Back in the Saddle (whose horse is this?)

Mar 9, 2012 by

I’m in Chicago for a 9-day trip, and I’m covering a lot of ground.

The view from my rental car, The Chariot of Fire.

The reason for the trip is officially business: I have four plays going up in Chicago this year, including a reading at Steep Theatre that took place on Monday night, and I need to hear them to tweak or full-on revise them.  In face, my favorite part of being a playwright is workshopping.  I write plays so I can be in the rehearsal room with actors and directors; the sitting alone for hours at my computer part isn’t really the “draw” of the profession.  And being GChatted or Skyped into a reading just isn’t effective for me; I really need to be able to take in the atmosphere of the room.  So I squeezed a season’s worth of readings and rehearsals into nine days, imagining this would be one of the most fun weeks of 2012 for me.  I sometimes forget that my work is fun, but work is also work.  To quote my friend Heather, who’s putting me up in her guest room, “Everyone in our business overbooks themselves.”  She’s one of the busiest lighting designers in Chicago, so she would know.

The workshop and reading at Steep went really, really well.  I’m feeling very good about the one act play STUNT that we polished up, which will have a reading in May in New York City.  Though it still needs some fleshing out, it’s in a really great place.  Steep is one of my favorite theatre companies in Chicago, and the whole team for this reading was top-of-the-line.  My Chicago “family” of LSU friends turned up to see it, as well as some artists I respect, some strangers, and some ex-Barter folks who now live in Chicago.  It was an invigorating process and we made that kind of smart magic that happens when a really great creative team works on a compelling show.  As the playwright, I just marvel and take notes as these people plumb the depths of what I wrote, depths that I didn’t know were there, that would have remained hidden from me without their illumination.  I am the god of the worlds I create, but I could never explore them alone.  I would be lost.  It’s a truly remarkable phenomenon, collaboration.  (I should clarify: specific collaboration is remarkable, in which everyone knows their clearly-defined roles and performs them with gusto, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.)  I had a fantastic time with this workshop of STUNT, and I can’t wait to develop the project further.  I’d wanted to work with Steep for a long time, so this was a bit of a dream come true.

Right this way!

Look, they elected me homecoming queen!

In addition to hearing the first read-through of a play I wrote for the upcoming Hobo Robo Festival, I also made smart magic with the folks over at The State, working on draft 98798798 of my space play Young Frontier.  That process was a little slower, a little more heated, since the play is long and complicated and based in science fiction which is not really the kind of science I’m up on. Young Frontier was supposed to go up in May, but due its complexity the performance has been pushed back indefinitely.  This is fine by me on the one hand, since I’d rather present a coherent, comprehensible piece of theatre than a half-baked mess.  On the other hand, I get paid the same amount whether the development of this play happens over six months or six years, so long gestation periods make me antsy.  Especially because there is always a chance that the play won’t be produced at all, and if the play turns into something I don’t like, it would feel like a waste of time I could have spent on other projects.  All of this came to the fore on the first night of workshopping, all my insecurities and frustrations, and it was a little like The Highlander in there for a bit, but by the next night we had ironed out kinks and made progress toward a solid play, and everyone was feeling a lot better and more team-like once again.

Tomorrow I will attend the first read-through of Devour, a new play of mine that opens in May with 20% Theatre.  I can’t wait to meet the whole team, including the designers, since they’ll all be in the room for the reading.  This play is once I wrote and developed last year, and I’m fairly confident it won’t need extensive revisions to be performance-ready.  Thank goodness, because I am burnt out on editing at this moment.  I’m actually in my pajamas right now, on a Chicago Friday night, taking a break from my workcation.

Of course, in between all the revising and workshopping and Highlander-ing  this week, I’ve been squeezing in friend-seeing, and brunching, and shopping, and karaoke-ing, and generally pretending I still live in Chicago.

Karaoke at the Holiday Club!

Pizza from Pequod's!

Brunch with Danielle and Heather at Kitsch'n!

I subconsciously believed, even before we moved to Virginia, that this trip back would be like taking a breath for the first time in a long time.  I kept telling myself that if I could make it though another day, another week, in the mountains, I could get back to my real life in March.  But the longer I’m here, the more I realize that my “real life” might not have been all I cracked it up to be.  I love writing and rehearsing and workshopping, of course, but I can’t do it at this frantic pace.  In Abingdon, life is so slow that I can take my time with drafts, walk away, come back, relax into writing.  I can confidently say my work is better that way.  Also, after never having to spend more than 5 minutes driving anywhere, I begrudge the time in each Chicago day I spend getting from one far-flung location to the next.  And there just aren’t enough hours in the day here, I realize.  When you have to hang out with your friends starting at 11pm, you’re trying to do too much.  I’m trying to do too much.  It’s a tall order having relationships at this speed.  It must also be mentioned that if I still lived in Chicago, I’d have to have a day job.  There’s no way to afford it otherwise.  And that would mean putting writing on the back burner, giving it the dregs of my time and energy, and neglecting professional development opportunities.  I’m not willing to make that sacrifice again, now that I know what it feels like to really be a playwright full-time.

There may be a lot more going on in this incredible city that I love, but the day-to-day life in Abingdon is the day-to-day life I want.  It’s the one I always wanted, I just found it in a place I didn’t expect.  I’ll probably still complain about the lack of ethnic food and dive bars, and the fact that there isn’t much to do or see, and the Herculean effort it takes to pry a simple street address out of anyone, but now I’ll know (and so will you) that I’m not on the verge of a breakdown or a cross-country move.

Abingdon is now my full-on home, because of Miles, and because of me, too.  It affords me the opportunity to embrace every hour of every day, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the deep-dish pineapple pizza in Chicagoland.  Not anymore.




But I think I just might try to convince the people at the nail salon to keep me in edgy manicures.  Rural Virginia is ready for these nails, right?

New signature look?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *