos like this ping pong matrix to imagine how a production would create zero gravity.
I hope to do better at documenting the creation process of this one.
Soon-to-be competing for my creative time will be whatever play I write for my high school students. It’s time to dig our teeth into a realistic drama — after comedies like Nameless in the Desert, Very Best Coffee,Deleted Scenes from Fairy Tales, and [a different] Romeo & Juliet, it’s time. I think the students can handle more mature material, too, so this play may land in a space for mature audiences.
I have eight or nine actors to work with, and already I’m feeling the pinch of sadness that comes with writing a play for so many actors. I know the prospects of a large-cast play (dear God, when did eight actors become “large-cast?”) finding a home outside of self-production are slim.
This semester, the high school students will be writing a musical for next semester. While I will facilitate the creation and development process (and teach playwriting), I’m not going to control the content or execution. Moreover, the high schoolers will be writing for the junior high students this semester. Also, I’m teaching a devising class and a long-form improv class, so this will be the semester of creating theatre…
In the next couple months I hope to get the video of The Jungle Book and [a different] Romeo & Juliet up. They are recordings of the performances, so a bit rough and bouncy, like home movies.
Finally, you can now buy The Jungle Book at Amazon.com. Click the picture and it will take you directly to the listing.
When Theater Emory contacted me to join a handful of other playwrights in Atlanta to write a play in 48 hours, I jumped at the chance.
I didn’t realize that they would want a full-length play.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I denied it, but I think I secretly hoped that was the requirement. I think I wanted to kick my own ass.
And that was how, a little more than a week ago, I was in Georgia. Atlanta. A city that defied my Californian imagination. Hills and massive trees and fireflies and history history history greeted me.
I joined three fabulous playwrights: Dana Lynn Formby, Bennett Fisher, and Jireh Holder. (I spent the week living with them; they are now dear, dear friends, and I recommend that anyone wanting to know what the world of theatre can be like, go check out their work.)
The source material: The Briarcliff Estate. More specifically, a dilapidated mansion built by an eccentric Coca Cola heir / developer. We’d collectively create a list of ingredients that we’d each add to our plays based on this material.
An introduction by a brilliant young preservationist — the kind of person who delights and astonishes, whom you’re glad the world has managed to create — introduced us to the estate, and then a dusty tour later… And we were off. 48 hours to write.
48 hours later.
A new play: The Briars…
10,000 words. A full-length
“Told from a chorus of Townsfolk, The Briars tells the story of the rise and fall of Buddy Briar, the city’s eccentric, whose quest for greatness swallows his desire to be loved by the city.”
A play I love, too. With some revision, I’ll post it on the New Play Exchange.
Incidentally, this means that we’ll have produced eight female playwrights to six male playwrights on our mainstage. This wasn’t out intention — we just wanted to produce awesome plays. There’s a surge of talented female playwrights coming of age right now, so when you don’t rely on the canon or established playwrights to fill your theatre, your season will look more like America.