Flyin’ the Freak Flag
I’ve always been creative, even as a little kid. In 2nd grade, I was the one spraying pine-scented Glade into the audience, trying to establish the proper “forest” mood for my production of Snow White. Perhaps, to some, it would’ve been wiser to have spent less time on such “non-essentials” and more time rehearsing the actors. But in my view, it was far more important that our dwarfs actually look the part, with dwarf-like shoes (i.e., slippers), than learn their dialogue. Who cares if little Billy knows his lines, if everyone looks on the stage and still sees little Billy?
For great art, you need the magic, the essence — the scent — more than anything else.
And so it goes with my writing. It may not always be grammatically correct, nor foofy high-brow lit, but if I’m communicating my thought and affecting you in the process, I’m happy.
I’ve been blessed to have had many people who encouraged me — mainly teachers — particularly in my younger years. I think of Beth Geier in 5th grade, Jack Schlatter at Oak Junior High, and Judy Trujillo at Los Alamitos H.S. (who gets my vote for best teacher ever.)
But as great as these early influences were, I feel like my creativity really came of age at UCLA. Perhaps it was because there I got down to business and actually learned the craft of acting, writing, and directing. We had classes on literature, stage lighting, costume, makeup, movement… with smart teachers and an array of kick-ass talented students, who were each coming into their own…
Which brings me to the photo accompanying my first post. This dressing room photo is from a UCLA production I directed called When Esther Saw the Light, written by the insanely talented Michael Sargent. I was lucky enough to direct several of his works, and he both inspired and frightened me — he was so crazy-good. Somewhere in my senior year, I was given a class assignment: I had to write an original one-act play. And yet, whenever it came time to put pen to paper, or to type it out on my Brother, all I could hear was Michael. His voice was so specific: angry, funny, sharp, concise. And I thought, “I can’t do that – I can’t tap into that emotion. There is no way I’ll ever be a writer.”
What I didn’t realize, though, is that I didn’t have to tap into his emotion to be a writer; I needed to tap into mine. I had to know my voice and own it. But that required much-needed growth, real-life experience, introspection, and maturity, none of which I had at 20.
Today, more than double that age, I find myself sitting on stacks of screenplays, short stories, articles, and recently finished writing my first novel. So I guess I’m a writer after all.
My friend Steven Fales (playwright and performer of the Mormon Boy trilogy) is fond of doing his “morning pages”, which he learned from Julia Cameron’s classic book The Artist’s Way. And while I may not write daily, much to Ms. Cameron’s great dismay, I am writing nonetheless. And this blog will allow me one more opportunity to do just that.
On these pages, I might share my personal thoughts and feelings, early works, reviews of my favorite books/movies/music, news about my writing, complaints about Russ stealing the covers… Basically, anything my little heart desires.
But it all ties back, via writing, to creativity.
In Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, the following exchange occurs between a disillusioned artist and his muse:
Dot: Are you working on something new?
Dot: That is not like you, George.
George: I’ve nothing to say.
Dot: You have many things.
George: Well, nothing that’s not been said.
Dot: Said by you, though, George.
True, others may have told similar tales, but it is our individual experiences which make our stories unique. We all have them… Stories of humor and heartache. Triumph and defeat. Passion and emptiness.
So let your freak flag fly. Grab hold of your dreams. Spray that Glade wherever it’s needed. And let your vision be heard.
With this new blog, I intend to do just that.
Cast Photo of “When Esther Saw the Light” (Clockwise, from upper left): Debra Guarienti, Steve Schaeffer, Pia Romans, Jack Black, Sean Horenstein (in the pillowcase), Jeff Maynard, Pamela Barri Silverman, Catherine Skillman, Kathleen Hartigan, Rebecca Delfino. “Esther” won Best Play at the Kennedy Center and Meritorious Direction for the work of Kergan Edwards-Stout.