Writers Seek Employment (Suggestions Here)

In light of my last post (and because preparation for teaching this fall is eating up all my time), I’m relinquishing today’s post to dear writer friends who’ve also found ways to keep living, breathing, and eating in between their writing endeavors. Found among them is a common reality: art takes sacrifice, sometimes on our own parts to make the “writer’s life” (or the artist’s life) a reality for someone else.  Also a common wish: more time to (what else?) WRITE.

“I am a full-time adjunct.  It’s hard, but I get to do what I love everyday, and I’m grateful to have a husband who works a job he hates every day so that I can love mine.” ~ A.A.

“My wife makes the bulk of the money (for now). I teach and do what I can. I take care of the kids, because it’s far mor cost-effective for me to watch them than for me to get a full-time job and try to pay for daycare. Doesn’t leave me with as much time to write as I’d like.” ~ Randy Brzoska

“I’m bringing in the bank at my house while hubby lives the artist’s life. He directs, acts, teaches acting. I work the 9-6 job and try to write when I can. Which hasn’t been much lately.” ~ A.P.

“I am working a temp job right now.” ~ J.

“I work full-time as a PR person for an insurance company. pays well, but travel is hard. I will be teaching as an online adjunct starting in January. I will be able to afford a roof over my  head, and food as my vehicles are paid off.  I am picking up small writing gigs that do pay. Just submitted an online class I developed for a college who is just starting online courses and made $1000.00. Not bad! If I keep this up I wont have to work much to pay the school loans and my insurance!!! Hope that will give me the time to write and submit the way I want to. I’m learning to do without and am happier. Takes me back to simpler times.” ~ Ginger Marcinkowski

“I’ve sold porn and work for the govt the last 3 1/2 years; both amoral soulless jobs that I could sneak writing at…its been a good trade-off.” ~ C.

“I’m an adjunct which means little pay, but a lot of free time. As a writer, it’s worth the trade-off to have that writing time.” ~ William D. Prystauk

“I’m an investigator with the local pd. I use writing for my reports but always have some wannabe grammar lord try to tell me about grammar. Point out my 2 MAs & watch how fast they slink away. He he, that’s the fun! Decent pay but oh the nightmare egos I have to put up with makes me dislike this job with such passion. I’m eager to find freelance writing work or teaching or any decent freelance or online job that I can do to eventually get rid of this one. Unfortunately can’t really walk away since hubby is on my insurance & currently suffering from the C-demon with dr visits, tests & surgeries aplenty. Sigh!” ~ M.

“I have been an ad copywriter, freelancer, and worked in independent school admissions and as a teacher. Most I loved, one I started out liking, but ended up unhappy and stressed. Recently, I joined the Wilkes Creative Writing programs and feel like I’ve come home after a long journey.” ~ D.

And now back to my paying job as an adjunct instructor.  One of the wonderful things about teaching a lit class this year?  LOTS of opportunities to teach plays!  And I’m happy to say that among everything I’m teaching, I have a great showing of female writers (playwrights, poets & even a graphic novelist!) including Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses), Sarah Ruhl (Eurydice), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Pamela Gien (The Syringa Tree), and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (Athair, The Language Issue and The Broken Doll).

Next week I’m hoping to be blogging twice a week again (Tuesdays & Fridays).  So wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side!

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Live to Write…But How Do I Live?

I just wanted to take a moment to comment on a serious issue among women playwrights (and let’s be honest, writers in general). We LOVE to write.  Maybe we even LIVE to write.

But.

How do we LIVE?

And by “live” I mean, how do I go grocery shopping, pay my bills, put gas in my car, put a roof over my head, help support my family, buy clothes to wear, and generally SURVIVE long enough to write something?

Good question.

Because I know I’m still new at this and all, but so far I haven’t made much money as a playwright.  In fact, I have made, to date, ZERO DOLLARS as a playwright.  Reality check: I may live to write, but I cannot, at this point in time (and maybe not EVER) write to LIVE. I gotta do something else.

Hello there, teaching.  🙂

This post was probably prevelant in my mind because I recently accepted my second position teaching adjunct at a local university.  I am now an adjunct at two separate institutions of higher learning, plus I make a teeny-tiny stipend teaching playwriting classes to teenagers (and this fall, to adults!) at the local library.

What does this have to do with you, you may ask?

Eh, possibly not much.  Most of you probably already know that it takes a long time to make money doing what you love (writing, theatre, painting, etc) or that if you DO make money doing what you love, it’s not EXACTLY what you love (you may write newspaper articles instead of novels, for instance, or run a sound board instead of acting on stage).  I just wanted to throw a reminder out there not to get discouraged when it seems like what you do to “pay the bills” is eating up your life, because you never know what doors those opportunities may open.  I’m teaching a lit class this fall (yay!) and while it’s not a writing class, it’s a step in the right direction with the potential for more in the near future.

All this to say, take some time and consider your options.  If you can’t make money doing what you love, can you make money teaching what you love?  Or even teaching something you like?  I have far too many friends who completely sacrificed what they love to do in the name of needing a “practical” job that makes “decent” money.  I understand that sometimes this is necessary.  But I’ve also found that if you love something enough – if you live for it – then you’ll find a way to do it…and maybe you can even find a way to love whatever you do to live.

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The Return of Combat Chicky

Last April I blogged about my experience taking two three-hour workshops in stage combat. If you’ll remember, at the end of that blogpost I wrote:

“Our weekend of stage combat was a blast, which is a good thing since Jonathan and I will be hitting NYC this coming July to do a stage combat intensive with Art of Combat.  We just got our scripts today and I am SOOOOO beyond excited.  And a little scared.  But hey, if I can handle a sword, I can handle anything.”

So guess what I did last week?  That’s right; last week Jonathan and I attended the Art of Combat NYC Stage Combat Intensive. And from day one I knew I would be facing my last comment head-on: “I can handle anything.”

Hehehehehehehehehe.

Doc and his AFD, Cutter, help me through the first bit of choreography for HENRY VI (in which I got to be Joan of Arc!)

In case you didn’t figure this out on your own, the stage combat intensive is what you would call “intense.”  (huh)  What do I mean by “intense?”  I mean that instead of spending two days doing six hours (total) of stage combat, I spent six days doing over 70 hours (total) of stage combat.  That’s right; SEVENTY HOURS.  Monday through Saturday we arrived in the morning (sometimes as early as 9 a.m.) to have meetings or go over choreography from the day before. From there, we had classes throughout the day from combat theory to anatomy and physiology to practical and historical application of knife, longsword, rapier, tomahawk, unarmed combat and more.  And in the late afternoons through the evenings (usually until 11 p.m. or midnight) we learned and practiced choreography that was implemented for two performances of an off-off-Broadway show at the end of the week.

And OH MY GOODNESS…it was AWESOME.

Working on choreography for our scene from KILL BILL (and yes…I’m wearing an afro)

My stage combat experience up to this point was obviously minimal; here I was, with six hours under my belt, working alongside individuals who’ve been fighting for six YEARS.  OR MORE.  Our instructors have decades of fight instruction among them and have choreographed for both stage and screen.  It was NUTS…and I was terrified!  I had no idea how I could (or would) keep up.  But here’s a secret; you hit the floor RUNNING…and there’s no time to wonder if you can do it or not; you just DO. And I DID.  And it was AMAZING.

So what does all this have to do with playwriting?  (No, I didn’t forget what my blog is about!) Well…that depends on the person.  As a playwright myself (in addition to being a theatre artist), I find great value in new experiences that improve my skill sets (in fact, this is something they promote highly at AoC).  Something I’ve noticed through both of my stage combat experiences is the emphasis placed on story – the fight should communicate something new about the characters involved or further the overall plot in some way.  It’s not about gratuitous violence or “fun” (though fight scenes certainly can be fun!!) it’s asking yourself what you want to communicate through this scene and what the playwright was trying to communicate by including a fight, just as you would with any other scene in a play.

Knife instruction from stage combat director Jared Kirby

As a playwright, then, and as a writer in general, I am seeing the potential that fight scenes can have in my storyline. Story is all about conflict and sometimes physical conflict can enhance emotional conflict. More specifically, I spent the last week learning about how quickly someone dies of a knife wound to the descending aorta (for example) or what types of poisons were used in the 16th century and their symptoms.  Who knew the wealth of resources you could get from studying stage combat?  And a lot of that has to do with AoC’s dedication to historical accuracy in their fights. The instructors have spent years not just studying rapier, but the difference between Italian rapier and Spanish rapier, and the way those styles have changed over the last several centuries.  In the novel I’m working on I intend to apply much of what I’ve learned about handling a knife. And I’m already looking back at my most recent production of Romeo & Juliet thinking, I wish I’d had that toxicology chart two months ago…

As playwrights, and heck, as PEOPLE, the more information we can gain, the better, especially if it adds to our writing resources.  Jonathan and I are now New York Chapter members of Art of Combat and as such we need to be involved in four “events” per quarter – which for us means we’re going to sign up for a weekly martial arts course to give us a better foundation.  I can only imagine how this might inform my writing further (not to mention, help keep me in better physical shape).

Cloak and Dagger join the ranks of AoC: From left, dramachicky (me!), our esteemed instructors Kyle Rowling, Jared Kirby, and John “Doc” Lennox, and my husband, Jonathan.

My bottom line is, don’t limit your “writer experience” to merely intellectual pursuits; you’d be surprised how much you can learn in a more physical environment and how that might change the way you want to tell stories.  I love that stage combat is becoming a consistent part of my life now.  Keep an eye out for fight scenes in my upcoming work.  😉

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Venues for Women Playwrights

For all the lamenting we do about the places that are NOT producing works by women playwrights, there are quite a number of venues dedicated to making sure female playwrights get their due. Here are a few places you can go to see wonderful new works by women, and for my fellow playwrights out there, places you can send your own brilliant scripts.

The Looking Glass Theatre Writer/Director Forum for Female Playwrights: A semi-annual festival in which emerging women playwrights and directors present their interpretations of new and classic short works, seeks new short plays (running time 15-35 minutes) by women. Their Spring Forum just wrapped up on June 26th, but they are accepting manuscripts for their Winter Forum, to take place in December 2012, until August 15.

Independent Actors Theatre Women’s Play Festival: Independent Actors Theatre of Columbia, MO, is seeking short plays (max. 10-12 minutes) by women playwrights for its fifth annual short Women’s Play Festival – “the plays are short, not the women.” Plays will be staged and produced by local women theatre directors and stage managers in March 2013. Manuscripts are due by September 1.

Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis: A 3-day festival planned for August 2-4, 2012, in the Midtown Theatre District of Memphis, TN at The Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square and TheatreWorks. For three days, audiences are invited from all over the world to West Tennessee to enjoy quality theatrical performances written by women, directed by women and about women at the first annual Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis.The Festival is designed to highlight and award the contributions of women in theatre arts and showcase theatrical productions.

The Arizona  Women’s Theatre Company: Produces contemporary plays by women playwrights. The company is entering its  7th season and is committed to producing work that reveals women’s lives and  documents women’s experiences. As a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation,  AZWTC relies totally on volunteers and donations. The Pandora Festival is  funded in part by the Scottsdale Cultural Council and Arizona  Commission on the Arts. The most recent Pandora Festival finished in May, but AWTC will soon be preparing for next year’s festival.

In addition, check out the following link for even more playwriting opportunities for women: http://www.womenarts.org/fund/TheatreOngoingSubmissions.htm

And if you’re in the Mechanicsburg area, you MUST attend the staged reading of Cindy Dlugolecki’s new play SNAP! at the Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg!

That’s all for this week!  Next week my husband and I are off to New York City for a week-long stage combat intensive with Art of Combat.  I’ll be sure to blog about the experience…if I don’t die.  😉

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Newsday…Thursday: The Tony Awards

I know, I know…it doesn’t have the same ring as “Newsday Tuesday.”  😦  Breaks my heart a little. The truth is, once we get out of these dog days of summer I may go back to blogging twice a week. We’ll see.

Today I want to talk a little bit about the Tony Awards.  I know this isn’t exactly news (unless you count OLD news), but I’m sort of just getting around to it because, honestly, (and I hate to admit this as a self-described theatre person) I MISSED the Tonys this year.  (!!!)  It’s true. It was the same evening as our cast party from Romeo & Juliet, blah blah blah, excuse excuse excuse, and yeah…never got to see it.  So I decided to check the results today.  And to be honest…I was a little disappointed.

Not because of who won, or even because of who was nominated…but because of who wasn’t nominated.  And you know who wasn’t nominated?  WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS.  Best Play nominees – NO WOMEN. Best Book of a Musical nominees – NO WOMEN. Best Original Score – NO WOMEN.

But wait, wait, wait!!  One shining, glimmering beacon of hope – nominee for Best Revival of a Play: WIT!  Written by Margaret Edson!  YAY!!!  And yet…for Best Revival they don’t even list the playwright – not any of them – alongside the play’s title.  Our next closest moment of rejoicing comes with the nomination (and win) of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess which had strong female influences in the way of a fantastic director and a Tony-winning performance by Audra McDonald. See, award shows never have a problem honoring female performers – they have entire categories dedicated to them – but I ask again…

Where are all the women playwrights?

This is just a question.  I’m not one of those people (really, really, really NOT one of those people) who think we should sacrifice QUALITY in the name of EQUALITY (example of one of the worst equality moves ever: lowering standards for female fire fighters because they are smaller and weaker.  Because when I’m in a burning building I REALLY want a 90 pound female WHO CANNOT CARRY ME to show up at my door).  But you can’t tell me that all women are out there writing crap. That when it comes right down to it, ALL the best new plays are being written by men.  It just can’t be true.  And I think the Tony Awards, though not to blame, are evidence of what I’ve been responding to since the beginning of this blog – WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS ARE NOT BEING PRODUCED IN OUR COUNTRY. That’s that.

I’m not doubting the excellence of Once or the brilliance and poignancy of Clybourne Park. I’m not saying there’s a play by a female playwright on Broadway at this moment that was slighted or that any of the plays that were nominated didn’t deserve it. I’m just saying that if we don’t give female playwrights a chance to get their work produced, they’ll never have the chance of being justly honored or rewarded. And if we give our female playwrights a chance, we’ll find even more fantastic plays like Wit…and not just in revival.

So lay it on me…what plays written by women do YOU want to see on Broadway?

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Views and Reviews: BLOOD RELATIONS by Sharon Pollock

So right now I am in the middle of catching up on my Shakespeare (I am woefully under-read when it comes to Shakespeare…which is really sad since I produce Shakespeare in the Park annually), plus re-reading both The Glass Menagerie (by Tennessee Williams) and Eurydice (by the ever-amazing Sarah Ruhl) for the intermediate playwriting class that I teach on Saturdays at the local library. Why am I telling you all this?  The real question is “Hmmm…waitaminute-is-this-just-a-big-fat-excuse-for-not-having-read-any-new-works-by-women-playwrights-recently?”

Why yes…yes it is.

BLOOD RELATIONS by Sharon Pollock. Jane Perry as Miss Lizzie, Laurie Paton as The Actress, Shaw Festival, 2003. Photo by David Cooper.

So I’m going to fudge a little and tell you about one of my favorite theatrical experiences (even if I haven’t actually READ the play): seeing Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock at the Shaw Festival in Canada.

I just realized it has literally been a decade – a FULL DECADE – since I saw this play (craziness!).  I remember this because (bunny trail) after we saw the play I and the three other ladies I was with were starving and we found that absolutely no restaurants were open…except in casinos. And I was the only one under 21. And even though I had no intention of drinking, they check your ID at the door since free drinks are abundant. Fail.

Fortunately, in Canada, the legal drinking age is 18!  (Yes, I can literally hear you under-21-year-olds renewing your passport and hopping in the car.)  And since I was 19…SUCCESS!

But back to the real story.  🙂

BLOOD RELATIONS by Sharon Pollock. Photo by David Cooper.

Blood Relations is a compelling mystery/drama about Lizzie Borden, the infamous 19th century alleged ax murderer, exonerated in court but condemned by society as the killer of her father and step-mother. The play (which had a stunning set, by the by) opens on Lizzie Borden and a woman simply known as “The Actress,” who is questioning Lizzie about the day of the murders. The biggest question hanging on her tongue – the one she cannot help asking – is “Did you do it, Lizzie? Did you?”

This is when the play does what no other artistic medium can do (not well, anyway); Lizzie offers to guide The Actress through the days leading up to the murders with Lizzie playing the role of the family’s maid and The Actress taking on the role of Lizzie herself. It’s almost like a play within a play – we watch them interact with Lizzie’s father, step-mother, sister, a family friend and doctor – but it’s more like a living memory imparted on someone else. Lizzie doesn’t bring in other actors to interact with The Actress; she weaves a tale so intricately that The Actress brings everyone back to life so she can experience exactly what Lizzie went through. And what’s really amazing about this play is that the question “Did you do it, Lizzie?” is never answered; all we learn is what The Actress – and indeed, what we – might have been compelled to do in Lizzie’s place.

Playwright Sharon Pollock. Photo by Jennifer Pollock.

Sharon Pollock is one of Canada’s most well-known female playwrights, and she has been praised for being “drawn to issues and ideas” in her writing. The issue in Blood Relations goes beyond the quandary into a historical murder mystery, and instead asks the audience to consider what impact psychological abuse might have on a person, and whether or not it might lead them to kill. In essence, Pollock asks us to feel empathy towards a possible murderer, and to ask ourselves if we – though not murderers ourselves – would have, could have, considered such a crime.

I’ll be adding Sharon Pollock to my list of female playwrights whose works I must read…and soon.

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Welcome to the Other Side

Juliet in her treehouse…yes, TREEHOUSE. Photo by Dan Lanton of Darkershadesofbrown Photography

Well, here I am, on the other side of Shakespeare in the Park, off and running with a hundred new projects (freelance proof-reading, teaching playwriting workshops, writing a YA novel…hahahaha) and it tugged at my gut a little today that I haven’t blogged in so long. Truth be told, I’ve been done with Shakespeare for a good week and a half (a successful run, by the by, entertaining almost 1,000 people over two weekends), but it is only today that I’ve felt refreshed enough to embark again on my blogging routine.

With a few minor changes. Hehehehehe. (stick with me)

Romeo sees Juliet (while dramachicky does directorial work in the background; yay dress rehearsal!) Photo by Dan Lanton of Darkershadesofbrown Photography

I think I can only handle blogging once a week – at least, mentally, it’s all I can handle right now. I enjoy blogging – I really like learning about playwrights and passing on that information to others around the world – but I’m starting to burn out a teeny tiny bit. So this is your fair warning; I will try to be consistent, but we are taking things down a notch. At least for the summer. Hey; we all need a break, right?

So what on earth will I talk about today?  Well, my title is two-fold (muah-ha! I love pretending I’m clever!) and the event that had me itching to blog today is the production of my play, Empathy.

I think I mentioned a few months back that I was one of six playwrights commissioned to write a short one-act play (mine was about 10 minutes) with no specifications EXCEPT that it must take place in a kitchen. The concept for this series – aptly entitled PLAYROOM – is the brainchild of friend and fellow playwright Matthew Hinton of Gaslight Theatre Company in Wilkes-Barre, PA (as always, not to be confused with mine and my husband’s theatre group, Ghostlight Productions, in Clarks Summit).

PLAYROOM poster designed by Jenny Hill

So back in April (I think), I wrote a play and passed it on to Matt. And then…nothing. I did nothing with it. I did not attend rehearsals, I did not help with casting, I in no way directed, acted in, or even viewed the play until its performance last weekend. This might seem like a “duh” moment to some of you, but let me tell you – this is the first time I have EVER done this. And it totally freaked me out.

Now, I’ve had my stuff “produced” before, but I’ve always had my hand in the pot. I wrote things that my husband and I performed together, or I wrote and directed (ok, and acted in) my senior project in college. But I’ve never written something, waved goodbye, and passed it on to a theatre group with no knowledge of how it might turn out. It was kind of an awesome feeling – and really, really, REALLY scary.

So last weekend, after R & J had closed (and I had cried), my husband and two of our friends piled in the car to visit King’s College Theatre where Gaslight was performing my play (and five others). I was a bit of a nervous wreck. Thank God my play was the second one to be performed because (apologies to the author) I don’t think I heard a word of the first play, I was in such a state of nerves. Then the lights go down, it’s clearly an evening setting and a man in a bathrobe shuffles into the kitchen, staring at the refrigerator with anticipation and anxiety. And I watched as the words that I wrote came to life.

WOW.  WHAT AN AWESOME FEELING!

You playwrights who have had your works produced, you know what I’m talking about. Of course there’s that fear of the unknown – what did they do with it? what did they change? who is playing this character or that character or will they completely ignore my stage directions and what if I wrote CRAP?! – but actually watching it happen…there’s something truly fulfilling knowing that you created the words, the action, the story behind what everyone sees and hears. You are the creator…I love that about being human; the ability to CREATE.  So yeah…it’s a pretty cool experience.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that moment in my little playwright’s life. In a way, it wasn’t anything huge – I did not have a full-length play produced by a professional company in a big city; I didn’t win a contest and no agents came up to me afterward and said “we love your work!”  But it was still a monumental occasion, because for the first time, someone else took my work and shared it with others. And isn’t that why we write?  Isn’t that the hope, the dream?  That someone else will look at our work and say, yes, yes…THIS is worth sharing.

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