It turns out I write a lot of love scenes. Happy Valentine's Day! This photo set spans from The Trans Theater Double Feature (Plus a Quickie!) in 2013 to Doctor Voynich and Her Children (in two places!) in 2018.
Today I can announce that I’m going to be a Playwright in Residence for THREE MONTHS!!!! Starting in February I’ll be living at the Crosstown Arts facility in Memphis, literally with a room of one’s own. I’ve got a half-dozen projects in development: a trans Shakespeare adaptation, a short comedy about digital assistants, historical gay fiction, and more. I’ll have more to share about all these projects next year. Get in touch if you wanna get more deets!
I’m feeling super grateful for my artistic collaborators who have helped me develop my work and artistic practice. I’m psyched that I’ll get to work on my craft full time instead of cramming it around other commitments. I can’t wait to share this process with you!
Every few months I receive emails from students who want to study my plays in their college courses. Usually they’re looking for contemporary plays with queer or trans themes. I’m happy to share them; instead of charging the students dollars, I ask them to send me a copy of any papers or presentations they do. It’s a lot more fun (and helpful!) to listen to someone’s perspective and analysis than it is to get burrito money.
This is a whole new level.
Playwrights being taught as part of “American Women Playwrights of the 20th and 21st Centuries” at Carnegie Mellon:
Young Jean Lee
Thrive out of spite.
That is all.
August 2016 has been a big one.
At the beginning of the month, I reached my one year anniversary at 42nd Street Moon, and also was laid off as they restructured. I learned a ton from my time there, and I'm glad I took the job in the first place. It was my first time with a salaried position rather than a contractor's stipend, and helped me move from stage management to production management. I'm proud of the four shows I took from "wouldn't it be cool if..." to "That looks great!," including one world premiere, and our departing founding artistic director's last two shows.
Shortly after, I was contacted by Stanford TAPS to come in on a temporary basis as the assistant technical director, and I accepted. I'm helping to open the new Roble Studio Theater and get the season planned and organized. It's from now till the middle of November, and I'm really enjoying the change of pace--8 hour days, a regular schedule, (soon) being able to work directly with students and help them make the best art they can.
When I'm not ATDing, I'm the production manager at the Cutting Ball Theater, which will be putting up a festival of avant-garde plays this October. Cutting Ball does intimately staged, technically challenging modern theater, and I feel really at home with their staff.
I'm also the executive producer for The Real World: Stanford, doing my absolute best to update and expand the script, which will be performed in front of ~1800 frosh during New Student Orientation. Real World deals extensively with mental health, relationships, and sexual assault at Stanford. It's really tough work, and close to home, but it's rewarding to be doing my part in addressing sexual violence at my alma mater. Also, I made it gayer.
I got my second tattoo: a joint tattoo with a dear friend of mine as she left for grad school. I'll show you in person if you ask, it's hard to photograph.
What else? I started chewing gum. I called my mom sometimes. I flossed for like four whole days. I saw some great shows. I went to lesbian clubs. I rode rollers coasters. I started introducing myself as "Lea," just to try it out.
I planned for the future. More on that... in the future. Keyes out.
I think many white people, myself included, heard about #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile and thought, ‘Well, yes, #BlackLivesMatter, but what can I do about it? I’m not a killer. I don’t know any killer cops.’
Law enforcement officers who shoot black men do not appear in a vacuum. They don’t pop out of a police academy one day. They grow up in our households. They go to our Thanksgiving dinners. They are friends with our sons, our daughters, our spouses. We are part of the culture that creates these officers. Whenever we keep silent, we enable that culture. Whenever we excuse an ‘off-color’ comment, we enable that culture. Whenever we let stereotypes and fearmongering go unchallenged, we enable that culture.
And, yes, these officers answer our 911 calls. The officer who shot Alton Sterling has probably helped a whole lot of white people ‘feel safer.’ The officer who shot Philando Castile has probably ‘stopped by to make sure you’re doing okay.’ That doesn't change what they've done. What this tells us is that someone who you trust today is perfectly capable of murdering a Black person tomorrow.
When you glorify police officers who are ‘doing the right thing,’ when you share (staged) videos of cops giving hugs, you are building a culture that trusts a cop’s 'instincts' over video evidence. A culture that gives them paid administrative leave and then doesn’t press charges. A culture of grand juries who hand out ‘not guilty’ like candy and a culture of state prosecutors who spend more time talking about the Black people who were murdered than about the police officer they’re supposed to be proving guilty.
Agreeing that #BlackLivesMatter means more than passively following hashtags and ‘trying not to be racist.’
It means not calling the police. Yes, even when you feel unsafe. There are ways to feel safe that don’t involve risking a Black person’s life.
It means not moving into historically Black neighborhoods and displacing people who have lived their all their lives just to save a few bucks on rent.
It means not nodding along when someone calls an area ‘sketchy,' or 'urban.'
It means not mocking and then appropriating and then claiming African-American Vernacular English. Yes, even if you're gay. Yes, even if you learned it from a Black friend.
It means recognizing that ‘thugs’ don’t deserve to die any more than ‘law-abiding members of the community.’
It means recognizing that ‘law-abiding members of the community,’ who do everything right, are just as easily killed by police officers, who will get off just as free.
It means changing laws so that 1/3 of Black men don’t spend time in prison, and not letting other white people blame ‘absentee fathers.’
It means recognizing when you have been wrong and learning to be better instead of just giving up.
It means speaking up against people you love who are wrong.
It means helping other white people to change instead of writing them off or ‘keeping the peace.’ Yes, even if it ‘might hurt your career,’ or ‘make things awkward,’ or ‘split the family.’ White police officers have been splitting families apart for as long as the police have existed—it’s just that now we have video. White people who call the police when they see a Black person have been splitting families apart.
White people: I understand that it can feel weird to talk about this, whether it’s on Facebook or over the dining room table. Some time ago, I stopped posting about Black people who were killed by police, or trans women who were murdered, or mass shooting, or bombings, because I didn’t want my Facebook feed to be a litany of the dead. It felt like pandering. It felt like I was trying to score points. It felt like other people were better qualified, or more eloquent—what could I, as a white woman, possibly say that would help prevent one more Black death?
Part of being white in the age of #BlackLivesMatter is recognizing that Black lives matter more than white feelings. By remaining silent, we are building a white culture that passively accepts police murders of Black people, even if we feel bad about it. If we don’t think that we have anything to say, then we need to amplify the voices of Black people who DO have something to say. Share articles. Retweet. Learn. And for God’s sake, stop posting like nothing happened. Because it did happen, and continues to happen, every single day, whether you see a hashtag about it or not. One hashtag may not change the world. It won’t bring anyone back. But what it does is change the white culture of silence and our silent endorsement of the status quo.
Our cultural obsession with "the apocalypse" (zombies, nukes, Rapture, etc.) allows us to conceptualize the end of days as a single event or outbreak, rather than a gradual process resulting from overuse of resources and the destruction of our environment. "The apocalypse" absolves us of our responsibility to fix shit now, because what can one person do to stop something that large? Media produces so many post-apocalyptic survival movies/shows/games/books because we feel like the world falling apart is inevitable. It's a lot easier to overcome "the apocalypse" by shooting a zombie in the head than by trying to take down capitalism and its vast overconsumption of resources.
As you can tell from the title, I've had to continually redraft this post as I get deeper into the series. Also: spoilers.
One. It seems so innocuous. Maura is at her new apartment; one of the other residents of the community (who we have never met) dies. When the ambulance arrives to take them away, the community gathers to watch/figure out what's going on/bear witness. The extras are queer. Like, so queer. Extremely. All of them. And I'm crying, because for the first time, we're in the background and the foreground. We are not just window dressing, nor just 'the issue.' We are everywhere.
Two. Maura, in a flashback, is surreptitiously trying to return a trans-related magazine to a shelf in a bookstore. There's another customer near the stand; it's deeply uncomfortable. Then the other customer murmurs, "that's last month's issue," and my heart breaks as Maura realizes that she isn't alone. I am so fortunate. I am so goddamn fortunate to live in the decade that I do.
Three. Maura performs in a talent show. All three of her children have come to support her; all three of her children leave during her song. She sees; she knows; she keeps on going. Because that's how strong she is. That is how resilient she is. She holds it together. I want to be as strong as Maura. And the real beauty of this story is really coming together for me. This is a 'trans story' that isn't about how much it sucks to be trans, this is a story about how much it sucks when your family doesn't support and love you. Maura is not tragic; tragedy is done to her.
Four. Maura is listening to her ex-wife talk about the past. Her ex-wife refers to her as "he" a few times. She gently but firmly corrects her. Her ex-wife continues, switching to the appropriate pronouns. Their marriage broke up over this (and other things), and now she is able to make the change that the children are still struggling with. Because she still cares about Maura, enough to make a wry joke about having a gay marriage before it was cool. And I cry because Maura deserves this and so much more, and because I know that this isn't a linear "It Gets Better" story. This is not a floodgates moment. This is just a moment, one of many, and in this family, with these people, not all of those moments are going to be good.
Bonuses. Syd confessing that she's kind of in love with her best friend. Josh trying to decide how fucked up his relationship with Rita was. Maura at camp. Ali coming back for family dinner, in the end. I wasn't crying, I just had something in my eye, I swear.
Oh, and I've cried laughing at this show too (Maura's reaction to her first pill! and so much more), but that's another post.
In directing The Long Way Around I've begun to articulate emotions in terms of depth vs. intensity. These are two scales on which I see emotions operate. Some emotions run very deep, but may not be intense. Some emotions are very intense, but don't run very deep. The strongest emotions are those that are both deep and intense, while weak emotions are neither.
The easiest topic to explain this concept (as per usual) is sex.
Deep, but not intense: A marriage of many years where both parties love each other on a fundamental level, but the spark has gone out.
Intense, but not deep: A one night stand--it's fun, but the connection you form is ephemeral, and it doesn't take long before your memory of the experience is more powerful than your memory of the person.
Both deep and intense: A long-simmering romantic tension finally gets addressed, and both parties are way into it. It's built on a long foundation of friendship and the blossoming of romance is the cherry on the top.
Neither deep nor intense: A blind date where both parties are trying, but the connection just isn't there, and it doesn't seem like it will be.
While intense emotions can drive very strong reactions, they don't have the staying power of deep emotions. If a couple with a deep foundation of love has an intense argument, the depth is likely to trump the intensity, simply because the intensity will fade over time, while the depth endures. (Finding forgiveness for your partner because you have a long-term picture of what your lives together look like).
That said, intense emotions that function in opposition to deep emotions can cause those deep emotions to become shallower, particularly if the intensity is renewed. (Anger functions in opposition to love; a partner who becomes spiteful over time can destroy the deep love that carried them into this relationship in the first place).
In a conflict between two characters, framing the emotions and lines in terms of depth vs. intensity allows us to explore the complexities of a given interaction. Oftentimes the lines address the intensity of a given moment ("I can't believe you spent all our savings!") while the subtext addresses the depth (translation: "You didn't even ask me? I thought we trusted each other."). The intensity of the anger/worry in the lines plays against the depth of the trust/love in the subtext.
More thoughts on this another day; for now, must dash to rehearsal.