The cast is fantastic. I have to pinch myself whenever I walk onto the set and realize the enormity of having people who believe in something you've created so much, they are willing to give up their weekends and evenings to bring it to life. Life is hard as a female playwright. A recent study by the Lily Awards found that only 20% of all the plays being produced in America are written by women (and some theaters have entire seasons without a single female playwright on their roster.) I have hit the lottery, especially with a director like Kevin Cochran and a cast as massively talented as this crew.
If you are in the Los Angeles area, please come out! Tickets are now available at gtc.org and if you use code "madness" you get 50% off. It is such a fun show, plus, your presence tells the world that it is good to invest in female playwrights.
One of the fun parts about doing a period play is finding juuuust the right props, sets, and costumes. Fortunately, Los Angeles is a trove of hidden treasures.
We found this 1910 violin case for our gangster, purchased from a man who collects, restores, and sells antique violins. These cases don't offer much in the way of protection compared to modern day cases, so he frequently sells them. It is all wood and called a "coffin case."
Turns out the last person to purchase such a case from him was going as a gangster for Halloween.
Kevin found a 1923 Dictaphone someone had been storing in their garage for years. It's hard to find old Dictaphones with the hose and horn still intact.
Other props we'll be pulling from the store room include an old manual typewriter, a vintage briefcase owned by the playwright's grandfather, and a classic adding machine (purchased for use in GTC's previous production of The Adding Machine.)
All these vintage finds add authenticity to a play and help the audience believe in the world. Plus, it is sort of lovely to think about all of these old workhorses who were destined for a scrap pile now being given a new lease on life and a glamorous career in entertainment. That's certainly music to our ears.
At 4PM October 12th, I was busy packing for my trip to London the next day when a pick of paper was slipped through the door of my apartment. It was notice from my complex that they were raising my rent several hundred dollars a month (no such thing as rent control where I live.) I had ten days to let them know if I was leaving, thirty days to get out. If I went month-to-month, the rent increase would be almost $700 dollars.
And so I sat there in my living room, my suitcases half packed for my eleven day trip across the globe and went, "Well... crap. What's a girl to do?"
You know sometimes how everything works out for a reason, though?
Two weeks earlier I was scheduled to be in London for almost a month. There was a week long radio playwriting workshop that I was planning on going to. But then I found out about this workshop in New York on how to produce plays in the international market (specifically in London.) You see, I have this play I wrote called Building Madness. I wrote it last year and in the span of about twelve months managed to get readings or pull together readings in New York, Bath (UK), and Seattle.
There was a feeling I had in my gut about The Woodcutter back when it went through its five years of rejections that I would fail my life's purpose if I let that book sit on my hard drive. It was physically painful to think those characters would die in a drawer and no one would ever know them. And sure enough, fast forward and The Woodcutter hit #6 on the Amazon bestseller list, won some awards, and landed a publishing contract with 47North. I feel the same way about Building Madness.
So I cut my trip in half, canceled the radio workshop, bought a ticket with a layover in NYC, begged my old friend Katie Thompson to let me crash with her, and signed up for the international producing class. But two days later got a note from a theater in Cambridge wanting to do a reading of one of my short plays. Because I shortened my trip, I couldn't be there, and one of their requirements was the playwright had to attend, so my play was pulled. Crap on toast.
But you see, if things had gone according to the original schedule, I would have been in the UK when I should have been moving.
I had been toying with a three month sabbatical in NYC to just... see... As a friend so astutely put it, "You've accomplished all this in a vacuum. It's just you, doing all this. Imagine what would happen if you were in a place where you were surrounded by other people looking for what you do." I met two producers the last time I was in the city who said flat out, "You have to be here." I realized it was a lot like the kids I run into who are interested in being movie stars but don't want to move to Hollywood. I was now that kid.
So, the rent increase was just the little nudge that maybe I should think about what I wanted to do when I grow up. But it was an hour before the rental office closed, I had a pet to drop off with my family, and a plane to catch in the morning.
I got on said plane, my mind a swirl. That was Tuesday.
I arrived on Wednesday.
And Thursday, I got a call from this guy I know named Kevin Cochran. He is a director/producer of a play I did years ago called Blake...da Musical!, which went on to win the Ovation award (Los Angeles' version of the Tonys.) I have since worked with him on several other shows (The Adding Machine and three-person Christmas Carol) and he is one of my favorite directors in the whole, wide world. I had wanted him to read Building Madness... but was too embarrassed to ask because I didn't want to force my script upon him (getting asked to read people's stuff is sometimes the worst.) And he had wondered why I hadn't asked him. But somehow, that gap was bridged and he was calling that Thursday to say that he absolutely loved the script and wanted to do a full production in Los Angeles to work out any kinks before taking on the world (let's just say investment opportunities are available for anyone interested in becoming a West End or Off-Broadway producer. Seriously. Send me an email if you're interested.)
So Thursday, I had a direct next step. I dropped a note to a couple friends to see if anyone knew anyone with a sublet, and by Sunday, it turned out someone did. So then the question was whether to keep my current apartment and this other place or to cut ties and set sail (moving can sometimes be about as expensive as a couple months rent...) I let my complex know that I was moving due to the hike. We went back and forth with a conversation the rest of the week that went, "Oh! We love you! Let's see if we can cut that hike for you" to "And we have great news! We can take $20 off the monthly rent!" So, I decided it was time to pack things in. If I was going to be paying that much more a month, I wanted an apartment with air conditioning (we had 50 days about 80 degrees in my neck of the woods this past summer. I was DONE with the heat.)
All that happened in a week. By the following Friday, I was in New York, I walk into the international producing workshop (where suddenly I was needing information for a scenario which was not hypothetical) and there was one of the producers who met with me a few months ago in NYC, a gal named Meredith Lynsey Schade. She is this absolute darling who took the time to sit down with me and spell out the realities of the world and the challenges ahead and I'm so grateful for her. She produced a play on Broadway called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (hold on to this title. It comes up later.)
I get back home, find movers and packers, and get my apartment packed and cleared out in two weeks. I have a little two week break with my family and we go on grand adventures - to the Gum Wall in Seattle before it gets steam cleaned, to the Boehm's Chocolate Shop, to the Jet City Comic Show where I'm speaking and signing (my parents' first comic con!) and a seafood dinner at a hillside restaurant in Tacoma overlooking the lights of the city.
Meanwhile, I mentioned to one of my dear friends, an actress named Beth Lane who spent a summer with me lying on a wooden stage beneath 100-year-old oak trees learning Shakespeare at the Theatricum Botanicum, that I was going to be back in the city for about three months. Well, she's in the new UCLA MFA program and said, "WHAT?! Come out and be in my directing scene! Do you know a play called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?" (I told you it would come up again...)
Meanwhile, one of my short plays was picked up by the Rising Sun Performance Company for their A Very Holiday Under Rehearsed in Brooklyn.
It's been six weeks since that rent increase notice. Yesterday, I packed up my groaning car and started the drive down to Los Angeles where I will be for the next three months. Let the adventure ensue...