6

Fifth Blogiversary!

I’m back from my whirlwind, 4-day trip to Nashville, just to say: happy fifth blogiversary to me.

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Another Year, Another Decade…

It’s official…I am thirty years old.

I spent most of my day at the ballroom dance competition. I met my partner last night, and even though we didn’t place, we managed to make it to the semi-finals in all 4 Silver Latin dances, and 3 Bronze Latin dances. I didn’t get any birthday cake, but I got a fish sandwich for dinner, a birthday serenade by my ballroom team, and a box from my parents containing a jar of peanut butter, a can of peas, two bags of Bissli, and two boxes of Bergers cookies, only available in Baltimore.

I think I will spend the last half hour of my birthday relaxing in my bed, and maybe watching some of my favorite Happy Birthday videos.

When there is love in the air, there is love everywhere.

53

My First Post as a 29-Year-Old

Kind of felt apt to follow up the previous post with this title. So how are you?

Today was a busy day, if anything. I woke up at about 8, stayed in bed until 9. Took a shower, then treated myself to a birthday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, greens, biscuit, and ice coffee at Short Stack, then went to see a panel at the South Asia Conference at the Concourse. Then headed across campus to my office to meet up with Jenna to talk about APO stuff, and after that, to the Semi-Annual Library Book Sale where $16.50 got me a brand new pile for my apartment. Once home, I checked my blog stats, read some blog posts, replied to a bunch of emails, and watched some YouTube videos. Following that, I had planned to run a few errands but ended up only getting to Metcalfe’s for groceries. Had no time for gym, so I went over to Hanna’s for a dinner she was preparing for me.

And let me just say, I was not expecting this.

I get to Hanna’s place, there’s a ton of people there, and even more show up, until we’re roughly 20. 20 people! We ate out back in her sukkah, and then sang and danced around the campfire. Hanna played keyboard, with Edi on sax, Ken on guitar, and Jennifer on the drums. I sang along with Baobei, Esty, Gidon, Bonnie, Bobbie, Jessica, and Andrea, while Haruki watched from the side, and Mohamed, Roger, Judy, David, and Larry watched from the sukkah (I think that’s everyone!). Andrea cooked most of the dinner, which was fabulous: chicken and rice, edamame, lentils, and veggies. And for dessert, Hanna brought out not one but TWO birthday cakes, an orange-and-lemon cake made by Judy, and a tangy, zesty tangerine cake by la Andrea. Judy’s cake was moist and warm, while Andrea’s was juicier, with a little kick to it. After hanging around the remnants of the fire with Baobei, Haruki, Bobbie, Roger, Jennifer, and Raimund (who showed up out of the blue), it was time to go home.

So now I’m sitting on my couch at 11:30 PM on my 29th birthday, Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Jameson invited me out to Plan B, but I might just call it a night, since I have to be up tomorrow around 7 and my bed is covered in books.

Thank you to everyone who made this normally anxiety-inducing day into an amazing one for me.

And for the last time until 2017…

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

31

My Last Post as a 28-Year-Old

So, here it is again.

It comes around every 365 days or so. In the East Coast, it’s already here, and it’ll be here in Wisconsin in less than an hour. My most favorite and least favorite day of the whole year; my birthday.

I’ve posted about birthdays in the past. I’ve had some good ones, some bad ones, some really bad ones, and this year it’s looking like my birthday’s going to be a busy one, but hopefully a good one.

So, in my last 30 minutes as a 28 year old, I am currently sitting on my couch, alone, watching too-loud infomercials about cleaning products in between tiny snips of The Golden Girls. My apartment is, as usual, a hideous mess. I just got home from dance class, after which I had a tea shake at Sencha. I’m still a little sweaty, and I’m wearing my black Fosse t-shirt, black pants, black socks, a bracelet, a blue bandana, and my gray APO quarter-zip. Along with me on my couch are various pieces of scripts, my gradebook, my phone, a box of tissues, papers to grade, some stickers, a fleece jacket and a red pillow. I actually did clean off some of the coffee table the other day, so there just the usual pile of books and some spare cash, plus a Starbucks from this morning, my meds, candles, and some other odds and ends. Other than dreading the dental work next week and being a little sore in my legs and hips from an hour of cardio followed by an hour of jive kicks (but a good sore). On my mind: how I’m going to get through all I have to do this weekend, working on my papers (writing and grading) – aww, cute puppies on TV – getting my lesson plan together for next week, figuring out what I need from the grocery store/dollar store, ATHE proposals, and dance routines.

Anyway.

I think I’ll finish watching this episode of The Golden Girls, then get myself some food and my third shower of the day (or first, of tomorrow), and then go to bed and do some pleasure reading.

Happy birthday to me. Send some love if you’re so inclined for the world’s newest 29-year-old.

31

This Day Is Your Day, This Day Is My Day

I turned 28 years old today, and it was hectic but otherwise completely unremarkable.

Just the way I like it.

A beautiful morning for some gym time, barely making it to Humanities in time to administer the midterm, after which Steffen and I sang the theme song from Maude (because, why wouldn’t you?). Then I taught 2 classes about commedia dell’arte, the highlight of which was during my first class when a student almost cracked his forehead open in an improv game, and then when I broke a piece of chalk while writing on the board, and then proceeded to lambaste the broken piece for not being a team player.

Then, when I thought things couldn’t get any better, my parents showed up (well, I knew they were going to), and then we went to dinner at Naf Naf and to the Union to see Arlo Guthrie in concert. Our seats were in the nosebleed section, but singing along to “Alice’s Restaurant,” “The City of New Orleans,” and “This Land is Your Land” with my mother (and Arlo, at the opposite end of the room) was one of the sweetest gifts of all.

I have been celebrating my birthday wrong all these years. It took me 28 years to realize this, but now I know how do it. It’s not about how I celebrate, or it being my day. It’s not even about growing up or getting older. It’s about being with the ones you love, and just celebrating life in general. For me, it is a happy birthday when the ones I love are happy being with me.

Quote of the day:

ME (to my class, after the commedia game): Good job everyone, that was fun. Did you have fun? Well, I had fun, and that’s all that’s important, because I’m a selfish person and that’s really all I care about.

Happy birthday, everyone everywhere.

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On Playwriting

Hey, look! It’s an actual post! At a normal time! How exciting is this?

I was going to go to the gym, but I had an impromptu meeting, and with not enough time to go before dance class tonight, I decided to give myself some peace of mind and come here for a bit. Tomorrow is my 28th birthday, and my parents are coming in, so it’s going to get busy, but this post is not about any of those things.

Today’s topic: playwriting.

I wrote my first actual, performable play at age 18, during my senior year of high school. In my school, seniors could choose elective-style courses for English, history, and science, and in my senior year, a new teacher offered a playwriting and drama course. I must have been daydreaming in class, because I heard something about “…writing a ten minute play…” and “…due Friday.” It was Wednesday, and when I got home that night, I had an idea for a short play, which I titled Confidential. I typed it up, printed it out, and absentmindedly handed it in to my teacher on Friday.

Monday comes, and the teacher asks to see me after class. He tells me that I missed the homework assignment (whoops) but he read Confidential, the play I wrote, over the weekend, and that it was “once of the finest pieces of student writing he’d ever read.” He also said that that was our final project for the year, so technically, I was done with the class and I got an A. I think this was in December or something. I got two people from the class to perform it, and then for the rest of the year, I got to either skip class or help other people with their writing during class.

I returned to writing plays around sophomore year of college, and though I wrote quite a few and some even won competitions, I “retired” AKA stopped writing plays for fun sometime around the year between Israel and grad school. I have been meaning to start up again, but I have been too busy with my reading and teaching loads, and blogging, to write any prose or plays.

One thing I have done, though, is teach others how. Sort of.

I firmly believe that there is no real way to teach playwriting. It’s trickier than poetry or prose, and not everyone can write a play, but it can be rewarding. I have taken several playwriting courses at the college level. Some were effective, others were not, but each class utilized a different approach. But by this point in my life, I feel like I have a better sense of what to do, and what not to do.

DO: Experience theatre. Before you write a play, read a few plays and see a few plays. Take notice of the dialogue, the staging, and the plot. If you are at a show, try watching some of it with your eyes closed and note the differences in the experience; what do you sense? What do you perceive? Where are the emotions, what is left unsaid, where are there pauses and why? Warning, though: the eyes-closed approach does not work when reading plays.

DON’T: Get a book from the library or bookstore on “how to write plays.” These books are mostly crap. Everyone learns and writes differently, and what works for that person who wrote that book may have worked for them, but it was not written for you. If you like learning by reading, read plays or books on theory, not instructional books. If you do, at least read more than one so you can cross-reference. I don’t swear by any book, but The Playwright’s Guidebook is a good starting point for a beginner, and Playwriting in Process could help the slightly more advanced playwrights, but don’t hold any book on playwriting as gospel.

DO: Start with an idea. An image. A problem. A historical event. Even just a line. And remember that inspiration comes from everywhere. I was inspired to write Confidential after thumbing through a baby name book (for some reason, I was obsessed with baby name books as a kid) and finding out that the name Cameron was Scottish for “crooked nose.” “Huh,” I said to myself, “well that’s interesting.” And later that night, that became the first line I wrote on the page. Seriously, I started out with this:

CAMERON: It’s Scottish for “crooked nose.”

So all of a sudden, I had a character, Cameron. Luckily, since Cameron is a unisex name, I could have either a male or female Cameron. I chose to make her female, and then I inserted a question which would lead to that answer, which ended up being someone complimenting her on having a beautiful and exotic name. Then, I needed some back story; who is asking her this question, and what’s going on around them? The first thing that came to mind was “job interview.” So now I had two characters – a boss and interviewee – and a situation. To expand even further, I wanted to know just why he was asking her this question. And then it just came to me, “because his ex-wife’s last name was Cameron.” And it kept rolling, until I had 10-11 pages of dialogue, and a whole story built around it. All because of a crooked nose.

DON’T: Make the story/subject matter too big, or make too much backstory. You can’t write about everything, especially if it’s just a ten-minute play, and if you try to pack too much stuff in there, it just comes out like a cake with too many ingredients: a hideous mess. One of the worst plays I’ve ever read involved medieval England, botany, biology, zoology, astronomy, the priesthood, religious heresy, puppetry, suicide, revenge, and sexuality – and that was just the first act! Needless to say, the play took 3 hours to read and it made absolutely no sense, there was no story there. There were some poignant moments, and some moments of comedy, but it was just a mish-mosh of words and situations and way too many characters. Too much backstory is also an issue; I knew a playwright who wrote an entire page of backstory for each character before the text of the play, including everything from the character’s birthdate to their eye color to their profession to their views on feeding animals in the wild. Leave some things for the audience to figure out, and room for the characters to grow via the actors. And less is more, especially when it comes to casting. Unless you need to write a play for a specific amount of people, or an entire community, 1-3 characters are enough. 4-6 are plenty, and any more than 8, proceed with caution, unless you intend for the parts to be doubled. In that case, knock yourself out.

DO: Use good playwriting format. Be consistent with your spelling, especially character names. Separate and distinguish stage directions. Make it easy on the eyes.

DON’T: Write something just because someone told you to, write it the way you want to write it, or tell the person to write their own damn play. When making assignments for a playwriting class, make it specific as to the goal of the assignment (a monologue, a dialogue, a three person scene where it’s 2 against 1, a one-word-per-line scene), but any more than that and you’ll get frustrated writers writing things they do not care about.

DO: Look for the character’s voices. Look for beginning, middle, end, pacing, character development, plot, conflict. Don’t write sounding like you; get in the character’s head and write how they would talk. If it sounds too much like something you would say but your character wouldn’t, rewrite that line. Use language as action, and action as language. Make the story yours, but be open to criticism and rewrites if you’re looking for feedback or if you want it to get to production. No one likes working with the playwright whose words are individual drops of literary gold. Chances are, the more they think that’s the case, the more it’s not.

DON’T: Get discouraged; if/when you’re stuck, do something else. But if you’re on a roll, continue. Sometimes, if you’re having trouble deciding what comes next, maybe take a step back and ask yourself what would happen if you just ended this scene (at least for the moment) and moved on to the next one.

DO: Have fun doing it, because that’s the most important part! If you don’t like what you write, or you don’t like the direction it is taking, change it! Keep an open mind! And know when you’re finished, and celebrate with some chocolate chip cookies, or a sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free alternative.

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Wahoo! I’m 2!

It’s May 30th, 2015; today marks the 2nd blogiversary of That’s So Jacob!

Today was kind of a lazy, rainy day, so here’s a look back at some posts you may have missed this past year; they didn’t get many views at the time, but I think that they’re among my best posts.

Take a look:

3/3/15: Flip The Script: Hayavadana

2/14/15: Flip The Script: The Post Office

2/12/15: The Little Red Book of Mau Mau

1/25/15: Miss Universe 2014-ish, my semi-serious top 16

9/30/14: The Queen of Soul-ed Out?

8/21-29/14: Ronnie in Retrospect, and Part II

So, enjoy, friends!

Here’s to another great year.

I hope it won’t be the Terrible Twos.