#IHeartNewPlays Reading List cont'd!

April has been over for a whole week and I'm just now finally getting around to finishing up my April #IHeartNewPlays #NewDayNewPlay New Play Exchange reading list for April!!

I -loved- this initiative -- it was so much fun to see so many recommendations for plays rolling through the NPX landing page every day. I'm planning to write another lil blog about Communities of Want/Lack versus Communities of Enough, but I'll just say: NPX is fostering some really beautiful community, and this initiative is just one manifestation of that healthy creative, supportive energy.

ANYWAY here's the rest of my list! (I read -99- plays in April! Holy hell! Very extremely worth it, in case you were wondering). In no particular order:

 

Click here to see my list from April 1-7 for more play recommendations!

#IHeartNewPlays Reading List - Week 1

I love New Play Exchange (if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this fact has been well-established). If you have the great fortune of knowing me personally, you also know that I am VERY COMPETITIVE. (I will CRUSH YOU INTO DUST at Monopoly ok hun?)

Which is why April is no longer the cruelest month: au contraire, thanks to NPX and the National New Play Network, April is shaping up to be -the best-.

NNPN and NPX are hosting a little play reading/recommending competition, and honey you KNOW I'm all over that. (Not to ~*~~BrAg*~~* or anything but I'm currently winning whatever nbd this is the highlight of my career.)

The Stakes: top 20 readers get a -sweet- I Heart New Plays button.

(Hi. I'm very competitive.)

In all seriousness, this is an amazing initiative to get more eyes on more incredible plays. It's so fun to see how quickly the NPX landing page is cycling through new recommendations! People are posting recs like crazy!

So here's my reading list for the first week, April 1-April 7, in literally no order at all:

What are your recommendations?! What should I be reading next? Comment below hun okay byee now I've gotta go win me that button.

My 2018 Goals: March

I'm a liiiiiittle late to the March Goals recap because I've been writing writing writing and reading reading reading! (More about the reading part coming soon!)

To recap, my goals this year include:

  • read one play per day on the New Play Exchange
  • submit to at least 10 opportunities per month, for a total of at least 120 submissions in 2018
  • write one page per day of anything at all
  • complete a new 10-minute play per month
  • complete a new 1-act play per quarter
  • complete a rough draft of two full-length plays

The first part of the month of March was 100% taken up with producing Playwrights Say Never Again: An Evening of Short Plays at a local event space, The Palace Theater. I've never produced anything before, and it was an overwhelming experience that I'm still processing. I intend to blog about the whole thing one of these days, but every time I sit down to do it, I start panicking until the Ian McKellen/Brene Brown/Gandalf/Molly Weasley voice inside my head says "Shhh shhh, it's okay, you can do it later." (What, do you not have an Ian McKellen in your head giving you permission to relax??)

I honestly thought I was never going to have energy to write anything for a while after that production, but I was wrong! I wrote a lot of very, very short pieces.

I also started volunteering for Code Red Playwrights, an initiative started by playwrights CJ Erlich and Rachael Carnes. The goal of this initiative is to write plays for every mass shooting in modern US history: a tall order, but one that is drawing many, many voices to the table and telling some incredibly powerful stories. I'm helping CJ and Rachael vet the plays as they come in (there are some specific rules about content and anonymity that everyone has to follow); through this role (which I'm honored to have), I've been introduced to the work of so many exemplary playwrights.

So how did I do with my goals in March?

  • 31 submissions (bringing my 2018 total to 82/120 so far!!!!! a liiitle ahead of sched)
  • Instead of working on one new 10-minute play, I wrote a lot of shorter plays
  • I read 31 play on NPX, through Code Red Playwrights, and through the Virtual Writing Workshop

What are your goals for the year? What are you doing to achieve them? Whose voice is in your head giving you permission to take a bubble bath or reread Harry Potter instead of processing a stressful yet rewarding event? Comment and let me know!

Februray Reading List: Black History Month

I'm learning the great gift of goal-setting this year -- turns out setting goals is pretty transformative! (Who knew?)

In February, I made it a goal to read a play per day by a black female playwright on the New Play Exchange, in honor of Black History Month. It was a huge beautiful honor to spend time with the words and in the worlds of these playwrights. I can't wait to dive deeper into their work as the year progresses.

 

Check out these plays on New Play Exchange!

My 2018 Goals: January

I'm not usually one to make New Years Resolutions -- or to set goals in general. But part of my plan to treat my playwriting as a second job is to be more intentional about goal-setting. After reading Donna Hoke's blog entry A POST ABOUT GOALS, I figured I'd get serious.

My goals this year include: 

  • read one play per day on the New Play Exchange
  • submit to 10 opportunities per month, for a total of 120 submissions in 2018 (2017 total: 99; I figured an increase of 30% was manageable)
  • write one page per day -- of anything at all
  • complete a new 10-minute play per month
  • complete a new 1-act play per quarter
  • complete a rough draft of at least two full-length plays that have been dancing around in my noggin for over a year

Sound rigorous? Yeah, you're telling me. I don't know what possessed me on the morning of January 1st to set these goals (and to write them down in my journal! now it's serious!), but here we are. 

So how did I do in January? 

  • I completed four (4!!) ten-minute plays [here, here, here, & here] -- they ain't perfect, but they're alive
  • I made 24 submissions 
  • I read 50 plays on NPX

I didn't manage to hit my page-per-day quota (I took days off here and there throughout the month), and I'm a little behind in drafting the 1-act play I'm working on this quarter (Assisted Living), but that's okay. I've never written so rigorously or productively in my life, and I still feel like there's room for improvement -- heck, that's part of what the goal-setting's about, in my opinion. 

So now I'm adjusting my February goals in response to the successes and failures of January -- aiming for at least 20 submissions this month (I'm already at 17!) and try to really crack down on that page per day goal (we'll see how many more months that goal lasts). I also want to get involved in a couple of writing groups, and read at least one play per day by a black female playwright in honor of Black History Month. 

We'll see how it goes! What are your goals for 2018? 

Why NPX?: A Love Story

Have you checked out the New Play Exchange (part of the National New Play Network) yet? 

NPX is my favorite thing I spend money on (just 10 bucks a year for playwrights!). You can sign up as a playwright, an organization (theatre, festival, universities, etc. etc. etc.), or as a reader (dramaturgs, lit managers, directors, etc. etc.)

As a playwright, it acts as a database for your work -- you can upload as many scripts as you want, select the genre, length, and casting requirements by gender and race, and even tag it with keywords.

 "Well, what's so special about that?" you may ask. 

NPX is a searchable database that allows theatres, universities, and producers to find scripts to use in their upcoming seasons and festivals. The tagging feature make this incredibly easy for the theatre -- and is great incentive for playwrights to tag their plays. The more tags you use, the more likely it is that a potential producer can find your work!

Got a vampire romantic-comedy musical? Tag it! 

Got a love triangle between two humans and a polar bear set at the end of the world (asking for a friend)? Tag it!

I'll talk more about how much I love NPX in future posts but wanted to get some info out there. Because I love NPX. 

<3

 

Rapid-Fire Drafting

**I wrote the following blog in October 2016 after getting home from the ATHE Conference. Feast on some old content while I try to figure out how to fit blog-writing into my writing routine!

After coming home from ATHE, I decided to get serious about drafting the full-length version of a play I've been writing in my head for three years. (Am I the only one who waits this long to put pen to paper?)

For some context, I'll say I have *~~Big Plans~**~ for this project, Paradoxysm. My plan/dream is to have three versions of this piece: a ten-minute play, a one-act play, and a two-act play. They all tell the same story but take slightly different approaches; what I hope is that by the end they can kind of stack inside each other like Russian Matryoshka dolls. We'll see.

Anyway, I got this wild idea after coming home from ATHE that I should attempt to write in a new way (for me): very, very fast.

I decided to put myself on a very strict schedule and adhere to it no matter what in order to get a full-length SFD finished in two weeks.

My husband recommended Basecamp, a web portal where you organize tasks (to put it very simply). I loved it. It allowed me to storyboard in a really straightforward way, work out the kinks that I saw in the story, and move scenes around without literally sitting on the floor of my living room and moving cut-up pages from the play around (which is a thing I did once. or twice). 

I wrote a synopsis for each scene, a basic arc, and gave each scene a deadline. Basecamp sends you email alerts on the days that scenes are due, which is the perfect kind of kick in the ass to get a scene done if you've been procrastinating or whatever.

So I gave myself two weeks; it ended up taking three. (My therapist and I decided I should ~*~NOT*~~ feel inadequate about adding a week to my timeline -- I was also in the middle moving from Ohio to Tennessee while working a full-time soul-sucking desk job.)

I wrote each scene in a separate Word doc, and then when the scenes were complete-ish, I retyped them all into one Word doc. (I know this is an insane process, but it's my process ok.)

And I finished the draft. It's a monster: 192 pages, absolutely the longest thing I've ever written. And it only took my three weeks! (plus three years.)

 

So I'm going to wait about six weeks and then return to the Full Synopsis (see blog post below) to do revisions. 

If you want, feel free to comment and share your usual process, and/or any time you've ever mixed it up like this. 

Full Synopsis as Revision Tool

**I wrote the following blog in September 2016 after getting home from the ATHE Conference. Feast on some old content while I try to figure out how to fit blog-writing into my writing routine!

Here's another goody I got from the ATHE Conference. This comes from playwright Alvaro Saar-Rios, who has been commissioned for THIRTEEN (!!!) plays all over the country. He had a ton of great advice, but I most connected with his use of full synopses for his plays. 

Step One: Write a First Draft!

So easy, right? 

Here's the important takeaway: Saar-Rios said he was very intentional about putting the first draft of the play away for as long as possible -- anywhere from a couple of months to a year. He averages about two months, he said, but that's because commissioned work usually has a strict timeline.

The goal is to get some distance. 

 

Step Two: Write a Synopsis!

At some point during the Waiting Period, write a detailed synopsis: Something that tells the story as it is from beginning to end. 

The goal is not to write a synopsis that tells the story you want to tell but rather the story you are already telling in your first draft, with all its flaws and imperfections. 

Include the story arc, a good description of each character, and make sure you hit all of that *~~IMPORTANT INFO~**~

  • What do my characters want?
  • What's the driving force behind the story?
  • Et cetera et cetera

This synopsis should be anywhere from 5 to 20 pages for a full length script. Or more or less than that (thought I doubt you could write less than 5 page and still be thorough). 

Again, key takeaway: write a thorough synopsis of the play as it is in the first draft.

Still with me?

 

Step Three: Revise the Synopsis!

We're still in that Waiting Period, and now we're revising the synopsis. This is where we want to make the synopsis tell the story we want to tell, taking out the flaws and discontinuities, adding character depth and conflict, clarifying the arc and character needs, heightening the hell out of everything.

Basically, fix all the things that seem broken. And the best part is, you're still not touching the Actual Play -- you get to explore and experiment the story without getting bogged down in the details of the dialogue. By revising the synopsis, you get to create the roadmap for the play without getting caught up in some of the pitfalls of scene drafting. (For me, those pitfalls are either "Ha ha, this line is a very funny line; I'm brilliant" or the equally disturbing, "This sucks. I suck.")

Revise the synopsis to your heart's content. Do a few different pass-throughs: maybe focus on structure during one revision, then focus on character development, etc. etc.

 

Step Four: Revise the Play!

After you've given yourself some space from the play, apply the things you've learned from synopsis-drafting to the play itself. 

Think of the synopsis as a blueprint. Metaphorically speaking, you can lay the revised synopsis overtop the play and start crafting the play you have to fit the story you want to be telling (the story that's now, hopefully, in your revised synopsis). 

Of course, you'll have to do more revisions than what is reflected in the synopsis, particularly the crafting of dialogue -- after all, that's what it's all about. But it seems like an incredible first-to-second-draft aid. 

 

It may help to keep the synopsis updated as you revise the play, too. That way you can always go back to the synopsis and say, "Am I telling the story I want to be telling?" And then if you get stuck, you can put the play away again, come back to the synopsis, and see where a new revision of the synopsis might take you. 

Writing Prompt

**I wrote the following blog in August 2016 after getting home from the ATHE Conference. Feast on some old content while I try to figure out how to fit blog-writing into my writing routine!

I just got home from an amazing experience at the ATHE (Association for Theatre and Higher Education) Conference, where I had a ten-minute play developed as part of their New Play Development Workshop. It was an overwhelming experience; I'm still processing most of it. 

But I wanted to share a writing exercise that I learned about during one of the sessions I attended at the conference. A group of us actually kind of dreamed this up together -- a kind of conglomeration of several different exercises we'd each done before. I'm excited to try this out myself one of these days.

So here goes:

Step One

To start, pick 2 or 3 songs, ideally songs that differ from one another in style, tempo, content, etc. (We talked about, for instance, Beethoven, A Tribe Called Quest, and Beyonce -- I think that the more the songs differ, the more fun this would be.)

In a quiet (and ideally dark) room with no distractions, lie on the ground or in some comfortable position with your eyes closed while the first song plays. It probably works best if you've listened to the song once or twice but aren't super familiar with/attached to it. 

As you come toward the end of the song, start to imagine and create a character. You could write a monologue or a character description, or something else. Here are some potential questions to consider:

  1. Does the character relate to or enjoy the music? Why or why not?
  2. Is there something about the character's energy that matches or contrasts with the tone?
  3. Where might the character be listening to this song? What might she be doing while she's listening to it?

 

Step Two

Repeat the process with the other song(s). I'm not sure if it's better to take a break in between songs or just plow through... again, this is all kind of untested and experimental! (i.e. completely made up.) Just see what works for you.

 

Step Three

After you've created your two or three characters, throw them into a situation together. Are they all at some kind of weird concert? A grocery? A department store? A hotel lobby that plays an unsettling variety of music? 

Are they strangers? Married? Sisters? On a blind date discussing their favorite music? 

If you try this exercise, I'd really love to hear about your experience with it! I want to try it asap, and I'll let you know if it ends up being cool.