I realize that, as I’m writing this, half of this year is over.
Right. How did that happen?
I feel like I’ve been crazier and busier than ever. Like it’s all coming out of nowhere and then I sit down and think about what’s been going on, and I say, “Oh! Yeah! There’s that…”
One of the “that”s was that I was writing a new play, “Into the Gobpile.” Yes, the Playwrights Union February writing challenge kicked my ass, yet again. And this particular play led me into some new territory: its setting is a small town in Southern Illinois. And it takes place in 1992, shortly after the Los Angeles riots.
So I guess I should say new territory to me… as a playwright. Because like all Angelenos, I certainly remember the LA riots. And going back to Southern Illinois, and the people there, was kind of a journey into family history, of sorts; my Mother’s extended family is from a very small town almost on the border of Kentucky – a village, really – called Equality. So there was a kind of distant familiarity about it all.
This also gave me an opportunity to write what I’ve been wanting to for awhile now: a grandma play.
And totally by coincidence (if you believe in coincidences), in February I ended up spending a week in Tennessee visiting and working with playwright Claudia Barnett. It’s a part of the country that’s not all that far from where my play is set, so that was another sideways sort of validation that I was headed in the right direction. (Or that’s what I told myself, anyway!)
After much uncomfortable wiggling, I managed to find a way into the play and got enough written to read at the PU Marathon Weekend at the end of February. (Many thanks to all of the playwrights and actors who helped out!) And then spent the next couple of months AGONIZING over this new play. It became a play about a play about lost connections and shifting landscapes.
Because of the location – Southern US Coal Country – it deals with environmental justice and racial issues; because it’s set in 1992, it looks at politics, culture and gender issues through a different lens; because it’s one of my plays, it revolves around complicated women who struggle with family, expectations and trauma… through dark comedy.
It was an unexpectedly difficult process for me, getting this particular play out there. But I am so grateful to director Laura Stribling; dramaturg Heather Helinsky; Kyle T. Wilson for his kind and helpful input; and all of the actors who helped at various stages along the way, including Elena Campbell-Martinez, Joanna Bateman & Tennile Goosic; and Hannah Prichard, Eve Sigall, Judith Moreland, Kimberly Alexander, Hersha Parady & Debba Rofheart who were beyond fab in the PU First Peek reading at the beginning of June.
The play was part of a pretty amazing weekend that also included challenge plays by Jami Brandli, Eric Rudnick, Jihan Crowther and Abbey Fenbert. #luckyplaywright big time for PU Founder Jennifer Haley and all of the generous talents that make up this supportive and inspirational group!
Now, to figure out what’s next for “Into the Gobile.” And look for development opportunities… #amwriting *face with teeth*