Thursday, August 19, 2004

Tipping Point

Erie Pennsylvania is beautiful this time of the year. I’ve never been here before, but I love it. Of course I’ve probably seen only 1/4 of the city, but that part of seen is so green and peaceful.

I’m in Erie, with my director Barb, to work with the Ophelia Project on ways to create a national push for my play Chalk. Very exciting. The people in the Ophelia Project are genuinely good people. I’ve never done much work with a non-profit before, except watching an ex girl friend work endlessly at her under-funded under appreciated job in the field of environmental health. I never really thought about using my work to connect with a “cause” but hey, if the shoe fits… So I guess maybe a little explanation is needed when discussing the scenario. The Ophelia Project is a national nonprofit that works to end "Relational Aggression". "RA" has been called GIRL AGGRESSION, because it the way girls usually express aggressive tendacities. It's not the out and out fighting, but ignoring someone, spreading rumors, "cattiness" this type of behavior can damage girls for the rest of their lives. Chalk is a play I wrote about girl aggression with this play I created a genre I call a POETICAL.

po·et·i·cal n.
1. a movie or play that uses performance, or “slam” poetry, in it as important elements in developing the story and portraying the emotions of the characters

To be honest, I didn’t actually create a new genre, maybe I named it, or re-energized it, because I think Shakespeare and Greek Theatre were both doing this type of work. I think I just took iambic pentameter and put a beatbox to it. So this is a great way to speak to a new generation of theatre folks. All of this makes Chalk the perfect vehicle for the Ophelia Project. So this weekend I spent a lot of time listening, learning and trying to figure out how to make it all happen. While I’m listening to all the conversation, it hits me that these people not just the Ophelia Project, but people like them, do the real work. The work no one wants to talk about, the heavy lifting that all of us benefit from but have no time or desire to do ourselves.

The one common thing I hear from educators across the country, is how they are tired of teaching children for a test. I think it’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. How in the hell can you judge the quality of an education by a standardized test? It’s impossible. What you create is drones, trained to pass a test, not students that are taught to think. But of course politicians have to find someway to validate their existence. So instead of doing the real work necessary to help the youth, they give a test. And of course in disadvantaged areas, the children test poorly. Hmmm wonder why? Could it be that the social-economical culture is created to help them fail? That there are bigger issues then whether they can pass a test. And maybe if we were willing to put tax dollars into our schools instead of subsidiesing tobacco farmers to not grow tobacco, or giving money to NFL teams to build bigger stadiums, just maybe we could create a school system that works.

I’m getting off subject. Chalk has the ability to push my career forward. I’m excited, but not too excited. I’ve learned that all the big plans mean nothing if you don’t work for them. The biggest problem with the “O” project is that they have never done this sort of thing before. And quiet honestly neither have I so, we are both feeling our way through the dark.

I wonder how things work for regular playwrights. The process seems to slow to me. Writing something, and sitting it on the shelf until someone decides to read it. Or the process of trying to get an agent to read your work, and then push you forward. Slow. And it also takes control out of your hands. I can’t do that. I’m sure at some point I will have to, but right now, I just got to keep pushing forward, and work the connections.

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