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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 15: My webmaster, Keith Heberling, who just added the awesome indietheaternow and New Play Exchange links to my home page. Whenever I say, “Can you do this…?” he always figures out a way and does it fast. Thanks, Keith!
February 16: Just missing in a contest, but having somebody remember your script. When my short play, “Best Interests,” was passed on for the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the notice came with some kind words about how high it had scored, and wishes for a production soon. Five months later, I got a note from Claire DeMarco, President of the Board of Directors of PNWF, asking to include the play in a new reading series called PNWF Original Play Readings. Originally scheduled to take place February 3 and canceled because of weather, the reading now takes place tonight at the 3rd Street Gallery in Carnegie, PA. Claire has been amazing at keeping me apprised of developments every step of the way, something playwrights super appreciate, but that doesn’t always happen.
February 17: Victor Gulley, Rob G, and Taste of Theater on WGSJBC Radio Smooth Jazz in Chicago. Victor invited me to do an interview and I said, “Why not?” It turned out to be a blast and a great way to spend some time on a frigid Tuesday afternoon. It’s funny because, as a journalist, I’ve spent my entire career interviewing other people, and it’s always interesting to be on the other end—something that never would have happened if I weren’t a playwright!
February 18: My daughter as assistant stage manager on my play, SEEDS. Two years ago at this time, we were deep in rehearsals for the world premiere of SEEDS at Road Less Traveled Productions. My daughter—now a theater performance major sophomore—was a senior in high school and she was given the opportunity to intern as ASM on the show. I can’t even begin to describe what an amazing experience it was being able to share the ins and outs and every little detail of this show with her, to have her really get everything that was going on with it, and relate to every feeling I had from the frustration of temporarily losing a very sentimental prop to the nervousness of opening night to the exhilaration of winning the Artie Award for Outstanding New Play several months later. She’s the one who arranged for the cast to sign the program for me, and presented it to me at the cast party. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and thinking about it still makes me so happy—and grateful.
February 19: Collaboration. In the theater world, this takes all forms and yields all kinds of results. I’ve been part of 24-hour musical festivals, where a team is throwing together a finished product in record time; that’s collaboration and compromise at the height. I’ve co-written a short play with Matthew Crehan Higgins for BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories that came out better than we could have imagined, not just because Matt and I created characters and a story that worked, but because the actors who took them on, Victoria Perez and Kurt Erb, elevated them hilariously beyond our wildest dreams. (And, in fact, BUA Takes 10 itself is a huge collaboration in itself.) I was part of Buffalo Rises, a collection of commissioned ten-minute plays celebrating Buffalo that brought local playwrights together in community unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Three playwrights and I collaborated to present Buffalo Car Plays, parking lot theater that we produced ourselves for the Buffalo Infringement Festival. And a new play, ON THE ROOF, has me collaborating with a composer for the first time. There are so many different ways to work together in theater; when it comes down to it, every theater project is a collaboration among writers, actors, designers, directors, producers… I love seeing what others artists contribute to create the big picture; the result is such an incredible and unpredictable union. That’s what makes it so exciting. I could write novels and control everything, but why would I want to?
February 20: The International Centre for Women Playwrights. This group, which amazingly was founded right here in Buffalo (and I am fortunate enough to know two of the founders), is full of welcoming and supportive women who were ahead of their time. The group was my first lifeline to the greater community of playwrights via its listserv, and now it’s at the forefront of championing gender parity. I’m currently part of a feedback group through ICWP as well, and, having just received a slew of great feedback from dedicated readers, the time seemed right for a shout-out. It’s a group all women playwrights should be a part of.
February 21: Zicam. It’s working. I think it’s working. I hope it’s working. What playwright can afford to be sick??
February 22: The Sunday before the Dramatists Guild regional reps meeting. It’s become tradition for Chelly Iadanza to meet me for a theater/dinner/theater sandwich—is there a day much better than that? This year, we’re seeing Pulitzer winner Disgraced (best play I have seen in ages!) and new play Placebo at Playwrights Horizons (which you can always count on on a Sunday night!). Bonus: I got to drive to NYC today, and only have to fly home (have I mentioned my fear of flying?) AND meet a bunch of regional reps for drinks after the show!
February 24: These people–the regional representatives for the Dramatists Guild (and I apologize that I could not get every single one of you into a picture!). I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to have met these people, how much kinship and love I feel for them, how much fun we have, how proud I am of the work they do, how much I look forward to these two days each year, and how honored I am to be one of them.
February 24: The Dramatists Guild Council meeting. Being surrounded by playwrights for two days straight is incredible. Our regional rep meeting (below) is full of so many ideas to bring home. The awards banquet last night was moving and fun and indicative of what a great sense of community playwrights have; the greater the community, the less we worry about self-promotion as evidenced by the fact that NOT ONE award recipient last night talked about their work. They talked about the people in the room and what playwrights give each other, something we’ve been experiencing for two days. But today, at the Council meeting, there was a room full of some of the most recognizable names in the business, and they weren’t there to talk about their work either. They just want to make things better for playwrights. They want to hear what’s going on in our regions. They want to listen. Appreciate. It is so inspiring what happens in that room, and I leave this trip each year just in awe of all of what a wonderful thing I have discovered.
February 25: The opportunity to see John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And it nearly didn’t happen, as JCM severely injured his knee during a performance earlier in the month, and last night’s performance was his first back since the incident. In character, he blamed the injury on a Tonya Harding-like assault in Dress Barn by someone in a Michael C. Hall mask (“or was it?” MCH filled in during JCM’s recovery), new comedic material surrounded the crate on which the leg–encased in a full brace–was often elevated, and infiltrated the monologues, i.e. “Here I am, barely standing before you…” At one point, he even took an ice pack (doctor’s orders, no doubt). There was something endearingly human about the accommodations and I didn’t miss the near gymnastics that I saw in NPH’s performance last year. Perhaps being injured gave JCM an extra layer of vulnerability, or maybe he is just that good. The audience didn’t seem to mind at all. I know I didn’t.
February 26: Caffeine. Because… caffeine.
February 27: Almost Land. That’s where one of my new plays is right now. It came in fifth in the TADA! contest in Tucson (the top four move on), it’s a semi-finalist for the Playwrights First contest, and this week, the full script was requested by both a reputable festival and a reputable theater. Odds are, these latter three opportunities will go no further than the first, but that’s okay. In Almost Land, there is hope, and it’s a short skip from there to a hit. I just need to keep my fingers crossed for the hands this script is still in, and make sure it gets into more. Submit, submit, submit!
February 28: Notification Season. Last year, I was calling this Rejection Season (and offering this advice on coping with it; I followed up with this post, the forerunner of #365gratefulplaywright); my friend Gwydion Suilebhan took to calling it Acceptance Season. But this year, I’ve decided I prefer the more neutral Notification Season, which seems to most aptly describe what began a week or so again and which, this week, with no fewer than ten notifications—including the Great Plains and Seven Devils Conferences—is seemingly in full swing. Why am I grateful for this? It’s an exciting time! If you’ve done your submitting, this is when all that hard work pays off, when you can end up in the Almost Land I described above. That feeling I described on January 17, when anything can happen, is palpable in the community daily. And even if it’s not happening for me, it’s happening for other playwrights. Anticipation, good news, and congratulations are everywhere. Wishing good tidings of this season to all! (P.S. If you vowed to keep up with me on submissions this year, I’m at 99.)
To read more entries in this series, click here or #365GratefulPlaywright in the category listing at upper right.