Six months married today, so yeah, I can officially say that I know everything. Mostly I’ve been struck by the values of patience, compromise, and listening. But even more mostly, I am blown away basically every day by Morrison’s ability to handle my madness when I overload myself and short circuit, how he can not only calm me down but also, how quickly he can get me (us) to the place of laughing at the absurdity of whatever the situation. If it’s not funny at its core, WHY EVEN LIVE IT AT ALL?
For the first time in my adult working life, I just voted to strike. Sometimes I forget that I’m in a guild, as I don’t feel like a laborer. Writers’ work happens mostly in our minds, but we still need a guild to protect us from tomfoolery, like, say, the fact that tv and film producers’ income has DOUBLED in the last eight years, while writer’s income has decreased by 30 percent. Our pension is suffering, we’re working for less money, and we’re expected to do it with gratitude that we are working at all. The problem with this is that writers are dreamers by nature, which is super easy to take advantage of. I’m still sort of shocked that I get paid at all to write, but I have to put that aside and stand up for fair pay — especially given the INSANE amount of money that is being made off of what we write. And so, STRIKE! I’m choosing to hope that this is just a bargaining tool for the negotiators, but either way — see you on the picket lines, or back in the writer’s room with what we deserve (SNACKS) (AND HEALTHCARE)
While I’m off work, I’ve been teaching writing to some girls in Juvie up in Santa Clarita of all places (where we wrote and filmed Switched at Birth) through Writegirl (nonprofit that pairs professional writers with, you know. Girls.) I am using the word ‘teaching’ lightly because 1.) teaching might actually be to antonym of my actual nature and 2.) first we must get them to even care, like, at all. I wouldn’t even call them apathetic. It’s just that there are so many grander things for them to care about than a poem that might or might not be in the shape of a hat. Just a few miles from malls and 900 starbucks and big box stores, and for some of them their old neighborhoods, the girls are kept in a weird time loop that sort of looks like school meets a summer camp meets the ROTC. They are kept on a tight schedule of classes and seem to care only about when they will get out and bobby pins and what shoes I’m wearing and what they could do with my bangs, given the chance. They’re all working towards high school class credits, but there’s also this paralysis because when they do get out, they’re re-entering the exact same world that got them into the place to begin with. Most seem to not have a moral support from parents, many of whom are also in jail, and so they’re left to their own devices. They could change, be better versions of themselves, resist temptation, but also they are seventeen year old CHILDREN and how strong was our resolve then, really? How strong is it even NOW? I want to help them connect words to their helplessness so that they can sort through their thoughts. I want to not say stupid things to them like YOUR WORDS WILL SET YOU FREE! But also I want them to know their words will set them free in their minds, which counts. But first I have to get them to even care, which, I now realize, is the first part of teaching, or even THE part. It is the whole part.
Morrison and I in fact live just down the road from Thaitown, Los Angeles, which features a Thai Plaza filled with restaurants and bakeries and everything you might want to suspend your disbelief and convince yourself that you are not in your life, but actually still on your honeymoon. In said plaza, newlyweds can order deep fried whole fishes and those weird little pancakes with marshmallow and corn and Chang declare to no one, ‘this is almost as good as when we were in Thailand but slightly not as good because right now we are not in Thailand but actually just in a strip mall’ and also ‘PS WE WENT TO THAILAND.’
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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I had dinner with another Rebecca last night, and what are two Rebecca’s to discuss other than the intricacies of their own names? At some point during the 3 hour linguistic breakdown of the seven letters:
Me: I changed to B-e-k-a-h cause I just didn’t like the way B-e-c-c-a looked.
Other Rebecca: Yeah, it looks like pasta.
Me: That is exactly what it looks like!!!!
Other Rebecca: Right?
Me: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, I HAVE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING MORE FULLY TRUE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
When I was in my 20s, I split my time between posing with accordions I couldn’t play, and writing plays that mattered to Me and mostly just Me. At that point in my writer life, all that mattered to me was that I was writing honestly. I never stopped to ask myself, does this play matter to anyone but myself? I think there’s something kind of beneficial about these sort of blinders that come with being a writer in your 20s in Brooklyn when there’s a lot of vintage couches to sit on. If you’re only worried about your own truth, and you get after that truth — chances are, you won’t end up writing something that is super didactic or clearly stretching beyond the limitations of your own intellect or life experience. But now I’m in my mid-30s and I split my time between fantasizing about real estate, googling Piriformis stretches and taking in the world, mostly in the form of click bait articles. And when it comes to playwriting, I can’t even start to wonder about a play without asking myself, does it matter? Is the play even asking a question that needs to be asked, in terms of what’s happening in the world? Of course there’s a part of me that’s glad that I am perhaps slightly less self involved than I once was — but there’s another part of me that longs for that purity of creative process, when all that mattered to me was, Does it keep you up at night? Do you wake up thinking about it? Then write it, and write it now.
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!)
Very pleased to announce that we have graduated from crappy, flammable Ikea furniture to sturdy, maybe slightly less flammable, moderately priced CB2 furniture. I am also proud to announce that the bookshelf contains a great many old issues of the Babysitter’s Club, and that Morrison plays video games on the TV. ARE WE GROWN UPS YET?