Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Gift of Tragedy

On Monday I was a guest artist at an NYU tv writing class. I spoke about my career and gave advice. The professor and my New Dramatists playwright friend, Kate Cortesi, said 'tell them what you said about tragedy.' I looked at her. What?

"Tell them what you said about tragedy last semester."

I didn't really know what she was talking about so I asked for my clues. 

"You said that tragedy is good and it makes you grow."

I nodded. Okay, that sounds good. Go forth with that knowledge, students! But Kate persisted and I really couldn't remember the details. There was some vague memory of me talking about it, but...nothing. 

I thought about it some more and the next day I was doing a podcast with Kevin Kautzmann titled GET THIS. (you can listen to it hear: https://getthispodcast.com/cutting-diamonds-feat-aurin-squire/?fbclid=IwAR0KBFRIqfQ4Aks444RhAdtDo0WMeZiOQUl6dOB9nAF5C7cEu9ovlQvUK0g

The idea is from several Buddhist texts, but the one I know the best is lojong: good heart training. In some of the famous lojong text it talks about enemies being gifts, and tragedies being great opportunities. And it's not Polly Anna-ish positive thinking: it's essential. 

I've been taught a lot of cool techniques and psychological strategies from Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, Wayne Dyer, and a hodgepodge of other sources. Some times I feel like I'm bathing in goodness and information. But I don't really change my principles...unless I'm forced to by circumstances. 

Tragedy and misfortune are the best circumstances for changing a wrong worldview. A live without tragedy is the true misfortune because we coast. Humans love to coast. It's our nature to patch stuff together, get along well enough, and coast mindlessly. Some people led very pleasant lives and coast from womb to tomb without a thought about wisdom or compassion. These tend to be very dull people, unsharpened, misshapen lumps of humanity. 

So a tragedy happens: bad health, death, family loss, losing a partner, getting fired, etc because it's really a set list of things that we dread. And then a crack opens up in our view of things. We can't coast. In fact, we are jolted awake. The light is harsh, the noise is loud, we are awake and dealing with the full dimensions of being a human. We start remembering the lessons our parents taught us, what society instilled in us, how we would be rewarded according to certain exterior factors and we slowly start to realize...it's complete bullshit. And that is a wonderful and necessary epiphany. 99% of the ethics and values society teaches are just meant to keep us coasting. They're not meant for deep reflection of growth. These rules are meant for numb obedience and an unexamined life. But now we are very observant: something bad has happened and it viscerally hurts. The pain won't let us go back to sleep. The crack in the facade of everyday life appears. There's something moving behind the fissure: it's an entirely different hidden world. A deeper world where things are actually happening and not just exterior appearances of change. From this tragedy and crack, we get our first wake up: like Neo in the first 10 minutes of THE MATRIX. We realize 'this is not what I thought it was.' 

The dharma talks about tragedy, but really the average person needs several tragedies to happen one after the other. We need a continual series of cracks and fissures in the facade. Eventually it falls down if you chip away at it enough with wisdom and love. But the tragedies help. 

So they say spiritual growth happens like this...

-we hear something. It sounds cool and logic, but we're not going to change ourselves...and then...
-TRAGEDY! Something truly bad or unexpected catches us off-guard. We momentarily question everything in life. A crack forms in the mural of life.
-but eventually 'normal thinking' seals the crack back up and we go back to sleep. And then...
-tragedy, misfortune, calamity...happen in a short series of bursts. A weaker or more ignorant person would sink into despair, but you've had an inkling of wisdom. You've had a taste that there's something underneath the painted life. Now, these little tests of tragedy almost seem like you're being tested. Challenged and called to rise up. More cracks open up.
- more tragedies and now you know for sure that this is not a coincidence. This is an opportunity. This is a way out of this painful cycle. The cracks take off entire pieces of the mural. We begin to see something behind it...a reality that has been cemented over and painted on top of that writhes beneath every moment. 
- you go back to normal. You see the mural...but now you know that it's not real. You move and operate like you're in a movie that's being created on the spot. You react differently because this is just a simulation. 
-and finally enough cracks appear, that the mural falls apart completely. It shatters to the ground. True reality is finally here. 

This is the 5 step path...leaving the home, studying, direct perception of emptiness (part of the painting falls away), return to seeing the mural again but knowing it's not real, and finally the mural is no longer there: total enlightenment.

Artist follow the same path. At a certain point in our life, we are shaken up. The usual party and bullshit is unsatisfying. The usual 9-5, work, and weekend brunch is not enough. Something is missing. Once you know that truth you only have two choices: either you become a coward who ignores the calling and tries to suppress it, or you become a warrior on a mission. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

GET WHAT YOU WANT: October 2019


1. JONATHAN LARSON GRANT
Deadline: October 4th
Website: https://americantheatrewing.org/program/jonathan-larson-grants/

The Jonathan Larson Grants are intended to honor and recognize emerging musical theatre artists. Composers, lyricists, and librettists who work in musical theatre are the focus of the grants. ATW is committed to serving artists who are creating new, fully producible works for the theatre, and advancing the art form. The grants do not honor a specific piece or project. Individuals as well as collaborative teams are welcome to apply. United States citizenship is not a requirement to receive the grant, but you must be eligible to work in the U.S. and reside/work here on at least a part-time basis and submitted work should be predominately in English. There is no age restriction although the focus is on individuals in their early to mid-career who have not yet received a significant level of acclaim (and attendant income) in their field.

To submit, go to: https://americantheatrewing.org/program/jonathan-larson-grants/


2. MILLAY COLONY OF ARTISTS
Deadline: October 8th
Website: https://www.millaycolony.org/

This small artist’s colony occupies the former estate of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upstate New York, offering two-week and month-long residencies to six or seven artists between the months of April and November. Unlike many other residencies, they don’t emphasize social events or speakers, instead preferring for you to focus on producing your art. There are no costs, and food is included. You can also apply for a virtual residency or a group residency if you’re collaborating with partners. Application deadlines are March 1 and October 1 each year; there’s a $40 application fee or $60 for the late deadlines (March 8 and October 8).


3. NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP'S 2050 Fellowship
Deadline: October 10th
website: https://airtable.com/shrBOFcvwV3o2a10I

The 2050 Fellowship is a yearlong residency for emerging playwrights and directors. The 2050 Fellowship provides a space for experimentation, artistic and administrative support, and mentorship. The 2050 Fellows are emerging artists who, with their unique voices, give us perspective on the world in which we live; and who challenge us all to contend with this changing world.

NYTW will accept up to six playwright or director 2050 Artistic Fellows per season. These fellowships will entail a one year commitment from June to June.

NYTW’s 2050 Fellowships consists of five basic components:

Monthly fellowship meetings where fellows meet with each other and artists from the NYTW community to discuss craft, aesthetics, and artistic development
Access to rehearsal space and two opportunities to share works-in-progress with the NYTW Artistic staff and entire fellowship cohort
Mentorship from the NYTW Artistic staff and contemporary theatre artists
An invitation to participate in the artistic life of the theatre by attending staff meetings, developmental readings, dress rehearsals, and other NYTW functions
A three-day weekend retreat at the start and end of the fellowship
2050 Fellows are awarded a modest stipend and an artistic development fund to support fellowship projects, attend performances, research and travel.

The 2050 Fellowship is named in celebration of the U.S. Census Bureau’s projection that by the year 2050, there will be no single racial or ethnic majority in the United States.

This projection provokes thoughts at New York Theatre Workshop about the transformations that will take place in the American landscape – technologically, environmentally, demographically and artistically. They are a catalyst for broader questions about our moral and artistic future.

The 2050 Artistic Fellowship is an open application process. To apply to the 2050 Artistic Fellowship, please submit the following by October 10th at 5pm:

1.  A completed online form, that includes contact/personal information.

2.  In a Single PDF to be uploaded into the form with your name as the subject:

A) In a total of 750 words or less, please respond to the following questions:

i) What kind of work are you interested in making? Why?

ii) What about a fellowship at New York Theatre Workshop specifically appeals to you as an artist?

B) Resume

4. EUGENE O’NEILL CENTER: NATIONAL PLAYWRIGHTS CONFERENCE
Deadline: October 11th
Website: https://theoneill.submittable.com/submit

The National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s premiere program for new play development. Every summer, six to eight unproduced works are selected from a pool of 1,000+ submissions for a week-long, playwright-driven workshop on the O’Neill’s campus in beautiful Waterford, CT. Each play is matched with a team of industry-leading directors, dramaturgs, and actors for an intensive 30-hour rehearsal period, culminating in two public, script-in-hand staged readings. At every step in the process, the O’Neill strives to foster an inclusive, collaborative environment in which artistic exploration and experimentation is encouraged. The upcoming National Playwrights Conference will be held June 26 - July 29 2019. All genres and styles of drama are welcome to submit, including one-acts and solo pieces. NPC does not develop music theater works, though you may submit such work to the National Music Theater Conference. The play must not have had a professional production, or be scheduled to have a professional production, prior to July 31, 2020.

$35 Application Fee

This fee covers the costs associated with the administration of the NPC application process. Please note that applications will not be considered complete until this fee is settled.


5. BAY AREA PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
Deadline: October 15th
Website: http://www.playwrightsfoundation.org

The Bay Area Playwrights Festival is one of the oldest and most successful new play festivals in the US. Established in 1976 by Robert Woodruff, the festival has continuously discovered original and distinctive new voices in the theater, and invested in the development of their work. It has offered over 500 exceptional, gifted and diverse emerging national writers a showcase for their newest work within an intensive creative crucible. Many prize winning, nationally significant playwrights got their first professional experiences at the BAPF. The Festival’s ongoing success in discovering and supporting emerging writers is its enduring legacy.

DETAILS
***Submissions for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival are open to any playwrights living in North America and writing primarily in English who consider themselves either an emerging or mid-career playwright, including PF alumni.  While admittedly somewhat fungible, we define those terms as follows: ’emerging’ refers to  playwrights who are relatively early in their careers – student, recent playwriting program graduate (up to 3 years), or alternatively, who have had 0-3 professional (paid) productions of their work. We define ‘mid-career’ as playwrights who have received more than 3 professional productions, and who are generally working professional playwrights, but not yet fully established with multiple regional LORT productions.  Please email literary@playwrightsfoundation.org if you have any questions about whether you are eligible.

2020 Festival Dates: July 9 – 27th

Retreat: A pre-festival weekend retreat (July 9-11) prior to rehearsal brings together artistic teams and playwrights to share work, thoughts and feedback with other festival participants. It is mandatory for playwrights to be in residence for the entire retreat and festival period.

Financial arrangement: Minimum $600 Stipend, travel, housing.

Award notification: The playwrights selected for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival will be notified by or before April 15th, 2020.

Six plays will be chosen for the 43rd Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Playwrights will be paired with an artistic team comprised of a professional dramaturg, director, and actors, and other artists as needed. The lead artistic team members  will go on a 3-day retreat the weekend prior to the festival, and will subsequently receive two staged readings over


6. GREAT PLAINS THEATRE CONFERENCE
deadline: October 15th
website: http://www.gptcplays.com/submit-your-play-to-gptc/

The Great Plains Theatre Conference provides opportunities for participants to interact with and have their work seen by a host of national theatre professionals and scholars.

Theatre WorkShops, Luncheon Panels and daily PlayLab and MainStage Series readings comprise the foundation of the Conference.
Dramaturgy is provided by national dramaturg for each playwright, to providing support before, during and after the Conference
PlayFest is an evening theatre festival for the community and seeks to give voice to the stories that have the power to unite and inspire diverse audiences.

Design Wing brings five emerging designers from across the country to become immersed in the play development from a visual perspective.
Young Dramatists Fellowship Program provides local high school playwrights with access to some of the country’s top plays and playwrights.
GPTC invites and welcomes a number of distinguished and nationally known playwrights, directors and actors each year. These guest artists are in place to nurture and mentor new and emerging playwrights and Conference attendees through various workshops, MainStage and PlayLab feedback sessions and seminars. Each year, the Conference also hosts an honored playwright who is featured throughout the week and recognized for their body of work during PlayFest.

The submission period may close prior to October 15th if the submission limit of 1000 plays is reached.   Check back here for updates on the number of submissions received to-date.

Twenty plays will be selected for PlayLabs.

All playwrights who are selected will receive a $500 stipend, travel/airfare to Omaha, eight nights lodging, daily breakfast/lunch, and select evening meals. Playwrights whose scripts are chosen must agree to attend the entire conference (May 27 – June 2), work with local actors and directors, and lend full support to other playwrights throughout the Conference week.


7. A BLADE OF GRASS FELLOWSHIP
Deadline: October 16th
Website: http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fellowship-program/

We believe in the power of socially engaged artists to participate meaningfully in creating a more just, equitable, sustainable, joyful, and compassionate future. We know this means that artists must take time and care to develop relationships built on mutual trust, as well as work with diverse non-arts partners and communities. We understand there are no ready-made roadmaps or guaranteed outcomes for this type of work, and are committed to learning how artists navigate these processes and relationships.

Our fellowship program is meant to support courageous artists in creating exchanges, experiences, and structures that highlight seemingly intractable social problems, inspire audiences, and energize folks to participate in and sustain long-term social change work. This is hard and time-consuming organizational, intellectual, and emotional work.

We are committed to providing relatively unrestricted funding that incorporates a collaborative research component. Additionally, field research replaces grant reporting written by the artist, and is grounded in the goals and areas of inquiry defined by the artist and the perspective of project participants.

Selected Fellows will receive:
$20,000 in minimally restricted support
Comprehensive written field research reports that utilize action research methodology
Expenses paid 2-day orientation retreat in NYC to engage a cohort of peer artists and A Blade of Grass staff and board (a requirement for the fellowship)
Ongoing invitations to networking events for all A Blade of Grass Fellows and alumni twice annually (attendance voluntary)
Ongoing promotion of fellow’s projects through A Blade of Grass social media networks and website
In addition to direct artist support, another primary goal of ABOG is to make the “invisible” parts of socially engaged art visible. We do this through documentary films, publications, web content, and public programming. However, these content collaborations are not an obligation of the fellowship, and will be based on mutual interest under a separate contract.

Fellowship Projects may become the focus of A Blade of Grass content and programming including:
Curriculum and advocacy that advance the field of socially engaged art
Inclusion in our biannual magazine (available in print and free online)
Participation in documentary videos focused on curatorial themes of interest to the field
Other web content (podcasts, interviews, critical essays)
Participation in ongoing public programs


8. REVA SHINER COMEDY AWARD
Deadline: October 31st
Website: https://newplays.org/submit-a-play/reva-shiner-comedy/

Reva Shiner Comedy Award presents an unpublished full-length comedy with a cash prize of $1,000, a full production as part of the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s Mainstage season, along with travel reimbursement.
DETAILS
"Full-length" plays should have a complete running time of between 1 hour 15 minutes (75 minutes) to 2 hours 15 minutes (135 minutes).
Plays submitted must be unpublished at the time of submission.
Each submission should be sent to BPP via email. Send your email to literarymanager@newplays.org

Your email should include the following:
Tell us for which competition you are submitting: Reva Shiner Comedy or the script Woodward Newman Drama
Tell us your name, phone number, and the name of your Play
Tell us how you are satisfying the $10 administrative fee
Agent submitted scripts require no fee.
If via Dramatist Guild membership, attach a copy of your DG card to the email
If you have paid via Paypal on our website indicate your confirmation number and the email address used.

Paypal is preferred, but if you can’t pay on-line, you may send a check or Money Order, (must be from a US bank). Tell us the check or Money Order number. Make it payable to “BPP” and mail to BPP, 107 W 9th ST, Bloomington, IN 47404

Attach a PDF file containing your script with the following information included in the following order:
Title page with author name
Synopsis (1 page or less)
Character list/breakdown
Production history for the play—Include readings and productions
A brief bio of the playwright
Full Script
Submissions that fail to include all requested information in the order listed will be disqualified from the contest.
Plays submitted in previous years will be accepted.
Two separate submissions per playwright per annual competition are allowed as long as each submission has all the required materials.


9. RICHARD ROGERS AWARD
Deadline: November 1st
Website: https://artsandletters.org/awards/richard-rodgers-award/

The Richard Rodgers Awards were created and endowed by Richard Rodgers in 1978 for the development of the musical theater. These awards subsidize full productions, studio productions, and staged readings by nonprofit theaters in New York City of works by composers and writers who are not already established in this field. Applications from individuals as well as collaborators are accepted. The term "musical theater" is understood to include musicals, plays with songs, thematic revues, or any comparable work. The submission of innovative and experimental work is encouraged. The work submitted must be of significant length to fill an evening; it may consist of a group of smaller, related pieces but only completed works will be considered.

10. ACP
Deadline: November 14th
website: https://www.queenscouncilarts.org/acp-artists

The Artist Commissioning Program (ACP) awards Queens-based choreographers, playwrights, and composers $10,000 each towards the creation of a new, original work. This program democratizes the traditional commissioning process, which has historically been reserved for a privileged few. The ACP supports projects that add to the canon of American art by telling an untold story of underrepresented person(s) relevant to the neighborhoods in Queens. Two things make ACP unique: 1) its aim to fill gaps in American culture, and 2) its format of pairing artists with a cohort of "Art Commissioners."

1. FILLING GAPS IN AMERICAN CULTURE
ACP's priority is to support artists who present a fresh perspective by creating work that defies the cultural mainstream, privileges underrepresented identities, and/or speaks to the cultural diversity of Queens by telling an untold story of underrepresented person(s). Artists’ projects should highlight the stories of individual protagonists (e.g. heroine(s), hero(s), characters) in their proposed works to give underrepresented people a vision of themselves as leading characters. The new work should be replicable, capable of being interpreted and produced for dance, music, or theatre by other artist(s) or third parties throughout the borough, city, and country (e.g. if a high school or off-broadway theatre wanted to produce your work, they could do so - think Summer Stock or Swan Lake). By commissioning artists to materialize such works, the ACP aims to fill gaps in American culture by actively adding to the art historical canon. In doing so, the ACP aims to create a more democratic cultural sector that is more inclusive of the diverse narratives, cultural backgrounds, and values associated with our borough and nation.


11. PUBLIC THEATRE'S EMERGING WRITERS GROUP
Deadline: Nov 29th
website: https://publictheater.org/programs/emerging-writers-group/

The Emerging Writers Group is a component of The Public Writers Initiative, a long-term program that provides key support and resources for writers at every stage of their careers. It creates a fertile community and fosters a web of supportive artistic relationships across generations.


Writers are selected bi-annually and receive a two-year fellowship at The Public which includes a stipend. Staged readings of works by Emerging Writers Group members are presented in the Spotlight Series at The Public. The playwrights also participate in a bi-weekly writers group led by The Public’s New Work department and master classes led by established playwrights. Additionally, they have a chance to observe rehearsals for productions at The Public, receive career development advice from mid-career and established writers, and receive artistic and professional support from the literary department and Public artistic staff. Members of the group also receive complimentary tickets to Public Theater shows, invited dress rehearsals, and other special events, as well as a supplemental stipend for tickets to productions at other theaters.

Receive stipend of $7,500

Participate in a biweekly writers group led by The Public’s New Work Department

Receive at least one reading at The Public in the Emerging Writers Group Spotlight Series Reading Series

Participate in master classes led by established playwrights

Observe rehearsals for productions at The Public

Receive an additional stipend for theater tickets to productions at other theaters

Receive complimentary tickets to Public Theater shows, invited dress rehearsals and other special events

Receive artistic support and professional development guidance from the literary department and artistic staff

Requirements for Eligibility

Cannot have professional representation for playwriting including, but not limited to, agent, manager or lawyer.
Cannot be a full-time student at any point during the duration of the program.
Cannot be enrolled in any academic playwriting course during the duration of the program.
Must not have had productions in New York other than those using the showcase code or in an off-off Broadway theater with 99 or fewer seats. (If your New York show used a higher contract tier than the showcase code, you are not eligible to apply. If your New York show received a festival production in a theater with more than 99 seats and did not use an Equity contract, you are eligible to apply.)
Must live within 90 minutes to The Public Theater via car or rail.
Must be able to attend evening meetings at The Public Theater every other week in 2020 and 2021 as well as other events throughout the year, such as master classes, retreats, observerships and other special events at The Public.
Regular attendance is mandatory and therefore applicants should view the program as a two-year-long commitment.
Must be available for an in-person interview in early March 2020.


12. PREMIERE PLAY FESTIVAL
Deadline: December 1st
Website: http://www.premierestagesatkean.com/play-festival

Through the Premiere Play Festival, Premiere Stages has developed many plays that have gone on to have successful productions in New York and at regional theatres throughout the country. We strive to facilitate relationships between writers and theatre professionals who we think will respond to their work, in hopes that plays developed at Premiere will go on to subsequent productions. We offer Play Festival winners the option to retain the coveted “World Premiere” brand on their plays. Additionally, Premiere’s productions are consistently reviewed, scouted by major publishing houses, and honored by the American Theatre Critics Association.

Submissions due DEC 1 2019
 
Premiere Stages will accept submissions of unproduced plays written by playwrights affiliated with the greater metropolitan area from September 1, 2019 through December 1, 2019. All plays submitted to the festival are evaluated by a panel of professional theatre producers, directors, dramaturgs, playwrights, and publishers. Four finalists are subsequently selected for public Equity readings in March 2020.

Awards

Following the Spring readings, one play is selected for an Equity production in the Premiere Stages 2020 Mainstage Season and receives an award of $2500. The runner-up receives a 29-hour staged reading and $1000. The two other finalists will each be awarded $750.

Premiere Stages is committed to supporting a diverse group of writers; playwrights of all backgrounds, ages, and experience levels are encouraged to apply.

Submission Guidelines

All plays must be submitted as a PDF.
Plays must be full-length and have a cast size of no more than eight.
Plays must be unpublished and unproduced (readings and workshops are okay), with no productions and/or publication currently scheduled through September 2020.
Playwrights must have strong affiliations with the greater metropolitan area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware).
Musicals, adaptations (of existing plays or other sources), and solo shows are not eligible.
Submissions are limited to one script per playwright.
Please contact Premiere Stages to inquire about submitting a script that has been previously submitted.
Playwrights must be available for the development of their script (see the 2020 schedule table).
Submissions are accepted September 1, 2019 through 11:59 p.m. on December 1, 2019. Submissions sent early in the submission window are strongly encouraged.
All plays must be submitted as a PDF to:  premierestages.submittable.com/submit. Hard copies will not be accepted.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Shakespeare is Terrible (and Wrong)

Admit it: Shakespeare is bad. You don't enjoy it. Deep in your heart, you'd rather be watching reality tv than another fucking Shakespeare adaptation set in the Wild West or with pirates or in a sci-fi horror genre, or done on a blank stage with naked actors covered in whipped cream.

It's not Shakespeare's fault that we keep fucking up his work. He was a solid writer, who cranked out about 6-7 epic plays, another 5-6 shaky but ambitious works, and then another 5-6 flawed but interesting experiments. Designers love working on THE TEMPEST but few people actually want to see it. And once King Lear goes mad, we have to sit through another 90 minutes of prattle. Shakespeare is boring, poorly acted, and barely tolerated by theatregoers who try to appreciate what the Duke of Earlbury said to Lady Chasenbottom 500 yrs ago. In fact, if it were any other art form that had a 99% SUCK rating, it would be eradicated and cursed into oblivion. If it was anything except Shakespeare we would dump it. But we love Shakespeare b/c it makes us feel smart. Now you can get a lot of theatre people to acknowledge that but the conversation usually stops there. But few people ask what kind of smart we look for when we go to Shakespeare? The Bard gives us that smart "Anglo" feel.

Americans are Anglophiles who worship British-ness for intelligence. We put them in our Ancient Rome epics, spy movies, and sci-fi. British accents. We even put them in American movies, using our accents to recreate American history. In our culture, British-ness is peak whiteness. We keep the Shakespeare train going b/c it's how we cling to this idea of white supremacy and intelligence.  Case in point? How many Jean Racine plays are done around the country every year? How many Calderon adaptations do you watch every year? Pierre Corneille? Almost none of these classic writers receive any love and they are geniuses with treasure troves of plays. But we have no problem saying 'their shit is boring.' Why? Our culture doesn't worship French drama or Spanish literature. Yes, we can be known as the smart person who quotes Electra...but that sort of intelligence isn't connected to our culture. That's just book smart. There's no cultural prestige behind being book smart about Nigerian novelists or Chinese poets. The reward of book smart is limited to the individual.

But Shakespeare smart isn't book smart. It's cultural. And it's paying homage to the great myth of America. We want to see ourselves a part of destiny and a historical arc of greatness. Ancient Greeks are seen as a part of the British lineage of whiteness. Now, historically that makes ZERO sense, but mythically it fits. We think America is a direct descendant of the greatness of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the British Empire. It's why Washington DC looks like the "Spartacus" movie set with marble columns and classic statutes. Then we do Shakespeare in front of these Roman columns and feel like all is right in the world, we are carrying on the legacy of white supremacy as it passes through us. 

Black actors are considered seasoned and mature when they can recite Shakespeare. They are applauded as being acceptable enough to fit into the white supremacy fantasy of excellence. Granted, they may never be 'true' but they can be 'good enough.' And their 'good enough' status is the perfect way to keep artists of color in check: if they work really hard and strive, they can be the 'stunt cast' in a Shakespeare adaptation. The 'other-ism' of their presence re-enforces the underlying thought that the best a POC can strive for is to emulate peak whiteness, while never really achieving it. It's the perfect trap, a vice grip of contradictions to carry around forever. Artists of color are trained INTO this trap, trained into inferiority complex through a million little microaggressions: from eliminating their voice in curriculums to elevating white male voices as the universal training tool (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Miller, etc). They are told that the standard of their craft makes them an outsider who will always have to strive for a goal they can circle and touch on occasionally but never master thoroughly.

Imagine being a woman majoring at women's studies and being told that all the leaders in your field are Freud, Jung, and Maslov. Now imagine everyone believing this, teaching it to young girls, and getting them to indoctrinate it into their thinking: that in order to truly known your own gender, they must look at it through white male eyes. In most drama schools, artists are color are given this mindfuck: in order to truly master your craft and gain access to your unique voice...go study the antithesis of you. You read Shakespeare and every step of the way you're having to filter his voice through a million little sifters in your mind: culture, race, history, gender, language. Even the English language is radically different and requires this contortionism. You have to make poetry of prose, and fantasy of loosely assembled history. From this worship, we get everything from our government to "Game of Thrones." It's all filtered through this tiny little, cold island that few people in America actually know but that everyone mythologizes in this convoluted way.

I'm looking forward to the day when the American landscape is littered with Oregan Racine Company and Alabama Wole Soyinka Rep, and Chicago August Wilson Rep, and other great writers who don't fit the mold of peak whiteness.

It's not Shakespeare's fault that he became the bludgeoning tool of cultural supremacy. But it's our task to dismantle it by admitting this first essential truth: most Shakespeare productions are terrible. They feel forced, phony, and not in the voice/spirit of the most dynamic artists on stage. The only joy is based in Anglo supremacy model that serves few people.

It's time we take a break from pretending we are the descendants of British kings and Roman emperors and start realizing that we are a nation of immigrants. Brown, Black, yellow immigrants. Quaker immigrants, Irish and, yes, some Englishmen. But we are not the children of Shakespeare or Caesar. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Expectations Game

5:30 AM

I wake up and meditate, workout with trainer at the gym, watch dailies from the set, write a scene for new musical before work, go into the office for full day, write another musical scene during lunch, go to Orangetheory Fitness, come back home to revise tv scene being shot next week, and then flip back to musical writing. At 10pm I was asked, 'you're not tired?' I paused for a second and thought about it. No. No, I'm actually not...which is weird. I should be...or I guess the expectation is that I should be tired.

I remember a Wayne Dyer book talking about expectations. He said expectations set our mood and energy level. So if working 8 hours is considered a full day, then if I work 10 hrs my mind says 'whew, I've worked longer than usual, ergo I must be tired.' If I work 12 or 14 hours then I should be exhausted. But there have been weeks when I've done nothing and felt dead...and other weeks -like this one- where it's 16-18 hour day and it's fine.

On the 2008 Obama campaign, the schedule was literally 16-18 hours, 7 days a week. After getting over the initial shock, you just had to do it. No complaining. And people did. People of all ages and backgrounds just hunkered down and found that they had all this energy when they shifted expectations. A truck driver, a meter reader, a Harvard english major, a botanist from Brown University, a college baseball player who blew out his knee and lost his chance as a pro athlete. People just worked. Of course, if you're dealing with an illness or injury there are exceptions, but I'm amazed at the energy we have when we let go of how we think we're supposed to feel.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dubbing Life

Called into the editing room today for ADR. For those who don't know, ADR is automated dialogue replacement...aka dubbing. The scene involved drugs and the editor wanted to know what the dealer could be saying while showing their wares. "Ketamine, E, Molly, Adderall or Addy, Caps," I rattled off a bunch of names. They wrote down the info and asked if I could use my voice for the dubbing. I went to the audio editor and gave him a bunch of takes that could lay over the shot.

The origins of the scene come out of living in Albuquerque around 2007-2008. I was working on a docudrama theatre project and staying in a rundown house near UNM's campus with a motley crew of hippie drug users. I remember there was this very severe man who would come by every so often. He would briskly walk into our kitchen with a briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist. He would uncuff himself, pop the lid, and reveal every kind of drug you could think of...immaculately organized, categorized, and stored. While the hippies were trying to decide what to buy, his eyes would scan around the room like a hawk, looking at exits, checking to see if anyone was going to jump out from behind a door. I have never seen a person with more intense 'don't fuck with me' stare. I can't imagine the stress this man must have felt walking into people's homes with something that people would kill him for in the blink of an eye. The second the transaction was complete... SLAM! The briefcase would snap shut. He would recuff the bag to his wrist, eye everyone up and down, and walk out. No chit chat, no conversation.

I guess you never know when living with hippies and drug addicts will pay off. Today I got to dub my voice into a moment from my past.   

Monday, September 9, 2019

Jetblue Flights From the Past

Sat next to Australian fashionistas from Perth who were taking endless selfies, talking about fashion week, joking/not joking about coke parties, and how many followers they had on Instagram. In front of us were two dudes in cheetah- and zebra-print sports gear and logo hats who looked like professional beach volleyball players or surfers. They were trying to get the Aussie girls phone numbers while staging snapchat videos of them pretending to be asleep or doing obnoxious plane karaoke. The guys got their phone number, the ladies had their friends in first-class... excuse me, I mean 'mint class' (come on JetBlue. Dude, you've changed!) sneak them cups of wine and cocktails while sipping from their flasks, and I had an 'out-of-species' experience where I was observing beings who were clearly displaying human traits, but seemed to be manufactured from some satire. And just think that 10-15 yrs from now, half of these ppl will be wearing wrinkled dockers and dragging their kids onto Jetblue's 'peanut brittle' class where you're put into a medically induced coma and have wifi streaming into your dreams so a cross country flight feels like one short hallucination of 'Friends.' Anyway, after one Aussie passed out and the other turned down an offer to sit next to the cheetah-cap bro for what would undoubtedly be an awkward attempt at getting a handjo underneath a neon animal print thermal blanket, everyone fell asleep. I returned to my species, wrote some emails, and tried to watch "Stranger Things" as we were hurled through space. I woke up to the thump of rubber-meets-asphalt and clattering noise of people searching for their devices. The Aussies were back to taking selfies and the more gorgeous brunette teased her hair while complaining that she looked like 'shit on a stick.' (she did not but her friend was too busy talking about spending a day or two in Vegas after NYC to notice). The gorgeous one continued taking selfies. I noticed that her phone had spiderweb cracks covering her screen, like some sort of iPhone for Dorian Gray. My mind is making bad literary puns and imagining plane seat classification by candy. I might need a nap. But we are here in NYC.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

When Never Trump Republicans Join the Dems

NEVER TRUMP REPUBLICANS: Okay, Dems! We are here. Thank you so much for having us.
DEMS: Welcome to the party. This is potluck so did you-
NTR: -I brought a buffet of tips, advice, and policy on how this party should be run.
DEMS: You just walked in the door.
NTR: I know. And already I'm helping you. You're welcome.
DEMS: And your hair is on fire.
NTR: Oh, yeah. We had to run out of that burning house we tiki-torched. First off, don't become socialist (whatever that means b/c I actually have no idea). Don't try to address income inequality, don't talk about gender, race, misogyny or do anything to upset me. Btw, I get upset about a lot of stuff very easily.
DEMS: We know.
NTR: Next, don't motivate your base. They're radical and scary.
DEMS: Your base is radical. They are literally killing ppl. When there's a mass shooting or bombing, 9 out of 10 times it's by radical Republican terrorists and so-called Evangelicals.
NTR: Yeah, but #blacklivesmatter looks angry. And they don't smile so it's like the same thing. And they make me upset. I would advise that you just give ppl a watered down version of me, quote Reagan like Obama did, take the high road in all cases, and -eventually- I'll come around...maybe (ehh, maybe not depending upon my mood).
Dems: Then how do we motivate our base?
NTR: You don't need to now that I'm here. I'm gonna vote for you and I know at least 3 or 4 more 80-year-old Republicans who said they will strongly consider voting for a Dem if you just don't talk about socialism. James Comey is down and...others.
Dem: Do you know what socialism is in reality?
NTR: Anything that involves health care for all or better education or addressing income inequality IS socialism in my book.
Dem: That's not socialism at all.
NTR: Don't care, minor details. We have to get this guy out of the White House. He is crazy!!
DEMS: We know. But didn't you vote for all his policies?
NTR: Well...that's before I saw the light.
DEMS: Didn't you approve dozens of his retrograde degenerate judges and his entire cabinet of thieves?
NTR: That was so long ago...It's September. That happened, like, in the summer.
DEMS: Didn't you all vote for Kavanaugh even though he perjured himself?
NTR: He's not that bad. So do we have a deal?
DEMS: I don't know.
NTR: The ghost of John McCain wants you to do this.
DEMS: Well since you put it like that, deal!! Hahaha, I can't wait to tell our base that we got three old white ppl to come out and vote for us, along with James Comey, and the ghost of John McCain. The college crowd is going to be so jazzed.
NTR: Btw, I'm gonna to drink all your booze and I may set the house on fire. But for now...you're welcome, America. I'm here to help and be apart of the resistance. #anonymous #psychoticfriends #nevertrumpers