|I am beginning this blog to document my summer experiences at the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University and as a participant of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. So, instead of emails explaining how I came to participate in theatre, or backstory on the play, I've decided to put everything here, along with photos and pictures to help tell the story more fully. |
Along with these reflections I'll describe events as they unfold so that my friends scattered here and there will be able to keep tabs on me (as I am relatively notorious for going underground).
I've just returned from Texas and my 10 year high school reunion, which coincides with a small hometown festival. Humidity and June heat must be a requirement. Now that I'm back I hope to post every other day. So here goes...
A Brief History Of Poetic Time:
Just How Does a Poet Become a Playwright?
Many of you know I came to San Francisco to pursue an MFA in Writing and study poetry at the University of San Francisco. My second semester in the program, in between reading visionary poetics and submitting poetry for a workshop run by our Poetry Director Aaron Shurin (no pressure), I became acquainted with a small amateur theatre group based in the Mission District.
El Teatro Jornalero! (ETJ!), is comprised of Latino immigrants who write original theatrical works that reflect the reality of the Latino community and make a special point to give voice to social justice issues that would not be heard otherwise. As a poet, I was instantly drawn to the poetic quality of the physical exercises they use to develop characters and dialog. As their Resident Poet I wrote poetry in response to their first play Soldado de Arena and recently translated their play Aún Sigo Aquí into English.
Rigoberto Cabrera, El Teatro Jornalero!
This foray into the world of theatre piqued my interest; I began to want to write more than just poetry. In the spring of 2004 I got my chance when Christine Evans came to USF as a playwright in residence to teach a survey course in playwriting and collaborate with ETJ! and USF students in the production of The Doll Hospital. I contacted Christine and was granted permission to join her class.
We read Tennessee Williams, Brecht, Naomi Wallace, Nilo Cruz, Caryl Churchill and my favorite, Sarah Kane. What I love about Kane’s work is the idea that imagination does not have to be limited by form. In her plays flowers shoot through the floorboards and bloom, rats carry dismembered body parts off stage; the world in her plays is a hybrid of poetry and theatre. So I began there, in that space between poetry and theatre, with the desire to create a physical poem, to use imagery, language and the physical world to create art. And I decided I wasn’t going to limit my writing to what I thought could and couldn’t be done on the stage. I took a rather cavalier attitude: let THEM figure it out. I wanted to have pomegranates bleed on cue, Missing Posters weep ink--to let my imagination go wherever the story would take it.
By the end of the semester I had finished a first draft. It was Christine who suggested I submit the play to the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, a works in progress festival which takes place the last week of July (as a retreat for the playwrights, actors and directors) and the first week of August (the actual play readings).
I submitted my play as an exercise, a way to get the script into shape and learn how to write a letter of submission. I submitted the play in January and forgot about it…