ending 2011by Jeannie Barroga on 12/30/11
December 30 -
Okay, this is and isn't about BUFFALO'ED, and the whirlwind ride that it's been in itself -- but about a whole year. I admit I'm not good at FB'ing or Twitter or Skype -- that takes the brain power that, given a choice, I'd rather just write. Here's one anecdote from the BUFFALO'ED Workshop this month:
JP, the helpful community outreach guru, Fil-Am, who graduated in June, witnessed by Producer/Artistic Director Randy and Managing Director Cathy, sat quietly, as usual, the second Workshop night. Director Tony, Dramaturg Norman, and I were discussing the use or 'weight' to the phrase 'High Yella'. If anything, this play is a lightbulb on what different groups consider known 'in the culture' vs audience's take on 'the world of the play' and even in our own varied life experiences. Tony said the audience WOULD know the term; I said, not all them would. I turned to JP and asked, "What is High Yella to you?" He was silent, and I quipped, "Case in point." But JP offered, "Someone Chinese?" Okay, truth be told, back in my naive day, I'd have thought the same thing...
But I'll move on to sort-of related items, about the play, its message, my role as a writer:
Without much more detail, this year I almost gave up a kidney. Timing, my own lab reports, and outright Fear all played into that NOT happening. Is it just me, or do we all think, that with some innards removed, we might actually lose weight?
That thought kept me in the Yes mode for awhile; then again, that same idea crossed my mind for, say, a hysterectomy. Oh, it's so NOT easy not to eat; what kind of quick, permanent action could keep my weight under, say, 100 pounds? Okay, 110...or 115.
I don't like doctors, dentists, and un-oriented receptionists. Please: I don't mean non-Asian, I mean the ones you ask the time, and they blank, so what can they possibly advise me on weight loss for kidney surgery or a hysterectomy?
Mantra throughout 2011: I got to finish this play. So what do I do, in my spare downtime? I take on a few playwrighting students. I fill my brain with their what-if's and plots and premises, so I can skirt around the work that I need to do myself, and then JAM. It's a thrill. Ask my husband.
What else can a jammed playwright do, to free up brain cells, scatter them around a bit so the focus on THE PLAY gets a bit more distance? Be in ANOTHER person's play, no, add a MOVIE! The play was actually extracts from Karen Yamashita's 3-inch novel on the I-Hotel. I had a line about jingling balls (you had to be there.) The movie I AM A GHOST is written, directed, edited by H.P. Mendoza, and you don't even see me. That's why I agreed to take the role.
Throughout this time, I also presented Power Point exhibits on the BUFFALO'ED research I'd done; it seemed like the thing to do, share these little-known tidbits about a war that mainstream history books sum up in three lines. Besides Seattle in 2010, I spoke at the SF Library; UC-Berkeley's International House; Evergreen College; Foothill, and planned for the upcoming biggie in April, Stanford University Nitery sponsored by Asian American Studies. My husband is awed that I can do all this --I just, well, watched, outside myself, hands moving, brain calculating. You see, for most of 2011, I was in mourning.
My niece died in late March. There's war and violence inferred but not shown in the play; there's my wierd penchant for Unsolved Stuff that alludes to violence; of course, there's all the media like sfgate's front page single-liners. As world-wise as I think I am, nothing prepared me for such single-minded, targeted violence as the type Sarah experienced in her last moments.
Till the actual court case late April 2012 happens, no details can be shared. It's enough to say she was finally on her own, out from her parents' protection, employed, in love, in touch with her centered-ness. I had just been in a short film portraying a woman dying alone save for the visitor who takes it on herself to share strangers' sacred, last moments. If anything, the role enlightened me as to any visitor's acceptance of someone else's grief, to let it ebb and flow, and essentially neither comfort nor judge--just accept.
Sarah's death devastated me throughout April and May, and again in the Fall. Director, Producer, everyone was waiting for a revision of "BUFFALO'ED". By early May, I picked up the script again. All I did for two months was read. I read someone else's words, linger on some other writer's phrases. This was a need to clear myself of anything responsible. And one thing was the guilt over the last moments I had with Sarah, scolding her to make her own way to and from, that if she wanted to live on her own, then do it, fully, and without the habits that she took for granted under her parents' roof.
Simultaneously, I was directing a play with clients in recovery. Therapists and I all agree now that the process, given the clients' short stays, was too long, the skills demanding, and the interest constantly waning. There, too, was that looming layer of violence from clients' pasts and their attraction to, but control over, falling back on violence for some confrontations. The movies they liked glorified violence; it is part of the full American landscape. The play's historical research stamps that fact.
I re-wrote the scene between people grieving. I took the emotion I was feeling myself. It is my responsibility to do that, as a writer. That never seemed so much clearer than it has during this year in response to the death of my niece.
On top of it all, Sarah excelled in drama. To her memory, Seattle's Shoreline high school is dedicating their April 2012 production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT -- Art again reflecting on violence.
So, life beyond BUFFALO'ED is the ongoing interest here at the end of 2011. There's the really cool Blues/Jazz project for Richmond's East Bay Center for the Performing Arts; of course, more students; or, perhaps, a 'guerrilla' group.
I read this all back (try Apple's Speech under System Preferences). I wrote very little about writing per se; however, I think I said a whole lot about writers' roles.
Oh, about BUFFALO'ED Casting:)... for nine roles, it looks good for eight of them. I guess you'll have to wait till next year to find out the full roster of characters. Or just check back to see what other real-life plots bubble up. Oh, and bwt, it's our Anniversary tomorrow. Comments welcome.