5 Things I Learned in Iowa City

Graduate school is over in an eye-blink and I feel like I got here yesterday. When I made this blog, I expected to chronicle every single little adventure, but between classes, teaching, writing, and rehearsal, I was too busy living life to blog about it. So here’s three years worth of blog.

As I prepare to leave the cornfields and quiet intensity of Iowa, I reflect on the things I’ve learned, each with an accompanying picture of a cat*:

queencat

1. I’ve learned how to take criticism. I’ve always been proud of myself, and I think that’s important. An artist should believe in their own talent and present that confidence to the world. However, sometimes, like this cat, I felt a little too proud, a little like I was the Queen of Theatre and anyone who criticized me just didn’t understand. I’m more humble now. I listen to questions and confusion. I rewrite and rework ideas. I learn from my colleagues and understand that my writing is constantly changing and growing, and never perfect. Accepting this motivates me to work hard and keep striving, rather than resting on my laurels like this royal cat.

 

shy-cat

2. I’ve learned how to give criticism. Like the shy kitten in this picture, I can be a little scared about expressing what I really think. If I criticize someone else’s art, isn’t that almost like punching them in the face? Isn’t it a recipe for broken friendships and hurt feelings? In the Playwrights’ Workshop, we’re all friends as well as colleagues, and it was tough at first to speak openly and critically about each other’s plays. In time, I realized we’re all on the same team. We all want feedback because we want to learn and become better writers. Criticism isn’t an insult, but a compliment; it means we care enough about each other’s work to try to help.

 

kitten-teacher

3. I learned to teach. Much like this cat teaching other cats about geography, I taught six classes of undergrads while at Iowa. As a discussion leader, course designer, and mentor, I’ve pushed myself to be charismatic, creative, and organized. I learned how to connect with students with different strengths and weaknesses and help them excel academically. I also learned the power of debate and discussion, and how the clashing and mixing of different perspectives make an exciting, edifying learning environment. I’ve developed my style of teaching through practice, meetings with advisers and colleagues, and, often, channeling my father’s energy – as a sixth grade teacher, his focus and enthusiasm were good skills to emulate while trying to reach out to my adult students.

 

sleepycat

4. I learned to relax. Much like this cat, I was long overdue for a good nap after finishing college. I pushed myself to work hard in high school and college, motivated by a competitive spirit and an endless supply of caffeine. It was scary to think about three more years of school, and the responsibility and intensity waiting for me in my graduate program. But once I got to Iowa, my panicked, frenzied mind calmed down a little. Unlike pursuing theatre in a big city, the community here is quiet. Everything is a little bit quieter than I expected (except maybe downtown Iowa City on a Saturday night). Even though I was working hard, I took the time to get enough sleep, to learn new recipes, to appreciate a rare sunny day.  I learned that balance is more important than a constant frenetic energy, and that my work is vastly improved when I feel happy and relaxed.

 

Two-Kittens-Cuddling

5. I learned that life is hard and love is powerful. This hasn’t been the easiest few years for my family. I lost both my paternal grandparents while at Iowa, and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Managing my grief and anxiety with all my responsibilities hasn’t been easy, and there were some days when life felt pretty brutally unfair. By staying connected to family and old friends, and opening myself up to new friendships here, I filled my weary heart with love and support. I met my partner, James, here in Iowa, and he’s been my muse and co-adventurer on my journey. Life can be sad and terrifying, but, as these cuddling cats demonstrate, it’s always easier with friends.

I’ve had three productions and a million readings here at Iowa, and each time met new friends and collaborators. I watched a lot of shows on Netflix (easily justified as narrative and character research!). I laughed, I cried, I shoveled snow off my car. I’m going to miss Iowa, but I’m so excited about the future.

The plan right now is to move to Portland, Oregon, get a job, and become a part of the local theatre scene. I’m excited to meet artists and learn new ideas and to keep writing and working in theatre. I’m going to make more active use of this website and blog, to share the big events in my life and career. I’m also hoping to revise this page to include more pictures from the past – from productions or just photographs I take as I wander through the world.

See you later, Iowa.  (This kitten is waving goodbye.)

catwaving
 
* Cat pictures sourced from all over the big wide Internet. If I’m stealing your picture, let me know, and I’ll credit you!

http://www.tctwentypercent.org/

The Birth of Venus

by Lisa Meyers (world premiere)
directed by Claire Avitabile
October 8-23, 2011 – Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30pm
at the Cedar Riverside People’s Center Theatre in Minneapolis

425 South 20th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454

Betty is a transgender woman who has only two wishes in life: to become physically and emotionally female, and to fly a rocket into space. She befriends Ron, a goofy single father who breaks faces professionally, and Trish, a surgeon struggling to conquer her loneliness. Together they build doghouses, bake cakes, make Play Dough creatures and spaceships, and explore the depths of love and friendship in a play that mixes poetic realism with a touch of the fantastical.

This past May, Venus was produced at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, the weekend of the playwrights’ own graduation (yes, she is that young – and brilliant). 20% Theatre’s production will be the first professional (not educational) production of this play. Meyers is a two-time winner of The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival in Hollywood, CA. Her play, Respect for the Electric Field of Horses, was selected for the Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition in New York. She has also had two readings with RoaN productions in New York. Meyers will begin the University of Iowa’s prestigious MFA in Playwriting program this fall, and will actively be involved with this production.

Tickets: $12-$20 sliding scale; $10 Students/Fringe. Seating is very limited and reservations are strongly recommended – Reserve below or call 612-227-1188 or email tickets@tctwentypercent.org.

Graduate School & 20% Theatre Company Production

Two bits of exciting news:

First of all, I’m pleased to announce I have been accepted into the Playwrights’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and will be on the three-year path to an MFA in Playwriting. Iowa was my first choice for graduate school, and I look forward to working hard and developing as a writer.
UIowa

Second, The Birth of Venus, which is in rehearsals right now at Smith with an exceptional cast, will be produced in October at the 20% Theatre Company in Twin Cities, Minnesota. Details to follow, as well as additional information about the upcoming Smith production in May.

Smith College Sophian Article about The Birth of Venus

New article by fellow Smith college senior Angela Tosca discusses the recent staged reading and the upcoming production.

From the article:

In the inaugural installment of the Smith Theatre New Play Reading Series last Thursday, theatergoers had a chance to preview The Birth of Venus, which will be presented during this year’s Commencement Weekend. Though auditions for the final cast are pending, faculty member Normi Noel directed a talented group of actors through the staged reading, among them Annie-Sage Whitehurst ’11 as Betty, Meg Lydon ’13 as Trish and Hampshire College alumnus Rory Madden as Ron.

The play, the brainchild of Lisa Meyers ’11, is sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always magical and lighthearted as it follows a woman named Betty through gender reassignment surgery. As Betty’s relationships with her past, herself and her body evolve, so too do her relationships with her two closest friends, Ron and Trish.

The symbolism inherent in a play that deals so heavily with transformation presented on the occasion of her Commencement is not lost on Meyers. “It’s very symbolic,” she said. “It very much marks the end of my Smith career.”