Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Printing

My wife's book did so well on Kindle we have advanced into hard copies! (The small chateau in the South of France is getting closer ...)


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A theatre experience

     Ok, I have a story to tell you. Many years ago (MANY years ago) I was in an Equity waiver production of “Wonderful Town,” written by Leonard Bernstein. (“Equity Waiver” meaning the leads were Equity, the supporting cast was whatever was capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Yes – I was one of them.) We were opening in Ft. Wayne Indiana at a quite respectable theatre when we got work that Bernstein himself might come to see our show. (We were one of the first groups outside of New York to actually produce this musical.) On the night he was scheduled to attend, we outdid ourselves … (What if he likes me? What if HE likes ME?) I mean, he was doing SOMETHING in Cleveland at the time. What if …?) But he didn’t show. Instead, he sent a 21-year-old LACKY to see OUR show and EVALUATE IT to the great maestro. I remember, greatly disappointed, standing backstage and listening to this character sing our praises – that we had done good, that he would tell Bernstein that we had done him proud – yeah yeah yeah. Bullshit. Most of our cast dispersed. (There was a bar two blocks away we called home.) I felt sorry for this guy – obviously he had made a 200-mile-trip for a less than enthusiastic response. So as the cast departed, I invited him to join us. “I can’t,” he responded, “got to get back to Cleveland.” We shook hands in parting. “Jack Petersen,” I said, “glad to meet you.” “Steve,” he responded. “Steve,” I asked. “Sondheim,” he responded, “Steve Sondheim.”


Saturday, March 15, 2014

64 SQUARES

     With the encouragement of my wife, I've decided to attempt to write a story (I'm far more comfortable with writing plays.) So, for your consideration, here is a small section. The character "speaking" was born in India in 1930, so the time now would be about 1946. 



     Sometime in the sixteenth year of my life my father came to me with the following offer. “Son, I think it’s time to buy you a new suit.”

    ‘Thank you,” I replied. I was both pleased and honestly perplexed. Unless he wanted something, my father rarely spoke to me. And the thought that he wanted to participate in some aspect of my life was quite beyond my comprehension.

     “Would you like to know why?” My father was being both tenacious and purposely vague. And he was enjoying every moment of our conversation.

     Yes, thank you, I would.” If this conversation reads as somewhat stilted, it’s because I honestly don’t remember it. Nor do I recall much of what would happen in the next few days. However, because the events occurred, it seems probable this conversation occurred, as well.

     “It’s for your wedding day.”

     This snippet of information shouldn’t have come to me as any great revelation. In the caste system practiced throughout India, my place was quite near the bottom of the social food chain. The way of life was well laid out, and had been refined over many generations. You were born, worked, married, worked, produced children, worked, and died. It was that simple. Life was orderly and without surprises. Everyone seemed quite content.

     Well, almost everyone. I believe with an almost certainty that all human beings are basically optimistic. I believe that disaster will strike someone else before it strikes me. The fallacy in this logic was that I didn’t know anyone else, so when my turn came it caught me completely by surprise.

     My mother gushed. “Her name is Alisia, and she’s definitely above your station.” I’m not sure I truly appreciated my mother when she gushed. This was in fact the first time I had ever seen her do it, and I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it.

     “I had to work hard for this match. It wasn’t easy. Her grandfather is a true Brit, I certainly hope you understand what that means!”

     I waited for my mother to pause for breath. It would prove to be a long wait.

     “No, you don’t. I can tell by your expression that you have no idea what this could mean for your future. Well. Believe me, I’ll be pleased to tell you. It means that … and that … and that … not only in this life, but in several lifetimes to come! So you just think about that!”

     She said other things. I know she did. Her voice began to echo in my head. The tone of her voice became deeper until it was nothing more than a grumble of sound, not unlike that of distant thunder. At the same time, the edges of my vision darkened, and it appeared that moving objects were slowing down.
    
     My mind withdrew to some safe place, and the processing of information became questionable. I moved hypnotized through the next few days. I know there were people around me. I know there was a ceremony of some sort - I can vaguely remember a blur of orange and white.

     Awareness returned to me in a snap. One moment I was in our small kitchen, talking to my mother. In the next moment I was in my own room, and across from me was … the enemy.

     She was sitting on my only chair. I was sitting on the bed. She was thin. I was thin. She stared at the floor. I stared at her. Her hands were folded in her lap. My hands were folded in my lap. She was wearing her one-and-only sari. I was wearing my one-and-only suit. Her eyes were red, her nose was running, and she had a nervous cough. I had … my one-and-only suit. Great. She was already ahead of me on points. Neither one of us spoke a word. Eventually I fell asleep. I think she did the same.


     That was our wedding night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

About MONEY

     For an artist, inspiration starts with a gnawing hunger. No hunger, no inspiration, no art.  Culture defines civilizations. Art defines cultures.

     Okay, here’s where I’m going with this thought process. A friend bemoaned the fact that people in the dramatic arts are paid less than their counterparts working in Walmart. And, unfortunately, I believe this to be true in the broadest sense. Actors have the only unions where ninety percent of the membership is unemployed at any given moment. Art is a luxury. Food and shelter come first (as they should). Yet art defines us. Look at any generation. What comes to mind ? Music? Movies? Clothing styles? It’s all art. Even architecture falls under someone’s artistic impression (or lack thereof.) During World War Two Winston Churchill was criticized for not cutting the Arts budget for England. His reply? “If we do that, what are we fighting for?”

    So Art is appreciated. Established Art is appreciated. Something – or someone – has to be around long enough to attract an audience. There are places everywhere (and IN XANADU is no exception) where “followers” are courted. Have enough followers and you win a prize. (I’m still waiting.) The point is, an artist is acknowledged. That is, he or she has put together enough of a body of work to create a style to which audiences gravitate.

     So we have been talking about someone who, after years of perseverance, has “made it.” Well and good for that person.

     But what about the poor shmuck working equally hard, who has yet to be discovered? (And, isn’t this the majority of us?) Regardless of the potential for rewards, a person in arts needs to express beyond what ‘normal” life will allow. If you have never been there, it’s like a drug. However, because the need to express is an end goal, the need to be understood and appreciated falls into second place. Because of this, when the dust settles, the artist realizes that he or she has placed a low price on him or herself as a commodity. It’s a psychological Catch-22. Lower the price, reach more people. Raise the price, reach fewer. Like race horses, artists have traditionally been supported by the very rich, and I suspect for many of the same reasons …


     Will this change at any time in the future? I doubt it. Look around. The value of an individual artist’s work usually only increases dramatically after he or she has been dead for a period of time. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Another Contest


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shameless Plug time ...

I know, I know.

It's been awhile. Again.

It started when I became a major winner in a playwriting contest in Indiana. At the same time my agent dropped off the face of the earth. The two events together started me in a new direction. Since my wife is a published novelist on Amazon, I got the idea of doing the same thing - publishing plays on Amazon. Sixteen of 'em, all re-written in Amazon-speak. Took months.

Anyway. After looking at all this stuff put together, I was impressed. Never had "collected works" before.

Here they are. I'd love for you to look around, give me your impression. Click here.

j

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BEEN BUSY ...

     Sorry we haven't chatted in awhile.

     Writing has picked up considerably. So has exposure, apparently.

     I entered a short play in a local contest. It won a presentation, which was a week or so ago. I attended, and I must tell you, it's always a grand feeling when you see people saying your words, expressing your thoughts ...

     I entered TWO one-act plays in a contest in Atlanta, Georgia. This was months ago, and I have been told that both are still in consideration. ONE would be fine, but the chances that both are still in the running, well, that is rare indeed, and I am certainly honored.

     In mid summer I entered one of my better plays in the Writer's Digest Playwriting Competition. Results will be announcer in the Spring. Modestly, my plays have always placed well in this contest during previous years, and they graciously gush over my work. Still, who knows? Maybe somebody will see this one and do something ... (And why not? I'm having a good year so far.)

     A play I wrote for a competition in Indiana is also doing well. The man in charge has called me several times, and I'm impressed by how impressed HE is. I really do hope this one wins - serious money here.

     And all this has inspired me, at least to some degree. I'm in the process of writing a sequel to one of my earlier plays. Never done that before. Fun and very interesting.

     So there you have it - ego trip all the way, but I wanted you to know what's been going on in my life.

     As always, thanks for being there.


     j

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Civil War In Syria, And Our Involvement In It.

     I posted this on Facebook and got such a response that I thought I would re-post it here.


     I have been reading with great interest about our growing itch to involve ourselves in the Syrian civil war. We are presently approaching the point where Congress and the Senate will approve the President’s request to punish the President of Syria for (supposedly) gassing his own people. 

     This brings three questions to my mind. 

     First, who are we gonna hit? I don’t see good guy-bad guy here. I see bad guy-worse guy here. They keep changing positions, and none of them at all like us very much. 

     Second, we will go in there on the pretext that gassing people is a bad thing. Isn’t the implication there, then, that dropping bombs on them is acceptable? 

     And third, I don’t have enough of the facts. I certainly don’t trust any news service. Everyone seems to have his own spin on what is or should be the proper course of action, based on inside information only a select few posess. For whatever reason, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be the only mature intelligent voice out there, and that truly does scare me. Truth is, nobody wants us there. And, as bad as it is, it’s a civil war. My thinking is that as long as the conflict remains within the borders of Syria, it would be in our best interests to stay out of it. On the other hand, when have we ever done that?

     j

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A (somewhat) New Path

     I took back my life a few days ago.

     As a writer, I've enjoyed my share of success. Certainly I've seen a number of my plays produced. But there was always a quality to that effort - everything being a "hands on" experience, up to a point. Then I got my agent who lives in Oregon (I've had two agents as a playwright. The first one lived in South Carolina and worked tirelessly for me. seven days a week.) And, perhaps that's the point - my last agent was selective, allowing opportunities to pass that I felt should have been investigated. (On the other hand, he booked one of my plays at a theatre in Edinburgh Scotland I never thought would have happened, since in it I poke fun - lightly - at the Scots.) The point of all this is that my agent and I have parted company, and I am once again booking my own plays, making my own decisions (and keeping the 15% commission). Shall I find another agent? Of course. Eventually. In the meantime I'm looking, and finding the present situation not entirely unpleasant.

     And I'm starting a new play. The babe and I went to a Farmer's Market last weekend and I bought a loaf of bread from a charming baker who told me she loves her work, and would "bake bread 24 hours a day if (her) husband would let her." With that thought, I was hooked - and am in process of writing a one-act about a woman who gets up at 2:30 in the morning to start a loaf of bread baking, and then goes back to bed. The entire play is dialogue between husband and wife IN the bed. (And for those gentile readers who might be shocked about a play where a man and woman are in bed together, I would point out the fact that since they ARE married, there will not even be the suggestion of sex involved ...)

     For the first time in a goodly number of years, I'm not directing any plays, nor do I have any scheduled in the near future. I would never have thought this - lack - would bother me, but it does! (One of the great secrets of relaxation is to yell at actors for a couple of hours and then go somewhere and have a very dry martini.) As a point of interest, the last theatre I worked for just entered their first play in a contest without me. (They came in at a dismal last place ...)  

     Just this week I got back from visiting my new doctor ... (I've outlived my previous THREE. What does that tell you?} Anyway, I received a completely clean bill of health. (And this somewhat surprises me. I've rarely done anything to actually deserve that.

     ... except perhaps one thing. I love to walk, and am blessed with an abundance of parks nearby. Two days ago I found myself on a pier, half a mile in length, that surrounds a peninsula. The pier is just off shore, and if there's a purpose to it all, I certainly can't find it. There's not even a play here. Fiction, unlike reality, must make sense somewhere along the line.


     And how was YOUR day?


     j

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chat

     Today is Friday, August 23rd, 2013 at exactly 9:01 PM, according to the little measurer of time that's built into my computer. I don't know why I feel that it's important to have said that, except that when I post these things sometimes it says it's 2:47 in the morning and it really isn't.

     I entered two plays in a contest today - in a city where I once worked. In fact, the theatre where the plays will be read is a building I helped design, and then moved away before the first shovel of sod was turned over. Just thinking about it gave me an odd feeling. And it still does at this very moment.

     I was offered the opportunity to co-direct a play written by a friend of mine. After attending a couple of rehearsals I dropped out. Without going into a lot of details, have you ever been involved in a project and every instinct in you is telling you to leave by the nearest exit? (I co-directed a play a couple of years ago, and I should have known better this time. It's like two men in a canoe trying furiously to paddle in different directions at the same time.)

     I am acting as an advisor (only) to another friend who is also directing a play. It came to me that for the first time in half a century I don't have a play of my own to direct. I have purposely backed away - for awhile - so I could do some serious writing, but it's amazing how quickly you can find yourself out of touch.

     I feel better now. Thank you for allowing me to bring you up to date on my musings.

   
     j

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 5th of July



     Another 4th of July has come and gone. I know there were parades. I didn't go. It's not that I'm lacking in patriotism - I'm not. But in those periods of time when we are not at war with ... somebody, we quickly forget why we celebrate this holiday in the first place. Let's face it - veterans marching down the street are not nearly as interesting as the well-endowed pageant queen in the back seat of an open convertible. (For that matter, when was the last time you actually saw veterans marching down the street?)

     And so, we choose to honor High School marching bands, clowns on miniature motorcycles, and candidates for political office. We have replaced flag carriers with participants in bed races. And perhaps this is a good thing. Germany and Japan, once our most bitter enemies, have prospered with our help and become our strong supporters. Russia actually needs us now for a number of economic reasons, and England - (Remember them? That's where all this started.) England has almost blindly followed us in too many of our adventures ... (Think not? Ask Tony Blair. Isn't he presently the British representative to the South Pole?)

     So I stay home - listen to the fireworks (and gun fire) from a respectable distance. I drink a shot of Vodka in Mexican beer to all those who have gone before me and those who have followed. God bless you! I thank you for your sacrifices. I would love to think we have learned something from our history, and that your descendants will never be called upon to follow in your footsteps ...

but I don't think that will happen.

j

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shameless plug time ...

My wife's novel, PAINTING THE RAIN, has now been published by Amazon.com for Kindle reading (or on iPad or use http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/pc/download to send it to your personal computer.) If you are interested, it can be found (easier) by looking for both the title AND the author (J.E. Ocean). It costs about $10.00 American to download, but the process is amazingly easy ... (And obviously so - I did it.)

The story is based on a play we co-authored, but she "fleshed out" the characters and plot to an absolutely amazing degree.

Of course I'm prejudiced, but from my own professional point of view, the work is gripping, and the climax both powerful and unique.

She is now working on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books. I can hardly wait.

j


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our house

Finally, after many years, I'm living in the home of my dreams.


My wife, being an artist, has decorated our rooms with warmth and whimsy ...


A stoneware image of the kid ...


And Chicken George, who guards our front door.


Our family history grins at us from our stairs.


I love impressionistic art, like this ...


... and this, which is actually a part of the set for OF MICE AND MEN.


Being writers, we do not own a television set, unless you want to consider this pillow on our bed ..


Ok, ok, I lied. I keep a 7 inch TV hidden in my sock drawer, and when my wife is away I send the cat out of the room, turn out all the lights, and watch "Are You Being Served?"

I hope you're happy now. You know all my secrets.

j






Friday, June 28, 2013

PAINTING THE RAIN

My wife's book is scheduled to be available in the Kindle version on Amazon within the next five days.

This publishing business has certainly been an interesting experience for the both of us. PAINTING THE RAIN started as a play we co-authored. Later she decided to "flesh out" the story (adding 100,000 words ...). not knowing the finished work would go thru five editors - including myself, and result in a necessary Facebook website (J.E. Ocean), opening both a post office box and a separate bank account, and much correspondence, of course, with Amazon,. The past few days has been involved with graphic artists simply to create the book cover ... and the first reviewer has been requested.

I ... think I'm gonna stick with plays. I write, put it on a disc, send the work to somebody and they send money back. I like the simple life.

j