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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.
March 15: Nerves. Today I leave for Phoenix and the Hormel Festival of New Works to develop my comedy, CHRISTMAS 2.0. I’m a little nervous, but that is such a good thing, because it means I’m stretching myself by being in the midst of new—new people, new development, new work. Nerves are good.
March 16: Warm weather. After the long and grueling winter we’ve been having in the Northeast, the temps in Phoenix make it feel like a foreign land. Also Brooke Unverferth for being my first friendly face and airport escort, and Robbie Harper, Associate Artistic Director at Phoenix Theatre for showing me around and taking me grocery shopping!
March 17: Ron May and Kari Litteer, the director and stage manager who, like a well-oiled machine, are creating a workshop production of CHRISTMAS 2.0 from the ground up in twenty hours. I’ve been through the production process but never at this pace, and the attention to detail—props, sound cues, staging, direction—this team achieves at breakneck speed is an impressive feat of professional mastery.
March 18: Meeting this woman in person. More than twenty years ago, we met on Prodigy and have remained in touch ever since, but never met in person until today. And the only reason it happened is because I wrote a play that brought me to Phoenix. Life is crazy sometimes, and this was surreal.
March 20: Actors. It’s impossible to exist as a playwright without actors, and I’ve been fortunate to have many talented performers bring my work to life. I’m beyond grateful for (and frankly, in awe of) all of them, so thank you. Thank you for doing what you do, doing it so well, and, in doing so, allowing me to do what I do. And today particularly for the privilege of observing Judy Rollings, David Dickinson, Chris Mascarelli, Angelica Howland, and Katie McFadzen—the cast who has taken CHRISTMAS 2.0 and, in twenty hours time (with the help of dramaturg Jayson Morrison, and the aforementioned Ron May and Kari Litteer), turned a script into a play. It looks like magic, but it’s all talent.
March 21: Helen Young from Knox Theatre Collective and Urban Stories Theatre, who sent me a Drop Box CD of the performances of “Doughnut Hole” and “For A Loop.” I was so impressed with the direction and performances, and being able to see out-of-town performances of short plays is such a rare treat. Coincidentally, later in the day, Art Age offered me a publishing contract for “Doughnut Hole.”
March 22: The gift of being nothing but a playwright for an entire glorious week, courtesy of the entire team at Phoenix Theatre. Though the experience was tremendous, the people were even better. Two more examples: Pasha Yamotahari extended me the hospitality of his lovely guest house the final night, and Rachael Brandt, the director of “Survival Strategy,” which went up tonight in the evening of short plays, just Face Timed me in for the talkback; how cool is that? I will be grateful for these people and this week always.
March 23: Stage Door Productions, which, for the third year running has chosen one of my plays to feature in its one-act festival. It opens Thursday in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and each playwright has a featured interview here.
March 24: The human connection that theater creates and provides, and continues to provide even as the world becomes increasingly digitized. You can’t make theater without people, and without connecting, which, as people find more ways to avoid human connection, makes theater even more valuable.
March 25: Aoise Stratford, the Central New York regional rep for the Dramatists Guild and my partner-in-crime. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would have been to get the swing of this regional rep thing if we hadn’t figured it out together. She’s a great partner, source of inspiration and advice, friend, and terrific playwright! (Plus her kids are cute and she’s got a great accent! :))
March 26: Alleyway Theatre’s Buffalo Quickies and Joyce Stilson, who has generously featured one of my plays for the past four years. This year, it’s the 26th production of my little play that could, “You Haven’t Changed A Bit,” which, with this show, finally hits a stage in my hometown. Tonight’s opening night, but as it’s my daughters’ birthday, I’ll catch the show at a later date. Break legs all!
March 27: BUA takes 10 and Buffalo United Artists Artistic Director Javier Bustillos, who took my suggestion of a ten-minute GLBT festival, and allowed it to be a reality that is now in its third year. This opportunity has given me the thrill of providing production opportunities for playwrights, seeing these stories be told, becoming part of the Buffalo United Artists family, and the friendship and support of both Javier and Matthew Crehan Higgins, my founding co-curator (we even wrote a play together once—“Kissing 101”!) and treasured friend. Tonight’s opening night also features the WNY premiere of my play, “Best Interests.”
March 28: This guy. I “met” Matthew Crehan Higgins online when I reviewed his play, RECOVERY MODE in 2011. A year later, Buffalo United Artists Artistic Director Javier Bustillos paired us to put together the first BUA TAKES 10: GLBT SHORT STORIES, and we bonded over Cadbury Mini Eggs, stoned ducks, and the gmail star system—kindred spirits became fast friends. Today, I’m particularly grateful for him handling the production end of this year’s BUATT installment. While I juggled family and travel commitments, he struggled with cast illness, losing a cast member, messed up schedules, and more that nonetheless led to a stellar opening night. It’s not the first time I’ve been grateful for him—and I know it won’t be the last.
March 29: That feeling that happens when you don’t think you’re going to make it to a show, and you make the effort and get there closing night, and are rewarded with a thoroughly delightful evening of theater that you are so glad not to have missed, and it’s topped off with a grand performance by the very good friend who graciously told you that it would be fine if you couldn’t make it. Yeah. That. Love you, Stefan.
March 30: Theater dates with my daughter. Now that she has a car, she can drive from college to meet me any time her schedule allows. Even when the show we see is less than perfect, the time together never is.
March 31: Tuesday night theater! Last night, I had the privilege of seeing Doug Zschiegner’s clever adaptation of Cyrano called Cyrana and with full gender reversal. The students of the Niagara University theater department did a tremendous job—from acting to set to lights to costumes—and the creativity and originality onstage presents a strong case for attending university theater. Bravo all!
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