I’ll be the first to admit that based on my age I have questionable taste in music. I don’t know if all my friends are just “old souls” or if I truly have bad tastes. With that said, I have every Ariana Grande CD. Like the physical CD. (I also have every Taylor Swift CD since RED which is her second best album.) So I don’ feel bad saying that though I really love the song title “thank u, next” I don’t actually like the song.
But damn that’s a good title. Not just about exes. About life in the arts. So much of what we do is being super thankful for the opportunity in front of us while staying pretty focused on the next one. Or how this opportunity can lead to another one.
So much of what we do is focused on the future. I have yet to go to an opportunity where someone doesn’t ask me “So what’s next for you?”
(^outside Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City, MO)
It’s a question I don’t ask playwrights though I do have a bad habit of asking my friends in other artistic fields. Here’s why I don’t ask: Sometimes the honest to God answer is nothing. And that’s not bad. But it feels bad. Because suddenly when you’re asked that question, you’re like “well shit. What is next? Should I have something lined up already?”
I’ve mentioned this before but when my ambition gets a little too loud in my head I go look at the news tab of my website. I have at least one thing posted for every month between June 2017 to December 2018, except for May 2018 and July 2018. And somehow I’ve let my mind convinced that I really should have had something going those months except that I did. In May, I was in Orlando. It’s just that technically the show wasn’t until June. And in July, I was in Pittsfield for the first rehearsal of WIWP but rehearsals don’t count as news so…
All of that to say that this blog post was almost called Thank you…next but I decided that following after Thanksgiving, instead I want to be thankful for the playwriting year I had.
And to not just be thankful but to take a moment and let it all sink in. So here goes. I wanna celebrate some* of the first I had.
JANUARY 2018 — I went to Chicago! This was the first time my play had been accepted as part of a residency (Downstage Left Residency, Stage Left) and I flew to Chicago for a rehearsal + reading of it. ALSO my play GOOD BAD PEOPLE was a part of American Stage Theatre Company in Tampa, a company I’d never worked with before but made a lot of great connections. And it was my first time being part of a talkback via Skype. Still weird seeing my face as I’m talking and not the audience but I loved it! ALSO, Well-Intentioned White People had a reading as part of KCACTF Region II which was the first time my work was presented at KCACTF outside of my region.
MARCH 2018 — I had a 10 min play at Crystal Bridges! It was my first play based on history and I did A LOT of research for it. And it was my first time to sit on a convening panel. Like people wanted to actually hear what I had to say. WHAT? March was the first time I felt like I was taken seriously.
MAY 2018–I flew to Orlando and for the first time I got to work with college students who weren’t my students. It was amazing to be on a university campus again and see how other departments worked. It also helped me realize how much I missed teaching and how I need to go back. It was also the first time I got to roommate with two AMAZING playwrights who are the coolest. They’re totally different but they’re both brilliant and wonderful artists.
JUNE 2018 — I got my first ever commission by a theatre company (thank you Barrington!) and for the first time ever I was nominated for three different awards/prizes. Like someone else thought to nominate me for something. Did I get it? Two out of three, no. But I’ve never been nominated for anything before and that’s amazing in itself.
JULY 2018 — It was my first time in Pittsfield, Mass. It was nice to see the east coast equivalent of Fayetteville, AR and to really learn the history of the town. And it was my first time working with a major theatre company ON THE WORLD PREMIERE of my play. Holy shit. The luckiest.
SEPTEMBER 2018– After applying for 6 years in a row, this is the first time I won Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship. It’s the first thing I’ve got in Arkansas and means the world to me. I thought for sure Arkansas just wasn’t into my work so to get this floored me. In the best possible way.
OCTOBER 2018 — I GOT TO GO TO SAN FRANCISCO!!! This was the first year that my work was done in California, which since I’m from there is pretty magical.
NOVEMBER 2018 — This one is gonna be a little bit longer because it just happened. When I first heard about NNPN back in 2012, I immediately googled every theatre on the list. And was so disappointed that NONE of them were near me. Until I got to the end of the list and saw Unicorn Theatre. I have wanted to get my foot in the door since then. So when they said I was just a finalist, I was excited. And once my play was chosen to be a reading, I was literally BESIDE myself. Like went out and got fancy whiskey to celebrate. Because now one more theatre knows my name AND it’s a theatre that’s only 3 ½ hours away. Incredible. This is the first time I’ve had a reading of a play in my region that I didn’t self-produce. And that’s a big, big first.
It has been a really good year of firsts. If you’re feeling down, instead of focusing on the next, what were some of your firsts this year? Is there anything you’d thought never happen and then it did?
Kansas City is full of amazing coffee shops but definitely check this one out. It’s adorable and super fun for people-watching.
I promise my December posts will be about looking forward and other fun quirky playwriting things. But I wanted to take the time to be grateful.
*I intentionally am leaving some of this out because this isn’t about collecting achievements but instead celebrating the year.