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Stories I Tell Myself

December 18th, 2016 by wiseone

For all the artists who didn’t.

And all the artists who did.


This HowlRound article about motherhood and theater got me thinking, about the paths not taken, about fear, about motherhood.

I think about all the things I didn’t do and why not.  Here’s what I tell myself:

  • In college, I gave up acting for directing because of the fear of rejection.
  • I fell in love with directing.
  • I needed a full time job for the benefits. The one time I went without benefits, I broke my hand. So, I got a job with benefits.
  • I gave up directing because I couldn’t work a full time job and direct. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I started writing plays because they didn’t require the rehearsal time commitment, but being a writer requires self-discipline. I’m good with a deadline, but not self-imposed deadlines. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I didn’t pursue theater because I may want a family and I knew I couldn’t do both. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I didn’t have a family because it would mess with my theater and I knew I couldn’t do both. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)

Am I a reliable narrator of my own life? Read the rest of this entry »

Wake Up

June 12th, 2016 by wiseone

I wrote this post in 2012, but never published it. I just found it. Here it is, unfinished (I was going to write more about Jeanette Winterson toward the end of the post and of course wrap it all up in some fabulously pithy way, but I forget what I was going to say.)

My friend Mary Downing died this week. She was an amazing director. Since finding out, I’ve been flooded with emotions, feeling her loss on so many levels. We were inseparable in grad school, made more so when we did our theses as a joint project. We co-directed a season of lunch-hour plays. I grappled with Pinter while she tackled Durrenmatt. I played with silences and color while she made heroes of the insane. I learned so much from watching her in action. Everything was an opportunity for expression, no detail overlooked. (A pile of Christmas lights on a fireplace grate? Glorious!) Read the rest of this entry »

I Done Gone And Done It

October 6th, 2011 by wiseone

I started a theater company.

In the past, I’ve accidentally created a theater company (and you’re on its website!) And I’ve joined companies already in progress (thanks First Seen!) Of course, I’ve worked for others. But this is the first time I’ve intentionally done it. Started a company, ground up.

Every Sunday in October? That’s crazy! But it’s true.

Los Angeles, please welcome exAngelus Playwrights Collective. We must be real. Here’s the proof:

We’ve got a mission:

To serve its member playwrights by providing ongoing workshops, dramaturgical and administrative support and production opportunities – on the playwright’s terms.

And a vision:

Kyle T. Wilson, Katherine Murphy and Tira Palmquist begin the ExAngelus Playwrights’ Collective with a small but powerful idea:

     we will do it ourselves.

I’ll stop there. You can read the rest on our website.

The real proof: Read the rest of this entry »

Travelling to Tennessee

July 19th, 2011 by wiseone

Trying to remember when we started studying Tennessee Williams, I looked back at my email trails. The traffic started in January.  That means we studied Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III for nearly half the year.  Reading so much Williams, I felt like I was in grad school again. (To me, that’s a good thing.)  Some classics so great to be reminded of, some lesser known plays from the ignorable to the surprisingly different. (My favorite surprise was Kingdom of Earth (think Sam Shepard meets Tennessee.)) Read the rest of this entry »

What Makes a Friend?

March 25th, 2011 by wiseone

Part of my “Not Playwrighting” series…

What I know: My father was abandoned as a child.

What I believe: He was emotionally stunted because he was abandoned as a child.

What I know: Starting at the age of six, my grandmother sent my father to live with family and friends of the family, many of them unkind and interested in child labor.

What I believe: She shipped him off because my dad looked like his father (she kept my Aunt Iris with her.)

What I know: My father was three years old — I think — when his father left. I’ll verify this with my brothers. He saw his father once more, at a train station, when he was ten.

What I believe: (Simplified version) Because his father left when he was so young, whenever a man would befriend my father later in life, he never questioned their friendship. He was desperate for their companionship.

What I believe: People smell desperation. Healthy people are repelled by it and parasites are drawn toward it. Read the rest of this entry »

Writing on Not Writing

February 19th, 2011 by wiseone

Why can’t I finish my play? It’s never been an issue until this current play. I’ve never been prolific, but since I started finishing plays, I’ve never had nothing.

Of course, non-writers are chock full of advice. To them, I say, “Offer no advice, unless asked.” And writers who’ve never been blocked, please don’t tell me what you do.

I’m full of “oh, that won’t work” advice for myself. But one idea just occurred to me. People are always saying “write it out” in one way or another. Of course, when you are blocked, it’s like telling a depressed person to exercise to make them feel better. Ain’t happening. However, since I’ve been doing this silly blog thing, telling stories for myself and my five readers, I’ve been writing – just not playwrighting. So, here’s my thought… Use this blog to write it out… just not as a play. Read the rest of this entry »

Writing and addiction

February 13th, 2011 by wiseone

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and addiction lately. So much has been written on the subject, I should probably read some of it. But I’ll probably watch TV instead.

I quit Facebook because I was spending too much time there. I know to most of you it sounds like the most pathetic addition, but I’ve given up almost everything else. All that remains is coffee, TV, cheese, and the computer. Not necessarily in that order.

Photo by Lucas Gattuso, my hubby, taken in Wisconsin. Of course.

Reflecting on 2010 as one does at the beginning of a new year, I realized how I hadn’t written anything except maybe two scenes in a play I’d been diddling with for two years. And to write those two scenes, I’d had to retreat to Northern Wisconsin for several days specifically to write. My retreats are usually where I start or finish something. This time, I sat. No substantial writing. Then I thought again. Oh no, Murphy, you’ve written way more than two scenes. Think of all the status updates and witty comments to other people’s status updates. Think of the time and energy spent on pithy little nothings.

Since 2002, I’d finished a full-length play every other year.  2002: Greater America; 2004: To Hades and Back (Again); 2006: Drug of Choice; 2008: Word of the Day. And 2010 passed without finishing Box Store Cowboys. This has really been eating at me. I have no desire to work on it. And no ideas for something new. Is this because I’m numbing my brain with the Book of Face? Or have I been numbing my brain because I’m done writing plays and don’t want to admit that to myself? Read the rest of this entry »

Rule 62

January 11th, 2011 by wiseone

Flashback to Halloween 2010.

Luke and I were invited to a Halloween party of one his friends. Neither of us are big fans of parties, but felt mildly obligated and, well, heck, Halloween used to be my favorite holiday – still, I wasn’t feeling it. Until! I was on my way home and realized that I was wearing my father’s flannel. I had a stroke of brilliance (read: laziness): I could dress up as my father for Halloween! It would be simple and I could be comfortable. A pair of Luke’s beige pants, hiked up to my “upper waist,” white t-shirt, light colored shoes, my father’s baseball cap, and, voila, I am my dead father! Read the rest of this entry »

Dear 2010, Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

December 12th, 2010 by wiseone

Okay. I’m exaggerating.  It weren’t that bad.  I swears.

2010 just started crappy, with my dad dying in January. Mind you, the old coot lived way longer than he should have. It’s just, you know:  He was my dad. Sure, he wasn’t up for the “World’s Greatest Dad” award. It’s just, you know:  He was my dad.

I actually remember getting him a “World’s Greatest Dad” something or other from Spencers Gifts in Topanga Plaza.

And then there’s the fact that I was writing a play about my dad in his cooterage. A comedy. His dying went and put a damper on the play. The bastard. Can you believe he did that to me? Went and died while I was making his life make people laugh? (Please note: I am fully aware that I am sealing my own special place in hell by writing these words and those words.) In 2010, I’ve written all of one scene of that damned play. Okay, maybe two. But not much more. Since 2002, I’ve finished a play every other year. Until now. Because instead of writing, this year I’ve opted to watch the telly and play on the puter. 2010, the year of doing too much and doing nothing at all. (And whose fault is that, missy? You can’t blame everything on the old coot. Did he put that remote in your hand? Make you obsessively update FaceBook? I don’t think so. (Oh great. Now my mom is in my head. And I can’t believe my mom called him “the old coot!”)) Read the rest of this entry »

Very First Famous Last Words

November 28th, 2010 by wiseone

designed by my loverly hubby, Lucas Luke Gattuso

I moved to Los Angeles at the end of 2005. Since then, I’ve taken improv classes all over Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until I found a home at Impro Theatre and only after studying there for a couple of years that I got back on stage. And now you can’t stop me…

My first foray onto the LA stage and back to long-form and was Jane Austen.  And next I’m performing long-form and genre-free.  We — Famous Last Words — will be performing a diptych at The Lab at The Hollywood Improv.

Perhaps it’s cuz I’m an improv whore.  Or, more correctly, an improv john, for I pay for it often.  Maybe I’m an improv junkie. Always needing a fix. I don’t know what you’d call me, but I know I can’t get enough.

But I digress…. Read the rest of this entry »