Monday, April 22, 2013

What I learned in class

I had a blast yesterday teaching a playwriting class at the Pikes Peak Writing Conference.

Although I was disappointed by the turnout--only eight people showed up, and that number is inflated by the fact that the moderator and the sound person had to be there--the students were very enthusiastic and asked a lot of great questions.

The class was titled "Breaking into Playwriting". My hunch was that beginning playwrights would rather learn how to market their plays than how to write one.

My hunch was correct. When I asked for a show of hands, nearly everyone had already completed a play but had no clue what to do with it.

The gist of my talk was that it's easier to break into playwriting than novel writing. It's cheaper to print scripts than hardcover books, and play publishers aren't hung up on finding the next big "hit". They just want stuff that their customers will want to produce. Especially in the school market, if the play is fun and easy to stage, it will find a home.

Of course, getting that first production can be tricky. That's why I recommended that the students follow the path that had worked for me: submit your works to contests until you get a production, then submit it to small but respected publishers like Pioneer, Eldridge or Heuer.

Nothing really ground-breaking. But it was practical. One student was especially excited to learn that her informal shows at a local elementary school counted as productions.

And then it hit me. These budding writers weren't looking for advice. They were looking for permission. They needed to hear that it was okay to submit to publishers.

After class, as I was cleaning up, I came across one of the feedback forms that all attendees are supposed to fill out. I know, I know. I shouldn't have peeked at it, but I did.

Her comments were brief and to the point. One item stood out from the rest. To describe the instructor, she wrote a single word: "motivational".

I couldn't help but smile. That's exactly what I was aiming for.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Everything in its season

Besides my regular theatre reviews for the Colorado Springs Independent, I also write the occasional blog post for them. These usually cover small but interesting news items in the local theatre community.

I especially enjoy commenting on season announcements. This helps build excitement for the coming season and allows me to give my take on the theatrical offerings.

Without further ado then, here's the start of my post on the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's 2013-2014 season:
I would guess that most of the 30-plus people who gathered in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi Theater on Wednesday wondered at first who that stranger was greeting us from the stage. It was none other than Producing Artistic Director Scott RC Levy himself, almost unrecognizable without his trademark goatee. Turns out he shaved it off for his official local acting debut as Man in Chair in the upcoming production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the theater.
To continue reading, click here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On getting old

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. ~ John Barrymore
Today is my 50th birthday--a day that, if nothing else, should calls for some serious navel-gazing. Where have I come from? Where am I now? And where did I expect to be?

Today is the first day I've truly felt old. Of course, it didn't help that my teenage daughter greeted me this morning with a cheery, "Now I can call you old!"

Turning 40 didn't bother me. I felt young, or at least youngish, and I still believed that my peak years were before me. And they were. In 2003, I was an unpublished writer struggling to break into middle-grade novels--a goal that is still out of reach.

Since then I:

Had my first play produced

Had my first play produced in NYC (which I consider a singular achievement in itself)

Had my first (and second) play published

Won my first (and second) playwriting contest
Launched a thriving playwriting group

Became the theatre critic for the Colorado Springs Gazette and later the Colorado Springs Independent

Became a judge for the Colorado Theatre Guild, enabling me to see 10x as much as theatre as I ever have before

Made boatloads of new friends through the wonderful world of theatre.

In fact, other than my day job, about everything that occupies my time these days originated in the last ten years. And, amazingly enough, 7 of the 8 items above all occurred in the last 3 years (I started out as a theatre critic 5 years ago).

There's no reason to expect this won't continue. But I'm still haunted by an undeniable feeling of dissatisfaction. As I look over this list, I can help but feel these are things I should have achieved 10 years ago, if not 20 years ago.

But then, I drifted through life for so long--dabbling in one hobby here, another there--that I should be grateful I ever found My Purpose (as cheesy as that sounds).

It's that darn day job that throws me. If I had had this success 20 years ago, I might be a full-time playwright by now. As it is, I may never achieve that goal.

But if 50 has taught me anything, it's that life is full of surprises.

And I'm going to be ready for them.