The Real World – Theater Edition: Get It Out

Barbara Jwanouskos, putting it out there.

My mind races constantly. From what I’ve gathered, this is pretty normal. It’s filled with so much stuff that I can have trouble focusing on any one thing. I think some would say that they’re good at multi-tasking when they have this quality – I not sure I believe in the concept of multi-tasking. To me, that means spreading your attention over a wide variety of tasks, projects, ideas, and thoughts equally.

No, instead, I think how it works is you work quickly on one thing at a time and, let’s be honest, sometimes you half-ass it. That’s okay. I’m not saying don’t do that. What if you could be less scatter brained and give most gusto? What if you could get some of what’s inside out?

This is about writing and doing and creating theater or any other type of project. This is about how to start. This points to some elements of how to keep going. It’s more observation than advice. It’s not even a real essay with the best structure or syntax. This is an idea that needed to get out.

I hear and I have SO MANY good ideas. Brilliant ones. Things that shatter your mind into a million pieces and make you go, “this changes everything.”

I see less of this actualized. I guess it’s to be expected. It takes a lot of effort to get things going.

I’m just going to point to one thing that may help in this process of turning an idea to a reality – write it out. Get it out. Badly if need be. Repeatedly. Using really bad jargon-y, clunky turns of phrase. With bad grammar or no grammar. *gasp!*

I know, I get it. It’s scary. But at some point the idea needs to get out so we can shape it and mold it. It has to be spoken aloud. Written out. It has to come out, not stay in for a huge change to occur.

I do believe in the power of transformation. It sounds so new age-y, but whatever, my thing is, hey, do you want to keep living the same old life you’ve been living? Or would you be willing to put it out there and maybe have someone scoff, but so what?

The result is a new play.

The result is a new play that moves people.

The result is a new play that changes people’s perception.

The result is a new play that inspires someone to take their own courageous step.

It ripples out.

But it has to start somewhere. This is a small way. Easily overlooked. Easily shooed as a given. Yet it’s so essential. And sometimes putting a little intention into it goes a long way. Keeps things moving forward.

Barbara Jwanouskos is a local writer who writes all kinds of things. She co-wrote a play with Julie Jigour, THANATOS, for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which will be read this Saturday at EXIT Theatre at 8 PM. For more and to experience her creative writing, go to https://dynamicsofgroove.com/.

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The Five- “Procrastination”-A Photo Essay Starring My Cat

Anthony R. Miller checks in with a story told in photos.

Hey you guys, another blog about playwrights procrastinating, just what the world needed, amirite? But hey, if there’s one thing there will never be enough of on the Internet, its cat photos. So instead of the eleventy billioneth theatre blog on procrastinating, here are the stages of procrastination, as demonstrated by my cat. Predictably, there are five.

Organize Your Notes

Cat1

Review Your Notes

Cat 2

Become Overwhelmed With The Sheer Amount of Work You Have to Do

Cat3

Realize the Problem is That Your Workspace is A Mess, Clean Your Desk, and Take a Nap

cat4

Decide You’ve Done Enough For Today and Decide to Start Fresh Tomorrow

Cat5

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and Teaching Artist. His show, TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT opens October 14 at Pianofight, keep up with all his projects at www.awesometheatre.org.

Everything Is Already Something: The Ones Who Stay

Allison Page, back from hiatus, so she can say goodbye. 

Artists leave here all the time. Mass exodus. Okay, maybe not mass, but almost mass. What’s slightly less than mass? A lot. They leave because it’s expensive. They leave because it’s changing. But they also leave because it doesn’t look like they can have a career here — a career in the arts, anyway. Actors, directors, writers, comedians. They leave because they nearly always have to volunteer in order to do what it is they do and on the ladder of success, the San Francisco rungs are in the middle, never at the top. So they come here from places farther down on the ladder, hoping to figure out who they are. To figure out who they are, and to eat stacks of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid. To figure out who they are, to eat stack of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid, and to be able to tell stories later on about how they did stand up at a laundromat or saw a one man show that ended with a guy in a mask taking a shit on the floor.

And yet, somehow, some remain. And they don’t stay because they have to. And they don’t stay because they’re afraid. And they don’t stay because they’re not talented, or smart, or focused, or driven, they stay because they choose to. And some of them, some of them stay to build a future for other artists. The future the others left to find somewhere else. Because the truth is, if no one stays, there’s no one to create what’s missing, so what’s missing will always be missing. And what a choice to make.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

It can feel like a sacrifice you hadn’t planned on, or didn’t even want. And you’ll have your moments of pettiness. Moments where you wonder what you’re doing, and remembering what it was like to only be worried about your own path. Your own auditions, your own gigs, your own shows, your own career.

And you have to find moments for yourself, too, times when you can take joy in the things in which you have always found joy. If you’re an actor, find times to act. If you’re a writer, my god, don’t stop writing. To me, that’s the death of our artistic leaders — when they don’t make art anymore, because they’re too busy supporting the systems that allow others to create it. Because suddenly you’ll find yourself the stepping stone used to get somewhere, you’ll be left, and you’ll look back at your Facebook memories and realize you haven’t been in a show in six years and you don’t know what your artistic identity is anymore. Everyone will just say, “Aren’t you in charge of that thing?” It’s an incredibly complicated balance. Because then people will find a way to assume that the only reason you’re getting to do anything artistic, is because you’re in charge, when it’s actually the other way around — you got here because you spent years in the arts and know what you’re doing. (HOPEFULLY)

All this “they” and “you” yadda yadda, should really be “we” and “me”. I mean, obviously. And after all this business about people who stay, this is the part where I mention that this is my last blog for SF Theater Pub. I’ve not been writing for the blog the last couple of months. Don’t feel bad for not noticing, there have been like a baker’s dozen of national and international tragedies in that time, and this doesn’t count as one of them. My professional life has changed a lot. My cohort and I are the first two full time employees of our theater company in 19 years. And while that’s so great, it is also BIG. And chock full of pressure. Most of my awake time, it’s all I think about. Everything else is secondary. There’s so much to be done, all the time, and whatever the task, odds are the two of us have to do it or solve it or make it or break it. It’s thrilling, it’s challenging, it’s intimidating, and it’s my full time existence now. And while I’ll never really step away from talking about theater and its issues, I am stepping away from writing here. I have loved my time spewing commentary on this blog and wore proudly the banner of TPub for the last few years.

I’ve also said some dumb stuff sometimes. I have absolutely read things I’ve written, months or years later, and been like “Ew, really?” It’s like listening to recordings of your own voice. But I’ve also definitely written some things I’m proud of. The best example of both of those things, is Sorry I Didn’t Go To College  from July 2013. I’m proud of being honest in it, and there are also a couple things in it I feel slightly squirmy about, but the whole thing was a big deal to me personally when I wrote it. Another proud moment came with the next post, The Grass Is Always Greener (On Some Other Asshole’s Lawn) about being jealous of other people’s successes and taking pride in your own path…and it definitely has some similarities to the beginning of THIS blog.

Thank you for reading now and any other time, and thank you to Theater Pub for letting me say things I needed to say, without almost any limitation. It’s been a ride, and I’ve loved it. If you want to see other things I’ve written, you can find me on Medium @AllisonLynnPage

I’ll see you at the theater.

3e9de28183ec54f3416b9a960088c3ac

Allison Page is an actor/writer/director and Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster.

Hit by a Bus Rules: The Write Stuff

Alandra Hileman, after a bit of a hiatus, returns.

Theatre Rule of the Month: Write It Down

I’ve been in a writer’s cave of insanity the last few months, so rather than a cohesive blog, here’s a series of the sorts of “shower thoughts” I’ve had about writing.

***

One of the hardest things about stage managing is figuring out what to write down when. The stage manager should write everything down, of course, but sometimes you’re sitting there frantically erasing your blocking notes again as a scene gets restaged for the fourth time in as many days and you start to wonder if there’s a certain point before which you can safely not take notes. The answer is no, because suddenly in tech week that one offhanded comment from the first read will become absurdly relevant and necessary and you’re gonna pray it’s still jotted in the margin of your script somewhere.

***

I don’t totally understand the Hemmingway-attributed quote “Write drunk; edit sober,” which people often pitch at me when I ask for block-busting tricks. Not like I don’t understand the principle of it, but…when I’m drunk all I wanna do is watch Futurama and play Marvel: Avengers Alliance on Facebook. Maybe it’s just my brain chemistry.

***

I found a Post-It the other day as I was cleaning off my desk that had a very specific sequence of numbers on it, which I finally realized was RGB level adjustments for some set of photos I must have been editing at some point. I assume I wrote it down because I wasn’t doing the whole set at once, but it would have been really helpful if past-me had noted which photo-set it was for. This is why in my notebooks I’ve started writing project abbreviations in the upper corner; so that I can quickly flip through and find all the notes for any given project.

***

Speaking of “shower thoughts,” I’m going to go buy some of those kids’ bath crayons so I can take notes in the shower. I’d get so much more done.

***

By the same account, I need to start running a tape-recorder in my car, because I solve so many plot problems when I’m blasting down the freeway talking to myself, but usually by the time I reach my destination I can.

***

I used to never write notes for things. Never in classes, never for stories or plays I was working on, and to be perfectly honest, when I first started stage managing I didn’t write things down nearly as much as I should have. I think that was where I really started to realized that for as good of a memory as I have, things will fall through the cracks, especially when you’re juggling being the cetral hub of information for not only your department, but everyone’s. I’m still really bad about just taking the moment to writing something down, but I’m trying desperately to get better at allowing myself that time, in every aspect of my life. Especially handwriting – there have been, if I recall, scientific studies which have show that handwriting notes helps us not only to remember things better but also to form our thoughts more coherently. I’ve been trying to take time to enjoy the note-taking process, and to apply the tricks I learned in stage managing on how to annotate an existing script to the process of creating one as well. It’s sometimes a weird hang-up transitioning from the world of executing a script vision backstage to creating said script for others to execute, but I feel like I’m starting to find my groove.

***

This blog is the most productive procrastination I’ve had all week.

You can find more of Alandra’s “shower thoughts” on Twitter (@LadyBedivere), and find out about larger projects at ajhileman.com.

Everything Is Already Something: A Meeting of Producers Who Really Want to Capitalize on the Popularity of ‘Hamilton’

Allison Page, feeding you some low-hanging fruit- just like these producers!

MAN 1: Okay, how about something with one of those other politics guys?

MAN 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah I like that.

MAN 3: The guy with the tub! The tub guy!

WOMAN: Taft? What’s the twist? We need a twist.

MAN 3: We cast someone really buff, but not overly muscular, so he’s also kind of svelte. Or a model.

MAN 1: GET ASHTON KUTCHER ON THE PHONE.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.52.07 AM

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MAN 3: A splashy musical spectacular in the traditional sense — chorus girls and everything — about HARRIET TUBMAN! Except the woman who plays her, and stay with me here, is a white male! Think of the PRESS!

MAN 1: Mmm, sounds too expensive. Can we do it without the chorus girls?

********************************************

MAN 2: Okay but what if —guys, this is gonna be great— what if we do a thing about William Henry Harrison?

MAN 3: Who?

WOMAN: The one who died 23 days into his presidency.

MAN 2: YES! The built-in drama! But instead of getting an old guy to do it-

MAN 1: Ewwwwww

MAN 2: Exactly! So instead we get a teen pop star. Is Justin Bieber still relevant?

WOMAN: Oooo, or how old is Rachel’s baby from Friends?

********************************************

WOMAN: So scratch the musical idea, because I’m thinking a historical epic like Les Mis without the singing, but there’s no set so it’ll be really cheap. The set is all in the audience’s imaginations. It’s an arty thing.

MAN 2: Who’s it about?

WOMAN: JOE BIDEN! A rags to riches story!

MAN 1: Does he actually have a rags to riches story?

WOMAN: Don’t know. Doesn’t matter! That is the power of art, my friends.

********************************************

MAN 1: GEORGE WASHINGTON!

MAN 2: But George Washington is already in ‘Hamilton’.

MAN 3: Oh shit – A SEQUEL.

WOMAN: ‘Hamilton 2: George’s Side’

MAN 1: ‘Hamilton II: A Second Serving of Ham’

MAN 2: ‘George VS Alex: There Can Be Only One’

MAN 3: ‘Sunday in the Park with George’

**********************************************

WOMAN: You know what else is really popular on Broadway? ‘Phantom of the Opera’

MAN 1: Oh yeah, can we put them together?

MAN 2: Alexander Hamilton falls into a vat of ooze and when he emerges he’s all scarred up.

WOMAN: I think that’s Two Faces’ origin story.

MAN 3: Okay, when Hamilton was shot he didn’t actually die, he faked his own death! And now he walks the earth, immortal, with a mask on part of his face. And sometimes he sings opera, or maybe just R&B, I don’t think people listen to opera. And there are probably some hot chicks. Does Alessandra Ambrosia act? Doesn’t matter, we can teach her.

*********************************************

MAN 2: Wait, we’re totally missing something. PEOPLE LOVE COMEDY. Take one of the lesser characters from ‘Hamilton’ like, ah…I don’t know, Hercules Mulligan, and show his story, but he’s played by America’s sweetheart: Adam Sandler. We’ll make so much money and then they’ll make a movie out of it and we’ll make so much more money and it doesn’t even have to be good. I mean that’s the nice thing about this idea is it definitely, absolutely, in no way has to be good at all even a little bit. And Hercules Mulligan is a really silly name like Happy Gilmore so it completely makes sense.

WOMAN: Just googled it. Someone’s already doing it.

MAN 2: UGHHHHH ALL THE GOOD ONES ARE TAKEN.

*********************************************

WOMAN: Kerry Washington.

MAN 1: What about her?

WOMAN: Kerry Washington plays Washington in ‘Washington’.

MAN 2: More Washington?! We’ve already covered this.

WOMAN: Washington on Washington.

MAN 3: I like it.

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MAN 1: The story of Obama as told by Jay-Z and Beyonce.

MAN 2: That’s actually a really good idea.

WOMAN: Does that mean we can bring back Carmen: A Hip Hopera. Can’t we just stage that? God, I love that movie. What ever happened to Mekhi Phifer?

MAN 3: You’re right, let’s just do that instead. Can we convince the writer it somehow slipped into the public domain?

WOMAN: Probably. Writers are idiots.

EVERYONE: hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I KNOW, RIGHT?

**********************************************

MAN 1: What if we make one of the characters from Glengarry Glen Ross a congressman and add a little soft shoe in the middle?

MAN 3: I like everything about that except the congressman and the soft shoe.

MAN 2: Great, another round of GGR it is!

WOMAN: What if there’s a woman in it?

MEN: NO.

WOMAN: I was just kidding. Hahahaha…ha…ha.

**********************************************

MAN 1: OH! Why don’t we just produce another run of ‘1776’?

EVERYONE: Oooooh yeah. Okay. Forgot about that. Let’s do it. Haha we’re so silly.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/artistic director of sketch comedy company Killing My Lobster in San Francisco.

Hit by a Bus Rules: A Poe Excuse for a Blog

Alandra Hileman honors a very special day. 

Theatre Rule of the Month: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Today, January 19th, would be Edgar Allan Poe’s 207th birthday. His happens to be one of the few famous birthdays I remember without prompting, thanks to two years in high school I spent working on a massive research project (which, as a matter of fact, I was never actually required to finish and turn in). I also probably have more poems and passages from Poe’s work rattling around in my memory than any other single writer, not that I would trust myself to do a proper recitation anytime soon. Delightfully, I’m finally getting the opportunity to put all this info to use in one of the far-to-many plays I’m currently in the process of drafting up, which means Poe has been on my mind a lot of late.

hark a vagrant 213 copy

Interesting fact about Poe: he was a fairly obsessive reviser. Many of his poems and stories exist in multiple versions, with revisions running the gamut from simple spelling corrections or a change of title all the way to entirely new stanzas or endings. His output of fiction, poetry, and essays was fairly prolific, so when you begin to comb through the various publications to look for the revisions and variations, it adds up to quite a lot of text to compare.

Yes, publications. There aren’t many original drafts belonging to Poe that survived his turbulent and impoverished life, so most of the revisions we know about come from fair copies that were in the possession of magazine editors to whom they had been submitted, or the actual published texts, of which there were often several variations. Which brings me around to this month’s rule.

One of the first things you learn (or should learn) in both carpentry and sewing is the rule of “measure twice, cut once.” This rule gets brought up often in the theatrical world because, honestly, there’s usually not enough money in the budget to do something over if it doesn’t measure up the first time. So if you’re building a set, first you measure everything: the doors, the floors, the 2x4s. Then you draw your sketch to scale, measure your space and materials again, (for extra credit measure your scale drawing again), and then, and only then, do you start cutting and screwing. Apply the same to sewing, but with bodies and fabric.

It’s a solid rule. And it’s totally the opposite of what many writers seem to be taught. I’ve done readings for plays where I see draft after draft after draft presented, each one different, often each presented exactly as flowed from the writer’s pen (or laptop). Outlines are perfectly respectable, but not required. And sometimes, you keep making changes and revisions even after you’ve, I don’t know, won a Pulitzer prize for your play and had it produced and published all over the world. (coughBuriedChildcough) But then, words are a lot cheaper than lumber, so you can usually afford to screw up or change your mind more easily.

This isn’t intended as any sort of perfect metaphor, and all rules are probably made to be broken. But it is interesting to look at these two sides of how things are made. One is a very precise, planned system meant to deliver exact results the first time it comes together. The other may be a perpetual work-in-progress, or an experiment in throwing something half-baked in front of people and then adjusting after you see what it is. And since re-researching Poe brought it to my attention, I’m curious to pay more attention to where these two methods come to the fore as I plug away on measuring and (eventually) cutting my own writing about Poe.

So, happy birthday to the inventor of the modern detective story, formative contributor to the science fiction genre, first American writier to try to live on writing alone, and all-around wow-you-make-me-feel-better-about-my-life-choices guy, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. Thanks for the work.

If you’re more interested in Poe’s alcoholism and weird relationship with his 13-year old cousin than his revision habits, you can come see Alandra Hileman’s upcoming play Cyprus, Sin, and Care this Spring in the BoxCutters readings series at The Breadbox. Quoth the Raven, “See You There!”

Everything Is Already Something: Farewell, Sweet Dick Joke

Allison Page, starting the new year with a note of goodbye.

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to some good sketches. Sketches which were not long for this world. Sketches as clean and sparkling as any others. Game-focused, precise sketches, escalating alongside the best of them, breaking their game at just the right moment. And yet, here we are. Grieving and sobbing for the sketches we have lost because they needed to be cut…for time.

Ah, time, a fickle master to whom we are all servants. There are but 60 minutes in an hour. We may try to stretch it, challenge it, flout it, but the truth remains. Tick tock, fart jokes, tick tock.

Yes, we must say goodbye even to these fart jokes. These gut busting gas passers. These guttural emissions. These children of the night. For they, yes, even they, cannot escape the wrath of the cuckoo clock. Father time has come for our fart jokes, and we must let them fly home on the wind which we have broken, to that great fart joke depository in the sky.

Heh heh, depository.

As we wave a farewell to our monologues about puberty and screwing inanimate objects, let us not forget what they’ve meant to us. We, the ragged, scratched up, bruised adults. The former horny pre-teens who longed for understanding and Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life, who longed to eat Oreos all day and both wanted to grow up and to stay young and weird. We salute you. We salute ourselves.

Mourning-Woman

Here, too, we mourn the loss of physical sketches which nearly killed us. Back-bending, cheer-leading, freak-dancing, climbing, jumping, cartwheeling sketches crafted for the enjoyment of 10s and 10s of people. Human pyramids and a kid doing the worm alike have been slaughtered. No sketch is ever really safe, is it?

You never think it will be yours, your bouncy baby dick joke. You think you’re immune to the cut of someone else’s jib. You are not. Sometimes you find yourself cutting your own sketches and retreating to a corner of the bar where you can sip your bourbon in silence while cursing the goddamn kids who wrote a better dick joke than you had ever dreamed possible, wiping your dick joke off the figurative map and literal set list.

Not only do we lose our childish, gross jokes, but we must also mourn our attempts at social commentary and blistering satire. Our chance to show the opposing political party that we mean business and are, always, right, sometimes passes away into the recycling bin, or the annals of time and Google Drive, where they wither and age like old digital fruit.

Not only do we say auf wiedersehen to these sketches today, we celebrate them. And we welcome to life those sketches which will make it to the final performance. Those great few. Those strong, hearty few. We hold and coddle them until they are ready to be put forth in front of half-drunk audiences of rabid joke-gobblers. And we hold no ill will for them, the champions. We raise them up and brush the long golden locks of their mullet wigs. We support them with our laughter and know that tomorrow is another day, another joke, another birth of fanciful mirth or jocular rage.

This is not a mourning, but a celebration of life.

*fart sound*

Thank you.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director and Co-Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster. She wrote this as a farewell to the sketches she cut this morning while preparing for KML’s performance at SF Sketchfest Jan 19th at The Eureka Theatre.