I learned a lot from my time with the Neos and being in Too Much Light (TML). Being with them again, reminds me of how much I've forgotten.
# Writing With Urgency
When I first started with the Neos, I'd write these things that were, I suppose, philosophically interesting and--if I might have hope in my old self--timeless.
Well, the problem with that is one could almost say, "We can always produce that next week."
Thus, my plays were not getting picked not just because I didn't champion myself (which I'll get to later). They didn't get picked because I wrote plays that did not need to be performed.
Rob Neill, who I credit with so much of my theatric development, let me know that I needed to write plays that had to be performed now... as in right now or they'd loose meaning.
What he was talking about was writing a play whose shelf life is limited and embracing the ephemeral quality of TML.
So I started writing plays about current events, plays about the now, plays--that if they weren't picked that week--would have a shorter week of life.
# Directing With Purpose
Despite a number of character flaws, I used to really not like directing.
Being responsible for performers is a lot like being a cat owner... especially the bit about cleaning the litter. In this case, it's more the emotional litter; but you get my drift.
A funny thing happens if you don't have a solid plan on how to direct your play in TML, since the company doesn't have the luxury of organically developing a play, someone will start directing for you. Sometimes, it's through friendly suggestions. Sometimes, someone literally starts giving directions to people. Yeah. That happened. And I learned a lot from that.
Sometimes, I'd have a plan. I'd go into my rehearsal minutes with a strict, concrete vision of what I wanted. I had people run it in rehearsal. And you know what happened? It made no sense. None. One of the best lessons I've ever learned was when Justin Tolley (who has one of the most amazing directorial eyes I've ever encountered) asked me, "How do you want your audience to feel?" My answer was, "I don't know."
So later, when Jenny Williams asked me why I write the plays that cast myself and vis-à-vis humanity in such a negative light, I told her that I want the audience to feel how I feel.
# Champion Myself
I, along with many artists, downplay ourselves. I think that this behavior originates from a lot of places.
Part of the weekly process is to propose (read: pitched) plays for the rest of the ensemble. Based on that pool of plays proposed, the ensemble picks which new plays are produced. The catch is that you can't pick your own play. That means you have to believe in your vision so much that someone else decides that they want to see it realized on stage. If you don't become a champion of your vision, no one else will, and you will never have anything on stage.
I'm not sure any one person taught me this lesson. I think I learned it by watching my fellow Neo. I learned it because they got me--a normally skeptical, discerning guy--to believe in their work. I saw them handle their work with care, not tossing away words or stage actions because each of those things contribute to the vision and meaning of the play. Every single Neo I ever performed with taught me--that since they believe in themselves that much--I, too, am a Neo and my artistic vision has worth.