Columbus Play Adventures Part 2

This weekend was my second big trip to Columbus, though this one was much shorter in that I was in Ohio for less than 24 hours. Intially, Stuart and I had planned to make it a mini-adventure, but between us both having to work and being poor, it didn’t work out. So I worked until three on Saturday and then headed to the Philadelphia airport for my flight to Columbus.

I’ve flown by myself before, when I went to my friend Katie’s wedding in Texas, but even then, I was picked up and dropped off by someone at the airport. This was the first time I was doing all of it on my own. I learned many things very quickly, like that “short term parking” does not include “just one night” and that bus rides are awkward when it’s you and the bus driver. But I made it through security in more than enough time to have something to eat and to charge my phone in the freezing waiting area.

The flight was drama-free, and as a bonus, we landed twenty minutes earlier than expected. The only thing that wasn’t great was the ear popping. I haven’t flown or been up to the mountains for years, so it’s been awhile since I experienced the sensation. When I was younger, my ears would pop simply going on a hike with my Brownie troop, but the sensitivity has lessened over the years. Saturday night, though, they were a little moreso: I couldn’t hear anything. When the steward (are we supposed to call them “air hosts” now?) came by to take drink orders, I didn’t know what he was asking. I thought it was because I had my earbuds in, but even after I took them out and asked twice more what he said, I didn’t understand until he mimed drinking. I really wanted soda, because I’m an addict, but I knew I’d never be able to hear the selection, so I just ordered water.

I had called my hotel before I left to see if they had a shuttle service from the airport. Their website says they do, but apparently it lies, because the receptionist sounded shocked that I even asked. But I wasn’t going to change my reservation, so I took the sole taxi outside of the airport and was at my hotel by 10:30. I stayed up for awhile and really wanted to finish watching Bridesmaids on USA, but I was so exhausted that I said goodnight to Kristen Wiig and went to bed.

When my mom and I stayed at this same hotel last week, we were awoken by the alarm going off at 5 a.m. the first night (morning.) The second night, the child in the room next door woke us up around the same time screaming “BROWN BEAR!” over and over for hours. We were woken up again the next night by banging on the walls around the same time. And the hotel curse is apparently not reserved for that particular branch, because at five a.m. this morning, I was startled awake by three dogs screaming. Not howling, not barking. Screaming. This hotel chain is pet-friendly, which would generally be cool with me. But these dogs, who were in the room above me, screamed and cried for HOURS. It was to the point where I got out of bed and went out onto the patio to see what was going on. I couldn’t tell of course, but after a few hours of the yowling, I started to get legitimately concerned. I have heard the sounds of animals in distress, and the only cause I could think of for dogs crying for that long unscolded was that their owner had died in her bed and they had discovered her. I actually considered calling the front desk (or the police) but I was so tired that I couldn’t think of anything to tell them except “I think the person above me got murdered and her dogs are sad.”

In the end, the only way I could block out the noise enough to sleep was to put my earbuds in and turn the volume up to an uncomfortable level for sleeping. It worked, but I still woke up only in time to get ready for the show sanely.

The workshop was at the public library in Upper Arlington, which is really nice and has a small theatre space in the basement. The director was really nice and so were my actors, one of whom I identified because she was holding her two props (a blanket and cigarettes) when she arrived. My play was one of three, and as it turns out, all of the plays consisted of two characters and involved couples (or, in my play’s case, a former couple) in conflict.

It’s been awhile since I looked at this play of mine, but I’ve been proud of it since I wrote it. It’s been through five drafts since I penned it during a bad insomnia-plagued night in July of 2012, and I’ve always considered it to be one of the best things I’ve written. And in some ways, it is. The characters are complex, they talk about important issues, it has both drama and comedy. But after seeing it performed, it needs a LOT of work. The play is, in part, about someone dealing with depression. When I wrote the play, I hadn’t been diagnosed and wouldn’t be for another six months, but I sensed something was wrong and one of the characters describes the symptoms I was feeling. At the time, I didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) what was wrong with me, and so the character’s verbose hashing out of her discomfort worked in my eyes. But now, nearly a year after my diagnosis, I cringed at how much the play sounds like a PSA about depression. I’m glad I wrote a play about it: it’s accurate and it’s still going to be one of the focal points, but now that I’m an Official Depressed Person, I know that the way she talks about her illness is not believable. So, just as with my other play, it’s back to the drawing board with this one. I’m not complaining, though; all of these changes are making the plays better, and hopefully ready to be accepted by a higher caliber of theatre.

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On the way home, I got to the airport very early, had dinner, and wiled away the hour and a half or so before my flight reading. But then the tornado warnings came in from Illinois, and my flight was delayed by forty minutes. Not a terrible amount, but the warnings kept coming in and other flights kept getting delayed to the point where I wondered if I’d get home in time for my audition the next morning. I did, though, and everything went smoothly once I got on the plane. I was and am still exhausted, but I’m glad I got to go.

Columbus Play Adventures Part 1

This weekend was The Weekend, when my first full-length play, my baby, was put up onstage for the first time.

I headed to my parents’ house on Tuesday and my mom and I left the next morning at nine. We stopped twice to eat/stretch and, after getting lost for awhile upon arriving in Columbus, got to our hotel around 6:30. We decided we wanted to go to Chipotle for dinner, since I love it and Mom had never been there, and Google Maps told me that it was a six minute walk up the road. Long story (and long walk) short, Google Maps lied. We stopped in an ice cream shop for directions and the employees told us that we were very far away from the restaurant. Some locals standing near us heard us talking and gave us amusedly disappointed looks. “There are so many better places to eat here than Chipotle, guys,” the woman told us. Then she and her husband led us to Betty’s, a restaurant/bar a block away. And as much as I love Chipotle, they were so right. We had some amazing hummus and I tried fish tacos (yum!)

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Signs in Betty’s

The next morning, we headed out to explore Columbus before opening night. We went to an area of the city called Short North, which had some really awesome boutiques. I bought way too many things while we were out- a nifty new hat (my ears were cold), some postcards, a notebook (I hadn’t brought mine, figuring I’d just take a pad from the hotel room, but we weren’t given any), some chili chocolate, and a Bell Jar shirt. While I did want all of these things, I also think I was trying to distract myself from my steadily building nerves.

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Legzzzzz

While my mom and I were exploring a great vintage shop (which housed many pairs of amazing shoes), I got a Facebook message on my phone. I didn’t know who it could be, considering that most of the people I talk to aren’t usually online at 12:30 on a weekday. It was the director of my show. “Hey,” she wrote. “I heard you’re in town. I just wanted to let you know that we had an emergency last night and may not be able to put the show up until tomorrow night.”

My heart dropped to my shoes. We had come all the way to Columbus to see my show and now it wasn’t even opening that night? I wasn’t at all mad at the director or cast- an emergency can’t be helped- and I wasn’t feeling badly about myself; I was just disappointed. And at first, that’s all it was, just a slight feeling of being let down. But as the day wore on, I started to get sad. Then I got sadder. I started to say how sad I was out loud to see if it would make me feel better (only a little.) Because while no one had said the run was cancelled, I was afraid that’s what was going to happen. This fear doesn’t come from nowhere; last year, a short play of mine was supposed to be produced and then got cancelled two weeks before opening. This afternoon, my mom remarked how I hadn’t put anything on Facebook about opening night being postponed and I said, “I can’t handle being the girl who cried ‘Production!’ twice. I didn’t even want to get into it.”

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the show that night, my nerves didn’t go away. I texted my friend and fellow playwright Molly. “I am freaking out,” I wrote. “Is this normal?!” She wrote back, “YES. You will likely be freaking out all night.” And even without actually seeing my play, I was. Mom and I went out for pizza and I fell off my chair at the restaurant, then, a few minutes later, spilled my soda all over the table. The waitress asked me if I was drunk. Nope… just a nervous wreck.

This morning, I woke up in a bit of a doom-and-gloom mood. I was convinced that my play was never going to premiere. When we stopped for a snack his afternoon, I said to my mom, “If it gets cancelled tonight, can we go to the matinee tomorrow? I can’t leave not having seen it. Not after we came all this way.” All day, as we toured the beautiful German Village area of the city, I was praying that my phone didn’t go off with a text or Facebook message, sure it would be from the director, and every time I received a text from anyone at all, I jumped about a foot in the air.

But finally, it was too late in the day for the show to be cancelled for tonight. Instead of going out to dinner, Mom heated up some chicken fingers she had pre-made. I could only eat one and a half, I was so nervous. We got into our theatre-wear and headed for the youth center where the show was being held. Ten minutes before the show, hardly anyone was in the audience and I was really nervous that no one else would show up, but in the end, there were probably about sixty people at the show.

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Posters by the bunch

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Performance venue!

The set was very typical of a community theatre (no frills, simple sets and costumes) and so was the acting (most performances being okay, with some excellent stands outs) but what I cared about was the script and whether it worked. The show began and the first scene- done in complete darkness except for a light in a jar- looked exactly as I had pictured. And while the times the words I wrote were dropped, either because they were too fast, too quiet, or forgotten (which sometimes happened in large chunks) made me sad, I was in general happy with the way the show went. I wasn’t there to review the show; I was there to see how my script worked for timing and story, and I was able to do that. I took a lot of notes on what worked and what didn’t, and the audience was really responsive, which helped, too. One of the best moments happened at the very end of the show during Peter’s last line. The actress fumbled the line, saying the main character Mary’s name instead of her daughter Wendy’s, but it actually made the scene even more poignant and made me catch my breath, and now I want to look at the moment and see if the change will work. I don’t know if it will fit in the long run, but that’s why I, as a playwright, love to see actors actually perform my work- often they do or say things differently than I had in my head and it turns out to be so much better than I imagined.

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Peter and Mary in one of my favorite scenes.

I’m such a control freak that I can’t believe playwriting works for me. Usually I’m the kind of person that wants everything the way I have in my head, but oddly, I completely accept that the world I’ve constructed might be totally different than I think it “should” be. I’m fine with a simplistic set, or few costume changes, or colorblind casting, or what people will think of my words. Somehow, I’m able to accept that in the hands of a few dozen people I’ve never met, my play will become what they make of it.

Interestingly, one part of any kind of backstage work rings true for me as a playwright as well: the complete panic when someone drops a line and I know what it is. I’ve experienced this as a stage manager and assistant stage manager, and now as a playwright, and it’s just the worst thing because I can’t do anything about it. At least as an actor, you can work toward or around the line the actor dropped. I was also surprised that I knew what the lines were tonight; even though I haven’t looked at the script in months, I’ve spent so much time with it over the past three and a half years that it’s imprinted on my brain.

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Peter and Mary

At the end of the show, the director told the two lead actresses that I was there and I got to say hi to them. They were great and wonderful to talk to, and it’s funny to be on the other side of the experience. I kind of wish I had been in this position before I was the actor trying to please the playwright, because then I would have known that it wasn’t really about that! For me, tonight was about the amazing fact that a bunch of people read and memorized my words and put six weeks of rehearsing, set building, composing, and general hard work into something that three and a half years ago was just a few scenes in the “PP Play” folder on my computer, with me dreaming of having it produced one day. It makes me want to cry from happiness just thinking about it. I am so glad to have had this experience, and it felt great at the end to have people who heard I was the playwright come over and tell me how much they enjoyed the play and that they could see a future for it. I am proud of myself and my work on this night.

sotmprog