Thursday, July 9, 2020

Inoculation Theory in 2020 Election

The Art of Argument and Persuasion was one of the freakiest classes at Northwestern. Actual relevant info students could take out of the classroom that day and use in cafeteria to win an argument. We learned ELM, or elaboration likelihood model: how ppl make choices. We would do group tests with Inoculation theory, aka how to weaken an opponent’s strongest point by vaccinating public opinion...giving a sample of their infected argument to subconsciously build immunity in the listener. For instance, a teen goes to their parent with a story about Westboro Baptist Church and their horrendous homophobia. They get their parent to agree that Westboro ppl are monsters and then the teen waits a week and comes out of the closet. They have intensified their parents good impulses by vaccinating them against their potential homophobia by using the most toxic example and getting the parent to feel disgust. 

In 2008, Obama repeatedly touted McCain’s heroism (his strongest selling point) before linking it to McCain’s unwavering support of Bush. His opponent’s patriotism was connected to Bush and the Iraq War, inoculating independent voters against the GOP’s flag-waving veteran campaign. This year I think the biggest shift has been white independence acknowledging racism and supporting #blacklivesmatter. The reason is simple: Trump is the most toxic model of their latent beliefs. By having the prez act in the most blatant ways in supporting Nazis and the Confederate flag, he has unknowingly vaccinated many passive suburban racists against their own deeply held beliefs. Their unspoken bias can’t exist in silence like in the past. The best thing Dems can do in 2020 is to continue instigating Trump to turn white suburbanites against their own racism. 

The other thing we learned was the Oprah Book Club Effect: how ppl make low-stakes decisions based on peripheral processing: appearance, style, and tone over substance. Ppl didn’t read Oprah’s book selections because Americans developed a sudden love of novels. They bought books because they liked Oprah. And reading books made them feel closer to her. 

Biden is a peripheral processing candidate. His platform is that he's not vulgar. Conversely, in 2016 Trump’s vulgarity was seen as a plus because the media vaccinated Clinton’s professionalism by linking it to her being phony and lying...so vulgarity was the higher quality over competence. Any time Clinton did anything sane it was labeled as phony and lying...which fits perfectly with the public's general mistrust of women seeking power as being Lady Macbeth monsters. She was undone by her best quality.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Pitch Mode: TV General Meetings

Pitch Mode! 

A writer friend asked me for advice on what to expect in a tv general meeting. I figured this might be helpful so I'm sharing what my agents and mentors told me...

A general meeting (with an exec) is a soft pitch about yourself. You are in their system, they are tracking your progress, and it's 100% noncommittal. They are usually tracking many more writers than they could ever hire. A staffing meeting is usually with a showrunner who has read your work, liked it, and is trying to get a sense of you as a person. Either way, both are pitches about yourself.

A general meeting is a flowchart posing as a conversation. Your goal is NOT make it feel like a flowchart. You can do this by inserting quips, talking about their office, sprinkling in anecdotes. Usually I try to break up each section of an interview by asking them a question or making a small joke. Yes, jokes are risky but some times they pay off. The general meeting flowchart is like a professional band being given sheet music to a jazz standard. Your bandmate is the other executive and you're going to partner up on playing "Take Five" or "A Love Supreme." No one goes to a jam session to perform an exact rendition of the sheet music (which is also just a different form of a flow chart.) You don't play all the notes exactly as is...you play through and around them so that the song is recognizable. Ideally the standard song becomes your own and you start listening to your bandmate through the music. And that is the most poetic shit anyone has ever said about a tv general meeting. Anyway...

Most of the time the flowchart is quite simple: we go from you, to your personal themes, to the work and the personal themes of the exec and/or company, to where the two of you might meet (their projects or your's), and then what are you continuing on with in your life (after the meeting) that relates to who you are and the themes you discussed. That's the flow. The meetings may start off a bit different, someone might throw in a question you didn't expect, but usually they're all heading in the same direction. Along the way, there may be a detour with 'so what are you watching' or 'what work inspires you' but it's all headed in the same direction of your characters and themes in your writing. 90% of the time there is an egg-timer that will go off in their heads at about the 50 minute mark. Imagine that 'wrap it up' Oscars music starts playing. This isn't the time to open up a new thread or to dive into 'did I ever tell you about Aunt Titi and her floating warts?' No! You're almost home free. Don't blow it in the wrap it up section. Summarize, pull the threads together, leave them with a final joke or anecdote that ties things together or simply thank them and remind them of your common themes. Wrap that shit up. Get your parking validated (if it's in person) or ask them what they're doing the rest of the day. GTFOH.

I've had maybe 4 or 5 meetings that did NOT go in this direction and usually my agent told me ahead of time 'just talk about yourself, don't try to pitch' which is a signal that they have nothing for me, or that the exec is just tired of general meetings and wants to be treated like a human being. From that I had amazing conversations about life, sports, religion, politics, environmentalism at some networks and production companies. In one instance, I had a general where we talked about religion for 2 hours before Good Friday, the exec thanked me, asked if I needed my parking validated, and then on the way out said 'oh, and by the way we loved your script.' And that was the only thing mentioned about business. These were just deep somewhat real conversations which is like a tonic to an execs going from one flowchart general meeting to another.

Only two times did my agent tell me 'they want to know what you really REALLY think of their project. Like be totally honest. You don't have to sugarcoat it.' This is a sign that the exec fucking HATES the project with their entire soul, the soul of their immigrant ancestors, the soul of their Tesla, and the collective 'fuck you' energy of all the La Croix's that exists in LA (yes, even the nasty coconut flavored ones). This is a sign the exec wants douse said project with gasoline and make a burnt sacrificial offering to the Gods of Development. They want to dance in the dark moonlight surrounded by fine young cannibals -the band or actual cannibals- covered in the blood of all the execs who made them take on this project. If an exec hands you something and they want your 'really really honest opinion' and you've been prepped to be honest and give 'em that dirty, raw, nasty-ass truth...you can be a smidge honest. In both cases of me giving 'em that totally raw, dirty, not sugarcoated morsel of honesty, the exec stopped me in the middle of my statement to blurt out 'I fucking hate this project' with the intensity of a thousand suns...or some variation of that. Don't pile on to their hatred. Let them speak, give them a moment on the therapy couch, acknowledge it, maybe say something constructive on how it could be fixed or restructured, ask them where it went off track, crack a joke to let some sunlight into the dark lair of their hatred. In both cases the projects were cancelled after our meetings.

If you're meeting about a show that exist you should have in mind some favorite moments, fav characters, things that challenged/surprised you, things you would like to see, personal anecdote that might be useful for a story. The same is true if you've been handed a pilot script or treatment of what they're working on....you should have some favorite moments, what you loved, what you would like to see.

So practice, study the flowchart, learn to make it your own like a great jazz musician or improv comedian doing a standard bit.


PS:  Don't talk shit about other writers or execs. Even if you feel like you're being prompted or encouraged to do it. It's a trap. It. Is. A. Trap. The exec might not even realize they're setting a trap. You might have slipped into being their accidental therapist. Roll with it. Even if they start talking shit about someone, laugh and swerve conversation back to what you love about the exec and the conversation. Gossip is the most memorable form of communication. When an exec or showrunner looks back at their notes, you don't want the most memorable part about you to be talking shit about other people. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Midnight Musings: What's in a Name?

It's almost 1AM. I'm reading a Murakami short story about stealing people's names and how you can shift someone's soul by appropriating their title. I've always wondered about the alchemy of names b/c the idea of name-stealing is so culturally universal. A name is a spell. It's a series of sounds that's attached to a visual image that's attached to an emotion. And the combination of sound/image/emotion puts a spell over a room. In certain secret societies, when you are initiated you are given a secret name. it's a way of having a special spell over yourself. When I did a Native American sweat lodge in Albuquerque I was given a name. I was told to keep it, don't pass it around, it's written on your heart and can cast a spell. You don't want to give people that power. Later on, I took Buddhist vows and I was also given a secret name...a name only known to me and the giver. I will go to my grave with this name b/c it's my spell that has certain images and emotions attached to it that are woven into my mind when I say it in the mirror or think about it.

If you think names don't conjure and incant, try naming your next child 'Adolf' and see how that child is treated in life. See what kind of energy Little Adolf attracts and how it can determine his behavior and outlook. Or name a little boy 'Sue.' Or be called the n-word...or try to take back the n-word by having people denigrated by it, re-fashion it as a sound that exclusively connects some. 

I've been called the 'n' word by white and black people for different reasons. Depending upon the tone and intention of the user, it shifts the spell from endearing to outrageous to murderous to joking. Same name... different spell. The last time I was called the n' word by a white-identifying person was also in Albuquerque. I've shared this story before but I keep returning to it because I found it so fascinating. I revisit this again and again, learning more each time. 

It was 2007. I was walking back from University of New Mexico library and passing by a college bar. Two white guys came out and started following me. I saw them as I crossed the street. They had a gleam in their eye...alcohol? Mischief? Malice? I didn't want to find out. Before I turned away from them to continue on my path, I could see that they had their hands in their pockets. I also didn't want to find out about what was in their pockets. 

One guy asked if I had a lighter...perhaps to get me to stop or slow down. I said 'sorry, I don't' and continued walking. They continued to follow me. As long as they didn't have a gun, I thought I could handle whatever happened. But I was practicing my ABC's of street confrontation: avoid, barricade, confront (as a last resort). I was definitely on the 'A' part as I picked up my pace. The other guy spat the words at me... 'stupid n' word.' I guess I was supposed to stop, turn and face them, erupt into rage. But it felt like a trap...plus that wasn't my name. I was aware that they thought it was my name and that they could conjure me into a mood, but my mom had given me a name, Native American chief had given me a name, Buddhist had given me a name. And these guys did not know any of my names. They were trying to use the historic name to get me to react in a way they wanted me to do. I just said my real names under my breath and it seemed to open up more distance between us...like a spell of flight. 

They continued to walk with me down the street...eyes gleaming, waiting. I moved on to B: barricade or put something between me and them. I switched the aim of my walk home when I saw a bright day-glow laundromat. I headed toward that light and they seemed confused. I casually strolled through the parking lot and they stopped. There were now other people. They stood on the border between the lot and the street, and then they turned back. I casually passed through the laundromat, made sure I wasn't being followed, and continued home. The second I got to my residence, I put my bags down and went to the meditation cushion. I got quiet and searched inside...my names were still there. 

There's no neat summation to this story. That's why it's a musing. But thinking about the power of names. Maybe we should all have our own secret names we keep and only share with the person we marry or our most trusted allies. Maybe we would have more control than the historic names. Maybe if it was just one of those guys instead of two, I would have stopped. Maybe if they didn't have their hands in their pocket, I would have called them a name. Maybe my mind was already subtly shifted by the names I had been given by my mom, a chief, and a nun...and I had control of my heart. 

Get What You Want: July 2020


1. WOODWARD INTERNATIONAL PLAY COMPETITION
Deadline: July 1st
Website: https://cola.unh.edu/theatre-dance/opportunities/cultural-stages

The University of New Hampshire is now accepting submissions for the Woodward International Playwriting Prize. The Woodward Prize is part of Cultural Stages: The Woodward International Drama and Dance Initiative and is given once every four years. The aim of this program is to broaden and deepen the understanding of international cultures through a competition for plays addressing relevant themes. Plays submitted for this competition should have a primary focus on cultures from countries other than the US. The winning play will be given a fully produced production as part of the University of New Hampshire's 2021-22 Department of Theatre and Dance main stage season. The winning Playwright will receive a cash prize of $5,000, plus expenses to travel to the University of New Hampshire and stay for the one week of performances. Finalists will be posted on the University of New Hampshire Department of Theatre and Dance website in October 2020. The winning play will be announced by February 1, 2021. A first and second runner up will also be named at that time. Pending funding, readings of the first and second runner up will be presented with travel and expenses provided to the playwrights to attend the readings.


2. HAROLD CLURMAN PLAYWRIGHT-IN-RESIDENCE
Deadline: July 3rd
Website: http://stellaadler.com/cultural-center/playwrights-division/play-submission/

The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is seeking submissions from Black playwrights for the Harold Clurman Playwright-in-Residence program. This is a collaborative residency that is mutually beneficial to the mission of the studio and the playwright. Please note: this search focuses on professional or aspiring professional writers who work with the studio’s professional acting company (not students). We are seeking playwrights who:

– are in their early careers

– are unpublished

– have not yet had professional productions other than those using the Equity showcase code

– have a vested interest in working with the studio’s community of artists

– are interested in engaging in a discussion about how the studio can support and challenge their work

This is a merit-based residency search. We are particularly interested in diversity – diverse writers, voices, viewpoints, perspectives.

Completed applications must include a required online application form AND a full-length, polished but unpublished play (a full-length play is one that constitutes a full evening of theater; a 90-minute one act play is acceptable).

Please note that applicants who advance to the final round of consideration may be asked for a second work sample.

Applicants will be considered for the playwright-in-residence position as well as:

– participation in the First Breath New Play Reading Series

– potential collaboration in student actor-training workshops/productions


3. STELLA ADLER: ENSEMBLE PLAYS
Deadline: July 3rd
Website: http://stellaadler.com/cultural-center/playwrights-division/play-submission/

Seeking new, full-length ensemble plays with casts that have a majority of female characters or gender neutral characters. Plays must be new, unproduced works and require minimal set, props, costumes. One or more play may be selected for a student production. Please note: this is the only search that corresponds with the studio’s full-time actor-training programs.


4. CLUBBED THUMB BIENNIAL COMMISSION
Deadline: July 5th (new deadline)
Website: https://www.clubbedthumb.org/


We know that many peoples’ attentions are understandably focused on other goals right now, and so are delaying the submission deadline for our Biennial Commission until July 5th.

We are eager to award the commissions and get money in artists’ pockets as soon as possible, so we don’t want to delay any further than that, since the panel process can be time-consuming. If anyone finds that they would like to participate but cannot in this timeframe, please let us know and we will figure out what is possible.



Every other year Clubbed Thumb invites playwrights to propose plays inspired by a particular prompt. The application is open to all, and read blind. The winning proposal(s) receive (or split) a $15,000 award and two years of development support. (CLICK HERE to read commission prompts from past years.)

For this year’s commission consider The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio – but don’t write about the Plague. Consider The Decameron as a piece that came from the ashes of the Plague but is decidedly a piece of the Renaissance. Consider it as a celebration of voice and style, as a compendium of stories from a wide span of sources. Consider it as an opportunity to take a deep research dive, if that’s your thing.

Then do with that what you want, jump off it in form, content, what have you. Feel free to take inspiration from just a little piece.

Your play should have no fewer than three people, and up to ten, and most of them should be female.

Very few of these characters should be blood relatives.

You may only specify three props.

You may have no stage directions longer than twelve words. You may only have seven stage directions.

Time: (of all scenes) night — except for one which can be dawn or dusk.

One very fancy costume.

An insect.

These constraints apply to the whole play.

At some point in the process, look over the Clubbed Thumb submissions guidelines, as well as our production history. We don’t have a lot of restrictions, but we hold to them.

As we are telling you about this at the very beginning of spring, we’ll close the portal on the first day of summer.

Please submit the following through the application below:
(this is a BLIND submission, see notes below)

– Completed form below
– A one-page letter of intent telling us about your proposed project
– 10 exploratory pages from the proposed project (either contiguous or from different sections of the proposed play – your choice)
– A completed play you’ve written in the past (see note below)
– A resume

IMPORTANT NOTES

No names please, on the letter, the 10 page sample or the complete play. The panel reads all submissions BLIND — the only place your name should appear is on the info form and on your resume.

The letter of intent should briefly map out the proposed piece and, if need be, orient the reader to the excerpt’s relationship to the whole. You needn’t explain or repeat anything that your 10 page sample makes clear. Then give us an idea of where the piece is coming from and where you think you want to go with it.

We request a completed play in case our readers need a greater sense of your voice. Please recommend 10 pages to look at for reference, and note any context you wish to give.

One last thing: this is a commission for Clubbed Thumb. So look around our website at our submission guidelines and production history for reference, if they are not familiar to you.


5. RAZE THE SPACE THEATRE ENSEMBLE: MONOLOGUE FESTIVAL
Deadline: July 10th
Website: https://www.razethespace.com/

Los Angeles based RAZE THE SPACE THEATRE ENSEMBLE’s ten-minute international plays festival will go ahead in 2020. It will NOT be a play festival or reading on Zoom, but feature a series of monologues performed by different actors, filmed in physical theatre spaces, and broadcast at a later date.

RAZE is currently operating within an extremely limited budget, cannot offer remuneration or guarantee your work will be performed.

PANDEMIC is the 2020 festival theme. Put it at the heart of the monologue you submit. Comedy or Drama, we want monologues that excite, surprise, challenge, and move us. Monologue submissions that do not meet the following criteria will not be considered:
Submission deadline is 11.59 p.m. PST, Friday, July 10, 2020
All entrants must be over 18 years old.
Monologues must be no longer than 10 minutes, no shorter than 5 minutes.

ONE SUBMISSION per writer only.

The monologue must be original work in English, written specifically for the stage by the person making the submission.

· Monologues must not have been previously produced, performed, or published. We want new, original work only. However, if your monologue has previously received a staged reading, that's fine.
Monologue submissions must be in Word or PDF and sent as an email attachment to razethespacetheatre@gmail.com. Include the words ‘Pandemic monologue’ in the subject line of your email and a brief hello in the body of the email.
We will announce a shortlist of plays within two weeks of the submission deadline and invite shortlisted writers to an in-house online workshop featuring the work where we’ll read, discuss, and give feedback on the work. The writer is not obliged to attend the session and it will not affect our decision in the final selection of material, it’s simply part of our rehearsal process.


6. INGENIO 2020
Deadline: July 8th
Website: https://milagro.org/

NGENIO 2020 will take place September 20 – 26, 2020 and we will be accepting script submissions through July 8th. Plays will be selected, assigned directors and actors, rehearsed, and presented as virtual readings.

 Through INGENIO, we seek to create a space where Latino/a/x playwrights of all races can develop their plays in a safe, supportive environment with mentors and artists to whom they can relate. INGENIO serves as an intrinsic step in the creation of new full-length theatrical works. Rehearsals and workshops culminate in readings and feedback sessions with audiences of theatre professionals and members of the public.

Due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the pandemic, INGENIO 2020 will move to the digital realm, with rehearsals, workshops, and readings shifting online. INGENIO 2020 will offer the opportunity for collaboration beyond geographical limitations, as Milagro will be producing this year’s festival in association with Teatros Unidos, an emerging and growing collective of Latinx theatre organizations. In addition to Milagro, readings will be presented by Teatro Luna West and TuYo Theatre with more commitments forthcoming.

GENERAL GUIDELINES
-Open to all Latino/a/x-identified playwrights
-Original full-length plays, at least 70 minutes and no more than two hours in length
-Plays can be in English, Spanish, or bilingual
-Plays with over eight actors will require doubling; playwrights are asked to provide preferred casting breakdown
-Chamber musicals will be considered
-Published plays and those that have received, or are scheduled to receive, a full professional production are not eligible
-Playwrights are strongly encouraged to participate and attend.

TO SUBMIT
-Scripts must be in PDF format and should follow the Dramatist Guild’s of America Traditional or Modern play format. Other than the cover page, the script shall have no identifying information about the playwright.
-Include playwright’s biography (90 words), play synopsis (150 words), and play’s development history, if applicable.
-Submit via email to ingenio@milagro.org no later than 5pm (PST)/ 7pm (CST)/ 8pm (EST) July 8, 2020. Selected playwrights will be notified by September 7, 2020.
-For questions, email project manager, Maya Malan-Gonzalez maya@milagro.org


7.LANESBORO ARTIST RESIDENCY
Deadline: July 31st
Website: https://lanesboroarts.org/artist-residency-program/residency-program-guidelines/

The Lanesboro Artist Residency Program offers two or four week residencies to emerging artists driven to explore ways in which their work can be applied to the community and how Lanesboro’s rural community can inform their work.

The Lanesboro Artist Residency Program, located in Lanesboro, MN (pop. 754), is supported by the Jerome Foundation and aims to provide an immersive, meaningful experience for emerging artists from Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City. The program is unique in that it provides an entire rural community and its myriad assets as a catalytic vehicle for engagement and artistic experimentation, with staff working with each resident to create a fully-customized residency experience.

Lanesboro Arts’ goal is to be flexible and accommodating to artists, allowing them access to local resources needed for conceptualizing and realizing their place-based work. Lanesboro Arts recognizes “place-based work” as work that is specifically inspired by and designed for the place in which the work takes place; it can be a new project, or an interpretation of the artist’s current work tailored to engage the community of Lanesboro. The residency program was designed to align with and amplify Lanesboro Arts’ vision for communities–especially rural communities–to embrace artists as economic drivers, culture bearers, community builders, and problem solvers.

Artists must be legal residents of Minnesota or one of the five boroughs of New York City to be eligible to apply. To be considered, eligible artists must submit their application through the online webform on Lanesboro Arts website. Complete program details are below. Please contact Kara Maloney at 507-467-2446 or kara@lanesboroarts.org with any questions.


8. PHILLY ARTIST COLLECTIVE
Deadline: August 1st
Website: https://www.philartistscollective.org/new-venture-reading-series-festival.html

To celebrate PAC’s 10th anniversary season and to celebrate the vitality of classical themes in new work, PAC invites playwrights to submit for consideration for our first ever New Venture Reading Series Play Festival.

​The theme for the plays is Transformation.

Five plays of no more than 10 minutes each will be selected for a staged reading during our festival taking place February 14-15, 2021 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake.

​The Festival takes place February 14-15, 2021.

All submissions must be received by 5pm on August 1, 2020. No exceptions. Only the first 100 submissions will be accepted. Once the 100 cap has been reached, the submission window will close. Submissions that do not meet the guidelines below will not be accepted to make room for others. One submission per writer, please. Make sure everyone can have a chance.

The selected plays will be announced November 1, 2020.

HOW?
For inspiration, take a walk through our website. Read through our mission, our past production and reading history and even take a look at the adaptations and scripts we have worked on over the years. You can find a selection of our scripts and adaptations here.

Please be mindful that while the scripts are largely in the public domain, our adaptations are not so please don't use these works for any other purpose without permission.

Create a 10-minute play that responds, resonates or retorts the themes, characters and/or essence of the work you discover. Use Transformation as your guide. It may lead to a new verse form or a new language altogether or it may be a direct rebuttal of the themes you encounter. We are looking for creativity and honesty.


9. NYLON FUSION THEATRE COMPANY
Deadline: August 8th
Website: https://www.nylonfusion.org/submissions

The Worst of Times -- Due May 12th, 2020 -- due to covid--19 we are extending to August 8th, 2019

The Future - Due August 1st, 2020 extended to November 1, 2020.

RETROSPECT: The Worst of Times

We have some epic fails in our past. Explore one of them. Was this a failure to all or just some? Could it have been prevented?   Should it have been prevented?  Take any angle you want, even speculating what it would mean if things were different.

PROSPECT: The Future

Every era has a “future” style. A future outlook based on the present. What does “future” look like now? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? We look at The Jetsons or Back To The Future and say “where is my flying car?” What do we expect now that we know that flying cars aren’t (yet?) a thing? Speculate. Have fun!


To be considered This Round's On Us please submit/email the following: A cover letter, brief synopsis, resume and full script to nylonsubmissions@gmail.com Please be specific as to which project you are submitting to. Write on the SUBJECT LINE For example: This Round’s On Us: The Worst Of Times, Jane Jones.

NOTE: accepted plays are produced (including casting) by Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. Playwrights are encouraged to attend rehearsals.

The Political Play series (Full Length about 90 min)

Deadlines for “Political Play Series”
NOTE: We appreciate your interest. But due to the amount of submissions we have been receiving we will not be accepting FULL LENGTH and/or TV - STYLE scripts at this time. Until further notice. Thank you!

The TV-style project (Episodic sitcom sample script- 20-30 pages) for **The New Situation Company. We are interested in writers residing in New York, as the team will be meeting frequently during script development. If you do not live in the New York area but would like us to consider your work, feel free to send in your sample script, as we would like to feature guest writers in the project as well.


10. NATIVE VOICES: FESTIVAL AND RETREAT
Deadline: August 10th
Website: https://theautry.org/events/signature-programs/native-voices-annual-call-for-scripts

Native Voices is currently accepting submissions of full-length plays (60+ pages) by Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and First Nations playwrights addressing all themes and topics.

2021 Playwrights Retreat and 27th Festival of New Plays

The Retreat and Festival bring artists to Los Angeles to work on 3–5 plays through a rigorous directorial and dramaturgical commitment for 8–10 days in May/June. The retreat culminates in public staged readings of the plays at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. Selected playwrights receive artistic support as well as an honorarium; out-of-town artists receive roundtrip airfare plus lodging in Southern California.

Selection Process: Full-length plays (60+ pages) received by August 10, 2020 will be read and evaluated. A select number of playwrights will be invited to submit formal proposals detailing their developmental goals should their play be chosen for the short list. Scripts will then be sent to a committee of nationally recognized theatre artists for further evaluation. With their help, Native Voices selects up to five plays for the Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays. Playwrights will be notified in January 2021.

2021 OPEN Submission for Production Consideration

We accept scripts all year long. Do you have a full-length script that has been developed and produced that you’d like us to consider for a future Native Voices production in Los Angeles? Please follow the Checklist for All Submissions below and in the Native Voices Script Submission form check the box for 2021 General Submission for Production Consideration.
A Note About the Native Voices Distance Dramaturgy Process

Months prior to residencies at the Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays, selected playwrights participate in dramaturgical conversations with an assigned director and dramaturg. Workshops with these creative teams and a cast of professional actors commence once the playwright arrives on-site. It is important to note that these conversations and workshops are playwright driven, allowing the writer to shape their own developmental path. Selected playwrights should be prepared to dedicate adequate time to this process prior to arriving on-site.

Checklist for All Submissions
Please label script attachment as follows: PlayTitle_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: MyNewPlay_Doe, J.doc).
All submissions must conform to a standard play-script format (one-inch margins, #12 Times or Courier font, all pages numbered).
Include a title page with full contact information (mailing address, phone numbers, e-mail address) and a draft or revision date.
Include a character breakdown at the beginning of your script.
Provide a biography of 75–100 words. Please label attachment as follows: Bio_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: Bio_Doe, J.doc).
Provide a press ready photo of at least 300dpi. Please label attachment as follows: Photo_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: Photo_Doe, J.doc).
Provide development history for the play. Label attachment as follows: DevHistory_PlayTitle_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: DevHistory_MyNewPlay_Doe, J.doc).
To submit, fill out our online form and upload your submission materials here: Native Voices Script Submission Form

Please do not send treatments or outlines. Previously submitted plays should only be resubmitted if the play has undergone significant dramatic changes. Previously produced plays should be submitted under the 2021 General Submission for Production Consideration. Plays that are not selected are kept on file for consideration for future opportunities. Playwrights are encouraged to make multiple submissions (up to three per event), but selection will be limited to only one play per playwright, per event.


11. YALE DRAMA SERIES PLAYWRITING COMPETITION
Deadline: August 15th
Website: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/yale-drama-series-submissions

The Yale Drama Series is seeking submissions for its 2021 playwriting competition. The winning play will be selected by the series' current judge, Paula Vogel. The winner of this annual competition will be awarded the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, publication of their manuscript by Yale University Press, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater.

The prize and publication are contingent on the playwright's agreeing to the terms of the publishing agreement.

There is no entry fee. Please follow these guidelines in preparing your manuscript:
This contest is restricted to plays written in the English language. Worldwide submissions are accepted.

Submissions must be original, unpublished full-length plays, with a minimum of 65 pages. Plays with less than 65 pages will not be considered. Translations, musicals, and children's plays are not accepted.

The Yale Drama Series is intended to support emerging playwrights. Playwrights may win the competition only once.

Playwrights may submit only one manuscript per year. Only manuscripts authored by one playwright are eligible.

Plays that have been professionally produced or published are not eligible. Plays that have had a workshop, reading, or non-professional production or that have been published as an actor’s edition will be considered.

Plays may not be under option, commissioned, or scheduled for professional production or publication at the time of submission.

Plays must be typed/word-processed and page-numbered.
The Yale Drama Series reserves the right to reject any manuscript for any reason.
The Yale Drama Series reserves the right of the judge to not choose a winner for any given year of the competition and reserves the right to determine the ineligibility of a winner, in keeping with the spirit of the competition, and based upon the accomplishments of the author.
Electronic Submissions

The Yale Drama Series Competition strongly urges electronic submission. By electronically submitting your script, you will receive immediate confirmation of your successful submission and the ability to check the status of your entry.

Electronic submissions for the 2021 competition must be submitted no earlier than June 1, 2020 and no later than August 15, 2020. The submission window closes at midnight EST.

If you are submitting your play electronically, please omit your name and contact information from your manuscript. The manuscript must begin with a title page that shows the play's title, a 2-3 sentence keynote description of the play, a list of characters, and a list of acts and scenes. Please enter the title of your play, your name and contact information (including address, phone number, and email address), and a brief biography where indicated in the electronic submission form.

If you would like to submit an electronic copy of your manuscript please go to: https://yup.submittable.com/submit.


12. CROSSROADS DIVERSE VOICE PLAYWRITING INITIATIVE
Deadline: August 15th
Website: https://finearts.illinoisstate.edu/crossroads-project/

The 2021 Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative welcomes submissions for full-length, unproduced plays by playwrights of color in accordance with the mission statement of the Crossroads Project (see below). A diverse panel of judges comprising of faculty, staff, and students will select one playwright as the winner of the contest.

The winning playwright will receive:

An invitation to Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, IL for a one-week new play development workshop, culminating in a public staged reading. The playwright may also be invited to offer guest lectures and colloquia. The Crossroads Project will cover costs for travel, housing, and meals during the workshop.
An honorarium of $500 for the workshop.
To be eligible to win the contest, a playwright must be available for a one-week workshop in late March 2021 (exact dates TBD). Due to funding limitations, the Crossroads Project can only cover costs for travel within the United States.

The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2020, 11:59 p.m. (central daylight time). There is no entry fee. We only accept electronic submissions in PDF format. Because our staff and resources are limited, we can only consider the first 100 submissions.

Please include in your submission:

A sample from your play up to 15 pages. This does not have to be the first 15 pages of the play.
A playwright’s statement (max. 250 words) describing your inspiration for writing the play, as well as how you believe a workshop in a university setting will further your development process.
A synopsis of the play (max. 250 words).
A character list with short descriptions for each character (age, ethnicity, gender, occupation, family relationships, etc.)
Please follow these guidelines when submitting your play:

A playwright may only submit one play per contest. The writer of the play must submit their own work.
Plays that have been previously fully produced or published are ineligible for the contest. Plays that have previously had workshops or staged readings are eligible.
Submissions must be the original work of the playwright, which may include adaptations of fictional or factual material. Translations of other playwrights’ work are not accepted.
The submitting playwright must either be the owner and controller of the copyright or provide written proof that they have acquired the legal right to use copyrighted material in their work.
Submissions must be full-length plays.
Musicals are not accepted. However, plays with limited music requirements are accepted.
The primary language of the play must be English.
There are no other restrictions in subject matter or style.
The Crossroads Project reserves the right to accept or reject any submitted play for any reason.
To submit your play, use the play submission form . Please try the link first to check if the contest is still open.

We will contact semi-finalists by the end of October 2020 and ask them to submit the full play.

The winning playwright will be notified by mid-January 2021.


13. IVORYTON WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
Deadline: August 30th
Website: https://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/

The Ivoryton Playhouse is delighted to announce our Fifth Annual Ivoryton Women Playwrights Festival. We are seeking submissions of one-act plays by women playwrights.

The IWPF provides the 4 writers whose work is chosen paid travel to Ivoryton and housing while here, 3 days of intensive workshops with a director and actors for play development and participation in a staged reading festival in February/March 2021 (actual date to be determined). There is also a $500 stipend.

Ten minute plays are acceptable, and all plays must run no more than one hour.

We will be accepting completed manuscripts by email only until August 30th.

Interested playwrights should email a completed manuscript, (for musicals include a script and CD), with name and contact info.

The Ivoryton Women Playwrights Festival also seeks resumes from directors (CT residents only), and those interested in being readers, both men and women.

Play submissions, and resumes from directors and readers should be emailed to
Jacqui Hubbard, Artistic Director  jhubbard@ivorytonplayhouse.org


14. ALMOST ADULT PRODUCTIONS
Deadline: open-ended
Website: http://www.theatresantafe.org/auditions

Almost Adults Productions is looking for 10-15 minute LGBTQ+ themed plays for an ongoing reading series to be presented on Zoom starting this summer. Writers do not have to be LGBTQ+ identified, but their material should be thematically relevant to the queer community. There is no requirement for premiere status. Writers will be asked to participate in the production of their reading but Almost Adults can help out wherever needed. At least one rehearsal will be required prior to each reading.

There is no deadline for submissions as they will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Send plays as Word or PDF documents to Aaron Leventman at writingcoachsf@gmail.com. Questions may be sent to this address as well. Writers may send up to three plays and will be notified within one month of submission. 

We are also looking for actors and directors for this series. Please send an email if interested in participating.

Kindness, Compassion and Love...in a Crisis

a self-reminder in morning meditation...

-there are literally millions of people risking their lives, working over time, refocusing all their energy to fight coronavirus. Millions of doctors, nurses, orderlies, EMT workers are going into work underfunded, undersupplied, under-appreciated and knowing that they could die...and they do it every day. For total strangers.

-there are thousands of teams of doctors and researchers racing against the clock to find a vaccine. This is possibly one of the largest int'l projects in human history. They are spending time away from spouses and kids, shortening their lifespan, working to the point of exhaustion. And they are doing this for total strangers.

-the vast majority of ppl in the world know the importance of wearing masks. They understand that it plays a part in protecting other people. Even the majority of Americans know this and are trying and making efforts.

- millions of people around the world have been galvanized by #BLM and it all started with a handful of black women, black queers, black activists who created #BlackLivesMatter out of an idea. They were called terrorists, sent death threats, and probably have the FBI tracking their every step. They have probably lost work and made enemies over simply stating that black lives should matter. This didn't start with a politician. It started with black bodies. Community organizers, activists. And they did this for others. And it has spread around the world...from a conversation at a restaurant and small chats.

-America might not make it. But America is not the world. The vast majority of humanity is fighting and taking steps. The rest of the world appears to be smarter, more scientific, and -right now-  displaying more empathy and savvy. And that is just the way it is. But America is not the world and our sense American exceptionalism needs to die. Now. We need to stop thinking that there is some shield protecting us from viruses and global warming and war. And it usually takes a catastrophe to destroy a harmful myth.

-Even within America, the vast majority do not side with the know-nothings and conspiracist. Even in the most plagued nation, 70% are still fighting. It may not be enough, but the majority should be acknowledged.

the overwhelming power of the majority is easy to ignore. I focus so much of the so-called anti-vaxxers, the conspiracy theorists, the people driven my tribalism and ignorance. It's easy for me to focus on this fire and ignore the oceans of people fighting this.

-it is so easy for me to ignore the overwhelming power of the majority. I focus so much of the so-called anti-vaxxers, the conspiracy theorists, the people driven my tribalism and ignorance. It's easy for me to focus on this fire and ignore the oceans of people helping others.

-and to you who are wearing masks, taking precautions, listening to science, acting rationally...you are the majority. You are the overwhelming majority that cares about others. Thank you. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Covid Christians



The man-made Coronavirus disaster in this country is much bigger than simply saying "Trump is trying to kill us." That's not analysis or anything constructive. It's a defeatist concluding statement.

The preventable and predictable response to coronavirus is based in this dangerous Evangelical self-help notion that bad things only happen to bad people and -if you are good- you will get God's favor. It is why working class and middle-class whites continue to vote against their own interests...b/c uniting with their own would be to acknowledge that they have failed as Christians or perhaps Evangelical Christianity has failed them: tithing isn't going to lift them from poverty in a capitalist system. It's the reason why they say 'pray away the gay' and good Christians fathers and mothers drive many children to suicide: because gayness is wrong and it must mean one is not trying hard enough in prayer. It's why evangelicals don't believe in global warming: natural disasters are a sign of God's disfavor, not science. It's why so many Evangelicals are rejecting vaccines, chemotherapy, wearing a mask, logic. And yes, even racism. Granted a lot of them are racists, but they simply don't believe in addressing systemic problems with government answers. Many have their own underlying bigotry but there's also an automatic trained reaction when they see a black person dying...'well, what did they do wrong? This just proves you must have been a thug.' It's the question they ask when they fall behind in the rat race, see their retirement shrinking, watch opportunities go away. And rich white people LOVE this answer. It's this trained belief of 'bad things happen to bad people' that prevents Evangelicals from rising up and becoming the most powerful political force for change in this country...because all you need is sunny optimism and faith.

This chart is a result of that delusion. And Trump is actually a proponent of this system. He was trained by some of the most successful self-help Chrisitian delusionials. His solution is perfectly logical at the start of this crisis: it's a hoax, not real, I'm going to under-prepare and continue to cheerlead by faith. Science, socialism, medicine, environmentalism, big government are all atheist signs of evil. That's why we had white mothers and fathers raving at Palm Beach city meeting about refusing to wear a mask. The big gov requirement strikes at the very core of their delusion. 

Jesus isn't an air filter. Jesus isn't a 'get-rich' financial planner, a doctor, nor a government leader. Jesus had no interests in these things or flattening the curve. He was a spiritual leader. Our responsibility as humans is two folds: to spiritual enlightenment AND to the reality of being in a material world. Using science, government, logic and all the tools if discernment is our responsibility...and it's the very thing rich and powerful ppl don't want you to use. 

The curve stays unflattened. The wave continues to rise. People stay stuck, sick, disempowered, angry at themselves, and dying from a false belief. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I am Good. I am Great. I am a Problem Solver

Dad Memory: He went through a phase of listening to self-help tapes in the car. And these self-appointed gurus would drone on as I stared out the car window on the way to school. One day Dad pulled up to school and  announced that I should say this mantra...
I am good
I am great
I am a problem-solver.

Ummm...okay, dad. He locked the doors to the car so I couldn't get out. He was serious. I rolled my eyes and mumbled them. No...I had to say it like I meant it. Exasperated, I blurted it out in one long statement... IAMGOODIAMGREATIAMAPROBLEMSOLVER!

There! Are you happy? Dad unlocked the doors. I thought it was a one time thing but the next morning the routine repeated itself. And the next.

On some mornings, it was the only thing we said to each other before departing. We would ride in complete silence and then say together: "I am good. I am great. I am a problem solver."
 Exhale. Open door.

It was the magic password to get out of the car and go into the world. And then one day, I had to say it to myself...in the rearview mirror. You mean I have to look at myself saying these words?!? Ahhh! I didn't know why it was so unnerving to focus on myself and to say those three simple sentences. Some days I would only glance in the mirror out of the corner of my eyes...yeah yeah...I'm good, I'm great, problem-solver, got it.

When I thought I was going to fail my 6th grade math final because I couldn't remember a single thing taught over the year, I panicked. I was drenched in icy cold sweat. The teacher said I should go to the bathroom and wipe my armpits or figure something out.  When I got to bathroom mirror, I just kept saying those three sentences again and again. I breathed. Magically, all the information came back. I went from having a totally blank mind of terror, to suddenly remembering everything. I got an A.

In soap opera lab at Northwestern...I was directing my episode of "The Young & the Restless" (in honor of Mema) and the professor stopped everything to announce I had a major problem. They were not going to tell me what it was, but I had to figure it out and fix it before resuming my episode. They walked off the set. I stood there. Frozen. Then I whispered the mantra under my breath, huddled everyone in a circle and went down the shot list, where I had possibly called the wrong cue, found the point where I broke the 180 degree rule, re-blocked the very patient actors, confirmed a new shot list, and we were ready to roll again after a few minutes. My mood went from panic, to 'fuck it' I'll just be a comm studies major who doesn't have to deal with  production, to calm, to inspired.

This was over 30 years ago. I have no idea what self-help speaker this came from or what prompted my dad to start this routine. But on some days, this is my emergency key to get out of my fear, panic, imposter syndrome, anxiety, and catastrophe spiral. It's so simple. I guess that's why it works as a mantra.

I am good.
I am great.
I am a problem solver.

Does anyone else have any mantras given to you by your parents? Inspiring, funny, sarcastic?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Pen & Juice

With so much drama in the retrograde
mercury's getting kinda hard for me to fade
but I...
somehow/ someway,
keep comin' up w/ funky fine plays
like every single day!
May I...
kick a little something for the
A.D's
here's a light-hearted comedy for the
LORT-B's
2 in the morning, make LinkedIn friends
cause my director is gone!
I got some scripts on my google doc getting it on,
and rewriting ain't done till 3 in the morning
(3 in the morning?!?)
So whachhu gonna do?
I got a drawer full of race neutral scripts
and my writers of color do 2!
So turnt up on coffee
and old pages is on the floor.
But, for what?
"We don't love that scene no mo!"
So we gonna graph sub-plots to dis.
Mac up, Word down,
while your Final Draft bounce to dis.
-Pen and Juice (Writer's Delight)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth and Mom Memory

Juneteenth! Okay, I'm going to be earnest. I started recording my mom's memories this month. The goal is one memory every day for a year...doesn't have to be in order, doesn't have to be about any particular theme, just whatever comes to mind. It's more like a memory haiku. The contents may be used for a play, tv, a movie, or just to keep this rich oral history going in a document. No set goals. I asked her what was the memory today....

"I taught at Drew Middle School (in Miami) for a year. I’m teaching science and I’m 4’11 and these junior high kids...they grow. And there was a fight in my class...two big boys. And I’m not going to get into the middle of a fight. So here I am the little teacher and it’s disturbing the other classes. So I don't know where I got this in my mind... I picked up a desk and threw it on top of them. And that startled them. They stopped. I didn't even know I could pick up one of those big desks, but I did. And that was my first year and last year teaching. Later on that year, a student came in and shot up the school. Shot a teacher and shot a student. He had a disagreement. It was the first type of school shooting that had ever happened.That was 1968. I got out of the school system. Another teacher said ‘go now before more shootings start.’ That was the first year I met your Dad who was working for a pharmaceutical company. He said ‘there’s a job fair downtown’ so I went and met FPL and Eastern Airlines.  FPL wanted me as a programmer but I didn’t know anything about the computers so they said ‘if you know math and science’ you’ll be able to catch on. 1968. So I started working at FPL."

NOTE: my mom was the first black computer programmer at FPL. These were back in the days when computers took up an entire floor and had to be run with giant punch cards. She had no prior experience in working with computers. She worked at FPL for 40 years as a computer programmer creating systems that served millions of people and setting the standard for other black women in the company for several generations.
That is my 'get free' Juneteenth story. Thank you, Mom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Black Squares: the Neoliberal Infantilization of Blackness

There is an underground secret being held by a lot of black artists at this time.  A secret that we dare not speak in public. We would be hounded, castigated, thought of as coon and sellouts. I receive these calls late at night, I get texts, DMs, messages sent on Instagram. It's usually a black artist I know who has no one else they can share these thoughts with and no way for it to be air on social media without a backlash. The secret is intersectional, complex, and composing various thoughts that goes something like this...

-first off, they fucking hate the social media protest of black square profile. They hate the silence and obtuse symbolism of Instagram activism. It's virtue signaling co-opted by Amazon and Starbucks. It's Nancy Pelosi kente cloth cosplay. Yet, it was mostly unquestioned in media and corporations, which is scary. It is a sign of an unthinking, herd reaction from people not seeking change, but seeking a false equivalence of equality through superficial gestures of 'likeness.' It is the flexibility of amoral capitalism and thirsty individual clout chasers who adopt the fashions of the time, while maintaining its core problematic nature.

-while well-intentioned, a lot of the neoliberal work on race feels infantilizing toward black people. The idea that blackness has to plead and beg whiteness to live, to breathe, to be acknowledge. That idea many strong black outliers find to be deeply insulting to their independence.

- there are actually a lot of black thinkers and artists who are independent minded. They became like that through training and survival. They are deeply suspicious of both right- and left-wing media pushes and activists trying to galvanize them in any way. Some of them have carved out a very difficult existence by avoiding the waves of public opinion, avoided speaking on diversity panels at white institutions, hosting workshops. These independent black thinkers are very wary of becoming 'professionally black' and 'performative black' for white liberals. Yet, in a time of crisis this is what black artists and thinkers are often called on to become...a free, unpaid, full-time race counselor to white people and then a spoken-word rage artists.

- many independent black thinkers were educated at white institutions that gave them small or large portions of black art. This was the art handed down by white professors to the class and a little wink toward the young black artists as if to say 'don't worry, soul brother! I got you.' And usually the black thinker was left an uneasy feeling, as if he was being listened to without consulting. A lot of times these black pieces meant to signify blackness in America were written under times of crisis and upheaval. Some of the work is good and nuanced. Many of the art is not. Not because the black ancestors were bad artists. But because they were trying to address a crisis in a direct way. Their mortal souls were in danger, fire was in the street, sirens were ringing out in the neighborhood...and it's very hard to be nuanced and layered while surrounded by war. But the truth of their protest spoke to the moment and became famous. The truth of all good protest art speaks to the moment. The problem is that -outside of that moment and time- the art feels dated, thin, screechy, and preachy. This is true for most protests art, regardless of color. The problem is that black art in white institutions is almost solely defined by protest art from the 60s and 70s. The education received is that to be a black artist is to protest and here is the narrow avenue of expression to protest. But the same is not true for white artists. No one would ever say that Clifford Odets left-wing socialist plays represent white protest art. And furthermore, most of Odets plays are terrible. With the exception of "Waiting for Lefty" his work has fallen out of favor because it strikes a hollow strident tone in protesting class inequalities. It spoke to the moment but has not aged well. Meanwhile Arthur Miller and Paddy Chayefsky were one generation removed from Odets and were able to take his politics, sit with calmer heads and slightly more detachment, and produce classic pieces of art that are still studied today. "All My Sons" and "Network" rest on the back of Odets voice and politics, but it built on it so that the politics didn't overwhelm the craft and tastes of the individual.

- if you are raised on bad protests art and told that your blackness is in direct proportion to the extent you support and want to continue this genre...then you hesitate. Is your white professor gaslighting you? Are they intentionally sabotaging your future by getting you to commit to a form that feels dated, hollow, and thin? Do they not see your complexity? Or are they trying to say your complexity is too...complex to be black? It will not get validated and rewarded. Will one have 'perform a version of blackness' for white audiences to eat? And isn't that just another form of racism...neoliberal racism...infantilizing racism that forces us all to become the children of Richard Wright's "Native Son?"

- James Baldwin wrote a famous essay "Notes on a Native Son" in which he blasted Wright for making this very kind of protest art filled with cheap caricatures that made white liberals feel guilty. The gist was that it wasn't art...it was a pamphlet. Some people said Baldwin was just jealous. Other people made in personal...what right does a gay black artist have to tell Wright about blackness? And the swordsman pary from the other side: what bearing does Wright have to publish from the luxuries of Paris with his white wife a piece written to inflame people with such claptrap...with such cheap racial maneuvering...with a viewpoint that Wright doesn't even believe because how could he marry a white woman and hold these thoughts about her race? How could the author move to the artistic epicenter of whiteness and craft "Native Son." Well he was performing for white audiences and they loved it.

- 75 years later most high school students have to read either "Black Boy" or "Native Son." It is the requisite black art novel you get in high school. Almost no one outside of lit majors still read Baldwin's criticism. And yet, the criticism seems more valid that the original art. The criticism seems to offer more nuance, tone, and tastes then this portrait of a murdering/raping hulking black man whose literal name is Bigger. It's as if Wright was giving his character a name to remind himself of the man thrust of story...bigger crimes, bigger hopelessness, bigger archetypes, bigger and more operatic tragedy.

- As Ayana Mathis wrote in the NYTimes.... “Native Son” sold an astonishing 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication. Thus, a great many people received a swift and unsparing education in the conditions in which blacks lived in ghettos all over America. Of course, black people already knew about all of that, so it is safe to conclude that Wright’s intended audience was white. And, in any case, I don’t imagine many black people would have embraced such a grotesque portrait of themselves. Bigger Thomas is a rapist and a murderer motivated only by fear, hate and a slew of animal impulses. He is the black ape gone berserk that reigned supreme in the white racial imagination. Other black characters in the novel don’t fare much better — they are petty criminals or mammies or have been so ground under the heel of oppression as to be without agency or even intelligence. Wright’s is a bleak and ungenerous depiction of black life.

Wright knew this, of course — his characters were purposely exaggerated, in part to elicit a white audience’s sympathy and to shock it into racial awareness and political action. But where does that leave his black subjects? Let us consider some other works published in roughly the same era: Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Jean Toomer’s “Cane,” Ann Petry’s “The Street.” Like Bigger Thomas, the protagonists in these books are black, suffering under segregation and, for the most part, poor. Unlike Bigger Thomas, they are robust and nuanced characters — not caricatures endlessly acting out the pathologies of race. Much of the black literature of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, explicitly or implicitly, was concerned with race in America. How could it have been otherwise? For better or worse, many of the characters in the literature of that period were representational to some extent — black people in the real world were the correlative to black characters on the page. And this is significant, because when black writers affirmed their black subjects’ full humanity, the scope of their novels included the expectation that the real world would change radically so that it too could affirm and acknowledge that humanity. I am led to wonder, then, about a character like Bigger Thomas. What future, what vision is reflected in such a miserable and incompletely realized creature?

- What many black artists and thinkers are confiding with each other in private is that we fear the next wave...the pandering black art that will be created after this moment. We worry about the silencing of complex artists of color by both gatekeepers who are white, brown, and black. We worry that future generations will read the art and artists that represents this moment and find us cheap and hollow and pleading toward white gatekeepers.

- So what does it matter? We are talking about the survival of black voices and souls. What does it matter if the art isn't as complex, if the novels are pleading urgently. Our political movement IS pleading urgently and rightfully for life. How can art compare to such an urgent cry? If Black Lives Matter, then all of them do...the nuanced ones, the biracial ones, the ones who are right-wing, left-wing, the sarcastic ones, the cynical black voices that stand askance the political correctness and feel castrated, the black voices who don't want a white liberal pet or to be treated like a baby needing protecting. The full scope and dimensions of black voices matters, not just the ones performing blackness for white media.

- The final shame in this moment is that no one is uniting the two key elements to the entire game. It is race AND class. White socialist artists like Odets made the same mistake but they emphasized the brotherhood of all classes, while failing to address the deep-seated racism amongst many of his poor characters which would prevent them from uniting with black and brown workers. Conversely, BlackLivesMatter art makes the fight about race when deconstructing capitalism is key to fighting inequalities in race. Black Lives Matters but it will matter even more so with universal healthcare. It will matter even more so with universal income, abolishing prisons, abolishing bail. It will matter even more by defunding the police, but not as punishment. It will matter because in defunding the police you are sapping the primary punitive weapon used against black, brown, and lower class people and then taking those resources and putting them into the community. You are taking energy away from the fear police instill in disempowered groups, which is the fear of unjust punishment by the government for both small and large offenses. They know the system of punishment is unfair because they see millionaire pedophiles walk away from our courts with a slap on the wrist while black people end up in jail for year because they can't afford bail before their trial. Due to lack of economic opportunities, many innocent black people lose their jobs while just waiting for the chance to see a judge. Many poor white people will also rot in jail waiting for trial simply because they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and can't afford bail.

Coronavirus is killing a large swath of black people because the virus is playing on capitalist inequalities. Black people -on average- have poorer healthcare, less insurance, and less security. This not an accident. The labor pool of capitalism depends upon cheap and desperate class willing to put their bodies in harm's way. Disproportionately these bodies are people of color. But there are also many many older Americans and white people are dying because they have to go work at the meat processing plant or the Amazon shipping facility. Capitalism feeds on the vulnerable. And then racism makes sure that the white and black co-workers suffering in factories never fully talk to each other. So the system continues, the unions weaken, the fear is stoked. Race and capitalism go hand-in-hand, but liberalism seems to think it can address the problems as separate things.

The very concept of race was created by white settlers entering into the 'New World.' They needed a divisive tool to implement harsh, colonial capitalism with free labor. For added complexity, colonial added a third element to the mix: White Christianity. So faith in God, race, and capitalism is the lethal triangle.

Black thinkers and artists of alternative minds creep around the edges racial upheaval. They see the changes needed, support fighting racism but are also scared of losing their independence. They are worried about performing blackness for whiteness. They worry about blanket statements, racial caricatures, and mediocrities. And they don't want to pandered, infantilized, castrated, and turned into helpless victims. But more than that...they are scared of losing their freedom and individuality. They are scared of that most American concept of pursuing their own happiness and setting forth their own unique voice. It's difficult to do that when all people want is a performance of what they think all black people must be feeling. They don't want to speak on your diversity panel, listen to white liberals on instagram crying about their privilege, or placate corporate America with a black square on a social media profile. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Geography of Racism

While white ppl are gobbling up books about race and making them NYTimes best sellers, I would also like to add blk ppl are different not only class, but by geography b/c the land influenced the kind of racism we faced. Slavery is often thought of this monolith. But most of the states did not have slavery and the states that did have it employed different systems that ranged from the oppressive industrial cotton farms of Mississippi to semi-independent enslaved ppl on South Carolina islands who were left to their own devices, to shipyard enslaved ppl in Baltimore that were more blacksmiths and tradesmen living in cities. My mom grew up in the hills of Winsboro, South Carolina. Hill regions weren't conducive to big farm slavery systems so she grew up around a region that was historically...mostly poor white and black people who lived in a symbiotic relationship; not b/c white ppl were more enlightened or nicer in Winsboro...but b/c their form of racism wasn't steeped in the horrors of industrial farming and massive slave quarters. The land wasn't rich enough for that kind fo farming. Yes, there was racism but it was more layered b/c the farming system was a collective of medium and small-sized owners. Sharecroppers had more negotiating power as oppose to big wealthy landowners. A black person from Baltimore could have a family who were all skilled, educated workers for centuries b/c that was the kind of work done.

Some times I talk to a blk person from the deep South and they look at me like I'm 'off.' I grew up in Miami...which didn't really have a slavery system b/c the land was swamp until the 1950s. And then I grew up in a culture that wasn't binary -black and white- but that had 10 different race and ethnic groups flowing together. I am less likely to think of society in terms of black and white, and more likely to see it as black, Jamaican, Caribbean, Cuban, Venezuelan, white ppl from NYC, white ppl from Northern Florida, Mexicans, Jamaican Chinese, Peruvian Japanese, French. My blackness and my relationship to others isn't better than a someone from Alabama...it's just different and formed by the literal geography of my birthplace.

Personally I struggle with binary stories of just white and black. Not because they're unimportant. It's hard for me focus on them. The world I grew up in usually involved dozens of small ethnic groups shifting under white patriarchy... struggling, backstabbing, running ahead, falling back.

You wouldn't look at a white person who works on Wall Street and comes from Boston Brahmin family in the same way as a white person from Kentucky who came from slave owners. Well the same is true for black people...a brother from Watts is different from someone in Harlem is different from beach dude in Myrtle Beach. Each one is authentically black. We are more than the most extreme version of white oppression.

Decade of Theatre Blasphemers 2010-2020

Now that theatre is in a cryogenically frozen state for the next 6-12 months, I've been thinking a lot about the plays I've seen over the last 10 yrs that have just caused 'buzz.' I feel like there should be a social media award for plays that has just generated the most conversation, the most tweets, the most arguments. Usually these are works that posit uncomfortable, controversial, never seen before idea. The award can be called the 'buzzies' or the 'blasphemers' for plays that upset the apple cart and given out every decade to allow for reflection. This does not necessarily mean that these are THE BEST plays (although many of them are outstanding) it just means these are the plays that have kept theatre in the cultural conversation...which is really tough to do. I think my nominations for the decade are....

1. Slave Play - I have never gotten more text, dms, voicemails, and unprompted one-on-one conversations asking for my opinion about a piece.

2. An Octaroon - should've been Broadway bound just based on the theatricality and audacity. The walls literally came down.

3. A Strange Loop - one of the few plays many ppl in black theatre went back and saw 2 and 3 times. And probably going to Broadway.

4. Bootycandy - older white ppl walking out in droves. The work was too gay, too black, too loud. And most of my peers loved that it was something never seen before.

5. The Flick - not a 'loud play' but a play that almost refused to be one or fit in the container of what was appropriate for off-broadway.

Now it should be noted that 4 out of the 5 Buzzies or Blasphemers are by queer black playwrights. Hmmm...that's interesting. Wonder why? 4 of the 5 also dealt with sexuality and race in explicit ways. 3 out of the 5 started at Playwrights Horizon, one began at NYTW, and one started at Soho Rep. These are the plays that caused the most conversation and debate in the last 10 yrs among white, blk, and brown theatre ppl in my circle. The Flick and Bootycandy probably had the most 'I want to talk to your manager' emails from old and outraged subscribers. They also had the most walkouts which-in some way- added to their cache.

Runner Ups

- Hamilton - once again, this isn't about quality or even awards. This is about debate, conversation. I really liked Hamilton but it didn't make ppl run up to me and ask 'what did you think?' It did make ppl ask if I was fortunate enough to catch it (I was) and it what capacity.

- John - old ppl REALLY didn't like this play. I overheard one old subscriber loudly grousing at a diner table about how it was the worst thing he's ever seen...which made me go out and buy it immediately. And I loved it. I could understand why the old heads were frustrated by the complete unwillingness of Annie Baker to do the 'theatre tricks' ppl expect.

- The Skittles Play - just for sheer audacity, surreal humor, and absurdity, this deserves a place. It was a cultural event if you were able to make one of the 2 performances on Super Bowl Sunday.
I wonder what are other ppl's Blasphemers of the 2010-2020 decade? What are the ones that made ppl reach out to you and ask for your opinion? Once again, this does not mean you had to have liked the play or hated the play. This is just about works that triggered conversation, debate, and reflection.

Additions (by friends)
Fairview - the ending definitely upset the apple cart on race and how ppl are seen and not seen.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning - so many angry old subscribers. So many! Personally I loved this play and it reminded me how I almost never see a portrayal of republican Christians on stage that isn’t a parody ridiculing them.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Defund the Police/Refund the People

Defunding the police is not about getting rid of police. It is about using the over-funded resources of metropolitan police forces to create new services and opportunities within communities. It is about reducing crime by taking proactive steps to create jobs and connections among people rather than just instilling the pervasive fear of merciless justice for any offense or suspicion.

Defunding the police is about making space for more conflict negotiators, healthcare workers, therapists...all things cops with little training are expected to do on a daily basis. It is about demilitarizing black and brown neighborhoods where checkpoints, random strip searches, stop n' frisk, profiling, 'broken window' policies, a racially discriminate policing/arresting/prosecution/imprisonment system have terrorized people for generations and created a school-to-prison pipeline, a street-to-prison pipeline, a vagrancy-to-prison pipeline, and various avenues for low level non-violent offenders to find themselves in the worst possible situation with the harshest punishment.

There are black men and women in prison for failing to show up to court, not having their dog registered, having a mental health crisis in public...and they are in prison for years. Willie Simmons is an army vet in an Alabama prison for life...for robbing someone of $9. In Connecticut there is a black man in prison for 250 years...for a non-violent robbery. He was arrested when he was a teenager and the rest of his life will be spent in prison.

 Breonna Taylor was killed in her bed by a SWAT TEAM...and the cop didn't even have the right house or suspect. The suspect they were looking for was already in jail so it was a 100% mistake where SWAT invaded someone's house and killed them in their sleep. No one is arrested for literally killing an unarmed, innocent, sleeping black woman in her own bed. Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed in her house for leaving her own door open...by an amped up cop making a house call and shooting into a window. Two weeks ago, a black man in NJ was killed because his car broke down on the highway. A NJ state trooper put Maurice Gordon in the backseat of his cruiser while waiting for a tow truck, wouldn't let him out, detained him without reason, and then shot him.  He is dead because his car broke down in a militarized nation that looks for reasons to detain, arrest, jail, shot blk ppl for having a bad day for any reasons and -often- no reason. You could be walking down the street, jogging, sleeping in your bed, walking through your house, dealing with car issues and be totally innocent unarmed and minding your business...and end up dead b/c we have created this false narrative of 'the streets are a battleground' and 'we are at war'...against blk bodies.

I heard a lot of confusing information about what 'defunding the police' means. I am learning more, going to meetings, seeing what can be done. Let me know if there are any other principles beliefs about 'defunding the police.' I know I didn't cover everything. But it's one way to start...

And then...bail reform, undoing mandatory sentence from all those awful crime bills, getting rid of military equipment for cops...and more. And more... 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Social Justice Work Happens Off Facebook

This past week I haven't been on FB as much b/c I've gotten into a lot out of unprompted one-on-one conversations with black and brown artists like Stacey Rose, Michael R. Jackson, James Anthony Tyler, Michel Hausmann, and many others. The dialogues were personal, complex and a key reminder: I get so much more depth and reality from actual conversations than from surfing the scroll.

In 2014 I was engaged in fellowships at BAX and National Black Theatre and talking with other black artists. When Chiron Armand said he had been 'policed out of his body' by bible and flag...that became a key theme for me. I returned to it in my work and also a meditation. What does it mean to be 'policed out of our bodies' by flag and bible? But that revelation only happened because I had an actual dialogue with Chiron. And I was having a dialogue because I actually knew him for years. I was not just popping into his life to get ideas for my work and then vanishing.

The unsexy, un-Twitter work is important and it happens in private, off-the-record, among friends. Post, tweet, blog, yes...but also reach out to your circle. And if you're a white artists who doesn't talk to black artists...reach out to YOUR circle...whatever that looks like.  Just don't pop into the DM's of a black artist to 'surf black' and then leave. If you're not down for the cause, admit it to yourself, and do better with YOURSELF first. Make honest inroads and establish connections with black people outside of trauma and horror. If you want to just surf...go to Youtube. It's great and there are tons of great speakers you can listen to for free, surfbort until it's time for brunch, and then go back to your avocado toast. Your distant black 'acquaintance in the arts' is not your free TED TALK speaker. 

But blk artists...keep talking. This is more than a 'check in' call. This is a continuous, necessary, fluid, complex community. The real work starts with honest dialogue, peer review, and personal reflection...off social media.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Social Justice Warm-Ups

Warm-ups are necessary before a marathon. But stretching is not the actual race. Playing the scales is a warm-up for a concert pianist, but it is not the actual performance. Self-care calls are a good warm-up for social activism. But it's not the actual fight for social justice.

Now we need to do warm-ups. You can't roll out of bed, jump into house slippers, and run the NY Marathon, just like you can't roll out of bed, plop down on a cushion and expect to have a good meditation. But once we complete our warm-ups, we have to actually DO the thing.
I think the problem is that we are taught things in a half-ass way. It's our country, our education system. We learn things in broken, backward, and incomplete ways from kindergarten through college.  We rush through to the end. Most of us aren't taught any warm-ups or preliminaries and so we either hurt ourselves or nothing happens and we think 'this doesn't work.' Then we go out and discourage others. The other half of us are only taught the preliminary practice. So we stretch by the side of the road and think we're in the race.

I went to grad school for playwriting and our teachers made us write for the entire first semester...moments. We objected. We wanted to write glorious plays, epics, trilogies. But our teacher made us learn how to explore our voices and then write a dramatic beat. And then write a monologue, and then write a scene, and then a series of scenes, and then we had to put those scenes up as short plays. And guess what? The plays sucked...they were lumpy lopsided first pancakes burnt at the bottom and undercooked. And so we had to go back and do it again. And again. And then we wrote 30 minute plays. We didn't get to even attempt to write a full-length play until our second year. We learned fundamentals. At any point, if we didn't complete the assignment, we had to go back and do it again.

Social justice warriors...you did the warm-ups. You made some calls, maybe you posted a black square on your social media yesterday. You showed consternation and empathy for others. Maybe you even made a sign and walked with others. That's good. But that is just a warm-up. The marathon is ahead of us and it takes place in the form of elections, letter writing, organized gatherings, planning. The civil rights movement of the 60s wasn't a series of marches or concerned phone calls to black people to see how they were feeling after a bus boycott. The marches were the tip of an iceberg. It was an actual collection of millions.

Some of y'all did some really good warm-ups during the Ferguson uprising in 2014. You put on your social justice exercise clothes, did some mental stretches of empathy, watched past experts share their experience..and then you went and had a cheeseburger. Today, we have another chance to run the race. So stretch, show empathy, post black squares of whatever you need to feel good about yourself. And then get a trainer or a teacher (this doesn't mean your black friend.) Commit to a workout regime so that you can run the race. Make it small and realistic. It's better to do something small consistently than to do grand gestures every 4 years.
And yes...keep stretching. But remember...stretching isn't the goal of a marathon. It's a warm-up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Get Back To Work

I just saw a commercial that began with the 'now more than ever' and 'during these difficult times' schtick. I thought it was going to be an ad for car insurance or beer or Viagra...but that was not the case. As the music swelled and a montage of hardy-looking folks unfolded the selling point was how... we all needed to get back to work! Plot twist!!

Yes, it was a commercial for work, or rather it was a paid ad to remind you lazy, good-for-nothing freeloaders who have been hiding out from a global pandemic that killed 100,000 citizens and is still going on in the middle of civil unrest...that the best medicine is to get back out there.

I want to know how the marketing meeting for this ad went down...a bunch of suits sitting in a conference room and then their boss storms in and says 'Americans need to be reminded of their most basic dignity...life, liberty, free speech? No, they gotta go flip those burgers, bitch! It's been almost a month and 40 million lazy Americans decided to become unemployed. So we gotta motivate them with some powerful images and voiceover speech.

Look, Americans love to work...or they have bought into the idea that they should love work because it makes them a virtuous Christian soul. Americans eat their lunch at their desk, Americans stay late b/c they don't want to be thought of as lazy, they come to work sick and spread diseases because they can't afford to take a break, pop out babies and have the shortest maternity leave before they run back to the assembly line, buy their own supplies for their classrooms so that they don't let students down. The avg American really believe they can work themselves to wealth. Despite all the evidence, the avg American thinks 'if I just work hard enough, I will overcome.' We work harder, not smarter. Americans forsake their family, health and happiness to work. I know people who have worked themselves to death.

The only thing American workers don't get...are the benefits of their labor. Last in pension, last in healthcare, last in unemployment, last in childcare support. How does a ruling class overwork, underpay, and continue to get the lower class to keep driving, keep pushing, keep working despite the need for reform?
It's simple: they used race. They told the white working class person to fear the black guy taking their jobs. They told the black guy that they're lazy and need to work twice as hard. And then they told both of them that the Mexicans are coming to takeover everything. They rotted out the Northern and Rust Belt unions by getting low-information, high school educated white factory workers to fight against expanding unions. Shareholders increase their wealth exponentially by sitting at home on their butt, but they push the main point...the whip has to be cracked, the illusion of the lazy worker has to be maintained to get them to work themselves to death. 

The Unreal Irrelevancy of American Theatre

I've never looked to American theatre for relevance, political significance, or reality. I write plays b/c I enjoy the craft and exploring my voice. I write about black love, black hate, blacklivesmatter, police brutality, black respectability, insurrection, rebellion, black apocalypse, and other things. For the most part, the plays go directly into my desk drawer after getting a round of polite passes.  The only play I've had done of any significance is OBAMA-OLOGY and that's b/c it went from a Juilliard workshop and then directly to London where it received a great production at Finborough Theatre. The British stamp of approval gave it some mileage back home, but it's a play about black life, police brutality, the election, transformation...i.e. I knew that I was writing it for my soul b/c American theatre doesn't care about that. American theatre is interested in black storytelling that is about SLAVERY and maybe a sprinkling of civil rights era stories. Period. That's what gets done. That's what hits the sweet spot for white liberals: slavery and maybe MLK. Maybe a tortured black woman. Maybe. Even better if you can incorporate some combination of the 3.

The reason why A STRANGE LOOP was such a revelation to see is b/c it was DONE. It work written from the black queer heart that a major institution actually produced (and a true thank you to Playwrights Horizons.) It was the unicorn that leaped through a million pitfalls, passes, white liberal allies, and climbed the Mount Olympus of development. And it satiated black and white audiences without compromise.

I've been writing plays for two decades and 99% of my stuff sits in the desk drawer. I've been writing tv for 5 yrs and had episodes about BLM, voting rights, LGBTQ struggles for POC, and black love. Millions of people watched those stories and I got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars...and healthcare and job stability and promotion and a sense of relevance in the culture.
I deeply appreciate New Dramatists and the O'Neill. I love Seattle Public Theatre and Miami New Drama b/c they are institutions that have women and POC in charge. But other than that...it's crickets. I loved developing my BLM play "Running on Fire" at Juilliard and O'Neil Center before being told that it wasn't relevant to American theatre in 2016. Okay.  I went back to work on THIS IS US and then THE GOOD FIGHT. The joy of the work was internal and not dependent upon the American theatre. I love the theatre community but it holds little value to me. It's a place to sharpen my knife.

Shooting the Arrow

I've had the police called on me for the felony of sitting in public, walking, exercising, being in a museum, trying to find my car in a parking lot. 99% of the time the cops come up to me with a look on their face like 'yeah...I gotta check out this bullshit.' I stay in a state of equanimity. I also know that my lighter skin tone makes people think I'm Latino some times, I don't have an 'aggressive' hairstyle of militancy (sarcastic here). I code-switch with ease, and I have the markings of 'de-escalation.' Most of the times the cops are visibly uncomfortable by the end of the exchange...perhaps the creeping suspicion that they are apart of something troubling. I say some encouraging words to them...not for my sake...but on behalf of the next black person they are confronting. I say something seemingly innocuous that may hit them later in the day when they have to approach a black woman or man who is sitting on a park bench and rightfully annoyed. I leave them with a time capsule thought for later and the next black person.

It's called 'pempa' in Tibetan...you shoot the arrow of consciousness forward to a different time and place. Technically, you're supposed to do it in death when you want to shoot your consciousness forward, but you can try it throughout the day in little actions. You wake up and shoot a thought forward to 4pm when you have a meeting or have to be somewhere uncomfortable. Blk ppl have been doing pempa in America for hundreds of years. We hollow ourselves out in a moment of threat and shoot our consciousness forward...we think of how we want to survive an interaction to see our kids, or imagine going home with a funny story of some uptight white woman calling the cops on us for sitting, we imagine walking in the door and saying 'baby, you won't believe what happened to me today...'  The forward-thinking actions do have power b/c -in that future- the police can't get to you. In that pempa the white lady or man who called the cops is just a petty racist in the rearview mirror. And by shooting forward, we can numb ourselves to the present moment. You've seen that look in black ppl's eyes confronting an exasperating situation and suddenly their eyes go dead and their tone gets flat...they are not there any more. They  have gone into the past or future...where the present indignity/threat/conflict can not harm them.

In trauma, we mostly go to the past...we shoot our arrow to a previous incident, or catastroph-ize by recalling other bad endings in societal consciousness. The mind readily draws on past stories to inform or enflame a current situation. But in 'pempa' you move forward. You keep moving through the flames. You fling the mind and the thoughts toward joy. And if you are in a present joy but anticipating.a future hardship, you use that peaceful platform to shoot a conscience arrow toward that future ordeal.

As a black person I'm shooting arrows of consciousness all the time. I'm careful not to go back. Only forward. And I try to shoot the arrow not only for me, but the next generation, for the cops, for even the perpetrator. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Corporate Email Template


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Inoculation Theory in 2020 Election

The Art of Argument and Persuasion was one of the freakiest classes at Northwestern. Actual relevant info students could take out of the cla...