Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

What a crazy, mind blowing year 2009 has been. A bit rough at sometimes, really tough most of the time and occassionally really awesome.

Here are the highlights:

Nick and I rang in the New Year together in Washington, D.C. with our wonderful friend Carmel. We drove to NYC the next day (Nick's first trip there) where we saw Patti Lupone in Gypsy on Broadway. What a wonderful way to kick start the year.

A week later I was off to Philadelphia to perform as Piero in Robin Reese's production of Charles L. Mee's Big Love at the Merriam Theatre, thanks to the American College Theatre Festival who had brought our show from Penn State to the city of Brotherly Love. Good times were had by all and I saw some amazing theatre.

In addition to teaching three classes at Penn State for the spring semester, I started teaching two online English classes for Griffin Technical College in January. The experience really helped me become a better teacher - and to keep connected to my Southern roots.

In February, my friend and fellow thespian Selena Ambush and I, were judges at Indiana University for the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. Selena also starred (with one of my students Maria Canela) in the New York premiere of my play Taking Off (directed by the wonderful Rolando Ramos) - which was presented during the One-Page Play Festival. During this trip to NYC, I was reunited with Kimberly Greenberg, a very good friend of mine who I went to college with many years ago. Kim has since gone on to star in the off-Broadway musical hit Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical, where she is receiving rave reviews.

In March, I was thrilled when my one-act play Number 76 was nationally selected to be performed at the 2009 Mid-America Theatre Conference in Chicago. It was a wonderful production of the show - directed by Marissa Guillen and starred Marcelo Carrascossa and Stacy Joyce, with Brett Janecek serving as the dramaturg. While I was in the Windy City, I was reunited with the super talented Bryan Northup, got to hang with Janet Milstein, saw an adorable play by Barbara Lhota starring the fabulous Lisa Herceg.

I can't say it enough. I LOVE the city of Chicago - it is without a doubt my favorite city in the US (it feels like home). I would live there again, in a heartbeat, if the universe ever decides that's where I am supposed to be.

From the conference in Chicago, I headed to Sacramento for a week long spring break, where I had the chance to reconnect with friends I had not seen in years.

In April, I attended the One in Ten Film Festival. Sam Wagner, a very talented Penn State student, adapted my one-act play Just Before the Drop into a powerful short film, which was an official selection for the festival. The film is still on the festival circuit and is generating lots of buzz. Two other students - Sage Perisse and Michael Manfred - also adapted my one-act play Number 76 into a short film, which is still in post production.

In May, I was a guest speaker/panel moderator and featured reader at the 2009 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, where my stage play Sloe Gin Fizz had been selected as a finalist for the playwriting competition. While I was there, I had a very successful meeting with the editors of Bold Strokes Books, to whom I pitched three of my novels. The time spent in New Orleans was beyond awesome. I was there with some of my best friends: Aaron Martinez, Danielle Downs, Rena Mason and the infamous Mindy Morgan: there's video clips floating around the internet of her drunken debauchery in New Orleans - but now, the question is: what will she do this year to top the last?

In June, I attended the Writing Popular Fiction Retreat at Seton Hill University. There, I met the most wonderful kindred spirit, Patti Abbott-Dinsmore, and her equally charming partner in crime, Barbara Purbaugh. We had a blast and I learned so much there about the publishing industry and genre fiction.

I spent most of June and July teaching summer school, writing the novel Mesmerized, and packing to leave Altoona, Pennsylvania.

In August, I was on the road back to California (huge thanks to Nick for helping to make this happen - I never could have made the move without him). We endured a hellish four day cross country trip - and we were never happier to see California.

Once I was back in California, I had a tough time settling in, finding my place, being back home, securing a full time job, etc. It was a real learning experience for me - looking back on where I had been since (Chicago, Atlanta, Altoona) and what direction I eventually want to go in.

I found a new family/home in the United Church of Christ. I started attending services at Pioneer Congregational Church the first week I was in Sacramento and have been going ever since. In November, I became a member of the congregation and my life has truly changed for the better because of it.

In September, I received my first book contract. Bold Strokes Books acquired the rights to my young adult novel Mesmerized, and I am thrilled to tell you that the book will be available in late 2010.

A month after being back in Sacramento, I auditioned for the Sacramento Sirens Cheer Elite and made the team. However, two weeks into practice, I broke my right wrist in a basket-toss-gone-wrong and was in a cast for the month of October. If you ever want to torture a writer, this is how to do it. Eventually, I had to quit the team due to my crazy schedule.

In September, I worked on an episode of the NBC television series Trauma. I appeared in Episode 8 as an "Upscale Restaurant Patron". It was a lot of fun, especially being in a scene with the beautiful Anastasia Griffith.

In October, I became the Visiting Artist for the 2009-2010 season at the Lambda Players theatre company. My first project was to direct their Christmas musical Nuncrackers, a show from the popular Nunsense series. To say things went wrong from the beginning is an understatement. You can read about it here. What emerged from adversity (thanks to an incredible cast and crew) was an original musical titled The Nun Crashers that I wrote (in less than a day, I kid you not) and co-directed with my childhood friend/junior high school boyfriend Peter Giovanni, who also choreographed the show. In the end, The Nun Crashers became a suprise hit and the reviews and press were wonderful.

Through my work with Lambda, I have made some wonderful new friends. Some of us recently went to see the touring production of Spring Awakening (I finally discovered what all the hype was about) and I became mildly obsessed with the soundtrack.

In November, I was reunited with one of my best friends from high school, Therease Logan. We had a wonderful three day visit and plan to see each other again very soon.

While working on The Nun Crashers, I was cast in the role of Mark in Robin Henson's production of Michael Cristofer's powerful play The Shadow Box. Through the production I became friends with the ever lovely Cyndi Lopez-Martin, who I will be working with on a half a dozen projects in the year to come. The Shadow Box was an incredible, challenging experience that I am very grateful for. I have wanted to play this particular role since first reading the script over fifteen years ago.

I am anxiously awaiting the new year to start as I will be directing the world premiere of my play Sky Lines, starring in Sloe Gin Fizz (which will mark the first time I will perform in a play that I wrote; the production is being directed by Peter Giovanni and my co-star is the very talented Joseph Ramos), directing the world premiere of my newest play Stronger Than This, directing Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, directing a much anticipated production of my stage play Pensacola, and directing a gender crossing Romeo and Julian - written by none other than William Shakespeare. We are also planning to bring the world premiere of my play We Never Made it to Paris to the stage finally.

This was a wonderful year for my stage plays. My scripts were performed during 2009 in:

Alexandra, VA
Great Mills, MD
New York, NY
Chicago, IL
Calumet City, IL
Thibodaux, LA
Johannesburg, South Africa
High River, Alberta, Canada
Strathmore, Alberta, Canada
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada (I love Canada, by the way!)
Sacramento, CA
Peru, IL
and (as of last weekend) Colorado Springs, CO

In addition, Pensacola and Clean were both published by JAC Publishing.

As the year comes to an end, I am waiting on the final word from a publishing company who is very interested in my novel The Common Bond. I am sure that most writers feel this way - but I am love with my own books. I can't wait until Mesmerized and The Common Bond are in the hands of readers.

Well...that about covers 2009. Of course, this is the edited version and I am sure I have forgotten to include a lot of events, people, places - so forgive my oversight if I did.

This was a year of many, many changes for me: many highs, many lows. But I am grateful for each step of the journey. And, I am even more excited about all that is still yet to come.

Hang on tight. 2010 already looks like it's going to be one hell of a good year.

xoxo DMB

Favorite Song of the Year: Anything on the radio by Lady Gaga - it was really her year.
Favorite CD/Album of the Year: It's a tie between Florence + The Machine's Lungs and Krista's Taking Back Brooklyn.
Favorite Film I Saw: Precious (hands down)
Favorite Book I Read: Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
Favorite TV Show: So many...but Glee is adorable.



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