In For a Penny: The Right to be Wrong

Charles Lewis III, weighing the balance.

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“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act V, sc. 1, 30-31

You’ll have to excuse me, dear reader, but a series of first-world problems have me tempted to tear my hair out:

* My crappy smartphone of about two years now has a regular battery life of about 15 minutes because I haven’t bothered to go on Amazon for replacement battery.

* My inability to acquire gainful employment has left me lacking in both money and healthcare, so after the coming national deadline on Feb. 15, I’ll have to use a noticeable chunk of the former to cover my lack of the latter.

* Apparently I’ve done something – I have no idea what – to piss off enough friends that a noticeable number of them have dropped me on social media.

* My favorite person in the entire world is someone I haven’t seen in person in over two weeks (and I’m not 100% sure when I’ll see her again).

* I was offered a chance to direct something cool, but I haven’t officially committed yet. In fact, I look at my schedule and wonder if I’ll have time to do it at all.

* I tend to spend hours at a time standing in place, but having nothing to eat and then wondering why I’m so goddamn cranky.

* I had my first two auditions of 2015 and I’m thoroughly convinced that I was shit both times.

* I planned to be much farther ahead in my writing and have barely done a fraction of the pages I’d assigned myself. I’m still pretty much ahead with the stuff I write for my part-time job, but not as far ahead as I usually am.

* I had a really cool idea for this week’s column, but felt like such a goddamn loser that I decided to put it off for a later time. Whether it will still be as timely two weeks from now remains to be seen.

* I’ve been trying for two weeks to have dinner with good friends, but it keeps getting pushed back and I’m worried that I may have caused some undo tension between them and another friend.

* I have officially entered my mid-30s with more gray hair appearing every day, but I have nothing to show for living so long, in regards to the bar I set for myself when I was nine-years-old.

Like I said: first-world shit. I don’t know anyone who’s been kidnapped by Boko Haram, nor to my knowledge do have any close relatives or friends who have gotten sick out of contact with idiot anti-vaxxers. No, my concern is that I’m currently slapping myself on the forehead because I’m sure that each and every thing I’m doing is wrong.

That’s the kind of person I am: I blame myself for everything wrong in the world because it’s the only person I can blame without any backlash. It’s my fault the West Coast is suffering a drought whilst the East Coast is buried in snow and wind. You didn’t know that, did you? Don’t ask me how it happened, because if I knew how I’d go full-blown Ororo Munroe on a few choice people. I take in all the blame for everything then unleash it through my art. Since I haven’t had a regular artistic outlet of late – combined with a slight envy of watching everyone else fulfill theirs – I’m just carrying it around like a camel’s hump; enough stress to sustain me for days and weeks on end.

As Marissa noted last week, the theme of this month’s ‘Pub writings is passion and desire. As I’ve idiotically stressed myself out the past few days, it becomes apparent to me that it must be some kind of reaction to the fact that I currently can’t engage in the things for which I have the most passion. The logical part of my brain tells me that this too shall pass, but my Id misses the stage like the deserts miss the rain. Yes, I just wrote that. I wrote it and you read it. We both have to live with that.

So as I wait for that metaphorical rain (and the literal ones California so desperately needs), I comfort myself with the fact that there are enough things in my life going right that, were I not so myopically focused on the bad stuff, I’d be over the moon: a film I was in is got great feedback at Sundance and a distribution deal with a major studio; this past Tuesday I recorded pick-ups for a voiceover job that I’m hoping will lead to many more; although I’m not acting, I’m taking an active behind-the-scenes role for several different theatre companies; I did get that directing offer unsolicited; I do have my favorite person in the world; I have my health; I have my every-graying hair; I have my life; I have a series of opportunities that lie ahead of me. I have. That’s what I always remember: I have. It’s like that scene from The Sopranos where Tony is venting about the world to his one-legged Russian mistress. He complains about his families, both literal and crime-related, and worries he might be depressed. Said mistress – who, again, has only one leg and escaped a particularly dangerous part of Russia – rolls her eyes, lights a cigarette and tells him to stop whining.

I have no such Siberian in my life to tell me to “buck up”. I will say is that a cheery and unexpected e-mail from Ashley Cowan does wonders to lift one’s spirits.

Higher Education: Win Some Lose Some

This has been an incredible week over in the halls of Purnell. Very affirming, in many ways, but also it feels as if a door (or doors) are opening. Maybe it’s because the snow is melting a bit more (though the corner business has up twinkly x-mas lights again) or maybe a piece of learning is turning into understanding…

Cue the orchestra for me to now express myself in song.

Does Bette Midler ever need a caption? No.

Does Bette Midler ever need a caption? No.


It can be tiring to try to progress as an artist. Some days it feels like nothing is working. I could totally relate to Claire Rice’s efforts to break through her writer’s block. These whole last couple of weeks has been like pulling teeth with regards to writing. I’m working on three huge projects: a full-length screenplay about hackers, my thesis play exploring violence at a kung fu studio, and a new play that’s a family drama intercepted by a has-been motivational speaker.

All three things have very real deadlines. Time is running out. I can no longer dilly-dally. Every time I sit down to write, I think, “these pages have to matter”.

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But you know what? Sometimes the only reason they matter is because you directing your energy into the projects you’re working on.

And it’s hard. I know it’s hard. It’s hard to come up with ideas. It’s hard to execute the ideas well. It’s hard to bring people together to hear your shitty ideas. It’s hard to be told your ideas are shitty. It’s hard to go back to your ideas and incorporate “feedback”. It’s hard to rally the troops once more (for between one and forever years), hear more feedback. Rinse, repeat. And then it’s hard to get people together to make your shitty idea a reality. And to get the money to do so. And for the performance to come out well. And to get people to come see it. And understand it. And hope they actually like it. And by extension you.

And feelings.

My play makes me feel all of this!

My play makes me feel all of this!

It’s like they say, “if it were easy, everyone would do it”. We don’t get paid well a lot of the times. Or at all. Or sometimes we end up paying in order to pursue our artistic passions. A lot. But if we were in it purely for the money, wouldn’t it just be easier to do something that actually gives us more of a “return on our investment”?

Guys! I’m sure you all know, but you will never make the money back that you put in to pursuing a life in the theater. So, that means you do it cuz you love it. And love is a hard thing. Sometimes, you know… love hurts. It’s sort of like art-being-hard is a person continually punching you in the face and after a while you’re thinking, “any time you want to stop would be just peachy”.

I am just as cynical as the next person and that’s why any win I get, I stick to like a needy cat covered in caramel sauce.

Don't ever leave me, wall!

Don’t ever leave me, wall!

This week’s wins all concerned validation. A guest artist from the land of TV, Aurorae Khoo, gave me a great compliment that since last year, my visual writing had dramatically improved (just the kind of improvement you hope for in a Dramatic Writing program…). My instructor, Rob Handel, came as a guest speaker to the Advanced Playwriting class because I had assigned them “A Maze” to read (three more chances to check it out!) and gave us some great advice about focusing on specificity in our writing. And my one-act play, “Sad Karaoke”, was performed in the Theater Lab class today and was so exciting to see on it’s feet (yay to my director, Kyle Wilson, and cast, Cameron Spencer, Veladya Chapman and Erron Crawford!!!).

And as great as all these wins were, there’s still work to do. Compliments don’t win competitions. I’m not trying to compete with anyone else necessarily. It’s more like being in competition with myself. Is this work I can be proud of? Did I spend my day focusing on the things I really needed to focus on? Am I taking active steps towards personal and artistic growth.


But that is also still the case even when I feel as though I’ve experienced multiple loses. Maybe I got passed up for an opportunity, perhaps I was slighted, perhaps people didn’t understand what my play was about, whatever. At the end of the day, who cares? I guarantee as the person experiencing the loss or win, you feel it more than anyone else. And the sooner we get over our losses AND our wins, the sooner we can get back to work and keep at it.

No one has reached perfection, which can sound depressing, but it’s actually affirming, because if we do it because we love it, that means we can still keep doing it because “it” isn’t done yet. Nothing ever really is.

I firmly believe that you have to be in perpetual motion in order to succeed. It doesn’t matter how much, just that it’s happening.

Good luck to you (and may the odds be ever in your favor).


Everything Is Already Something Week 24: Deadly Deadlines and the People Who Love Them

Allison Page is dancing as fast as she can.

Forgive me for the stream of consciousness-esque post – that’s just where I am, kids.

AHHHHHHHHHH! I’m being crushed beneath the weight of my own choices! I’m being lowered onto the fire of my own creation! The tips of my toes are touching the flames!…I have too many deadlines.



But I need the deadlines. I can’t function without them. I imagine there are people out there who can write without deadlines. Who just magically get things done “in their own time” except that, unlike me, “their own time” is a week from Thursday instead of three years from now.

I’ve set the hardest deadline for myself yet: I scheduled a first reading of one of my plays for January 26th. In case you haven’t noticed, or in case you’re reading this in the future (OR THE PAST) – that’s 12 days from now. I scheduled the reading last month, knowing I was already behind. But to be honest, if I gave myself more time…I don’t know that it would make any difference. I’m not a well-oiled machine without a deadline. With one, I know how much time I’ve got. I know how much needs to happen. Without one, I’m like a kid who has been sent outside to play and doesn’t come back home for 6 months because she followed a field of pretty daisies and took a nap in the sunlight every day. I wish I weren’t like that, but I am. At least I can recognize that and try to schedule myself against it. I don’t think that makes me a bad writer (If anything makes me a bad writer it’s probably all of my run-on sentences.) it just makes me the kind of writer that I am.

Oh boy. Not touching that one

Oh boy. Not touching that one

We all work differently. And apparently I work better under the pressure of just having a cast show up to read something that isn’t done yet. Thankfully, most of them are friends of mine, and in the event that I bring in an unfinished script, I really don’t think they’ll give a shit. But hopefully that won’t happen. But if it does, I’ll feed them booze. And pizza.

Last night I finished the first act. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) There are only going to be two total, I’m not doing three. That just feels like the way this particular story breaks down. I’m sure there are opinions about that, but that’s what I’m going with currently. This whole play (OR THE HALF THAT EXISTS) is me doing things exactly how I want to do them anyway, so I’m really whole-hoggin’ it. That being said – I cannot work without an outline. There was a 6 page or so chunk that I was miserably stuck in. I just couldn’t figure out how one scene was going to go down. You know why? Because I decided I didn’t like that part of the outline. You might think “Well, Allison, why didn’t you just changed the outline?” and the answer is…I guess I thought I was James Dean or something. I tried to work it out in my head while looking at something that didn’t jive with what needed to happen. Eventually I changed the outline, after writing the damn scene several times and deleting it, and then it finally came together.

The worst part was the grind of that group of pages. Right after I got through them, I immediately wrote 10 more in the space of 45 minutes, when I had wasted two weeks on the previous 6. Isn’t that stupid? I’m inconsistent that way. Maybe everybody is to some extent. I bought “The Diaries of Dawn Powell” the other day. The earliest diaries are very short and say things like “Wrote a story today.” Or “Wrote a play today.” Or “Finished a novel today.” And those made me ill. Because they sound like they were so…easy. Then I got to the good bits last night. After I finished the first act, I celebrated by reading some more. I got to a portion where she had been working on a novel. She talked about how miserable it was and how she didn’t think she’d ever do it again once that one was finished – which isn’t what happened. She wrote a bunch more. It was the perfect book to buy with the struggle-y writing I’ve been doing lately. There are gem entries about how much she loves the play she wrote and thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever done, followed by an entry about how she let her playwright friend read it and he absolutely hated it. Then later someone else read it and loved it. It’s the truncated version of things so many playwrights and writers in general go through. It’s those bits that make you say “Oh, yeah, I’m not the only one dealing with this noise.”

The Diaries of Dawn Powell also contains about a million entries that include things like "Went to dinner. Very drunk." my favorite being "Very drunk. Fell down stairs." - that's my kind of writer.

The Diaries of Dawn Powell also contains about a million entries that include things like “Went to dinner. Very drunk.” my favorite being “Very drunk. Fell down stairs.” – that’s my kind of writer.

I recommend the book for people like me who might want the occasional dose of “I’M NOT ALONE!” or any playwright, really. It does a great job of capturing the feeling of creating a new work. Later on she apparently delves into what happens during a disastrous production of one of her plays – I personally can’t wait to get to that part. But, uh…I should probably be writing instead.

You can follow Allison on Twitter @allisonlynnpage where she promises to post quips about playwrighting. You can also see her onstage at SF Sketchfest on February 3rd.