Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is being a lifetime emerging writer like a damn chicken still struggling out of it's original eggshell?

Well this time I ain't making no damn excuses. I'll get to a new blog posting with I damn well get to it. :) It's now July 2008 and I'm slowly becoming entrenched in the deep south city of Atlanta. Atlanta! Damn! I'm still hanging in there even though I've been back to NYC twice since I moved here in February

Before I get to my little subject(How long does the title Emerging Playwright last?) I like to do a little summation of my theater activities since my last post in March 2008. Because I am always in a manic mood to get my creative writing produced or brought to life by live actors, I don't often have time to reflect on the accomplishments (small and large) of the journey of getting it there.

I had just returned from a one-performance only New York production of my newest play: "Osage Avenue" (The MOVE inferno) that opened the Downtown Urban Theater Festival at Cherry Lane Theater and I was struggling with the most severe cold in my entire life. (All the signs pointed to Pneumonia) I got a call from a playwright friend I greatly respect (Owa) and he was complimenting me on the number of times my plays had been brought to life. At first I thought he was just talking about my play at Cherry Lane, but he said I'd had some good success for the year with getting my "shit" up and done. I had to take a moment to think about it. I know Art makes its own way at its own speed. I thought he was over exaggerating with his compliment. I hadn't done anything special. I hadn't made any damn money from anything all year. And I was still wondering when my next play would be produced and where I was going to find a "real" job in Atlanta to keep my old ass under a roof. Always thinking ahead and not really looking behind at the "marks" I made on the road that was getting me to my dreams.

I took stock up what 2008 has done for my career so far. In March I had a controversial play "Last Dance of the Panther Women" go up in Stamford, Connecticut and even though two parts were very miscast, I still was proud that the Producer/Director believed in it enough to put it up with Equity actors. In May I had the last staged reading of my play, "King Willie" in Washington, D.C. by the Essential Theater Company. It was the 6th and final reading for the three year development program that I had committed to. And finally in June, my play "Osage Avenue" (The MOVE) Inferno opened the 2008 DUTF in New York. Wow, three plays to life in six months. And of the three, two plays have good promised futures. "King Willie" is going to be scheduled for Regional Theater considerations with the Essential Theater and "Osage Avenue" has drawn interest in New York and there is now an attempt to get it produced here in Atlanta before the year is out. This reflection makes me feel a little better and respectable. Now the hell with the respect, where is the money?! :)

Enough of that ego reflections. Now for top: Being labeled an Emerging Writer.

I have been writing for over three decades and I have been blessed with having many of my works produced and published. I enter many contest and submit to many theaters all over the country every year. Though I'm aware that the term emerging is usually designated on promising "young" writers, I, who stopped being young a long time ago, have been labeled with that title for maybe over twenty times in the last fifteen years. I was selected as an Emerging Playwright for New York's Theater for the New City, NYC New Perspective Theater, Stamford, Ct Prometheus Fire Theater, Cleveland's Karamu Theater Company, NYC New Federal Theater, new play reading series, NYC Downtown Urban Theater Festival, and a few others that I can't remember. I have been emerging for a long, long time. Like a baby sticking his head out the womb, climbing halfway out, and immediately backtracking into the comfort of the warm darkness.

The only comfort I get from this is that just to be have my plays chosen from the many truly young writers, I am still being considered relevant by younger producers and directors. It is also a sign that what I write is still progressive and fresh. But one of these days someone is going to stop labeling me as a damn EMERGING #*!! PLAYWRIGHT. And then instead of tip-toeing or stumbling towards professional status as a writer as an "emerging" writer does, I'll be recognized as a "real" established professional.

And finally I am working on a new play about a famous black model who partied with Andy Warhol and was the toast of Europe who died of a drug overdose in Rome and who lived her wild life denying her heritage with vehemence. How wonderful self-hatred can be so inspiring. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another blog - many months late. Oh Well!


Hey all ya'll shouting out from my new city of residency, Atlanta, Georgia! I know that the few of you who actually look for my new rants on my slower than molasses blog are wondering if I'm locked up in an institution for the mentally retarded or am just showing signs of early senility in all these drastic choices I've been making lately. Well I might be slow or growing crazy, but this "move" was a move that needed to be done for the sanity of my belief in the Theatrical Art. (We'll get to what that means some other day when I'm really pissed off and don't care how my words get out there on the damn internet). :) Well...anyway, here I am in the "dirty" south. Never in my West coast rearing would I have ever believed I'd be volunteeringly setting down roots in the SOUTH!!!??

I'm actually acclimating myself to this new place. There is amazing and positive black theater going on here. And they PAY too. Damn what a surprise. And I'm seeing great artistic freedom, promise, and possibilities already. I've been here five weeks now and I do miss New York City (Brooklyn) but I have determined to make my style of serious theater work; like some male dog leaving my "mark" by pissing my scent on the footsteps I leave in my wake. I got my damn nerves, don't I? :) Any of you who know me, have an idea of what I mean when I say serious. Most of my actor/writer friends think I don't like any theater that I've seen in the eight years I lived in N.Y. And they were right; 90%. Too much melodrama, psycho babble, and self-indulgent boring throw-shit-on-the-wall-and hope-some-of-the-shit sticks, and suddenly "respectable" chitlin circuit, buffoonish-melodrama that some producers are pushing as new black drama...oh my! But when I see something good, it's like the "ultimate climax"! Let me stop with the early ranting. I'm in a "happy" place right now. Haven't had to get up at 6:00 and head off to the "damn" job. Getting up late in the morning. I am sort of getting a little bored from having so much free time. No car in a city where a car is a necessity. Walking down dark roads to the complex where I'm staying. Walking 2 miles to the bus. But that's all good. A little exercise might kill someone but it ain't never hurt somebody.

I'm here in ATLANTA! I've seen two plays, one written by a very famous black female playwright (Boring!) I was ashamed of the pedestrian way in which she wrote this play. It wasn't even Playwrighting 101. Then I saw a play at the SouthWest Art Center (fabulous building) entitled "El Hadj Malik". What a wonderful fulfilling surprise. The actors were great, the direction was professional, and the price was only $7. I ended up getting there late and couldn't get in because the show was sold out. But, the brother who runs the center and directed the play, got permission from the actors to add a final late show. Then they let the fifty of us who waited around in for FREE!!! Would that have happened in New York?! And I went there with low expectations. ($7 for an adult ticket and a title that sounded like a "throwback" play from the seventies) Surprise, surprise!!! The play was 30 years old (I had never heard of it before) I think I'll have to keep my normal pre-negative expectations in check while I'm here.

From the "Center of the black theater Universe" to Atlanta... Good impression on this doubting soul so far. But I'll be back in New York for the weekend to see my play below. Hurrah!

Carol London, Sharisma Simmons, Candice Myer
Also Featuring: Larry Floyd, Mark Maples

PROMETHEUS' FIRE presents a dramatic concert reading of:
Written by Jamal Williams
Directed by Ray Aranha
Sound Design by Billy Gagliano

Dates: Saturday Evening, March 29; 7:30 PM Sunday Matinee, March 30; 3:00 PM Location: Leonhardt Studio, Rich Forum 307 Atlantic Street Stamford, CT 06901