In keeping with my latest trend of being asked to write stuff really, really quickly and then immediately present it to an audience – see last post about the Instant Play that I helped create for the Magic Theatre’s gala – on Sunday I was one of the participants in the Portuguese Artists Colony’s live writing challenge.
For new readers, I’m a member of a literary group called PAC. We are not Portuguese, and we are not a colony, but we do present occasional evenings of art: readings, music, and something called live writing, where four writers are given a prompt and ten minutes to create something that’s immediately presented to the audience.
This show was a special show. First, because we were kicking off our new residency at the Make-Out Room, a fabulous place that has all the things I care about in a space: a bar and a stage. Second, because all the readers were from our sister reading series in Los Angeles: David Rocklin, Zoe Ruiz, Aisha Sloan and Joe Loya. Third, because we had an amazing musician named Jethro Jeremiah. Fourth, because Silvi Alcivar, who normally writes spur-of-the-moment poetry on a typewriter with no chance for revision, got to come back with a finished piece started last show. And fifth, because the live writing was Los Angeles against San Francisco.
That’s right, we had an epic throwdown between the Portuguese Artists Colony and our Los-Angeles-based sister series, Roar Shack. Daniel Heath and I represented SF; Zoe Ruiz and Julia Ingalls stood up for LA. In the end, Daniel remained undefeated, but all the stuff was extremely good, and I think I may have the beginning of my next short story, about an Eagle Scout who places many, many “Missed Connectiions” ads on Craigslist.
We also had a fantastic photographer there to document the whole thing, which is why I’ve included so many of them in this post. I like how the red light makes everything seem kind of seedy and dangerous, like writing should be.
Next show is in July. Follow the PAC blog to know exactly when.
Thursday ended up being a really fun night: Can you guess who I was in this description?
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Artistic Director Loretta Greco and an acclaimed Bay Area playwright are conjuring the ingredients for an Instant Play and cooking up a scheme for party-goers to become playwrights.
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Forget the usual pre-dinner cocktail-hour silent auction — you’ll have the chance to cast your vote for the THEME, SETTING and PROPS for a crowd-sourced INSTANT PLAY to be written and performed THIS VERY NIGHT!
Yup, I was the “acclaimed Bay Area playwright,” whipping up a 10-minute play written in 50 minutes based entirely on suggestions from donors at the Magic Theatre’s fundraising gala. No pressure!
Of course, it ended up being a complete blast, and together with two directors, five actors, two volunteers from the audience and the amazing Christopher Winslow on keyboards, we put together a pretty spectacular film noir-style play — complete with a volunteer playing a sultry Marilyn Monroe and an entire audience bursting into song.
Best of all, it turns out Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz was in the audience, and I got to meet him. He said he couldn’t imagine having to put together a coherent play with such odd bits of dialogue and props and whatnot, but then again, there’s no way I could imagine winning a Pulitzer Prize, so I think we are more than even.
Last Sunday, I hosted the latest Portuguese Artists Colony literary event at Hotel Rex. I’ve met and discovered so many interesting and amazing writers and musicians through PAC in the past — people like Ethel Rohan and Will Boast and David Berkeley — and this show was no exception. May I urge you to check out:
- Patricia Ann McNair, a writer from Chicago whose book The Temple of Air I picked up on the way out and started reading as soon as I got home
- Siamak Vossoughi, a writer from San Francisco who read some short pieces, and who has a short story coming out soon in Glimmer Train
- Silvi Alcivar, who won the live writing portion of our event, and who writes custom poetry on a portable typewriter, for sale on her website
- Brooke D., who creates beautiful music with vocal looping and beat boxing, on a Line 6 DL4 Delay pedal, and whose CD I also bought
We do shows every two months or so; next one will be at The Make-Out Room on May 5th. Come to it!
Career Advice for Young Playwrights »
A fantastic article by Gwydion Suilebhan, with this advice:
If you want to be a playwright, get a second career, too. With the same passion you pursue writing for the stage, pursue something else. Something more lucrative, something you like, something the world clearly wants more of. (Because that’s sometimes hard to see about theater.) Make it your second-favorite profession, if you must, but make it something you expect to do forever, or at least until (like me) the next career comes along. Get a degree in nursing; you can work three shifts a week and support yourself really well. Learn how to do graphic design and take on flexible freelance jobs that flow around your writing time. Spend your winters giving snowboarding lessons at ski resorts and your summers writing. Find whatever combination works for you.
An Interview with Owen Egerton »
My friend (and dude I used to do a ton of improv with), the Austin-based writer Owen Egerton, was interviewed on the Read to Write website. In the article, he expresses something I’ve often thought but never put into words, about how a background in improv helps with writing:
Improv and writing are wonderful bedfellows. Long before I revise, I must create! In that place — that hot cauldron of creating, that hunt for self-surprise — the revising mind is an enemy. That part of my mind questioning my choices, correcting my spelling or simply asking “what are you doing here?” — that part must be shut up if I’m to thrill the page. I leave the revising for tomorrow. It’s the same in improv comedy. In improv we train ourselves to say “yes” to the wild, untested, unwritten ideas. We do not stop to ask, is this the best idea? It is the idea! So we play with it, we build upon it. So when I write, I tap into this mode. I splatter my pages with messy ideas and fractured sentences and fantastic surprises!
Wednesday was the first table read of the latest draft of my play Exit Wounds, which is getting a staged reading as part of Magic @ The Costume Shop: “a special residency at A.C.T.’s The Costume Shop at Market and 7th from February 19th through March 3rd…[featuring] ten brilliant writers whose work is in different stages of development.”
I think Equity prohibits the use of our actor’s images in Facebook posts and blog updates, but here is the actual table from the table read at Magic Theatre!
The staged reading itself will be down on Market Street on Saturday. Directed by M. Graham Smith! And starring Lauren Bloom, Michael Kern Cassidy, Robert Parsons and Titus Tompkins! See you there? Or maybe…see you there!
Taking Charge of Our Own Evolution »
Over on his blog, Gwydion Suilebhan calls for “a new theatrical ecosystem for the United States”:
We need to favor plays more than grant proposals. We need to favor audience engagement over ticket prices. We need to favor flexible development paths over fixed seasons. We need to favor experimentation with technology over defending our precious little version of our art form against change. In short, we need to re-do everything.
The Problem with AEA »
Melissa Hillman, on her Bitter Gertrude blog:
In the Bay Area, at least, AEA operates under a fundamental misunderstanding of its own market.
Go for the discussion of BAPP, MBAT, BAT, LORT, AEA and ATMs. Stay for the 47 (and growing) comments.
How the Portuguese Artists Colony Got Its Name »
Aisha Sabatini Sloan interviewed Caitlin Myer, the founder of the Portuguese Artists Colony. I’m a member of the group, and I’m often asked how the colony came to be, so I thought I’d post this excerpt:
Aisha: On your website, the Portuguese Artist’s Colony is described as “a collection of disreputable characters who write and stage performances of poetry, fiction, plays, screenplays, music and uncivil behavior.” How did that colony come to be, so far away from Portugal?
Caitlin: …I worked in Seattle for a dot-com in the late ‘90’s, and started making plans to buy land in Portugal (I was looking at old churches and farmhouses) and start an artists colony there — with the dot-com millions I would have, er, once I vested in my stock options. Two weeks before my vesting date — you see where this is going — the dot-bomb happened. In the end, I had enough for a nice dinner out. Why Portugal, when I’d never been there? I seemed to have a thing for men of Luso descent, for one thing. And my then-fiancé (later husband, now ex) is half Portuguese, has family there. I don’t know really. There’s an inexplicable appeal. Ten years later, when setting up a literary reading series with some other writers and the owner of an art space, we named it in honor of that foiled plan, and I finally got my Portuguese Artists Colony, in San Francisco.