Over the summer, I took an absolutely amazing playwriting workshop with Melinda Lopez at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and was excited to take part in a reading with an array of impressive talent from students in other workshops. Usually I get really bored at readings, but this was really nicely put together and organized by Cyndi Wish and the Summer 2012 interns. And I don’t say this lightly: there was some real heavyweight talent. We were all only allowed to read 1 page double spaced, which I thought was great because I didn’t have anything longer than that ready! The plays I had written all had American characters and I sound like a Texan or from the rural South whenever I put on an American accent. Plus, for my first reading since my MFA read, I wanted to keep it classy. I went a little overboard with swearing in my plays. But it was so much fun! I did, however, want to show everyone how classy and refined I am (this is where the inside joke of me being a gentleman writer began). And the best way to do just that was by wearing shorts and a Fresno State Bulldogs t-shirt while reading a story about a violent death. No swearing though.
This is a short story, “Beautiful Country,” that has undergone quite a lot of transformations, I find it amusing that I still kept the title. Originally, during my MFA when I first wrote it, it was the story of two guys – one of them was a student (sigh, yes in an MFA workshop) and he goes to meet a friend from China. Then, specifically for the reading, I drastically changed it to a man dealing with the death of his wife and suddenly he had two daughters by the second paragraph. I reworked it significantly, squeezing an actual story out of it for my first submission at the CUNY Writers’ Institute workshop with Matt Weiland, and added a layer with sections of the Cultural Revolution that Matt promptly called a structural, “mess.”
While I didn’t convince anyone I really was much of a gentleman, as I watched this video again I was quite impressed by how I managed to pronounce all of my ts! Stay tuned!