Writing Progress

All right, so yesterday I finished a draft of my latest play, NANNA-SIN, inspired by the Ancient Sumerian myths of the god of the moon.

The story goes that two teens are the sole survivors of a village attack decimating their village. They make a pact to travel to the city capital to the temple of Nanna-Sin. One has a connection to the divine and the other seeks revenge. They cross paths with a priest in the House of Nanna-Sin, a lead orchestrator, who sees the potential to use their skill to make a political upheaval. The high priestess of Nanna-Sin is the one with the power, however misuses it to gain control over the people.

Anyway, without giving away the whole of it, which is what the reading on 10-14-17 at the EXIT Theatre is for (mark your calendars! 😉), I'm reflecting on a couple things I did differently this time around that I want to remember and perhaps expand on for next time.

You see, previously, my process of writing mostly involved swirling down the drain of imposter syndrome while simultaneously self-flagellating until the deed was done enough. After a recovery period of varying length, I'd say, "hmm there must be an easier way." But then, I'd return to the same old process and shrug that, "it must just be my process."

Well, how wrong I was about that! Here's some things I did differently this time:

1) Outline

Instead of diving into this good idea I had, I held myself to completing the outline. Well, at least 90-95% of it. The last 5-10% I was okay with coming up with in the process of writing out the script.

This helped SO much because when it came time to write, I didn't have to hold two different things "what happens next" and "what specifically they do or say in each moment" in my brain. I could get to the big story points and color in the details along the way.

The other thing was that if I discovered a new direction that didn't match up with a story point in the outline, it was easier to make a decision about what was the right way to go because I had choices. Not "this is the only thing at can think of"

Way more relaxing. Gotta do that again.

2) Collaboration and Constraints

I spoke with my director truthfully about where I was in the process and told her the story as I saw it.

A screenwriter friend recommended telling more stories as practice in… telling stories. I know, right? Like why did someone have to tell me this? But all I can say is that it wasn't obvious to me that doing this would have any positive impact on my storytelling abilities. Now it seems like a "duh" moment. Oh well, live and let learn.

So two aspects — talking through the story made me realize right away where I needed to work out some story holes and other challenges. For instance, one thing we acknowledged right away was that this story was way bigger than I had time allotted. So constraint #1, tell this epic story in 30 minutes and hit all the points. We talked through some ideas of how this could be possible. The story turns and transitions may be quick. I had it on my radar. Constraint #2, out of respect of my director's timeline and when she wanted to initiate rehearsals, it was going to be best if I finished by a certain date. Deadlines are always a good thing for me at least — though I am not nearly as good with self- imposed deadlines as when a deadline comes from someone else — especially if I'd be letting down another person or group by not fulfilling my end of the duty. Being on deadline gave me the ability to get it out despite it not being perfect. It made me make decisions that I couldn't worry too much about — should I really bring this element in or will people think that's hokey? Nope, gotta move on and get done.

3) Bring Yourself (Play to Your Strengths)

When you get into the nitty gritty of the story — this is where I shine once I'm in the flow. I knew I would be fine and could go for as long as I wanted once I got there. The outline and the deadline helped put a slight bit of pressure and narrowed the focus. Then, worries about what to say or how to transition from one thing to the next? Nah! I'm in the flow!

Flow Time!

And then everything is just calibrated to keep me up. Music helps me with my pace and to keep going. I personally prefer atmospheric dance music that doesn't have a lot of lyrics. Sounds strange, I'm sure, but there's something about moving my body to the beat that every so often helps me get back into it full force.

This story has a lot of ancient elements that I didn't know about — so research helped. Cool things that I learned like how the first author was a high priestess of Nanna-Sin. She wrote poetry and hymns. So interesting because when you read them, I was expecting more sort of exaltations of mystery but really there was a lot about being victorious in battle against their political enemies? Whoa, that could be useful. File that away for later.

And then there was the part where I had to just give myself creative freedom and say, ok I may not get this right the first time and that's ok. Like is it historically accurate? No, but if I invent something based on what I know, it will take less time. And then there were other elements I knew I were going to incorporate like the characters have metaphysical powers so it's like a parallel world where these kinds of powers were not thought possible but are.

Tons of solutions to try to figure out but ultimately I used what I had closest to me as a tool. So, in this story I brought in my influences from yoga, internal martial arts, and Hawaiian healing. Like there are healing chants/songs, a power that one can feel, physical protocols and methods. Is it representational of those things? Oh god no. My teachers or staunch practitioners of these systems would probably frown upon me if I did that. But look, I'm just playing. I can play with stuff and also practice it more traditionally too. No biggie. It made it fun to play in the world of the play.

4) Technique

There were things I did to negotiate between the largeness of the story and the amount of time allotted. For instance, there are some moments where I had to represent a complex idea — like simultaneous time with different space/characters or advancing one character's arch with not a lot of pages. And through the magic of the form, I remembered that I can run both at the same time. I can have two places represented at once on a stage. People have the ability to listen to a story being told by one character and understand another person on stage as a character in that story. There's a point later on that I'm particularly proud of too for its low-budget, high impact way of representing multiple worlds. I use what I know is available in most theater spaces to make the relationship representational in a 3D way.

All sounds conceptual, I know, and whether I was actually successful in clearly articulating what I meant remains to be seen, though at least I tried. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work and we can come up with something else.

It's All Been Done Before
And yet at the end of the day, it's all been done before. Someone else has written thousands maybe millions of stories with these elements. So it's not being created purely from scratch. Not when you think of it like that. Epic fantasy story that needs to be told in 30 minutes? A lot of cartoons do that successfully for multiple seasons!

There's something about the idea that if someone else figured out something remotely similar to what you're working on, it makes you (or me at least) feel like, ok well I can probably figure it out. At least an aspect of it! I mean I'm not trying to be a super amazing great writer all in one go, but, you know, occasionally people laugh at my jokes, think I represented a particular scene or moment in life well, or opened their eyes to a new perspective. Those things are all things that not just my mom and dad have told me.

😊

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The Real World – Theater Edition: Get It Out

Barbara Jwanouskos, putting it out there. My mind races constantly. From what I’ve gathered, this is pretty normal. It’s filled with so much stuff that I can have trouble focusing on any one thing. I think some would say that they’re good at multi-tasking when they have this quality – I not sure I believe […]

https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/the-real-world-theater-edition-get-it-out/

I used to sleep

HYPNOS: I used to sleep. I used to sleep and dream. Dream about sheep. Just kidding — I never dream about sheep. Sheep are boring and expected. Still they are cuddly and innocuous little beings. Eating their grass. Baa-ing. Wandering around. Eating more grass. Laying down… what do you think a sheep thinks like? 

Do you think sheep have the same kinds of problems people do only maybe their gradiation is smaller? Like sheep has blue, yellow, purple, but humans got chartreuse, goldenrod, amethyst. How do you think a god sees? It’s… indescribable. You see, to understand it would be touching divinity. It would mean that you’d have to die. Maybe then you could understand. The dead understand a lot of things that the living don’t.

There’s a seed in the heart of the forest down in South America that is supposed to be THE remedy for sleep. It’s been 21 days. Even for a god, I’m starting to feel as though something is off. As if I don’t understand myself anymore. I was looking for ways to get this seed here, but of course, it’s near to impossible. 

First of all, you’d need a guide to even find it. But the guide doesn’t speak Spanish or Portuguese so you gotta find a guide for the guide who knows the language of deep within the forest. Second, the conditions have to be just right for the plant to flower and fruit, or so it’s indicated on these numerous websites that I’ve bookmarked. Apparently it’s a really stinky kind of flower that attracts the worst kind of bugs.

I’m afraid of bites… Well, I suppose that’s obvious though…

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite…”

“Good night!”

Good night. 

“Good night.”

I can feel the world’s people go to bed. And I’m going insane. People tell me “just go to bed,” but I can’t go to bed! I’m racing once I’m in there. Ready to go. Better than coffee. Better than any kind of drug. I’m like thinking a million things a moment. I have all these ideas like toaster with a side container to make eggs. Dog socks. A left-handed violin. Shoes that clean themselves. Jackets that turn into seat cushions. I could go on forever.

I could go on forever.

I could…

go on…

forever…

Forever. 

I need to sleep. The dreams do something with all these thoughts. The dreams know how to sort it out. The dreams point the direction. 

And I stop worrying.

I walk.

I enjoy my day. 

I remember what it’s like to laugh.

And the deepness of an instant.

I see me again. 

When I dream.

I miss dreaming.

what is it like?

More inspiration writing for the play that is a part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival on the god of nonviolent death, Thanatos.

Incidentally, I’ll be interviewed about the play along with Veronica Tjioe by fellow writer, Jovelyn Richards, who is the host of a radio program on KPFA, Jovelyn’s Boutique. This will be on Wednesday from 3:30-4:00 PM PST, so listen in or check out the archived interview later.

T: What is it like to die… what does it feel like for them? I don’t know… I try to make it painless, or at least, if there is pain, maybe I help them come to terms with it before finally releasing it. The process of death is both quicker and slower than you think. 

Slower because, as you know, every moment in linear time is one step closer to it. To me. Quicker because ultimately, it’s simple. You are here and then you are not here.

The actual moment? I don’t know if it’s painful. I would imagine it is because everything in life lives on a pain scale. But maybe I’m wrong about that, maybe the feeling of death is the opposite of the feeling of life. Maybe what I do is painless.

How would I know that I had died and that I wasn’t just dreaming? See, that is where Sleep and Death — the fact that we’re twins — comes into play. It fools people. It’s calling for one when you mean the other. When you need the other. 

Now that I have started to dream… Vivid dreams as true as day. I wonder what it would be like to live there instead of here. I wonder if my experience is tempered and adulterated by the feeling of waking. Disorienting light. Words that make no sense. Symbols. Birds flying backwards make no sense, but in the dream world it’s just another thing to notice or ignore.

It makes me appreciate the reality we call, “life” much more. Little things, like the way the sun creates a painting that no artistic genius would every be able to put together — every day. The way that water feels. The color of people’s eyes. The sound of footsteps. Wind. Did you know each moment contains so much to be in awe of?

I think some of them miss that.

If anything feels painful, it’s that realization. I could imagine that it’s heartbreaking, which is why all these souls have so much trouble remembering who they are. Only the truly strong would be able to hold even a little of that. It’s no judgement — the weight of experience is just too much after a while. 

And so…


how the dreams work

i believe this is another monologue… maybe it will find its way into a current project or at least be inspiration there of.
The dreams never happen when you want them to. And it’s too bad cuz they’re so good. Smooth dreams. Dreams with epic soundtracks and a sense of flow. A sense of trajectory. A sense of wonder. Dreams that make you think they are real. They can be. At least, they point to things. When you are in them, they unfold at this pace that’s just like… it’s stunning. But outside of them, they don’t make any sense. And people won’t believe. They will think you’re crazy. So, don’t be like me. Don’t tell anyone your dreams…

Sometimes I try to remember the common threads that got me to here. Old man. Red dress. Crow flying. A train.

A train edging into the night feels like heading into oblivion. Feels like heading into the heart of a black hole. Into the unknown with no way out. Into the deepness of something that will consume you. It will. 

Sometimes I want to be taken. The dream brings me in. I don’t want to be out. I see things clearer in there than any kind of picture. It’s only on the outside that it looks warped, convoluted, makes no sense. 

I’m getting better at learning its language. Sometimes I ask. Sometimes I ask for help and the dream answers. Finds a way to keep pointing to me where I need to go. 

People say, “okay, dream of this and it will happen.” But it doesn’t work that way. The dreams know where you need to go. The best you can do is ride them fully. Go with them until you’re at the place you need to be. You see what you need to see. Sometimes what you need to face. And it makes you stronger because you stand there watching. Always watching. Waiting to act. Aborbing. Taking it all in. Every detail. Every moment is stockpiled if it is felt. You gotta be patient. “Wait for it,” is an understatement. But it’s okay by me, because once I’m into something, I can stay on it a very long time. My endurance surpasses most and it keeps developing. Keeps getting stronger. 

And so when you wake up, you only have to move through the moments again. Replay it by walking through your steps.

Did you know the way we experience time is not real? Like it’s real, but it isn’t at the same time. We go from here to there. A to B. Progression. Succession. One thing after anothet, right? But we don’t really do that. Well, we do, but in our minds we remember the past, jump to the future, jump around and back to the present. All at the same time that we’re just here. Just here living life and experiencing its various complexities — such as time for one. We repeat again and again. Always new, never new. Never old because each moment it new. It’s circuitous. Spiraling. It’s not the shape you think it is. 

That’s my secret by the way. That’s why I’m never bored – only tired. And there is a difference. Boredom is not being entertained by whatever you’re experiencing. Being tired or exhaustion is when you still try to be actively engaged but you physically, psychologically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually you are drained. You have less than you’re working with when you’re 100%. And that’s how I see the moment and why I can wait if I need to, because what I see when I am quiet with myself is a whole variety of things others don’t.

I see the future. And I see beauty. 

little change of pace

little change of pace. i was talking with a friend today and wanting to write more plays/scenes. so here you go… 🙂


It’s a room that is dim and amber. It’s warm and hidden away though in the center of things. It’s a room that has cozy chairs and there’s one window with it’s blinds semi-opened to the outside world. It’s far away from where they sit.

In the distance, you hear the traffic. You hear the commotion of people moving through the streets below. You hear the flutter of pigeons as they fly to perch. And the coo as they sit, listening on the other side of the walls.

1: no no

but you were like really afraid

like you wouldn’t even look up

2: i don’t know

1: it was weird

2: well what did you want me to do, i-

1: look up!

2: pssh whatever

you don’t get it

1: okay yea maybe

you always say that

by the way

2: yea but like what you supposed to do with stupid things that come up that make no sense? it’s not like i’m afraid of you now/ and that’s what’s important

1: that’s what’s important

2: yea exactly

see that’s what’s i’m saying

like

you want to dwell in the past and act like “oh this is who you are so this is all /you’ll ever be, but i-”

1:i didn’t say that

2: no, okay

yes, i said that

but you see what i’m saying right?

like

1: what?

2: it’s just not all i am

that’s all

that’s my only point 

1: well, yea, i mean

i know that

that to me is like a given

2: okay…

1: look, it’s so much a given i never think about it

2: i do

1: i know you do

2: pssh… okay fine

1: what?

2: well you make it seem like it’s this goal to get to/

1: isn’t it?

2: like i should be aspiring to get to here

1: yeah!

2: okay…

1: well, i mean what’s wrong with that?

let me just ask you –

what’s wrong with that?

2: okay… i get it

look i get it

seriously
she smiles.


1: you’re a lot better now

seriously

2: thanks…

1: i mean it

i kinda like you a lot more now

2: thanks? 

1: no you know!

c’mon

you’re just like

2: like what?

1: you’re cool

you’re just cool

you’re a cool girl

2: thank you

finally

took you forever to say that

1: oh come on you don’t need me to say that

2: people do

they need some…

glitter sometimes

1: glitter?!

2: you know

shiny

something you can be dazzled by for a while

something you can hold on to

1: what kinda glitter are you talking about?

2: oh come on you know what i mean now you’re toying with me

now you’re just toying with me

he laughs.


1: okay

you’re right

you got me

what can i say?

you got me
from another room, a soft song plays. it’s distant and nostalgic, but something about it, while melancholic, brightens the air.

they listen for a while and then look at each other smiling “did you hear that?”– they both noticed something change and are happy that they both caught it.

San Francisco Olympians Festival– support a new play I’m developing 

I was trying to think of the various ways to share the indiegogo for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which is ending soon. I came up with a couple things on facebook. Ways to illistrate its importance to me and how it helps to foster an artistic theater community here in San Francisco. Then, today in the eleventh hour, I thought of my blog. 

Normally the way I communicate with you all here reading is by short story and poetry. As you’ve probably already noticed, I’ve been sharing a little something every day and it’s developed into a practice for me. Originally I felt like I needed to carve out something for myself with the lowest possible stakes so that I could share my creativity — specifically creative writing– with more people. I suppose because I get nervous about using my voice some times. I worry what other people think. I do. No excuses, that’s where I’ve been at. But the amazing thing is how using this “little bit a day” approach has helped me improve my confidence and become more self-empowered. 

I started this off because I needed a place where I could write freely. Where the writing could come naturally without any imposition by deadlines or writing contests or grandiose, ambitious ideas about publishing, producing, or rallying for my work in any way, shape or form.

A surprising thing happened.

People started listening.

People started following. Liking my stuff. Commenting and thanking me for doing what I do. This still baffles me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it doesn’t matter. And maybe the discomfort that I feel about it is okay.

I want to let you know that if you’ve read even one word or looked at some of my pictures or found some joy, support, or meaning in anything that I’ve put out there, I am truly grateful and thankful for that. It really does mean more than I can express in words. I’m touched.

So, what’s prompting me to say all this is that if you look at the rest of the site, you’ll see it’s kind of under construction in the sense that I haven’t yet put in plays I’ve written and pictures from productios, readings, etc. I don’t always share what I’ve done or what I’m working on and I want to get better at that. At this point, I feel okay in continuing to move forward and express that even though my hands are shaking, I have a knot in my stomach and it sort of feels like I’m going to cry. Don’t worry, I cry easily. I have tissue. 🙂 

Later on, I’m probably going to either read this and cringe — potentially resisting the urge to delete or make private this post. I may laugh because there’s a part of me even now that recognizes that this is really no big deal. It’s just another step. Even though lately my life has been feeling like I’ve been leveling up and yet struggling to manage that.

All this to say that I do have something to share with you. It’s that I’m co-writing a play with a friend of mine, Julie Jigour, that is inspired by the ancient Greek god, Thanatos, the god of benevolent death. I think of him kind of like the Grim Reaper, but less scary. Like he touches you, you die peacefully perhaps. Anyway, we’re writing this story that we intend to be serialized at some point. It’s a mystery where Thanatos has been having these dream-visions that he shares with his twin, Hypnos. Now Hypnos up until this point has been able to sleep and dream, but something happened to make them not work the way they used to. Julie and I think it has to do with their sisters who are goddesses of violent death. So, in a way, it’s a crime mystery. They need to remedy the past in some type of way. We’re also playing with the idea of alternative timelines/realities and past/future realities as well. 

It’s very complex. Mainly, we’re just trying to go with the flow and be kinda stream of consciousness about it. 

 

crow flying
Thanatos is also known as the black-winged god.
 
That reading will happen October 15th at EXIT Theatre in San Francisco. It’s a part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival and was commissioned by them. So many of you live far a way, but I did want to share that I’m doing this. It’s exciting! 

And if you wanted to support not only mine and Julie’s play, you could do so by giving a gift here, in these last few days.

This festival is not only a great place for community, but it’s brought to life SO many new works and artists. It’s an incredible feat to have done in the past six years andit runs on very minimal costs. It’s one of the few writing opportunities I’ve had that pays me and other artists for creating. Not much, but to even be recognized in this way means a lot. It saysthe work you put into this matters. And it does. Art has the power to change lives…

I’ll leave it there for now, but I am going to try to post more about projects I’m working on. Take this as the start (or a deeper continuation of what already existed, if you prefer) of this endeavor.
Thank you for reading! Thank you for listening!

oh, idk i was just messing around with plays and characters…

It’s a summer night and there is a warm breeze.

G and H sit on lounge chairs on the patio. 

In the distance, you can hear the constant hum of the highway.

Well, except for H eating chips. H finishes a bag of chips.

G: It’s like I can hear the moment your teeth hit the chip. Like the chip’s like “oh my god don’t eat me”– crunch! Like there’s no escaping these teeth.

H: Mmmhmm.

G: I’m just saying that it’s like bam! Another chip just completely in shambles. I mean do you ever stop to think that that bag of chips has feelings? Like maybe you shouldn’t crunch them so loud.

H: These ones are good.

G: Everytime I see you now all you eat is one thing. Like-

H: Chips?

G: Oranges…

H: Noodles.

G: Like noodles exclusively. No sauce, no veggies or meat or cheese, just nothing.

H: I like what I like.

G: But it’s constantly changing. How am I supposed to keep track?

H makes the “I don’t know” sound and shrugs.

G: That’s all you’re gonna say, like I gotta keep guessing?

H: why not?

G: Because you’re completely unpredictable!

H: You give me too much credit. I like what I like. Last week, oranges. Before that, noodles. Before that… uhh…

G: Salad dressing.

H: Oh you are keeping track. Huh…

G: what?

H: No, just like that takes so much time to do that.

G: So.

H: So… are you trying to get something on me? Like something you can use against me later? 

G: What? No! That’s ridic-

H: Is it?

G: Yes!

H has finished the chips at this point.

G: I’m trying to get to know you.

H: Oh…

G: Yeah.

H: Well, don’t be mad.

G grumbles

H: Why don’t you just ask me some questions or say how’s your day or something?

G: Because that’s so boring. People lie with politeness so they don’t ever show themselves.

H: …so you creepily track someone’s food habits.

G: Well, I mean, it’s just one thing…

H:… there are others?

G forces a big smile.

G: What? Look it’s totally notmal stuff.

H: When you describe something as normal it usually isn’t.

G: Look, this is besides the point.

H: Okay, listen, I got an idea.

G: What is it?

H: A way for you to know me.

H stands up and pulls G up by ghe hand.

G: Where are we going?

H: Oh just into the world of my imagination. Come on!

G: Wait, what?

H: You’ll like it. It’s a little weird, but you’ll have fun.trust me. 

G: Uh… 

H: Just come on.

G and H walk into another realm.

music preferences for those in the know

Quiet, warm music with a clear pulse. Music that had an element of slowness and subtle change in temperature. Music that was all-consuming and that could be felt deep within.

This was the music that June liked best. And there were two spaces and times she knew where to find it:

-before midday in the beginning of the work week while everyone was off on their way to jobs, school, just the moment after the commute traffic had started to die down and lunch time trafgic had begun. There was a small shop and it was somewhat hard to get to — only in that you had to know what you were looking for or at least be observant enough to see a half hidden sign from the street — Hard to Find Records. Yeah, no kidding. The place itself was like an intellectual’s self-amused bad joke. Merely there to express that they knew what good music really was. Not you. And if you were intimidated by that, good. Fuck off, goodbye! And if you weren’t initially intimidated, be prepared to have a good reason to be there. Be prepared to show what you were made off. All this bravado gave the place a certain weight, but she didn’t care about any of it. The only reason she was there was to hunt. And discover. And happen upon emotional transcendence in the form of round black disks with grooves in them. The people who owned and frequented the space were collectors. But even the act of owning the records was less interesting to her than the collection of moods she sought. Go here at the right time and you wouldn’t have the inane conversations distracting you from the deep, yet low background music the store employees played. And from the space and ability to freely explore with whatever was in the store today. She got really good at flipping through stacks with ease until she found her holy grail of the day and to the listening station lets you enter another world. 

-the second place she knew she could count on to find more of this music was harder to enjoy. It was in a club – a space not exactly known for the lack of social interaction, but the opposite. However, down the hallway from walls vibrating thumping bass as you walked into pure blue light into semi darkness and magenta spinning little lights ob the walls and floor and ceiling of this cool back room. A dj in the back plays. There are loungey couches and a bar opposite the dj. Mostly that’s where the people gather – avoid that. Instead move closer to the dj or off to the sides. And if you could ignore the few other people in this room. Think of it as warm rather than stark. If you could ignore the couples making out or possibly having sex. And the randos on drugs or completely wasted. If you could find a spot and disappear, fade into the darkness, fade into the scenery so as not to be obstrusive. You would hear the gems that someone else found, mixed together and you could ne content to just listen as the fly on the wall. And allow yourself to melt into sound.

The Real World, Theatre Edition: Interview with Edna Miroslava Raia

Barbara Jwanouskos talks to one of SF’s longest running local activist artists. The day after Valentine’s, Justin Keller, Founder of Commando.io, penned an open letter to San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr complaining of the city’s homeless problem leaving many questioning whether he understood the complexity of the issue and had […]

https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/the-real-world-theatre-edition-interview-with-edna-miroslava-raia/