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.
People who love plays to tend to also love food and when people gather to eat food. If when people gather to eat food there is also a play, EVEN BETTER. This lovely genius girl in Brooklyn, Jessica Giannone, hosts a reading series at a bar in which she pairs plays with PIES THAT SHE BAKES. Tonight they’re reading my play, Le Fou, about a bunch of women writing love letters in the first ever department store in Paris. I could not possibly be more delighted. WHAT IS IN THE PIE? IS IT FULL OF FLOWERS AND FRANCE? IF I’M THERE IN SPIRIT IS IT POSSIBLE TO ALSO EAT PIE? CAN SPIRITS EAT?
I woke up REALLY needing to find a picture of the book I learned words from as a kid, and HERE IT BE:
I think this was all of elementary school, opening this owl and shoving its contents into my head. I was always good at memorizing, not so much internalizing. And so when my vocabulary sort of froze at the age, of, what, 24? Is that when the brain stops growing? I ended up with a moderate but far from impressive collection of words. I know no fancy synonyms for moderate or impressive. For a writer, my arsenal is limited. When I read I do so with Dictionary. But every now and then, I meet a word that I like, and it sticks in my head like gum I can’t see. And so I try and trot it out, and it’s usually awkward like trying to make a friend as a grown up, HOW IS YOUR LIFE TODAY, PERSON? But if I persevere (a word that I know ONLY because I have a cousin named Perseverance) I can normalize it and stop saying it surrounded by question marks, like I’m on stage at a spelling bee. And so today, I declare to you, I will use my new words with alacrity, which is just a sharp and beautiful little word that I always say in my normal life, by which I mean, with willingness and cheerfulness.
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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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.
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.
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.’
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.