Saturday, September 29, 2012

Resurfacing after a success!

It has been quite a while since blog readers have had any new posts from me. But I had a good reason: my play Becoming Calvin had its world premiere this past month in Washington, D.C. It went quite well, and now of course, I am more determined than ever to put it on a larger stage, i.e. get it out to more professional theatre companies or colleges/universities that can produce it. For another opinion about the production, you can read this blog posted by Ruth Everhart (a terrific writer herself!).
The cast of Becoming Calvin with Jonathan Lee Taylor as Calvin

I learned so much during this process. I thought I would share a bit of it with readers of this blog. As Producing Artistic Director of the production I wore just about every hat there was. In the three years since I wrote the play I have been raising funds to get it up and running. I decided I would direct this production myself (having had some directing experience before), because we hadn't raised sufficient money to hire someone else. So I cast all the actors and hired the designers. That was lots of fun; I got to meet so many creative, vsisionary people! As the summer wore on I used the killer logo designed by a talented college student as the basis for putting together promotional materials (thank God for Vistaprint!), and the program. I tracked ticket sales. . . you get the idea. I was doing it all! And it was very instructive to see how much needed to be done.
graphic by Alexandra Pigott

Even more instructive, as my "army" of volunteers dwindled down to two dedicated souls, was how two stalwart, detail-oriented, organized people did the job of at least a dozen less self-directed folks. I was also blessed with paid talent who pitched in wherever needed, out of devotion to the project, and/or the satisfaction of doing a job well. Turns out that as a rookie "job creator" I made some very smart hiring decisions! I went with gut instincts, hiring people who not only excel as actors, stage manager, and designers, but who truly are team players. No over-sized egos (a good thing, because the dressing room was tiny!) And I will always look for that from now on: because creating a universe out of nothing, which is what we do in the theatre, has to be a collaboration. I liked being the boss, yes, and I was ready to accept responsibility for anything that went awry (nothing major did, though). For six weeks this summer I did virtually nothing but oversee every aspect of this play. But it was worth it -- because the people I worked with were fabulous.

Now I return to the solitary writer's role as I embark on the sequel, Being Calvin. I will miss the interaction with such gifted people. But as I stare at so many blank pages, I know now that there will likely be another happy ending, when this play is staged. And even if my role is reduced -- maybe I will only be the playwright -- I will be part of something greater than the sum of its parts. I believe that is what drives artists, always. And why we keep creating, one note, one brushstroke, one word at a time.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Of labor and roller coasters

Happy Labor Day!

In case you need a refresher on why most people in the U.S. get the first Monday in September off from work, why many businesses are closed, etc., check out the handy History of Labor Day from the U.S. Dept. of Labor website. It is interesting to note that workers are celebrated in most other countries on May Day, but here that has long been seen as a day that is too un-American to mark.

But whether we mark the day in September or in May, we should pay tribute to the men and women who protested, marched, petitioned, fought, faced imprisonment and ostracism to make each and every workplace and work site a safer, more equitable place. As a member of three unions -- Actors' Equity Association, SEIU, and the newly unified SAG-AFTRA --  I am grateful for those who paved the way.   

So, we mark the day by not laboring. Many of us relax at the pool one last time and barbeque. Here in my corner of Virginia our kids are getting ready to go back to school. (I believe my son is working, even as I type, on finishing up his summer work packet!) We have an extremely late start date because our lawmakers think it is important our families have one last chance to ride roller coasters and hit the Midway at the amusement park.

I am back at work tomorrow, going into the home stretch for my upcoming production of Becoming Calvin. As Producing Artistic Director of this project, I have been at the helm for 3 1/2 years. As you can imagine, I am very excited to finally get it off the ground. Our fundraising period was successful enough to allow me to hire professional actors who are extremely gifted. Getting the right people to do their jobs has made my job so much easier.  I am grateful to the union that supports my actors, so they can bring the play to life!

Thanks, Labor!