Great Plains Theatre Conference. Nine days in Omaha. Spirited conversations with witty, articulate people from all over the country. Warm Midwestern hospitality. Lots of wine, good food and new friends. No sleep, quiet time or tornadoes. And I would happily do it all over again (but let me take a nap first).
When The Singularity was chosen for the GPTC, I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into. I’d never been to Nebraska. The conference dates included my ten-year anniversary with James. The only planes that fly non-stop to Omaha are tiny. I didn’t know any of the people who were going to be there, including the director and cast of my play.
Whatever fears I had were quickly washed away during the first breakfast at the hotel when I met the other playwrights. They were a welcoming group, and we had instant chemistry. Within a day or two, I felt like I’d known some of them for years. We fell into easy friendships the way you do when you’re a kid, spending the entire conference laughing, telling stories and supporting each other. A bit of magic in an otherwise indifferent world.
Intellectually, the concept of seeing three or more full-length play readings each day sounded difficult but doable. And it was, though I was surprised at how mentally and emotionally taxing it is to hear so many stories in a row. This wasn’t passive theatre watching. We were filling out response forms and giving feedback during the talk backs, and because we wanted to be supportive of each other we really concentrated on what we were listening to. My playwright’s brain was stretched from seeing so many new pieces that incorporated different themes, language and structure than the plays I write. I look forward to seeing how that exposure will impact my writing going forward.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the people who make the GPTC happen. I’ve never before had this sort of opportunity to let the day-to-day worries and responsibilities of my life go and just concentrate on something I love.
It was camp, for adults.
I received helpful and positive feedback after my reading that identified a few moments that could use some tweaking – changes that, once made, will hopefully help this play find its first production (St. Fortune, a theatre collective in NYC, provided the cast and director for my play – they are a talented bunch – if you live in New York, go see them perform)
an unfortunately named apartment building near the hotel
the tornado siren outside my hotel room – it sounded for about two minutes on the third night (around 1AM), and my heart almost made it all of the way out of my body via my mouth – I thought its cry meant there was a tornado skipping down the street and heading straight for my room – in fact, the warning siren will go off 15 minutes or more before a tornado might hit – freakout time comes when the siren continually blares (I found this out when I got dressed and went down to the lobby where I sat with the old folks and watched the weather radar until the threat had passed, quizzing them about how the sirens work and whether or not it was odd for tornadoes to be forming in the middle of the night) (it was)
just like camp, we were carted around in a big yellow school bus – interesting to note: this photo was taken on the first day of the conference – everyone is already bright and happy
the Friday night fringe festival took us to places all over the Metropolitan Community College campus, which I’d wager is the nicest community college campus in the country – it’s on the site of an old fort and is full of 1800s-era buildings with tall ceilings, ornate woodwork and wraparound porches (and probably a few ghosts)
in addition to the historic buildings, there’s also a bright and shiny new culinary institute – the chef/professors fed us delicious and healthy lunches each day, and they let the conference use their culinary theater for the fringe festival
I submitted a short play I wrote during one of the workshops to be read at the play slam on the last day of the conference – this lovely octogenarian agreed to read a part in my play, which caused her to say words she’d probably never uttered before (at least not in polite company) – it was a great feeling to throw something on stage that had been written in a hurry just a couple of days before – everyone was so supportive, I felt totally comfortable letting it all hang out
the mainstage playwrights and other special guests stayed on campus in some of the historic homes – porch parties organically erupted some nights, providing a break from the theatre and the chance for music and conversation – this was taken on the last night of the conference, which was bittersweet