Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back to meetings with the Connecticut Screenwriters

If you follow my blog and diligently read it when I shoot you an email notification, post it on facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter (hint, hint), then it's no surprise that I've been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride when it comes to my screenwriting. While I would have hoped to have the latest revision of my feature script Finding Patience done and at least two other scripts in my writer's pipeline, sadly I do not. Making the time to write and just write is a real challenge for me. Some how life, work, friends, and a bunch of other details manage to get in the way.

Around this time last year I was informed about a Connecticut screenwriting group that met at the West Hartford Public Library. After I found out about the group it still took me about two months before I showed up to a meeting. I believe I went to three meetings. That is the minimum you have to attend before you can submit your script to be in the queue (on the list) for review. I really enjoyed the meetings and being in the presence of other screenwriters who also want to get their script made into a film and make a living as a screenwriter. It was empowering. I learn and improve my own scripts by reading others and listening to the feedback of other screenwriters. I'm not sure why I dropped the ball on attending the meetings. I think some of it had do with gearing up for film festivals, planning a wedding, and realignment at work. I also probably didn't have the motivation.

This is how I feel sometimes when I sit
down to write.
For me it's like coming down with a cold. When I'm getting sick and I know I need to go see a doctor and nip it in the beginning but I don't. When the cold incapacitates me to the point that I can't do anything, then I finally seek help. I've been fighting this screenwriting cold (my lack of ability to sit down and do the damn work) and I've been chipping away at it for a while rather than going to a doctor. I decided that I needed to get back my mojo and felt like going to a meeting with the Connecticut Screenwriters was my doctor's visit. I think I was right. Click on this link to visit their facebook page, Connecticut Screenwriters.

Going to last night's meeting was invigorating. I realized that I've been missing a group to share and reflect with. The way the group works really allows the screenwriter to get in-depth feedback that will help in his/her next revision and the other writers around the table recive lessons learned too. I know I did last night. I will be applying some of the tips I heard to my own script when I go to revise Finding Patience this weekend. 

One of the screenwriter in the group has his feature script being reviewed by one of the industry's major agencies. I remember when I first went to the meeting and he won a screenwriting contest and was talking about his coverage (professional feedback on a screenplay). He's been going to the meeting for a year and a half, writing, and is starting to really see the fruits of his labor. I'm looking to make similar inroads but in order to get there I need to write and write a whole bunch. Kurt Sutter, creator of FX's Sons of Anarchy and The Sheild, wrote a kick-ass blog a few weeks ago entitled, Writers Write that also was a reminder of what I'm not doing. I highly recommend giving it a read.

I am glad that the Connecticut Screenwriters meet monthly. I needed to be at last night's meeting and it felt good to be back. Now I have to get this next revision done so I can be ready for the next cue or the one after that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Making Dinner at Sturbridge Village

Could you throw away the luxury of our modern day kitchen and cook a  meal for one evening with no electricity, gas, or oil heat?  No plastic cutting boards, just wood. No stainless steel and non stick pots and pans. Only an open fire, and a fire brick bake oven. Forget about any gadget or cooking instrument that has made your life easier in the past 100 years or so. You're probably saying to yourself, "Who would pay for this and why?"

Well, Karim and I, made up a group of 14 people that embarked on this unique experience of cooking dinner as early New Englanders did back in the 19th century. We can thank his friend Gabe for the evening spent making a country dinner at Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Gabe and his wife Sabrina participated before and invited us and some others to join them.

Our small group meet with Joanna, one of our hosts for the evening. She was dressed in traditional clothing that reflected the time period of the 1830s. Her hair was covered with a simple white bonnet and she wore a long dark cape that covered her long skirt and other layers of clothing. Before we headed to the Parsonege house where we would make dinner, we received instructions and safety protocols. The important things to remember was that the only light we had came from candles, so it would be fairly dark and that when we were removing items from the fire that we should always use pot holders, otherwise we were sure to get a burn.

Game table in the center of the room.
The night was cold and the wind was brisk.  I distanced myself from most of the group and stayed close to Joanna because I wanted to be the first one in the house. I was relieved when I stepped inside. The fire was going and it cut right through the cold. I was glowing from the inside out. There was a table in the center of the room with games and chairs around the perimeter of the room. I made sure to park myself in the closest chair to the fire. Our two other hosts were there waiting for us, they took are coats as the rest of group filtered into the room. Once we were seated we were told about our menu for the night. It included:
  • Pounded Cheese
  • Mulled Cider
  • Gourd Soup
  • Roasted Stuffed Chicken (stuffed with mashed potatoes) 
  • Beef Olives (thinly sliced beef with bread stuffing)
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Pink Pears
  • Dried Apple Cranberry Pie with Raisins
  • Butter Biscuits
  • Trifle
  • Coffee
We would prepare all of these receipts (recipes), as they were called back in this time period. One of the things that I enjoyed about the evening in addition to the cooking is that we got a history lesson about the processes and the formalities for why they did things the way they did. Each guest received a mug and was instructed to write their name on the bottom. After the mulled cider was done, we used our mugs to sip the delicious drink. I really think the mulled cider I had that night was the best hot cider ever.

Buttered biscuits rising by the fire.
We were then broken up into four groups to make dinner. There was a meat, vegetable, appetizer (pounded cheese), and a baking groups. Karim and I partnered with Gabe and Sabrina. With Joanna's assistance I made butter biscuits from scratch and kneaded with my hands. Joanna informed me that utensils like wooden spoons weren't used at this time so I decided to do as they did.

I enjoyed the process so much that I wasn't phased by the fact that we were cooking without modern technology. We had a pan of warmed soap water and a pan of warmed water to wash and rinse the dishes as we went along. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of work, but the experience itself makes the work enjoyable. I really understand why families had so many kids back then. I would have not wanted to handle all these duties by myself. Even if you had a husband, the work was a lot for just two people.

The best part of the night was when we sat down to eat dinner. It was amazing to see all the food that we prepared by hand. It was fabulous, absolutely delicious! Just thinking about the beef olives makes my mouth water.

Two people from our group working at their station.
In closing, making dinner at Old Sturbridge Village gets two enthusiastic thumbs up. I highly recommend the experience.  I warn you that it won't be a cheap night, but  you will get what you pay for. It's $85.00 per person and $75.00 if you're a member of Old Sturbridge Village. You'll receive great food, some history of the period, and have cooking up a storm.

For more information or to make reservations, click here Old Sturbridge Village.

It was fun to share this excursion with you. I look forward to my next one. Take care til' then.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

August Wilson's Piano Lesson at the Yale New Haven Rep

Hello all,

I know it has been a while since my last entry and I'm long over do. My motivation to write is in a down period and coming down with a bacterial sinus infection hasn't helped. I'm sluggish, tired, and just want to stay in bed, but rather than cave in to this cold, I'm going to tell you about the production of August Wilson's Piano Lesson at the Yale Repertory Theatre, www.yalerep.org/.

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of checking out Piano Lesson with my mom, Anthony, a co-worker of my mom, and Halima, a friend and fellow theatre enthusiast. I was a little nervous that the weather wasn't going to cooperate, but we ended up with mostly rain, a nice change from our snowy norm. I picked Tandoor restaurant, tandoornewhaven.com/, located at 1226 Chapel St, New Haven, Connecticut for our lunch. It's my mom's favorite Indian restaurant in New Haven. Not only is their food fabulous, but I like the fact that the restaurant looks like an old-school diner from the 1950's.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Piano Lesson, I've seen a couple of August Wilson's other plays and have enjoyed them, but when I heard the play was three and a half hours with an intermission, I had some doubts. It's hard to sit through a two and a half-hour movie at times, and I wasn't sure if the cast would hold my attention for that amount of time. I was wrong, so wrong. Kudos go out the cast of talented actors under the direction of Liesl Tommy. The cast did a superb job and although the play was three plus hours, it didn't feel like it. The characters moved me and their story moved me. I was locked into their world and their struggles and enjoyed every minute of it.

This Pulitzer Prize winning drama premiered at Yale Rep 24 years ago in 1987. It takes place in the city of Pittsburgh, 1936. When you walk into the theatre you will see a beautifully carved piano in the home of Bernice Charles. This piano, it's history, it's importance, and it's value is at the heart of the story. Bernice plans to pass this family heirloom down to her daughter, but Boy Willie, Bernice's brother has his own plans and wants to sell it for cash to by land in Mississippi that their family once worked as slaves. The Piano Lesson is an intimate story of a brother and sister struggle to embrace or deny the epic inheritance.

I know we all have busy schedules, but I would encourage you all to block out three hours of your time to catch this production. It's worth it. Performances runTuesday through Saturday and start at 8 p.m until February 19, 2011. You can also catch a matinee at  2 p.m. on Saturdays. This Saturday has a cast talk back after the 2 p.m. show (I also highly recommend staying for this too.). For tickets call the box office at 203.432.1234 or purchase online at http://www.yalerep.org/