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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.
May 16: This day, oh my this doozy of a day. It started out awful, everyone’s worst nightmare: I woke up at 7:10, which meant I’d already missed my 6:20 a.m. flight to Chicago. Raced to the airport to try to get the 8:12 only to be told that it was too late, and there wasn’t another nonstop to Chicago until 2:15—not much help, as my reading of SAFE as a finalist in the Great Gay Play and Musical Contest was at 2 p.m. (and no matter what, I was already missing rehearsal and brunch with friends). I was so angry with myself for having been so stupid, and for missing something that I’d been looking forward to for months. And this is where the gratitude begins… Today, I am ever so grateful for:
*A partner who responds to “I’d be crazy to go now” with “You’d be crazy to miss this” and starts looking up flights from Cleveland, Rochester, and Pittsburgh. Who finds a nonstop leaving at 1:00 p.m. from Pittsburgh arriving Chicago 1:30 and starts the three-and-a-half-hour drive.
*My new smart phone (which I got at Christmas precisely because I was going to be traveling so much this year that I knew I would need it) that enabled me to book the flight on the way, post updates to Facebook, and alert everybody to the change in plans.
*The Facebook friends who crossed fingers and willed me to make it.
*The nice security check guy who let me cut the entire line at Pittsburgh International Airport so that I got to the gate on time.
*Being gifted with the very first gate and an A boarding pass that allowed me the center seat in row 1; I was the first off the plane.
*The cabbie who did his very best to get me to the Center on Halsted as quickly as possible.
*Stefan Brundage, who Face Timed me into for the first two and a half scenes so I didn’t miss a thing while the cabbie did his best. Once he did that, I instantly relaxed. Love you, Stefan!
*An amazing cast—Megan Schemmel, Kris Hyland, Dennis Frymire, Kelly Yacono, Ty Rood, and Tanous El-Karen, and equally amazing director Dan Foss—who performed a beautiful reading that made me so glad I’d made the effort.
*A generous audience that included Chicago friends Michael Peck and Renee Bauer, Buffalo ex-pats Genevieve Lerner and Joe Liolos, as well as Buffalo friends Stefan, David Illig, and Kyle LoConti.
*David Zak, Executive Director of Pride Films and Plays, who greeted me warmly, thanked me for making the effort, and who chose the play in the first place!
*Being greeted by fellow finalists Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro, who gifted me with two lovely pairs of earrings, because I’d left the house without them. I’d never even met these guys! <3
*A wonderful dinner with aforementioned cast and friends, where Dan Foss treated me to much-needed mango martinis and food, and new friends were made up and down the table (and Facebook posts attesting to this).
*A fantastic reading of Leo and DC’s musical, PEN.
*The pleasure of being Dan Foss’s company, his endless patience as I tried to figure out whether or not I had a return flight the next morning (I didn’t—no show=cancellation of entire reservation), and his lovely guest accommodations.
*A great night’s sleep and getting up on time to return home.
Could a horrible morning have turned out any better or have been filled with more things to be make someone realize that being a playwright today was about the best thing anybody could ever be?
May 17: Kyle LoConti, my friend to the rescue, who drove me home to Buffalo after my flight evaporated. Nine hours in a car fairly flew by—we never stopped talking; it was better than any old flight. Much thanks and love, Kyle!
May 18: The Best of Buffalo. party! Nominees get into the party free and the food is the greatest! This year I tried vegan beef on weck and Japanese iced coffee.
May 19: Sharing plays. Today, I got to read two from Josh Hartwell, the Denver regional rep for the Dramatists Guild. I love getting to know the work of friends. There is so much good work out there!
May 20: Officially winning the 2015 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest. Wow. And I posted my May 16 entry before I even heard the news.
May 21: This cool trophy, which arrived in today’s mail.
May 22: The Artie nominees. These are just some of the people who have worked hard to bring us diverse, quality theater over the course of the 2014-2015 season. Congratulations all!
May 23: A marvelous day at the Shaw Festival with my daughter. From noon to 10:30, it’s eat, drink, talk, an see theater; could you ask for a better day?
May 24: Whoever tweaked the mission at the Shaw Festival to the point that shows like PETER AND THE STARCATCHER can play there. It makes me so excited about the possibilities for upcoming seasons!
May 25: This awesome T-shirt:
May 26: Hootsuite. Honestly, without it, tweeting about Trade A Play Tuesday would be a nightmare.
May 27: Ellen Davis Sullivan, Tom Klocke, Nick Boretz, Michael Walker, and Pat Carroll, who gave me great feedback on my new play, working title MAYBE BETTER (was RAW EGGS). Can’t wait to get to revisions tomorrow!
May 28: Buzz McLaughlin’s The Playwright’s Process. Another wonderful playwriting book I couldn’t do without, and that I go back to again and again. Today, I particularly loved the title exercises, which yielded a new working title and, in the past, were responsible for BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART, one of my favorite titles.
May 29: Actors who save the day by stepping in at the last minute, and saying “I learn lines fast.” You know who you are.
May 30: Finding a dress for the Artie Awards without even trying! When does THAT ever happen?
May 31: Anthony Chase, who founded the Artie Awards and is a tireless supporter of theater. In July 2012, I had to opportunity to write about him when he received the Best Radio Personality award from Buffalo Spree, so I’m just going to reprint that here because my feelings haven’t changed at all: “And I’m Anthony Chase.” That weekly WBFO Theater Talk tag is so distinctive that even if you’d never met Anthony Chase and he were sitting in a theater behind you, you’d recognize the voice (yes, it’s happened). Chase’s voice is equally distinctive on the pages of “Artvoice,” where as founding theater editor, he’s been offering incisive wit and commentary on the WNY theater for 22 years (he’s also the creator and producer of the Artie Awards, our local Tonys). It’s been a winning year for Dr. Chase, assistant dean of humanities at Buffalo State College: in January, he was awarded the Community Leader Award in the Arts from the National Federation for Just Communities, and in April Outstanding Faculty Member at Buffalo State’s Student Life Awards. We’re glad we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed that without Anthony Chase (it’s fun saying his whole name – try it), there would be no champion of local theater with such a committed, impassioned – and yes, recognizable – voice. (And if you’re trying to keep up with submissions, I’m at 233–this was a slow month.)
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