Crashing after the Sugar House

Oh, boy.  I was doing so well.  Made all 14 other Ma-Yi Labfest Readings and still managed to finish my play, rehearse it and get it up with the wonderful actors.

And then the next day I crashed.

Teaching has been especially hard this week because my energy has waned, I am fighting the dumb flu that everyone is sneezing and coughing around, and Teaching Artistry is a highly energetic, highly creative job.  Today was a good day, though.  I got to help some students at Flushing International HS scribe and rehearse plays–their “What happens next?” or “What other adventure could Jason go on?” in response to Jason and the Argonauts, the wonderful two-man version by Visible Fictions.

And then, I realized why I love theater–the rehearsal is really the fun part.  And, as Visible Fictions does, they were charged with using props, minimal costumes, action figures, to fill out the world.  Two fellows in two different classes built full dragon tail regalia.  There were sword fights with homemade swords.  Heroes who stood up to tyrants and brave princesses who defeated monsters.  I just tried to remind them to use what we learned, transforming our bodies and voices to become the characters and inventively using props and space.  Being students recently arrived, many are shy about using their English, but today, one girl I’ve never heard speak until today, powerfully spit out her lines.  Perhaps because it was “play,” the stakes were lower and she was able to engage in front of a crowd.  Joy.

All in all, a good day of play.

Back in the Saddle and Labfest

First time back in the classroom this week with the K-12 set.  I have been under the weather which makes it harder, but I still managed somehow.

I am reminded of what a hero the classroom teacher is, how they truly set the tone for great learning, safety, humor and creative exploration.

This is also a crazytown theater time.  I just had the good fortune of catching the closings of my friends’ plays–Ooh-rah! by Bekah Brunstetter and Thunder Above, Deeps Below (yes, again) by A. Rey Pamatmat.  It was a good reminder of what I reach for in writing–truthful moments, compelling and charismatic characters, and something about the blow at any moment.  Both, so lovely.

And now, here comes Ma-Yi Theater Company’s Labfest.   As you see, I’m closing this sucker.  So I have a little time to finish this here little play that is, eh, not quite done yet.

Labfest III
First-look readings of brand new full-length plays from
the next generation of Asian American playwrights!

Labfest 3 The Ma-Yi Writers Lab is the largest resident company of Asian American playwrights ever assembled.

This, its third LABFEST, will be the largest collection of brand new full-length plays by Asian American writers ever presented in one stand, anywhere in the universe throughout the history of recorded time.

Labbers have been known to write about things like space aliens, moustaches, salmon canneries, Darfur, calculus, cheesecake, and Scooter Libby – we make no promises about the content of this year’s crop, but we can promise that they will be brand new, first-look readings from the next generation of Asian American playwrights.

The person who attends the most readings wins a cash prize of one hundred million dollars.*

All readings are $5, available at the door.  To make reservations, email Mariah MacCarthy at mariah.maccarthy@ma-yitheatre.org, or call 212-971-4862.  All readings will be at Theater for the New City, at 155 1st Avenue (btwn 9th/10th St).

Monday, October 5 at 7pm
Heartbreak/India
by Kyoung H. Park

Tuesday, October 6 at 8pm
Garba Griha: Womb-House
by Michi Barall

Thursday, October 8 at 7pm
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

by A. Rey Pamatmat

Friday, October 9 at 7pm
Infinitude
by Sung Rno

Saturday, October 10 at 3pm  
The White Knight

by Mrinalini Kamath

Saturday, October 10 at 7pm  
Growing Up For Dummies

by Nora Chau

Sunday, October 11 at 3pm  
How to Get Rid of the Wife: A Political Romance

by Nandita Shenoy

Sunday, October 11 at 7pm  
Jesus In India

by Lloyd Suh

Monday, October 12 at 7pm  
We in Silence Hear a Whisper

by Jon Kern

Wednesday, October 14 at 6pm  
The Kimono Project

by Patricia Jang

Thursday, October 15 at 6pm  
A Voice in the Wilderness

by Eugene Oh

Thursday, October 15 at 8pm  
Particles of Pakistan

by Rehana Mirza

Saturday, October 17 at 12noon  
Microcrisis

by Michael Lew

Saturday, October 17 at 2:30pm  
Sharksucker

by Dustin Chinn

Sunday, October 18 at 2pm
The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness
by Carla Ching

*payable in installments of $1 every 10,000 years

A Room of One’s Own

Good thing I have good walking shoes.  And an Unlimited metro card. Run around time has begun.

Started the new Pace class yesterday.  They are an awesome group.  I introduced Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (thanks to Unlocking the Classroom for putting my eyes on it) as I’ve been not 100% pleased with how feedback sessions go in creative situations. I wanted to practice on work that wasn’t theirs.  I asked them to choose a play we were all familiar with.  Perhaps it’s a sad state of theater that we couldn’t find a common play.  I went to film.  Someone suggested Star Wars, but not everyone had seen that either.  Somehow we ended up with a certain film about a man who overcomes his disabilities, class and a single-parent up-bringing to become an influential–albeit, haphazardly so–figure in history.  Yes.  That movie.    But that’s not important.  What’s important is that we practiced the process, with them taking turns as the writer and responder while I facilitated and they got quite good with it in a short period of time–giving and receiving feedback in a meaningful way.  And it really made a difference that the artist drives the conversation with their own questions about their work.  We will see how the semester goes, but I am quite hopeful and so glad to have found this new way of workshopping plays right off the press.

Started at Teachers and Writers yesterday.  I am meant to assist with their programs this year and to work on my own writing.  I am so excited. When I was taken to my new office, I almost started to cry.  A lovely little room, filled with light.  A red wall, two other walls of glass and the third wall with a window, from which you can see the Hudson.  A little red hand-painted public school chair that was apparently found on the street.  I have never had a room of my own in which to write.  It does make all the difference.

I am familiarizing myself with their programs and am astounded at how far reaching they are and what a lovely history they have, being founded by many, but Herbert Kohl and Muriel Rukheyser, who are two personal heroes.  Much to do.  Much to learn.  Much to look forward to.

September is here…

As such, the school year has booted up again and I’m about to get mad busy.  Started curriculum building at the New Vic yesterday and am very excited to be working on The Enchanted Pig from the Young Vic in the UK.  It is nice to be thinking about how to excite young people for a show before they even get there.  And this one’s a stunner.  Full-blown, mad-cap opera.  Gorgeous.

Also getting ready to train and build curriculum at some of my other TA gigs.  People laugh when I say I have 6 jobs.  But I do.  It’s going to be an interesting year.

And there’s that little matter of the play that I have to get done for Labfest.  I have a month.  No problem.

Appreciation

Last week, I was working with young people who were working towards a show, a culminating experience that showed all they had worked on in the past two weeks.  Dance, combat, scenes and monologues.  We had students from all over the city, many different schools, aged 12-18.  It was a very compressed experience but my co-teacher and I realized that we needed to cement the notion of ensemble with them.  That for this time they must be family, they must look after one another and they must work together to make magic onstage.

Saying this is one thing.  But, how to make it happen?

I thought about an exercise I did a million years ago when I was working with Peeling.  We would make two lines and each person would move down the line, telling the person before them what they appreciated about the other person.  I thought it would work especially because they were 12-18 year olds, so they might not be able to acknowledge each other in public, but when presented with another person one-on-one, and with the right prompt, they might be able to speak the truth.

So, I began the exercise and said, “You will have a minute to look at the person in front of you and tell them everything you appreciate about them in the work you’ve seen them do in the last two weeks.”  I watched as laughter erupted, as they leaned into each other and smiled or blushed at what others appreciated about them.  And as they moved down the line, a warmth filled the room.

One boy, at the end said, “I feel so loved.”  Another boy said, “You think people don’t notice you at all, but then you hear that they do see you.  They hear what you say.”  Another boy said, “You think you’re like, an invisible person, but then you realize that you’re not.”

That says it all, I think.

While my partner and I didn’t participate in the exercise, two boys came up to us and wanted to tell us what they appreciated.  One of them said, “I appreciate that you’re tough on us and really keep us on track, but we know it’s because you love us.”  I said, “You’re absolutely right.”

I realize that I must find a way to do this more in my own artistic and teaching practices–tell people all that they are and all that I get from having them in the room.