Friday, January 31, 2014

Creativity is Flowing and the River is Moving Fast

I'm still writing. In this last week I listened to a recording of a radio script I'm working on - a second or third draft, not the final one. It was very helpful to hear them read it. To hear where they stumbled or laughed or said "I like this" or "WTF." And to hear my too often used words. I've been focusing on the script revision and it is slow going. I'm editing content, as well as trying to add appropriate radio script formatting, sound cues, and all of those technical things. I appreciate the producer and the actors taking the time to make this rough, uncut recording of the script so far; it is very helpful. Like realizing that the "slice of life" story I created is fine, but the ending isn't. Right now the characters all seem to just disappear off the edge of a cliff or something. I need to add a little more "oomph" and end with something a little more solid, as well as making my point a little more clear, because it isn't. I also wrote a guest blog post for Portland Center Stage this week, and have started working on another post for them for an upcoming show.

I interpreted a fantastic production of "Eyes for Consuela" at Profile Theatre last week. If you are in the Portland, Oregon area and haven't seen it, yet, I highly recommend seeing the play. It's the first play for Profile in their new space, the first play in the Sam Shepard series, and it is really good. The interpreted performance is over, but the play continues through this weekend. Go!

And I am interpreting a unique play which is making its West Coast premiere at CoHo Theater on Friday night, January 31 (and there will be a second interpreted performance on Sunday, February 2 at 2:00 pm). The play is "Enjoy" by Toshiki Okada. The script has virtually no blocking or set cues or anything other than dialogue. And the actors don't have names; they are designated as Actor 1, Actor 2, Actress 1, and so on. There are names of characters within the play - they are just not written in the script because. Well, nevermind. That would be giving a part of the play away. It is another play worth seeing. The actors do a great job, the directing is solid, and it is an intimate setting for an intimate play.

I realized that it has been over a week since I posted. I wanted to catch up. Because I know I won't be posting anything tomorrow.

I am feeling creative, in spite of some "tension in the field" of my life. That situation has been pervasive and is at a point where it is out of our hands and the process and resolution will take some time. Yet I am holding onto my creativity. This is good. And it's new - holding on when there is a significant event happening and it's winter. The pace right now is busy; I'm in the current, and life is on the move.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First Thoughts are Not Always the Best

Being a writer means showing up even when it seems like the dumbest, most stupidest, biggest waste of time you could do with your precious, irreplaceable time. That was not my first thought this morning.

My first thought was, well, less kind and pulled me into a downward spiral from which I would only be able to drag myself out with the whip of "get your ass to work." I did my morning heart practice, but I still was being nagged from within about the worthlessness of the Tuesday morning writing time. 

First thought, supposedly the best thought. Sometimes, but not always. The list of advice about first thoughts ran through my head:

Follow your instincts.
Your first gut reaction is probably the best measure of ____________. (fill in the blank)
Ask yourself the question and then listen, paying close attention to your body's response - the first one.


I believe in these approaches to life's big questions, small questions, curiosities. I often do try to at least notice that first impulse. Often there is a lot of energy around the first response. Many times that first reaction sneaks out past the internal editor/critic/naysayer. Often - but not always.

I finished up the protocol, changed to my exercise clothes and headed downstairs to do my Wii routine, the only thing I had time left to do - other than the series of 10 minute parking lot and hall walks on breaks at work. I passed my Blackberry and, of course, had to check messages before I went downstairs.

My writing partner had a migraine and was unable to make it today. 

First Thought (after 'stupid migraine, not fair') - "I can skip it, too." 

Second Thought - "You don't get out of it that easy."

See? First Thought was not entirely the best thought.

So I did my Wii routine and a little bit more to bring it to my minimum. And as I was getting into
the shower I realized that the grumpy, Lowly Worm, "woe is me," attitude might also be the very beginning edge of the cold that's going around - rather than a true fact or the edge of descent into depression.

Last weekend I went to Port Townsend for another amazing weekend intensive with Lidia Yuknavitch and fifteen other women writers. It was inspiring and I wrote a lot - including a piece that a couple of months ago I told Daphne Gottlieb in an online poetry class I couldn't write. A piece that is very personal and very raw and current - about taking on the voice of the "other" in this intense situation. I thought I couldn't because the pain of the situation is now, not the past, because of the content I wasn't ready to do it. But Lidia pushed us all to points of "not I can't go there look I just did!" And I shared the space with these wonderful people, a couple of whom had just gotten or were getting over the sickness going around and a couple in the midst of (they thought they were done with it, but it did a boomerang maneuver). 

So in that moment after I did my heart practice and my exercise and went through the nearly not showing up, as I stood in the hot water washing all of that down the drain, I realized that my body, perhaps, was starting its battle against the sick. I'd also had a little exposure from work last week, though it wasn't shared in such a small space for so many hours; perhaps the seed had already been planted.

For me, the mumble grumble worthless mumble why mumble oh life sucks grumble can be the very first sign that I'm in the "getting sick" zone. This felt like one of those times.
After I got out of the shower I wrapped up in a towel and went to my bag where I keep a vial of Oscilloccocinum and I put ten pellets under my tongue and returned to getting ready to go write. For me, Oscilloccocinum works wonders if I catch it at the very, very beginning; hopefully, I did. 
Here I am. At our writing place. Alone. Writing. I started by reading the rest of my feedback on the excerpt I'd taken to the writing workshop. And as I was ready to start writing, I decided to write this post. Which started with one idea and became this one.

Again, proving, that sometimes the First Thought isn't the best. It doesn't make them wrong - but they're not always right.

In my case, today, the first thought that me writing is dumb and pointless and no good was not the right thought. Perhaps I just needed to interpret the message to find it's true meaning. Because I feel better emotionally right now and I hope the Oscilloccocinum is doing its part to keep the sick away.

Now, back to my story writing.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Writing Practice

I still have two weekly writing appointments in my schedule. It feels great.

I have been vacillating between "a writer should write every day" and "a writer doesn't have to write every day." Well, if I'm being honest, I also throw in a couple of other gems and time and priorities and money and and and.

Where is the "truth" and is there one approach for all writers? No, of course not. Are there some things which are a good idea if one wants to be a writer? Yes, of course.

Are there rules? Yes. Can the rules be broken? Yes. Should the rules be broken? Yes! Absolutely. But wouldn't it be a good idea to follow some of the rules? Probably.

Internal dialogue put on the screen-page. I'm sure there are writers who say they don't have these internal struggles; some of them will be telling the truth and some will be lying. That's okay. My bet is that most writers go through these thoughts - at varying degrees with varying answers.

I've been spending some time thinking about writing. Writing as creating a product and then writing as a practice.

It started with an excerpt from an article about interpreting. The quote I pulled from the article is:

"It takes more than having two hands to be a good pianist.
It takes more than knowing two languages to be a good translator or interpreter."

Those Incredible Interpreters
Interpreting is one of the most difficult linguistic skills
by Francois Grosjean, Ph.D.
I used to play the piano. And the violin. I also taught myself cello and viola and guitar. It took practice. Being on the swim team took practice. And the dance team, way back when, when I did those things. More recently on the dragonboat team; we practiced, a lot. We practiced not just paddling and tilling, but strengthening and stretching and walking and various parts of paddling and tilling and capturing the flag. When I participated in a half marathon, that was a lot of practice.

So why do I feel that every time I sit down to write I have to "produce" something? That statement is only a slight exaggeration, because sometimes, like when I'm in a workshop or an online class, I get to do quick writes and free writes and that's okay. But often, when I sit down to write, I feel like it has to be something big or important or meaningful.

What about practice?

Don't writers need practice, too?

I think they, do!

And funny thing, when I met with my Tuesday writing partner this week, she'd been having similar thoughts. She had posted something earlier in the week on Facebook about just this topic, which I'd missed because I haven't spent much time in there recently. She posted about something I'm very excited about but will wait to say more until, well, later. I almost didn't go to our meetup this week, since I had an appointment beforehand which made me late. I'm glad I kept the date in so many ways and this is one of them; we talked about writing practice. Like athletes and musicians and dancers have practice.

A second benefit of the Tuesday is that I successfully edited a piece for the writing workshop this weekend. This is another thing I sometimes hate to admit - that, sometimes, I do better with my writing when I have a target with a deadline. This was one of those times. I had a chapter scene which was around 1650 words. We are supposed to take an excerpt for the workshop this weekend which is a maximum of 600 words. Oh no! But I did it. I cut out the build up, a little backstory, some extraneous details to the point of the piece and I got it down to 586 words. Whew. I wanted something which was cohesive on its own, even though there are missing pieces; I feel I did that. And it was a great exercise in getting to the heart of the scene.

Tomorrow I head back up to Port Townsend for another Lidia Yuknavitch workshop at The Writers' Workshoppe. I'm looking forward to getting feedback on this piece, doing more writing, going deeper in this process. The weather looks good : meaning no freezing wetness on the roads up and back. A weekend away and centered on writing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Another Must See Play : "Eyes for Consuela" at Profile Theatre

Another bit of cross pollination from writing, interpreting, theater.

"Eyes for Consuela," by Sam Shepard, opens next week at Profile Theatre. The directing and acting are excellent; the writing is solid. If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, there is an interpreted performance on Thursday, January 23rd; if you are hearing there are other dates you can attend as well.

If finances are something which holds you back from attending more theater, Profile probably has a discount program to take away that reason, too. Besides putting on some amazing plays, they are a part of several discounted ticket programs, starting with the Arts for All card ($5 tickets for SNAP beneficiaries), Chinook Book coupon, Under-30-Rush ($15), up to the still reasonably priced regular tickets at $30. This is good theater for a good price.

This is the first play for Profile in their new home; the first of the Sam Shepard season. Go. See it. And if you're there on January 23rd, you'll see me in my non-writing profession.

Profile Theatre
1515 SW Morrison, Portland, OR

written by Sam Shepard

interpreted performance
Thursday, January 23rd at 7:30 pm
at Profile Theatre
Interpreters: Rich Hall and Dot Hearn

Tickets available online
or by calling the box office 503-242-0080

"Eyes for Consuela" SUMMARY: "Awoken from his dreams, Henry, an American with a quiet past, throws himself into the Mexican jungle chasing after shadows of regret. Entranced by adventure, music, and his own obsession, he finds himself in a game where the rules move to an unknown rhythm and the truth is in the eye of the beholder."

This play runs approximately 85 minutes with no intermission.

Regular tickets are $30.

DISCOUNTED TICKETS are available through these options (you must call the Box Office):
- Chinook Book Coupon.
- Arts Card holders who participate in the Work for Art program.
- Arts for All: $5 tickets for SNAP cardholders (limit 2).
- 30-and-Under Rush: $15 (one hour before curtain at will call for every performance).

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Enjoy" at CoHo Productions

There are many excellent theatres in Portland. I am fortunate to be able to work with several well established companies who are putting on new and challenging and engaging productions. One of the productions I'm currently working on is "Enjoy."

I usually keep my performance interpreting posts and information over at the Performing Arts Interpreting Alliance, but "Enjoy" by Toshiki Okada at CoHo Productions also belongs here. This is a new play (it was written in 2006) and has rarely been performed in the United States; this is its West Coast premiere. It is definitely a play to see and not one you will see. It opens on January 17th and runs through February 8th.

"Enjoy" is well written and, although I have only seen a run through, from what I saw on Saturday, the direction and the acting are up to the task of the words on the page. Toshiki Okada has a theater company, chelfitsch, for which he writes and directs all of their productions. His productions include movement and sound in particular, non-standard ways. The director of the CoHo production, Michael Griggs, has incorporated that style into the play which opens later this month.

I will be interpreting the play with Steve Nail, for two performances: Friday 1/31 at 7:30 pm and Sunday 2/2 at 2:00 pm, which will be followed by a panel discussion. There are other special events in conjunction with this play, which you can read about by visiting the CoHo website (click on ENJOY).

If you have a little extra cash and would like to get a jump start on your charitable donations for 2014, there is an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for this production. You can read more about the CoHo Productions process as well as more about this play and the production on the Enjoy Indiegogo campaign website, which includes a short video about the production.


By Toshiki Okada
English Translation by Aya Ogawa
Co-produced and Directed by Michael Griggs

In a Japanese manga cafĂ©, nine underemployed “freeters” (part-time or temp workers) share their stories of break-ups, hook-ups, smelly free-loading customers, 30thbirthday-induced terror, present depressions, past failures and future panics. This is the cry of Japan's Lost Decade Generation—those with the misfortune to have graduated while the economy crashed. A member of this generation himself, Okada captures the hyper-colloquial, chronically self-reflective language, and Ogawa translates into pitch-perfect absurdist hipster poetry.
Enjoy runs Thursday through Sunday each week from January 17, 2014 through February 8, 2014, at the CoHo Theatre, located at 2257 NW Raleigh Street in Portland, Oregon. (Interpreted performances on January 31st and February 2nd.)

Shows start at 7:30pm each Thursday through Saturday, with a Sunday matinee at 2pm. Tickets run $20–25 and are sold at a reduced rate of $15 for shows on Thrifty Thursdays.