Friday, December 31, 2010

[Insert Hackneyed End-of-Year Phrase Here]

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 up ahead, walking straight towards us. Of course, we stopped and chatted and congratulated her on her fantastic performance, and she was absolutely lovely. She said she found it rather odd that when in London she was rarely ever recognized, but whenever she visited New York she invariably was. Anyway, I’m very pleased for her. I also liked what she had to say about receiving the award. She said she had mixed feelings about it, as the voting system for them didn’t seem very fair, and that lots of people who should be getting similar recognition weren’t. But she said that she’d use hers in the defense of theatre (meaning, of course, against those axe-wielding yahoos in Whitehall that view the arts as…well, you know).

So onward we go. My new writing project is coming along very well – better than I expected, actually – and I have another couple of projects in the pipeline, so I’m going to be kept very busy in the coming weeks.

I hope the New Year will bring all good things to you, especially good health and happiness.

See you next year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Prepare for Takeoff

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 books” as they say (at least, not in a good way). I say “on balance,” because it’s actually been a very productive year for me, playwriting-wise. But it was also a year of ‘ever so very nearly but just not quite’ experiences as a professional playwright, battling his way through this very tough business. There were simply too many potentially very big things that didn’t quite come to fruition, which is very frustrating to say the least. Large carrots dangled in front of me, only to be whipped away at the very last minute. Oddly enough, my astrological chart had predicted just such a year for me (I didn’t know this at the beginning of the year, thank goodness). I’m not big into that stuff, by the way, but I did find that interesting nevertheless.

But, as I’ve said many times before, a writer’s greatest asset is tenacity. If you can take the punches and keep coming back up (see my last blog entry), then sooner or later that pendulum will swing back around. So, I’m looking forward to the coming year as if it were another chapter in a book that is sometimes hard to read but impossible to put down.

Myself, I’m about to start work on a new writing project that I’m very excited about. More on that later.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and I hope that 2011 brings all good things. Bon voyage!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Battling Back!

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 many as 19 or as little as 4. “The Meta Plays” has a similar calculation (18 or 4, I think), and even though there’s probably a little more adult content in some of the pieces, I doubt any of what little there is would be enough to prevent these markets producing it (not to mention that the occasional swear word here and there can easily be substituted for something more palatable for the easily offended). So, perhaps this play collection has the potential to take off around the world and make me embarrassingly wealthy…or at least awkwardly comfortable. (Though I’d really rather not get a hammering from the critics in the process, if at all possible.)

Anyway, it’s already piqued the interest of one of the big publishers, so that may not be as far-fetched as I make it sound. In the meantime, I’ll be putting my marketing hat back on and see if I can make 2011 the year of “The Meta Plays!”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Craft

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.

Another good thing about this development is that ‘The Craft’ is one of ‘The Meta Plays’ collection that I just recently completed, so hopefully this bodes well for the entire project. In this one the actors are performing in a play within the play, but the words they speak are those of the inner dialogues they are having with themselves whilst performing – so from the audience’s perspective, it’s rather like being a fly on the wall in their minds. Neither of them can stand the other, and both are less than thrilled with the material they are working with…but on they go. It’s a little homage to those brave and fearless creatures who tread the boards, often under very challenging circumstances, and often with little or no compensation other than the opportunity to practice their craft.