Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writers at Soapstone: EM Lewis

EM (Ellen) Lewis was in residence at Soapstone for two weeks in early January, 2010. While there, she kept a daily journal of the experience on her blog, which gives a great sense of what it’s like to be a Soapstone resident and includes many wonderful photos. Following are some excerpts from her blog.

I woke up this morning to rain painting my window, making the trees outside look Monet-soft. Lovely. I haven't left the cabin today. I imagine one of the particular joys of a mid-winter residency here is how cozy the cabin seems when the wind is roaring through the trees, and the rain is pounding down, and the river is rushing past, high and fast and brown and wild. I am ready to sink deeper into my writing.

“I'm sneaking up on this play like a wild animal. It is deeply personal, and focusing on it has exploded all my previous notions. I discovered the heart of the play here, and began to listen to its music, and to get a notion of its trajectory.

“Words aren't the only thing I've found in these woods, though. I feel like I've found myself again, in a way. The world get
s so busy sometimes. All telephones and traffic. Sometimes I have trouble hearing myself think. I have rested here. Does it make me sound crazy if I say it helped me remember how to breathe? I have walked amongst the trees and let their strength and solidity make me feel stronger, and more solidly rooted in this earth. I have lifted my face to the rain, and feel refreshed.

“Thank you to all the people who have created Soapstone, and who let me come here to live and work for two wonderful weeks. It has been a great gift. I will cherish the memory of it forever.”

EM Lewis is a playwright whose work has been produced around the country. She won the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award from the American Theater Critics Association for her play Song of Extinction, which premiered in Los Angeles. The play also won the Ashland New Plays Festival, University of Oregon's EcoDrama Festival, the Ted Schmitt Award for the premiere of an outstanding new play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, and Production of the Year from the LA Weekly Awards. It was published in Dramatics Magazine in January 2010, and will be coming out in an acting edition from Samuel French this year. Lewis also wrote the Iraq War hostage drama Heads (winner of the 2008 Primus Prize for an emerging woman theater artist). Her first full-length play, Infinite Black Suitcase (about grief and redemption in rural Oregon), didn't win any awards, but she likes it anyway. Lewis is a member of Moving Arts Theater Company, the Dramatists Guild, the International Centre for Women Playwrights and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She lives in Santa Monica, California now, but she is originally from Oregon. You can read more about her on her website.