The Penultimate Playwright: Kevin's Summer Abroad Part 4 (of 5!)

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Happy September, Azuka! Hope you had a fantastic long weekend. Here on the East Coast, we can already feel as the cool autumn breezes start drifting in, a welcome freshness from the heat of the summer...hoo hoo! As if, huh? Speaking of geography -- I mean, I said “East Coast.” That’s kind of what I’m going with. Speaking of that -- Kevin “Carmen Sandiego” Glaccum is traversing a map of Europe with a big red line following him, Raiders-style, faster than I can keep up! Mixin’ pop culture metaphors a bit there, I know, but -- what can I say? I’m like Spider-Man in Infinity War. Should I stop? I should stop.

These next two blogs are actually the last in Kevin’s journey. It’s been so exciting archiving them for you. But enough from me. Kevin, as always -- take it away!

 A whole new group of people

A whole new group of people

"Greetings from Europe. If you’ve been following some of my adventures you know I’ve moved on from Spoleto and I’m now in Edinburgh at the Fringe…but there was one more part of my trip to Umbria that I wanted to share.

After two weeks of directing symposium we had a little break, then moved into the Playwrights Workshop. Not everyone there attended both sessions, so I got to meet a whole new group of people, mostly playwrights, which was great -- and VERY different from the directors group! As a whole, the playwright group was a bit older and far quieter than the directors!  I guess it’s all that time spent alone in front of a computer. Also, the days were set up very differently, with a three-hour session in the morning with a Master Playwright; then the afternoon was put aside for people to write. The sessions also took place at a new location, a hotel atop a mountain in the small town of Monteluco…so we all slept, ate and wrote in the same quiet, idyllic location.

 Spectacular sights

Spectacular sights

The workshop was run by Migdalia Cruz, a well known and respected playwright, whose work I’m sorry to say I was not familiar with. Migdalia studied with the legendary Maria Irene Fornes, whose work I also didn’t know. (I read Fornes’ Fefu and Her Friends during the workshop, and I must admit I didn’t really get it) Migdalia’s sessions were amazing. She started everyone off with a physical warm up, and continually referred to the playwrights as warriors preparing to do battle with the page! Her workshop had a very strong spiritual element to it as well. She continually referenced contacting our ancestors, letting them into the process to help guide our writing. In fact, Migdalia has Samoan ancestry, so during the physical warm-up, all of the exercises were done in series of 8, a number sacred to the Samoans.  We finished each warm up by pushing away evil spirits and welcoming in good ones. We’d then sit on the floor while she read a selection of poetry to us, all really beautiful and inspiring words.

 "Writing plays is HARD!"

"Writing plays is HARD!"

 Havin' a good time!

Havin' a good time!

The actual writing portion of this was conducted around a large table, with all fifteen of us there. One of the playwrights, Victor Lesniewski, who has an MFA from the New School, described what we did as Method Writing, and it’s an apt description. We would sit around the table and close our eyes. Migdalia would then ask us to envision a place, usually from our youth, with a specific prompt:  envisioning an ancestor who we may or may not have know, who was alive or had passed on; a time when we were hurt either physically or emotionally etc. Then we would start to clearly envision this time and place, and she would prompt us with more details—what was the light like? What time of day was it? Inside or outside? Was there a smell? Once we had very clearly seen this place in our minds eye should would say, “now take yourself out of there and put in one of your characters, and start a scene with this line…” and she would provide the opening line of dialogue. From there we would start to craft a scene, and she would continue to provide prompts, ‘there’s a newspaper there’, ‘a sudden noise is heard either inside or outside’ ‘here’s another line of dialogue’. You could choose to use the prompts or ignore them, depending on where your scene was going. Having never done ANYTHING like this before I found the entire process thrilling! It was amazing where my mind was going based on her suggestions. Unlike some of the other attendees, I had no agenda for this workshop. I wasn’t there trying to start or finish a play, I was just there for the experience.  After a time we would have the option of reading aloud what we had just written. What was amazing to me was the incredible number of directions these prompts had taken people…from heartfelt memories to absurd circumstances; there was a little bit of everything.

And yes, I wrote a few scenes. Nothing that will ever see the light of day, but the experience of trying to write dialogue, create characters and believable situations is one that will stay with me. I have SO much respect for all of the playwrights I’ve worked with and will work with in the future…writing plays is HARD!

Next stop Edinburgh!"

As a hopeful playwright myself, I was excited to hear about this part of the trip. I don’t know about never seeing the light of day, Kevin -- I’d love to see some of your stuff! I’m working on a little somethin’ somethin’ right now. Maybe we can trade notes. It is amazing the different directions writing can take -- often even a singular subject can be handled tragically, absurdly, hilariously; all it takes it the right voice to find it.

Very shortly, I’ll publish the FINAL INSTALLMENT in Kevin’s quest -- the great Fringe Edinburgh! As always -- stay tuned, Azuka followers! And bundle up against those harsh fall winds.

- Lucas

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