Retreating for the Summer, but Not Heading Backward

Theater

I was assigned to the Tony Kushner room. No pressure.

Step one: commandeer all of the office supplies I can lay my hands on.

Step two: organize the multicolored index cards into neat little stacks.

Step three: arrange the pens alphabetically by brand.

Step four: write a musical comedy. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that for most of the residency I struggled with impostor syndrome. But if there’s any place on earth to be racked with profound insecurity, it’s the Ground Floor. Everyone was fantastically supportive. There was always hot water for tea, always a moment to chat, always an abundance of office supplies to commandeer and categorize.

My graphic memoir was — and still is — a work in progress, so adapting it into a musical comedy was a bit like trying to walk a tightrope strung between swaying trees. Both projects were in flux. On good days it meant I’d find a new footing on one that also stabilized the other; on bad days it meant I was thrown for a loop. But it’s a testament to the serene atmosphere of the Ground Floor that my faltering never felt like failure. I was allowed to tentatively, haltingly, find my process.

Step five: glom onto brilliant role models.

Cartoons are created in isolation. Theater ain’t. By the end of my two-week stint, I had a rough outline, a song list, a few sketchy scenes, but most importantly a wealth of inspiration from the other resident artists — Alex Borinsky, Dave Harris, Vanessa Garcia & Vicky Collado, Shaun & Abigail Bengson, Sarah Gancher, Emily Feldman, Julia Izumi, Sanaz Toossi, and Itamar Moses.

Step six: let’s all break legs.

ImageoakImage-1567090677517-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscaleLM FeldmanFresh Ground Pepper BRB Retreat

Dear M,

O. K. so first: we 16 artists sleep in a row of converted horse stables. It’s strangely cozy, and there’s a thick canvas flap that hangs in the front that you can let down or tie up. Beyond the flap is a looooong wooden table with chairs, candles, wildflowers, and artists. It’s a rustic, intimate, co-working space in rural Pennsylvania where we talk low and feed off the focus and buzz of the art-making right next to us. Nature sounds abound: cicadas, frogs, crickets, rain, thunder, leaves, footfall.

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