First Company Meeting of the new season, and boy are there things to talk about at this meeting! And I am so superdeduper excited because three new girls that we are quickly falling in love with will be joining our meetings! I don’t really have much to say except that I wanted to document my excitement at the first meeting of the new season. Its a nice milestone and follow up to our great season kick off event (photos/vido blog coming soon)! So much is changing at Teatro Luna— so many new hurdles (CCPA– more on that soon) and on and on that we haven’t been able to fully RE-LAUNCH as promised.
Diane here with a quick introduction-Lorena Diaz from our PlayLab 2 was gracious enough to serve as our guest blogger for the March PlayLab 2. Below is her blog…enjoy!
March Play Lab
People at Play Lab:
It’s 7:21 and we’re still chatting. Not usual or unusual for this group of Latina women.
Stories of Internet love, properly using the moon to your advantage and the business of writing and putting up our work in the coming weeks are told.
I love Play Lab.
Mishelle is back and it’s nice to have her. She’s spunky and deep and her writings have been missed. It’s been a month since we’ve seen one another and last time we got together there was a snowstorm. Only a few of us were able to make it out so this March Play Lab is a real treat since almost everyone is here.
Our assignment was get a newspaper article and write a scene based off of it or inspired by it.
Wendy goes first because she thinks what she wrote is shit. She refers to the 3 part series of articles from the Chicago Sun-Times about Latino musicians doing their thing and how they talk about JLO instead of the local musicians. Who are also Latino. Her scene, by the way, is hysterical. This raises great dialogue at the table. Being Latino is not a new mainstream thing; it’s a growing niche. That’s what we feel about it, and we are really tiring of being Latino and trying to work in the industry, just to have the “industry” tell us we don’t look Latino enough or we should be more like J.Lo and Penelope Cruz. Wendy’s scene deals with this in a fun abstract way- I could easily see this as an awesome sketch on Saturday Night Live. Can you imagine? SNL doing a scene catered to Latinos.
Now we move on to Petrucia. Petrucia speaks and writes Portuguese. She’s Brazilian and her musings are ohhhhh so sexy. Today she wrote a scene inspired by the natural catastrophes that are happening in Brazil. She wrote this scene in Portuguese and has transcribed it in English for us. Her story is about a few bourgeois couples that go out on vacation together in order to work through some issues and while in the process of doing so they get stuck in a natural disaster. Part of what’s so brilliant about Petrucia’s writing is that she doesn’t write to the confines of a stage; yet you can easily see her work onstage. She writes to write and she paints her world. Her human drama in what she creates is so well executed, even in a first draft. Wendy comments that her characters always jump out of the page and we all agree. Petrucia, who lives with plays in her head waiting to be written by her, has a nice long awesome story to develop through this one little wonderful scene inspired by an article in the paper.
Diane is up. She says it’s time to depress us. (Hahaha) The article is about a Naperville rapist by the name of James R. Willard. Her scene is indeed dark.
Diane is very good with this tone, she bounces between comedy and dark drama with incredible ease and childlike delight. She writes a scene that takes place in the 80’s. I can’t tell you too much more about the plot because what she’s ultimately writing is a piece that has a tone or theme of the Twilight Zone. Remember the show? Major mind trickery. Diane has been diligent to her theme. Every month she brings a new piece that explores her original theme over and over again, each time more layered and complex and an exciting reveal. I’m jealous at her diligence. I wish for the discipline in my own writing. Diane feels there are things to clear up. Group reading is good to throw ideas to in order to expand your original concept and keep you close to it when you’re feeling like straying a little. We all collectively love it and are excited to see all the pieces together.
We break briefly to come back to Yolanda telling us news about a national award she won for “Brown Girl Chronicles”. The American Educational Research Conference awarded it to her. We are indeed among great talent. It occurs to me that it has taken a little over a year, meeting once a month, for us to finally feel real comfort around the other. We celebrate our success and share misery in our tragedies. It’s a commitment to want to write and an even greater commitment to want to share it over and over again with the same group of people. The work is worth it though-where else can you get this level of support and mentoring on your piece? It’s never been negative, always positive and challenging. All collaboration should be like this.
I go next. My inspiration comes more from a collection of articles I’ve been drawn to over the last few weeks as well as the last few months. Gay Rights. Brad Pitt also said something very curious once at an awards show. He said that if a bunch of people got together and said straight people weren’t allowed to marry other straight people then he would be fighting for their rights instead–mostly because it’s about civil liberties and not about right and wrong sexual behavior. Since I deal with almost everything through the eye of comedy, I wrote a scene about turning the tables on society and having two parents very upset to discover that their son is straight. It was cathartic writing it and I’m curious to see how it will play in front of a crowd. The girls seemed to dig it and I received some great pointers on how to make it stronger.
Kristiana brings us some new stuff. She’s brought an article in from BBC News about a US female soldier being found guilty of indecent exposure after she took part in a mud wrestling party at the largest military prison in Iraq. She’s pulled from the article very well, writing a scene about 2 characters, one a female private and the other her boyfriend. Kristiana is also very good about writing the voice of her characters. Some of us have strength in characters, others in plot; Kristiana has strength in the human drama. She wanted to write something about a female soldier without it just being about a female soldier getting raped. After all, there’s more to it then that anyway. Kristiana also excels at writing characters without preconceived status. Any one of the characters she writes can do just about anything at any time. Which is (part of) what makes her writing so exciting. I refer to it as her “Christopher Walken character writing technique”. Kristiana has inspired me to take another look at the world. I tend to pull things from a very topical perspective. She likes to dig in there and see how many layers of thinking exist. I really dig that and have borrowed the insight when dealing with my own writing. Now when something inspires me in any way, I dig and dig for all sorts of different perspectives on the topic. This way I can come from any angle and feel confident that my characters might stray from even their own ideals. That’s true to life anyway.
Onward with Mishelle. Her article was pulled from her sister’s Facebook page. The article was about Chelsea King who was found in San Diego dead and sexually assaulted. She went out on a run at the lake and a convicted released sex offender was the one who killed her. It seems the story gets even weirder when the bones of another girl who went missing a year ago shows up as well soon after they find Chelsea’s body. Mishelle was inspired by how these girls’ lives are intertwined through their death caused by the same person. Her scene is inspired by these girls. A fantastical scene emerges- as is consistent in Mishelle’s writing. Provocative for sure. She flips the tables on us. I like it. Her theme is a little taboo but I love this! I love anything that takes something people have their mind set on, especially in regards to death and smudges it with little ink filled fingers of taboo.
Yolanda is last but not least. She has chosen to bring in her 10-minute play submission. Good solid scene. Yolanda has been consistently bringing in really funny material. Grounded in real solid characters she likes to play in the absurdity of relationships between the characters. Dialogue is always so great, that we struggle with telling her to trim it because so much of it is funny. But alas, everything could always be tighter right? We hammer this truth over ourselves over and over again and happily reach conclusions on ideas with one another. Yolanda has ease with beating out her scenes clearly even in a first draft. It’s funny, she is usually prone to saying something she’s written is “so-so”; but honestly, it’s usually pretty hilarious.
The end of the night comes around and we’re sent home with new inspiration.
Until next month. Write.
Our directors lab last month was led by Derrick Sanders. Derrick has had such amazing experiences ans a director; working with August Wilson, artistic director of a theater company; directing for any number of great theater in Chicago, NY and elsewhere.
All I wanted to do was ask him questions. How do you maintain power as a director? How do you run your rehearsal room? Where do you find your inspiration? What is your process before a show begins? Is it the same every time?
Derrick was gracious enough to answer all of our questions no matter how seemingly pedestrian.
Am I exposing myself here?
I guess I am.
As a new director I was intimidated. I have very little experience and the craft is still unfolding in front of me every time we meet. I don’t feel like I have a solid process. I get really anxious about having to have all the answers.
I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW!!
I don’t have to have all the answers and being willing to admit not knowing is a powerful thing. I know that. In my mind.
But not my heart.
Does that make sense?
It sounds cheesy and cliche but as a director I want to be able to help guide my actors, designers, crew to express clearly the message the playwright has laid out for us.
Do professional directors feel power within themselves because they trust the process or their research?
Is finding that power a matter of practice and doing it over and over and falling on your face?
The prospect of falling on my face with so many people counting on me is…unnerving.
Do directors feel terrified every time they work but have become so good at managing the personalities in the room they are able to muscle through?
Lots of questions in this blog huh.
For the next part of the lab Derrick began to tackle composition.
My tension starts to rise.
I had been reading out our textbook “Play Directing: Analysis, Communication and Style” by Francis Hodge. It makes it all seem so complicated and formulaic. I am not formulaic by nature.
Do directors really have all of this going on in their mind at any given time when they are working on a scene? Points of power and planes and 120 degree angles and the like.
I mention this to Derrick.
He responds that it’s good information to have and know and that different directors use that information in different ways.
Tension still rising.
Now having some distance from our lab and preparing to enter into another process there are a lot of things swimming in my mind. The most compelling of which is something I have scoffed at when I’ve heard it mentioned in the past.
My husband talks about needing SPACE. That to be creative requires lots of SPACE and TIME. And I’m all – who has space and time? I have a career and a business to run and two kids I don’t have time to create space.
It’s interesting to me now to try to carve out time to be inspired. Time to find images. To shift my perspective from panic to pleasure.
Derrick said that he has pictures he took on his iphone, of people he saw on the street who resembled characters in a play he is working on.
How fun is that?
The director of our next month’s lab talked about how she listens to lots of music to get inspired and watches lots of movies.
So I’m off to fill my ipod and carry around my Flip and will try to keep reminding myself to make it fun and find inspiration in the tiny spaces I have in my life.
Did I also mention I got rid of cable? Thought that might open up some time since I won’t be watching Supernanny til midnight.
And am giving up drinking until June when my next project opens. I’ll keep you posted on how that one is going.
Comments, smart remarks and inspiration are welcome.
Non-Equity General Season Auditions & Interviews for Teatro Luna: Monday February 15, 2010 & March 13 2010
Our 2010 General Season Auditions are coming up and we are looking for talented Latinas of all ages and backgrounds.
MACHOS: Looking for Latinas of all ages and types to tour with our hit show MACHOS. The ideal person is willing to wear facial hair and able to travel. Bilingual English/Spanish is NOT necessary.
HALF: Looking for writers, performers, and musicians to work on creating a new ensemble devised full-length performance. This is a chance to experience Teatro Luna’s unique development process from the very beginning!
LUNADAS READING SERIES: Looking for actors of ALL racial/ethnic/gender identities for the casting pool of a bi-monthly reading series.
AUDITIONS: Monday February 15th from 9 am – 2:00 pm, by appointment only. We will also be taking appointments for March 13, 2010 10 am – 4 pm For more information, and to make an appointment, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume & headshot. 2649 N. Francisco Avenue 2nd floor, Chicago IL 60647 On Francisco between Diversey & Logan Blvd.)
So the PlayLabs 1 and 2 have been up and running since June, but we figured it would great to keep all updated on our progress with both! So a short synopsis on both of the October PlayLab workshops:
PLAYLAB 1-OCTOBER 3RD
It was a small yet mighty group for this PlayLab–our reading assignment was Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, and we had a lively discussion about how the play relates to us today. We were all able to draw parallels between the three sisters and points in our own lives where we’ve been “stuck” or “living in the past”, and we talked about how that universality makes this play relevant even today.
We also discussed the challenges in reading the play with the amount of characters, the loooong names, and the fact that it was a five-act play as opposed to the two or three act plays we are used to in modern times. We all agreed that we would like to see a live version to see the work fleshed out–it was a reminder that in our own writing we need to be sure to give our characters distinct voices so they are not lost within the play, and how we are writing within our times of shortened attention spans so it would be a challenge to mount a 5 act play like Chekhov’s in today’s world (not impossible, just challenging).
The women of PlayLab 1 are doing a great job with their writing assignments–I can definitely see the improvements over time in each of their work just by the quality of writing in their exercises. This month’s exercise was:
One character is high status, one character is low status–the high-status character asks for something from the low-status character, which the low-status character does not want to give.
Our lovely participants came up with some great scenes–from sorority sisters to city officials to old neighborhood “friends”, they were very fun to read and entertaining. Keep up the good work, ladies!
PLAYLAB 2- October 13th
Our assignment for this lab was:
Write a scene inspired by music
It’s always interesting to see what songs inspire writers in their scenes–we had songs like the Glee show’s cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” set up a scene about alien invasion, or drumbeats inspiring a scene about oppression and revolution…Nina Simone inspired a father/daughter scene that was heartbreakingly honest, while Adele’s “Daydreamer” and “Ghosts in the Water” by Julian Velard colored a scene about a woman’s recollection of a Halloween party. Last, Portishead was the inspiration behind a continuation of a play where the dead feed off feelings like vultures and patterns are sustained, broken and remade.
The most exciting news to come from October is the confirmation that Teatro Luna will be producing a night of 10-minute plays to coincide with the Latino Theatre Festival as well as TL’s 10 year anniversary. We will have our PlayLab participants submit their 10-minute plays, and we will choose 10 10-minute plays to produce for the evening. They will be directed by our Directors Lab participants as well. We are working on a theme that the 10-minute plays will be set agains–any ideas?? Let us know!
Well, until November…feel free to post any comments, questions, etc for this blog!
Until next month,
What is an event?
Something big? Something life changing? Sometimes.
It’s something that has an impact on your daily life. To use the example from our lab you are walking your dog. You see a squirrel stop ahead of you. It looks odd. Frozen for too long. It darts under a car. You glance under the car and see the squirrel having a seizure. It looks pretty intense. You watch for a moment.
And just like that.
The squirrel is dead.
It died right in front of you as you were watching.
Not hit by a car, no discernible reason just dead and stiff. You move on with your day but you can’t quite seem to shake it. You even get a little teary over it when you think of that squirrel there in the street. The image of the squirrel is with you as you head to work, sit at your computer and ride the train.
The next day you see another squirrel.
Approach it cautiously.
Could it happen again? Are you somehow linked to the fate of squirrels everywhere?
It sees you and runs the other direction. It’s just a normal squirrel that didn’t eat a poison plant or drink anti-freeze or anything like that. But witnessing the final moments of the first squirrel was an event for you.
Plays are a series of events, some big and some small, that answer the dramatic question of the play. As a director part of your job is to manage and focus those individual events.
Keira Fromm led us through this discussion and gave us tools/guidelines to discover the dramatic question of the play.
She used “Hamlet” as an example. The dramatic question in “Hamlet”: Will Hamlet kill Claudius? The ‘events’ in the play contribute to answering that question.
Hamlet finds Claudius praying in Act 3 and contemplates his death saying “Now might I do it!”. This is one of the events that makes up the spine of the play.
What is the moment of the event? By shifting a few lines forward or back how does that change the focus and energy of the scene. Is the moment Hamlet discovers Claudius ‘the event’ or is it when he thinks to kill him or when he changes his mind? How does your choice of that moment, affect the tone and pace of the scene? Of the play?
As directors we are highlighting or framing specific events to answer the dramatic question of the play.
In “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller the dramatic question seemed linked to the directors choice of the protagonist in the play. Keira suggested we identify what character undergoes the biggest change. There were arguments made for a number of different protagonists: the son Chris, the father Joe or the mother Kate. We were hoping as a group to get to see Timeline’s production (which just closed) to see Kimberly Senior’s choice. Anyone see it and want to tell us about it? Comment.
How do we choose a dramatic question? We identify the events that really resonate with us. We look at the sum of those events and try to identify what question is being answered.
How much latitude do you have as a director to make choices that resonate with you?
Which brings us back to our discussion of last month.
What is the function of the director?
Does the director have their own point of view or spin? Or is their job strictly to communicate the playwrights vision? Does it really only matter if the playwright is living? How does that apply to the classics?
We left with a lot of great questions so now let’s hear some of your thoughts and get this dialogue going!