This past Sunday, we recorded my NNPN podcast play: West - the Grand Gesture. It was so much fun! The lovely and talented Shirley Serotsky served as our director; wonderful actors and Woolly Mammoth company members Dawn Ursula and Michael Willis were our featured performers, and the clever and charming Chris Baine was our sound designer. Ever supportive, patient and kind, Jojo and Jason were on hand for anything we might need, including pencils and last minute questions. Brilliant dramaturg Otis Ramsey-Zoe was with us in spirit and was absolutely essential to the development of the script.
As I mentioned, this was my first time ever creating a podcast plays. Thank goodness Dawn and Michael have had a bit of experience in this area. We rehearsed for two hours; I made a few edits; and then we were ready to record. Dawn and Michael were dynamic, passionate, and so, so funny! Since the play features two friends walking West of Woolly, they even walked in place to get the feel for that kind of energy. Here are some photos from our day together!
While researching this play, I walked the path from Woolly Mammoth to Pershing Park a dozen or so times. Each step flooded my heart and mind with memories from my six going on seven years of living in the nation's capitol.
I first visited Washington D.C. in 2002, when I took part in the Kennedy Center's inaugural Playwright's Intensive. At that time, it was only one-week and from what I remember we were all university students. Prior to convening, playwright Naomi Iizuka tasked us with finding a myth that we wished to adapt. I chose Oedipus Rex and the ten-minute play that I wrote later became, Blood-bound and Tongue-tied. Once there, we had morning discussions at Cuppa Cuppa with directors and producers, writing workshops, lunch sessions with professional playwrights and dramaturgs, and the brilliant Gary Garrison talked to us about the business of playwriting. We also attended readings and productions, including, a reading/workshop of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, which was being co-produced by Woolly Mammoth and Theater J and later Woolly Mammoth's production of Charles Mee's Big Love. We even saw Wendy McLeod's The House of Yes, but for the life of me, I can't remember the name of the theatre company who produced it.
This is where I first met the amazing, compassionate and generous Gregg Henry, who has become a central figure in my artistic life. He's one of three people I connect with before making any important career decision. I had lunch with David Ives, who had read my play and shared his thoughts with me. Of all he said, the following exchange is all I remember:
DAVID: You have this inscription here. Why?
ME: It sets the tone for the play.
DAVID: You don't need it.
ME: Oh. But wait, you use inscriptions in my plays.
DAVID: Don't listen to me. I don't know what I'm doing either.
It was amazing. This trip was also the first time I had ever seen the White House. I went there on my last day. I remember walking up to it and feeling so much excitement. My heart raced. When I got to the fence, I held on to the bars of the gates and peered through. I had to catch my breath. I was overcome by how truly momentous this entire experience had been for me.
Here we are 10 years later. I've accomplished so much ... much more than I ever dreamed, but not nearly enough to call it a day. In fact, I feel ready to take on the next 10, 20, 30 years with as much passion, determination, discipline and focus as I can muster. And I must say, I'm pretty happy to be living this life here in D.C.
The National Showcase starts today, but I won't be joining them until the Australian-American Smackdown panel discusion tomorrow morning. I'm going to tell you all about it, but for now, let's enjoy some of the sites you'll see on your travels West of Woolly.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!