Monday, July 06, 2009

Gibson: Notes from the Road ~ Valdez, Alaska

The Last Frontier Theater Conference
Valdez, Alaska

The Red White and Blue Process

I am suspicious of any place as beautiful as Valdez, Alaska. The mountains, the Sound, the dusty daylight twenty-three hours a day… quite frankly, I don’t trust it, but my fear of it’s beauty was never confirmed with the disaster I imagined would have to take place. The conference was a wonderful experience. The week was structured with play readings in the morning, afternoon, and late afternoon in three different spaces, and always one performance on the main stage theater at night. There’s something assaultive about seeing five play readings a day, but the benefit for me was that with each reading I could grasp more and more clearly the things about story telling that I like, and it helped me clarify for myself what I think is good vs. bad story telling. Each reading was run by a panel of three theater artists, whether they be playwrights, dramaturges, or directors, and after the reading the panel gave feedback to the playwright followed by audience feedback. In a bizarre twist of fate, I often disagreed with the panelist and fantasized about sharing my thoughts with the room, which I would never do because the idea of talking in front of a large crowd makes me want to puke. Between gleaning good story telling from the readings and disagreeing with the panelists, I began to formulate some solid opinions about playwriting, which I would guess I’ve always had, but never put them all onto one list. I’m not going to note those here in this blog, but ask me about it if you’re curious. My reading, of my one act play The Red White and Blue Process went “well”. This play was my January brunch play, which I thought has potential to be developed into a full length play. I say it went “well” because there was one director on my panel (who was either asleep at the wheel or just straight up fucking with me) who kept circling around my character “Nicorette” and how clever my character names were. (Um… her name is Nikoletta and I did not mean her as a metaphor for how jumpy nicotine can make a person and why are you still talking? And um… my other character’s name is Ammonia on purpose as in the chemical and not as in the latin word for “harmony” and why are you still talking?) As a result of my reading and my one-on-one feedback with Kia Corthron who was on my panel and gave excellent feedback, I have the foundation of an idea upon which to build this play. I felt my experience there was fulfilling. So if the conference wasn’t a disaster and the landscape wasn’t a disaster, where was the disaster I was waiting for? It’s not in the “being there”, but “getting there”. Holy God why does it take forty-eight hours to get to Valdez?

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