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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.
February 1: Mark Harvey Levine and Claudia Haas, the man who founded the Playwright Purge and the woman who is making sure it continues. For those who don’t know, the Purge is a twice-year community effort to write something—anything—every day for a month. Participants post their progress for the day to the group, and get encouragement, advice, and camaraderie to meet whatever goals they’ve set for themselves. This year, my “writing” goal for the first half of the month is actually to do some reading that’s necessary before I can begin writing; sometimes it’s hard to find time even for that!
February 2: Skype and Face Time. These are among a playwright’s best friends. I’ve gone to meetings, had interviews, participated in rehearsals, sat in on readings for a winning script, and even attended opening night of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR in Romania—all via digital travel. These are amazing tools that allow us to be the places we can’t and make connections when budgets, time, and/or practicality preclude our physical presence.
February 3: TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY participants. Every so often, I have a play to swap out for TAPT myself, and I’m always so appreciative of the thoughtful and incisive feedback I receive to help make the play better. Today is no exception, so if you traded with me today, THANK YOU. Except for one that I only recently started submitting, every play I’ve put through TAPT has found a production, and I have these folks to thank. If you want to play, too, read the guidelines here, and how you can help keep TAPT going here.
February 4: The start of a four-show weekend. Tonight, the Buddy Holly Story at MusicalFare; Thursday, Beau Jest at Jewish Repertory Theatre; Friday, Burying the Bones at Paul Robeson; and Saturday, a choose-your-own theater adventure, Mystery of the Silver Chalice produced by Buffalo Laboratory Theatre at 710 Main! All with different fabulous people, and the whole family on Saturday night!
February 5: Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, West Virginia, which, for the second year has chosen to include one of my plays in its New Voices Festival, which opens tonight. Last year, they did the rarely produced “Gift Horse” and, this year, “Doughnut Hole.” Break legs!
February 6: The Shaw Festival, which is promoting its new season. This 53rd season promises to be phenomenal with Sweet Charity, Pygmalion, Light Up The Sky, The Lady From The Sea, Top Girls, The Twelve-Pound Look, Peter and the Starcatcher, You Never Can Tell, The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt, and The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures!! Such an eclectic mix of old and new, with two world premieres; let me know if you’re going to be in the area!
February 7: Buffalo, New York. I moved here eleven years ago today, a single parent essentially starting a new life. I had no idea that writing plays and theater would be such an integral part of it and become such a lifeline in so many ways. I’m pretty confident that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t moved and, given, what they have done for me, Buffalo and its amazing theater community are pretty high on my list of things to be grateful for.
February 8: Celebrating with theater! There’s nothing I like better than celebrating an occasion like yesterday’s anniversary with my family. And when they allow (allow might be too strong a word for one of them) theater to be part of that celebration, it’s that much better. Last night, we all went to Mystery of The Silver Chalice, a choose-your-own adventure show that is the perfect event for those who “don’t quite like” theater.
February 9: The wonderful, generous, and supportive Martin and Rochelle Denton, founders of Indie Theater Now, who welcomed me to their fold and put four of my plays up on the indietheater website. Check them out here.
February 10: George Sapio and Onstage/Offstage, which today presents “You Haven’t Changed A Bit” as a Valentine’s Day offering. I love listening to these theater-insider podcasts on long drives (and now that they’re on iTunes, it doesn’t kill my data). Check out today’s podcast here, and my previous interview here.
February 11: The Just Buffalo Literary Center‘s Babel Series, which brought playwright David Henry Hwang to town yesterday. Originally scheduled for and snowed out in November, Hwang made it here between squalls for an intimate student Q&A event in the afternoon, and an informative and insightful talk with Q&A for nearly 1,000 at Kleinhans Music Hall in the evening. If you missed it, click here for the Buffalo Spree interview I did in November, which covers much of the same ground, but unfortunately can’t convey how personable and engaging Hwang is in person.
February 12: Adam Szymkowicz, a terrific playwright and thoughtful contributor on the Official Playwrights of Facebook who asked me to be playwright #718 on his “I Interview Playwrights” blog, which has been going since June 2009, and has gotten well over a million hits. I was honored to be asked!
February 13: This Gulfshore Playhouse blog post: Perspectives by Gwydion Suilebhan. I had something else scheduled for today (truly, so much to be grateful for!) when I happened across this and I thought, “This is exactly it. Gwydion has so succinctly and eloquently summed up what I am doing this entire year, acknowledging and thanking all the people who make being a playwright possible by receiving, developing, producing, funding, acting in, believing in, promoting, and watching plays. I’ll continue singling out people, places, and things for the remainder of 2015, but given Gwydion’s figures on one play, my list of 365 will only scratch the surface. The point of #365gratefulplaywright and of this wonderful post is that no playwright can possibly do it alone. Each person I am grateful to will only lead to ten more. So today, I generally acknowledge that, and specifically acknowledge Wendy Froberg, who sent me this picture of “Doughnut Hole,” which she is directing in far-off (to me) Calgary at Urban Stories Theatre. Because her taking the time to email me underscores this blog post, and because behind Wendy, there are readers, actors, a stage manager, two theaters in co-production, etc. And I’m grateful to all of them.
(left to right are Sandy Lucas playing Sally, Maria Crooks as Charlotte, and Liz O’Shea as Grace)
February 14: The most perfect, loving, inspiring partner. To keep this on topic (and shorter, because I could go on all day), I’ll say that when it comes to playwriting, he’s not only my toughest critic, but also my biggest supporter. I could not do any of this without him, because he’s always there to back me up and build me up. This year is busy, but any time I asked, “Is it possible for me to go to New York… Phoenix… Miami… Denver… Michigan…Chicago?” he never hesitated, even though it means holding the fort, getting people on buses, making meals, etc. He even talks me down from my fear of flying. Bette Midler once said that the hardest part success is finding someone to be happy for you; I know that no matter what level of playwriting success I might be fortunate to achieve, I will never have that problem, it will never equal the good fortune I already have in finding this man, and I will never have done it alone. Happy Valentine’s Day!
To read more entries in this series, click here or #365GratefulPlaywright in the category listing at upper right.