Surviving the Friendpocalypse

Gemma’s report on the Fresh Pages 2018 reading series

The best thing that happened after this reading is I found a title.

I had been using FRIENDPOCALYPSE, which is a portmanteau of “Friendship” and “Apocalypse”, which is what this play is about. Sort of. It’s an attention-grabbing title, but more in a Sharknado way than in an Endgame way.

A family friend came to the show and suggested I name it after a tarot card. Well, duh, that’s a great idea. The show is now called Nine of Swords. Thanks, Phil!

Mostly what I wanted from this reading (besides a better play title) was to hear the thing out loud. What does it sound like when a telekenetic charismatic toxic gay man and his analytical overly practical yet somehow obsessed with tarot cards bestie break up at a party in front of all of their friends? And then, what does it feel like when the ominous black cloud, the cloud that has brought death and destruction and hopelessness and fear as it drags across our country, what does it feel like when this cloud settles over your city? Your house? Your friends and family?

This script is still in a rough place, but I know what needs to happen next, which is as much as a person can ask of a reading. I am so grateful for an audience who was willing to take a chance on something new and strange, and glad for performers and a director who were completely willing to jump into the murky waters with me.

I’m sending this script out into the world in hopes of obtaining some resources (funding, actors, dramaturgical support) to keep developing it. I’m feeling more clarity and hope about this black cloud than I have in a long time. Thanks for being a part of its inception.

Lessons Learned

Katherine’s report on the Fresh Pages 2018 reading series

Confession: I have a habit of doing things at the last minute. I was frantically re-writing up to the day of the reading. I was spending pretty much every waking moment on revisions. Which meant that when the day arrived, the entire script was imprinted on my brain.

As a result, I couldn’t enjoy it. I’d lost perspective. Every line seemed 100% predictable! Couldn’t the audience see that?!

No, they couldn’t. It only seemed predictable to me because I’d gone over it half a dozen times in the past 36 hours.

Once I realized that, I was able to stop cringing and wanting to hide under the floorboards. I got a lot of terrific feedback from the actors as well as the audience, and dove into the next draft.

“A Pornography Play” was a placeholder title; it’s a historical piece about a controversial 1983 anti-pornography ordinance that divided the feminist movement nationwide. It has since been retitled “Us Against Us.”

It’s also a musical. My collaborator, Benjamin Emory Larson, is not only a brilliant composer but also a fantastic dramaturg who has been instrumental in shaping the script. At the time of the reading, we had only one song completed, and we played a recording we’d made with us as the singers.

Our next step is to set up a musical reading with live singers. Well, okay, our next step is to write the songs. Stay tuned…

A PLAY WITH TWO LIVES: All of the Everything or It’s Too Cold for You Here

Alayna’s report on the Fresh Pages 2018 reading series

For our Fresh Pages series, I chose to work on a newer play. All of the Everything was inspired by a 10-minute play I wrote with the same name. I really loved this play and wanted to explore the Woman character deeper. However, I wasn’t sure if this 10-minute play could exist as a full-length, so I wanted to take time to explore it. 

GREAT NEWS! I learned–in the riskiest way possible–that this piece does have a life of its own. There’s definitely more left to explore and develop, but I discovered how this story could live in a 10-minute and a full-length. 

The 10-minute piece is a nonstop ride with little to no time to adjust to your surroundings. The narrative is meant to feel like the Woman is quickly moving through a children’s pop-up storybook about her and the Man’s future. Then we see how it was abruptly taken away. The magic of this format is that it allows you to live an entire lifetime to understand the tragedy of police brutality from a different lens. It’s not just the life that’s been lost; it’s a future interrupted; it’s a stolen future.

The full-length gives me more time to flesh out the Woman character, primarily focusing on her grieving. We dive deeply into one life affected by the Man’s death. The play follows her through each of the 5-stages of grief. It forced me to ask, what does acceptance look like? Which I’m still trying to answer. I’m also still exploring who the Woman is outside of the man, thinking about desires she had for herself without him. 

I was also really interested in how dance could help express the Woman’s grieving. Many times you can’t find the words, so singing didn’t really feel right, but music felt crucial. Whether that movement is dance, exercise, or fighting those are ways we organically express ourselves when we can’t find the words. Also, sometimes sweating can be a different way for the body to cry… Or is that just me? Any way… Thinking about movement, I developed the character of the Woman’s Shadow. What does it feel/look like when you’ve separated yourself? Your body keeps moving through the world, but your spirit is stuck, refusing to move from a place of pain. 

To wrap things up, I’m most excited to learn that this play is a play, which has led me to change the title, so people don’t get them confused. I’ve now changed the play title to It’s Too Cold for You Here. The Man says this to the Woman, when she wants to move closer to him and decides to let herself sink to the bottom of her depression. I think the title helped change the tone of what we will experience versus what is experienced in the 10-minute.

Imaginary Cats and Triscuit Boxes

Rachel’s report on the Fresh Pages 2018 reading series

I had a new play reading scheduled for February 28th with the Playwright Cabal, and as of February 1st, I had about 25% of a play.

I had started writing this piece years ago for a contest that called for plays with polyamorous characters. And, as is my process, I didn’t write the piece on time, sat on it for a few years, and picked it back up for something else. Specifically, I lost a notebook in which I had written a song for the skeletal sock puppet heads to sing, and I didn’t want to rewrite it. I had submitted the fragments for a few development opportunities, but hadn’t bit the bullet and really written it. Then, when the Cabal presented the opportunity to read a new play, I decided to recommit to my little polyamorous Orpheus riff, and put the show description on the website.

I’ll have tons of time when I go home for Christmas, Rachel thought. I’ll definitely get it finished then.

Fast forward to February 1st, and low and behold, there was still the same fragments I’d submitted years ago. But now, I had a whole Cabal and talented director Daisuke Kawachi breathing down my neck.

rehearsal photo
The littlest dramaturg takes helpful notes

So, I wrote a draft in a week, read it in my house with a bunch of super smart actors, and got very helpful feedback. I even got an assist from my toddler, who jumped right up and took her own scribbly notes (in my notebook). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had a play, or at least, the start of a play. And, luckily, I had a few more weeks to make it better.
I am consistently delighted by the wealth of talent we have here in the Twin Cities. Daisuke has a great rolodex of actors with new work experience, and we were able to get Stephanie Bertumen, Victoria Pyan, Pedro Juan Fonseca, Megan Burns, Hope Nordquist, and Gabriel Murphy to sit down with us and try to make a play come to life. If you can get these good-looking smart people to act at you, please do.

Cast photo
The “Figment” cast in front of the director’s accent wall with LaCroix

The play follows a throuple – David, Meredith, and Robin – who travel into the underworld when
one of the partners is lured down by an imaginary cat. It deals with mental health issues, the difficulty of being in a relationship with someone who’s struggling, and my antipathy toward Bruce Springsteen. It grew by leaps and bounds between rehearsals and I know there’s lots more room to grow, too.

Finally, it was time for the reading. The Cabal has been working with the White Page Gallery to host our Fresh Pages reading series. For Heather Meyer’s reading last month, there was a large and elaborate abstract sculpture installation in place, which made the reading feel extra art-y. My reading fell between exhibits, so we had a blank space in which to make our underworld.

Triscuit box photo

For the previous reading, a golden Feedback Feedbox was carefully crafted, so that audience members could submit written feedback and we could avoid awkward talkbacks. That carefully crafted Feedbox was, of course, completely forgotten this month, so we used this Triscuit box instead.

All in all, it was moving and exciting and it made me want to keep this piece alive. Not too bad for a play that didn’t exist four weeks ago.