How I Went Crazy in 2011

It's that time of year again to look back on what was...and stop looking at the colour-coded calendar of the future.

I'd say that 2011 was the year I went crazy.  Not actually emotional break-downage. (That was 2008-2009, when my personal life and the economy went cablooey in cahoots.  Everyone should have a year they actually break down.  It makes everything else so much more manageable.)

But rather, 2011 was the year that I artistically bezerked.

Now, I am a bezerker by trade.  That is, I waffle and I waffle and I waffle over a life-altering decision...and then, rather than carefully and thoughtfully going step by step, I sort of scream my barbaric "Yawp!" at the world and run at it full-throttle.

That's how I chose a college.  That's how I joined household (Catholic sororities).  That's how I became a teacher.  That's how I became a director.  That's how I became an author.  And, thanks to the complete lack of jobs in America...that's how in 2011, I became a working artist.

It always starts the same way.  I say to myself: "Myself!  [What you're about to do] is crazy.  No one ever does [that thing].  No one can actually make a living at [that thing].  So I'll do [that thing] for a lark...and see if anyone takes me seriously."

And then they do.

And then I say: "[Expletive.]"

However, what I've learnt from being a working artist is that you had better have a colour-coded calendar.  And you had better be able to compartmentalize.  Now, I've got the former, and I'm working on the latter.  I'm also trying to learn how to juggle - because while I've gotten to the point of beginning to understand how to be a working theatrical director, I'm still learning how to be a working author.

But anywho...these are the things I have done in 2011.  And although it drove me nuts, and it meant I had almost no time...I like being busy.  And I like doing what I do.

So, thank You, God, for throwing me into these ridiculous opportunities, and please still be there to catch me when it feels like I'm falling apart.  Amen.

Edited to add: And thank you to Austenesque Reviews not only for first bringing me into the authorial blogosphere (yes, you can thank Meredith Esparza for everything), but also for awarding Nachtsturm Castle "Best Non-Pride and Prejudice Austenesque Sequel" of the year!  Yippeeeeeeeee!  (Buy your copy today!

I started running out of time with all that happened theatrically, but I really want to take a moment to thank those who welcomed me into the on-line author community.  Meredith dragged me in for the Austenesque Extravaganza and my first twitter party ever.  Then the Indie Jane girls, Maria Grazia, and the Regency Ladies really encouraged me and gave me opportunities - more than I deserve or than I knew.  And to Laura McDonald who first gave me the opportunity to publish through the wonderful Girlebooks imprint.  Thank you, to all of you. 

And bear with me as I try to juggle plays and prose!




Theatre (Directing)
  • Tartuffe: A life-long desire to direct this play finally came to pass in 2010-2011 when we first produced the script in its entirety...and then a whirlwind, highly cut down version for the Massachusetts Drama Guild Festival.  We were non-competitive last year, in part because we didn't quite know what we were getting into, and in part because we had been working on this play since October 2010...and were ending in March 2011...and that's a long time for high school students to have to see each other in a play.  That said, each iteration of Moliere's greatest work became better and better.  So that by the time we finally got to Festival, when the Tartuffe actors left the stage, the other actors from other schools at Festival got on their knees and bowed down to my actors.  We were told by the judges we wouldn't have gone on anyway, because essentially we were too funny, but what a wonderful critique!


  • Curses!, No Boys Allowed, Crying Wolf: During tech for Little Shop of Horrors (October 2010), I mentioned to Mrs. McKenzie who runs the HHS drama department that it might be a good idea to do an 8th and 9th grade play.  No cuts, short rehearsal period - something just for those people who might not otherwise get cast; something to give them experience and bond them together as a group.  What we ended up doing were three original fractured fairy tales, which were terribly fun to put on.  They're part of my Grimms Aghast series, and it was neat to return to fairy godmother Lilynimble Merryweather...and learn more about her family: her overbearing mother, Queen Morningstar, and her ne'er-do-well brother, Hexmaker Gloamingwand!  It was a really wonderful experience, and I'm glad to say that it continued through to this year!

  • South Pacific: I wasn't supposed to work on the all-school musical for 2011 (because I was doing Tartuffe & Curses! simultaneously) but Mrs. McKenzie's music director dropped out two weeks before show.  So I got called in as a "vocal coach" and taught the ridiculously easy and choral/harmony-free score to some pretty durn talented kids.  I also took some promotional photos, which is always fun, and I oversaw the sound design like usual.  That show actually had a lot of sound issues, b/c I was running backstage anyway to get a wet mike on Nellie for the *nnnnnngh* hair-washing scene...but for whatever reason the mikes kept shorting out, etc., so I was constantly running back and forth to the different wing, ripping mikes off of high school students when they stepped off the stage for just a second, re-miking them and throwing them back on with none the wiser.  A technical ninja if I do say so myself.  *plop*

  •  Heirs & Errors: While I directed those shows, I also directed another original play: this one the first dinner mystery theatre that I'd ever written.  It was a really interesting experience, because writing a mystery requires a lot of forethought (of which I typically have little).  Thanks to the wonderful cast, however, they not only brought the show to life, but they even allowed me to see places where we could be a little more overt in our clues and consequently emotional with our acting.  We also did a lot of cast and audience interaction, which is always fun.  Once again, though, we had some technical issues since 1) we had to cancel opening night b/c not enough publicity had been done to get enough audience in (however we ran it anyway for a select few who could only make that night) and 2) it was in an ooooooold building with weird wiring, so sometimes the sound or lights would blow out if we turned them up too high.  (Oh the joys of old wiring.)  Fortunately, we sorted out the bugs during tech...only to have one of our leads blow out his knee before the last night of performance.  He decided to go on anyway, with a cane, and actually used that cane to very good advantage...which made me wish he'd asked for a cane earlier.

  • A Comedy of Murders: I'm the sophomore class play director, for HHS competitive plays, and I knew we'd have quite a few people for the year I directed.  So I wrote a play with thirteen parts...and then had to add an extra part anyway!  I also wrote a show that only needed one male actor...and then I was blessed with two!  It was a fun show, full of in-jokes, and at the very end we let our murderer go running through the audience stabbing everyone (yay theatre of cruelty?).  We also had an invited dress rehearsal, where we worked out what we would do should an audience member choose to go on-stage.  I'd say that, although I've certainly worked since with audience interaction, A Comedy of Murders, is sort of the ending-place for the moment of really exploring what you can and can't get the audience to do.  It's fascinating: the audience will play along, but refuses to destroy a show.  Even when invited.  You can watch the whole thing (single angle) below:



  • As You Like It: I've wanted to do this show since 2000, and this year I had my chance.  We had a great Rosalind, and she had a wonderful cast, and we had one of our more ornate sets...which took up a lot of time painting, and which also took up a lot of time putting back in Holliston...in the rain...without raincoats...up a muddy hill...with only a few of the cast and crew.  That wasn't so fun.  I also got to play with gobos, which was neat.  I'll admit, this is a show that I think I'm going to come back to a lot.  It's a rich play, and I'm still processing it.  One of the things I really liked, though, was how the script was rearranged so that we kept a through-line from Act I's politics into the woods.  It was also fun "Killing Kayleigh Kenny" (aka Jacques LeBeau - see right).  And showing Oliver and Orlando fighting one another!  And Touchstone's puppets.  And the improv about the good china that Celia and Rosalind had.

  • The Tempest: I've posted quite a bit about this play...but there are two things that really make me proud of it: 1) that although the cast and crew were both huge...and of equal number, there were no cliques, but a true feeling of ensemble and 2) that because of that, everyone made this experience and this show luminous to work on.  We had a ton of improv rehearsals to get into the backstory...especially of the nobles.  We had live music, composed just for the show, which was gorgeous to listen to, and ended up being the life and blood of our piece.  We had amazing costumes, hair/make-up, and a brilliant set, wonderful lighting and sound design, and just fantastic stage managers and crew.  Everything just came together.  Except, of course, for when our Prospero jumped into the couch at an early rehearsal and had to go to the hospital (argh)...and then couldn't make opening night...and I went on (with script) to play Prospero.  (I'll write about that another time.)  And then our Stephano got sick for closing night...and I asked a crew member to go on!  Regardless, it was a beautiful play and I'd love to revisit it.
 Theatre (Beginning, Teaching, Writing)

  • The Light Princess/Macbeth: I'm about to start two shows that I've just cast, my adaptation of The Light Princess by George MacDonald, and Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I'm psyched about both for a few reasons.  The Light Princess is very Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), which means that we've got a cast of six (and three floaters - think Noh Drama), we're going to be using puppets, and backlighting, and throwing toilet-paper over the audience, and blowing bubbles, and all sorts of fun stuff to create a world wherein princess both fly and float.  On the other supernatural end of things, I'm also doing Macbeth which is one of Shakespeare's Big Four (Hamlet, Midsummer's, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth).  It's also the only one of the big for I haven't directed yet.  I've teched it twice (lights both times, actually), but this'll be the first time directing it.  I'm psyched to delve into this play less as a war story and more as a story of the death of children and the betrayal of trust.  It's an inimate tale of murder, revenge...and yes, hopefully, a glimmer of redemption.  Even if that redemption's lost.  We also have a super cast going in (still looking for a few good men, though!) and so I'm super excited to see what happens!
 
  • Midsummer Night's Dream: We've also just had our first production meeting for this summer's Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I've actually directed this one already, and it's the Shakespeare that keeps following me around (meaning, every time I turn around, someone's performing it...and I usually go see it).  I do think I'm going to be drawing on a lot of my original philosophical ideas, although I'm very excited to see what this new bunch of actors brings to it.  I'm also planning to do this in the round!  Yippee!

  • Steadfast Tin Soldier/Against the Odds: This year for the spring and autumn Advanced Musical Theatre courses, we put on the first scene of my TYA Opera, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, and then just a few weeks ago the students put together this really awesome plot for a musical (Against the Odds) using the pastiche form (aka using songs from other musicals and tweaking lyrics as necessary).  We'll be starting up two more sessions beginning in January.

  • Shakespeare Courses/Adjudication: In 2011, I also gave two Shakespeare courses - one on line endings and physicalizing verse at the New England Festival Conference, where the winners of the festival plays all perfom for one another, and the other a four week Shakespeare intensive for adults.  I also adjusticated for a high school in southern Massachusetts, for their competitive plays.  Oh, I also helped coach an actress for the Shakespeare competitio this year.

  • Readings: In February and then again in September, I was priviledged to attend the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston's Open Mic nights, for 10-minute excerpt readings.  I got to hear a revision of the end of Act II of Cupid and Psyche (and it works!!!), and to hear my ten minute play, Turn to Flesh (which also works!).  I'm still revising C&P thanks to the feedback and inspiration from that session, and I've since sent Turn to Flesh out to a few festivals, including the Humana Festival.

  • New Plays: I did write quite a few new plays this year, including Curses!, No Boys Allowed, Crying Wolf, Heirs & Errors, A Comedy of Murders, Turn to Flesh and To the Dark Tower Came.  The last one is a play in some iambic, some rhyming couplets, and some lyrical prose, which follows a man as he walks to his death...and which was one of the final three for the Thornton Wilder Playlet Competition through Playscripts, Inc.  Huzzah!  I also significantly revised my previously titled, Supermarket Soliloquies to the significantly better Occupy Walmart, which is as close as I've gotten to an Ives-ian play so far.
  • Productions: 2011 was a fairly good year for productions of my published plays, too!  The Passion Play was produced through independent contract in Dublin, Ireland.  Math for Actors went up in Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as Illinois, Florida, and Ohio.  Wallace's Will went up in Georgia, and Charming Princes actually went up several times in New York (for a summer tour - see right), Indiana, Maryland, and Virginia.  Hooray!  Oh, and One Nation, a short performance piece for Veteran's Day, went up in Leominster, MA.
Other Doings:

I've also tried really working on taking my job as a novelist more seriously.  I was fortunate enough to publish Letters of Love & Deception, and I'm prepping Presumption, as readers of this blog know.  I've redone this blog.  I've learnt what a guest post is.  I got myself a twitter (although I'm still learning about that).  I'm keeping up with the House of Strangeways.  I loved doing the Teatime Ten...and then found that even I can't do everything all the time always.

I've also applied to Columbia's Directing MFA program...although we'll see if I get in.  But I'm seriously thinking about just moving to NYC and "doing my time" at last, come this September.  (Unless it gets derailed again, like the summer of 2009!)  What saddens me most is that if I go, I won't see my nephews as often.  (The eldest recenty asked for a "voice lesson" so we went downstairs and sang "Jingle Bells."  It was really cute!) 

But I've gone this bezerk this year...why not go more bezerk next?

I'd write more, but I've got a party to go to, mes cheres et mesdemoiselles!  And this hair ain't gonna curl itself.  Have a wonderful and safe New Year!  And may you ring out the old with much gladness, and good crazy, too!

Comments

  1. Holy crap woman! You make me feel lazy!

    Here's to a great 2012!

    ReplyDelete

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