when the lights go dark, i dance

This is June Bug. She puts on lipstick in the rear view window of her car as she sits outside a club with thumping bass. Dark red looks like velvet. Tastes like plastic wax. 

June Bug looks at groups of people frolic into the club. Stroll in seemingly casually. And she feels an affinity with them all — the excitement of a new place. The need to quell the nervous jitters. The darting eyes. The indecision. June Bug knows all this. She feels it all but she’s not a part of any group. 

She’s there alone. And it wouldn’t matter if her outfit attracted the most attention or the least. If she were done up or not. She is there alone. No group. No one she’s specifically meeting.

Unless you consider the music and maybe the closest thing to the music, The DJ. June Bug follows the music. Drifts her way through the crowd to the front of the stage so she can do what she was born to do.

Purple lights cross with lime green. Orange and blue sparkles collide spinning, surrounding her. Music knows how to move her body. She just lets go and follows through. It’s not hard. Just listen. It will tell you everything you want to know and make you the happiest you’be ever been.

The people begin to notice. June Bug keeps dancing. 

June Bug always dances.

To any and all. The unsung music of the heart.

June Bug always dances. 

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The Real World – Theater Edition: Britney Frazier

Had to share this interview. 

Whenever I have moments of these moments of self doubt, I need to do as Brit:

This is the advice I give myself: Keep the faith. Believe in you. People say sh*t, good and bad people say sh*t. Don’t let it make or break your spirit. Please yourself first and no matter what, keep writing. Pay attention to what feelings come up when you are writing. When you as the writer are feeling sensitive about something in your piece, explore it, it’s gold.

The reading of her play Dysphoria: An Apache Dance happens this weekend at MoAD. 

***

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews Britney Frazier. I heard about Britney Frazier before I ever met her, when taking acting classes at Laney College under Michael Anthony Torres’ direction. I knew that she was an amazing actor — and then I got to see her in a play. Wow, blown away. As an actor, Britney brings so […]

https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/the-real-world-theater-edition-britney-frazier/

unedited scene from the bike play

I haven’t really felt like sharing, but then I thought, fuck it, I got nothing to lose (except for my 14 views–don’t go!). 

Anyway, I was trying to think of what scene to post to round this off. There’s one where Ella is teaching Jamie how to be seductive, that one’s good. Or another that’s Joe and Jamie admiring the stars. I never thought I’d pick this one, but after reading it again, I was like, “yeah, I’m okay with this.”

Sure, there’s some formatting things I’d do — like Rob Handel and a couple others convinced me not to write (beat) anymore, so I’d take that out. I like the look of open space on the page. I wouldn’t feel the need to describe what Ella and Jamie and Joe– how they should react. Because I could leave that open. That would be better. 

But here it is, unedited, for your enjoyment. Then I’ll go onto the next thing maybe or linger around with this play, who knows.

If you want to read the whole thing though, send me a note. 

barbara dot jwan at gmail
SCENE TWELVE:

Bakersfield, California
(JAMIE and ELLA sit at a table in a cafe. A stranger wearing sunglasses, JOE, listens at the next table over. He strums a guitar.)
JAMIE

I’m saying it’s not realistic.
ELLA

What makes it not real?
JAMIE

Well, for one, everyone’s gonna know what it is.
(ELLA plays with her lighter.)
ELLA

Who’s gonna know?
JAMIE

Everyone.

ELLA

Who?
JAMIE

Everyone!
ELLA

Who?
(A beat. JAMIE gives up.)
ELLA

No one knows we’re here. Look at me. Hey!
(JAMIE looks.)
ELLA

No one knows we’re doing this. No one even follows the Tour of California.
JAMIE

People follow it.
ELLA

Who?
JAMIE

People!
ELLA

They don’t matter. And if they did, they’d be too busy watching the races anyway.
JAMIE

Stages.
ELLA

How much money you got?
JAMIE

Less than you.
ELLA

Okay, fine.
(ELLA takes out a wallet from her purse and counts how much money she has.)
JAMIE

What makes you so sure anyway?
ELLA

I got a guy.
JAMIE

A guy? What do you mean – like someone to buy this bike? What the fuck does that mean?
ELLA

Exactly. Just chill, Jamie, you’re raising your voice.
(ELLA looks over at JOE. She smiles, eye-flirting with him.)
JAMIE

You trust him?
ELLA

Who?
JAMIE

Your guy.
ELLA

Of course. He says we can sell it in TJ for 18.
JAMIE

18.
ELLA

Yep.
JAMIE

Are you fucking serious? How long you gonna keep this up?
(ELLA flicks her lighter on the table in a sort of “fuck you” motion. JAMIE sits back.)
JAMIE

You are.
ELLA 

(Whispers – leaning in)

Of course I am, Jamie. What do you think? That this is some type of joke? That I don’t know what I’m doing? Of course I know. I’m planning this whole thing, remember? You’re just along for the ride, right. Or are you in. It’s not a fucking game anymore. This is it. You gotta make some decisions.
JAMIE 

(Shaking her head)

Wow.
(ELLA looks at her cell phone.)
ELLA

You got ten minutes. I’m gonna use the toilet. Think about it. Think about whether you’re in or out.
(ELLA leaves the table. JOE watches her go; he tries to scribble something down in a notebook in front of him. His pen doesn’t work.)
JAMIE 

(Mutters to herself)

Fuck…
(JOE leans over towards JAMIE’S table.)
JOE

Got a light.

JAMIE

Huh?
(JOE points to the lighter on the table.)
JAMIE

Oh…
(JAMIE pushes ELLA’s lighter across the table. JOE lights the tip of his pen. He smiles at JAMIE then begins to write again. The pen works.)
JOE

Never seen that? 
(beat.)

If your pen’s not working but you can see it still has ink in it, you can put the tip in a flame. It’ll heat up the ink and start flowing again.
(JOE hands the lighter back to JAMIE.)
JAMIE

Oh… thanks
(JOE nods. He plucks a few chords on the guitar.)
JOE

That’s a trick that comes in handy.
(The sound of wind.)
JOE

Where you from?
JAMIE

What?
JOE

It’s like I don’t speak English or something. Where You From? Here? 
JAMIE

No.
JOE

There we go. Didn’t think so. Up north , right?
JAMIE

Yeah… That’s right.
(JOE nods.)
JOE

Ukiah?
JAMIE

Santa Rosa.
(JOE nods. He plucks a few more chords.)
JOE

Where you headed?
JAMIE

South. You always talk to strangers?
JOE

Yep. Mexico?
JAMIE

Were you listening to us just now?
JOE

Sure was.
JAMIE

I’m not sure yet. Where we’re headed.
JOE

What’s your name?
JAMIE

(Sings, experimenting with different notes)

Jamie. Jamie. Jamie.
JAMIE

What’s yours?
(beat.)

Hey, what’s yours? You gotta name? Everyone has a name. What am I supposed to do, call you Joe Schmoe?
JOE

Sure, you can call me Joe. 
(beat.)

I don’t mind. Good as any other name.

(beat.)

You know, if I were you, I’d part it out.
(JAMIE looks at him blankly.)
JOE

The bike. You’d get more money that way. Plus who’d be able to tell what it was originally?
(JAMIE goes white.)
JOE

Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell. I could care less really. You want to hear something? Hold on.
(He tunes the guitar. Plays a couple cords. He hums the melody then sings, accompanying himself on guitar.)
Let me have my memories without

    Those lavender tinted dreams curved

    Around my nighttime bed I’d be like

    Pigeons wandering the streets aimlessly

    Striving to simplify my life with wishes

    

I envy those who can make their beds

In soft feathers lining nests warmed

By carefree times gold glinting sideways

And back-alley paths near Lake Tahoe

I’d be free to lightly trace their

Silhouettes and shadows upon my eyes
Forgetful the next morning watching

Traffic wind silky paths of stars

Before the sun rises to greet me

Could my smile twinkle forest green

Solemnity and sever the bond
With an ambivalent shrug?
JAMIE

Huh.
(JOE continues to strum and hum.)
JOE

What are you afraid of?
JAMIE

What? I’m not afraid. Who said that?
JOE

People who are defensive are always afraid of something.
JAMIE

You think so?
(JOE nods, then looks at her and smiles.)
JOE

Yep.
JAMIE

Okay, so I’m scared.
JOE

Told you.
JAMIE

Why’m I telling you about it?
JOE

I don’t know. Maybe you need someone to talk to? She doesn’t seem like the confiding type…
JAMIE

Maybe…
(beat.)

Hey, what if I told you something?
JOE

I’d listen. That’s what I do.
JAMIE

(Whispers)

This girl. That girl I was just with. We’re friends, right? And she’s gonna sell- something and it could be worth a bit of money. We’ve been all around the state making videos. Posting them. We blew up. We’re this big thing now.
JOE

Sounds like fun. Like trouble.
JAMIE

It is. A whole mess of trouble. We’re not gonna wiggle out of this one. I can tell you that right now.
JOE

You think so?
JAMIE

I know so. It’s all over the internet.
JOE

Ah… the bike banditas. I’ve heard of you. 
JAMIE

Yeah? You have?
JOE

Everyone has.
JAMIE

See that’s what I’m saying. That’s the problem.
JOE

Is it?
JAMIE

Cuz we’re gonna get caught eventually.
JOE

Not if you ditch it.
JAMIE

We’ll see. That’s what Ella wants to do. I’ve wanted to all along, but she keeps holding on til the last second. I’d never tell her, but I actually kinda enjoy it. The journey that is. But at the same time, I have to be the voice of reason. Ella thinks too grandiose. Too big picture. She forgets the details. Like that this is a felony. Like that we could end up in jail. Like that 18,000 dollars is a lot of money and where do you get that kinda money outta nowhere anyway?
JOE

People make money in weird ways.
JAMIE

Tell me about it.
JOE

So what are you gonna do?
JAMIE

(Sighs)

Keep on going along for the ride, I guess. See what happens.
JOE

Even though you know what does?
(JAMIE shrugs.)
JAMIE

What else am I gonna do?
JOE

Oh, I don’t know. There’s a lot of things you could do.
(ELLA enters. She stands behind JAMIE, looking at JOE, who smiles at her.)
ELLA

Who’s this?
JAMIE

Oh, hey Ella.
(beat.)

Wouldn’t say his name.
ELLA

Why not? Is it so scary we can’t handle it?
JOE

Something like that.
ELLA

Must be a pretty terrible name… Well, I’m Ella. And you’ve already met Jamie, I see. We gotta run. Right, Jamie?
(She stares at JAMIE who returns her gaze.)
JAMIE

Uh… right.
JOE

Where you guys going?
ELLA

LA. Disneyland. Maybe Mexico.
JOE

Can I join you? Trying to get back home.
JAMIE

Where’s that?
ELLA

Yeah, sure… you can come.
(beat.)

What’d you say your name was again?
JOE

You can call me Joe.
ELLA

Okay, Joe Schmoe, should we go?
JOE

Yes, we should.

***

The Man Who Sold The World

I have song obsessions. This is one of them.

This song relates to i stole lance armstrong’s bike in that it was the impetus for the whole play. I will share that next, but first, a really long digression… 

I warned you.

Of course, I felt tremendously sad to hear the news of David Bowie. A friend put it best – and I’m paraphrasing but she said whenever there was a report of another celebrity death in the back of her mind she’d go, “Please not David Bowie.” I could relate to that.

You know, sometimes you think the stars are going to go out with a bang – and sometimes they do, but I think it’s equally as sad when the page just turns and poof, they’re gone… Like, “Bowie? Oh, yeah, he’s not here any more.” Well, that sucks. Not that things and people and places can last forever, but you know…

When I was first starting to get into collecting records, I found Ziggy Stardust in a dusty dollar bin underneath the main stacks at this record store, Streetlight, in San Jose. I didn’t know what it was or really anything about David Bowie at that point except for The Labyrinth – which is another obsession from back when I was a little kid. I listened to the album and over and over again. I guess I was in my late teens or something.

It’s funny because though this post is about song obsessions and about the beginnings of i stole lance armstrong’s bike specifically, I could actually weave this song into my other work too.

In my punk play, a character is introducing a song and says something along the lines of, “I was about to tell you that I wrote this song during a very difficult time in my life, but then, when have times ever been easy?”

That is a quintessential feeling I get from listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Low. And that is who David Bowie is to me. I was depressed and listening to David Bowie’s music often moved me through those feelings. 

So, yeah, this song, I’m obsessed with. I love it when Bowie sings it and I love it when Kurt Cobain sings it.

For me, song obsession is kinda like this– I’m modifying a little what the character Biz said in a play I wrote, It’s All In The Mix.

BIZ: I just thought of this song. I knew I’d have to play it at some point during the day. I mean, really, I’m probably gonna have to play this song a couple more times before I feel past it. And that’s the thing too cuz I could be playing this for weeks. Or months. Finding a way to work it into every mixtape, every time I play a club or party… Cuz if I got really obsessed with it, I’d be trying to figure out a way to work it intoeverything I do. I’d be with my friends like “(David Bowie) is the shit!” Just claiming it, I’d know that’s it. That feeling. The song. It’d be me by then. My motto for life…

The Man Who Sold The World…

Sometimes in generative writing workshops, the instructor will ask you to think of what your play sounds or tastes or smells like. Like my first playwriting teacher, Naomi Iizuka, would say this and you would free write for a while with just whatever popped. I started with a desk, a desire to write something new, an idea about a bike theft, and this song.

I played this song and it would run out so I’d play it some more. And then, I’d play another version. 

A monologue resulted, but more than that, I could see, feel, and touch the world of my play within my mind. And I knee exactly how it would feel to be in that space at that time with those people.

This monologue was first and I kept on writing around it, completely or mostly out of order. It was more or less the equivalent of a sketch when I passed it onto another teacher, Octavio Solis, who asked how I wrote it. I said that I just wrote it as it came to me. He said “what if you put it in order?” Huh! I hadn’t thought of that.

So, I did. And this monologue which was first, and was originally a letter, moved to the middle. I’ve edited and shaped it a bit along with everything else.

But the songs…

Okay, so have you seen these live versions?

I personally prefer these acoustic ones – one sung by David Bowie and the other by Kurt Cobain.

And so recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I will sing songs for people. Live. But for realsies, not just karaoke. And maybe I will do my version of this song. Of course, I would like create my own music too. Like if I made an opera it would sound like that harmonizing haunting part at the end.

 I can’t seem to find any good versions by female singers, except for this one with a theramin. So maybe I should create what I want to see and experience. I think I’d aim for more like those acoustic ones above though. And that definitely feels like the spirit of i stole lance armstrong’s bike

Oh, this one is really interesting too. Dark, kinda like a sci-fi noir film soundtrack or something. It would have really gone well with this radio show I used to have called Miz Scarlet in the Lounge with the Turntables. 

And there’s this epic on on SNL with Klaus Nomi. They used to have the whole version up, but this one with the intro and frame will have to do.

So now, the monologue from i stole lance armstrong’s bike.

I don’t know why this song illicited this monologue, but it did, so I’m going with it. Even though now the song reminds me more about this recent writing than it does angst. Says on wikipedia that the song was alluding to multiple identies, but I thought it was just a memory of a person from another lifetime. 

But isn’t this interesting?

“I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for. Maybe now that I feel more comfortable with the way that I live my life and my mental state (laughs) and my spiritual state whatever, maybe I feel there’s some kind of unity now. That song for me always exemplified kind of how you feel when you’re young, when you know that there’s a piece of yourself that you haven’t really put together yet. You have this great searching, this great need to find out who you really are.” — David Bowie

This monologue is towards the middle. They’ve met this busker they call Joe Schmoe. And there’s this sort of power/attraction triangle going on. Like I said, originally this was a letter she sent to another character who was never in the play. So I played with it more in the editing process.
JAMIE:

I can’t take the despair anymore. It’s too much and it’s enveloping me like a snake. I can feel it coiling around my body my stomach and my throat and I have nowhere else to turn. How else to get out of this 4 by 4 space with her there judging every move every thought every action turns into something I regret. How do I get out of this place?  

We’re in the desert now making our way back to civilization and time seems to be speeding up infinitesimally exponentially. It’s growing without end. I see no end in sight. She looks at me waiting for me to break. I look back defying that will. I will not break, you see. That’s something she doesn’t see. 

I could never understand what she wanted with it. Why travel this far. Why not ditch it? At anytime we could and she holds onto it. Holds it over me. I can’t take it anymore. She’s getting to me. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m crazy or that maybe she is. I’m not sure which one of us is right. So maybe it means we both aren’t.

Behold me, Ella. I am the carrier of the wind of change. I will be here and propel myself in front of the car Ella drives with Lance Armstrong’s bike in the back seat tire sticking out the window. I am the change that she didn’t see coming. I will force my way out of this trap. This cage. This prison. She doesn’t realize what a power she’s messing with. But I know. You know, you’ve seen it. And could vouch for me if I needed you to, right?

I’m open. At your beckon call. Without you I’d go blind.

*****

The Real World – Theater Edition: An Interview with Libby Emmons

Recent interview with Libby Emmons for SF Theater Pub was way cool. Loved hearing her perspective on art-making and not “asking permission”. 

And it’s so true! We do ask permission all the time to do art. Why? Isn’t that somewhat the point of art (possibly) to not ask permission?
I remember something Rob Handel told us at CMU though – that you submit to playwriting/creative opportunities AND you create your own opportunities. The first is because hey, you never know. It’s so much determined by undefinable factors that you can never truly know. I call BS on anyone or thing that says otherwise! 

And the second is because it’s fun to make art, yeah? I think so…

Anyway, wanted to share this interview again here to help promote the Morrissey Plays at PianoFight tonight and tomorrow and because I wanted to share what Libby said once more! 

Oh, in the spirit of not apologizing for one’s existence/art and also Morrissey —

http://youtu.be/AZa8jHi1nkk
You’re Welcome. 
Barbara Jwanouskos interviews Libby Emmons. Kicking off the first interview of 2016 is Libby Emmons who starts us off right by talking about indie theater and the importance of creating your own opportunities. Libby is a playwright as well as a producer and has a similar theater in pubs type of play series going with […]

https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-real-world-theater-edition-an-interview-with-libby-emmons/

the bike play

There’s this play I wrote about two girls that steal Lance Armstrong’s bike while he’s doing the Tour of California. Just a crime of opportunity, you know. So they go on this road trip to get rid of it, but end up being in over their heads. They post about it online and become internet-famous. It becomes a meme. A hashtag. An event. It gets really big and more than they can handle. Things escalate – you know how it goes.

This is a play that I send out a lot as a sort of “here’s what I write” thing. It was written in such a weird way – different than I had done in the past, but I felt good when it was done. I mean, not that I think it’s done done. I gotta hear it again. I’d love to see it, but, you know, that takes commitment from a theater company or something. I suppose I could do it myself… Hmm…

Anyway, so I’m going to share a couple of pieces of it over the next couple of posts. Feel free to enjoy.

This is about midway through the play. They are now starting to steal cars to cover up their tracks. I played with the formatting a bit from how it is in the script. I want to see how it reads.

 

SCENE TWELVE: jamie’s secret blog

JAMIE updates her blog while simultaneously remembering a part of the journey. The two are driving down Highway 5, California. The screen is a blurry California landscape from a car window. ELLA drives the car. JAMIE leans her head against the window. Silence.

 

JAMIE

Ella drives fast. I don’t, but she does.

She likes the flow.

I get nervous, I put my foot on the gas, I drive fast, my heart beats fast. She drives fast, her heart rate slows down. To a pulse.

Thump…

Thump…

Thump…

Like it’s sounding its last beat.

The one thrill it has left isn’t a thrill at  all. It’s soothing to her, the flow of traffic.

She bobs in and out of cars, I grip the edge of my seat, the Jesus handle, anything I can latch onto, I hold on for dear life like that’s the only thing I can do. The only thing I’m supposed to do. Fight for my life. A new one.

When Ella’s like this I wonder how much longer before the other shoe drops. I used to relax too – go with the flow – but I can’t anymore.

I can’t.

I see everything.

I see how close we come to dying every time she passes another car.

I grip the seat.

There’s nothing else I can do, you see?

Nothing.

Punk As Fuck – reading on 1/12 at the Gallery Cafe in SF

Super lucky to be selected as a guinea pig for Custom Made Theatre‘s new plays development program. Myself and Megan Cohen, another fantastic local playwright (who happens to be in the cast of my play!) were asked to share a play we’d been working on for these one-off readings at the Gallery Cafe

The point of the readings is to hear the next draft of a script in progress and receive public feedback through a talkback immediately following the reading.

Originally, Punk As Fuck, was developed as a part of Just Theater‘s New Play Lab. We did a public reading last April and I was very proud of the work and everyone involved. Since then, I’ve had a chance to ruminate on the feedback I received as well as step back ftom the whole thing and figure out what exactly is next.

Right now, the play sits between a linear and non-linear structure. Like you could go in and make changes that would push it to be more like a Shakespearean structured comedy. Or you could trim the references between characters. You could diverge every time the want for some sort of logical linear reasoning came up. And I admit that it does probably exist between those two spaces right now.

I did have a thought this werkend when working on the latest revisions. We always talk about “the event” in theater, meaning why are all the characters there, tonight in this space? I had this step back and suddenly see the mural moment where it was like, “what if the event being staged is that each person lets go or attempts to come to terms with is trying to define what punk rock is and what that means for their identity?” 

And it’s a little disappointing in a way because that opens up a whole huge set of potential re-writes that I simply don’t have time to put into place until after the reading is over. But at least I may have a little more clarity for the next time I go at it. And who knows? Maybe the changes I made were what allowed me to arrive here in my thinking.

In any case, I hope you can come out (if you’re around/available)! I’d love your thoughts and perspective on the whole thing. 

Here is the facebook event. Join us! Oh, and let me know if you do so I can say hi! 

The Real World, Theater Edition: A Playwright’s Guide to Grad School, Part One

I’m a little delayed from adding this to the blog since I came down with something recently that confined me to the couch for a good week, but here is the first part of a series that attempts to be a guide for those interested in pursuing graduate playwriting/dramatic writing programs.

For a little bit of background, about a year after I finished my undergraduate degree from UCSB and had studied playwriting with Naomi Iizuka, though not as a major or minor, I entered a period of intense anxiety and depression over what I was going to do next. Whenever I was asked by family or friends, “What I was going to do now?” My heart started to race, “I DON’T KNOW!!” What I knew was that I liked theater and that playwriting was where I felt most comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t know anything about how to pursue it, however, and I wished that I had a little bit more practical knowledge under my belt so that I was secure with what I had started at UCSB. I took unpaid theater internships, worked crew and drove the hour long drive up to San Francisco almost every day, while still living with my folks in San Jose. I took a part time job at a retail store in the mall. I hung out with other recently graduated friends, who also had no clue what they were going to do next, and I drank too much too often. I started a relationship with someone who really wasn’t good for me and when it ended I felt completely lost. I was shy and insecure and I had no clue “what to do with the rest of my life”. But I pursued my passion as best as I could anyway. I felt like that was the only way I was going to be happy. I saw an ad for the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting workshop in Oxford, England, and I decided I needed to go. So, I took on any and every temp job I could to raise funds and I went across the ocean alone. Being in the classroom and practically learning the principles of storytelling is what made me think, hey, maybe I should pursue a graduate degree. Maybe this is the right direction.

Still, it took another year for me to act on that. I got back and immediately got back into theater, but not as a writer. Though I was learning so much and fortunate to work with some amazing artists, it felt tangential to what I really wanted to do. I got a full time job as a Grants Coordinator at a great nonprofit with wonderful people to work for and with, and it can be so tricky when that happens because you’re working full time. I had moved out of my folks’ house and could finally afford a place up in Berkeley. I thought being either in the East Bay or San Francisco would make me happy. I started another relationship, and it was so much better and different than the last, that I quickly put a tremendous amount of energy into this new life: 9 to 5 job, steady/stable boyfriend, some (though small) involvement in the theater scene, my own place, a community I liked being in… But I wasn’t writing and I felt the anxiety creep back in. I tried to pursue writing retreats, playwriting classes, and talked with playwright friends about what they would do. It somewhat helped. I knew that I would have to take decisive action if this life was not the one I wanted.

I applied to UC Berkeley’s Performance Studies PhD program for absolutely the wrong reasons. I didn’t want to move. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I wasn’t ready to completely change the focus of my life. I thought if I stayed in the Bay Area, that all would be well. I only applied to one program. I didn’t get in.

The next year, I didn’t apply again, but I did try and do more writing. It was slow, but it was finally getting going a bit more. I did more playwriting retreats, networked more, tried to write in a journal, tried to be involved in theatrical productions again. I ended up writing a one-act at a retreat I went to, and it ended up being performed alongside other plays that the attendees wrote at La Mama ETC in New York. I saw the play get on it’s feet and I worked with a director. It was the first time I’d been asked solid questions on my writing since graduating from UCSB.

I got back to the Bay and I moved to San Francisco to get my life in gear. I still kept looking at the MFA programs, thinking, “if only”. I took a big, unexpected break-up to really truly shift my focus. I realized that I had again, not truly put my heart and full self into pursuing playwriting. So, then I did. And everything changed.

I read everything. I talked to everyone. I went to as many shows as I could. I tried to volunteer my time with new theater companies. I expanded my social circle and network. I did heavy research on the main graduate programs for playwrights out there. I met with mentors and discussed my goals. I wrote them down. I read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” and I did it and it worked. I started pursuing interests I never knew I had. I started going out more. I took my work, in all realms, whether creatively or professionally seriously. That was the time I could finally look someone in the eye and without flinching say apologetically, “I am a playwright”. And by the time this was all happening, I was in my late 20s. So, it was A LOT of soul-searching… I worked backwards to give myself the time to finish two new plays and prioritize my goals and needs. I worked hard and saved my money and paid about $1,000 to apply to ten different programs. And I tried to be okay with the idea that I might not get in.

In the process of doing this, I ended up writing a play I didn’t even realize was inside of me. All on my own without school programs, writing exercises, retreats, or classes. Of course, I used what I had developed there, but I ended up with something I still feel immensely proud of, “i stole lance armstrong’s bike”. I was able to get a staged reading together. I was finally making theater on my own.

Low and behold, my first year, I ended up having positive responses from UCSD and the New School for Drama. They both identified me as finalists. And through the process of traveling down to San Diego and over to New York, I learned more about what I wanted and needed. Being there in the place, I could feel what was right and what felt off. So, I crossed my fingers, and hoped.

It didn’t happen that year, but I didn’t lose heart. Still, that spring was a hard one. It took a lot of gusto to get back up and work even harder. I had laser focus and I’d done it before. I refined my school choices. I kept on writing and in the process I was able to secure a production for one of my plays, “It’s All in the Mix”. I tried more new things, like kung fu and tai chi. And the process of applying started once again. Though this time, I realized, that I was doing so much in the Bay Area scene, I could imagine myself being happy living in the city and making things happen on my own, without a graduate program. I was just getting used to this idea and feeling like there was so much I enjoyed about my town. Maybe I didn’t need to go.

Then, I started getting positive responses. First, from Rob Handel with Carnegie Mellon University, then Alice Tuan from CalArts, and Velina Hasu-Houston at USC. I was put on NYU’s waitlist, then they contacted me to bump me up. I was starting to have to make very real decisions about where I wanted to spend the next two to three years of my life. And after speaking with all these wonderful playwrights, I ended up feeling like CMU was the place that was going to be best for me. Ironically, my mom and I ended up finding out that her cousin, Judy, actually works there as the dance professor! It seemed like all signs point to yes. And then the question was just how to make this happen.

So, I know. I realize that all of this is a hard decision. It’s never easy for anyone to know “what to do with the rest of their life”. Heck, I’m here now trying to figure out what jobs will allow me to pursue playwriting and screenwriting, but still allow me to eat and get around town. I have no clue. I’m no expert. But what I do know, is I wish, when I had been applying, there was just more to read about the process of applying and what the challenges and pitfalls are. I wished that I could at least read someone else’s experience and figure out if there was a better way I hadn’t considered. I don’t regret pursuing this degree, but it was a very hard path. And I see people now who seem to make the decision very quickly and lightly. I at least want to pass on some things to consider. Not necessarily do as law because this is the way you will have success, but just something to try (if you haven’t already). Other than that, it’s just my take and maybe it won’t work for everyone (it probably won’t), but if it generates a new idea in someone about how to make playwriting a reality and not a pursuit, then I absolutely am humbled and thrilled to hear that.

Til then, enjoy! 🙂

San Francisco Theater Pub

Barbara Jwanouskos won’t be going back to school this fall, but she’s got some advice for all you playwrighting grad students out there.

Summer’s coming to a close and many are headed back to school. You may be toying with the idea of going back to school to get a degree in a theater-related field. If you’re a playwright, you may be looking at grad schools and thinking about applying. Well, as a recent graduate, I can give you some of what I’ve learned not only in the process of applying, but also what my experience was like while in it. I’m putting together at least a two part guide to the schools to look at, things to consider (for instance, is there a need to go back to school all together? SPOILER ALERT: No, but we’ll get to that), and ideas on where you might want to focus your…

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It’s Been A Long Time

“…I shouldn’t have left you without a dope beat to step to…”

 

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And here I am, back on this crazy thing and ready to give an update on all that’s happened. The biggest thing was that for the past two years, I’ve been off at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing my MFA in Dramatic Writing under Rob Handel’s direction. The amount of writing we were doing in this program made life for the past two years fairly intense, so it was hard to keep The Dynamics of Groove up to date. That’s not to say I was an internet hermit. I still contributed to the blogs with San Francisco Theater Pub and 108Heroes.

Here’s the top 25 things I’ve accomplished over the past two years in no particular order:

  1. Wrote and helped to produce “It’s All in the Mix”, a coming-of-age love story about DJs with All Terrain Theater at Vamp Records in Oakland, CA. Directed by Brady Brophy Hilton, Stage Managed by Robert Neopolitan, Sound help by The Selector DJ Kirk and Kris Barrera, featuring Champagne Hughes and Courtney Nickolson as JUNE, Kris Barrera and Tommy Nyugen as BIZ, and Johnny Manibusan as PAT. Special Thanks to Tracy Held Potter, Sean Sullivan, and more. ItsAllInTheMixPostcardFinalFRENCHe2
  2. Wrote 31 plays in 31 days in the organization’s inaugural year (some of the eye sores are on this blog…)
  3. Moved to Pittsburgh and found an amazing apartment in Squirrel Hill.
  4. Wrote a one-act comedy, “Hera, The Pregnant Man Play” for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which was voted an Audience Favorite the night it was read! A filmed version of the staged reading is available here. Produced by San Francisco Olympians Festival (Special Thanks to Stuart Bousel), directed by Amy Claire Tasker, Claire Slattery as HERA, Nick Trengrove as TERRY, Ben Grubb as CHAD, Eric Hannan as RYAN, Arie Lavine as ALICIA, and Brian Martin as ZEUS. HERA The Pregnant Man Play
  5. Got a mention in the Huffington Post by George Haymont for “Hera, The Pregnant Man Play”.
  6. Tested and received my black belt in Shaolin kung fu.
  7. Wrote a ten minute multimedia comedy, “Donut Erotica”, which was selected for publication by 31 Plays in 31 Days. You can listen to a podcast recording of an older version here. Produced by 31 Plays in 31 Days (Special Thanks to Rachel Bublitz and Tracy Held Potter), directed by Claire Rice, featuring Colleen Egan as LINDSAY, Peter Townley as KEV, Michelle Talgarow as the CASHIER LADY, and stage directions by Caitlin Evenson.
  8. “Donut Erotica” was then selected to be performed in CMU’s Playground Festival in the spring of 2013 and I had the chance to work with some amazing collaborators. Directed by Alex Franz, Video Design by Jordan Harrison, Sound Design by Ian Julian Williams, Set Design by Dan Daly, LINDSAY – Olivia Brown, KEV – Scott Coffey, SHOP OWNER – Petr Favazza. And special thanks to Laci Corridor, Jonah Eisenstock, Britain Valenti. DONUT EROTICA by Barbara Jwanouskos
  9. Made all the donuts (including vegan and gluten-free ones!) for the Playground production.
  10. Wrote an introduction and provided copyediting to the forth-coming collection of plays from the second annual San Francisco Olympians Festival, “Heavenly Bodies”.
  11. Started writing a bi-weekly series for San Francisco Theater Pub called “Higher Education” about what it’s like as a theater artist going through a graduate program and the lessons learned while there.
  12. Helped shoot and edit video for the 108Heroes re-launch promo. Check it out!
  13. Taught “Introduction to Screenwriting” at the university level in the fall of 2013.
  14. Wrote two ten minute plays for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, “Ajax Minor” directed by James Nelson, featuring Richard Wenzel, Caitlin Evenson, Carl Lucania, Jan Marsh, Karlie Blair, and Eli Diamond. And “Neoptolemus”, directed by Charles Lewis III, featuring Eli Diamond, Ben Grubb, Richard Wenzel and Carl Lucania.
  15. Worked with Disney Imagineering Research and Development as a writer by contributing 40 short scenes to their emotional speech database project.
  16. Was identified as a semi-finalist for the DISQUIET Literary International Short Play contest for my ten minute comedy, “Naughty Cheetah”.
  17. Was identified as a semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival for “i stole lance armstrong’s bike”.
  18. Taught “Advanced Playwriting” in the spring of 2014.
  19. Wrote and collaborated to help produce “The Imaginary Opponent” as my thesis play production at Carnegie Mellon University. Directed by Quin Gordon, Production Assistance by Dan Giles, Set Design by Britton Mauk, Lighting Design by Daniel Bergher, featuring Cathryn Dylan as ERIKA, Austin James Murray as MAC, David Patterson as SIFU ADAM, Sawyer Pierce as GABE, and Annie Yokom as MASTER LYNN. DB_ImaginaryOpponent_24
  20. Submitted “The Imaginary Opponent” and “Day Drinkers” as my thesis for the CMU library.
  21. Graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an MFA in Dramatic Writing.
  22. Met with theater, screenwriting, TV and other entertainment professionals at the LA and NY Showcases for the class of 2014.
  23. Wrote “Time to Wine”, a short comedic libretto for the Baria Project with Roger Zahab and the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh to be performed in July 2014.
  24. Collaborated with Stephen Webb to write the libretto to “For the Time Being”, a short opera love story about a being from another dimension, composed by Daniel Arnaldos and to be performed in February 2015.
  25. Returned back to the Bay Area!

It’s been a long journey, but I’m ready to take this all to the next level!