Today was an especially delightful day in rehearsal with my director Laura Kepley and dramaturg Celise Kalke. Laura is the sweetest, just look.
Going through my emails I just realized that it’s been exactly one year since Celise called to tell me that I’d won the Kendeda Playwriting Prize. It’s been a truly amazing year since, and right now I’m in the middle of the funnest month of my life, with more to come with ‘A Nice Indian Boy’ (directed by Snehal Desai) very soon. I’m so grateful to have these two months, with two productions of plays that mean so much to me, and getting to work with such talented and kind people. I’ve always been happiest when I get to do theatre, and so this has been one long extended period of joy. That’s all.
So my New Year’s Resolution (haha, haha, ha) is to blog once a week every week for the entire year. I’ll have to have at least 52 posts by the end of 2014. I need to start recording all the good things in my life! Because good things seem to happen to me every week.
Like this one, which starts the New Year off on an amazing note.
The Hindu MetroPlus has profiled me. I had an interview with Anusha Parthasarathy on Monday, and now it’s online! I’m in my hometown newspaper! The freaking Hindu!
And I like the picture too.
This is awesome. This is just really awesome.
I’ll get to the 2013 update and round-up soon, I swear. (haha, haha, ha.)
Look Mom, I’m on a poster.
And not very long from now, I’ll be on a marquee (or two) as well!
I don’t have anything particularly interesting to write about right now, so how about we just make a record of what I’ve been doing in the past couple of months.
As of this week, my unemployment troubles have ceased, as I somehow managed to line up three freelance jobs that I’m equally happy about. Which also means I suddenly have work. Like actual work. And I need to structure my time and be disciplined and all of that. And clean my room. Cleaning my room is integral to everything else in my life. Always.
The first round of auditions for In Love and Warcraft took place in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago (where I found myself on a poster), and they were equal parts fun and stressful, and the fun was abundantly supplied by my awesome director Laura Kepley who I am now officially in love with. Our next round will take place in New York in November, which also means I get to go to New York yay yay yay yay. YAY.
I got the new East West Players season brochure in the mail and FELL IN LOVE (cannot emphasize enough) with the amazing poster art for A Nice Indian Boy. This could not be more perfect. Look at that beautiful Ganesha. It’s everything I wanted.
And of course the most amazing part of my summer was the 8 days I spent in D.C. at the MFA Playwright’s workshop at the Kennedy Center. I got to work on ILAW with Celise Kalke, my dramaturg at the Alliance, Shirley Serotsky, my D.C. director, and a brilliant cast. The reading was fantastic. It was the first time I’d heard the play outside of my USC workshop last year- and yay. It was still funny.
In fact you should just read Celise’s account of our week, just stop reading and go read that.
I met wonderful theatre people- directors and dramaturgs and actors and theatre students from D.C. and all over the country- and got to hang out with fellow playwrights all at similar stages in our careers, and got to sightsee a bit, and generally just had the best time.
It didn’t feel that way in the beginning though. On the Saturday that I landed, after the amazing Gregg Henry dropped me off at the hotel, I started freaking out about the week ahead. I was so very nervous about having to meet so many people- I didn’t know anyone there, since I wouldn’t see my own team till Monday- I did not want to talk to strangers. I was having a full on introvert meltdown.
At 7pm we were all supposed to gather in the lobby for the shuttle that would take us to the Kennedy Center. At 7pm, I came down to the lobby, and saw a whole bunch of chatty, happy, theatre-y looking people generally being sociable human beings. I also saw the shuttle waiting right outside. Stay and talk, Madhuri, stay and talk, I kept telling myself, but I couldn’t do it. I walked right through the lobby and outside, and got in the shuttle.
Where I saw four people sitting by themselves, looking awkward. I took a seat by myself as well. The silence stretched on for… minutes? Until finally, one guy suddenly spoke up- “Hi, I’m Kelly Lusk, sorry, this is weird.” And we all introduced ourselves.
A few seconds.
And then I asked- “Wait, are we all playwrights?”
And of course we were. The directors and dramaturgs and actors were inside being chatty cathys while the playwrights were in the bus avoiding human contact.
And I immediately felt better. (And grateful to Kelly Lusk, who is awesome.)
By the end of the week, I grew to really adore the other playwrights and it felt strange on our final Sunday when we suddenly had to disperse all over the country again.
For the past six weeks, I was also consumed with a script that I was not able to crack. My very first attempt at writing a TV pilot, a half-hour comedy spec, based on my own life- that’s always tricky.
Anyway, on Sunday, I finished it. I can’t remember the last time I was so relieved to have typed to the end- although maybe first drafts always feel this way (no, they don’t. This was a tough one).
Anyway, the only reason I got it done 5 days before my real deadline was because Hema told me that finishing this script would count as her birthday present.
So my trick to productivity is to… forget to get my roommate a birthday present and have her unselfishly let me make it up to her by doing something I’m supposed to be doing anyway.
One more pass, with help from Megan, and then it’s off before my Labor Day deadline.
My mom tweeted this photo of me for Krishna Jayanthi.
YAY WEEKEND! (of rewrites!)
Last night I got to meet Callie Kimball, whom I’ve known through Twitter for maybe almost three years now, and as with most of my online friends it just felt so natural and easy to talk to her in person. I also got to go for the reading of her play ‘Swallowed Fire’ done by the Absolute LA Theatre company in NoHo. This is the second reading in a row I really enjoyed myself at. So funny, so charming, so sweet, so melancholy. A woman goes down in a submarine and is forced to confront her worst fear in that underwater, claustrophobic space- her mother (in a box). The love triangle in the submarine was so delicious, so much fun, I want to write something like that too. Soon. It’s a work-in-progress, so I emailed her my thoughts later, and the structure of her piece made me think of the structure of A Nice Indian Boy- the importance of the launch, the inner life of the protagonist, and how far you can push them.
The reading was produced by Callie’s Twitter friends too. The Internet is such a wonderful thing.
The curator of the awesome site Dark, Lovely and South Asian shared this quote on Facebook today, and it kind of blew me away. I’ve been struggling with artistic statements for grant applications for the past couple of weeks, and this quote comes along and just… says it.
“You guys know about vampires? You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
– Junot Diaz, Speaking to students at Bergen Community College
Play readings are so hard to do well, but I attended a delightful one tonight. Rag and Bone by Noah Haidle was read by a very awesome cast from the Echo Theatre Company, directed by one of my favorite people, Chris Fields. It was very funny, and so very fast and light and charming. And yet by the end I wanted more from it. The characters started as broad archetypes- some without real names, only referred to as ‘The Hooker’, ‘The Poet’ and ‘The Millionaire’- but they never quite progressed beyond those archetypes, never quite became real human beings I believed in. And so my heart didn’t break for them at the end, as it should have.
The opening scene of the play – something about the conversation between the two brothers- inspired a breakthrough for one of my own stories. A solution that I would have never thought of otherwise. Love when that happens. 🙂 Sometimes I get my best writing done when I watch other plays.
This is the semester of artistic statements- I have three due to write, just this week alone. And the phrase “political through the personal” keeps running through my head. I want to talk about it with my undergrad students this semester. How do you read a play, and understand the politics of the play through the personal interactions and qualities of the characters? How do you stay true to the holistic individuality of the character while understanding what the play is saying (if that’s the right word) on a macro level?
Theatre is activism, Playwrights are activists. I love this post.
And of course, these thoughts are compounded by the fact that I just finished Persuasion today, and it kind of blew my mind, page after page. This is the first Jane Austen novel I’ve read cover to cover without having seen the movie/BBC television series first. And how amazing. How did a woman like this live and breathe among us? Political through the personal.
Yes, the romantic ending made me cry. But this was the section that made me gasp out loud, and put my book down for a minute to process what I’d just read. When Captain Harville and Anne are in the midst of their discussion of whether men feel heartbreak more acutely than women, or whether women remember their lost loves long after men forget. Anne, of course, asks Harville not to dismiss the depth of women’s feelings.
[Captain Harville]- “Well, Miss Elliot… As I was saying, we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you–all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”
[Anne]- “Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”
Jet-lagged and awake at 4am in Los Angeles, but for once in my life it is the feeling of ridiculously, incredibly, unbelievably good news that is keeping me from falling back to sleep.
I awoke from a similar jet-lagged coma yesterday afternoon to find my phone ringing with an unknown number from Atlanta. “Atlanta,” I thought jokingly to myself. “Maybe it’s the Alliance Theatre telling me I’ve won the Kendeda and they want to produce my play.”
I WON THE KENDEDA, AND THEY’RE GOING TO PRODUCE MY PLAY.
I’m going to be in Atlanta January and February 2014, for the production of ‘IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT’. I’m going to have readings at the Kennedy Center in DC and at the Lark Play Development Center in NYC.
It really, really hasn’t sunk in yet. I can’t believe it. This is…
Okay. Yeah. More later when I’ve processed this.