#2

plastic granite table filled with phat beats

ridge around the edge

cut up yourself up

when you bump and try to fill this

feast of plenty

feast of a thousand songs

playing in plentiful unison

heartbreaking to soulful whisperers in the dark

in the darkness you look better

you can see you

how a book of matches keeps you level

you can see how you support the flashing lights

grumbling motors from faraway streets

yes, inside the bottom of a blue lit cavern

and below you behind a makeshift skirt

hidden treasures abound from journeys near and distant

hours spent enlisting, refining, the dusty discs

spin on the platters two at a time

transcendent sounds

banquet of healing

you take us to another space

simple as you are

we will spill on you

laugh, holding each other til dawn

dance by your side

bass makes you shake

fold you up and snap your legs back into place

you a lightweight so we just

hang out by the wall until the invited come again

and we decide the menu

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.

😊

playing songs

i have a song with cello

it contains samples

its beat is slow and soothing 

there is a piano that plays and feels like a dark lit lounge

an ethereal singer’s voice floats warmly 

the air in this song…

i can’t tell if it’s foggy or smokey 

but it is thick

light gets caught in it

when you listen to this song 

you are transported to another place

you forget where you are

you see a different side of yourself

maybe one you’ve forgotten 

you don’t know that i have another song 

i’ll play it for you after this one

blend it so that before you know it

you are in a new one

there are elements that match the first

the space you’re in will transform 

will be magnified 

will open your eyes

will vibrate with bass

make your body want to move

even if you resist it

you can’t help it

eventually you’ll move and it’ll be to the beat

you’ll blink on a snare

time your movement as the melody builds

and just when you’re into it

a sound that is familiar with itch at the back of your skull

you won’t be able to place it

but your heart rate will go up

and you’ll have no choice

you gotta move

nod your head

tap your fingers to something 

and that sound will build

at the moment you realize you like it

it’ll be when you figure out that i’m bringing in a new song

and you’ll shake your head acquiesing 

i got you

and then you’re into it

like really into it

number one fan 

because if you know

than you and i both know the next song

you can anticipate what to do

and at this point

no inhibition remains

because now you see

we both like great music…

so we can slip back 

enjoying the scene

taking in the temperature 

as the journey continues 

and the sound runs through you

transmission

dark room with bright pink lights

and little blue ones from the bits of mirror spins out

like your floating

red glow dots drift around the room 

fade into ovals stretched along the wall

and we all know that the synth bass is so rich

sometimes hard to take

bright light in the corner 

is for looking up the next track

shiny black vinyl 

needle cued up

new beat ready to go

fancy one strutting through

all the sidelines focused on the flash

but when you glitter and shine

all you need is space

like back in the old days

they used to get these girls to dance

yes, even the ancient ones

because that’s the way the future’s told 

when you enter another consciousness

if you’re the girl you already know that sometimes when you dance

you are transported

so when you’re on another planet 

in a different realm 

different club

different time

different room

it’s all the same 

seen through rainbow vision

all the colors and times blend together

it’s a conversation with the music

is what she’d say

all the girls 

if you asked them

so

what is there left but all there is

light 

and continuous sound

and the shapes that decorate the wall 

until we’re all decorating the wall

and it’s another night

and another song

and another transport

goodbye, see you later

only to realize the two seconds you were gone

was a lifetime

was a minute

was an hour and a half

sound becomes destorted the more you turn

but you know where you need to look

and the bead of sweat on your forehead rolls down

it’s when you open your eyes

looking to the ground

that you realize where you are

calm as day as night

walk back 

so calm

so confident 

so poised

disappear to the back

to outside

to the fog

until summoned again

by the great dj gods and goddesses to throw down on the dance floor

lift us to another plane

show us something else!

tonight, that’s all we want

lingering before connection

back room flashing with bright lights

at the beginning only the dancers and the music

a symbiosis no one could interfere with

groove twists the beat

groove spins and the dj’s swaying from side to side

cueing up the track

cueing up the track

music filling pink red foggy air

dry ice makes clouds inside

and the room will be so packed that the humidity increases just from closeness

dj’s got headphones on

and the dancers in other worlds

in solo light

in fields of vision all we see is silhouettes

speaker thumps bass

and the middle hums

and you feel the music inside you

like you’re the bass

lights flash

spotlight on the handful of people there before anyone else

but there they are

together alone

standing

dancing

singing along with the music

and each time we make eye contact

our eyes dart away

the spaciousness feels open

but sometimes the slightest breeze

makes a person shy

the dancers

the wallflowers

the dj

the people listening

they are all very deep in thought tonight

they are all listening closely

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.

song selector 

i play the music and select the songs

there’s a crate next to me and it contains every emotion i plan to hit this evening

out of all the songs on all the albums

art within art of pairing the right song with the right moment

out of all the songs on all the albums

spinning lights within the darkness 

cacophony and voices and bodies colliding with one another in this space

out of all the songs on all the albums

contains the one

contains the images 

voice

imagination

sound 

and tone

for right now

see the dj controls the strings

so they say

but the dj lets the mood happen

and heightens the intensity

so that when you listen

when you dance

when you feel your body must move

must talk

must act

the dj okay

here’s the next song

you remember this?

if you didn’t, now you do…

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.