An Apology, Podcast, Coded Language, and #SeaArtsFeminism

Katie Woodzick asked me to be on her new podcast Theatrical Mustang. The episode was uploaded yesterday and I had a chance to listen to it this morning. Over the course of the conversation we talked about my plays, Seattle theater, gender parity, and casting diversity. We had a great time and an amazing conversation in which many awesome things were said that I 100% believe to be true. I had such a great time recording this and really want that to be the end of this post. But it’s not.  I stand behind most of what I said on the podcast, but when I was listening to it this morning a certain moment struck me that made me re-evaluate some things about myself.

Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I believe in casting diversely. But that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to being wrong or being racist. Specifically, even though I did not intend to be, I was racist on this podcast. Here’s the specific moment that caught my attention:

“This is also a problem I have with Shakespeare and the very limited way that we look at Shakespeare sometimes in Seattle, which is not very creative. It’s just let’s put all these white guys on stage and oh, even though we have this servant role that could be played by anybody and is an internship opportunity for a young actor in town. Let’s give it to this white guy who’s just graduated college instead of the 15 white ladies who are waiting over here. Or, you know, other people of color. Just as a thought.”

I know what I meant. I know that what I meant was, “How about casting some women or people of color, or BOTH, cause INTERSECTIONALITY.” But that’s not what I said. In fact, throughout the podcast when I say “women” it could very much be read as “women who have my experience,” or the shorthand, “white women.” (I’m queer, too, but let’s just start here.) There’s a very real problem in feminism when it excludes women of color, and/or erases their ethnicity and tries to lump their struggle in with the exact same causes as white women. Feminism has historically not been great at inclusion. And while I consider myself a champion of diversity in Seattle theater, in this moment I failed. And I’m truly sorry.

Why bother calling it out? Who’s gonna notice? It was just one moment. Geez.

No. It wasn’t one moment. Throughout the podcast I used coded language. I said, “women” throughout knowing that out of my mouth as a white woman it would mostly mean “white women.” I know this. I’m familiar with this concept and have explained it to others. And in that moment, it left my brain. It left my brain because I don’t have that lived experience of being excluded because of being a non-white ethnicity. I was saying women. But I wasn’t talking about all women.

I’m an ally. I like to consider myself one, anyway, and being an ally and wanting things to change means that you acknowledge and apologize when you get something wrong. I knew a lot of white women who were upset about the Patricia Arquette backlash a couple of weeks ago because, “We were attacking a woman for not being perfect all the time.” That’s not true. Patricia Arquette was speaking for white women in that moment. Was she intending to? I don’t think so. But for the 1000th time, intentions don’t matter. Our effect on others matters. Our words have power. And when we have the mic (in this instance, the podcast mic) we need to use it and respect that what we’re saying has meaning and weight.

Yesterday, I participated in an online conversation under the hashtag #SeaArtsFeminism. Over the course of the conversation I brought up something I also mention in the podcast. I challenge organizations to know their numbers. Know the breakdown of women to men in all areas – directing, acting, writing, designing. AND know the numbers for your POC to white people in the same fields. AND SHARE THEM. Own them.

I still think this is important to do as a baseline, but it also erases the overlaps. It negates intersectionality.

One of the things that was said yesterday on Twitter involved having to choose feminism over other identities because it’s not inclusive. There are times, as a queer cis-female feminist, I feel like I don’t say I’m queer because it “clouds” the issue. I’m  too many things and I feel like that confuses people. But then, when I think about women I know who are queer and people of color, jesus. I got nothing. Their erasure is bigger and even more political. Which one do you choose? Which side do you fall?

I’m gonna quote Ijeoma Oluo (who if you’re not following on Twitter, please start).

I expect theaters to fess up to there numbers. All their numbers. I want them to fess up to their numbers because I think when we look at ourselves honestly, we’ll start to see the real problem. Book It Repertory actually posted their M/F breakdown yesterday on adapters, source material, and directors. While they had 77% women directing, 58% women adapters, their source material (novels) was only 15% women.

I was stoked they did it. They crunched the numbers and they are looking at what they can do better. And while I applaud them for that, there’s still more. There wasn’t a POC breakdown. And of the 15% of the authors that were women, none of those were women of color. And of the 77% of women directing, I’m pretty sure none were women of color, either. I’m not saying this to punish them. I’m happy they shared their numbers. I think more theaters should. I think that we need to start analyzing this at all levels and that only starts by being honest about where we are. I think it’s a great way to start a conversation by saying, “This is where we are now. But we want to be over there.” And then actually taking the steps to make it a reality.

So, that’s why I wanted to post this apology. I’m sorry that I’m still using coded language. That when I said “women” it translates at “white women.” I do not want to be that person. And I will strive not to be that person. I will continue to call myself out as I call others out. And I apologize to anyone who heard the podcast and felt excluded. That’s not how I want my feminism. I want my feminism to be inclusive of women of color, queer women, trans* women, poverty-stricken women, disabled women, etc. And because of all that, I think it’s important to acknowledge when you say something offensive so that you learn, in the hopes of being a better ally in the future.

What’s New and Next?

As January comes to a close, I realize that so many things have happened, or are happening but I have done a piss-poor job at telling anyone about it. So, here’s a less piss-poor list of upcoming and current shenanigans.

Seattle Repertory Writers Group 2014-2016

Starting this past fall, I began a two-year residency with Seattle Repertory Theatre. They are paying me a small stipend to meet with the group of other writers every other week to work on a single full length play per year. This will culminate in a reading in June of the play that I’ve been working on. And then the process will start again in the fall of 2015. I’m joining 2013-2015 residency playwrights Holly Arsenault, Arlitia Jones, Lisa Halpern, Brendan Healey, and Bryan Willis with my fellow 2014-2016 residency playwrights Karen Hartman and Josh Beerman.

I’m currently working on this year’s full-length and while I don’t have many details to share, I will say that it’s an odd play involving a puppet creator and Japanese translator.

Stay tuned for the dates of the reading in June.

Smut at Spin the Bottle February 6 at 11pm 

Catherine Blake Smith has asked me to write dirty, delicious smut for Spin the Bottle at Annex Theatre in February. I couldn’t be more stimulated by this. I have never written smut, much less read dirty things publicly.

Here’s the full line-up:

Fun duo FUTURE FRIDAYS playing some tunes!
The tempting tokes of the BEARSTONED BEARS!
A snippet of PANEL JUMPER!
Three tastes of Radial Theatre Project’s LOCALLY GROWN featuring YANA KESALA! AMONTAINE AURORE! & KEIRA MCDONALD!
Alluring audial amorousness from L’ORCHESTRE D’INCROYABLE!
A preview of Annex Theatre’s NATURAL!
The long-overdue debut of smut by COURTNEY MEAKER!

All kept together well by the incomparable TERRI WEAGANT

14/48 Projects Young Guns Veteran Playwright February 20 & 21st at Cornish Playhouse

For the third time I will be entering into the terrifying endeavor that is 14/48 The Worlds Quickest Theater Festival. I will be writing two, brand-new plays in 48 hours based on nightly drawn themes. These plays will be rehearsed, tech-ed, and produced the same day they are written. It’s a delight to be asked again. Come down and join the fun at the Playhouse. There are shows at 8pm and 10:30pm on both nights.

This 14/48 is especially wonderful since it happens to also fall on my birthday week. So your birthday present to me is coming out to see the show.

InfinityBox Theatre Project October 15-17 2015 at Ethnic Cultural Theater at University of Washington

David Mills and Catherine Kettrick approached me for their annual playwright-scientist mash-up. The subject this year is biotechnology and what it means to be human. I’ve been paired with biotechnologist (and physicist) Robert Carlson. I’m not sure what I’m going to write, but my reading list has gone up exponentially.

I have no idea what I’m going to write about, yet. But I can tell you that I’ve already had an incredibly interesting conversation with Robert Carlson and I’m stoked to take a stab at things.

Lastly

Here’s my performance regrets in The Stranger, published at the start of this year.

For Playwrights

On Monday I attended Artistic Freedom & Artistic Responsibility Forum at Seattle Repertory. There are many accounts and recaps of the event from The Stranger, Seattle Times, and this heartfelt response from Sharon H Chang. You can also watch the whole thing at Howl Round or look up the #SeattleAFAR Twitter feed for more reactions. 

During the conversation, Pamala Mijatov (my director for Chaos Theory) dropped my name because of a casting note that I try to put before my plays in some form or another. She read the note and encouraged people to use it as a cross stitch sampler because she’s clever with them words. Shortly after the forum, I started receiving requests for the text in full so I decided to post it here. Feel free to take and modify as needed for your plays and in your casting notices.

While I’m happy that it was mentioned, I’d also like to say that it’s not a solution to the problem of diversity on stage. And it certainly doesn’t address the problems of diversity in other areas of the theater production including administration, directing, dramaturgy, design, etc. But it’s one possible tool you could use as a playwright. 

If diversity is important to you as a playwright, tell your director. Insist on not defaulting the ethnicity of your characters to white, able-bodied, skinny people. Be demanding about it. You should also seek out artists who you’d like to see speak your words. For better or worse, like hires like. So the way that we buck that trend is to recognize it and work against it. We’re only going to get better as a community if we are actively trying to improve. So, especially if you’re a white playwright working with predominantly white people, this little notice on the second page of your script might help to serve as a reminder that it’s 2014 and we are a diverse nation with diverse people. Our productions should try like hell to reflect that. But it’s only a reminder. And a reminder only works if you act on it.

“About casting: Families can be multi-racial, members of friend groups do not look like copies of each other, and the default appearance of characters should not be able-bodied, slim, caucasians. In short, this should not be a homogenous looking cast, and certainly not all white.”

One Minute Play Festival

Seattle participated in its first One Minute Play Festival a few weeks ago in the midst of Chaos Theory‘s run and a whole slew of job-related things. You can watch the full thing at Howl Round TV here.

Or, for your reading pleasure, here are the pieces I submitted.

“With a” directed by Desdemona Chiang

Two women, SONJA and DUNCAN, sit next to each other looking out. Maybe they just tried to have sex. Maybe they are at the end of a very long day in which, yet again, they didn’t say anything new or interesting to one another. They have heard each other’s stories. It’s over. They both know it. They look as if they have sat there for a long time. DUNCAN tries to say something and can’t quite do it.

SONJA: I think it was when

DUNCAN: No it wasn’t

SONJA: Yes, it was. It was when I asked you if you’d ever change your mind about oysters.

DUNCAN: That’s ridiculous.

SONJA: I know.

DUNCAN: We’d only been dating for a month.

SONJA: But that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew we weren’t…

They sit.

SONJA: Should we yell, or something?

DUNCAN: Do you want to yell?

SONJA: I just thought. You know. After three years. Shouldn’t it end

DUNCAN: with a bang?

SONJA: Yeah. Stupid.

DUNCAN: I could yell, if you want.

SONJA: That’s sweet.

DUNCAN: I guess we should go.

They sit.

SONJA: Or. We could

DUNCAN: Sit here?

SONJA: Yeah. For just a little

DUNCAN: A bit longer.

SONJA: Yeah.

They sit.

End.

 

“In Line” directed by Ali El-Gasseir

Three strangers stand in line. The world is on mute.

ONE: You’re standing in line.

TWO: You’vebeenstandinginlineforthelongesttimeyoucanpossiblyimagine.

THREE: You’ve been standing in line on the worst week of your life. You got dumped, of course. That effing bill got sent to collections because hospitals can’t send bills to your email like normal people.

TWO: Seriously, has the line moved at all?

ONE: Just one inconvenient piece of business before you carry on with your day.

THREE: When you get home, you’re gonna pour the largest bourbon in the largest glass in the world and cry. Softly. All night if you have to. Show them all you can commit to something.

ONE: It’s moving slowly. No need to get bent out of shape about it.

TWO: You could have done this any other day. But no. You’re here on your day off. Like a genius. You could be in bed, moron.

FOUR enters talking on a cell phone and cuts the line obliviously. They each want to react and confront him, but they don’t. They may cough and subtly try to get FOUR’s attention, but mostly they just stare angrily at him. FOUR talks on his phone completely unaware.

ONE: What a jerk. Someone should say something.

TWO: Screw this day.

Next.

FOUR is next. The line moves.

THREE: You will sell your soul to Satan if that guy gets syphilis in the next twenty-four hours.

End.

NEXT UP:

Gala Schmala at Theater Schmeater – Seance featuring Julia Griffin and Karen Jo Fairbrook, directed by J.D. Lloyd; June 6-14

On The Boards Northwest New Works – That’swhatshesaid featuring Erin Pike and directed by Katherine Karaus; June 13-15

 

Chaos Theory Press and People Quotes

chaos theory cover photo

Chaos Theory premiered at Annex Theatre April 18 – May 17, 2014.

Synopsis

Frannie hits the pathetic rock-bottom when her girlfriend, Mack, disappears. Frannie’s friends, Seth and Bach attempt to get her over the post-break-up hump through a series of steps. Unfortunately, Frannie is unable to face the reality that she was abandoned without a word by a feeling, thinking human being and instead tries to come up with any other solution to Mack’s disappearance (in one scenario, bears are involved). Seth and Bach admit defeat on getting her to see reason and reach the last step of “realizing that sack of shit isn’t coming back,” so they give her a book about chaos theory and parallel dimensions. This is how Chaos Theory begins, with a little un-reality.

After reading the book Frannie, Seth, and Bach resolve to build a machine to take them to one of these parallel dimensions where Frannie and Mack will unite and they all will generally find peace and harmony with universe. Their journey progresses through different realities and levels of denial, with a laugh track and dance sequence all before a new woman, Josie, comes to steal Bach’s heart away from the project. The friends start to face the truths of adulthood, abandonment and building a freaking cool machine in their living room. Things start to reach an equilibrium and then –

Mack comes back. The machine, ostensibly, has worked. But what does that mean? Was it meant to work? Are they actually physics geniuses? Or, is this Mack a fake? A doppelganger from a parallel universe? And what ever happened to Josie? Plunging into a dark world, the friends must now decide the fate of Mack to save Frannie and the world, or succumb to the horrible changes that are taking over each of them.

2014 Cast and Crew

Frannie – Keiko Green 
Bach – Evelyn DeHais 
Seth – Drew Highlands 
Mack – Jana Hutchison 

Stage Manager – Kaeline Kine 
Scenic Designer – Robin Macarteny 
Costume Designer – Amy Escobar 
Lighting Designer – Gwyn Skone 
Sound Designer – Kyle Thompson 
Props Designer – Robin Macartney, Emily Sershon 
Production Manager – Catherine Blake Smith 
Technical Directors – Ian Johnston, Emily Sershon 
Graphic Design – Ash Williamson 
French Translation – Evelyn DeHais 

Production photos.

PRESS

Preview from Capitol Hill Blog

Preview from Capitol Hill Times.

Review from TheSunbreak.

Meaker shifts the audience/performance relationship drawing us into the concerns of the characters by resting our entire understanding of the play on the question the characters must answer. Their search goes from frivolous to effective, but Meaker is wary of copping out with a deus ex machina or a simple twist (a la Sixth Sense or Fight Club). As with the rest of this very real universe of soft-edged gender and orientation this is not a world of either/or, but of multiple possible answers. Meaker suggests the possibilities without committing to any one. In Chaos Theory uncertainty is, for once, both comforting and satisfying.”

Review from Seattle Weekly.

“Amid this absurdity, Meaker and director Pamala Mijatov force us to make sense of the action, but in the end we succumb to the hopelessness and futility of existence, love, and identity. Chaos Theory starts off gimmicky and cute, yet it ultimately makes us, and Frannie, confront the limits of common sense.”

 In local playwright Courtney Meaker’s new absurdist tragicomedy (aptly subtitled “A Play Seeking Order”), there seems to be exactly that—a series of events that don’t fit together. That doesn’t mean there isn’t exposition; in fact, Chaos Theory is replete with rather dense character development, plot twists, and pathos.”

Review from Drama in the Hood.

“…the play written by Courtney Meaker was intimate, polished, and had the audience feeling as if they were a fly on the wall of a hilarious sitcom.”

“Though the play has a blatant speculative science-fiction slant to it, it is surprisingly and refreshingly character-driven. The play grapples with ideas of perception of reality, time relativity, gender binaries, friendship dynamics, and heart-wrenching moral dilemmas.”

“Thanks to Meaker’s smart writing and the excellent cast, the play had me wishing I could be friends with Frannie, Seth, and Bach, and be a part of their quick back-and-forth verbal banter.”

“Prepare to have your brain twisted into a pretzel with ideas of alternate realities and parallel universes. Though the events of the play were confusing at times, the writing and acting never felt pretentious or overbearing, because the characters felt just as confused and conflicted as I felt sitting in the audience. Reminiscent of Inception, the ending will force viewers to make their own mind up about what really happened, what is about to happen next, and whether the characters are actually experiencing reality or the alternate realities of a parallel universe.”

Review from Seattle Actor.

One of the things I like best about Meaker’s writing is the inclusion of LGBT characters without that ever being part of the plot; without that ever being a problem in itself, rather they are just part of the world.”

Seattle Playwright Courtney Meaker has made a very impressive introduction into the local theater scene. Her play “Buckshot” was a strong announcement of her confidence and skill in telling intimate stories of real people. In her newest play, “Chaos Theory” now being presented at the Annex Theatre under the accomplished direction of Pamala Mijatov, she is even more ambitious.”

 Social Media

Joe Zavadil, Actor, via Facebook – My sister and brother in law wanted to see a show while they were in Seattle, so I took them and my nephew (who live here now) to the best theatre in town. The Annex did not disappoint. All four of us were impressed, amazed, and enthralled by ‘Chaos Theory”. The script is one part Ionesco, one part Pirandello, with some Christopher Durang and Tina Fey thrown in. The cast is spectacular; the is staging innovative, all around one of the best, funniest shows I have seen. Thanks for impressing the outta towners, y’all! 

Walking While Fat and Female – Or, Why I Don’t Care Not All Men are Like That

I started walking between 5 and 12 miles a day about year after I moved to Seattle. The main motivator was a crippling anxiety about being late coupled with an inconsistent public transportation system (that will now become less consistent, yippee). Additionally, working in an industry with late nights (I house manage for various theaters) means that if you’re reliant on public transit, you will be waiting for an hour at a scary bus stop with Mr. and Mrs. Meth Addict at 1:30 in the morning. Walking became a way for me to take control of my commute. It was my time. Four mile walk to work. Four mile walk back. In the rain. In the dark. In the cold. Every season. Sometimes with tunes. Sometimes with “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” Sometimes talking to myself. And sometimes with silence.

When I moved to Seattle I weighed 260 pounds. Because I walk so much (and lead a pretty active life here) I now hover between 175 and 190 depending on the the time of year. And I’m fucking strong. I run several times a week and I’m training for my first triathlon. But I’m still fat. And I’m good with that.

I never started walking places to lose weight. I started walking because I like to walk and because it was a chance for me to have my time before and after a stressful day. It was a chance for me to explore the city and see it in a way that people driving past wouldn’t ever be able to. Walking became a lot more than just my time though. It’s how I started writing again. Being in my head with time just for me to talk out an idea, or listen to character voices jump-started my imagination after a few years of feeling lost.

So, why not walk?

According to a number of men who seem to come crawling out of their hidey hole around this time of year here’s why:

  1. I’m a woman.
  2. I’m fat.
  3. I’m sexy.
  4. I’m a cunt.
  5. I need a man.
  6. I’m walking.
  7. I’m walking with another woman.
  8. I have tits.

Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.

That’s my automatic response of self-preservation. Just keep walking. Don’t react. Don’t turn to look at them. Don’t stop. I’m a hot head in certain situations. I work customer service so I’ve got it pretty well under control, but in the heat of the moment if I don’t count to 10, I will say or do something that will escalate a situation. And when you’re a woman who walks home alone at night, you learn not to escalate. Because whoever is yelling at you from their weapon (a car is a weapon) could decide to hit you with it. Or could chase you. Or could jump out and run after you at the next stop light. So I keep walking.

Being a woman (cis, trans, or otherwise) means that you grow accustomed to men and sometimes women, commenting about your body on a regular basis without provocation. When I run, there’s the occasional man that feels it’s his duty to tell me, “You go, honey. You’re gonna lose that weight!” as if that’s why I’m running, to fit in with what the expectation of what a woman should look like and be. I’m a good fatty. I run. I’m trying to be thin.

A man once came up to me on the street just to tell me that I was too fat for the dress that I was wearing. Thanks, arbiter of my fashion fat. I couldn’t do it without you.

A huddle of male teens asked me to suck them off as I walked past them after 9 pm. They made it clear that they didn’t want to fuck me. I was too fat for that. But oral sex would be all right. They were doing me a favor, you see.

Again. I don’t escalate. I don’t acknowledge. I’m not saying this is the right way to deal with these situations. I’m saying it’s how I deal with them. I’ve tried others. But there’s no reasoning with stupid. And there’s also a greater risk of escalating a situation when you engage it. Being a woman means that I already feel unsafe 50% of the time. And when I’m alone, I don’t need to feel even more unsafe just to make a point. No matter how much I want to say, “Fuck off” or “You know someone has said the same thing to your mama, right?” I just keep walking or running past because saying the greatest, most eloquent, feminist statement is not worth dying for, right?

So, I do what I believe most of the women I know do – try to talk about it. Share it with people after it happened. Let them know that it happened. That it keeps happening. But then, I’m met the resounding, “Not all men are like that, you know.” (Seriously, do you want a cookie for not being a douche?) Or, “Walking by yourself is dangerous.”

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not feeling like I can say anything to the jerks* that yell at me. Like I can’t react. And that I can’t even share that this experience happens daily with supposed allies. Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is – misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullshit behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.

I want to share these stories. I want to know when it happens to other women, my friends, and colleagues. And I want the men and women in my life to know that it happens, too. It’s not isolated. And even if not all men are like that, it sure happens a helluva a lot, so maybe start being on the lookout for it. Be an actual ally in this instead of just saying that you aren’t like that, but what I do is dangerous. That being out past 9 is dangerous. That helps no one, least of all the women who have to be out past 9, or the women who should go out past 9 because it’s a fucking right to be out whenever the fuck we want to be.

Me walking home at night or in the day time (harassment isn’t just a nighttime activity) is as safe as you driving your car home, by which I mean, it’s inherently dangerous. Everything has risks. But walking while fat and female – that’s apparently the riskiest of all, dude.

*In a previous version, this was “fucktard.” A number of people reached out to me to tell me that they found that to be offensive to those with an intellectual disability. I did not intend to use language that was insulting. However, intentions don’t matter. I respect that it was offensive and have removed the word from this post. I hope I will be able to remove it from the posts that have now circulated the internet, though I likely won’t be able to edit them all. Thank you.

One Minute Play Festival, Schmee Gala, NWNW and more!

It’s been crazy pants town time (this is a combination of words that vaguely go together) at Meakerland. Here’s what’s coming up or down the pipeline. (What direction do pipelines go?)

One Minute Play Festival May 10 & 11

A little over a month ago, I received an email from Dominic D’Andrea about writing for the One Minute Play Festival. I wrote two, one- minute pieces for the festival. With a will be directed by Desdemona Chiang and In Line will be directed by Ali El-Gasseir. The festival will take place at ACT Theatre. The full list of playwrights and directors is here. It includes some of my favorite playwrights including Keiko Green, Stephanie Timm, Wayne Rawley, and Juliet Waller-Pruzan. Purchase your tickets here.  

seth and bach popcorn pretzelChaos Theory Through May 17

CHAOS THEORY, a play seeking order opened! Reviews are coming in and they’ve been highly positive so far. We still have four weeks to go so I’m anxious to hear other thoughts about the play. Getting to hear how people are making sense of the world is what truly excites me about this piece. Are Frannie, Bach, and Seth the same person? Is Mack/Josie real? It’s been great to hear audience reaction and theories about the sanity levels of the characters. Plus, it’s funny. Get your tickets at Annex Theatre.

Gala Schmala June 6 – 14

Doug Staley from Theater Schmeater contacted me to write a short piece for the upcoming gala, which will also be the first performance in the new space. The guidelines for the piece was incredibly effing broad – history of theatre/backstage feel. So I wrote a two-hander about Charlotte Cushman called Séance. The Gala will feature many of my favorite people including fellow playwright Keiko Green who’s currently playing Frannie in Chaos Theory (it’s all connected) and Raymond Williams who’s my marketing buddy with Macha Monkey Productions. Tickets on sale soon!

That’sWhatSheSaid at NWNW Festival June 13 – 15

It’s getting closer. Northwest New Works Festival produced by On the Boards is getting closer, and That’swhatshesaid is going to be an epic part of it. The final draft has been submitted. Erin Pike and Katherine Karaus are hard at work to make it honest and piercing. This piece is highly conflicting for me. It’s purposefully taking female characters out of context and putting them in the mouth of one female character in a way that was not intended by the playwrights. As a playwright, this would drive me nuts. However, it’s so interesting to hear what female are characters are saying in the 10 most produced plays, especially from this past year where the list was actually more diverse than it has been in years. I think this piece is going to be highly polarizing and, quite possibly, difficult to watch. (Spoiler: women were written to cry a lot and have quite a few random outbursts.) Tickets are going on sale soon.

After that? I don’t know. Hit me up.

A Few Questions about Chaos Theory from Annex Theatre

Photo Ian Johnston. Drew Highlands, Evelyn Dehais, Keiko Green, and Jana Hutchison.

Photo Dangerpants Photography. Drew Highlands, Evelyn Dehais, Keiko Green, and Jana Hutchison.

Annex Theatre sent me some questions regarding Chaos Theory – a play seeking order. Here’s some of the  endearing snark I served up.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Like where you’re from? Why you wanted to be playwright and how it all came to be?

I’m from Middle Tennessee originally, in a conservative hamlet called Franklin, where I confusedly returned post-college to work as a Borders bookseller,  because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my degree except pull it out at dinner parties for my middle school beanie baby collection. In this dark time in Tennessee, I mostly drank whiskey secretly in my room of my parents’ house and straightened books on shelves and talked to a bunch of conservative Christians during the 2008 elections about how it’s not that they hate gay people they just didn’t want to be around them (whoops). So yeah. After a year of that nonsense, I moved to Seattle, started touching myself again, and wrote some plays – mostly about the end of the world.

What inspired you to write Chaos Theory?

People don’t make much sense in a way that makes sense – does that make sense? We’re predatory about weird things (like the chair we sit in every day and milk). Most of us enjoy feeling altered (drugs, booze, etc.). And we define our realities by the people who surround us. So what happens when the people who make us who we are go away, or start slipping away for no discernible reason? Chaos, baby. Chaos. And I was reading Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku so the story just started falling into place.

Without giving too much away can you give us a little snippet of what the show is about?

A group of friends start to build a machine. Or, maybe they’re going crazy. Who’s to say? Stuff happens. Stuff doesn’t happen. Sex. Dopplegangers. People who don’t know how to talk about their feelings try to talk about their feelings. Maybe things get cold.

Do you have a favorite character? If so who and why?

It changes for me pretty regularly, and not just because the cast does such a good job of embodying them. I don’t know. Seth is the one who says funny things and people don’t really hear him. I identify with him a lot. I call this the Fozzie principle. Frannie is the one who throws herself into her work instead of dealing with (at least one) reality. And Bach. Yup. Bach’s my favorite. The funniest best friend with the amazing ability to pick up women with a single wink. Yeah. Bach’s the best.

What made you decide to propose this play at Annex in particular?  

Annex seemed like the best home for it. I didn’t have a director at the time that I proposed it, but I wanted to show the play to Annex because I saw the type of work that they were doing and I wanted to be a part of it, even if it wouldn’t be for another year. As luck would have it, Pamala really connected with the script and Annex took me on. No waiting. It was the most awesome phone call to get.

What is your favorite food and why?

I fucking love Mexican food. I live next to the Rancho Bravo Taco Truck in Wallingford. I’m a regular. They see me coming. They know. We share knowing winks. When I first moved to Seattle, I lived next to Paseo. I still have dreams about those sandwiches.

Chaos Theory opens on April 18th (that’s only a week away) and runs through May 17th. I’d love for you to be there. Get tickets.

Chaos Theory – a play seeking order April 18 – May 17

 

Chaostheoryteaserposter

 

When her lover disappears, Frannie sinks into a pajamas-only depression.  Her friends try to distract her with a book on chaos theory…little knowing they’re headed down a slippery path through enticing alternate realities.  Does this Machine they’re building actually work, or are they luring each other into collective delusions of wish-fulfillment?  Is life better with a laugh-track?  And what if these seductive changes bring about the end of the world?  Featuring Evelyn DeHais, Keiko Green, Drew Highlands, and Jana Hutchison.

April 18 – May 17 at Annex Theatre (Tickets)

Production Team 

Stage Manager – Kaeline Kine
Scenic/Props Designer – Robin Macarteny
Costume Designer – Amy Escobar
Lighting Designer – Gwyn Skone
Sound Designer – Kyle Thompson
The Machine Designer – Emily Sershon
Production Manager – Catherine Blake Smith
Technical Directors – Ian Johnston, Emily Sershon
Graphic Design – Ash Williamson
French Dialect Coach – Evelyn Dehais

Regarding the possibility of multi-orgasm storytelling

All right, the title is kind of click-baity, but I promise I have a point. Recently, a friend asked me for playwriting book recommendations. Aside from the fact that I was tickled  someone asked me, I realize that I don’t have a lot of books about playwriting that I actually enjoy reading, or even that I find useful. It’s not that playwriting books are bad, it’s just that they all tend to say the same thing. The old standby (and most often recommended) is Backwards and Forwards by David Ball. He, like most writers who write about writing, only talks about one way of storytelling – what I’ve come to call “The Solitary Orgasm Method,” or when I’m feeling particularly plucky, “Missionary.”

Notice - it only peaks once

And only one climax

Of course, this is the standard. It’s the way most plays and fiction are written. For the Women #4 Project, I’m in the process of reading the top 10 produced plays of the past season and thanks to a sick day in bed (thanks norovirus?) I binge re/read almost all of them.  The majority of these plays tread this well-worn path. And that’s how it has started to feel – well-worn. We’ve conquered traditional storytelling! It has been beaten to death with a shovel, and crippled and sewn back together, and walked a mile in your shoes, and etc. etc.

What is it about chronologically linear that’s so compelling, or if not compelling, prevalent? I came to a few conclusions,

  1. It’s easier to write.
  2. It’s easier to understand.
  3. It has a long history.

But those things don’t inherently make it better. Non-traditional/non-linear narrative is not incomprehensible and not uninteresting. After reading the third traditionally linear play in a row, the strings started to become too clear. I found myself ahead of stories, expecting twists, knowing where the next fight was breaking out. But also, more importantly, I was bored. I ended this marathon of a reading session, by re-reading one of my linear plays. Sadly, I was bored by that, too. I thought, I’m a writer! I’m creative! I should be doing something different. Right?

Shouldn’t we crave breaking out of the comfort zone fort we’ve built ourselves out of pillows and blankets and teddy bears? They are very comfy pillows, sure. But is it as satisfying as it could be? Why do we get trapped here? There aren’t any rules about it. I’m gonna say it again. There are no rules that say THIS IS THE WAY A STORY HAS TO BE OR THE WORLD WILL CRUMBLE AND NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE ANYMORE (first person to mention the dead, white, guy who made up a bunch a rules gets punched in the jugular; if I wanted Aristotle’s opinion I’d go back to my undergrad Introduction to Theatre History class). And yet, I often feel stuck in the Strict-Rule-Land of Aristotelian Unity.

There’s nothing wrong with traditional storytelling, structures with only the one, ahem, climax. But I’ve come to think of this as a very masculine way of approaching story. Think about it. Men very rarely have the potential for multi-orgasm. Women on the other hand – whew boy. We can have way more than one. What about a story that goes fast, slows, fast, medium, fast, slow, etc. building and crescendo-ing in little ways and then big ways; spinning into so many directions we can’t think straight, and then approach clarity(ies) over and over again? How do/can we move toward a more prevalent, feminine story structure with multiple peaks and valleys? Sure, multi-orgasmic structure doesn’t serve all stories. However, does Missionary have to be the default? Does Missionary, in fact, serve all stories?

Our own timelines and histories might be linear, but the way in which we recall them is not. In the course of one conversation our minds jump from thought-to-thought, memories, images, that one embarrassing moment from seven years ago that still makes us cringe. It’s the emotion that matters, whatever the timeline. So, let’s try to write a few plays that may mess with tradition. Buck (yes, buck) tradition. Or, at least toy with the notion the next time you sit down to write instead of auto-piloting to a linear structure. How about when we’re stuck on where to go next with our story we start with changing up the structure. Rearrange those scenes. Forget backwards and forwards. There are diagonals and zigzags in there.

So I made this little exercise (not exactly an original one at that) to apply to future plays when I’m either early in the process of writing it, or maybe when I go back for a re-write to shake myself up: Erase the idea of rising action coming up to a single peak. Instead imagine a series of branches reaching out concluding, or cutting off into something else. Or, several balls of yarn that all got released and are rolling in different directions. Or waves. Or, hell, a Pick Your Own Adventure book. Think of an image that will change the structure from the expected to the unexpected and try to shape the story around that picture instead.

And then, spend some alone time in your bunk.

Got an image to add to this non-linear story structure exercise? Leave a comment!