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Gratitude journals and their more public cousins—gratitude Facebook posts—have become mindful ways to connect with what is good in our lives. I’ve never done one, but it occurred to me a while back that doing a 365 Grateful for playwriting might illuminate a year’s worth of reasons why we’re so loyal to this sometimes discouraging pursuit. In 2014, there were many times I became aware of people, situations, events that only touched me because I wrote that first play and kept on writing–a phone call from a producer who wanted to share the tearful reactions my play evoked that evening, being part of the Buffalo theater community, meeting some super cool people during a production in a small town in the Catskills, the Dramatists Guild regional reps meeting, having actors in Ghana speak my words– as well as all the people, places, and things that just make it easier to keep on. Productions are wonderful, but being a playwright has generated so many rewards beyond just those, so, this year, now that Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is finished, recording them all is my project for 2015. I’ll tweet once each day under #365gratefulplaywright (follow me @donnahoke) and also post to my Donna Hoke, Playwright page on Facebook, then post the updated blog every two weeks so that nobody is overwhelmed. (I’ll also start a new blog post every two weeks, so that this file doesn’t become impossible!) If you’re a playwright, think about what might go on your own list; it’s humbling to see how lucky we really are.
April 16: Touch Me Philly Productions at Luna Theatre, where tonight opens a program called Reasonable Fear featuring pieces about street harassment and rape culture. My short comedy, “Jack Pork,” is included.
April 17: My daughter opening in Harbor at Buffalo United Artists!! Proud moments! (And Hardly Art Theatre in Saskatchewan, where “Runner’s High” opens tonight, too!)
April 18: A fantastic Dramatists Guild Pizza Party Info Gab. We had some new faces, and shared food, wine, ideas, strategy, and inspiration. Have I mentioned I love being surrounded by playwrights? (I should have gotten a picture!)
April 19: Stephen McKinley Henderson. This Broadway and film actor—an real actor’s actor as well as a professor at University at Buffalo—is a city treasure and integral part of the theater fabric here. Wednesday, he was the honoree for the 2015 UB Signature Series and we were treated to a lively Q&A moderated by WBFO Theater Talk co-host, theater critic, and Buffalo State Assistant Dean of Humanities Anthony Chase. It’s been a star-studded week!
April 20: Core Artists Ensemble and an exhausting and exhilarating day in New York. Yesterday, I flew in at nine and out at eleven to attend the reading of BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART at the Barrow Group Studio Theater, put on by Core, perfectly cast and directed by Rachel Casparian, and brilliantly acted by Sam Gilroy, McKenna Cox, and Jason Nuzzo. I’m always grateful when a play is chosen for something like this, but to have it done so well, and to get some uniformly and enthusiastically positive feedback gives me great hope that this play has a future somewhere.
April 22: Watertown’s Craig Thornton getting runner-up for the Yale Drama Prize. That is the best kind of hope playwrights in far-flung locations can ask for! Congratulations, Craig! And thank you for showing us the power of continuing to get our plays out there!
April 23: The café at the Jewish Community Center. Explanation: Jewish Repertory Theatre operates out of the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre at the Jewish Community Center, which has a café that serves the most delicious chocolate cookies ever as well as a host of vegetarian dishes that are soooo good, I wish I could eat them all. The café is never open for weekend shows, but for Thursday openings—like tonight’s THE ODD COUPLE—it is, which means I can bring home dinner for the next day (in this case veggie stuffed portabello caps and cheddar potato frittata), and cookies for the whole family!
April 24: Finding the play. I’m currently working on a comedy that I’m expanding from my ten-minute LGBT play “Best Interests,” which recently ran at BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. The first three scenes came easily and then I got a little stuck. I knew how it had to end—I thought—but wasn’t sure how to get there. I was in that place where the characters are in my head constantly trying to figure out the problems I’ve handed them. And then that magic moment happens and they finally reveal what you need to know to make it all work. So I’ll be writing today… a lot.
April 25: Michael Hooker and Paul Lewis, who together have given my new play, ON THE ROOF, music. I’m in awe.
April 26: Victoria Perez, director, and the entire cast of ON THE ROOF—Mike Seitz, Stefan Brundage, Kerrykate Abel, Marc Sacco, Bethany Sporacio, Steve Brachmann, Tim Finnegan, and Josue Rosario-Caliz—who wowed me at the second rehearsal tonight. (And had me laughing continually!) That these talents give generously give their time for readings is something all playwrights should be grateful for. (Ack! I forgot to get a picture! I’ll get one at the reading.)
April 27: Seeing a show more than once. Second-time viewing highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of any text. I can better appreciate the reasons why things were written as they were, nuances that sometimes escape me on a first view. I can also better see what things don’t hold up even on a second time around, which is knowledge I can apply to my work.
April 28: Reading new plays. I know I’m in the majority but I LOVE reading new plays. Being in the Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop for the seventh time means MORE new plays, and I’ve also been asked to read for a national contest, which is both an honor and a privilege.
April 29: The school shows. This morning, I was able to see BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE at Irish Classical Theatre at 10 a.m. It felt like playing hooky to be in a theater instead of working, but it’s a great way to fit one more show into a crowded schedule. I also got a huge kick out of the reactions of a high school audience—especially because they were watching their teacher!
April 30: Little tweaks that have a big impact. We all know writing is rewriting, and that plays are never finished, just abandoned. Yesterday morning, I went back to the first ten-minute play I ever wrote, one that I know has a technical issue that probably has prevented it from being produced, and I revised not just that issue, but improved the dialogue simply by virtue of what I’ve learned about dialogue in the past six years. Then today, I made some changes to SAFE based on a workshop reading and discussion we had last night. SAFE is on its fifteenth draft, but these changes are still important, and still improved the play. It’s thrilling to get to the end of a new scene or draft, but equally so to make the right changes. (If you’re keeping up on submissions, I’m at 209.)
To read more entries in this series, click here or #365GratefulPlaywright in the category listing at upper right.