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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.
June 17: The upcoming Buffalo theater season. I just finished my annual Ten Picks for the Upcoming Season for Buffalo Spree and it was REALLY hard to pick! (And I didn’t even include any of the seven world premieres Buffalo theatergoers have to look forward to in 15/16.)
June 18: Shakespeare in Delaware Park, the second largest outdoor Shakespeare festival in the country! Tonight, they opened the first show—ROMEO AND JULIET—of their fortieth season, and, even though they only got through Act 1 (rain!), it was still a momentous occasion. Congratulations and continued gratitude for my Shakespeare education!
June 19: Page to Stage: The Craft of Adaption, by Vincent Murphy. I love how many playwrights have taken the time to write books on the craft. Whenever I need a new take or new inspiration or embark on a different project, there’s always a book waiting. And I’m happy to give these authors a shout-out when I can. I’m also grateful because I just sent my first adaptation off to the author!
June 20: Matt Boyle, Seth Wochensky, and Springville Center for the Arts for inviting me and my plays to be part of a director/actor workshop. Today’s first read-through was the first time I’ve heard the eight SLICE OF LIFE plays read in order, and it was so cool to hear the age progression. I’m so excited to work with this group and see their final results!
June 21: Andrea Perry and Tim Bookhagen for totally bringing it to the closing of FLOWERS IN THE DESERT! Next up: Luxembourg!
June 22: That joyous moment when you cut something from a script that you’ve been clinging to for far too long and not because someone said you should, but because you know without a doubt that it needs to go.
June 23: Word that THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR’s run in Romania will be extended! This has been such a fun experience, and I’m thrilled that, after two years, people are still going to see the show!
June 24: This cool picture from “Stage Whispers,” the movie. Playwrights who write ten-minute plays get so used to writing for black box with very few props and set pieces that to see something this lavish is an unbelievable treat. I can’t wait to see the finished product.
June 25: Making it to Citywrights in time to hit the launch party. My flight out of Buffalo was canceled after three hours of waiting and I was rebooked through Atlanta to arrive at 10:53 p.m.. Was there anything that could get me to Miami earlier? I asked the flight attendant. No. But there was. I got on standby for an earlier flight out of Buffalo to Atlanta and, upon landing, saw that there were several earlier flights from Atlanta to Miami, including one boarding at that very moment. I booked it about half a mile to the gate (thank you new Born sandals) and asked if there was room on the flight. No. They told me it was too late to do standby but I asked if I could wait anyway, and I did. Got the last seat on the plane, a Delta Comfort Seat with free drinks even, and got to Miami by 6:20 and to the launch party by 7:15. Not a bad day’s work. Lesson learned: ALWAYS ASK. (I went through eight boarding passes today!)
June 26: So many things… The spontaneous applause that exploded when, in the middle of a panel about gender parity, a conference attendee announced that marriage equality had just passed. You know what? That’s enough for one day. I’m going to leave it at that.
June 27: An incredible evening of Summer Shorts and being able to meet most of the playwrights involved. Meeting people who confirmed and validated that its okay to feed your inner life–even as a parent. The bold words of Marsha Norman, who delivered the keynote speech and told us what “women voice” is. Fun times at the rooftop pool with old friends and new.
And, finally, Writing for Musical Theater, with the hilarious and quotable Marsha Norman. Here are a few choice tidbits:
*Musicals are always about two worlds, and some people belong and some don’t.
*You cannot replace a song with a scene. Songs carry emotional information; scenes carry plot.
*Audiences will only hear about on third of the lyrics until they buy the cast album, so lyrics need to be clear enough, simple enough, repeated enough.
*Songs are a highly advanced form of character development.
*Early on, the audience should be hit over the head with where the story is going.
*One song is “How Can I Live Without The Thing I Thought I Had To Have?”
*You can’t write musical with someone you don’t love in some way or with someone outside your generation very far. You have to think better when they’re around.
*If a potential partnership meeting doesn’t go well, here’s a convenient lie: “I have a partner I usually work with, but I so admire your [fill in the blank], that I just had to meet you.”
*The B couple exists to help move time forward for the A couple. Nothing happens to the B couple; they reassure you the story will continue and you’ll get a rest from the drama.
*When someone asks you “Can you write this impossible thing?” say, “Yeah, but it will be bad.”
*If you want to ski the powder, ski the powder, but you still have to know where the marked trails are if you want to get back to the lodge in time for a drink.”
*Les Mis is not the French Revolution that everybody thinks it is; it’s some little skirmish on the street. It’s no big deal, but the treatment of it is.
*Musicals must have a happy ending. For whom? The audience.
*The first song of the second act is usually “Remember What This Show Was About?”
*The way to tell if you’re stuck is if you come back to your main characters and they’re still in the same place.
It’s really not fair that I can’t spread these things out…
June 28: An incredible reading of “Survival Strategy” at Citywrights 2015 by actors Andres Maldonado and Casey Dressler, directed by Gail Garrisan. It was the perfect way to cap off the weekend. (There’s a picture somewhere, and when I get it, I’ll add it.)
June 29: Susan Westfall, Literary Director at City Theatre, who put together an amazing conference and invited me to be a part of it. I’ve said before there is nothing better than spending time with your people, and I met so many new ones that I’m sitting here today at home just overwhelmed by it all. I won’t list, but if we made a connection this weekend, you know who you are and please know how much I appreciate it. XO Citywrights and thank you Susi, for a wonderful weekend!
June 30: More accolades for BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART, which has won the Firehouse Festival of New American Plays. That makes six honors for this play and a trip to Virginia! (If you’re keeping up on submissions, I’m at 269.)
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