I would just like to formally apologize to every actor who came to callbacks for The Cake last night for how much I was frantically writing during every read. If I were you, I would of course assume that I was making a long list of everything that was annoying about my body and voice and just me as a human, in general. But actually, when a playwright sits in on auditions for their play, suddenly all of the emotional holes in the scenes become clear, and the playwright must frantically write these holes downs along with any ideas re: how to fix them before they escape. Unfortunately sometimes this must happen while an actor is beautifully emoting. Basically La La Land is a documentary, and sometimes, I AM THE VILLAIN IN THE ROOM I’M SORRY.
Every year I write a short play for Theater Breaking Through Barriers, an NYC based company that works mainly with disabled actors — on plays sometimes related to issues of disability, but sometimes not. Their work is both inclusive AND irrelevant. They are always the hardest plays to write but also the most rewarding. This year was no different — I attempted to write a short play about the ickiness of diverse casting which forced me to confront a lot of the gross but true things that shoot through my head as a white person. I can’t see the play as I am shackled to LA with thick ropes of Kale, but if you’re in NYC, YOU SHOULD! Running through March 26th. INFO HERE!
Me as little as two years ago: “I put my email address on my blog because I really like to be able to share plays upon request, and answer questions, and in general just be very accessible as opposed to mysterious and hard to reach.” Bekah as little as two years ago, let me be the first to say, aw, that is so sweet, and you are so cute. Me today: “AHHHH MORRISON PLEASE HELP ME TAKE MY EMAIL ADDRESS OFF MY BLOG, AS MUCH AS I WOULD LOVE TO HELP EVERY THEATER STUDENT, no but really I would love that, IF I GET ONE MORE POLITE REQUEST FOR A PIECE OF MY BRAIN I AM GOING TO DIG A HOLE IN THE GROUND FOR ME TO CRAWL INTO WHILE SOBBING
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Tucked somewhere south east of LA that I still don’t fully understand but I am Here so hats off to that — We find Temecula, another beautiful wine country, as if California did not have enough already. Here, a girl can escape to write and actually sleep ON a vineyard and allow her panic to meet relaxation and sample their wines until the Malbec flicks her off to sleep, safely tucked inside of one of her own ideas which will change completely by the time she wakes up.
There are plays you read in undergrad and grad school and watch scenes from and do scenes from, to the point where watching the play actually staged feels like a very long, hazy moment of deja vu. O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is definitely one of those plays, and I even though I spent a summer at the O’Neill conference, did a three-night long, all playwright reading of it, visited the very house in which the play was set — I did not actually see the play until last night, at the Geffen (staring Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek, who were both magnificent.) Even though I’ve read it so many times, last night it revealed itself to me as something new — not a play about brothers, about fathers, about grudges you can’t let go of — but a play about a very poetic addiction. It’s really Mary Tyrone’s play, the mother’s play. It’s actually about her withdrawing from and indulging in morphine, hiding it from her family. When she’s on morphine, she just talks and talks and talks, and says the saddest and most beautiful things:
None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.
The past is the present. It’s the future, too.
Her addiction allows the playwright to speak through her. We have things we want our characters to say. They are the things that we want to say, but can’t. But you can’t just insert the things into the mouth of a character. You have to give them some profound reason to say them, a reason that ideally creates a story. This is something I already knew, but must be reminded of, every time I write a scene. A character is not a robot for your poetry. A character is a human being who must be cared for, who must be motivated, who is usually based on your mom (not really.) (but sometimes.) (HI MOM!)
Looking at my schedule for next week, I realize I’m meeting with four different people so that they might ‘pick my brain.’ As a classic Gemini, I’m of two minds about this. Mind Pt. 1: I am happy to do it, especially in honor of those who did it for me when I was just starting out. If I can offer any insight that might help a person get to where they want to be, then good on me, good on them, and good on kindness. Mind. Pt. 2: my brain is currently in a million places. It’s held together by frayed bits of old friendship bracelet and sour punch straws and the subpar bobby pins that really don’t hold any hair in place at all. If anyone were to, at this point, ‘pick my brain,’ it actually might lose its structure entirely.
At some point, I decided to stick these words at the end of the The Cake script:
END OF PLAY.
NOTE: This is the end of the play part of the play. Ideally, upon exiting the theater, the audience is surprised with an actual CAKE, waiting for them. The wonderfully terrible grocery store cake that you never let yourself eat. Ideally, everyone then stands around together, eating cake.
And I will NEVER. REGRET IT.
Say, are you in a city you’ve never been to, surrounded by other theater people all wearing lanyards? You just might be at a New Play Festival! But don’t panic because they’re super fun. First let’s just confirm that you are, in fact, at a New Play Festival. Please label the following statements as True or False.
1.) You don’t fully understand where you are, where you’re supposed to be, even though it’s all been printed out and put in a nice folder for you. You’ve studied it many times, and yet you still don’t really get it it, and so you just wander around hoping someone will lead you to where you are supposed to go.
2.) You don’t fully understand where or when your next meal is coming from, and there doesn’t appear to be food anywhere, so when you spot a bowl of sad bananas on display at your hotel you take one and carry it around in your backpack and forget it’s there and only remember when everything starts to smell vaguely of banana.
3.) You see three to five plays a day, one of them which is usually a mind blowing hip hop musical that makes you question everything.
4.) Your own play that you are there to develop switches from being the best thing you have ever written to the worst thing you have ever written WITHIN SECONDS.
5.) You are making a lot of eye contact with strangers and learning a lot of life stories.
6.) You are uncharacteristically sweaty at all times.
7.) You allow your life to look like this:
ALL TRUE? HEY WAY TO GO, YOU’RE AT A NEW PLAY FESTIVAL! NOW GO HAVE SOME FUN! (Howdy from Houston / TX / Alley New Play Festival and also from my sad banana!)
I’ve been playing this drama play writing game for some time now, and have, at this point, received a fair number of reviews. I’ve never been much of a critical darling, so I figured that I’d share some advice on how to read and process reviews of ones own work.
1.) A review is one person’s attempt to interpret and assign meaning to a piece of art, which is basically impossible. It’s a moving target. There is no one answer. So it’s all an attempt. Your work is an attempt, as is theirs.
2.) Even if the review is unfavorable, you cannot let it detract from how YOU feel about your work. You have to approach your work with at least SOME confidence, some solid command of what you are intending to say. It can’t be fragile, or a review will easily knock it down. If this happens — revisit what you meant to do in the first place, and think about how to make it stronger.
3.) A reviewer is a human being engaged in their own life, stepping into your life, just for a minute. You must take whatever they have to say in the context of their own life, which again, is not yours.
4.) A review should not affect how you perceive your own work.
5.) JUST KIDDING THEY ARE EVERYTHING EVERYTHING THEY SAY ABOUT YOU IS RIGHT AND SHOULD BE INTERNALIZED AND THOUGHT ABOUT OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU FIGURE OUT EXACTLY HOW TO FIX THE FLAWS IN YOUR OWN WORK TO THE LIKING OF AFOREMENTIONED CRITIC AND IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT WELL YOU SHOULD PROBABLY JUST QUIT AND WORK AT A YOGURT STORE
6.) I would actually really enjoy working at a yogurt store
I always wondered when I might have a day that I am actually so engaged in my actual life that I COMPLETELY FORGET TO BLOG. It’s embarrassing to admit but it truly shoots through my brain as soon as I wake up, what to blog about today? Today that did not happen. I joined a gazillion other Americans in a beautiful, peaceful march up to Trump Towers, I saw a beautiful, life-affirming musical with two of my favorite gals, and then saw a performance of a play that I wrote. I was, in fact, so engaged in my own life, that I had nothing to say. And I still don’t. Happy, today, to be alive, and able to march and watch and write things at all.