It continues. Diary of a queer black writer

I can’t make any promises. I’m actually really bad at keeping them. But I want to aim for something.Typically when I write down what I’m aiming for, I look back at my scribbles and published text 3 years later only to find I didn’t actually complete my intentions. I accomplish a lot. I’m not a complete slacker. But I often don’t hit the goals I say I want to hit. I usually hit the goals that are closer in reach. You, know, like when the job you thought you might not want calls you back, and you realize they just want you to do something you are already good at doing for free, but they will actually pay you.

I’m rambling. I’m a rambler. I guess I’m writing here not to say what I want to accomplish, but to document what I did accomplish. About a year ago I whispered to myself that I would write another eLLe play. A play I had felt so disconnected from for years. Here’s the thing: I began writing eLLe in 2009 when I was in a very confusing relationship with an extremely close friend. Except that we weren’t in a relationship. We slept together. We picked out furniture together. We painted a living room. We shared a car. We spent every night cuddled into each other. But she insisted she wasn’t gay, and I only felt myself growing queerer. Everything I had been holding inside was spilling out out me in this inky gay liquid that became the first script of eLLe.

Like every other lez, gay, queer, questioning young person out there with cable access,I had been indulging in The L Word. And while many people have a critique of the show as unrealistic, it was the only show I knew that made me feel completely normal. That show, despite the terrible ending to the 6th season, gave me the confidence to write about the romances I had scribbled down and thrown away. I had written a entire half of a novel in high school about a young girl discovering her sexuality. When I worked for a Christian missions organization one summer I convinced myself I should throw the novel out. It had become an obsession I reread and added notes to and sometimes masturbated to well into college. I didn’t see myself as gay. But I knew I was a big part of the character I had created in this novel. It was a character within myself that at the time I thought was holding me back from being the best Christian possible.

So what did I do?

I dragged the file into the trash can on my old macbook. I have no way of getting it back, and yet I turned out to  gayer that ever and pen new characters.

This week, I penned eLLe 8. The eighth edition of my play series based in Kalamazoo. I live in Detroit now. I must admit I feel sort of like a poser for writing about a city I’m not nearly as connected to anymore. Yet, Kalamazoo still feels like home whenever I visit. I still have been to more Kalamazoo Prides, more poetry reading, spent more nights at their gay club than I have in any other city. Even my hometown Detroit.

Nevertheless, eLLe 8 is out. And one character I’m excited about it Naya. Naya is the part of me most people don’t get to see. The one who talks a good game, but in desperate times is quick to fold in order not to sink in her own ambition. Naya will scold her friends and lovers for settling, and then succumb to the same weak offers she warned them of. Naya will let all of the respectability rhetoric spew from out-of-line lips to hone in on the least offensive part of offense because it’s what relates to her the most. Naya is selfish in her interest. She’s pro-black. She’s pro-queer. She’s pro-woman, and in all her pros, she still falls short. She’s quick to criticize, but easily caves if she thinks it’s the best shot she has. She’s poetic in her explanations of failure. She is desperate in her need to be loved. She is fearless in her persuasion to be touched. She’s some of my deepest insecurities, ugliest truths, and strongest desires.

I am in all of my characters. That’s what keeps eLLe authentic for me. The women of eLLe are women I know. Most of them are puzzle pieces of myself fitted someone else’s ambitions, relationship, job, age, identity. eLLe reminds me of how honest I have to say. I must cringe while I write and reread. Anything that feels too real is what I try to keep. I want the audience to shake their heads, clap, turn away, squirm, laugh at themselves, and want to walk out for me displaying them on stage without comfortable filter.

None of that is easy to accomplish as a black writer wanting to write women characters of color. I feel ill-equipped to write anyone who isn’t black and from Detroit. But as a playwright, I have to write my world. And it isn’t al black everything even if sometimes I feel that would be more comfortable.

But the script is done. And I hope you all (I’m assuming no one is reading this, but still) will follow the facebook page and meet the cast and enjoy the antics. If you lost your job, are job hunting, or recently accepted a less than stellar position that you thought was your dream job, then this is the episode for you to see. Don’t worry if you missed 1-7. You can jump right in!

 

 

 

New show coming

Since Summer 2010, eLLe has been continuing in the tradition of  “The L Word” with plays reflecting the show’s lovable characters, crazy plot and focus on lesbian, bi and transgender people.

In the words of our Jenny, “it has been a pleasure and a fucking nightmare.” But mostly a pleasure.

We have spent months scrambling in writers meetings, pulling together actors, rehearsing and finding new ways to get the word out about eLLe. We have done two plays and about 10 performances. We have thrown paint at each other at the epic Paint Party (organized by Kat Bishop to whom we are eternally grateful), hosted a game night (planned by the writing team and hosted by Jennette Maddock), given away tickets, put on staged readings and sent our audiences to after parties at local bars and to a T&A show (love that funny duo).

We want so much for this project to be a part of the community, so what better way to put that goal in action than to create Kalamazoo-based characters.

Rachel Reece, or Detective Reece as our audience has come to know her (played by Stephanie Stroud) has been fired for trying to hook up in her L.A. office. She decides to head back home to Kalamazoo. When she gets there, she finds her best friend, Mia (Laura Henderson), is not the same girl she left, her ex, Lynzie Peters, (Carly Fricano) has moved on, and the new lez in town, Jax, (Jacqueline Hopper) is taking over her territory one girl at a time. Meanwhile, her friend, Lane, (Sarah MacLean) is having trouble finding love and tangled in a romance with a married woman. Her sister, Carrie, (Katie Houston) is concerned Lane’s picky criteria will leave her loveless forever.

Prepare for comedy and drama as we tackle life in Kalamazoo March 25 and 27. Also, look for a special performance from singer Jess Lynn Michaels (Abbie Maikowski). Friday night will be shared with Pulse and feature poetry before the show, so come on time. It will be packed!

It all starts at 8 p.m., $7 or $15 for VIP (includes access to open bar). Look for updates and further details on facebook. Search “elleKalamazoo.”

Auditions

We are auditioning for another chapter in an original play called eLLe based on “The L Word Series.”
Tentative showdates: March 25, 27, 31, April 1, 2, 3.
The play series has already had three showings of previous episodes and has packed the house, but now there are all new character. A role in this show could lead to a role in future episodes.

eLLe auditions are Tues, 2-15, at 8 p.m. at Fire at 1249 Portage Rd., and Thurs, 2-17, at 8 p.m. at the KGLRC, at 629 Pioneer St. Below are descriptions of roles we’re looking to fill.
Carrie – A therapist who works with youth and is in a committed relationship, mature, playful and caring.
Jacks – Talent agent, laid back, heavy competition for Rachel Reece.
Lynzie – Reece’s ex, obsessive, lively, clingy.
Izabel – Bi-curious in a heterosexual marriage, mature.

NO MATTER GENDER EXPRESSION, BODY TYPE, RACE — ALL MAY AUDITION.
We also are looking for actors with musical talent who sing, play in a band or play guitar/piano etc. solo.
All auditioning must be OK with playing a lesbian, may have to kiss someone and should come knowing their availability during the end of February and the month of March.

Episode teaser:
When Rachel Reece is fired from her job as a detective, she’s sent packing from LA back to her hometown of Kalamazoo. What she finds is everything isn’t as she left it. Her best friend Mia seems frazzled and distant, and her ex-girlfriend Lynzie is swooning over another woman. Meanwhile, when Lane’s sister starts prying at her luck with love, Lane decides to revisit a friend – a married friend. This new chapter in eLLe introduces all new characters, romances and friendships built in the spirit of “The L Word.” But this time, it’s on your turf. Don’t miss episode 3 coming this spring!

‘eLLe’ update

The first showing of episode 2 of “eLLe” went great. Thank you so much to the cast, crew and writing team for putting this show together.
A special thanks to Sarah MacLean, the fabulous director.

There are still three more chances to see the show:
tonight at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $7 or $15 for VIP, which includes access to the open bar and requires and ID.

Come out and support at Fire, 1249 Portage Rd.
Doors open a half hour prior to showtime, during which tickets may be purchased at Fire. You also may buy tickets online at wix.com/ellekalamazoo/watch.

Seating is limited, so get there early!

‘eLLe’ is back. Buy tickets now!

Not the magazine, the play.

Yes, episode two is coming Dec. 10-12 to Fire, 1249 Portage Road, Kalamazoo.

Performance dates:

Friday, Dec. 10, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $7 for general admission and $15 for VIP, which includes access to open bar and requires a valid ID showing you are of age.

Tickets can be purchased online at wix.com/ellekalamazoo/watch. Please arrive 15 minutes before showtime if you purchase your ticket online. You also may purchase tickets at the door from 7:30 until 8 p.m. the night of each show!

Episode 1 recap (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen 1)

Episode 1 kept the momentum of “The L Word” season finale.

Detective Rachel Reece, the lead investigator on the case of Jenny’s death, warned everyone not to leave town. This left Bette and Tina LA-bound and forced them to put there plans for New York on hold.

Jaime shows up to the police station, claiming she wanted to support the community in reaction to the untimely death of Jenny. But Alice felt Jaime was after her beau, Tasha, and physically attacked Jaime, prompting Tasha to say she wanted a break from Jaime and Alice.

Bette, Tina, Helena and Kit discussed Jenny’s death, but Bette’s not-so-sad-to-see-her-gone attitude had Kit questioning whether Bette had anything to do with the supposed murder.

Shane got down (well, almost) with Detective Reece, but their hot moment was haulted by a phone call that Max might be having his baby. Meanwhile, Tasha meets Jaime for dinner, and when Alice spots the two dining as she is driving by, she slams into a parked car.

Max suffers a bad fall on his way into the hospital, forcing the doctors to expidite his delivery and leaving them unsure of the fate of Max and the baby. Upon hearing this news, Shane is horrified, but a call from Tasha that Alice is on her way to the same hospital and isn’t breathing sends Shane over the edge.

A final heart monitor singing one monotone note leaves us wondering who died, how did Jenny die and who — if anyone — is responsible?

Episode 2 answers all of these questions!

A new site; a new show

 

We have a new website: http://www.wix.com/ellekalamazoo/watch. Visit the site, read about the show, see pictures and purchase tickets

The new show is almost here. If you missed the first show, you won’t want to miss this.

We will repeat the first show of “eLLe” as a staged reading, serving as a new experience of the show for those who saw it the first time, and a recap show for those who will be at the “eLLe” sequel (Dec. 10-12).

“eLLe,” the reading, will show for just two nights: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20 and 21, at 8 p.m.

This intimate reading will be at Fire, 1249 Portage Road. Wine will be served to those 21 and older who purchase a VIP ticket and provide a valid ID ($15).  General admission is $7. Following the performance will be a talk back with the cast and directors in which the audience will be able to ask questions and share reactions to the show.

Also, there will be a chance to win tickets to the next show.

Purchase tickets in advance at http://www.wix.com/ellekalamazoo/watch. Also, tickets will be available at the door starting a half hour before the show. Those who purchase tickets online should print their ticket and arrive at the show atleast 15 minutes before showtime. No refunds will be available.

Tickets to the December show will be available online beginning Nov. 22.

The next shows

Set the date. The next show is Nov. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. It will be a repeat of the first episode. Episode 2 will come December 10, 11 and 12. There is a new website in the making, but until then, join the facebook group at eLLeKalamazoo.

I’d like to thank you all

Thank you for your wonderful support of eLLe. We are so happy with the response and working hard on the next episode, which will be sometime in mid November. We will have an exact date soon.

Good news! We will have more show dates this time and you will be able to purchase tickets in advance online or through one of our fabulous actors. As always, you can make a donation by copying the link on the right.

We look forward to seeing all of you soon!

Come party tonight with the cast

Want to get to know the cast and paint the town red with us? Come to the paint part tonight. No, we aren’t building the set. We are just throwing paint, rolling in it and having a blast while Dj disobedience plays the tunes.$5 to paint and dance, $20 for access to the open bar. 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

eLLe – paint and production

‘eLLe’ attracts ‘L Word’ fans and features all-female cast

“eLLe,” a play based on the former Showtime series “The L Word,” is a show about 11 women — most of them lesbians — living in Los Angeles who have just experienced the death of their long-time friend, Jenny. Jenny, a self-indulgent and very troubled writer, managed to get everyone on her bad side prior to her death, making the police suspicious of foul play. The play runs Sept. 16-18 at Fire, 1249 Portage Road, Kalamazoo.

The play, written by Shawntai Brown, of Kalamazoo, began as an entry piece for an art school in California, but when Fire co-owners Michelle Johnson and Denise Miller got their hands on the script through a mutual friend, they invited Brown to stage the play in the former fire house. Miller, Johnson, Brown and friend Cecilia Gardner held casting calls for the show in early July.

The cast includes a talented bunch of women in their early 20s to mid 30s. Shane, played by Abbie Maikoski, is an androgynous player and girlfriend of Jenny. Jenny and Shane’s relationship had been on the rocks, especially since she had been cheating on Jenny with movie star Nikki (Katie Brems). Nikki also was the star in a film Jenny wrote that was being produced by Tina (Leigha Faith), life partner to Bette (Sarah MacLeon Nagle). Bette is co-owner of an art gallery and was accused by Jenny of cheating on Tina, again. Bette’s half sister, Kit (Ashnee Vonet), is a former alcoholic and co-owner of The Planet — a cafe by day and night club by night. Helena (Phoebe Kelly), the other owner of the Planet, swore Jenny out of her life for interfering in her relationship. Alice (Laura Henderson), best friend to Shane, recently realized her girlfriend, Tasha (Janai Travis), has fallen in love with a mutual friend, Jamie (Kathryn Bishop). Meanwhile, Max, a pre-operation transgender, female to male, is unhappily pregnant.

When Max goes into labor, the friends put their personal lives aside to meet Max at the hospital. When complications arise, Max isn’t the only one with something to lose.

This play is the first in a series soon to come. Each installment in the series will act as an episode of “eLLe.” Slowly, the characters from “The L Word” will fade away and make room for new, Kalamazoo-based characters. Codirected by Brown and Kelly, with assistance from Stephanie Stroud, who also plays the investigating officer in Jenny’s case, “eLLe” strives bring the essence of the Showtime series to the stage and fill the void the show left when the series ended. Honest lesbian relationships can be hard to find in the entertainment industry, but this show hopes to connect with the GLBT community while also appealing to non-GLBT people. We hope the show will promote peace and understanding while uplifting diversity.

The show, approximately 50 min in length, also will feature an open mic. Those wishing to participate may sign up at the door or on the play’s website lwordplay.wordpress.com. There also is a link on the website for those who wish to donate to this or future shows.

Doors open at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16 with the show starting at 10 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 with the show starting at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday Sept. 17-18. Tickets are $7 for all showtimes and can be purchased at the door on any night of the show prior to showtime.