This is how it works:

The thing you have been dreading for two years happens and then you don’t die, the world does not end, you breathe in and out and think, “Ok, then. It happened. What’s next?”

You wake sweating in the night, thinking, “I shall never be a published/produced writer; I shall gain no recognition for my work; I shall die in obscurity.” But then you ask yourself, “Does that mean I want to quit writing?” And the answer is always ‘No’, so you get up and go back to work.

You download an album and get stuck on one song, which you play over and over, but still declare the album in it’s entirety a revelation. Which it probably is — you will probably discover several months from now that you were right all along.

You spend the day collecting things you want to tell him, but he’s out of reach. He IMs you at 1AM Eastern Standard Time to tell you he pooped in the Middle East for the first time in his life, and you laugh. You forget everything you wanted to tell him. You resolve to write it down and send it in the care package you’re putting together, but by morning it’s gone. You stick a notebook between the box spring and the bedframe so you never miss an idea.

And by “you” I, of course, mean “me”.

In honor of the opening of CONVERGENCE…

…I am going to do the thing I always love to do, which is to post something that has been cut from the show. In this case, it’s a chunk of monologue that I think is quite lovely, but had no business being in the play as it was.

MAN
She contained multitudes. I remember she said: I’m going through something that I very begrudgingly acknowledge as perhaps inherently female in nature. All of a sudden I have reached my thirties and my body has rebelled against the long- standing desires of my mind. Babies, it whispers to the rhythm of my heartbeat, babies, babies, babies. Thank God, it’s not constant. I can now tell you precisely when I’m ovulating based on whether or not the pampers commercials on TV have any effect on me whatsoever.

(pause)

She said: And there’s this other part of it, too. Something simpler — home, home, home. Not the home I grew up in for, although it’s always nice to visit, there is something haunting about it, as though the ghost of my former self still walked within those walls, listening to Bikini Kill and piercing her ears with safety pins. And I don’t belong with her any more, she doesn’t understand me. But New York City doesn’t feel like home to me either. Maybe it’s the constant movement, the ebb and flow of friends and colleagues, I’m not sure. I have great friends here, friends with whom I intend to remain close for the rest of my life. But I sit in my small apartment with my two cats, and I feel cozy and comfortable and utterly rootless in this world, and I can’t help but feel that this rootlessness is the cause of both my literal and metaphorical bad sense of direction.

(pause)

Before this startling admission of my secret heart that I might want to be a mother, it whispered writer, writer, writer. And that is all my mind has continued to want, after it let go of old wants and before it takes in new ones. Writer, Writer, Writer wants a home, home, home.

(pause)

So this female thing I’m experiencing, it has something to do with babies, and home, and balancing that with writer. Can I just ditch the life I’ve made for myself here? Can I really just pack it all in and go somewhere else?

(pause)

Yes, she said, actually I can. I can. Because how can anyone plant roots from the 5th floor?

CONVERGENCE
Performed by Avery Pearson

Written by Jennifer Lane
Directed by Calla Videt
Created by 
Sightline
Genre: Multi-character, multi-media drama
Running Time: 50 minutes

Friday, June 8 at 9:00 pm
Saturday, June 9 at 2:00 pm
Monday, June 11 at 9:00 pm
Thursday, June 14 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 17 at 4:00 pm


How far would you go to protect your family from harm, or to ensure them a spot in the Kingdom of Heaven? A haunting story of fear and love, faith and reason, Convergence explores the intersection of seemingly opposed forces, and the explosive consequences of their collision.

CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS!

These are the rules.

This Saturday will be the first reading of a drastically updated draft of my play, once titled Asylum and now titled The Seer and the Witch. And one of my favorite things to do is to share a long-ago-cut scene from the very first draft of the play, back when it was a total train wreck, unfit for public consumption. The character that used to be called Alice is now called Emily; The character that used to be called Daniel is now called Greer; The character called Elizabeth is now called Eleanor; The madwomen are no more. I’m pretty sure that I had just finished reading the complete works of Sarah Kane when I wrote the first draft of this play…

Scene 6. [dream] Any space, outside the contextual markers of time or place.

ALICE: You came.

DANIEL: I had to.

ALICE: What are the rules here?

DANIEL: No rules.

ALICE: We’ll say we’re in love, then.

DANIEL: We’re in love.

ALICE: And we’ll remove from each other the things we hate most and we will make each other perfect. As a show of solidarity, you can go first.

DANIEL: All right.

He reaches out and, as gently as one can do such things, he rips her eyes from her skull. He puts them in his pocket. She makes no noise. She weeps blood.

ALICE: That was to be expected. But it won’t change what you want changed.

DANIEL: It’s your turn.

ALICE: Before I go, I want you to say that you love me.

DANIEL: I love you.

ALICE: You lie.

DANIEL: Not here.

ALICE: But you do lie.

DANIEL: Everybody lies.

ALICE: I don’t. No point.

DANIEL: Look where telling the truth got you.

ALICE: I should really start taking my sleeping medication again. I’ve been tonguing them and hiding them in my jewelry box. I can tell you these things here.

DANIEL: Yes.

ALICE: But I should really keep taking them. Not that they do much for me, but I can feel my heavy body, and it ruins the illusion of this other world.

DANIEL: It’s your turn.

ALICE: All right.

She reaches forward and touches his face, patting him gently. She cuts out his tongue, hands it to him. He puts it in his pocket.

ALICE: I hope you didn’t have something left to say.

DANIEL: (shrugs)

ALICE: Is there anything else you want to take away?

DANIEL: (he opens his mouth as though to speak. Blood pours out.)

ALICE: I’m sorry, I should have let you go twice.

DANIEL: (he shakes his head)

ALICE: Are you in pain?

DANIEL: (shakes his head, no)

ALICE: I’m not either

DANIEL: (he reaches forward and tugs at her clothes)

ALICE: Now, yes, now. Now is fine.

She kisses him and pulls back red, their blood mingling. They undress. Naked, Daniel reaches out for Alice’s hand, and places it on his chest.

Elizabeth emerges from the shadows, watching.


(And if that weren’t crazy enough…)

Scene 8. [dream] Alice and the madwomen are playing a round of poker. They are sitting at a table and chairs built for a child. They are all wearing dress-up-like clothes and smoking cigars. There are stuffed animals in the empty chairs — they, too, are smoking cigars. Elizabeth watches.

ALICE: What are the rules?

MADWOMAN 1: Five card draw, deuces wild.

DANIEL: Give me 2 cards.

MADWOMAN 2: You.

ALICE: My cards have no faces.

MADWOMAN 1: Fold.

ALICE: All right. (she puts her cards down.)

MADWOMAN 2: Bet?

MADWOMAN 1: (she rips hair off his head and places it on the table) I call.

MADWOMAN 2: (rips out a tooth, tosses it in with the hair) All right. What’ve you got?

ALICE: Someone’s here.

They all look up at Elizabeth.

MADWOMAN 1: If you’re gonna stay, you’ve gotta play.

ALICE: Those are the rules.

MADWOMAN 2: You have to leave if you’re not going to make a bet.

Madwoman 3 is dead upstage.

ELIZABETH: What happened to her?

ALICE: She didn’t want to play.

Saturday, April 14 @2pm
The Seer and the Witch by Jennifer Lane
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
Featuring Megan Channell, Jed Dickson, Sofia Jean Gomez, Maria Maloney, Jens Rasmussen, Carly Robins

The past and present collide in the forms of Eleanor and Emily, two women who haunt the same room at the Elgin Institute of Mental Health. Though they live a century apart, finding each other may be their only hope of a life outside hospital walls.

The New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher Street (btw Greenwich & Washington)
 No Reservations Required - $10 Suggested Donation (cash only)
Sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Monsieur Touton Wine 
This Woman’s Work

I remember when I was in college, I was very concerned about my writing being labeled  ”too female”. I’m not even sure what that means any more, “too female”. I lived with a collection of the precious few straight men on Sarah Lawrence’s small Westchester campus, and they were some of the dearest friends I have ever made, and their irreverent, boisterous natures rubbed off on me and the work I was producing. It was very important to me that my prose be sharp and direct, lacking in sentimentality and evading anything that so much as peripherally touched on such concepts as love or romance or, God Forbid, things like child birth or breast exams or menses. My writing was stripped of my female experience completely, and as such, it fell so short of my potential that I had thought I might give it up altogether, this thing I loved so much. Of course, none of this was the fault of my friends, even slightly. They were supportive and receptive, and I felt like a part of some secret boys club, where we drank whiskey and smoked cigarettes and had sexual conquests, and never once did I feel other; I was always one of them.

And I’m honestly not sure what shifted in the years between college and graduate school, but something fundamentally changed in the way I viewed my work, or at least the way I viewed the world and my place in it. It might have started when I talked to my mother about her experiences as a business woman. “I remember,” she told me, “being seven months pregnant with you, flying to New York City to receive the Business Woman of the Year award, and returning home to a working environment where I was making less money than my male employees.” She gave a slow shake of her head, but ultimately simply shrugged her narrow shoulders and smiled — it’s just how things were. Were. But in many ways, it’s still how things are. Women are outperforming men in almost every sector (they are earning better grades and completing more degrees, they are entering the workforce in droves and their unemployment numbers are lower); and in almost every sector, women are making less money and enjoying fewer opportunities (all you need to do is take a look at the most recent census information to corroborate these statements).

Sarah Lawrence was a great place to undergo the pain of transformation from teenager to adult — it was a cozy, liberal cocoon that was 70% girls anyway. But I think it made me blind to the reality of what it was going to mean to be a lady writer (or, indeed, a lady anything) out in the real world. Sure, I’d studied my feminist theory, but I was oblivious to the fact that there are people in this world who, when a woman speaks up for herself, will call her names in order to silence her. There are pundits who will hear the congressional testimony of a smart, young law student and he will go on the radio and he will call her a whore. I didn’t see how fervently people would fight to keep us from having what I think are basic health care rights, how so many of these decisions were being made by people who don’t even possess the genitalia in question. I had no idea that the very act of getting engaged would throw me into a total identity crisis because I didn’t want it to mean that I would have to give up everything I had worked for, only to be subsumed by the ideal of a normal, nuclear family. I could not have foreseen the number of times I would close my eyes and wish to wake up a boy so that I wouldn’t be dismissed as being too emotional, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about walking home from the bar after midnight in my neighborhood, so that my writing — the thing that I loved above anything else in the entire world — might be seen as a universal story, and not just something for other women. 

I went so far as to try to come up with a male pseudonym (I had no trouble determining that this Jenny would, if she were a boy, make a very fine Jackson). Maybe, just maybe, I could fool the world into thinking I was back in that boys club. And I wrote with the goal of making my stories easy and accessible, with a male protagonist who was always full of brooding and smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey and had sexual conquests. Then I entered graduate school trying to convince myself that my gender needn’t play a role in the work I was doing, one way or the other. And while I was there, I played with style and I experimented with language and movement and I exploded my idea of playmaking and threw all my interests up into the air and let them rain down on me in a million weird little stories and then —

Then I wrote my thesis. Quickly, urgently, and all at once. One day there was nothing there, and then three days later, there was a whole draft of this weird new thing. And it was the most me that any of my writing has ever been and it was female. It was a broken woman who had lost a pregnancy who languished in the womb-like solace of a warm bath, reconciling the loss of her mother with the incessant nagging of an overbearing sister with the strangeness of her own battered body, and it was so wholly me and so wholly of a woman that I was no longer able to deny those parts of myself. And then I stopped wanting to. I stopped wanting to be in that boys club — I think the boys already have all that stuff covered.

I decided to write all this down today because I want to contribute to the national dialogue, in some small way. The national dialogue about a woman’s place in this country, as a citizen, as an artist, as a writer. I want to remind the Powers that Be that women consume more media than men, and so telling a woman’s story is simply a smart business move. I want to tell the cruel pundits that calling people names is not enough to silence them. I want to be another voice that is shouting at the politicians to stop attacking the basic health rights of your female constituents because it’s just a waste of time and money. We are tenacious: our stories are stories of resilience and healing. And I know now, finally, as I begin to officially push 30, that it is important that the work I do come wholly and unapologetically from me, a lady writer.

writerly meme

I was recently interviewed by Adam Szymkowicz, and that was pretty fun.
(Click here to read the interview.)
And the thing I liked best about it was how it got me thinking about what was important to me as a writer, playwright, artist, business person. So I have created a cut-and-paste meme for writers in the hopes that it will help me refocus as I embark on a slew of rewrites and start-from-scratch projects. I’ve compiled a list from several memes for writers and artists, and I have cut some questions and added others. It’s for fun, it’s for work. If you write things down for fun or money, you should answer them, too. I really, really want to read your answers.
(Also that amazing header image is from this article.)

1. What kind of writing do you write?
Plays, primarily. But also fiction and teleplays. I have yet to finish a screenplay, but I fully intend to, some day. 

2. What writing-related sites have you signed up for?
The Playwright’s Center (http://www.pwcenter.org/) is definitely at the top of the list of most-helpful-playwright-sites-ever, but there have been others. The Official Playwrights of Facebook group has also been good. I also like Poets & Writers, the website and the magazine. 

3. Share your oldest piece of dialogue/prose that you can find.
The following is from the very first play I ever wrote, a terrible thing with an excellent title: The Will of Wild Birds. In it, Frankie and Brendan are married, and Frankie has a nosebleed.

FRANKIE: I have a nosebleed.

BRENDAN: You need to quit digging for green gold up there, baby bird.

FRANKIE: It’s just because the air is so dry in here!

BRENDAN: Uh huh.

FRANKIE: I did used to bury it, though.

BRENDAN: What?

FRANKIE: When I was a kid, I would pick my nose and bury my boogers in the carpeting.

BRENDAN: Gross. 

FRANKIE: Only when I was mad at my mom, though. What strange things we do as children, to seek our revenge.

4. What defines your style?
A strong, distinctly female perspective and the use of poetic language. I also don’t tend to exist firmly in the realm of total naturalism. 

5. What is your favorite piece that you have created?
Harlowe. It was an intensely personal project in so many ways, but it was also the most artistically fulfilling thing I’ve ever worked on. Some people are strong and some people are not and strong people sometimes don’t seem strong, while weak people sometimes do. I am a weak-seeming person who is secretly strong. He was a strong-seeming person who is secretly weak. I am much more powerful.

6. How do you define your biggest failure?
Every time I don’t apply to something because I figure I just won’t get in, that is a failure. And I do it a lot, and I find any excuse not to apply. I mean, what is that about? Don’t I want to succeed? Obviously, I do. And I make myself apply. I have gotten in to somethings, but most things I have gotten rejected from, and I think it’s just exhausting. It’s a struggle, every time I send something out. But I do it. And I need to do it a lot more, I need to be doing it constantly. So to boil it down, I guess my biggest failure has been my shoddy self-promotion.

7. Are you looking to make a career of writing? Why or why not?
Yes. That is my Ultimate Goal, when people ask me, “What do you do?” I will say (as I do now), “I am a writer.” And when they follow up with, “Yes, but what do you do as a job?” Instead of saying that I work in arts administration, I want to say, “I am a writer.” 

8. How/where do you physically work?
I do the bulk of my work on my bed, laying on my tummy in front of my computer. And it’s like a bad dream, where every few minutes I sit up, type some more, lay back down, type some more — I toss and turn. I do my editing at a desk, preferably with a red pen which I then type back into my document. I cannot write seriously with other people around, or with the television on. I get very snippy and irritable when I am interrupted when I’m on a roll. 

9. About what would you absolutely refuse to write?
I would probably refuse to write propaganda of any kind, but other than that… Oh, Mike has asked me not to write about the Navy, so long as he’s serving in it. But I probably will one day after he’s out. 

10. Are names important to you? Titles?
Names are absolutely vital, they are often a turning point for me in character development. Titles are not as important on an artistic level, but they are on a business level, I think. I saw this amazing play once about this girl whose twin sister dies in an apocalyptic flood and she carries her around and tries to give her a life — it was absolutely incredible. But I can’t remember what it was called, only that the title seemed to have nothing to do with the amazing, bizarre, beautiful, disturbing play that it was supposed to represent. 

11. What is your writing-related goal for this year? For twenty years from now?
My goal for 2012 is to finish the first draft of a novel. My goal for 20 years from now is to have cultivated a successful, consistently rewarding and challenging career as a playwright and novelist. Should I have the good fortune of working in television and film as well, that would also be delightful, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I want to do plays and books first and foremost. 

Now, for fun…
Do you ever write naked?
 Naked? No. But I also rarely write in attire that would be suitable to be seen in by the outside world. Are you jealous of other writers? Yes. Often I am very jealous. Have you ever been in trouble with the police? No. Does your wife love you? I haven’t got a wife. But if I had one, I could foresee no circumstance under which she would not love me. I’m incredibly lovable. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it? As afraid as I am of it, it would have to involve dipping the body in acid so that it just disintegrated into nothing. Gross. Has the dog ever eaten your manuscript? I haven’t got a dog. But my cats have legit chewed my shit up. What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen? Probably Notre Dame. Or the astronomical clock in Prague. Why do you never write about sex? I do write about it. A lot. But it often gets edited down considerable. Though not in Harlowe wherein we had the opportunity to coin the phrase: Frosty Blowj. What are books for? Stories and secrets, mostly. Fancy hardcovers make nice decorations. Do you really go around in a corset, high heels and a whip, subjugating men? Not since Sarah Lawrence.

THE PLAN(s) [subject to change]

Inspired as I was by this post on the 2amt blog, I decided that a plan is precisely what I needed. What began as a Writerly Plan turned into something much broader, and I decided that no only did it need to be a living document (most of it is scrawled out in clipped sentences in Evernote) but it needed to exist on the internet, the idea being that if people knew I said I was gonna do it, then I had best really actually do it.

I have broken my plan down into three segments:

  • Writerly Goals* - Submissions, my development as an artist, my personal branding as a writer, the delineation and prioritization of my ongoing projects
  • Professional Goals* - From Whence the Cash Flows
  • Life/Personal Goals - Anything that does not fit into the above

*I am particularly interested at the point where these two items intersect, because when I begin to generate livable income I will have reached one of my ULTIMATE goals: Make A Living Wage From Writing. So, lets plan some plans, shall we?

WRITERLY GOALS

1. Submit to at least one thing a month. That shouldn’t be so hard. However the more specific goal is to really stay on top of my submission tracker document. I started a new one tonight to try to get myself organized. Check it out:

SubmissionTracker

I needed something that could tell me what I had done already and what still needed doing. So as you can see, anything in yellow is still pending! I am going to have weekly — if not daily — contact with this document. (Fellow writers, have you got something similar? I showed you mine, now show me yours.)

2. Write. Right now my schedule allows me to spend several hours a day writing, but even when my schedule changes, I need to be writing 5 days a week. Because I have lots of…

3. Projects:

  • Finish draft 1 of Insomnia Play (working title)
  • Finish draft 1 of Untitled Centralia Play
  • Work with Trystan on Tesla Project
  • Finish draft 1 of Bruised Fruit, screenplay
  • Adapt Harlowe into a screenplay
  • Create an outline for the Gypsy novel
  • Create an outline for the Push/Pull telepath teleplay
  • Redo the outline for the fantasy novel
  • Work with BMF on: deranged romcom, scifi short(s), arthur c clark?
  • Figure out what to do with FYLW, consult ce, cc, kl and ik.
  • Write a new 10-minute play
  • Spec an hour drama
  • Receive notes and complete draft 2 of Nocturne
  • With TNGB, work new draft of Asylum
  • Create and submit new short stories, because you used to be able to do that once

The first two items are in order, as they’re at the forefront of my creative brainspace today, but then everything else sort of falls apart. Because, as you can see, I have a lot of crap rattling about up there. So, I shall have to prioritize. However, I am going to wait until at least the first item is checked off the list before I figure out what comes next. One thing at a time, people.

4. Web presence. I am going to do an overhaul of my website in the coming months, and I am going to recommit to blogging and social networking because I believe that there is much value in this technology, and I intend to use it to my full advantage.

PROFESSIONAL GOALS

1. Uhh… get a job. Every day from 9AM to 1PM I scour playbill.com, NYFA.org, Idealist.org, MediaBistro.com, Mandy.com, LinkedIn.com, Craigslist.org, Bookjobs.com and Digital Variety to find myself some employment. When I first graduated, I was set on finding something “in my field”. But I got laid off due to lack of stuff for me to do about a month ago now and I’m gettin’ super stir-crazy. Oh yeah, and I’m broke. And there is nothing glamorous about being a starving artist. If you can’t pay rent, you can’t be creative. I should say, I can’t, because apparently all of the characters in RENT handled it just fine… (side note: we knew we were old when we started to think that a) Mark and Roger’s flat was awesome and b) they should just get fuckin’ jobs).

If getting a job doesn’t work, then my plan is to make one for myself. That is, I’ll launch a small web-design company, targeting largely actors and writers, and I shall take on clients of my own. Part of me is really scared to do this, but it’s also kind of exciting. I’m giving myself til November 1 to find a job the old-fashioned way. Then, I forge ahead like the pioneer I am (?) and make it happen myself.

If getting a job doesn’t work AND making a job doesn’t work, well then there’s clearly only one path that remains: sex work.

Only kidding.

My concurrent plan is to also look for grants for artists, emergency grants as well. I am going to make this year work. I am going to do it. And if the entire thing is a struggle and I’m exhausted and depressed, I won’t renew my lease, and I will pack it in and move with my Navy Man to San Diego. At which point I will be exhausted and depressed, but not homeless, and on a beach.

LIFE/PERSONAL GOALS

1. I would really like to be in a stable position by this time next year, stable enough that I can start doing things like planning my wedding (yeah, he has to gimme the ring first), and planning my trip to South America, and figuring out when I can go back to Prague, or travel to see the Northern Lights, and check some more stuff off the old bucket list. But that’s a ways off…

2. I also want to lose that final 25lbs that’s been clinging to my ass and thighs all summer. From January to June, I dropped 35lbs through running and the Nutrisystem diet. Being in Europe derailed that, and being depressed during my frantic move made it worse. But I am trying to get back on track. I don’t like to think that I’m that girl who is constantly obsessing about stuff like this, but the fact of the matter was… when I was consistently running and eating well, I had more energy and I was happier. And when I have energy and am happy, I do my best work. Also, I’m prettier.

3. Make more art just for myself. Where did my songwriting go? Where, my digital art? I do many arts, I want to do more, more consistently. More, just for me, because doing art makes me happy.

Whew. That was a big, long blog post, wasn’t it? All of these things are subject to change on a whim. Also, I’ve probably forgotten a lot. But that’s why it’s a living document. So, ok, what’s your plan?

photo

And so, my thesis is over. I am pleased to report that it went exceptionally well — save for a few small technical issues (er, there was an electrical fire during my tech; we did the best we could). I could not be happier with my artistic team. They were perfect and they made my play beautiful. I genuinely fell in love with the entire process — play, people and all. What a feeling. Oh, and take a look at these great production photos!
I am also happy to report that there has been some interest in the piece. I don’t want to jinx it so I am not going to say anything more than that, but I’m glad that I get to spend more time with Harlowe, even if (for now) it is just by myself in the world of revision and adaptation.
I also have to admit that I am looking forward to creating something new to love. So I am going to post this monologue from the play (this replaced the monologue I cut: see below.) as a temporary farewell. Bye, Harlowe. Thank you.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
Harlowe is in an empty bath tub, holding a hand mirror, examining the tiny laparoscopic scars on her stomach. She is wearing a T- shirt and shorts.
I used to think that scar tissue was stronger than the tissue it replaced, that somehow the skin can learn from it’s mistake and knit itself more tightly; fortify itself more completely against an environment that would harm it. But that isn’t so. Actually what happens is the skin forgets it’s original pattern and stitches itself up slap-dash, the fibers facing all in one direction instead of recreating the latticework around it. So after many years have passed, and the scar is faint and white, it will only ever be almost as strong as before.
(pause, she runs the bath water)
I think my sense of time — if I have a sense of time — I think my sense of time lives in my bones. While the skin forgets, the bones do not, they never do. The bones remember every petty jealousy, every small injustice. They moan their protest early when they ache, late when they desire to stretch out. And my bones are wise; they know things that my brain and heart and skin cannot know.
(pause, she turns off the faucet, checks the temperature.)
I also used to think — and I’m fairly certain that everyone else thinks this as well — I used to think that time can heal. Time can’t do that at all. I don’t know what makes you heal, but it isn’t time. Time is a silent companion to whatever it is that sweeps in and patches you up. Time is a witness; Time passes judgment.
(she climbs into the tub in her pajamas)
But scar tissue — there are no nerve endings in scar tissue. So time will pass, and this fibrous mass of collagen will form and fade and be weaker than the skin that surrounds it, but it can’t be hurt again, not really. Not in the same way. If you were to cut over it again, it wouldn’t feel a thing.(pause)
So I guess in that sense, it is stronger; in that sense, it does learn.

And so, my thesis is over. I am pleased to report that it went exceptionally well — save for a few small technical issues (er, there was an electrical fire during my tech; we did the best we could). I could not be happier with my artistic team. They were perfect and they made my play beautiful. I genuinely fell in love with the entire process — play, people and all. What a feeling. Oh, and take a look at these great production photos!

I am also happy to report that there has been some interest in the piece. I don’t want to jinx it so I am not going to say anything more than that, but I’m glad that I get to spend more time with Harlowe, even if (for now) it is just by myself in the world of revision and adaptation.

I also have to admit that I am looking forward to creating something new to love. So I am going to post this monologue from the play (this replaced the monologue I cut: see below.) as a temporary farewell. Bye, Harlowe. Thank you.

ACT 2, SCENE 1

Harlowe is in an empty bath tub, holding a hand mirror, examining the tiny laparoscopic scars on her stomach. She is wearing a T- shirt and shorts.

I used to think that scar tissue was stronger than the tissue it replaced, that somehow the skin can learn from it’s mistake and knit itself more tightly; fortify itself more completely against an environment that would harm it. But that isn’t so. Actually what happens is the skin forgets it’s original pattern and stitches itself up slap-dash, the fibers facing all in one direction instead of recreating the latticework around it. So after many years have passed, and the scar is faint and white, it will only ever be almost as strong as before.

(pause, she runs the bath water)

I think my sense of time — if I have a sense of time — I think my sense of time lives in my bones. While the skin forgets, the bones do not, they never do. The bones remember every petty jealousy, every small injustice. They moan their protest early when they ache, late when they desire to stretch out. And my bones are wise; they know things that my brain and heart and skin cannot know.

(pause, she turns off the faucet, checks the temperature.)

I also used to think — and I’m fairly certain that everyone else thinks this as well — I used to think that time can heal. Time can’t do that at all. I don’t know what makes you heal, but it isn’t time. Time is a silent companion to whatever it is that sweeps in and patches you up. Time is a witness; Time passes judgment.

(she climbs into the tub in her pajamas)

But scar tissue — there are no nerve endings in scar tissue. So time will pass, and this fibrous mass of collagen will form and fade and be weaker than the skin that surrounds it, but it can’t be hurt again, not really. Not in the same way. If you were to cut over it again, it wouldn’t feel a thing.

(pause)

So I guess in that sense, it is stronger; in that sense, it does learn.

In honor of Harlowe

My thesis play opens in one week — one week. As you can imagine, I’m wracked with nerves and battling a panic-spiral. However, anxiety aside, I’m actually extremely satisfied with how it’s shaping up and giddy over being able to share it with people. As it stands, opening night is sold out (!!!) so I think we can look forward to an exciting run.

As with my last play, Psychomachia, I decided to (instead of overtly writing about my panic-spiral) share a monologue that was cut from the play entirely. What appears below does NOT appear in Harlowe in any way, and with good reason — the monologue below doesn’t make any sense in the context of the play. It never did. Which begs the question, why did I write it in the first place? Well, I think maybe I just got an idea for another play while working through Harlowe's first rewrite. And anyway, I am fond of this tradition I've started of sharing things that have been cut. It's like a sneak peek into the development process and also a way for me to hold onto the bits of the messier drafts of these pieces I so love. And so, below, draft 2 Harlowe speaks.

harlowe

(Harlowe is back in the tub, leaning forward over the side, her arms crossed under her chin.)

I often dream of a house with blue shutters and a red door and in my dream it starts out vivid and new, so new that the grass hasn’t been planted and I can smell the paint; so new that I leave palm prints in fresh-laid cement and the window panes still boast manufacturers stickers. And then it begins to bloom with life and fill up with voices, bustle with movement — people build lives inside those walls; they hang a tire swing from the oak in the yard, maybe they paint the shutters a different color. They hang birthday signs over fireplaces and carve notches in the door frame. Then it begins to empty, the floorboards have sagged under the weight of the inhabitants and the paint begins has cracked; the wood starts to decay and the shingles begin to slide off the roof. After a time the house looks like the bottom half of a toothless grin, and after more time still, it turns entirely to dust.

(She lifts one of the lit scented candles and dips a finger into the wax, blows on it to let it dry, then does it to the next finger and the next, etc.)

When I wake up from that dream I feel profoundly sad, and I lay in bed and I imagine that house at it’s most beautiful, at it’s most vibrant. And I think what if… What if the house were to be destroyed at the height of it’s beauty, and thereby remembered for that beauty, as something wonderful and vigorous, something loved, instead of evaporating. Into nothing. Into dust.

(She tears the label off of the candle and holds it to the flame, watches as it curls with heat.)

Or, before that, even — the house still standing, but empty, taking up a perfectly good plot of land and yet remaining uninhabitable, a roof askew, structural integrity compromised. Surely, then, it is better to burn it to the ground. Surely, then, it is better to raze it than to watch it decay.

(She drops the candle into the water.)

So, too, with people I think. So, too, with people.

HARLOWE - April 15 at 7, 16 at 2 and 19 at 2 at 3LD. Visit columbiastages.org or jennifer-lane.net for more information.

Running Mad

Today, I ran mad.

I ran farther and longer than I have ever run; and I ran with my mean face on, and I ran in between people chatting and I ran in front of kids playing hooky and I ran and ran until it hurt to run.

And at one point, three very large men tried to get me to stop running. It’s happened to me several times — an individual, usually a boy age 15-18, will start jogging alongside me making silly faces, mocking me or playing with me, I’m not sure. But today, they were full grown men and they were jogging in a triangle in front of me, blocking my path, forcing me to slow down. I locked my eyes on the man nearest me, flashed him my prettiest smile and said, “So, are you gonna fucking move?” 

If you know me, you know that’s not how I speak to people — let alone strange men three times my size in the south Bronx by myself. If you know me, you know that I usually just keep my head down and squeeze by; you know that I don’t want to make waves and that I’m easily put off by a group of men who take time out of their day to antagonize me. But today? Something else lit me up, something like rage but more focused and I locked my eyes on that man and said, So. Are you gonna fucking move? And he moved. And he moved. He and his friends stopped jogging, held up their hands and apologized to me, and I ran past them. And I ran back over the bridge and I kept running until it hurt to run.

I think I’m through being quiet. I’m finished with not making waves. Because I’ve kept my head down every time someone tried to make fun of me, and the way I run, because I’m not very fast and my face gets all pink and my rhythm changes based on what song I hear, so yeah, I probably look pretty silly. But I can’t tell you how good it felt to look up and say, “So. Are you gonna fucking move?”

incoherent ramblings on the topic of genre
I’m going to say right off the bat that I am very tired and probably can’t string three coherent sentences together, but I wanted to try to get this thought out before I lost it —

I lose thoughts, you see. They’re there, and I say to myself, “Jenny, remember that.” I may jot a note down about it, even. But then I go on to do something else, or I sleep, and even the note loses it’s meaning and the thought is lost to me forever.

What was I saying? Crap.

Oh, yes:

Fiction vs. Speculative Fiction vs. Science Fiction.

About an hour ago, I finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which I absolutely devoured. I don’t want to get into too many of the details about the story, because it unfolds so beautifully as written, but it is in some sense science fiction written in a narrative style of your typical English Boarding School story — that is to say, high literature with a sci-fi edge. It calls to mind the writing style of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and, to a lesser extent, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (right? I think so — It’s late and I don’t feel like googling for confirmation).

I recall reading somewhere that Margaret Atwood was emphatic about the fact that she absolutely did not write Science Fiction, that Sci-Fi was for Aliens and Space Ships and explosions. She writes, as she says, “speculative fiction”, the difference being that her visions of the world, though they are not based in current reality, could feasibly happen and in a comparably brief amount of time.

But I wonder — since I picked up Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander in the Fiction/Literature section and not the Sci-fi/Fantasy section — if it’s all a simple matter of marketing and there really is no thematic differentiation. That is to say, there’s only a very little bit of magic in this fantasy book, so we’ll put it in with the Literature. There are no aliens or space ships in this Sci-Fi book, so we’re pretty sure the greater public at large can handle it without being put off.

If there were no silly machines on the covers of the Warhammer books, would I read them?

Is Speculative Fiction a real genre? A sub-genre, perhaps? Or is it simply a way to make good writers feel better about themselves, that they won’t be on the stacks next to a book that boasts a picture of a gnome slaying a golden dragon on the cover? ARE THE COVER ARTISTS TO BLAME FOR THE STIGMA!? Is it really a stigma, or is it helpful? Should we know more specifically what we’re getting into before we pick up a book? Can The Time Traveler’s Wife really be considered literature? (I’m not judging it based on the writing — I never read it. But I saw the movie, and thought it was wretched and therefore have no intention of reading it.)

If I had to answer some of these questions now, I suppose I would say that fiction is a made-up story that takes place during the time in which it was written, in a place that already exists, against a pre-made backdrop. Science Fiction is a story set in another time, or an alternate time, where the circumstances of living a normal life are somehow different or impacted by the time in which it’s set, and in Fantasy there is magic wooj, time doesn’t matter. Speculative Fiction is just a term Margaret Atwood made up for herself because she doesn’t fancy herself as someone who writes about Aliens. And that’s fine, she’s awesome, she can do what she wants. But to her I say, Madame: you write science fiction. And I love it.

Oh! And I’m so clever, I’ve thought of more examples — 1984, Farenheit 451, Animal Farm, The Giver, The Metamorphosis, all examples of “Real Literature” that are… science fiction. Ish. (Is Animal Farm fantasy? Is the Metamorphosis?)

Am I ignoring an entire other genre, or subgenre (that is not specfic) that encompasses this kind of storytelling? Does it exist? Should it?

OH! And what about DeLillo? What about White Noise? What is THAT?

Is this really all just an issue of branding?

Am I seriously going to keep posing questions instead of actually writing down my own thoughts?

Is it already 1:30AM?