Category Archives: The Solid Sand Below

Updates

Pietro Aretino as painted by Titian
Pietro Aretino as painted by Titian

So, a whole lot has happened since I’ve last posted. A reading of In The Event Of Capture directed by Kimberly Senior at Chicago Dramatists, two workshops of The Solid Sand Below (one at Atlantic’s Latino MixFest, the other at the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference) and then about three more weeks of reading, writing, and reflection at the National Playwrights Conference. As we had been warned, internet connectivity at the O’Neill isn’t great, so I’ve been trying to use my time here to do a lot of writing, reading, and thinking about my process, all of which has been incredibly rewarding and productive.

Just yesterday I finished the first draft of a play inspired in part by the life of man depicted above. The play is entitled Let Me Count The Ways: A Sexpionage Play On The Birth Of Modern Pornography and I’ve added a synopsis to the Projects In Development section of this website. Having completed this draft, I can see all the evaluation of my process in the past few months paying off in very concrete ways. Last night, some of the other playwrights and I read the draft aloud in the O’Neill Library, and I’m not sure I’ve ever written a first draft of a play that so clearly and dramatically articulated what I was hoping the play would. This draft presents a clearer and more nuanced portrait of its characters than I think any first draft of mine has. This is not to say that, in its final state, this play will necessarily be better than some of my other work, but rather that I’m finding this new and refined process to be more rewarding in that it allows me to more quickly and efficiently chart each character’s emotional journey through the play. The end result I’m hoping for is that the early drafts of my plays feel closer to the final product in that they are less writerly. In my previous first drafts you could feel me as a writer forcing the characters’ hands in order to get them to some pre-determined plot point. They were making decisions I as a writer wanted them to make, but that they as characters were not yet emotionally ready for. But now that I’m doing more thorough character explorations prior to writing (aided by my studying of the Enneagram and by some of the strategies David Corbett recommends in his wonderful book The Art Of Character) I find myself more effectively and sensitively tracking each character’s emotional journey moment-to-moment.

A more succinct way of articulating the evolution of my process is that previously I would have a story and write a first draft closely hewing to that story in order to figure out who the people are who live in that story. Now, I still start with a story, but before I ever write a draft I try to figure out who these people are with much greater specificity. The end result is that I spend a lot less time wandering the woods trying to discover who exactly the characters are. My revision work is more much about precisely articulating the very clear image I already have of the characters. My re-writing also is then more concerned with shaping the overall story arc and emotional journeys in such a way that the play has both the emotional and intellectual impact I desire. To be sure, there are still character questions, story questions, and theatrical questions I have not resolved prior to beginning a draft. I want to make sure there is some mystery to what I’m writing as I’m putting pen to paper or else there is no discovery (and therefore no joy) in the act of writing itself. But whereas in the past I began a project from my strength (story) and worked towards my personal challenges (character), I’m now starting with the most challenging part of the process buoyed by the confidence that my more natural abilities as a storyteller will come through for me at the back end of my process.

Artist Encounter: New Stages

This Thursday at 6:30pm in Goodman Theatre’s Polk Rehearsal Room I’ll be taking part in a discussion about this year’s New Stages with Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig and Philip Dawkins. The talk will be moderated by Tanya Palmer. Tickets cost $5 for the general public and are free for Goodman subscribers. Click here for more info about the event. It looks like WBEZ may make an audio recording of the event, and if they do, I’ll post a link to it in the Press section of this site.

Storefront Playwright Project

Above is a photo of me taking part in Chicago’s Storefront Playwriting Project in the front window of 72 E. Randolph Street. In the photo I’m working on rewrites of The Solid Sand Below ahead of this Thursday’s rehearsal. We had a wonderful first rehearsal (to be expected with the amazing creative team and cast) last week and I’m working on tightening and streamlining the piece even more ahead of this weekend’s reading. Hope you can come check it out! You can reserve tickets here.

New Stages Reading At Goodman

Hello All! As you can see, I’ve switched up the formatting of my website since I had to explore other options after Apple stopped updating and providing tech support for iWeb. So here is my first blog post after the re-launch! I’ve tried to preserve as much of the information and economical formatting from the last version of the site as possible, but this format should be a little more user-friendly for me and for you and allow me to blog more frequently (read, more than once a year).

My next upcoming project is a reading of my play The Solid Sand Below at Goodman Theatre (hence the image above) on Saturday, December 15 at 11am as part of Goodman’s New Stages. It’s directed by Goodman’s newest Artistic Associate, Henry Wishcamper, dramaturged by Kristin Leahy at Northlight and features Chris Boykin, Jose Tony Garcia, Stephen Louis Grush, Sean Parris, and Adam Poss. If you know any (or all) of those people, you’ll know why I’m so excited for this reading. I’ve been working on the play for over a year now with Goodman through their Playwrights’ Unit and now through New Stages, and I’ve had what I think are some pretty big breakthroughs in the play’s second part this past Fall, so I can’t wait to get into the rehearsal room and hear the play out loud.

If you want to know more about the play or even read the first twenty pages, you can check out the Plays page of this website. And if you’re in Chicago, please come check out the reading. You can reserve tickets here. Other artists featured in the festival are Seth Bockley, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Philip Dawkins, Robert Falls, Tanya Saracho, and Tracey Scott Wilson, most of whom I know personally, so I can’t recommend it enough. All tickets are free. Which means they’re going fast. Reserve yours today!