Feeling minnie in Minnie
“I’m going to Minneapolis,” I told people in New York.
“Oh, the twin cities?” they would reply.
“Uh, no… Minneapolis.”
“Oh, I have a friend in St. Paul. You should visit them.”
“Listen! I’m going to Minneapolis!!”
So went the conversations…. so finally, after a nightmarish flight sequence (see blog about Sun Country Airlines below), I was picked up by Rachel Greene from the Playwrights Center, a typically friendly and charming midwesterner, only that she’s from Lubbock, Texas. She kindly explained to me that the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are so close together (only divided by a thing called the Mississippi River), people refer to the area as the Twin Cities.
My parents once wintered in Minneapolis before I was born. Why, you ask, would they “winter” in Minneapolis? Most people winter in Florida, or California. Most people don’t use the word “winter” as a verb, either. Only the extremely wealthy, who also use foreign-to-me verbs like “supper” and “donate”. No, my father, a greenhorn attorney, was shipped out here for a case with my poor mother, who had recently emigrated from Taiwan, no doubt cursing herself for doing so. But I have a sort of emotional bond with the city in that way.
The workshopping process is very, well, flattering. Apparently, over 2,000 plays are submitted each year to this Playlabs Festival, in which we were basically grandfathered into the 7 pieces which are rehearsed for two weeks culminating with a staged reading. There are interns who sit in on the rehearsals, run your photocopies, adjust the air temperature, and immediately dispose of your empty coffee cup as soon as it’s placed on the table. I want to bring in a load of dirty laundry and see what happens.
The Playwrights Center is a wonderful space within a converted church. The basement level offices resemble a northern Californian environmental agency war room, with exposed beams, free standing wooden walls, and wireless printing. And they feed you at every opportunity they can.
On a recent trip to the wonderful Walker Art Center, I discovered an artist named Amy Cutler, who does these amazingly whimsical paintings of victorian-era girls in unimaginable situations, pulling houses with the braids from their hair, having cakes as heads and attacking each other with spoons, etc. It lends itself to the dreamstate of our musicals….
I’m steadily re-entering into my identity as “The Composer”, which I’d consciously snubbed for the past year. During rehearsals, fourteen people turn to me and expect me to make decisions about the music, and I’m like, “Hey! I’m only the… oh, right. Um. What was the question again?” It’s like putting on an old wool suit that all of a sudden is starting to feel comfortable again.
Katie, my collaborator, and I are staying in the house of the artistic director for Theatre Latte Da (who commissioned the piece, and will produce it (if we can ever get this contract sorted) within the next 2 years here). Peter graciously moved out to allow us the space, since he has a piano, which has revealed itself to be quite magical, and I’ve been writing more and faster than I can remember. And what a treat to have seven wonderful actors singing something beautifully you’d written the night before.
But that’s also the rub. While the house is gorgeous, with tons of light and working space, I’m discovering that this workshop is turning into a serious mental tightrope act, having to sustain a level of productivity over 2 weeks, while trying to prevent my mind from devouring itself. I spend most of my hours lying on the living room floor humming and tapping out some distant melody or rhythm, marinating myself in Piazzolla and Golijov, cooking, and pacing up and down the hall. The house is in a very suburban area, so we’re more or less isolated (although there are lakes nearby, one of which I’ve swum in already). I don’t get cellphone service (damn you, cingular), which is probably better for the writing, but there are times where I feel like… I’m. Going. Mad. Mad, I tell you! Mad!!!!
Anyways, back to “work”, which means pacing, lying, tapping my belly, staring out the window….