Four Mini Interviews

SW logo

I occasionally do short interviews with playwrights as part of my gig as the member rep for ScriptWorks, and in the last month or so I did a few of them a little differently, focusing on specific events I’d seen online instead of asking more standard background questions.

Mostly so I can easily reference them somewhere (our archival process is pretty lacking) I’m listing them all here: interviews with Rita Anderson, Joanna Garner, Sarah Loucks and Jelisa Jay Robinson.

**RITA** (July 11, 2017)

Recently I noticed on social media that member Rita Anderson had hosted a couple of play readings at her home. I wanted to ask her how that went for her, and what she thought of the Austin theater scene in general…

I understand you’ve hosted a few readings and events at your house. What inspired you to go this route?

Need (to hear new work out loud). Interest(ed in closed readings in a private setting while work is “under construction”). Desperation (for expediency. NOTHING moves quickly in theatre.)?

What’s been the most challenging aspect of hosting an event at your home?

It takes considerable prep work to host anything, if you do it well. Also, at this juncture, I’m operating as a one-woman band in prepping.

What’s your process of getting actors like? 

Luckily, I’m pretty aware (and getting more aware as time progresses) of local talent. [I also have the secret weapon of a few veteran Austinites whom I trust for recommendations, if I get stuck or am on the fence.] I read a script and picture who might best embody a role—then I just ask the actors if they’re interested/available to participate. The response has been overwhelmingly positive! For the last two events (April and June), I approached directors and they assembled the casts. That ingredient not only took off some of the burden but also I learned a lot about casting, primarily that, as a playwright, I cast differently than directors do. They seem to have a knack for essence, and I tend to cast more stereotypically, I guess.

Do you provide snacks?

Absolutely. It’s the least I can do to thank the actors/directors for their time. Plus, it gives us a little time to relax and be social. I’m also super-relational by nature, and relationship-building is critical for the trust needed to create good art.

You and I have talked about the lack of theatrical space in Austin. Do you think this problem will get worse? Or do you see it improving at some point? 

It is a bit terrifying, yes—especially because I moved to Austin from San Antonio a year and a half ago FOR theatre/new works. My bottom line is, I like where we live and I don’t want to “flee” to NYC or Chicago in order to do it. A wiser person than me recently said, basically, in all troublesome issues, you have two choices—to CURSE or to INVEST. So, I’m investing. I want to stay here and to help fight to find and/or create new venues for art, if that’s where we are as a community.

Is there any significant piece of advice you’d give to other playwrights who might be considering hosting his or her own in-home reading? 

Just that (a) you are not alone: try to connect with other, like-minded artists you want to work with and admire, (b) don’t ask too much or be “production-only” focused straight out of the gate: Let the readings be their own things, and (c) there is nothing new, really, about these intimate gatherings as stand-alone artistic experiences. In playwriting travels, I’ve participated in many such theatrical events from conferences (ATHE, ASTR, CDC) to writing retreats that culminated in Chamber Readings (Creede, CO, etc.).

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Gibberish Poster & the Immaturity of Parents

Gibberish Mostly draft posterWe just got done with a full day of auditions for GIBBERISH MOSTLY. It was really rewarding and fun, and I think we’re going to end up with a great cast, no matter who makes the final cut. I imagine the decisions will be made later this week.

This is a draft of the poster we’ll use for the production. I like it, and am glad we ended up with this tagline (we went back and forth with a few different options). My understanding is that the woman’s face underneath will be replaced with the face of the actor who’s eventually chosen to play the lead, Nicole.

The only other observation I wanted to get down for posterity is that I wrote the first draft of this play back when I was 31 or 32. And it’s interesting to me, now that I’m in my 40s, how my own perception of people in their 40s has changed.

Back when I first wrote this I found it slightly hard to imagine that two parents in their mid-40s would be so focused on their own happiness, yearning for independence and reliving their youth despite being in what I considered the later stages of life.

Now that I have a lot of friends in this demographic I realize how little can change in people’s personalities. There are folks in their 40s, 50s and 60s who yearn for a glimmer of youth and a kind of do-over in the way that the parents in this play do.

The play and its message of feeling trapped, and especially Rose’s feeling that she’s serving a life sentence by caring for her autistic child well into adulthood, is something I can easily imagine and understand. It’s helping me hone the piece in a more emotionally rich way and pull the parents out of a certain one-dimensionality that I think they were in when I first drafted it.

Really looking forward to continuing to work on this one, and seeing how it ultimately turns out.

Found Photos

Max at 22 or so

When I was at my dad’s house this past week, I found these two photos behind a door on an old dusty shelf.

The first one (me!!) was taken when I was 21 or 22 outside the garage apartment I lived just after college. I remember liking it so much that I figured I could use it as a jacket photo when I published my first novel at age 25.

Ahem.

Now I guess I’ll see if it looks similar enough to reality for me to use when I publish my first novel at age… 60?  (smiley face).

susie at 12 or so

The second one is my beautiful sister somewhere around the age of 12 or 13 (my best guess). It’s always been one of my favorite pictures of her (that beaming smile and those uncomplicated eyes). Glad to have them both around. I like the happiness we’re both projecting at those different ages, despite everything we’d been through to that point.

Welp, it’s official

squid kids 2At an informal gathering of neighbors* earlier this week, my kids were officially deemed “the coolest in the neighborhood (and beyond).” **

So… Life Objective #1 is now complete.

*okay, so maybe a couple of the neighbors were a little tipsy at the time

**and maybe that parenthetical was implied not spoken

But still.

Boom.

Done.

West Coast Surf & Story Tour

ocean-beach-surf

In the last few days, I’ve gotten invitations to both surf in San Diego and tell a story in Portland. So now I’m thinking it’d be great to string these events together into a fall tour.

I’m looking at events in Seattle, San Francisco, The Bay Area in general, LA and San Diego. We’ll see how it goes. Would love to just hop my way down the coast going from event to event, eventually ending up in the water.

I also got some advice recently from Paul with Testify about creating a more professional profile for myself, like a marketing packet. It should include audio and video recordings, ideally one from a large Moth event.

Do I want to do this? Am I ready to try to take it to the next level?

Mmm, I dunno, thinking…

Gibberish Mostly

GFT chairs

Got some exciting news today. A play I originally wrote almost fifteen years ago is getting a new life. GIBBERISH MOSTLY, which had a reading at Hyde Park Theatre and Boston Theatre Works in 2003, is slated to be the season opener this fall at a theater I really like.

I’m still getting all the details together, but this one has a lot of personal resonance for me and is something I have a lot of emotional ties to.

Just to brag (or whatever) a little, here’s a sentence from the email I got:

We are VERY excited to work with you and are more than pleased that, out of the 300 submissions we got nationally, we landed on your show.

I mean that’s cool. Whatever. 300 people is like one-millionth of the country’s population so…

Yay! More details when I got ‘em. Really excited to work on this one with this particular creative team.

Big Comedy Tour This Saturday

Hike and bike trail

I’ll be making the rounds this Saturday in case you want to try to come out and support some local art.

From 7am-9am I’ll be cracking wise along the 10.1 mile loop from MoPac to the Longhorn Dam. Come join the fun!*

From 10am-12pm I’ll be at Cherrywood Café trying to work on Pong: The Musical while joking with the wait staff and baristas

From 12pm-2pm I’ll be holding court at La Tazza Fresca on Guadalupe; happy to give an autograph or two if you’re not too pushy and know your place

From 2pm-4pm I’ll be at Einstein’s Bagels where I’ll be trying to devour a disgusting (yet wonderful) peanut butter cookie; omg, they’re incredible

From 4pm-5pm I’ll be at The Tavern working on this play; you’re never too far from 12th and Lamar, if you know what I mean

From 5pm-7pm I’ll be prepping for the big gig at Genuine Joe’s

At 7:30pm I will magically appear, sweaty and nervous, at the venue on Anderson Lane.

When it’s all said and done, there may be a Tori Amos listening party at Cinnamon Path Theatre. BYOB.

Look forward to seeing you along this journey.

*I actually don’t think it’s 10.1 miles anymore because of the new boardwalk; more like 9.7 miles; but so lovely; come on out!

Dock trail shot

Sports as Religious Experience (1 in a possible series of 2)

what an unsuccessful catch would have looked like

what an unsuccessful catch would have looked like

Earlier today on the BBC I heard a reading of a piece that David Foster Wallace wrote in 2006 about Roger Federer, and I thought Hey, that’s not a bad piece of writing but surely there are other, more recent, sports experiences we can write about.

So here’s one. It’s from a game my softball team played last week in Austin.

Ahem…

*****

There weren’t a lot of spectators at Krieg field #9 last Monday evening, but those who were there experienced something special. It’s something you’d appreciate even more if you’d ever played softball or baseball, to understand the impossibility of what you’d just witnessed.

The pitcher spun the ball upwards outlining the shape of the arc of St. Louis with the kind of rotation you usually associate with poolhall English. The batter swung, the angle of his body leaning toward left field, eagerly anticipating a rocket blast to the wall.

Instead, the meat of his bat caught the strings of the ball at an unflattering intersection, south of the equator. And it forced the ball to rise, rise, up toward the early-shimmering Gibbons moon, projecting a landing somewhere between the third baseman and the center left-fielder.

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Loneliness

Loneliness

I know, right??

This is the subject (and the working title) of the play I finished quickly last weekend. What if you were able to converse with (and confront) your own self at different stages of your life. You could ask your old self what was going to happen to your young self. Your middle-aged self could give advice or ask for changes from you in the past. Your old self could work to get a handle on what your legacy might be.

And what if there were a traumatic incident in your life that affected everything else.

And what if these versions of yourself at different ages were your only friends?

I think there’s a lot of potential with this idea (which has been done before, of course, notably with Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women) and I think it could be funny and quirky and meaningful if done well.

Here’s a selection of Caridad’s comments on the first draft:

you have a fascinating play on your hands. it is whimsical and off center in a light hearted way. a fable of time. starting life again. maybe getting a 2nd chance. or simply another chance at assessing a life.

there’s ache in the play as well as whimsy. and a potentially thrilling sense of dislocation. the ending, then, could really land in a profound way. y’know. who do we have in our lives. and why. how do we live with ourselves. our desires. our loneliness.

It’s something I think thoughtful people do: wonder and adapt and imagine. I’d love to get it to a simple, well-crafted place. New goal is to come up with a second draft this summer and then decide if I can do more with it. Funny yet poignant is a good combo for me.

Maybe I need a juicier, more upbeat title too…

Running for Congress

American FlagDear Friend who’s considering running for Congress in a heavily Republican district,

  1. You should totally do it
  2. You have the skills
  3. The time is right
  4. Your lack of funds should be highlighted as an asset
  5. Your passion for being an underdog is a motivator
  6. You have powerful rhetoric which can inspire
  7. I know how to donate money to Kickstarter; it’s not that hard
  8. Can I write a play about your journey?
  9. Wait, is my donation tax-deductible?
  10. Ugh, I bet it’s not
  11. I hope you enjoy the play I write about your journey
  12. You’re gonna do great
  13. Count me in
  14. Let’s go