Edward Albee Master Class

So I’m in Omaha for Edward Albee’s Great Plains Conference and I finally have time to blog a bit. I arrived on Saturday and met my roommate, Clarence Coo. He’s a wonderfully nice guy and a perfect roommate. We’re splitting a room in the Embassy Suites, which means we each get our own room — I’m in the actual bed and he’s in the living room on the couch, and tomorrow we switch. Privacy at half the price; can’t beat it.

albee.jpgThe conference features the same thing every day: three short readings from nine to noon; lunch and a lecture from someone like Edward Albee, Mac Wellman, Arthur Kopit or Kathleen Chalfant; a master class from one of the “celebrity playwrights;” a reading of a full-length play followed by critique from said masters; dinner on our own; and a performance of some sort in one of the fancy Omaha theaters.

I’ve been having a blast. Since Clarence and I arrived together, we didn’t have any of that awkward standing around waiting to join a group. Instead, we were a group, and people joined us. As of this moment, our little clique has grown to a group of about ten playwrights from around the country, mostly the younger and more alt.theatre crowd. The ones who are starstruck by Mac Wellman, instead of wondering who he is. You know, the types of people who read this blog versus the types who just learned about blogs from CBS Sunday Morning.

I’ve also been struck by what a great theater scene Omaha seems to have. Most of the actors are from here, and they are surprisingly terrific. The whole city, in fact, is pretty cool, with the sort of indie vibe you used to find in Austin in the late 80’s. There’s the Saddlecreek folks, the whole Bright Eyes thing, and a nice feeling of being the only liberal city in a crazy red state. Again, not unlike Austin. Plus, it’s been hot as hell.

Highlights for me so far have been:

  • Hearing Edward Albee read a work-in-progress about a woman (to be played by Laura Linney) getting sucked into BDSM. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Albee talking about whips and chains.
  • Seeing Mac Wellman read a work-in-progress about a glove, where each finger was a character with its own catchphrase.
  • Meeting Tim Siragusa from Omaha, who has taken me and Clarence to cool dive bars, insane restaurants and his own art studio in a fantastic old building filled with artists.
  • Albee and Kopit’s master classes, which were really just lectures but were fascinating anyway because both of them are brilliant speakers, and because Arthur Kopit pointed out that all plays are Jewish.
  • The long and crazy dinners with all the playwrights in my posse. Plus the damn good Italian food we’ve found.

Two more days. I hope to write more, if I get time.