Monday, June 24th Join us for Our 5th Annual Staged Reading
Jacqueline Bircher's The Rule of Thirds . 6:30 pm, The Tank
Until then, enjoy our new Prou/Del (A mixture of our Bechdel Questions and the Proust Questionnaire) from our spotlight playwright Jacqueline Bircher!
1) What comes easily and what challenges do you face in the writing process?
I have always had an ear for dialogue, so the rhythm of language and conversion has always come fairly easily to me. The blank page, however, is always a challenge. I get such page fright, and going from nothing to something can seem like such an insurmountable task, every single time.
2) What are your two most favorite writing tools?
The first is probably post-its. When I outline, I always use different colored post-its to create a story map. It helps me to visualize the arc of the plot, and identify how characters might interact and grow over time. My other favorite writing tool is probably my writers group. We are a small but mighty crew that has been meeting regularly for over 3 years. Their kindness, intelligence, honesty, and generosity has made my writing one thousand times better.
3) As a writer, what is your process? (Are you more of a worker bee or do you feel the muse? Do you usually outline or free flow?)
I usually sit on ideas for plays for a long time before I begin to write them. Once I decide which one I'm about to tackle, I generally already have a strong idea of what I want the story to be about. So, I'll outline first, then use that outline as a road map for a first draft. After I have a first draft, that's when the real fun begins. I love to rewrite, and I can pull scenes apart and put them back together all day long.
4) What is your motto or main goal as a writer/artist?
Create work that has a brain, a heart, and courage.
5) What talent or super power would you most like to have?
6) Favorite words of advice or quote you drift back to?
The first draft will always be bad. Sometimes the second and third drafts will be bad, too! Bad is just part of the process.
7)Feminist writing--what do you look or aim for in this genre?
Complex, layered female characters who are messy, flawed, and fiercely individual.
8) What would your mother tell her friends about your writing career?
Anything and everything. My mom is my #1 hype woman.
9) What can we look forward to hearing next from/about you?
In August, I have a short play called Webster's Bitch in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, and in September I'll be developing my full-length play The Once and Future Casey Colman with Campfire Theatre Festival in Boise, Idaho.
Get your tickets here
By M.J. Moneymaker Bechdel Board Member
The Bechdel Group is one of my volunteer positions in addition to the work I do as the digital communications manager for an LGBTIQ human rights organization called OutRight Action International. I find time to create in between these two things while participating in a weekly writer's group. I write a lot on NYC buses and trains.
Lately, I've been musing a lot about my writing and who, realistically, will read it and see it.
From Downtown Community TV to public access stations to nonprofits, I've been creating community media for over 10 years. Somewhere between producing stories about activists around the world fighting for their human rights, and writing screenplays for my MFA, I realized I wanted to tell stories that reflected me and the community I understand and know.
I tested writing these stories a few times during my MFA at Lesley University. I know I’m 'other'. I've checked that box since my abuela asked my mom who's the China man, my dad, that's been coming around to see her.
But being, other, wasn't more apparent to me than when my writing got workshopped.
A memorable moment for me at Lesley University was my first short play that centered around a transgender nurse who had to face the moral dilemma of saving the bigot who has a heart attack while cursing her out for being trans. Yes, I set it up to be a piece that triggers discussion, but what I didn't anticipate was how people didn't believe that a trans person could be a nurse. It threw me so far sideways that I snapped, rudely, at the ivy league white man sitting across from me. It made no sense to me, isn't the promise of America opportunity? After that, I stuck to love stories... everyone seemed to be okay with those and there was a lot less strange comments about people's abilities to work and live their lives.
This leads me back to who is reading, performing and listening to my writing. My stories are different, but only because they come from my lens of seeing the world. And it doesn't make the stories 'experimental' or 'Avant Garde' or 'tragic'. I'm not trying to be different, I just am.
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if I'm going to add subtitles or I don't believe that's possible. And my favorite that comes inevitably from a white man in the group, "If I don't understand it, then how can you expect an audience to understand it?" Or others hone in on what isn’t conventional as a flaw in the storytelling or structure for a three act play because they can't find anything to contribute.
I’ve heard these comments so many times that I've thought it's my problem. Maybe I'm not a good writer. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to be a script writer. Maybe my stories aren’t worthy.
Then events like The Bechdel Group's 24 Hour Writers Challenge for writers of color writing for women of color happens. And I'm reminded how it feels to work with actors who understand the language I written and don't have to be explained the culture of the characters I created. And I'm reminded that there are audiences that can appreciate a play, not feel 'left out,' and even find the humor and joy in the work. Cause honestly, it’s probably how they had to learn to watch media in the first place.
There's an ease to experiences like this that I didn't get on a regular basis through school and don't get in writer's group. Maybe it's an inherent trust between the writers, actors, and audiences that I'm sensing. A freedom to fully play? Whatever it is, that unknown thing, it's like a breathe of fresh air.
There is a "Heights" reunion video of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast I found online recently. I think it may explain what I'm trying write here in a more clear and succinct manner. I'd recommend checking it out.
P.P.S. Tune in next week from excerpts from the script!
The Bechdel Group
Working to challenge the portrayal of women in film and on stage.