My 10-minute play “A Point of Honor” has officially been named one of 10 winners in the Lakeshore Players Theatre‘s 8th Annual contest! It and the other winners will be fully-staged at their festival in June at their theatre in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. I’ll even get a small royalty for each performance, which will just about pay for the coffee I drank writing it.
I know that it may induce cognitive dissonance in some readers to see me excited about a contest for 10-minute plays in Minnesota when I’m out here chasing (and occasionally grazing my fingertips upon) Hollywood success. But I think I’ve said before that one of the dangers of Hollywood is that you can starve yourself to death out here doing all the networking and self-salesmanship that it can take to get noticed. None of that stuff provides any direct satisfaction in answer to the actual act of WRITING something, and I live for getting work in front of a reader or an audience and feeling like I got something like the reaction for which I was aiming. That’s what will now happen with “A Point of Honor”.
And a little approbation from any corner isn’t a bad thing no matter how successful you are. My name means nothing to that theater in Minnesota. My script was just another in a pile of over 350, and when they winnowed that pile down to 10, mine was one of those still standing, purely on the strength of the work. I think part of the nature of the self-criticism I have found necessary to keep improving myself as a writer is that I never take it for granted that I could win a contest like this with any old script I could bang out. Luck is a huge factor. So is the possibility of being blind to a bad idea – no matter how well I write a bad idea, it probably won’t be achieving success like this.
It’s highly-unlikely I’ll be in Minnesota for the Festival, but they’ll send photos and programs and other evidence. I have a friend living nearby in the Twin Cities, and I’m hoping she’ll go and check it out.
And now I get to decide where to go next…
I learned last night that my 10-minute play A Point of Honor has now made it to the Finalist cut at for the Lakeshore Players Theatre’s 8th annual 10-Minute Play Festival. That puts it in the top 20 out of over 350 submissions from around the country, and that is plenty to be proud of right there, since I haven’t had much opportunity to pit my work in this area against others up to now. 10 Finalists will be selected for production at the Festival in June – I would get a small amount of money plus a CD of pictures from the show, and all of that would be fantastic, but getting that production credit is crucial in trying to get the play into a publisher’s catalog – which is where you usually want a 10-minute piece to end up.
Winners will be announced on or around the 24th.
I feel, for balance’s sake, I should also report that I had a short story rejected yesterday. It happens.
I’ve been mulling why last night’s semi-finalist announcement gave me so much happy vim. It’s definitely good news but a long way from being significant in the long-run. It will take a lot more of this to build a profile as a playwright. Finishing one small step is worth some inner glow but this feels out-of-proportion to that.
I think it comes back to breaking out of that scrum of 350+ contenders. They culled about 90% out and I was still there when it was done. As with the “roomful of strangers” auditions of which I’m most proud over the past year, it gives me a lot of confidence that my work not only stood on its own but made a worthy noise. Even for the best work, that’s no guarantee with the inverted taste pyramid that mass contest reading can create, and the subjectivity of the small number of people who will read/evaluate your work.
Breaking through is a powerful affirmation of the work. It makes me think about what Stephen King said about why he published those books under the “Richard Bachman” alias – that restless, wondering itch as to whether he had made it due to talent or luck, whether he could DO IT without the strength of his name to backstop him.
I have no such name strength, but I am constantly wondering if I can DO IT. So that explains the balance of the satisfaction, I think. Whether I win or not, someone thought I was good enough that I might be worthy of winning, and the difference between that and zero response at all is amazing.
Just learned that one of my short scripts, A Point of Honor, made the semi-finalist cut at a 10-minute playwriting contest at a regional theater in the Twin Cities area. Top 40 out of 350+. The top 20 cut happens mid-March, until then, I’ll be having a one-man dance party up in here.
I know, proportionally-speaking, this is in a far different league than anything I’ve got happening, Hollywood-wise. Even if I was one of the 10 winners to be staged, I’d probably win about $30 and some pictures from the production. Going to SEE it would set me back hundreds since it’s halfway across the country.
But as I said not long ago, I’m at the very beginning of my efforts to let the world know I’m a playwright, too. And I am fueled by any opportunity for an audience to really see my work realized, which is so rare in screenwriting.
Plus, this was the first submission I made, and there are a couple others still floating out there right now. That’s a confidence booster. After all these years there is still a voice inside me suggesting that the moment I show work to anyone, I’ll be found out as a total fraud. So now the delusion can continue!
Tomorrow morning I’ll be spending all of a long day in LA, directing another 10-minute play for Sacred Fools‘ produced-whenever-we’ve-got-nothing-the-hell-else-going-on-this-weekend Fast & Loose showcases for 24-Hour Theatre. At this very moment, my script is in the early stages of writing by some caffeine junkie with whom I’ll be randomly matched in the morning. I’d really like one of those writing slots one of these times.
The first time I did this, I got a lively case of the hots for one of the actresses in my cast, pursued her with an uncharacteristic boldness while I was still in the early stages of re-assembling my heart after a breakup, and ended up getting embarrassed, ignored, and punched in the groin. Ah, the Theatrical Life.
I’m taking an early bedtime tonight, and have downloaded the sound-mixer Audacity for my laptop. The last time, with my old laptop that was a glorified word processor/porn storage device, I lost two hours driving back and forth to Orange County to mix and burn the music and sound cues on my home desktop. When you only have eleven hours to stage a play soup-to-nuts, you cannot just go giving away two hours to LA traffic. I remember almost crying from the CDs not playing in regular CD players, calling to push back my tech rehearsal so I could give it one more shot, and barely making it in time to smuggle the final working versions to the sound operator before tech period closed.
I keep doing these little quick-hitter jobs, and they do scratch the itch; but they also serve to remind me how long it’s been since I got involved in something bigger. I can’t remember any point in my life when this close to 100% of my creative energy was going solely into writing. Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it’s going to drive me mad soon. I do know I jumped at this opportunity, and I anticipate enjoying it. I also anticipate you won’t hear much from me Sunday, while I recover.
I’m in Peoria, Illinois, in the upstairs lobby of Bradley’s theatre building – the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts. I remember quite distinctly that there were not computers just laying around for anyone to use back when I was here. I do remember there was an excellent little crash couch on this spot, and that at one overnight lock-in we set up a Nintendo 64 and played Mario Kart from it in the wee hours.
The students are all running around rehearsing the tech schedule for the shows tonight; walking through lighting changes and furniture moves, last-minute costume approvals, vocal exercises. I have had a big grin on my face ever since I got here; this place is a home to me, and that feeling took me the moment I walked back through the doors. The students are different people but the same types I knew – passionate and determined and still not-quite-formed, awkwardly brilliant and beautiful.
I don’t have any job to do today but plant my ass in the seat with the “Reserved” sign on it, but I am absorbing this hectic electric urgency happening all around me. There’s a show about to happen. Only hours to go.
Excellent news today. The three 10-minute plays I wrote recently were all picked by student directors for the Alumni Play Festival happening at Bradley in April. I have no idea if this means the plays were well-liked, or that the others who were asked to submit plays just didn’t come through to the same extent. (You will notice that, as usual, I just can’t take a compliment.)
The last time I visited Bradley was almost seven years ago. The school has always wanted me to come back, and I’ve always wanted to go, but between money, time, and needing a good enough reason to commit the first two things, it never quite happened. Now, to get to see a few scripts of mine on their feet, and talk with this generation of theatre students, and reminisce, and hopefully even coax a few fellow alums down from Chicago for some ol’ times kinds of fun…that all adds up pretty nicely.
And if I happen to pop into a couple of classes to say a few words, and if they happen to cough up a small check, that would make it add up even better. Good luck to that in today’s economy, but I’ll hope.
Last night I polished up two 10-minute plays. One of them I wrote in a flurry of creativity back in September; the other I wrote nearly seven years ago as a wedding present for a dear friend in one of the many penniless phases of my adult life. The first was relatively simple – its fundamentals were strong, I just needed to clean up a few places in the dialogue where my central idea went cross-eyed.
The second was more difficult. Certainly that many years provides more than adequate emotional distance for re-writing; unfortunately it created more than a little inertia. As in – “the play has existed for this long like this, why should it not stay like that?” This also grows out of the undeniable truth that I was a far worse writer back then, and the script was weak and limp in more than one place. Too many places to salvage in one night? Very possible.
But I have become nothing if not deft. Once I identified the most egregious problem, there was no hesitation; I knew exactly what to scalpel out and replace, and didn’t miss the excised material in the slightest. It is not great now, no, it was not going to be that; but it is…presentable.
Tonight was all the time I had left to generate a third script for tomorrow’s deadline. I came home with an idea and a half-page of scrawled notes. Now after a couple of hours of work/procrastination, I have a half a script. It feels like good stuff – well, it feels consistent to the oddness of my idea. The beauty of the 10-minute play is, since you have far less time in which to wear out your welcome, you can pursue peculiar impulses in bite-sized form. Just throw it up there and see if it plays.
But I think this is all I’ve got for tonight, and I can go to bed satisfied. I think I can make this deliverable with enough time. I might just have to sneak in a few moments to finish tomorrow morning.