Monday, June 25, 2012

"My Letter To Fear" Inspires Conversation, Creates Connections...

A couple of years ago my friend Patricia Steffy let me in on a little secret: she was a blogger, too. Only, her blog was written in secret, under an alias, and exaggerated slightly for comedic and narrative effect. It started out as a very real and raw way for her to explore a past relationship and the still-present marks it left for her future, but occasionally it diverged into commentary on issues that piqued her interest in current events or celebrity happenings. She first told me about the blog, "Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths," about two years after she started writing it. The night I learned of its existence, I went back and read every entry to catch me up to the day, and then subscribed to her updates so I could read her new pieces immediately. I was so inspired because at that point, my own blog here was taking a tangent, and I was dealing less and less in my own personal stories. So rather than rectify that, I sat down with Patricia to flesh out a first season pitch for her blog as a web series centered on her "Kate Dating." The web series still has yet to come to fruition. Long story short, we have kicked around many ideas for how to get it off the ground, including creating a half-hour cable comedy series pitch for the show, as well. But over the weekend, a version of the blog came to life in another, even more amazing way: as a staged reading charity benefit for the East L.A. Women's Center, thrown by the charity of which Patricia and I serve on the board, IBG Inc.


Though Patricia's blog and initial script dealt very specifically with one woman's relationship and dating concerns while living in this land of plastic beauty and ridiculous expectations, she incorporated additional elements for what ultimately became the script called "My Letter to Fear." Some pieces were still silly (anal bleaching, really?), and some were lighter in tone based on personal spin a particular actress provided (Jennifer Aspen especially made the serious "Worry" extremely accessible and fun), while others were deeply emotional and at times dark ("Shorthand" and "The Next Night" both dealt with abuse of various kinds). "My Letter to Fear" also incorporated actual stories from survivors who work with the East L.A. Women's Center, capping the afternoon off even more personally and poignantly.

Though while workshopping the web series, we often heard Patricia's words read aloud by friends helping out with table reads, "My Letter to Fear" was the first time they were ever fully performed. And thanks to the ten amazingly talented and gracious women who donated their time to partake in the event, said performance was extra special. Our headliner, Constance Marie, went above and beyond by getting into a few very specific characters-- including a 74 year old woman for one third of "Perspectives," in which three women of three generations wonder which is the true golden age, as well as "Gas Money," in which a woman who had a one-night stand finds a very special gift in her purse the next morning. 

I have to admit, "Gas Money" and other such "girl talk-y" pieces were my favorites. Despite being monologues, they sounded extremely conversational, and even if the topics (vajazzling!?) weren't something I personally obsessed over, I certainly know a friend or two who have. I think we all do.

I don't like to believe I am jaded beyond repair, but I know that I am certainly jaded. That is why, when I found myself standing in the back of the room yesterday, holding my camera still by my side instead of snapping photos, just completely lost in the moment and immersed in the words, I knew "My Letter to Fear" truly was something special. A piece I had read a hundred times and heard aloud a couple had caught me off-guarded, anew, simply by that extra something the women of the reading brought to the words. I am a writer, so I know just how important it is to start with solid, strong material. A show will suck without it, no matter how talented an actor may be; you can't polish a turd or whatever that expression is. But when the words are already good, and you bring great actors in to bring them to life, the result is magical. 

"My Letter to Fear" was designed to feed the soul of the women in attendance-- to lift them up and remind them just how much they're worth-- but it inspires the artists, too. I wouldn't be surprised if a few women who never sat down to write anything that wasn't school or work assigned went home last night and felt a deep desire to tell their own stories anyway they knew how. I've already begun telling my story, and I felt that powerful pull. This event, exactly as we hoped it would, stirred conversation; it created connections. More than ever, it gives me great hope that Patricia and I can actually (finally!) get that web series off the ground!

And honestly, among our "My Letter to Fear" cast, I think we found our "Kate!"

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