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  • thomasmmoran

Forgive me blog, for I have sinned

Updated: May 2, 2023

A boss points a gun at an employee in a dramatic scene from an Australian production of the play "Breakout"
Scene from a production of "Breakout" in Adelaide, Australia

It’s been over a year since my last entry.

Why? Well, for starters, no one reads this blog, which is at least partly by design – I don’t think my writing travails are interesting enough to captivate the general populace. So really this is mainly an exercise in a.) flexing my writing muscles, b.) self-reflection and c.) SEO optimization. No idea if (c) actually works but it at least can’t hurt.

So what’s happened in the last year in terms of my playwriting? Rather a lot, actually. The biggest news is that I quit my job at UAF to focus on writing full-time. (Honestly I quit for a lot of reasons, that was just one of them). This frankly hasn’t happened. It’s now been almost five months since I quit and the most time I’ve poured into playwriting and associated tasks (let’s be frank, mostly associated tasks) has been maybe 20 hours in a week. But, as the fact that I’m reviving this blog suggests, I’m getting better about actually focusing on drama. I haven’t written much that’s actually new, but I’ve done minor rewrites of bigger plays and major rewrites of some smaller ones, and generated some good ideas to work with. I’ve also been spending a lot more time on the National New Play Exchange (NPX)– my recent goal has been to read and recommend one play a day. I've been taking notes on everything I read in case it comes in handy for dramatic ideas. I’ve also had the time to apply for a bunch of funding opportunities: Voices of the Wilderness (rejected), a Rasmuson award (sort of a Hail Mary, waiting to hear), and an Alaska Arts Grant (seems like a stronger possibility, also waiting to hear).

And I’m by no means looking at my joblessness as a waste of time – I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m exercising more than I ever have and in about the best shape of my life. I finished the ITI without frostbite this time, and also did the White Mountains 100 on foot - a feat I'm frankly still wrapping my head around. I do Duolingo every day – French for a couple of years, then I switched to German. I’m getting plenty of sleep, setting running pr’s, and am caught up on most house chores. We started volunteering at Bread Line once a week, which has been both rewarding and fascinating. And I can no longer blame work commitments for not getting anything done, which has really benefited my motivation. The plain fact of the matter is I don't need a job right now, so I'm happily going without.

In terms of playwriting, my career sabbatical (or call it what you will) has been a mixed bag. First, the minuses: due to a bunch of miscommunications, most of them not my fault, Fairbanks Drama Association ended up dropping my production of "Up With Romance" at the last minute and swapping in, whee, Almost, Maine (again). What happened was, essentially, neither the new FDA head nor the director got the message that I was open to changes to the script. So when the cast raised objections to some of the content (chiefly some of the questionable gay characterization in Altar Ego, which, fair enough) I didn’t have an opportunity to make changes – a couple of cast members quit in a huff and they couldn’t replace them. They could barely muster a cast in the first place, which sounds like it was the fault of FDA for doing a lousy job advertising the play – which mostly circled back to the central misunderstanding, which was that this was a developmental project and needed to be treated differently than a regular play. Unfortunately, by the time I realized all this it was too late. I’m pretty miffed about the whole affair, but it did make me realize that in the future I need to be far more assertive about my involvement with productions. But, for the moment, goodbye to my first full-length mainstage show. Dammit.

Ditto for another cockup, the Young Playwrights Institute. This was another spot where I clearly should have gotten more involved, but in all the time Peggy Ferguson was running things at FDA I played no role in recruiting for YPI, so I didn’t think that would be needed this year. Well, it was: they got one whopping registrant when they needed at least four. It appears they started advertising way too late, plus they didn’t have Peggy pulling whatever backdoor strings she usually pulls to gather up people. So that fell apart. We’re trying again in the fall, and I plan to play a much more active role in rounding up students.

But, the biggest minus of all, is I didn’t make it into the FDA 8x10’s this year. I will admit to being livid when I found out, and to be honest if I actually attend the plays I 100 percent expect to be just as livid when I walk out. The play I submitted wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was short, breezy and witty – three things that are almost entirely lacking in your average 8x10’s. And it was better than at least half of the plays I’ve submitted over the years, and I would 50 to 75 percent of the ones I've seen in the 8x10's. Granted, afterwards I looked back at the piece and ended up rewriting quite a bit of it, so it wasn’t my finest hour, but no way in hell were there eight better plays than it out of the 28 submitted. So that was definitely a low point. But it was also a strong motivator, and I think I directly attribute my renewed focus in the last few weeks to that rejection.

As for the pluses: I’ve had several recent and upcoming productions, including two more international ones (which means I’m up to 4 continents!): theaters in Paris, France and in suburban Chicago are putting on Exit Strategy this summer, and a theater in Adelaide, Australia did “Breakout” (picture). I’ve also had my first restaging: Deer Park High School in New York put on “Duo,” eight years after their first go-round. Other ’22-’23 productions included “The Sign” in Maryland, “I, Phone” in New York (Rockaway no less), “Roadkill” in New Jersey and “Bad Necromance” in West Virginia. Which means I will have had productions in 21 states. Almost halfway!

Further posts as events warrant! If I go to 8x10's this weekend I will likely have some choice words to add.

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