Family

Two things happen when family comes to visit. 

1.  I eat too much. 

My sister, Uncle Mike and Auntie Robyn came to visit this week.  Cathie  likes food, Mike is a chef and Robyn is a nutritionist.  Everyone likes food.  So that meant stops at Lil’ Frankie’s, Keste, Dirt Candy, Cafe Condessa, Apizz, Ma Peche and Anissa.  I have a refrigerator full of fancy leftovers but I think I need to drink nothing but green juice for a week.  But eating with them, it’s not just about the food.  It’s about the company.  The time to catch up and talk after being apart for so long (they all live in Honolulu).  A little bit of waxing poetic.  When you are a theater artist or generally busy NY’er, it means you are usually eating pizza while you walk or powering down an egg sandwich in 5 minutes on the subway.  It’s eating for survival.  And there’s no one to talk to while you’re stuffing your face.  3 hour meal?  Never.

2. I ask myself why I have planted myself in a city that is 5-10,000 miles away from all my family. 

Why?  Why can’t I be in LA or Honolulu where the climate is milder, my people are around and life is a little more gentle. 

Why am I here?  Theater.  Did you say Theater?  What are you doing?  Trying to chase a green unicorn down a rabbit hole?  Make Theater?  That’s why you’re here?

Well, that’s a lot to walk away from.  Easier life, family, temperate weather. 

So, as I said my goodbyes to all of them and hopped the subway towards my little apartment, I sat there listening to the hums/screeches/bumps of the train, thinking, “Better make some theater, then.  Better make it damned fine.”

Summertime Rolls Vol. 3

Somehow it’s already August 16th.  How did that happen?

It has been slow and fast, rolling and still all at the same time.  Trying to get things in order before it all gets rugged again.

Playing in Traffic just went down and it was exciting to be a part of madcap theater on the writing end for a week.  I’m really psyched about the wonderful volume called Out of Time & Place that Christine Evans and Alexis Clements have edited that includes all 11 of us from the 2008-2010 Women’s Project Playwrights Lab.

out of time & placeout of time 2

It’s Lynn Rosen, Laura Eason, Charity Henson-Ballard, Crystal Skillman and Christine Evans in Vol. 1 and Bekah Brunstetter, Alexis Clements, Nadia Davids, Andrea Thome, Kara Manning and yours truly in Vol. 2.  I’m excited because it’s a truly diverse set of dynamic women playwrights but also because in this short two years, I’ve come to love and respect their work.  Like a crazy person, I re-wrote TBA, so what lives in that book is different than the version that 2g produced a couple of years ago.  Different beginning and end.  I think it was the right thing to do.  Hope that it was.  It was actually a lot of fun to work on the interview that introduces the play with Lloyd Suh and Denyse Owens because the process itself was so fast and furious, we never got a chance to reflect.  I think we might have all collapsed afterwards.  So, we pulled out old notes, old drafts, and wracked our brains to remember.  How did Lloyd get off book in three days to step into the role?  How did Denyse transition the cast to a whole new guy?  It was good to think through the how, through the process of it all.  And all that thinking made me miss Silas quite a lot.  You live with a character for a really long time, it’s always sort of sad to see them go away.  It’s like they move to a different town.  A faraway friend.

The Fringe is fast upon us and I’m excited about a number of things.  Lots of friends doing really interesting things out there this year.

And then Andrea is going to Ignition, Victory Garden’s new play festival  with her play Undone along with Rey Pamatmat who’s doing the beautiful Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them.  If you’re in the windy city, you should go.

And then I know things are smoldering with Mike Lew’s Microcrisis, to be produced by Ma-Yi this fall.  Matt Olmos said his new play  the death of the slow’dying scuba diver will be going up as part of EST’s Octoberfest.  Maureen Sebastian is in the new Circa Now and Then by Carly Mensch at Ars Nova in Sept.  And it sounds like The Foundry is on the cusp of something extraordinary.

In times like these, when faith is waning, and it’s either raining or too hot, or people in this city are too angry, I look towards the things to come, to the moments of surprise and wonder, the truths that I will be told in dark rooms on hot nights, in a room full of people, with a lit stage, among the believers.  Where in that moment, we imagine the world as something more than what is or some beautiful truth is illuminated that allows us to get up another day, get up and keep pressing on.

If you know of something that will keep my faith restored, post it here.  I want to know of exciting things coming.  And I need that faith restoration now more than ever.

It’s May. How did that happen?

I’m not really sure.  Barrelling through 13 and my Sugar House workshop and holding down all my jobs, I guess.

I blinked and here we are.

June is calling.  I taught my last classroom workshop yesterdayat PS3 with Michael Wiggins.   About the Butterfly Garden.  To kindergarteners and 1st graders.  Can’t think of a better way to go out.  I hadn’t realized that was the last thing I had booked until I taught it and then was like, “Damn.  I guess that’s it.”  I’m a little sad.  They remind me of what is most beautiful about this theater thing that we do.  That it is about play and imagination.

I will have to remember that as I continue to slave over the current play and dream about the new one.  I am chomping at the bit to get started on the new thing, but I know that I have to be patient, and I can’t race ahead like I usually do, because that will certainly make a mess.  There’s a lot of research to be done first.  Patience.  Trying to learn patience.

There are 5 readings to plan for 2g and a big rewrite to sink my teeth into and my fellowship at Teacher & Writers to finish out, but first, so I have enough gas to get through this next stretch, I think I have to go off the grid for two days.  Like off.  No 100 emails, no phone calls, no text messages, just…silence.

I have never done this before, and I am not sure I will be wholly successful, but I have to try.  So I can recharge the battery and have enough left.  T-minus 4 hours and twenty minutes to “off.”  I’m excited.

Getting to the Good Stuff: The Myopia, Lear & Goodbye Cruel World

There seems to be an embarrassment of riches out there right now.  I got a chance to see Plays and The Myopia from the wonderful folks at the Foundry.  I would describe it, except that you have to see David Greenspan work his magic.  Plays is an essay on reading plays by Gertrude Stein, which Greenspan goes to riff on in The Myopia.  When David Cote called him a “one man cabinet of wonders, ” he wasn’t kidding.  This slight man, with nothing but a chair and bottle of water takes you on an epic, sweeping journey.

The, you should really run to see Goodbye, Cruel World before it closes this weekend.  Robert Ross Parker adaptation of Erdman’s The Suicide dazzles and delights as he orchestrates a cyclone of serious fun with Cindy Cheung, Will Harper and Paco Tolson as  Semyon Semyonovich, the man who tries to kill himself.  See Zinoman’s thoughts on it here.

And then there is Young Jean Lee’s Lear.

And here is an interview with her that illuminates her process/inspiration for the play:

I haven’t been as moved by a piece of theater in some time and I admire the ambitious nature of her storytelling.   About 2/3 of the way through, the ceiling became the floor.  Run to see it.  It’s sold out, but there are wait list tickets, I believe.

In a week, I got to witness three pretty inspiring shows, all radically different.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Carla’s a teaching artist.  She’s a playwright.  How does she have money for theater tickets.”  In these hard economic times, I appreciate that so many theatermakers are going to great lengths to get people like us in the doors.  I got Lear through the Soho Rep 99cent Sundays deal.   Goodbye, Cruel World had a half-price matinee ticket.  And Melanie Joseph at the Foundry put out the work to people in theater that she was going to offer the Plays/The Myopia double bill for $20 to folks who bought tickets for the first week in advance.  Now, the question is, how can Off-Broadway and Broadway houses take a cue from their downtown counterparts and get young folks, artists, and people who most desperately need to see theater, in the doors.

Knock knock.  Who’s listening?

Classroom Theater

Imagine for a second that you were rehearsing whatever show it is that you are currently working on, with a group of 4-5 collaborators. So, you are in your rehearsal room, hammering it out, working on the script, figuring out the blocking, etc.

And then, in walk 4 other groups, to share your room. They are also rehearsing with their props, costumes, text, choreographed fight sequences, etc. This is the situation in the typical NYC public school classroom that I walk into. There will be 30 students, rehearsing simultaneously in a space the size of your living room. If you have a big living room. I could probably only fit 4 students in my living room. But, you get the picture.  This was the situation yesterday at an International High School in Queens where I was doing some residency culminating performances.

“What?” you say.

“How do you hear yourself above the din?”

“Aren’t you tripping over each other?”

The answer is that in working in schools, doing drama, this is the way it is. We make it work, somehow. But, unlike the fine arts, or perhaps even dance, this means a lot of chaos, more chaos than people are used to seeing in classrooms.

I taught with two guest teachers as my primary colleague was out. Part way through the first class, the two guest teachers shot some looks over, like, “are you mad?” The noise.  The questions.  The fact that students were using broomsticks as faux swords.  This is not what English class normally looks like.  But today, it is okay and I must also make them comfortable in the room.  I ask one teacher to model an activity with me to draw her in.  Show the students that she too will take the risk to get up and work in front of them.

I was to teach around the question, “What is point of view? And how does a story change depending on who’s telling it?”  And I ended up needing to teach each class very differently depending on the student group dynamics and language comfort.  While I came in with a plan, I ended up changing things on the fly, in order to better have them understand POV and be able to tell a story from a different character’s point of view.

When it came time to show the pieces the students magically whizzed together in a few minutes, the teachers seemed to enjoy them and were impressed with how much the students showed that they knew about the play, how inventive they were, how they moved through their shyness and varying levels of language acquisition challenges to create a moment of theater.

And perhaps I re-learned, we are always in process as teachers and artists and teaching artists. And we have to change things on the fly sometimes, because what we’re doing is not working. Or could work better. Our instincts are usually right. And momentary chaos is often okay. As long as we are seeking the answer to the driving question. Instincts are right. Chaos is good. This will be my mantra.