It is October 3rd, 2014 and I’m trying to find stillness amidst the neon lights and bustling bodies of LAX. Two women nearby speak rapid French and I’m proud to say I understand a phrase or two. And, dagnabbit, I’d better.
Back in May when I was a (very) fresh CalArts grad, I had the pleasure of traveling to Saint-Etienne, a small city just a three-hour train ride from Paris. I’d been flown out to create an original play for student actors at L’École de la Comèdie de Saint-Etienne, one of France’s National Drama Centers. Both thrilled and intimidated, I picked up as much of the language as I could, filled a notebook with prompts, exercises and ideas and dove headfirst into a collaborative process unlike any I’d faced before.
I met with the students who were kind, curious and talented. My goal was to tease out common interests and strengths, then write something which was true to my voice, exciting for the actors and a worthy challenge to us all. I started out very ambitiously: there would be work in the room during the day, followed by pages of brilliance pouring from me at night. The translator would translate in the following morning just in time for rehearsals that afternoon. Enter my jet-lagged body, who would have none of this. I struggled, grasping and creating texts which weren’t thrilling. At all. And since body knows best, I had to hang it up. Focus shifted towards play. I decided I’d be a mad scientist gathering field notes and impressions. I used those impressions as the seeds for a piece I’ve been working on for the past four months.
What has emerged on the page is COYOTE COMES/BEAST THING, a savage dramedy set in a sleepy yet frighteningly dogmatic little town. Tomorrow we jump through time and arrive in France, with just a couple of days before we join the actors. Until then, I’ll be revising, strategizing and exploring with Rachel Park (director). Or, you know, battling jet lag.