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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Lunch in Providence today


I'll be heading out to Providence soon to meet up with Greg and Rochelle. I met Greg and Rochelle (and they met each other) at the ACA thng this past September in Florida. Greg was among the Playwrights and Rochelle was with the Visual Artsts team. This is a pic of them at ACA. If I remember to tote my camera along, I'll post a shot of them from today...

Rochelle's visiting Greg up Boston way for the holiday -- she's usually in Canada.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers

I went to Grandchildren of the Buffalo soldiers and I can sum it up in one word -- "Blech!" We left at intermission...it was that bad. This was the most amaturish production I have ever ever beheld for a professional theater company. The play itself, while an admirable subject was flawed with your basic playwriting 101 flaws. Yelling does not mean dramatic conflict -- monologues should be used sparingly -- exposition should come out of the natural dramatic progression of the play, not just a litany in the first three scenes.

Total dreck.

Again i say ---

"BLECH!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

RENT


RENT turned out to be FANTASTIC. I was captivated by it. It was fun seeing most of the original cast reprising their roles. I also appreciated the length. It was far shorter (and more entertaining) than its stage personna.

Yeah yeah yeah for cutting out the boring bits! The film moves and sings and gets to the heart of the story -- no day but today. Huzzah.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Directors Project @ NTI last Saturday


Went to see Vanassa Soto's Director's Project at NTI last Saturday. She directed ny play -- girls. in boys pants. -- earlier this year at Vassar. This semester she is studying directing.

She put together a found text piece from the writings of Lorca IN SEARCH OF DUENDE.

A funeral procession brought us into the world of the play. Sombre and sincere, the scene eventually devolved into laughter, as the "corpse" could no longer contain himself. This "corpse" is of course Lorca himself, playing one of the games he was famous for, staging his own funeral processions. It was a marvelous way to bring us, the audience, into this world of Duende.

The coffin was turned on its side and became a lecturn, from which Lorca began his famous talk about Duende.

The cast of three women traded lines and roles with ease, creating a world where anything was possible, but the richest, most enduring pieces woule be dark, riddled with duende.

I did find myself at one point, wondering how this world would be altered by the incorporation of a male voice in the mix? The experiment did work, but in the future it could be deepened by the mixing of the male and the female sounds.

Still, a very effective work. I even got a bit of an idea for my Minotaur play... an evening well spent on all counts.

Friday, November 25, 2005

MINOTAURS. TOREROS. Diary: Why this play now?



Met with Jen Swain today about the play and our submisiion package for STL. She is a wonderful dramaturg, and credits Oscar Eustis with teaching her well at the Trinity rep Conservatory for that.

We got down to some of the bones of the play. The best question she asked was, "Why this play right now?" She went on to say that this is a question she asks herself about any play she considers directing. How is this play of the moment? Why should we do it now? How does it lend itself to the present?

What a cool way to think about it.

The answer to that question will take some more noodling on my part -- but it has to do with the Minotaur -- aren't we all like the Minotaur -- at least a little? How do we deal with our Minotaur nature? And how is the Minotaur something mostly human? Why do we struggle so hard to kill it rather than understand it?

Something like that, anyway.

More to think about -- and a deadline to meet in a few days!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Viewpoints workshop at NTI


Members of the SITI Company were in-house at the O'Neill National Theater Institute last week. I attended a public viewing of some of the work thi past Saturday. For more info about NTI visit nti.conncoll.edu

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Doctor Faustus - a tragical tale



Saw DOCTOR FAUSTUS at Connecticut College last night, directed by my friend Donny Levit. It held my interest throughout, although the undergraduate cast was uniformly earnest and so a little drab -- that is until the 7 deadly sind showed up. The show never lost the fun and energy they brought to liven up the joint.

In the end, bad things for Faustus. This was Marlowes version after all.

Thanks to masks and wicked imagery the ensemble cast was able to change roles and weave an interesting evening of theater of the damned.

Friday, November 18, 2005

MINOTAURS. TOREROS. Diary: Set a meeting

I've set a date for next Wednesday to meet with my friend and theater director Jen Swain to talk about MINOTAURS. TOREROS. (That's the play about the woman matador.)

We'll be talking about the plan for further development of the work, and what materials to inlcude in a package we'll be sending out to Sundance Theatre Lab regarding the play. The STL deadline is at the end of this month -- so we've got a few to things to pull together in order to send out a proposal.

Jen's a great director, and I hope we'll get a chance to workshop this play as a team at some point in 2006.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

YANKEE TRADER Diary: Director chat

This is my first entry regarding A YANKEE TRADER. Seems the play won the Virtual Theatre Project's The Pen is a Mighty Sword contest -- so I'll get $2000 and a pro production (most likely in LA -- but they're checking into Boston as a possibility).

Talked with my director for the first time today -- Ian Vogt. He'll be directing A YANKEE TRADER out in LA next year. We seem to be on the same page regarding our approaches to theater -- which is cool.

He'll read thru the play a couple more times and we'll talk more after the holiday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reading-Up on women matadors


I'm working on a play that I wrote while at the ACA -- the first "bake-off" about the minotaur/labyrinth/icarus myth... the result of which was Minotaurs. Toreros.

I'm now in the middle of an investigation into the whole business of the Spanish Bullfight -- particularly how women matadors opperate. My play is centered on a woman matador named Miura. I took her name from a ranch that is famous for producing unpredictable and deadly bulls.

In fact, all of the characters names come from either bull fighting history or Lorca.

I'm also investigating the various aspects of the Greek myth of the Minotaur-- his death at the hands of Theseus; his birth by Pasiphae; and his betrayal by his half-sister Ariadne. I've learned that the Minotaur had a name -- Asterius -- although this is hardly ever mentioned.

So, I'm reading lots o' books that I've borrowed from the library or purchased on e-bay and am taking lots o' notes.

That's the word from my playwritig world at the moment.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Poetry In Notion at the Arts Café Mystic

Taking time to reflect and listen, to focus and think, to imagine and realize, this is what a poetry reading is all about. Poetry, after all, requires time and patience. At the Arts Café Mystic it is also about the time spent together with the poet.

The atmosphere is relaxed and congenial in the main gallery of the Mystic Arts Center. Tables are set throughout the room surrounded by white plastic chairs, like a garden party, with portraits and landscapes lining the horizon in all directions. The poetry and the art are a good match, and combined with java and juice provided by local eateries, make each Arts Café a treat for all the senses.

The most recent event featured Stephen Dobyns, an accomplished poet, essayist, and fiction writer, who now resides in Westerly, RI. Preceding his reading was Co Co Beaux, an all-male a cappella singing ensemble from Connecticut College, and local writer and poet Daniel Gula.

Arts Café organizer Christie Max Williams said the mix of music an poetry was part of the original idea over ten years ago, and still works. “The idea was to present nationally prominent poets and writers, and give local writers an appropriate forum, and combine it with music,” Williams said.

The idea seems to be catching on. As the evening progressed more and more chairs had to be pulled from the back room to seat latecomers.

The evening began with Williams acting as MC, welcoming the crowd and making introductions. He reminded people about the donation baskets raising funds for the young poet awards that would be granted in the spring, and made announcements regarding upcoming poetry events in the region, encouraging continued support and attendance.

When the series was first imagined, Williams said, 'There was a little poetry movement out and about the region.” An opportunity like the Arts Café, bring accomplished poets to the area to share their work, seemed a good fit. “There is a core audience,” noted Williams, and he has been encouraged that the community around the series continues to grow.

One new face in the crowd this season is that of Ryan O'Connell, a junior at Ledyard High School and a budding writer. “I've always been attracted to the poet reading their own work. I can take the words as I hear them.” O'Connell was seated next to his creative writing teacher from school.

O'Connell noticed during his first visit to the Arts Café earlier this season that he was the youngest person there. He is sometimes frustrated by his peers disregard of poetry, “They don't have time to read a poem.”

With an evening like the Arts Café O'Connell believes that younger people could be drawn by the poetry/music combination. “There's the opening poet, then the music wakes everybody up, and then the featured poet who everybody comes to see, and you're really listening.”

After the reading O'Connell approached Stephen Dobyns, shook his hand, and presented the honored poet with two volumes of poetry, one crisp and new purchased that evening at the book table, and the other bent and dog-eared. Dobyns graciously signed and returned both to the aspiring writer, speaking a few words before turning his attention to the next patron standing nearby.

O'Connell stood with his books, “I've always been attracted to things on the page. It's something physical, you can take it home with you.”

That sort of exchange is part of the Arts Café experience said Williams, “You're going to encounter poets who are accessible to their audience.”

It was interesting to watch Dobyns take to the podium. A substantial man with thinning white hair, he had to bend a bit to get near the microphone. Sifting through marked pages, he read to us without looking up. Far from being a showman, Dobyns spoke with restraint, allowing the words and the images they conjured to do the work.

Williams put it this way, “I think the Arts Café can be viewed as one of those out of the ordinary adventures. If you ask somebody out to a poetry reading it says something about you.” He added, “It's a relatively inexpensive destination. Cheaper than a movie.”

Between the music, the poetry, the art, and the cookies, the Arts Café Mystic proved to be a good Friday night out. While the event seems simple, it is actually a lot of work sustained by a host of volunteers.

“It's fairly involved,” said Williams in his understated, breezy manner. The committee does a lot of reading to discover possible poets, there is booking and travel arrangements, finding appropriate music groups, setting up and taking down the tables, selling tickets and greeting people at the door.

The Arts Café Mystic will present a trio of poetry/music events in the spring, including recognition of young poets from the region. Additionally, Stephen Dobyns will be conducting a talk on the creative process of writing on November 30th at the Westerly Library.

Williams is committed to the growth of the community around the series, and that the experience of hearing poets read their works remains inviting, “The words are transformed and magnified when we sit in a common room together.”

For more information and schedules contact The Arts café Mystic at the Mystic Arts Center, 9 Water Street, Mystic, CT 860-536-5680, www.mystc-arts.org.

The Westerly Library call 401-596-2877 or toll-free 1-866-460-2677.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Bright Room Called Day - Elemental


Photo: Deb, Michael and Heidi at the door for A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY in Providence.

The Elemental Theatre Company put together an outstanding production of Tony Kushner's A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY, which closed this past Sunday in Providence.

The play itself , written prior to the milestone Angels in America, is a mixed bag of momentum, heart, and pathos, and could easily have taken a turn for the overwrought or maudlin. This production, directed by Peter Sampieri, played it as a mix of truth and terror, with just the right amount of humor to mix some air and light into the heavy ideas and realities of the play-world.

Centered around a group of friends living in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party, the play tumbles forward through time, landing in our own present-day paranoia. The two times effect one-another, and draw occasionally heavy-handed comparisons from the Nazis to the Republicans in the White House.

This is obviously an early play from Kushner, but still, it is exciting, vital, and of the moment, always engaging and never lagging. The play is brimming with important world themes that Kushner has since delved into more fully and subtly thru his body of work over the years. But evident throughout is the voice of a master playwright. His turns of language and thought are always true to the world of the play and owned by the characters. The movements backward and forward in time are precise and warrented.

Of course, without a talented cast, and an insightful director, this difficult play would have been a muddle. Kudos to the Elemental Theatre Company. I look forward to seeing their work in the future.

http://www.elementaltheatre.org

Sunday, November 06, 2005

2recent outings to trinity Rep

I've been going to a lot of theater in Providence lately. This is the first year that I've subscribed to the entire Trinity season. Last month I saw The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- a flawed play -- too freakin' long -- but a fun production of that flawed play was worth the trip.

I wish i could say the same for Suddenly Last Summer. An over-wrought production of an under-wrought playlet. Perhaps 50 years ago this play was shocking and surprising, but not anymore. The fully-realized-realistic set served as an opressive reminder of how far from the mark this work by Tennessee Williams is.

The only strength the play has is its evocative use of language, the imagery inherant in the language, and the heightened poetic form. By placing it in a highly detailed realistic setting the production seemed at odds -- and the poetic language was hammered into the "real-world" with dissapointing results.

A sparser production would have highlighted the language instead of overpowering it. The language would have been the landscape and we would have traveled with it with our imaginations, instead of scoffing at the old-fashioned morality and non-shock of the "shocking" ending. Having the grand house split and spill with light through its cracks did nothing for the final moments of the play except to underscore how much better something unreal would have served the entire production.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Playwright Diary: Bullfighting


Went to the library yesterday and check out several books on bullfighting. I've purchased several on e-bay as well -- they were going cheap -- so i bid. Two are still due to arrive.

It's difficult finding new books about bullfighting. The best seem to be vintage works. It is not such a popular activity in the US. I can understand why...but the more I find out about it, the more compelling it is to me.

I'm working on one of the plays that I wrote during the ACA retreat with Paula Vogel. The minotaur play. Mine features a matador, a woman, named Miura. I am starting to learn what bits of the play actually mean, and I'm checking to see what things I got right, and which may need modification. I only had time to research for a day, and all of my information had come from the internet, as there was nothing in the ACA library specifically about bullfighting, save a handful of references in a collection of Lorca's poetry.

Next, i will learn a bit more about the myth itself. I think my play needs a stronger tie to the events of the myth, the labyrinth, the slaughter... that sort of thing.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The plays of Octavio Solis

Paula Vogel told me to read the plays of Octavio Solis. I googled, but he's not in print. I did find an e-mail though, so i queried him. know what? He sent me 4 plays. Know what else? My printer ran out of ink, so they're still on my hard drive. I picked up some ink cartridges a few hours ago. in the morning I'll print the plays and read the work of Octavio Solis.

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Girl Diary: Fin

Over.

Loaded out.

2 shows on Sunday. More people showed up than we thought would. (what were we thinking with 2 shows on Sunday?)

Still

This week was much better attended, and the show was tighter and leaner and keener, so there you go.

Next Sunday
cast paaaahteeeee...!

woo hoo.

Put all of my stuff back in my basement (which did not flood)

again

woo hoo.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

New Girl Diary: Finding the pace

The cast of THE NEW GIRL has really found its pace and tempo. We came back on Thursday night and wowed the audience.

The audience is also growing. This past thursday's group was as plentiful as the best night last weekend, and 3 times more responsive. Some of this is due to the improved pace of the show.

Things are tighter, and the cast is feeling confident enough to play within the work. they understand how both the play and themselves as the performers of the play can work off one another.

the scene transitions have been tightened up considerably as well. the pace of transitions was bogged down by numerous costume changes. these have been streamilines to essentials only, and the difference is profound. Transitions can either liberate or kill your play. last week the slow transitions were "killing the funny". This week the musch faster transitions are making the whole production bouyent.

It is so cool to listen to the changes from my space inthe backstage.

in spite of flooding rains, people have been showing up to see it thanks to strong word-of-mouth, and now the show is even better.

Friday, October 07, 2005

New Girl Production Diary: Fire Marshalled

Yesterday was opening night for THE NEW GIRL. Yesterday afternoon the fire marshall showed up and made a list of things that had to be addressed/changed or we could not run the show.

These last minute items included building and installing a railing for a set of stairs leading out of the theater, removing some oily rags and paint (we have know idea who put oily rags and combustables behind the seats in the back of theater, but we were happy to remove them), and to enlist 4 extra people to serve as ushers guarding each exit door with a flashlight. That was actually the toughest. Some of the nights it might mean pulling one of the stage crew off the crew and into the aisles.

All this was handed down just hours before curtain.

The town is also sending a fireman each night to sit in the theater. Last night the guy was really nice and seemed to like the show. It's also good that we don't have to pay for the fireman. because we don't have that in our budget.

Such is the weirdness of doing theatre. We'll try not to set fire to anything...and after this there will not be any other programs of any sort in the space. Had the fire marshall inspected the site a week earlier, he would have shut us down, so in a way, we're lucky that the show is being allowed to go up at all.

The actors were great and the audience enjoyed it. So there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Girl Production Diary: Circuts

This evening Jim turned the lights on for the show -- and whammo -- blew the breakers. This theater is in a sevre power shortage. An electrician had to be called. We're going to be running power in from the hallway.

Whew-hoo!

Tomorrow I'll see what happens when we hook up th sound equipment.

Yikes!

Actors are looking good, though. Long as we can light 'em, eh?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Girl Production Diary: Curtains

Last week the curtains in the theater at Avery Point ripped apart fom their own weight do to dry rot. This has changed our plan for creating the back stage area. We're have to russle up some flats. I'll have to do some black touch ups, and we don't quite have enough to go span the entire backstage.

I'll try rigging some cloth to fill the gaps -- or try to locate some additional flats. The problem with additional flats will be transporting them. I will have to rely on a thrid party to deliver them to the theater and to return them at the shows end.

Tonight we'll be rehearsing and I'll do some more clean-up. I didn't get over to the theater this morning as I'd hoped. I slept in. I'm still getting over last week's long travel, short sleep couple of days, plus i was out late last night catching MYSTERY OF EDEIN DROOD @ Trinity rep in Providence. I enjoyed the show, but it went until 11:00 --

I'm off to a poetry event soon, so I'll get to tonight's rehearsal a little late.

Tomorrow morning Jim will load in the lights and get that all set up. Monday night's rehearsal will be all about nailing down the lights and cleaning up entrances, exits, and changes, figuring the sound Q's -- things like that. I'll get the crew plan organized.

tuesday the crew will all be there and we'll see how my plan works.

whew-hoo! A lot of work to do...!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

ACA Diary: da wrap

Home. Finally. A day late.

My plane, leaving from Daytona on Delta, broke down on the runway. There was a problem with the throttle just moments before take-off. We taxied (with difficulty) back to the gate. We sat on a plane without air conditioning (lots of problems with tis aircraft). Finally they had us deplane and wait.

Connections were missed. The maintenance crew coming in from Orlando was not responding. After several hours (most of which I spent standing in line) I had a new reservation for the next morning out of Orlando (instead of my current location in Daytona) and arriving in Hartford (instead of my desired destination, Providence).

eventually, it worked out, and i arrived home a day late.

that's the travel story.

then there's the final night at the ACA...

A lot of people (a hundred or so), showed up to view the work we were showing. Composers, playwrights and visual artists. There was a lot of cool work being shown and heard. the evening began in the theater, and an hour or so later people wandered in and out of the other buildings to take in the various installations.

After the public was gone, the artists gathered in the music room, played tunes, danced, and hung out. Gradually we said our goodbyes. Some were leaving as early as 3:00 am and were scrambling to pack. Others, like myself, would be heading out in late morning.

On the first day one of the other playwrights - Dominic - remarked that three weeks was not the right length for a residency. Either two weeks or more than four. He said that it takes about three weeks to start feeling like you actually live there. He was right. It started feeling like I lived there, and that was the time we packed it all up and left. Weird. But true.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

ACA Diary: fin


Today is the final day of our stay here at ACA. Tonight we're holding a public showing of work -- officially called the "InReach or OutReack or InOut Reach" or something like that. We associate artists are calling it The Talent Show.

One of the short pieces I put together during the residency will be performed as a concert reading. Several people from the class as well as two of the staff members from ACA will read the roles. It is a 5 page play called "The Work" about a proposal in paint.

EArlier today the playwrights met for one last time. We talked about the boot camp and the ACA.

Last night we held a late-night poker game. We used paper clips as chips - $0.10 per clip. You had to buy into the game with $5. I went home with $8.50 in pocket, so that weren't too bad at all...

My bags are packed up, and I've been sorting thru which papers I really need to bring home -- I have to keep the weight under 50 lbs -- and it was 45 lbs on the way here -- now I've got some Kennedy Space Center stuff, a Sponge Bob Square Pants that i won at Universal Studios, and a bunch of plays stuffed into my bag. I'm leaving things like shampoo and sun block here -- anything that I can in order to get the essentials -- like plays, research and new t-shirts home.

Friday, September 23, 2005

ACA Diary: Next to last day


This morning we got together at 9:30 am to read our mini-bake-off pieces. All of the other associate and master artists were invited to attend, and about half of them did.

It was pretty difficult for me to create a piece without having a full day and a good sleep to really process the task and think about it, but I came up with something and so did just about everybody else. The works were so varied and raw. It was pretty amazing.

The other artists have been talking about it with me most of the day ever since. The works seem to have had a great effect on them. That's cool. One of the pieces was presented as an intstallation posted on the walls and mirrors of the dance studio (across from our writers' studio). It was such an interesting piece with a lot of emotional resonence. We wakked from scrap to srap and read assigned pieces to create the whole. The most moving part for me was a passage written on a map of Florida. It was about searching and loss. It will stay with for as long time. I tried to talk the playwright into letting me have the map, but she's going to keep, so maybe I'll be able to get a color copy made before we go. I'd like to keep a copy of it in my office at home where i work. I believe it would inspire me.

One of the visual artists let me take a painting she had made of some oyster shells. She used it as source material for her digital imagry, but was not going to keep the original. I think it's beautiful, so she signed it and now it's in a tube ready to take on to the plane with me on Sunday.

The reat of the day has been -- well -- rest. I'm tired, and my allergies have kicked in -- there's a lot mold because of all of the rain.

Tomorrow there will be a public presentation of some of the work. I'll have a piece in called "The Work" and several of the associate artists and a couple of the ACA staff will be performing in the reading of it.

This afternoon i have spent most of the day in the library. It's a very inviting space, and I enjoy working in here. I made some notes about other artist residencies and colonies to research later. i also read some Lorca.

The sun has come out -- finally. Still steamy. At least there was no hurricane making landfall here. I hope the folks in the path of Hurricane Rita have taken to high ground and that they will get thru it all right.

I am looking forward to getting home on Sunday.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

ACA Diary - 3rd Bake-off (the mini)


Today we begin the mini-Bake-off -- a 24 hour project. Tomorrow morning at 9:30 am we will read the plays, with any composers and visual artists who are interested in listening and possibly collaborating on a piece, invited to attend.

The rules for this mini-B-O:

3 letters or postcards--
one from the writer who is away
one from the person who receives the letter from the person away
one message from a person who has passed

(yesterday we took a field trip to Cassadaga -- a Spiritualist Community - the oldest in the south -- here in florida. A few of us had readings done while we there. It was quite fantastic, and this is the "from beyond" element in this week's work inspiration.)

There has to be a big bug -- maybe a smashed bug
Seasons must be present in the text or plasticity
A picture of an aura or aura image or aura camera

10 pages or less.

I am trying to have the text of a letter that my mother wrote to me before I was born about the assination of JFK. If I can get the text I will organize my play around it. If not, I may make up the language of the letter, or just go an entirely different way.

On the field trip to Cassadaga I had a reading done by a medium named Victor. Victor and I totally clicked. His reading was amazing and deeply revealing for me. I hope to include some of that experience in my peice as well. Amazing, amazing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

ACA Diary - a day away


Soooooooooooooooooo--- I finished my play early (because I started early); so today I had the whole day free. I rented a car and took off down the coast with one of the other associate artists and we checked out Kennedy Space Center. What a fantastic day.

After having spent a few days at Universal Studios earlier this month, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the KSC did not have a floom ride.

We started off our visit by checking out the 3-D IMAX feature about the international space station and astronauts working in space. It was the right move. The 3-D was great, and seeing those folks work in space was so cool. Those people LOVE their work, that's for sure.

After that we toured the museum -- saw things like a Gemini capsual, a Mercury capsual, the differnt space suits, including an Apollo suit.

We took a bus across the grounds and viewed the vehicle assembly building, a little piece of the space shuttle landing strip, could look across Bananna River and see two launching pads, and ran around the Saturn Center. On the ceiling was a real Saturn rocket -- split apart in stages with boosters and couplings and you name it. It was so huge.

We walked around the Rocket Garden, and crawled inside some of the displays that show how small the moduals really were. Because we went on a Monday and it's September, there were no lines and we could just roam around and really enjoy the place.

I bought a hat wrapped up with a shirt. What a bargain... and some post cards that i must fill out tonight and get in the mail to my nephews.

Tomorrow we will be reading our plays in a marathon session.

One of the playwrights might be leaving early. We'll know more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

ACA Diary -- 2nd Bake-off

So -- this is our second weekend here, therefore it is our second Bake-Off. That's the 48 hour play, for those who weren't paying attention.

This week's rules:

Had to be about a flood.
We had to see a street before the flood
the same street during the flood
and that street after the waters have gone.

Wait, wait, there's more...

Somewhere in the play there had to be
a dog
a cop committing suicide
a dead man sitting
and the line "ice in my whiskey"

and---

the protagonist had to have a shopping cart.

Whew.

I finished my play a few hours ago -- then I took a nap.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts @ New Smyrna Beach has been sunny skies and warm all week -- with a few spectacular days and a few down-right HOT AND HUMID days mixed in.

This week with Paula Vogel -- who is too freakin cool -- btw -- we worked on concepts of plasticity (probably I spelled it wrong -- oh well) -- that being all of the elements of the play that are not spoken. This includes how the playwright uses the text on the page to convey mood and meaning.

so that's it for now -- later this week we'll be viviting a psychic commuity about 30 minutes west from here.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

ACA Diary -- 1st Bake-Off

So -- here at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida. At last the sun is out. Seems Ophelia has moved to the Northeast a bit. We got slogged with rain the past week. I'm sure there will be masses of mosquitos in the dys to come to dodge and spray against.

It's Saturday. Yesterday we decided on the perameters of the 48-hour-bake-off -- where we write a play (however long it gets) in 48 hours. We'll reconvene on Tuesday after lunch and read them outloud to each other.

The subject: The Minotaur/Icarus/Labyrinth myth.

Some of the rules:
There must be a preminission
A brief flight
A day of rain
A day of sun
A scene in an enclosed, small space

and 48 hours to write. If you're midsentence at hour 48, you stop. You do not rewrite. Once it is down, it stays. The moment you start writing -- even notes -- is the moment the clock starts.

I'm noodling around the idea this morning -- and will start by this evening. First I think I'll take a little time in the sun...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Atlantic Arts Center Diary


I'm at the Atlantic Arts Center in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. I've been here since Monday. There are about 16 or 17 other associate artists and 3 master artists in residence here. There is also a staff of 5 or 6 folks making meals and keeping the lights on for us. We represent three disciplines -- playwriting, visual arts, and music.

I'm here as a playwright.

The playwrights are working with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel. Tonight I have to write a 3 to 5 page play where the world ends -- so I'll have to go soon.

Also -- Tropical Depression (soon to be storm) Ophelia is spinning off the coast here. We're feeling the effects. Winds and sudden torrential downpours have been common since Monday night.

So there you go.

Unless the power goes out we've got lots o' air condition.

More updates later ---

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The New Girl Diary

Looking for crew members to help run the show. Actors are great and learning their lines. had a production meeting last night with Jim the lighting guy, Michael the producer guy, Michael the writer/director guy, and me.

We've also got a great poster and post card and a web site. to check it out.

Woo-hoo

The Art of Being Human

The Art of Being Human: opening night with the Second Step Players


“I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.” -- H.H. The Dalai Lama

Two hours before curtain time at the O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, the cast and crew of The Second Step Players gather together to share a meal. The food and preparation are donated by local businesses and volunteers, and doled out by two well-being coordinators who serve up honey-roasted chicken, green beans with almonds, and spicy tofu. Well-being is as important a post as lighting, sound, or performing within this theatre company.

This gathering of performers, crew, and volunteers is at the core of the Second Step Players’ mission, to support individuals with mental illnesses through creative endeavors. Approximately 80% of the troupe members have experienced some form of psychiatric disorder. Feeding the company members before the evening’s events is just one way that this extraordinary enterprise differs from the traditional community theater.

“It’s like working with a second family,” says video coordinator Bill Hamell. This is his fourth production over the past two years volunteering with The Players and he is busy poking his hand-held video camera around nooks and corners, gathering candid footage of company members getting ready for the show. “We make a keepsake DVD that everyone in the show gets, and I’m seeing that it gets recorded.”

By 7:30 on opening night an audience of just over one hundred people is in the house to see this year’s show titled SPAM (Seriously Psychotic Absolutely Mental), the 19th annual outing for the troupe in this venue. Becca Atkins, the director of the troupe, strides center stage in a dressed-down tuxedo and greets the audience.

“Tonight during the warm-up with the actors,” Atkins tells the audience, “I asked ‘besides your illness, what are you?’” She explains that often the person is so thoroughly equated with their illness that other aspects of their identity can be lost. “Three answers that I got tonight were a lawyer, a cook, and a part time radio disc jockey, and tomorrow night I’ll tell three more.”

The first half of the show is filled with the troupe’s signature brand of original slapstick comedy, rife with flying props, gag humor, and double takes about the stigma associated with mental illnesses. The second half is a departure from the normal lunacy of sketches. It is an adaptation of The Common Itch a play with music by Darin Keech of the Band of Humans.

“I always say we don’t do drama with Second Step because we have enough drama in our lives,” Atkins explains, “but this was just too beautiful not to do.”

“It was an honor for them to do my piece,” says the soft-spoken Keech. “There are connections and similarities to the Band of Humans philosophy and perspectives on healing and being a human being, and the work that The Second Step Players do.”

The Common Itch was originally a full-length play that featured live music by The Band of Humans, a folk-rock group created by Keech, their lead singer and guitarist. Originally constructed as a meditation on the search for life’s meaning, the play had to be reworked by Atkins and The Players to better address the philosophy of the theater group and to cut its length to fit the presentation format.

“We wanted to combine it as a dual diagnosis,” says SJ Williams, the Executive Director of Artreach, the parent agency of The Second Players, as well as an actor in the play. “Recovery from mental illness as well as recovery from addiction. We needed to write that in.”

The play centers on Jude, played by Dan Howarth, a young man who has set out on the road with little more than his backpack and guitar. He meets Prudence, played by Williams, a junky going through the pains of withdrawal. Together they form an uneasy alliance and set out on a cross-country trek to Montana, home of the fabled Poets’ Lounge.

“This year Becca challenged me with this part,” says Howarth about playing Jude. He has been acting for several years with groups in Old Lyme, and this is his second show with The Players. “It’s meaningful. It’s entertaining but it’s also for a cause that I believe in.” Howarth became involved with The Players after meeting Atkins in an acting class. “I told her, ‘well, I’m bipolar’ so I think I fit in,” he chuckles.

“It was almost like watching someone else’s play,” says Keech after the performance. “I sat back and enjoyed it. I cried when the conclusion hit home.”

The play ends with a ballad performed by Prudence, the recovering addict, at The Poets’ Lounge:

We can pull it together
Let’s try to make it better
Please believe in me
I believe in you.

As the music continues the rest of the theater company moves onto the stage throughout the applause. Even the stage crew and other volunteers, including the well-being coordinators, share the final bow in the lights, linking hands with the other company members.

“Everybody here is stepping out of their shell in front of an audience of over a hundred people,” says Howarth. “I get to share this with people who know me and know the road that I’ve traveled. I get to show them this.”

For more information about Second Step Players events or opportunities contact Becca Atkins at 860-887-1896. Band of Humans will be performing as part of Boats, Books and Brushes in London, CT this September.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Associate Artist, moi?

I got in! I got in! I've been accepted to be one of 8 Associate Artists for the Atlantic Center for the Arts playwright bootcamp being run by Paula Vogel. I'll be going in september. Till then, lots 'o paper work to complete and send in...

Three weeks of being a playwright south of Daytona Beach. As long as the hurricanes stear clear, i should be okay. Maybe I'll even take in a day or two at Disney World.

Rehearsal Diary: THE NEW GIRL

Last night had a rehearsal for THE NEW GIRL by my bud Michael R. McGuire. It's a funny freakin' play. Should be good. The cast of three is working together well. I'm working as all around designer, sorta stage manager, and good egg on this one.

I'll be meeting with Mike tomorrow about stage design concepts. "Spare" is the word.

Mike receiced a grant from the State of Connecticut to do this production, which is very cool. Means we're all getting paid a little bit. See? Cool.

Production is going up in early October.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Museum of Theater

You go to New York, right? You take in the Museum of Art, or the Museum of Natural History, or the Museum of Science. At night you go to Broadway, the Museum of Theater.

Broadway is always taking knocks for not being fresh, not being inovative, playing to the lowest common denominator. Here's the reality, bub. Broadway is not fresh, it is not the innovator, and it hasn't been for a long time. You go to a Broadway show, you pay around a hundred bucks for that show, you're going for the bells and whistles, for the stars, for the glamour. You're not going to be challenged, to engage with a concept. You're going for the ride.

And it's cool to have a dependable place to visit to see the glitz and the hype and all the stops pulled out. Take that experience home with you, remember it, and let it inform the art you'll make on your own.

How can it be simpler but more meaningful? How can you make that happen with shoestrings and glue? Where is the truthful theater?

You make truthful, raw, real, innovative, affordable, challenging theater happen. Understand Broadway for what it is. It's not the benchmark, it's not the goal. It's a moneymaking diversion, a pretty pit stop on the way to real art. Borrow from it, learn from it, keep an eye on it, enjoy it. Remain mindful of what it is --- a pleasant, safe, pretty museum.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Caught

Theater caught me in high school.

That's when it took hold.

High School Drama Club was the real beginning. I got a principle role in the spring musical OKLAHOMA!

I helped design, build, and paint the sets. No one knew much about building them so I borrowed a book on stage craft from the library and read it.

I stole a white picket fence from some people down the road because we needed one for the production. What was I thinking? Obviously, I was single-mindedly focused on the goal of the production.

The play worked, I worked, and it changed me. The play closed on my sixteenth birthday. What bliss.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Workshopped to Death"

There have been rumblings and articles and a lot of talk about the "workshopped to death" syndrome plaguing playwrights of late. At the O'Neill Theater Center, which boasts the most prestigious workshop experience in the United States, it is not uncommon to see a list of five or six, sometimes ten or eleven, previous workshops and development processes that the play and playwright have been thru. All of these workshops were worked thru by the playwright with the hopeful expecation that someone would see it, get connected to the play, and want to produce it.

No such luck.

Onto the next workshop.

Here's the thing...aren't playwrights complicite in this trend? If you're a playwright who's done workshopping the play, then hold out for a production and stop sending it to workshop opportunities. If that isn't working, produce the damn thing yourself.

Look back at the careers of all of the great or succesful (or both) playwrights. Everyone knows Shakespeare wrote, produced, directed, yada yada yada; but so did O'Neill; so did Gurney; so did Bullins; Vogel; Brecht; Becket; the list goes on and on.

This is one of those "push comes to shove", "will there's a way", "I'm a playmaker, dammit" kinda things.

Yeah, yeah, theaters get money for doing workshops, and the more readings, the less production money goes into the list of "here's what we did this year" that they have to hand in to get their grant money. It's a non-profit world that the theater exists in, and numbers are very, very important.

It's up to the playwright to be sure their play becomes more than grist for the non-profit mill. It's up to the playwright to push for production. If the theater won't do it, then the playwright needs to find a space and make their play a reality. Be a playmaker.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

sound and the theatrical landscape

Sound is emotion in theatrical terms.

We react to the sound of a word before we understand its logic. There's a little lag time. The sound makes us jump, or sweat, or reel. That's why we love the big show-stopper. Listen to it build. just listen.

I had an epiphany about sound while watching a staged reading of a play. There were no props and very little tech. At one point a character turned around with a "gun" (his pointed finger) and he hollered "BANG!"

We all jumped. The other character died. It was theatrically truthful and real.

In fact, it was better that way than if a "real" prop gun had been fired.

It worked. It got to us. We believed it.

Sound is something to study and become better attuned to.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Theater Manifesto

Theater is a generous act.

We go to the theater to fall in love. We fall in love with the play, fall in love with the work, fall in love with the company.

It is important to respect commitment over talent. I can work with commitment. Talent without commitment quickly becomes destructive and a drain on the ensemble.

Plays are not perfect entities, they are flawed, the actors are flawed, the audience is flawed, or late, or coughing, or who knows what. And still, we make theater.

The progeny of American Realism is film, not theater. Current dramaturgy owes more the the American Musical Form than the American Realists.

Theater is a house of magnificence and eloquence and joyful giving.