Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

OCT + Small Steps: Getting out the bullshit factor November 23, 2009

The challenges of growing up can’t be quantified, but studies sure do try.  Some numbers:
*  The national high school graduation rate hovers around 70%, with some cities as low as 25%, and Oregon coming in at 68% in 2008.
*  The recidivism rate for kids who have been incarcerated is over 65%.
The figures are grimmer for poor and ethnic populations.

Keep this in mind when you meet a fallen-down-but-climbing-back-up kid like Armpit, the hero of Small Steps, Louis Sachar’s adaptation of his book, commissioned by Oregon Children’s Theatre and slated for full production this spring.   You may remember Armpit from Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility – a twisted boot camp from Sachar’s Holes where kids, well, dug holes all day on a bizarre treasure hunt.

Fertile Grounders will get a sneak peak at Small Steps’ development on January 22 during its staged reading at Madison High School, where, as Stan Foote, director, puts it, teens will assist with getting out the “bullshit factor.”

theresa – What is the story of Small Steps?

Stan Foote – Oh boy [laughs].  The story is about Armpit, a character from Holes, two years [after Holes] and he’s trying to get his life together and stay out of trouble.  So the importance of the story to me is his small steps that he’s taking, which are to get a job, graduate high school, save some money, stay out of situations that might be dangerous, and lose the name Armpit.

And then there’s a character in the story called Ginny, a ten-year-old who has cerebral palsy, and small steps sort of applies to her because she’s trying to heal.  The other main character is Kaira and she is a pop singer who is in a situation where her manager/step father is abusive and controlling.  So these three characters sort of meet together in this little adventure, which is Armpit meeting her and having a pretty…. They admire each other.  I’d hate to call it a romance.  It’s not a sexual story.  It’s a story about two kids who really like each other and find friendship with each other from different communities.  And it’s an adventure from thereon.

th – What attracted you to it?

SF – The small steps.  The high school graduation rate nationally and locally is amazingly poor, dropouts at every juncture of middle school and high school.  And here you have a kid in trouble that is making an actual effort to graduate from high school and get his life back on track.  I like the idea of taking things one step at a time.  I think we throw a lot of future on kids as opposed to present.  I think we’re future-thinking as opposed to what to do today, what things can I do today to make my life better, and how can I improve today.  I like that idea.  I think it’s a good model for kids to follow, and especially [Armpit’s] being an African-American young man.  I don’t like hitting people over the head with message and I don’t think this does.  I think you see a character that’s improving his life through a very short-term planning process that is doable.  He’s not perfect – he makes mistakes, but he gets through it.

th – What do you think is going to draw in the audience?

SF – Louis Sachar, Newberry Award-winning writer writing his third play.

th – What were the first two plays he wrote?

SF – He did the script for Holes and the script for There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom.  And then other people have adapted his works – Sideways Stories from Wayside School [which OCT is producing this spring].

th – Do you think there’s something in Small Steps that adults can pick up as well?

SF – Oh, well, yeah.  I think it’s going to be interesting for adults.  One of the things I like about this story is the romance is just a friendship.  [Armpit and Kaira] really like each other but they go on with their lives and it’s playful as far as how they behave around each other, but it’s not over-sexualized.  And I think there’s an over-sexualization of teens right now.  Of kids.  Just dress, conceptually with what they see on TV and commercials and stuff like that, and I think it’s interesting to see a relationship that is about friendship and people liking each other and not about, “When are we going to have sex?”

th – What do you think brings Armpit and Kaira together?

SF – It’s fate that brings them together.  I mean it is a hundred percent fate – an accident – and [Kaira’s] looking for something real to hang out with.  She doesn’t get to hang out with friends of her own and [Armpit] is just in the process of going through his life, and there they meet.  And Ginny’s part of that too.  I think that’s an interesting relationship – having a 17-year-old young man whose best friend is a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy.  I love that the book doesn’t explain it and that the play doesn’t explain it.  What explains it is they like each other, and I love that.  There’s nothing stuck about him pitying her or anything.  There’s nothing but admiration between the two of them, and I love that.  That’s very interesting and unique.

th – Do you have a favorite scene, line, or character in the play?

SF – I have a favorite line:  “Y-you have a very beautiful soul.”  It’s something that Ginny says to [Armpit]….  It is how she admires what he does and both of them seem to have flaws that the other one doesn’t even notice because they think so much of [each other’s] courage.

th – Would you or anyone at OCT have an embarrassing nickname you’d want to reveal to the world?

SF – My last name is Foote.  That’s enough.

th – Did you commission this from Louis?

SF – Yeah, and Karl Mansfield [whose Oregon credits include working with PCS and OSF] is doing the music.  And the music is red-hot and rollin.’   [Sadly, for this blogger, a sample of the music can’t be released at this time, but let’s just say that it covers the gamut from sassy pop to latin backbeat.]

th – What is the collaborative process between you and Louis?  Is there any back-and-forth?

SF – There is back-and-forth, and he’s a really good writer.  In writing a play and doing the rewrites I think the tendency is to throw stuff out and all of that, and some of the writers I’ve worked with try to add more things to cover a problem where I think sometimes it’s just just deleting a word or adding a word.  An example of that is El Genius in this book is doing threatening letters as a character called Billy Boy, who’s imaginary, and he’s threatening Kaira to keep her in line.  In the book that’s really really clear but in the play the first time we got it, it wasn’t clear because there’s a visual of those letters you’re supposed to connect immediately.  And in the rewrite [Louis] just added two words to connect El Genius to Billy Boy.  Just two words from one character in a scene and the connection was strong, as opposed to adding things or adding a whole line of dialogue or anything else.  I like that.  Yeah, we’re collaborating well and then [Louis had] never met Karl.  My main thing on this project was making sure that they had a good relationship.  That they liked each other.  Karl’s a buddy of mine from New York, formerly from Portland.

th – Is Louis going to get to attend the reading in January?

SF – Yes he is, and Karl will be here too.  Louis also wants to be in on the rehearsal process.  Part of his contract says he comes here and watches rehearsals.

th – Do you know if he’ll do rewrites or anything?

SF – Oh yeah.

th – Is there anything else you might want on the blog about the production?

SF – You know, we already have a cast, the rock songs are going to rock, the music is great.

th – Is there going to be music in the reading as well?

SF – Yeah.  And it’s at Madison High School, which I think is really interesting.  Part of this process is to get out the bullshit factor, to make sure this is the way kids talk, you know, so having a reading at a high school where the characters are these kids’ age, just to see what they think, see if there’s any place they go, “Oh that’s stupid.”  That’s why I wanted the reading at a high school.

* * *

If you don’t know Louis Sachar, I guarantee you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy his work.  Between now and the Festival, pick up Holes, or Small Steps, or my personal favorite discovered at age 22, Stargirl.  They’re pocket-sized quick reads during those 10-minute rehearsal breaks.

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Building Creative Intelligence November 20, 2009

Filed under: the creative process — fertilegroundpdx @ 7:31 pm
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Thank goodness for Twitter. It brought this video, of Sir Ken Robinson (creativity in education expert) to my co-worker Natalie, who passed it along to me. In it, he challenges the whole structure of the education system, asking “What are we educating our children to do?” And shouldn’t we instead be asking “what should we be educating them to create?”

There’s a great story, about 2/3 of the way in, where he talks to a famous dancer about how she became a dancer. The punchline is priceless. Take a look.

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What is Your Pulp Name? November 18, 2009

Filed under: the creative process — fertilegroundpdx @ 1:43 am
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I just received my Pulp Diction: Informer– the hilarious e-news magazine that Pulp Stages organizer Matt Haynes has put together to help his project collaborators get to know each other and stay up to date on their projects.

My favorite part so far? The brief bios of the collaborators, along with their “Pulp Name” and “surprising facts.” It reads like a superhero support group. Its AWESOME.

ANNA SAHLSTROM (author of THE GO-GIRLS) is an actress and writer born and raised in Vancouver, WA. She attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she earned a BA in Theatre and a minor in Spanish. Anna also trained in the One-Year Acting Program for Post-Graduates and Professionals at Drama Studio London where The Go-Girls had its first reading. Additionally, she attended the Playwrights’ Cornucopia workshop at CSU Summer Arts. Anna recently originated the role of Betta in the musical Rejected No More with Trueheart Productions. This is the first play she has written.

Pulp Name: Lady Katerina

Two surprising facts:
1. My friend and I were interviewed for a South Korean documentary about why Americans do community service.
2. I have magic toes. One day I accidentally cracked my little toe out of joint and I managed to pop it back into place. I can also pick things up with my toes.

My Pulp Story: I love X-Men so my pulp story would be X-Treme X-Men vol. 3: Invasion of Dimension X. It’s got unconditional love, self-sacrifice and great heroism: qualities I admire and would like to embody. It’s also beautifully drawn.

BRAD BULCHUNOS (Author of DEATH WEARS FISHNETS) wrote for years as a newspaper reporter in Colorado and Oregon and, for a glimmering time, as a humor columnist before landing his current role at the homeless youth clinic Outside In. He continues to write and act in Portland. Recently he appeared as a lunatic ghost in Twilight Tales (Northwest Children’s Theater), a wiggly innkeeper in The Three Musketeers (Lakewood), and various roles in The Dining Room (North End Players). Previously he also performed on stages in Cannon Beach and Astoria, where a few of the short plays he wrote garnered audience acclaim in competition. He is thrilled to see Death Wears Fishnets debut as his first staged work in Portland.

PULP NAME: Fleen (This is a nickname of mine, vaguely suggestive of agility and stealth but perhaps also appealing as a kind of streamlined counterpart to my Lithuanian last name. But I like “Bolchunos” (pronounced “Bowl-CHOO-nos” well enough). My Google effort produced “William Ranging” — not bad!

– I once had the honor of meeting and interviewing The Godfather of Soul amid a series of stories about a bridge-naming contest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in which the winning entry was “The James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge.”
-Probably my worst job was through a temporary agency years ago when I somehow wound up spending a day at a factory making gun parts. My own task was not horrible (scraping off the flashing from clips), but I grew a bit uneasy amid too many regular employees in the shadows near the loud, monstrous machinery (complete with black and yellow caution stripes) who had limb injuries or missing fingers.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I’m an abiding fan of the writings of Chandler and of Dashiell Hammett, too — as well as film versions of their work. My attempts at humor and parody are also meant as homage. (This was a tough category to pick just one — so many great movies and stories that might be considered pulp, depending on how it is defined, come to mind … among my favorite filmmakers alone are the Coen brothers, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock…).

JASON FERTE (Author of ALBA) has worked his ass off in Portland theatre since the late 70s, but not so much the past ten years or so. Favorite memories: working the build/run of the West Coast premiere (non-Broadway produced, or maybe it was only the Portland first-run…?) of Chicago; stage managing Stan Foote’s very first kid’s show in town, Snow White at the Circus; designing lights for the opera Hansel and Gretel; and being honored with a Technical Achievement award for Something’s Afoot, all at the old Lake Oswego Community Theatre. Recent stints include stage managing the fifth season of Action/Adventure’s Fall of the House (love those guys!), producing/directing/designing the original musical Whatever Girl (co-written with the amazing Rachel Sakry) at Echo Theatre, and designing Dia de los Muertos at Miracle Theatre a few years back (love those guys too!).

PULP NAME: don’t think I have one, though I get called “asshole,” “fucker,” and “dickface” a lot (I work with homeless kids, comes with the territory, though to be fair some think I’m the bees’ knees on my good days).

Two facts: I’ve seen every James Bond film on the big screen (some I’ve regretted seeing…); and, I write by making the shit up as I go – if I think too far ahead it starts coming out all stilted and fake and I have to backtrack and find my correct free-wheelin’ groove again, weird but it works for me.

Pulp story: don’t know what that is, I generally don’t like being someone else so I’ll just be me.

RICH RUBIN (Author of HAMLET IN HIDING)’s plays have been performed at multiple theaters in the U. S. and abroad.

NICKNAME: Short Rich Rubin (so people won’t confuse me with Tall Matt Haynes)


I (mis)spent my youth in Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn neighborhood John Travolta made forever famous in Saturday Night Fever.
I once dated a woman who’d lived next door to Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s trusted companion in varmint-vanquishing.

PULP STORY: Martin McDonagh’s Leenane trilogy, the blast that shed the light

STEVE PATTERSON (author of THE REWRITE MAN) has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include Waiting on Sean Flynn, Malaria, Altered States of America, Turquoise and Obsidian, Bombardment, Delusion of Darkness, and The Centering (with Chris Harder). In 2008, his play Liberation was published by Original Works Publishing. In 2008, his play Lost Wavelengths won the Oregon Book Award. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

BRIAN ALLARD (PR and Director of THE REWRITE MAN) is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival. Brian has comes to Portland via Minneapolis, London and New York, but is now very happy to call Oregon home. His training has taken many courses, from London’s Globe to the New England Shakespeare Festival. During his time in New York, Brian appeared off-Broadway as Caliban in The Tempest and Romney Leigh in Aurora Leigh. Since coming to PDX, he played in the US Premeire of Tales of Ordinary Madness in the lead role of Peter with CoHo Productions, clucked around as Allen in bobrauschenbergamerica at Portland Playhouse, and proudly appeared as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice with Quintessence.

MICKI SELVITELLA (Director of THE GO-GIRLS) is a director and educator. She has served as Education Director at Portland Center Stage, Artistic Director of Pittsburgh New Voices, and Director of Student Education for the Great Lakes Theater Festival. She has taught at several universities around the country, including Pacific University (Director of Theatre Department), Northern Arizona University (Interim Director of Opera Theatre), Carnegie Mellon Summer Institute, PSU, and PCC. As a director, favorite past projects include Boston Marriage and Stones in His Pockets (CoHo Productions), Amateurs (Next Step Theatre, Seattle); and Terra Nova (Ohio University). Lately, Micki has been spending time screenwriting, and is working on a web series. A native Bostonian, she is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, and holds an MFA in Directing from Ohio University. She is the recipient of an SDCF Observership (Intiman Theatre, Seattle), and is a Fulbright scholar (Taiwan, China).

What are you doing to create community with your project collaborators? Got ideas to share?

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A Manifesto Towards Everyday Dance November 17, 2009

One of the unexpected delights of the 2010 Festival as it shapes up is the discovery that many of this year’s participants are creating work at the intersection of dance and theater… including Whitebird’s world premiere Minh Tran/Tere Mathern piece, Artists Rep’s Hillsboro Story, Many Hats’ Truth and Beauty, and Shaking-the-Tree’s Memory Water (check out one of their amazing images of Chisao Hata below).

Our newest Festival participant, Polaris Dance, is cooking up an event that will blend visual art, world premiere dance and live music into a cocktail that will invite festival-goers to reconsider their relationship to dance…is it something that THEY do? Or something that I do? Is it something to witness or to experience? Or both?

With that in mind, Bernadette Doolan from Polaris has shared with me an extraordinary new manifesto, drawn from her own experience of her irish heritage- towards dance, not as a rarified twice yearly excursion into the exotics of the human body, but as an everyday essential human experience. Check it out:

When I was younger (in Ireland) I asked my parents what they did for fun when they were my age. Their answer surprised me. Not only because I was a typical narcissistic 19-year–old and couldn’t believe my parents had a life before I came along, but because the concept was a little alien in today’s society….
Their tales told of spending every weekend and sometimes mid-week travelling to dances…

When I say travelling I mean a time in Ireland when teenagers had no cars! (America was sooo advanced in the 50s/60s!).

They remembered a wondrous night when they cycled 60 miles (and back!) for a dance that was the 1950’s equivalent of uber-hot!
Though I was already slack-jawed, they proceeded to tell me of all their escapades to do with dance. (A lot!). How everyone dreaded being a wallflower (had to be explained to me first…) and how if someone was a good dancer they never had a problem finding dates, even if they had been hit with a giant ugly stick!

How a new outfit was dreamed of, begged for, borrowed and sometimes stolen so you could complete your look for that important dance. How everyone thought, dreamed, and felt dance all day, every day. It was your reason for living; it was intrinsically what made everyone tick.

How times have changed. Where once dance was part of everyone’s daily life, and a life without seemed bereft, now we have Dance relegated to a part of life that only a few get to experience. To dance is to be human. Anthropologists would agree! Our ancestors were differentiated from animals because we wanted to dance! No reason to do it to get food, but we couldn’t help gathering around the family fire-pit and cutting a move for all to share. We all hear a song on the radio and can’t prevent our hips from moving, or our heads from bopping, or both! Let’s face it; if no one is looking, our whole body gets involved! Sadly most of us now just nod at each other in seedy nightclubs or shake our bon bons at a family wedding.
We watch celebrity dancing, MTV videos and admire choreographers on talent shows on T.V., but never think to attend a local dance event or class. We’re happy to run on a dreary conveyer belt for an hour but would never think to put on our favorite music and dance off the calories.

Something else we have forgotten is that it is incredibly hard to be depressed when you dance, yet we are constantly searching for other ways to make us happy. What has happened to our humanity that we have to tamp down something that is so natural, and an integral part of our make-up?

Isn’t it time that dance stopped being relegated to the dusty corners of our community and brought forth into the spotlight it deserves? Even if our shyness wins out, can’t we still support those who have stepped up and made dance a priority in their lives, and whose efforts are ensuring the survival of dance?

We will always be moved by performance in some fashion. If it is not in our body, it can be in our experiences and memories. Such as the time when after our conversation, my Father swept me up in his arms and truly showed me what it was like to be human and fly on the arms of a good dancer.

Please support the Dance companies exploring new work with amazing music and dancers at the many events lined up for Fertile Ground fest 2010, and you will surely re-discover a little more of your humanity.

Bernadette Doolan-
Polaris Dance Theatre
“Through dance, we awaken the heart and enhance our humanity”

What is your experience of everyday dance- has there been a moment in your life where dancing lifted you up out of the every day? Changed your world? Reframed your relationship to it? Do tell.

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Strange Bedfellows: The Art of Collaboration November 10, 2009

Phaedra 1Pulp Stage’s “Tall” Matt Haynes talks about the fruits of unexpected collaborators and the delightful matches that can be made when you throw an idea out into the universe and see what new partners it catches.

Hey gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
I don’t know about the rest of you producers but for me the joy of this position is the new connections you make as you reach out for support: You put messages in e-bottles and cast them in as many directions as you can in the spirit of “What can it hurt?” Suddenly you’ve got delightful collaborators drifting your way from all sorts of surprising places.
There are now over 20 people and five organizations involved in Pulp Diction. All of them are excellent. Many of them were a surprise. Here are some samples and links if you want to learn more about these folks:

-As I looked for a venue that had either a stage or a bar, my now-PR-Manager Brian Allard directed me to The Brody which has both AND a sweet tooth for pulp (www.brodytheater.com)

-Oregon Book Award winner, Steve Patterson, agreed to not only let Pulp Diction test-drive his new play “The Rewrite Man” but also to help out with our publicity campaign.( http://)

-Looking for some help with image design, Nicole Lane referred me to Hypnokomix a new comic book company that is designing our brand and even adapted a comic, “Beach Blanket Beyond” for our reading series. (http://www.hypnokomix.com)

-The nearby drag club, Portland Embers, has agreed to let us cross-promote with them and one of their queens, Phaedra Knight will be hosting our shows (www.emberspdx.net)

-Nationally renowned voice actor and storyteller, Bill Ratner will be flying in from LA to perform in his play, GOLD which he submitted for the reading series (www.billratner.com)

And much more… This has been very exciting and fun. Hopefully the shows will be equally if not more so.


Fertile Ground Gets More SENSATIONAL

Filed under: Uncategorized — fertilegroundpdx @ 7:05 pm
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One of our intriguing new groups participating in this year’s Fertile Ground Festival is Pulp Stages, a troupe dedicated to all things sensational, genre and pulpy. Got a missive from the group’s organizer, the sensationally-sized “Tall” Matt Haynes.

Hey gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
I’m producing a late night reading series of new plays that are of the Pulp genre. We call the event Pulp Diction. Our plays deal with sensationalist goodness like vampires, avatars, psycho killers, private eyes, drag divas, superheroes and much more…
It’s all being held at the Brody Theater, downtown on Burnside and Broadway, 7:30 on Sunday January 24th and then at 10:30 the following Tues-Thurs. Different plays each night. Hot food and cold beer are available.

Check out our website: http://thepulpstage.weebly.com
Since THE PULP STAGE is not the only company doing readings, we would be happy to band together with the other reading groups in cross-promoting.
This could be in the form of:
-Putting ads in each others programs
-Pooling together to get ad space in the Fertile Ground program or the papers.
-Pitching the other readings happening before our own
-Passing out post cards or business cards of each other’s stuff before our own shows.
-Any other ideas?

Keep having fun and drop a line if you can.


Mead + Claire = Fun, Part II: The Empire Strikes Back November 6, 2009

I knew it.

I always knew it, but I kept telling myself it wasn’t true.  I have been in denial for years, until Mead Hunter brought home to me the horrible truth:

I’m too polite.

Being my mother’s daughter, and thus brought up as a proper, tea-drinking, Catholic-school-attending, antique collecting young lady like all the women in my mother’s family, that’s just how I’ve always been.  It never occurred to me until this afternoon, during my second session with Mead – my genius editor/playwriting guru extraordinaire – that it had an effect on my writing.  (Or really any effect on my life except that I can never say no when someone asks me to help with something and it made it very difficult to shake off that creepy guy who stalked me freshman year of college.)

“Everyone in this play talks the way real people talk in polite conversation,” Mead said.  “Nobody interrupts each other or ignores each other.  If someone asks someone a question, that person answers the question.  It’s too polite.”

Hmmmm.  This got the wheels turning.  See, the main character, Molly, is kind of a brat.  Or at any rate she’s SUPPOSED to be.  She drinks, she smokes, she swears, she’s covered in tattoos, she’s purposefully antagonistic . . . so the idea is that throwing a person like that right smack into the middle of a Benedictine monastery, where she’s surrounded by monks and priests, creates a reasonable amount of conflict and drama.  Right?  Except not so much.  Or, I mean, it DOES, but I think Mead’s point was it could do even MORE.  He pointed out, quite reasonably, that there are times when she’s having a conversation with someone where, realistically, she has no reason to sit there and listen nicely and then respond – even when her response is bitchy.  So I’m having to go back through and think really carefully about where she is mentally and emotionally . . . in every scene, what’s keeping her from just getting up and walking away?

Here’s a good example.  There’s a scene Mead and I talked about where Molly’s jerk ex-boyfriend calls.  The scene’s way too long, which we both knew.  But it’s also not totally realistic.  The guy is a jerk.  He needs to be introduced so the audience knows who he is when he reappears later, but we know he’s a jerk, and SHE knows he’s a jerk, so why does she talk to him for a page and a half?  Why?  Because Claire’s too polite.  But first of all, and this is the thing that hit me today – why would she even pick up the phone?  She ran away to the monastery to get away from this guy.  Why does she answer her cell when she knows it’s him?  Okay.  Think, Claire, think!  The only plausible reason Mead and I came up with is this – he’s been calling her nonstop and she finally picks up the phone to tell him to stop calling.  So maybe she picks up the phone, says “Stop calling me,” and he only gets a few lines of whining and wheedling and begging her to come back before she hangs up – although he does have to get her mad enough to throw her phone out the window, which is important in setting up what happens next.

So here’s the politeness problem.  I, Claire Willett, would never ever hang up on someone, even if I hated them.  I would just feel icky doing it.  But in all of my (brief) writing career, Molly is the first character I’ve ever written who is like 100% not me.  I can’t use any of my own experiences to guide how she would behave or react.  In fact, maybe what I should do is think, “What would my mother tell me to do in this situation?” and then do totally the opposite thing.  That could devolve into a mad anarchic world where everyone goes around wearing dresses over pants and making their beds without hospital corners, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Mead’s other concern about the politeness thing is what it does to the rhythm of the play.  When you get the tennis-match thing going – people bouncing dialogue back and forth – it can become too smooth . . . or “lulling,” as he succinctly put it.  And I think Molly needs to be more rough around the edges, a little more jagged.  I think the monks can talk that way to each other sometimes, but Molly is in all but two scenes so the play needs to feel a little more like her.  So I’m trying to go through and think, what keeps her listening?  What’s going on in her head while people talk to her?  Is she pissed?  Is she totally checked out or ignoring them?  At what point does each individual character earn her attention?  I think I just need to put myself inside her head a little bit, and go through with the red pen line-by-line and think about everything that is said to her, and what a realistic response would be.  Hopefully this may lead to some more cuts too.

P.S.  Mead was appropriately pleased with me that the final count was THIRTY-THREE PAGES shorter than the previous draft. I cut a whole character (goodbye, Haley, we hardly knew ye) and am discerning whether to give the axe to another one.  It’s always good news when you’re fairly sure that this time your play will not go over 2.5 hours.  (Sorry, everyone who came to Upon Waking, my play in Fertile Ground last year, and had to leave early to make it to the late-nights.  I swear to God you’re out of the woods this time. If I’m really good, I’ll give you time to go get a cocktail first!)

We’re at a place now where there’s lots of nitpicky specific cuts, which I like.  It gives me lots of concrete things to think about.  We’re also really trying to look at transitions . . . one of my MAJOR weaknesses as a writer is summed up by this comment from my father, who saw Upon Waking in January: “It feels like it ends like ten different times.”  Well-said, Ken Willett.  Basically what he meant – and what Mead has been telling me and I have been trying SO SO HARD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU GUYS to fix – is that scenes in Claire Willett plays tend to come to what could be a nice logical end . . . and then continue for like one billion years.  Or, well, okay, maybe more like a page.  Or even a couple lines.  But things could end a great deal sooner than they actually do, almost every single time.  So I’m trying to go through each scene, and the act breaks too, and look at where it stops, and see if there’s a natural point BEFORE that where it can stop without everything having to be, like, wrapped up all pretty and tied with a bow.  Can someone ask a question and then BOOM next scene before the question is tidily answered?  Does that make it more dramatic, in a “Gunshot!  Immediate blackout!” kind of way and then you rely on the beginning of the next scene to give you the rest of the information?  So many questions.

Anyway, so those are the big things.  As always, Mead is brilliant at pointing out things I totally don’t notice until he mentions them and then I’m like, “Oh yeah.  Duh.”  So right now I think everything boils down to creating tension – in the rhythm of the dialogue, in the behavior of the characters, in where each scene begins and ends . . . which means I’m going to have to think more in terms of drama and conflict than polite conversation.

(Sorry, Mom.)