Posts

Showing posts from 2010

[Insert Hackneyed End-of-Year Phrase Here]

Image
Well, here it is – my last post of 2010. It’s been my first full year of blogging and I must say I’ve quite enjoyed it. I’ve tried to blog reasonably regularly (roughly once a week or so), but also tried to avoid blogging just for the sake of it (i.e. when I really didn’t have anything of interest to report). Thanks to all of you that swing by regularly or infrequently to check in on my rambling, especially to my two wonderful followers below. I promise next year to make a bigger effort in networking on the blogosphere.

I read today that Harriet Walter has just been made a dame, which is fantastic. It’s rare for an actress who hasn’t had significant exposure in film or television to receive this honour, so this is also a win for theatre, in my opinion. I had the pleasure of meeting Harriet last year. We’d just seen her in the Broadway production of Mary Stuart (along with Janet McTeer) and were roaming the streets of New York looking for a place to eat late, when suddenly there she was…

Prepare for Takeoff

Image
It’s that time of the year again, isn’t it? No, I don’t mean Christmas (or whatever it may be that you celebrate), which I love and look forward to with childlike anticipation every year. No. I’m referring to that end-of-the-year feeling, when you look back at the last twelve months through the artificial prism of the calendar year. Whether you want to or not, it’s almost impossible not to reflect upon the year that is just now approaching its end, and contemplate all of the highs and lows, achievements and disappointments that it contained. You recall how you felt back on that first day of January, with that odd mixture of hope and trepidation as you looked out ahead at those 52 weeks of yet-to-be-told stories.

For me, on balance, it’s been something of a difficult year. This, of course, is all relative, as had I been born in the Swat Valley or Mogadishu my perspective would entirely different. But in the context of my own little space on the planet, this year wasn’t “one for the book…

Battling Back!

Image
There’s a very interesting article in the New York Times today about a play that essentially flopped when it was produced Off-Broadway in 2006 (losing all of its $800,000 capitalization) but has since gone on to be one of the most produced plays in U.S. high schools this year, knocking Will Shakespeare off the top spot, as well as receiving a slew of productions around the world.

It’s an interesting story and you can read it here. There’s a lot of lessons in what works (or doesn’t) in certain markets, and proves that a play can have a very successful life of its own even after it’s been hammered by the critics. Of course, there’s nothing new in stating that what works in New York isn’t necessarily going to fly regionally and vice versa, but this particular example of a phoenix rising from the ashes is quite unique.

It also did not escape my attention that one of the reasons for its appeal regionally and in amateur and school/college markets is that it can be performed by a cast of as ma…

The Craft

Image
I was very pleased to learn that my short play ‘The Craft’ has been selected as one of three finalists for the 14th annual National One-Act Play Competition at FirstStage, in Los Angeles. The finalists will be presented in staged readings at The Missing Piece Theatre next Monday.

This is a sort of homecoming for me, as FirstStage was indeed my first stage as a playwright. The very first time I ever saw actors on a stage performing something I’d written in front of actual living, breathing human beings was at FirstStage, almost 10 years ago now. A lot has changed since then, of course, not least of which is the fact that I now longer live in LA. But you always remember your first time, right? And oh, good grief, the fear, panic, nausea, and sheer frustration with myself for thinking that I could write something that people would actually find interesting or entertaining. I thought I’d be laughed out of the building. But they didn’t laugh. Well, they did…but in the right places.

Anothe…

"V" To Her Friends

Image
This past weekend I had the honour and privilege to witness a stage performance from our greatest living actress. I speak, of course, of Vanessa Redgrave, who is currently starring opposite James Earl Jones in the Broadway debut of Alfred Uhry’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

I can’t say that I’m a huge admirer of the play itself. It has much to recommend it, of course, not least of which is the way in which it’s able to be quietly subversive in its social and racial politics while masquerading as something far more sentimental and homespun. That said, though, at the end of the day it isn’t the sort of play that stay’s with you for very long after you’ve seen it…at least, that’s how it is for me.

But the performances! Ah, they stay with me to this very moment. And I do say “they,” as James Earl Jones was truly wonderful in his role. But it was Vanessa Redgrave that bowled me over and had me transfixed by her every utterance and movement. I was like a little child who, after much fighting off of …

It’s Not Me, It’s Me

Image
I would like to take issue with myself. There may be something schizophrenic in that, but I feel I must. It was something I said in my last post about “writerly isolation.” There is a clear implication in that – and one that was in my mind, no doubt, as I wrote it – that there is something lonely about the process of writing. I frequently read interviews with writers who talk about the loneliness of the writing process. It’s almost become an accepted truth that the act of creative writing is an inherently lonely occupation that writers must endure in order to do what they do; that it comes, as they say, with the territory.

However, after pondering awhile on this piece of supposed conventional wisdom, I have come to the conclusion that I wholeheartedly disagree. When I’m working on a play, I am engrossed in a story that is unfolding before my eyes. More importantly, I am in the company of characters who are as much taking me on a journey as I am them. Hours fly by with me hardly noticin…

The Meta Plays

Image
Yesterday I finished a project I’ve been working on for some time now – ‘The Meta Plays’ – and what better feeling is there than when you’ve finished a writing project you’ve been toiling over long and hard for some considerable time, all in writerly isolation? Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say “toiling,” as these plays were all terrific fun to work on. Truthfully, I had a really great time writing them, as they allowed me to play in that absurdist fun park that occupies a certain portion of my brain. It’s essentially a collection of short plays that takes theatrical conventions on a metaphysical joyride (which is also essentially my logline for the play). One of them (’What’s the Meta?’) I’d actually written a couple of years ago, and already has a significant production history behind it and is published. However, the other seven are all new. One of them (‘The Skewed Picture’) is scheduled to go up in New York tomorrow, although the last I heard that could be postponed.

Anyway, it’s done…

A Delicate Balance

Image
I finally got to see this play this past weekend. It was a production at the Yale Repertory Theatre (and what a lovely theatre that is) in New Haven, Connecticut. I’d read the play for the first time earlier in the year and had moped and moaned on here about how infrequently this play is produced (or perhaps I was just being impatient, having just read it and wanting to see it now!).

It starred Kathleen Chalfant and a host of other extremely talented Albee alums, and they did a fantastic job. The interesting thing for me was that it left me with the exact same feeling I’d had after I’d read it; namely, that I was glad I’d seen (read) it, enjoyed (?) the experience, but was left feeling more than a little unnerved by it afterwards. Unsettled may be a better word. Unsettled in a place within you that you rarely if ever visit. And there’s a good reason you don’t.

If you ever get the chance to see a production of this most hard to describe play, I highly recommend you take advantage of the …

Inspiration

Image
It can be an elusive thing to a writer. Sometimes painfully so. I’ve been fortunate of late, in that I haven’t had to struggle (beg, plead, make pacts with supreme beings whose very existence I seriously question) to find it. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs over the years, not to mention periods of downright estrangement. But somehow, sooner or later, we’ve always managed to reconnect and rediscover what it was that brought us together in the first place. Like a good friend, you sometimes may not see them for quite a while, but when you do, it’s just as it was before – and the time in between evaporates.

When inspiration is not around, however, it can be devilishly hard to seek it out. Of course, you can always sit and patiently wait in the hope that it shows up. Or you can try to cajole it out from wherever it’s hiding. I have a number of methods for doing this (besides the tantrum-like approaches mentioned above, which tend to be a last resort prior to a full-blown existential …

Bad Drivers

Image
I currently have a play in production, put on by a great group of theatre practitioners based in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Can I say that again? The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. I don’t know why, but I really like the way that sounds. Anyway, I really wish I could get over there to see it, but at an almost six hour drive from here on highways that seem to be increasingly littered with lunatic drivers, I’d probably never survive the journey. Not to mention that I’m still recovering (in the nastiest way) from a bout of the flu (thanks to my trusty flu shot last week).

So here’s to all the terrific folks at the Independent Theatre Collective…in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia…break legs, guys!

Rest in Peace

Image
I was very sad to hear of the passing of Tony Curtis last week. Another loss from an ever-dwindling pool of movie stars of the Golden Age. I was, however, further saddened when I read an interview with him from a few years back in which he lamented the fact that he’d not done the sort of important work he felt he should have during his career, and that he felt the studios had never given him his due in casting him in such films. I found this rather sad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it smacks of a certain sense of entitlement, which is an unappealing trait. I understand that he came from a time when the studios would groom, guide, and essentially have total control over your career, but I wonder how hard he really tried to get those weightier roles that he thought should have been his. Then, as now, big names still had to fight for certain roles, no matter how popular they were at the box office. If they weren’t considered right for the part they had to prove it. And so I c…

The System

Image
I read an interview with playwright Kate Fodor over on Adam Symkowicz’s blog, and in it she shared a quote about life as a writer from Cary Tennis, who is an advice columnist at Salon.com, oddly enough. Anyway, I thought it was terrific and thought I’d do my part to spread the good word:

“Remember that as a writer you must find your motivation internally, not in external rewards, and you work in opposition to the system, not as a supplicant to the system. Whatever contingent truces you have maintained with the system in order to participate in its orderly orgies of consumption and distribution, good for you. But you are not a part of the system. You are a free creative worker. You do not need the system to do your creating. You only need it as a utility to reach your audience, and increasingly not even for that. On the other hand, the system cannot create anything on its own. It can only manage and distribute. So it needs you. It needs you but it is not on your side. Remember that.”

He…

The Shock of the Neu!

Image
There’s been much talk in the theatre blogging community of late extolling the virtues of new forms of theatre, such as the one-on-one intimate performance piece (“You Me Bum Bum Train” at the Barbican and the “One-On-One Festival” at BAC are two good examples); site-specific theatre that has left the notion of the auditorium behind and pops up anywhere and everywhere that feels right (hotel rooms, empty buildings, public toilets, etc.); and theatre that emphasizes the “new” in terms of form and presentation over everything else.

This is all well and good. In fact, it’s great. Without innovation and experimentation we would find a hardening of the arteries that would lead to a deadening stagnation to the art form as a whole, and so a constant reexamination of what we do and how we do it helps to keep theatre fresh, relevant and alive. However, there appears to be a pervading sense of “out with the old, in with the new” amidst all this chatter, which makes me feel a little uncomfortable…

“There's villainous news abroad!"

Image
There is a well-known and respected theatre in London (which I shall refrain from naming) that has a stellar reputation for presenting new works of social and political relevance. Thinking that this could be an ideal place to send a particular play of mine, I decided to look up their submission policy. Sure enough, after a short while I discovered a link named “new writing.” To my dismay, however, upon opening the “new writing” page I discovered not an explanation on how to submit a play or play sample for their consideration, but rather a short paragraph asking for £15 (or $25) in return for which they’ll read your play and let you know what the reader thought of it (whoever and however qualified this anonymous person may be). That’s it. No consideration for further development, simply a paid opinion on your play from some unknown entity. They also make a curious comment about your “reader’s fee” not being acknowledged by them.

I find this all rather disingenuous for a state-funded c…

The Long Haul

Image
I thought I’d offer another example of the true value of tenacity in this hardscrabble business. I offer it because, personally speaking, I always find it immensely encouraging when I hear writers share their tales of overcoming the odds or snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Several years ago I had an idea for a short play that I thought was rather novel and could prove to be quite popular at short play festivals if done right. After all, it could be played by any age, ethnicity or gender, and in any combination thereof. It also would require no props and no set. A cash-strapped producer’s dream, not to mention the casting director.

After I’d finished it I sent it off to any opportunity that it seemed like a good fit for…which was pretty much most of them that I saw at that time. Again and again I’d submit it, feeling confident that its debut production – the first of many – was imminent. Wrong. Again and again the play was rejected. However, I resolutely continued to send it o…

The Art of Survival

Image
There’s an interesting discussion going on at The Guardian’s Noises off theatre blog surrounding the question of whether it’s possible for an artist to make a living in theatre. Well, all but a tiny fraction of us already know the answer to that, but it has generated some very interesting debates, including some intriguing arguments on subsidizing the arts. I’ve posted my humble contribution below:


Even putting the current economic situation aside, I don’t think we’ll ever arrive at a time when the government decides it’s a good idea to support all artists with a living wage if they’re unable to support themselves by their work alone. It just won’t happen. Therefore, anyone opting to pursue a career in theatre must surely acknowledge that in doing so they will have no guarantee of financial security and will almost always have to support themselves in other ways…unless they get very lucky. We can all look enviously at someone whose wealthy parents subsidize their endeavors, but the tru…

Tenacity

Image
Aside from the ability to actually write a good play, one of the most critical assets a playwright must possess in this toughest of businesses is tenacity. This has been proven to me time and again, and I will illustrate my point with the following example:

A couple of years ago I had submitted a script of mine to a prestigious theatre festival in New York (not the Fringe, I should add). The play was rejected. The following year I submitted again to the very same festival…with the very same play. It was accepted. Not only that, but I was informed by one of the curators of the festival that it was the first play she’d read and the first play she’d accepted into the festival.

Interestingly enough, I have a very similar situation happening right now with another theatre…and with the very same play.

The lesson: No doesn’t mean yes, but it doesn’t always mean no, either. Yes or no?

Thrill Me With Your Acumen

Image
I came across an interesting article a couple of days ago on the subject of whether or not playwriting can be taught. This isn’t the first discussion on the topic, nor is the argument confined to playwriting – one could ask that of any of the arts – but it is a good article and includes of lot of opinions from some very interesting people.

I have always been of the opinion that, no, it cannot be taught. Or perhaps I should qualify that by saying I don’t believe it’s possible for someone else to teach you to write a play, but if you have a natural affinity for it, it’s entirely possible for you to teach yourself to write a play. That, to me, is at the crux of the argument – that you have to have that inherent ability within you. It can be coaxed out under the right circumstances, but if it's not there to begin with, it’s impossible to manufacture or “teach” that ability. Yes, you can give anyone a pen and paper and they could string together some dialogue for a few characters and a…

Legit Lit III

Image
According to Playbill, Derek Jacobi is set to star in an upcoming production of King Lear at London’s Donmar Warehouse, before touring the U.K. This, of course, would be quite something to witness. In fact, the production is due to be broadcast in more than 22 countries thanks to the National Theatre’s NT Live project, which broadcasts live productions to various cinemas around the world.

However, of additional interest was something I noted at the end of the press release. In the words of the esteemed Donmar Warehouse, they say of the play, “One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil."

Now you wouldn't argue with that, would you?

I Think She's Gonna Pull Through...

Image
There is a lot of concern in the theatre community (on both sides of the Atlantic) on the impact these recession ravaged years may have on the immediate future of the arts. This is very understandable. Here in the U.S. the concern is more generalized in terms of people simply tightening their belts and cutting back on discretionary spending – meaning fewer tickets sold and companies of all sizes facing a drop in operating income, or even the chop. With less operating income, conventional wisdom has it that more and more theatres will turn to the safe, proven hits that are more likely to guarantee return on investment, and consequently drop new writing like a bad smell. To some degree I have already seen signs of this happening. But, as lamentable as it is, during tough times everyone has to go into survival mode, so you can’t blame the non-profits for doing what they need to do to stay afloat.

In the U.K. things are a little different. Much theatre is state subsidized, and the new “co…

To Whom We Serve

Image
I have to confess, I do get a little tired when reading discussions on the current state of theatre, theatre funding, funding cuts, commercial versus non-profit, etc., etc., and repeatedly seeing a word bandied about like some old rag doll with its stuffing hanging out…the word in question being “audience.” For many, it seems, that word has come to describe some homogenous blob of humanity that has one face and operates completely in tandem. “The audience” wouldn’t be there for a show like that, it’s too edgy. “The audience” is tired of endless revivals and jukebox musicals. We’d like to program more new writing in our season, but “our audience” doesn’t like taking risks.

I find this all very strange, not to mention patronizing, whichever side of the fence it’s coming from. Audiences come in all shapes and sizes, with only one single trait common to all: an appreciation of the performing arts. Yes, there are those that prefer their theatre experience to veer to the lighter side; shows …

In Praise of Paul

Image
I had promised myself at the beginning of the World Cup that I would refrain from mentioning it here - even though I become completely and hopelessly obsessed with this greatest of all sporting events every four years - since it has nothing to do with theatre or writing (notwithstanding the theatrical antics of players who claim to have been fouled in the most brutal way, writhing in agony on the pitch for several minutes, before getting up and running around again once they realize their performance failed to convince the ref).

And I have done very well at keeping that promise…until now. Until, that is, I learned of Paul. If you haven’t heard of Paul by now, then you must not have been following the news very closely. Paul is an octopus. A psychic octopus who has proven to have extraordinary powers of prediction when it comes to international football matches. Paul lives in Germany (at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen to be precise), and achieved a degree of fame in that country when…

Oh Dear!

Image
Perhaps serving as a sort of counterpoint to The Guardian’s recent blog on whether or not plays should be considered literature, they currently have a blog discussing the topic of “Why can't novelists make it work in the theatre?” The article itself is not up to much, in my opinion, being far too generalized and dismissive in its argument; but the responses it has generated make for some interesting and very insightful reading if you happen to be so inclined. You can read it here.

Legit Lit II

Following on from my post over the argument as to whether plays should be considered literature, I suddenly remembered that I actually have a monologue from one of my plays published in an anthology entitled “Monologues from Literature.” What other proof do you need?

All right, I will admit that at the time the editor contacted me to ask whether I thought it would be “okay” to include it in there. Still…it’s in there, and the title of the book spells out very clearly and unambiguously what it contains.

I just checked, and it’s in there, right opposite a monologue from Emily Bronte’s "Wuthering Heights." There! I’ve single-handedly ended the argument.

Right?

Mind Over Meta

I’ve been dreaming a lot this week. In the literal sense, that is, not the aspirational one (although I may have indulged in a bit of that, too). Now, there are few more groan inducing things in life than hearing someone else jabber on about the dream they had the night before. It comes just above being forced to wade through other people’s holiday snaps, and right below having to hear someone subject you to tales of the latest cute thing their toddler (or cat) learned to do last week. Don’t worry, I shan’t be relating any of my dreams here (even if I could still remember them).

However, what struck me as quite bizarre about one of them was the incredible amount of literary detail it had. I was reading from some strange book (just telling this bit, I promise), and it was full of curious, quite frightening admonitions that were fascinating to read. I remember thinking at the time (in my semi-conscious state) that if I could just remember them when I woke up I could put them to great use…

Legit Lit?

I’ve been adding my (rather grumpy) five cents to an initially interesting, but ultimately pointless discussion in The Guardian’s theatre blog today, over whether plays are/can/should be considered “literature.” I’m too lazy to retread my thoughts on the matter here, but check it out if it sounds like an interesting topic of conversation.

(Smiles back, with a hint of menace)

I recently finished reading Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.” It’s one of those plays that I’ve always meant to read but somehow never got around to. Anyway, finally I did. As I understand it, this was the play that turned his ascendant star on a downward trajectory that would lead to many years in the wilderness in the eyes of the critics. After the raw, brutal brilliance of “Woolf” it’s not hard to see why this play was the cause of some disappointment, and indeed head scratching. It did, however, win the Pulitzer that year…though, as so often happens with Academy Awards, I think this may have been in part something of an atonement for past misjudgments – i.e. “Woolf” not getting it.

However, I found the play to be quite affecting for the most part, and at times rather harrowing. I'm certain that any play he’d written after the huge critical and commercial success of “Woolf” would inevitably have been seen as something of a letdown. Consequently, I don’t think this play has been giv…

Cormorant Comma Rant

Here’s a fine example of why the common-or-garden comma (not just the Oxford variety) should be embraced with open arms. While reading a review by Michael Billington of a play called Madagascar in yesterday’s Guardian, I stumbled (literally) upon this sentence:

"Lillian, speaking five years ago, is a super-civilised American dwelling on her son's defection, possibly to Madagascar."
How, I asked myself, could Lillian be a house? Was it metaphor? Symbolism? Theatre of the absurd? No, it was none of those. It was, of course, the absence of a comma that lay behind my initial confusion. Now, I’m sure there are plenty who would read that sentence for the first time without any misunderstanding or puzzled double-take. But I’m also confident that there are many who, like me, had to reread the line before understanding its intent.

In Mr. Billington’s case, I’m sure this omission was more of an oversight that a conscious decision. But it does highlight what I see as a world that incr…

Folk Tales

Yesterday, Playbill announced that Joan Collins would be making her pantomime debut in “Dick Whittington” at the Birmingham Hippodrome this Christmas. Among the other stars mentioned who will be joining her in this production was the (very funny) comedian Julian Clary. What the article neglected to mention, though, was the fact that when Julian Clary began his career, he went by the stage name (moniker?) “The Joan Collins Fan Club.” And thus a beautiful symmetry was wrought that day and the sun shone just a little bit brighter.

And yet I can’t help feeling I should be applying my focus to more weighty matters.

Hmm…what would Goodluck Jonathan do?

Mr. Jonathan’s Big Day

You might think that the inauguration of a new President in the most populous country in Africa would have considerable global press coverage…but alas, no. Yesterday, this event – whilst obviously a matter of great significance for Nigeria’s 150 million people – slipped by with barely a flicker of acknowledgement from the fourth estate. It seems to me that Western media seem completely uninterested in what happens on that continent unless it relates to war, famine, or disease, and consequently frame and define Africa through such a prism for the more casual observers of world affairs. This is a shame, obviously, but I must confess that the main reason that the swearing in of Nigeria’s new president caught my eye was because of something equally facile…his name: Goodluck Jonathan.

How odd, I thought. And yet, how perfect. His parents, in their infinite wisdom, bestowed upon him from the very moment of his birth, a benediction in perpetuity.

Let’s hope that it bodes well for his …

Recently Cited

I saw this excellent quote from Moss Hart in The Dramatist (the Guild's bi-monthly magazine):

"I was the guy there when the paper was white."

Great stuff. And I think I'm quoting it accurately...but if not, remember the words of Hesketh Pearson:

“Misquotation is ... the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely.”

Hesketh Pearson (1887 – 1964) English biographer and writer

Thanks, Hesketh, I’ll try to remember that (but not accurately).

What's in a Name?

I just recently finished a short play entitled "A Small Act of Vandalism." It's part of a larger project I've been working on for sometime now - a collection of one-person plays centered around a theme. Yes, I'm aware that this is not exactly an original concept, but let's face it, a four character, two-act play is hardly a groundbreaking idea either, is it?

Anyway, every time I've finished one of these, I've run up against the same problem...what do I label it? Is it a monologue? A one-person play (as noted above)? A monologue play? Or just a play? I hesitate to call them monologues or even monologue plays, even though technically that's what they are, as I think calling it a monologue somehow suggests that it's something less than an actual play. This is not the case, but I think there's a tendency to see them as pieces or extracts rather than complete stories. I've been drawn to the idea of calling them one-person plays, but in anoth…

Redux Redux

This week I had my play “Suburban Redux” selected for the final slot in the 2010/2011 season of a new theatre company in the Twin Cities. Naturally, I was very pleased by this development, but especially so in light of recent events…namely, the rather off-putting final panel discussion at last week’s Guild meeting (which I’ve been grousing about far too much and vow never to mention again).

It was a timely reminder that if you write a play that someone enjoys and wants to produce, it really can be that simple and straightforward. We had no prior relationship, imbued with tacit understandings; it was simply a case of them enjoying the play I’d written and discovering that it fit very well with their mission and core values, so a request was made to stage it. How nice and uncomplicated.

And they seem to be really terrific people to boot, so it’s a double plus.

So, yes…sometimes it can be just about the work. Amen.

In Praise of the Oxford Comma

I’ve always been a big proponent of the Oxford comma. As a playwright, I believe you are a director of words. It’s your job to make the script convey exactly what you’re trying to say in exactly the way you’re trying to say it. Consequently, I continually strive to remove any ambiguity in my work and make my intentions quite clear and recognizable. If something’s ambiguous in something I’ve written it should only be that way because I’ve chosen it to be so.

Anyway, while idly researching the Oxford (or serial) comma (Who does that? What a loser!), I found this gem on Wikipedia:
Unresolved ambiguity

The Times once published an unintentionally humorous description of a Peter Ustinov documentary, noting that "highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector".I’m so glad, in this instance, that they didn’t use one, as it would have denied me the wealth of pleasure I’ve derived from rereading this sentence many, many…

Other People

I received and email last week letting me know that the Dramatists Guild would be rolling into town next Sunday. Never having gone to one of these Guild town hall meetings (Philadelphia barely seems to register on their radar), I immediately emailed back to RSVP for two of the meetings, the first starting at 4:00pm. Only later did I realize that next Sunday I was planning on being in New York for the 4:00pm (and final) performance of "Cafe Grotesquerie" at the Red Room. Why does life do things like that? True, I can head up there on Saturday to see it, but the trains to NYC on Saturdays are usually bursting at the seams with all manner of humanity...and you all know what hell is.

Happy World Theatre Day! (?)

Yes, today is March 27th, the occasion of World Theatre Day. Apparently, this annual day of celebration for all things theatre is quite popular and revered in some parts of the world, but not, it would seem, well...in these parts. Let's be honest here, anyone outside of the theatre business is unlikely to have a clue that this event actually exists, and even if they did, probably wouldn't give a flying toss about it anyway. But exist it does, and I've been racking my brain to come up with an appropriate way of marking the event myself. I haven't been very successful.

The problem is, I'm not entirely sure what it is that I'm supposed to be celebrating. Is it myself, in as much as I'm a part of "world theatre"? If so, it feels slightly awkward, rather like singing "Happy Birthday" to yourself. Or is it the general concept of theatre itself that we're supposed to honor? And if that's the case, how does one honor a concept? Conceptual…

Grotesquerie in New York

I recently received word that my play "Cafe Grotesquerie" had been selected for an annual one-act festival in New York entitled "Vignettes for the Apocalypse" produced by a very interesting company called EndTimes Productions. I thought I'd have a lot of difficulty finding a home for this particular play, oddity that it is, but I must say it would seem to be right at home in this festival. It's billed as focusing on pieces with horror, sci-fi, political, or dystopian themes, and my play most definitely belongs in the latter category. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they do with it, and more than happy that this strange little play wasn't as hard to place as I'd imagined. Like they say, everybody's somebody's baby.

Cheerio...and Don't Forget to Write

Yes, it's finally happened. This week I made a final few revisions to "The Treachery of Images" and summarily sent it off into the great world beyond. What will become of it I do not know. My hope, of course, is that it lands at an Ivy League college, continues on to a staggeringly successful career, and generally makes a grand impression on all that cross its path, in turn making itself (and me) very proud. My fear is that it will crash and burn soon after takeoff, ending up on the streets, living hand-to-mouth and whoring itself to feed its ravaging heroin habit. Oh, the worry of it all!

But the truth is, I have absolutely no idea what the reaction to this play will be. It could be viewed as quite a downer, the subject matter being what it is. It's certainly pretty heavy stuff, with very little humor in it at all, and what there is is of the blackest and most acerbic kind. Furthermore, it contains just two characters and everything happens in real time in one room. …

A Rush of Ink to the Pad

A couple of years ago I had a short play of mine included in a festival put on by a group in Southern California. The theme of the festival focused on plays that broke with theatrical convention. I very much liked the concept of the show, and on top of that they were terrific people to deal with. Last year when they put out a submission call I was busy on another project. This year, however, I was not (well, in truth I was taking a little break from my long goodbye with "The Treachery of Images" - yes, it's still going on...I thought taking a break from it for a few days would be a good idea, giving me a fresher perspective when making my final pass on it). Anyway, I digress (something I'm quite prone to doing).

So I decided I would see if I could put something together to submit to them. Late afternoon on Monday I came up with an idea. A few hours later I'd all but finished the first draft. Yesterday I did a few rewrites and revisions, came up with a title I was…

The Long Goodbye

Yes, the parting is still in process. While most of the drafting I'm doing now is simply polishing and tightening, there have been a few places that I've felt the need to rework because I wasn't completely happy with them. It's been going well, but I won't be sending the play anywhere until I've got it exactly where I want it.

The one concern I do have for the play, other than people finding it to be a complete downer, is the length. It runs at about 52 pages. The general rule of thumb (which is often very inaccurate) is one page per minute. This would make my play too short for most theatres if taken on that criteria (or criterion, to be correct) alone. However, the play has a number of lengthy monologues embedded within it, not to mention the frequent pauses and silences that occur throughout, both of which should see it running at closer to 70+ minutes in my estimation (hope). If it doesn't, then that's the way it will have to be, as I will not pad it…

The Farewell Scene

I've been working on a new play for the past couple of months (entitled "The Treachery of Images" - and yes, I stole it from Magritte), but I am now very close to finishing it. I know that after just a couple more rewrites it will be time to step away. I know this because I've started to reach the stage where I start second guessing things I was very happy with all along...a clear sign of rewriting for the sake of it. Many years ago, while at art school, I learned a very valuable old Chinese adage: It takes two people to paint a painting - one to paint it, the other to say stop. And so we must part. But, as always, it is with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm getting a little burned out from going over the same scenarios again and again, and long to start something new. At the same time, I've spent countless hours alone with these characters, delving deep into their lives and personal problems, taking their journey with them. We've been almost insepara…

The Scottish-ish Play

Yes, I know, this is neither tomorrow nor soon, but, well, it was the holidays and things get a little hectic around that time, as everyone knows. So where was I?

Ah, yes, the severed head. Well, one of my very early plays is two-hander one-act entitled “A Familiar Face.” The story centers on two older cockney women and a human head preserved in formaldehyde in a large glass jar, which has been discovered by one of the women in the cupboard under her stairs. I had a (disastrous) staged reading of it in New York some years back, but was later contacted by a theatre group in Killin, Scotland, who wished to perform the play in a regional competition. They were terrific people to deal with and they had a great time with the play, so that was all very nice. Then, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by another group in Scotland, from the Isle of Skye, who also wished to perform the play…in the same regional competition! And again, they are proving to be lovely people to deal with. Then about a …