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.
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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Today on what is right with America, Pizza Hut has released a pair of shoes called pie tops. They sync to your phone, you know, like shoes do, and when you press the tongue of said shoe, it connects to your phone and orders you a pizza, because it’s way too simple to just order a pizza from your phone and it’s just way more fun to lean down and press upon your shoe and make pizza happen and just know for the rest of the day that your foot summoned food. I’d really like to tell you more about them but I really must away and find said shoes in GIANT HUSBAND SIZE.
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.
Please don’t tell anyone I owe any sort of script to, but by ‘going to hotel to write’ I actually mean ‘hiding in hotel room with room service watching cheerleading competitions wishing I could go back in time and be either a strong or portable person who cheered competitively in college.’
I can remove myself from my involvement with This is Us and say with confidence that this week’s episode, Memphis, is the one of the top saddest, most beautiful episodes I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen at least ten to fifteen episodes of television. Morrison and I cried so much that Cracker literally came over just to see if we were okay. You have to watch it to get the significance of these Ducks, which are heartbreaking and breathtaking when they appear at the end, in a way that regular old ducks never quite have been. Clearly it has gone to these ducks’ heads, as they now have a TWITTER PAGE.
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?
Morrison and I are working on our own version of a feel good sports movie, (the sports part NOT brought to you by me.) And so, as ‘research’ (read: reasons to not go anywhere on a Friday night when it’s raining 11 inches in a city with basically no gutters) we watched COOL RUNNINGS. REMEMBER IT? It’s hilarious, and so weird, and so colorful, and even poignant. And it’s not even about winning, per se. ‘A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the medal, you’ll never be enough with it.’ JOHN CANDY YOU’RE SO RIGHT. We must first make peace with ourselves before receiving medals, if we are to receive medals at all. THANKS JAMAICAN BOBSLED TEAM!
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.