12 plays in 12 months. Plus a whole lot of other writing to go along with it.
That’s the basic idea. It started with Christmas. My godmother gave me 12 journals. “12 journals for 12 months,” she said. “Be creative!” So I thought, “Yeah, right!” And then I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge: Specifically, could I write 12 plays in 12 months? Kind of like Suzan-Lori Park’s 365 Plays/Days experiment, except with a lot fewer crappy plays (hopefully).
Since I didn’t actually receive the journals until a few weeks into January, I decided to take the rest of that month to figure out the basic ground rules and I would begin the experiment in earnest in February. First off, I decided that the plays could be of various lengths, anywhere from 10-minutes to full-lengths, and then I started collecting titles, because I’m always jotting down potential titles. Some of them are plays I’ve started or done versions of but want to do more with, some have stories and characters attached, some have very basic images connected to them, but a lot of them are just titles. And then I threw two ideas for screenplays into the mix as well, because, hey, why not?
I also realized that in order to generate this much material I was going to need to do other things as well to kick start my brain, try out ideas, etc. And I could use much that to fill the journals as well. Finally I decided that at the beginning of each month I would map out my goals for that particular month and then track it all on my website.
So there you have it.
Here’s the list of titles I started with: (I’d say that all these are copyrighted but you can’t copyright titles, so I guess just… Well don’t be a dick, if you know what I mean.)
-Marshal South Is Out of His Mind
-Weather Station 17
-Douglas Adams in Hell
-Davey Crockett Shoots His First Buck
-Davey Crockett & Daniel Boone Fight it Out to See Who’s the Real Man
–Salton Sink Δ→ Water Rights (#2)
-Great Southern Overland Route of 1849
-Genghis Khan Killed John Wayne
-Down in the Face of God (#1)
-Fault + Fold (#3)
You’ll notice that there’s more than 12 titles here. I figured I’d give myself some wiggle room, and, hell, you never know. I might get squirrelly and do two 10-minutes some month. Maybe three even! And if the title is followed by something like this: (#1), it means I completed the play, and the number corresponds to when I finished it.
1. Postcard free-writing:
-4 sets of 2 postcards each, randomly drawn to inspire some free-writing
-Do 4 rounds at 15 minutes, 4 rounds at 30 minutes, at least 2 rounds at 1 hour, and 1 round of 2 hours
2. A completed draft of a puppet version of Weather Station 17
3. Continued brainstorming (character, psychologies, story) for Fault + Fold
4. 2 minute pitch for The Banker, including plot points 1 & 2
5. Brainstorming a new take on Santa Ana Winds
6. Finish up full-length version of Down in the face of God
7. Work towards a rewrite of “We declare you a terrorist…”
How I Did
1. I failed miserably on the free-writing, accomplishing only the four rounds at 15 minutes and half of a 30 minute round–aka another 15 minute round.
2. Read WS17 a few times, thought about what I’d like to do. Didn’t do anything.
3. Didn’t do much brainstorming for F+F.
4. Success! I completed my short pitch for The Banker.
5. More success! I came up with some exciting ideas about where I’d like to take SAW in its next incarnation. (Thank you, 12 hour drive to Tennessee.)
6. And yes, I did complete my draft of Down in the face of God. In a way this maybe shouldn’t count because I started this play a while ago. But it is a full-length and I did complete it after the start of the experiment, so screw you guys, I’m counting it. 1 play down.
7. Didn’t do much in the way of being able to start a rewrite on “We declare…”
And on a related side note, I discovered that filling one of these journals is not all that easy—especially if I”m not keeping up with all my work—so there’s a good chance I won’t fill all all 12 of these journals. More on that as we proceed.
1. Postcard freewriting
2. Completed draft of WS17
3. F+F brainstorming
Expansions from February’s work:
4. Full treatment for The Banker
5. Outline for new Santa Ana Winds
New for March:
6. New draft of “We declare…”
7. Exercises to generate material for F+F
8. A 10-minute play: “Salton Sink”
How I Did
Breaking this down point by point, it’s going to look like I did horribly, but March was a good month. More on that later. For now, I’ll just talk about what I accomplished instead of focusing on what I didn’t.
1. The freewriting. I didn’t do exactly as much as I set out to, but i did a bunch and I feel good about it. I used it to kickstart me in the morning, get the juices flowing. Good plan.
3. The freewriting led to some F+F brainstorms, plus I let my brain wander in that direction quite a bit, so I’m feeling good there.
5. Did some thinking, scribbled some notes re: the new Santa Ana if not a full outline. Feeling good there too.
6. Rocked out the new draft of “We declare…” in 3 days. Yeah. Not comprehensive or life-shifting, but excellent strides. And good news on the horizon there (but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet).
8. I wouldn’t call it a 10-minute, but I did manage to write a scene. In lieu of “Salton Sink,” I’m calling it “Water Rights.” It’s a full little thing that I want to expand into a full 10-minute. Click here to read it.
Now, the reason I don’t consider March a total loss despite all these partial completions is that it included both good news and good work. The good news came in the notification that I’ve been asked to be a part of this year’s New Harmony Project where I’ll be working on “We declare you a terrorist…”. The good work came in the form of having a week with no work, which hurt some financially but which I decided to turn into an opportunity to be a writer. And it was great. I even wrote about it for my application to this year’s Princess Grace Award:
“I’m coming off a week where I had no work for my day job. Originally I thought to try and scrounge some work to fill the financial gap, but instead I decided to take the time to focus on my writing, get back in touch with Tim the Playwright because I have two full-time jobs: the day job and being a playwright, which is itself two jobs: the artistic job where I write plays and the admin job where I apply for grants. I’m not bitter about this; it’s the reality of the life. However, it is an exhausting life. So with time to just be a playwright this past week I woke up early, had some coffee, read the news, and then I did thirty minutes of free-writing before starting in on the agenda I’d set out for the day: rewrites on this play, brainstorming for this ten-minute I want to write, getting another play ready to send out to this theater. I can’t even begin to describe how energizing this was, how much I reconnected with my work. I was doing what I loved and I was doing it with a sense of purpose. I had a hard time going to sleep at night because I was so excited about what I was doing and what I was going to get to work on the next day.”
And then, to top off the week, I got a call from the Public asking me if I had a new draft of “We declare…” ready. They couldn’t say why they needed it so quickly and I didn’t much care. I did the rewrite and feel good about the work I did. Stay tuned for news of what comes of it all.
Well, y’all, the 12/12 Experiment collapsed in May 2009. Basically with all the actual work I started doing in conjunction with “We declare you a terrorist…” I just didn’t have the time to keep it going. But here’s what’s happened over the past year and a half.
May 2009: I got to workshop Terrorist at the New Harmony Project, which was a fantastic experience from start to finish. I got so much work done in such a supportive environment with some of the coolest, nicest theater people out there. I have only one complaint about the experience which is that there was no stipend paid to playwrights. Directors, actors and dramaturgs all got a stipend on top of their housing, food and travel. I don’t know how much they got, but that was 2 weeks I wasn’t earning an income and a little love would’ve been appreciated. Anyone who hasn’t experienced NHP or even considered applying should.
July 2009: Terrorist premiered as part of the 2009 Summer Play Festival in a production I was very proud of and which was very well received by our audiences.
November 2009: As a direct result of SPF I got a Roundtable reading at the Lark of Down in the face of God–three hours to read through and discuss the play with Jerry Ruiz directing and Suzy Fay leading our discussion. Absolutely invaluable, especially with Suzy as dramaturg.
January – May 2010: Completed rewrites on Down based on the Lark reading; did a reading of Peloponnesus in New York followed by rewrites and a reading in Los Angeles; and did a massive overhaul of 11 Hills of San Francisco, which involved adding 3 characters, reconceiving Nick as a 30 yr-old, and changing the structure of the play from continuous action set over the course of 2 days to being broken up over 2 weeks.
June 2010: Picked up stakes and moved to LA. What?
September 2010: I wrote and saw produced a new 10-minute play, “Department of the Interior.” It was created for and by Chalk Rep as part of their first ever Flash Festival. I also finished the first draft of Fault & Fold after a year of writing and three and half of researching/prepping.
October 2010: Another reading of Peloponnesus, this time at the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts (VCPA). Stephan Wolfert, the artistic director, loved it and asked if the VCPA could do the world premiere. I said, “Hells yeah.” Nothing definite but maybe Spring 2012? Stay tuned….