Madhuri’s Prospects (according to Megan, who’s right about a lot of things)

Madhuri Shekar, performing her own monologue of a woman that pretends to be pregnant

Madhuri Shekar, performing her own monologue of a woman that pretends to be pregnant

Madhuri Shekar is going places. I actually always knew this. Ask my mom. I told her so. But recently, other people have come to know it too, which is really exciting. Madhuri’s thesis play, “A Nice Indian Boy,” won second place in East West Players’ 2012 Face of the Future Playwriting Contest. And her play, “In Love and Warcraft,” won the Kendeda Playwriting Award from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, which includes a couple of readings leading up to a full production in their season early next year!

There are a few reasons I’m excited about this. First, I kindof feel like Lena Dunham. Not in the hyper-successful, controversial “it-girl” kind of way. But in a recent article, she was talking about her new (new?) boyfriend, a rock musician, and how she’s not gonna do the typical starlet thing, be demure and secretive about their relationship, because really, he’s great and her best advertisement. I think that was the basic jist. Well, Madhuri (and Zury) are my best advertisement. It’s hard to explain why Madhuri winning this big deal award (and beating me, I might add) was an ego boost, but it was. Sometimes I know I’m a writer because I write and talk writing with these two.  So… watch out, Lena Dunham. Madhuri’s coming for you. And I’m her guitarist boyfriend.

Another even bigger reason I’m excited is that I’m always excited to see or hear Madhuri’s work. A full production of “In Love and Warcraft” is going to be the most delightful night of theatre ever. That’s the word I’d use for Madhuri’s work. Delightful. She clearly has so much fun writing her stories, and because she’s good, that means fun for all of us. Our professor used the word “exuberant” at one point. Okay. I guess that works, too.

Madhuri’s plays stick with you. She can write a funny scene, whether it’s two sweet Indian parents trying to decipher the movie Milk, or a romantic reconciliation inside a video game, or an OCD monkey pooping out a wedding ring.  That last image is not from “A Nice Indian Boy,” I’m sorry to say. You won’t be seeing that in May. You will however get a rich, funny, hopeful story about marriage and family and love, in its many forms, and food, and tattoos. It’s a great play from a great writer. And when you all love it, I’m gonna be super proud.

MEGAN E. KELLY—FREAKY SECRET OR SECRET FREAK? I DECIDE.

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*Megan Kelly & me (Zury M. Ruiz) in San Francisco during Thanksgiving break a year ago. This would make an awesome engagement photo. Just saying.[Picture taken by Madhuri Shekar]

It’s really fun for me to be able to write about my friend and fellow writer, Megan Kelly because I get to make up a lot of stuff. Stuff like– Megan was engaged to a hunky Russian astronaut but left him for somebody better. Better than a Russian astronaut?! Oh, yeah, Megan did that. True story… Okay, no, but I predict it.

But seriously, the reason I feel I have to invent is because Megan is an enigma to me. Just when I think I’ve got her pinned down she goes “Nah-ah, trick!” and kicks her way out. You see, I had already written Megan off as dainty, and in a lot of ways she is (hardly—if ever—curses, is first to volunteer, and she baked a cake for me on my birthday—Aww, shit!) but in a lot of ways she isn’t. Case in point: Her writing. As part of our program’s New Works Festival, Megan wrote and developed her play: “The Solace of St. Marks” (pretty striking title, right?), a play about a congregation trying to keep their church, and faith, alive during a time of financial struggle. Walking into the black box theatre, made to look like a church, one felt that they had to be respectful, quiet, serious, even, that is, until we open into the first scene. In a pre-Lent celebration, the congregation dresses up as religious figures, though they’re far from the part as their own awkward, messy personas seep through. The result: hilarity. It was so unexpected of a play dealing with this sad but relevant topic. An unexpectedness only Megan could bring to life.

For this, her final New Works Festival, Megan is developing her play “And All the Trees Shall Clap their Hands” (yet another striking title!) a piece about an up and coming comedian, Sarah, who must negotiate between her two fulfilling but seemingly distinct worlds of comedy and Christianity. From our previous post, Madhuri so clearly stated that while she and Megan work closely together I am mostly out of the loop, so my introduction to this play was two weeks ago during an in-class reading with our professors. Once again, Megan managed to blow my mind. I am most amazed by the comedians that have influenced the lead character, Sarah, and in turn Megan herself. YOU like that kind of comedy?” I found myself thinking of Megan, but of course a secret freak would, and in this play she doesn’t make it her freaky secret. It’s all out there. The language, tone and characters of this play are written honestly and open. It’s personal for Megan, like it’s personal for Sarah—there is much more to them than the worlds they are trying to marry (or at least make cordial acquaintances).

I am excited to see the development of her third year play. I am excited to see whom she leaves the hunky Russian astronaut for. Both will be wonderful, I know it.

 

 

Table read

Zurylighting

Zury, in sexy lighting.

We had our first table-read of Zury’s thesis play last night, and you guys- it was amazing. I’m so excited. Our professors called it “Cheech and Chong meets Dexter”. At points we had to stop reading because we were laughing too hard. It’s going to be the funniest, weirdest, sweetest play about illegal organ harvesting that you will see this year.

(Zury, don’t punch me.)

Megan and I typically can’t get through a draft (or even go ahead with an idea) unless we talk it out completely with each other, and so while we’re very familiar with each other’s work in all its stages, Zury works alone. And so we won’t really know what she’s up to. She’ll work on an idea and live with it, and emerge a few months later with a story that is absolutely delightful and funny and surprising- like herself!

Last year we had a staged reading of Zury’s play ‘Señorita Monthly Juice’ (just as amazing as it sounds) directed by Jesus Reyes of East LA Rep, and I’m sure everyone who was there will remember it as one of the best readings they’ve seen, not just at USC, but anywhere. It was a delightful wicked, uproariously funny satire, and last night our professors said that this new play was similar, but had even more depth to it.

Basically, it best represents Zury as she is, and I can’t wait to see how this play develops over the course of this semester. I can’t wait for everyone to see it up on its feet in May!

We started a blog

Hello All!

We’ve started a blog. Who are we, you ask? Madhuri Shekar, Zury Ruiz, and Megan Kelly. The graduating writers in the MFA in Dramatic Writing program in USC’s School of Dramatic Arts.

We’ve started a blog, well, because…

1) We like each other. Well, I like Madhuri and Zury. Wait for their posts, count every fifth letter, string them together backward, and it might just spell, ‘Eh, Megan’s okay. I guess.’, or in Zury’s case, ‘I secretly hate her.’… Even still, these are my two favorite playwrights around. I love their work. I love talking about it. We’d love a forum to get interested parties as excited about our work as we are, because…

2) We’re neck deep in re-writes of our thesis plays that will culminate in May in a series of professional readings curated by USC’s New Works Festival. Our first class was last week. My play was up. And if that first reading was any indication, I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I’ll leave it at that, so I don’t start hyperventilating. The long, often wrenching, (really not that wrenching, I’m sorry, that was pretentious), fun work of developing a play is of interest to you, Reader, because…

3) Well, it really could be any number of reasons, depending on who you are. It’s of interest to us because the new plays we love always invite us into the writer’s brain (and heart), whatever the story. It’s one of the things theatre does best, we think. So, inviting any of you into the development process—in a contained, entertaining way, of course—or inviting you into the last semester of a graduate playwriting program is kinda in line with what we believe theatre is and can be. Boom. How’s that for pretentious?

Seriously, though. If you choose to keep up, you’ll find thoughts on what we’re reading and writing, theatre we see, TV we watch, insight from our instructors, a whole lot of random stuff that inspires us. Hopefully, Zury will post some wild visual art that’s informing her writing in super crazy and esoteric ways. (Madhuri and I wish we were that cool. Truly.) I’ll be thinking (and posting) a lot about the stand-up comics I’m seeing—I told you it was wrenching work. I don’t know what Madhuri’s gonna do, but trust me, it’ll be funny and interesting and heartfelt.

Check out the About Us section for little bios and synopses of our plays. This next week we’ll introduce our thesis plays to you a little bit more. Then, we’ll be off to the races. I can’t believe Madhuri and Zury made me write this first post. God, I hate them. Especially Zury.