Posts filed under Career

Adventures in Time and Space

 The view from my studio

The view from my studio

On the Djerassi Resident Artists Program website, one of the banners simply states “Time + Space.” Sci-fi associations aside, I found that during my month at Djerassi (September 5-October 3), time and space were the very things I needed, learned from, grew from. It’s easy to think that a residency will only entail free time to create and create - and indeed it does. But something else accompanied me when I was given time and space: my own thoughts. Even though I take time for self-reflection and self-care in the midst of my day-to-day grind, to have openness of thought for longer than a week, even a couple days, is rare for me. Philosophical musings arise. Emotions long-buried bubble up to the surface. Djerassi for me was as much about opening up to myself as it was to my creative process. In fact, I am more and more convinced that there is no distinction between the two. I am my creative process - which echos the name of this entire blog site: Life is Dramaturgy. Being surrounded by beautiful vistas with like-minded artists is fertile ground for creative exploration. And, it is also an almost other-worldly place where you see yourself, forgive what needs forgiving, soothe what needs soothing, and bolster what needs bolstering. It’s perhaps too early to say, but I feel my residency at Djerassi will prove itself to be a self-, career-, and art-shaping period for me.

 Me and fellow residents appreciating an installation by  Kathryn Cellerini Moore .

Me and fellow residents appreciating an installation by Kathryn Cellerini Moore.

I’ll never forget the people or the place
or the gift of time and space.

Posted on October 4, 2018 and filed under Career, Creative, Thought.

ConFest 2018

Last week, I was in Chicago for ConFest 2018 - the bi-annual gathering hosted by the Consortium of Asian American Theatres and Artists (CAATA). Upon returning, I set out to write a blog post outlining my experience at ConFest, but found that words fell short. Randy Reyes of Theater Mu recently wrote an article for American Theatre magazine, and it seems he faced the same issue. He writes: 

How would I be able to summarize the experiences of attendees who used adjectives like “inspiring,” “incredible,” “exhausted,” “life-affirming,” “breathtaking,” “amazing” and “life changing”?

So similarly, I'll just post his article here in lieu of a blog post. And if you're really curious why ConFest was so "inspiring," "incredible," etc., you can ask me in person next time you see me! ;)

 Me with some ConFest colleagues: Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Byron Au Yong, and Howard Ho.

Me with some ConFest colleagues: Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Byron Au Yong, and Howard Ho.

THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS Cast Album is here!

 Photograph by Hans Cardenas

Photograph by Hans Cardenas

After two days of recording in January, followed by six months of squeezing in studio time, the original cast album for THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL MANGA is finally here! On Monday, we celebrated with a release party at the Opal Nightclub in downtown Mountain View, hosted by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Of course, I have had access to the album's files for a few weeks now, as we were waiting for the CDs to be published. But the excitement from folks at the party was so invigorating and uplifting, I was filled with gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the journey of THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS so far. Now, with this album, more people will be able to experience the music of the show. And hopefully, it will help us get to a second production soon enough!

No More "Shmoozing"

 View of NYC from my plane

View of NYC from my plane

I spent the last week in NYC on the advice of Playwright Foundation Artistic Director Amy Mueller. Since one of my goals is to gain more national exposure, she suggested I find agents I'm interested in working with so that she could make a formal introduction. Then, I should book a trip to New York to meet with those folks. My honest reaction to this suggestion was "I know I have to, but I kinda don't want to." I think I have this impression that the "New York elite" is very insular and tough to penetrate. It felt intimidating to begin knocking on doors for face time. So, while I went through with the steps and booked my flight, I would tell people with a bit of a shrug and a dismissive sneer, "I'm just going to New York to shmooze."

When I actually met with these industry folks though, I was so pleasantly surprised. In addition to agents, I met with an artistic staff, an educational director, a theatre publisher, a book publisher, a playwright who is further along in her career, and a composer who is further along in his career (in addition to catching up with a whole slew of actor friends). All of these individuals (save for maybe one) turned out to be quite generous and kind. Sure, a few of them were very matter-of-fact, but I appreciated candor over beating around the bush. All of them also gave smart and welcome advice. None of them had to meet up with me, none of them had to give me any advice, none of them had to get to know me. But they chose to.

 Strolling thru Washington Square Park

Strolling thru Washington Square Park

I've come away from the week with a new perspective on "shmoozing." First - yes, it is hard to penetrate a bubble if you don't have a connection, but it only makes sense then to make the most of your existing connections. And for me, I had Amy Mueller and other folks who recommended people to meet up with, as well as people who I had already met previously and just needed to reach out to. People are busy, and they can't tell which cold e-mails or calls are from people who are worth their limited time. So a professional recommendation or introduction from a trusted colleague gets their antennae up. Second - theatre people are theatre people. There may be some jerks in the mix, but really we're all just wanting to contribute to the performing arts scene in whatever way we can. Most of us would rather make a genuine connection than "shmooze." In fact, I think I need to stop using that word entirely, because it has such a slimy, self-interested connotation. I was on a networking trip where I made many great connections in my field. I hope I never have to "shmooze" again.

Posted on May 30, 2018 and filed under Career, Musical Theater, Performing Arts, Thought.

Magical Moments from the TheatreWorks Writers Retreat 2018

 Our room is all set up for the actors!

Our room is all set up for the actors!

Last week, playwright Brad Erickson and I participated in the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Writers Retreat to work on our project Lowcountry (assisted) Living. Our main goal for the week was to get a draft of Act One complete. I'm happy to say we met that goal (though, of course, we are already thinking about revisions to be made). I last took part in this special retreat four years ago when I wrote the first ever words and music The Four Immigrants. We, the writers, are basically given resources (a room, a piano, access to wi-fi and printing, etc) and actors to work with, and aren't given any specific instructions for the week, other than to create and to present some bit of our creation to an audience of donors at the end of the retreat. I cannot stress how helpful and crucial this "open playing field" is to the creative process. Our time was split between solo work, dramaturgical discussion, and running new drafts of songs and scenes by actors. Two magical moments in particular stand out to me.

One evening, I stumbled upon a core idea for a song and decided to stay later to work on it. While writing it, I had a moment of emotional connection to the song, which is often a sign to me that I'm on the right track. In short, I was crying. The next morning, I played and sang the song for Brad at the piano, with him sitting behind me. While singing it, I could tell that Brad was also crying, and I purposely avoided turning to look at him, because I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the song. Afterwards, we had a laugh about it, but also noted that this song contains something powerful and central to one of the character's plotlines. That was magical moment number one.

 Headshots and programs for the day of the presentation!

Headshots and programs for the day of the presentation!

The other occurred after we did a run-thru of our rough Act One and received feedback from the artistic staff at TheatreWorks that the focus of WHO the story was about didn't seem consistent or clear. I started to see that the opening number I had written was perhaps a culprit. Only four characters sang in the opening number, but Brad and I definitely wanted all eight characters to have equal weight in the story. I proposed the idea of expanding the opening number to include and introduce all eight with interweaving parts. Brad liked the idea, and I felt strongly that I should try to complete this expanded version in time for the presentation on Sunday (this revelation came Friday afternoon). So with only one day and two hours to work with the actors, I worked like a madman on Saturday adding in all of the new parts and creating an opening number which I felt painted a fuller picture of what the story was about. I was running on adrenaline and risk. Hats off the the amazing group of actors who took on the challenge of the revised song like the pros they are. After our first sing-thru, I think we all felt like it was a much stronger opening for the show, and with some adjustments, we were able to perform the piece on Sunday.

I'll forever be grateful to TheatreWorks - their staff, donors, and volunteers - for creating this environment for magical moments to arise. What might have come about slowly on our own time seemed to bubble up to the tops of our minds thanks to the space and freedom the Writers Retreat afforded us.