The Five: Have You Written Anything Lately?

Anthony R. Miller checks in with tales of inactivity.

Hey you guys, so last Monday was the TERROR-RAMA 2 reading/ fundraiser. I gotta say, it went pretty great. We had a packed house and a very game audience, it was nice to see two plays we had put so much energy into making great be so well received. Not to mention I finally got my Olympians play done (OK, OK the first draft, I gotta fix a few (hundred) things. I just turned in a huge amount of work for that freelance dramaturgy gig I do. So on Tuesday evening, as I got home from my trusty day job, it occurred to me “I don’t have anything immediately pressing to do”. Oh sure, there’s things I could do; research for the freelance gig, Olympians edits, (which I’m sure my director and cast would appreciate sooner than later.) Not to mention a preponderance of half written scripts. But none of it was due right now. Since I work better with a little bit of pressure; I took this opportunity to do…nothing. Which is not to say there were no highlights of the last seven days, on the contrary, there are five.

EDITORS NOTE: This article is enhanced by listening to “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars while reading. Give it a whirl.

Netflix and Stagnate
For me, finishing a major project (Or three) is usually celebrated by turning my brain off for a few days. When I’m knee deep in a script, I’m basically a court stenographer for the voices in my head. Scenes that aren’t working or aren’t finished replay over and over in my head. It isn’t until the words “END OF PLAY” are written do they actually stop talking. I usually celebrate this time with a grand re-watching of a favorite TV show (“Lost” and “The Sopranos” are my go-to’s) but, this time around, I have fallen into a rabbit hole of “The Wonder Years” , which was a huge show for me growing up. When Kevin was 13, I was about 13, so as I grew up in the early 90’s I lived parallel to Kevin Arnold’s Baby Boomer coming of age tales. This is the first time I watched this show since it originally aired. So with this aged perspective, I noticed a few things, like how each episode is just Kevin being a selfish prick and learning a valuable lesson, or how it’s clear that Winnie Cooper just isn’t that into him. The episode where they put on “Our Town” is especially fantastic.

“I’m Natalies Boyfriend”
So recently, Natalie, my significant other scored a pretty great job working for Curran: Under Construction. While the Curran theatre is being renovated, a series of smaller, experimental shows are being produced for weekend runs. And like a good boyfriend, I’m there to represent, and see stuff for free. On Saturday, I saw “The Object Lesson” a crazy immersive theatre piece where you are surrounded by hundreds of boxes of stuff. I’ve been loving this series, It’s fun to sit on stage and look into the historic Curran’s house lit up by a giant chandelier. Not to mention, wandering around the place is like going through a museum of SF theatre. The first show I saw in SF was “The Phantom of the Opera” when I was 15. It was at the Curran, so now, a hundred (or 20) years later, I’m standing on that same stage, drinking free wine and introducing myself as the Venue Managers boyfriend, and a playwright, life is weird.

Nerd-Out
Keep an eye out for what’s happening at the Curran, because there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. As things come together, they’re going to be inviting a lot of local theatre artists to perform on that stage. And it’s pretty cool that such a big money group has decided to put a focus on smaller, off the beaten path theatre and try to be a really presence in local theatre. Another great event they had on Monday was a talkback with theatre critic Michael Riedel. Riedel is a notorious critic from the NY Post and most recently got a lot of buzz for calling “Hamilton” overrated. Riedel has just written a book called “Razzle Dazzle” that tells the story of Broadway from 1975-present. He spent a lot of time talking about the impact of “A Chorus Line” the incredible influence the Shubert organization had and how Broadway became a billion dollar tourist attraction. I am a big fat theatre history nerd, so naturally, I loved every second, I was told that a few time I actually smiled. Oh, and I got a free book. So that was awesome.

Hello Laundry My Old Friend
I think any theatre artist can directly correlate how busy they are to the amount of dirty laundry they have. So upon looking at my empty dresser drawers, I’ve been swamped. I consider it one of the great accomplishments of adulthood that I can go several weeks while still having clean underwear. But there is something peaceful and zen-like about sitting on the couch and folding laundry for several hours. I get reunite with T-shirts I haven’t seen in weeks, that sport jacket I forgot to hang up and is now caked in cat fur, and my two dress shirts that I have to alternate between when I need to look like an adult. This is leisure folks.

I Make A Pretty Good Housewife
So with Natalie’s new gig, she’s been working crazy long hours, and with me being home a bit more, the domestic responsibilities have shifted. It’s been hard guys, I’ve grocery shopped, made my own doctor appointments, and even made dinner a few times. (Please note I make 4 things pretty well.)I made her a sandwich for lunch the other day, I don’t even know who I am anymore. It’s weird being the theatre widow for once, but it’s also nice being the supportive one for a change. For the hundreds of times I’ve interrupted her catching up on “The Leftovers” just to pitch a few story ideas at her, or randomly texted not to say loving things but to make sure the deposit check on the venue was mailed. It’s a chance for me to thank her for always being the supportive one.

That’s all for now guys, I’m halfway through season 4 of “ The Wonder Years” and my submission for theatrepub’s Morrissey night is due in a few days, we’ll talk about theatre in two weeks, I promise.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and avid procrastinator, keep up with him when he’s productive at www.awesometheatre.org or read about his new play “Christian Teen Dolphin Sex Beach Party” which will be read at the SF Olympians Festival next month at www.sfolympians.com.

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The Real World, Theater Edition: What I Don’t Need Anymore

Barbara Jwanouskos, focusing.

It’s actually really fitting that for the first month of the year we decided to focus on downtime and balance. I’ve felt the need lately in all aspects of my life –professional, personal, and artistic– to really take a solid look at myself and what exactly I want to achieve in these realms, and to make decisions about what I don’t need.

You all know that in my downtime from theater, writing, and work, that I practice kung fu and tai chi. I’ve mentioned before how the lessons learned from the pursuit of that art meld into other areas of my life. Most recently, I took a seminar, in which, I was reminded of how MUCH I truly do carry around! The task was to try to relax as much as possible while retaining the bare minimum of structure. It’s like you’re going on a backpacking trip — you want to pack light.

So, you’re thinking “great, so Barbara is tense, so what? So is everybody and what does this have to do with theater?” Which is probably pretty valid. I guess for me the connection and the a-ha moment in both activities, is that in order to progress further you need to give up something. And again, this might be kind of a duh realization. Still, I think it’s a good reminder and a good self-check to do every so often.

I have a couple writing goals for the year:

-To expand my portfolio by writing new plays. I don’t yet have a goal, but I figured at the very least writing one new full length, one short play, a short film, and revising my play “i stole lance armstrong’s bike” would be a hefty set of goals for the year.

-To get my personal website up and running. This one is so easy that I continuously put it off.

-To write consistently, as in every day. I used to do this more and fell out of practice with it, but to relate back to tai chi again for a moment, the time I started making deep, yet subtle (though absolutely tangible) progress when I made the small goal to practice for at least ten minutes every day and to write afterwards notes on what came up. I have a stretch goal to practice in the morning and evening and each month to increase my practice session by 1 minute.

I’d like to bring in some observations of why these things seem so hard to actually DO (especially consistently). Well, there’s my work schedule, there’s where I live and my commute time, there are the other commitments I have, and then add in the very necessary social outings with friends and family. But there’s also a lot of stuff I could cut out — for instance, really pushing for a fulltime job (I have been already, but I could make some even more pointed decisions to create more time). I could not volunteer myself for as many theater (or other) pursuits.

This one is hard because for me sometimes (especially when your role as writer is to be erm… writing) because I like being involved and socializing. I like helping out. I was talking about this with some of my friends the other night and it’s like, I have this need to only focus on my projects (and of those only the ones I really care about). We were reflecting that everyone else is certainly going to survive without us and no one would probably notice in the first place. Maybe this is sounding too pessimistic, but it really was an affirmation that I believe the work I do has meaning. So why get mixed up in other people’s art children dream projects because you want to “be involved”? I can be involved in a variety of ways. I can make plans to hang out with friends if that’s what I want to do. And I can support organizations, projects, and worthy causes in a variety of ways.

So, to digress for a second, by now maybe you’re like, “Wait, I thought this column was going to shift to interviews…” Well, you know how life goes. As it happened trying to balance all the above stuff and still try to fill my cup before I burned out, I got the timing wrong on my first interview of this year. And so yes, I did decide to write this as an alternative to that. Hopefully it is valuable or possibly interesting to others. But honestly, I don’t care. Not in a “I really don’t care about the content of this blog” way. I do, I absolutely do. I mean “I don’t care what others think about my decision to address this situation in this manner and what I think that they think it may say about me as a person, my abilities as a writer, or my aptitude to be a conscientious theater citizen.”

Phew! I know that’s a mouthful, but this gets to the last thing I’m willing to give up in order to swiftly achieve my goals: thinking. I’m sick of thinking and I’m all about doing. Thinking is great sometimes, but it gets to be natural. I can’t shut it off really. All I do is redirect and intensely focus on what I’m DOING. Maybe I’m over-emphasizing this point, but actually I with I had some companions on this “less thinking, more doing”. I’m so sick of navel-gazing theater to death. Can we just do it? Can we just write plays? Perform in things? Find a makeshift place to put on a play? Even if it’s really slow to get all the pieces in place. Even if it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I wonder if maybe I could do this (and possibly others, though I am certainly not interested in forcing or even working to convince anyone), maybe I could create some great art!

Barbara Jwanouskos is a Bay Area based writer and member of Just Theater’s 2014-15 New Play Lab. Website coming soon…