Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pondering A Decision Here.

I’ve been a playwright for something like, umm, almost 40 years now. (But you know that. If you cross my blog path on any sort of regular basis, I talk about this stuff all the time.)

And – by my own standards – I’ve had a decent career. With the exception of one play (which I’ve never offered to anyone) all my work has been produced. Somewhere. I’ve had plays produced as far west as Palm Springs, California, as far east as Pittsburgh, and a whole bunch of places in between. The best compliment I received was in being informed that one of my plays had been pirated and produced without my knowledge in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Wow. Somebody thought enough of one of my plays to steal it. How ‘bout that?!)

I never had a play produced on or off Broadway. This was never something that held any interest to me at all. At a time when I needed it, I had an agent (in Florida!) and made a respectable second income.

I enjoy writing plays. I’ve had a smattering of experience as a drama critic, and recently I’ve co-authored a book, and even more tentatively I’ve submitted articles to a handful of magazines. And a dear and talented friend has made overtures about the two of us working together to write a movie. And I just might. (Other than this, she seems quite sane,)

But I’m most comfortable writing plays. A play is the only form of literature that does NOT go through an editor. I like that. I like placing words on paper and having someone immediately recite them back to me. I like giving a concept to a group of performers, and watching (sometimes in amazement) as that concept is expanded.

I’ve purposely avoided what most people would consider success in this career, because that usually means stress, deadlines, antagonism, and all the other pressures that appear to define and repress creativity by today’s standards.

And I was happy. Write a play, send it somewhere. That was the pattern. And I’ve been lucky. Word of mouth has meant that SOMETHING of mine has constantly been on somebody’s schedule ever since I started writing.

But lately I’ve been a member of a couple of writing groups, and several people I admire are in the process of taking, what for me, would have been the next step. I wished them well. I was still not convinced this could or should be the next step for me – if, indeed, I was even looking for a next step.

And yesterday, while I was trying to find the synopsis of a play I’d never heard of, I came across a website listing maybe a hundred agents specializing in playwrights. Intrigued, I discovered I more than qualify to be considered as a client.

So-o-o … suddenly … I’m considering sending something to a bunch of suit types. Do I really want to do this? I’ve given you all my reasons for NOT doing this in the past. What do you think? Should I pick an agent with many clients? Or should I pick an agent with only one or two clients? (My agent in Florida only had three clients, including myself. She worked like a mad woman on my behalf.)

I know, I know, ultimately it’s my decision. But this is a new think for me, and I’d appreciate some thoughts.


And how was your day?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Words

Because of the vast number of request I’ve received, here are the translations of more Fargoeese words that you are forced to copy in blog comment boxes.

LIDEON, MEXILIDEON, and FRIGEON. These are musical terms – actually modes of music.

LIDEON is by far the most popular (hence the song, “I’m In The Mode For Love.”)

MEXILIDEON only applies if the performer has consumed copious amounts of tequila
before performing, and can still somehow remember which end of the horn to blow

FRIGEON is a music mode, but can also apply to the performer if he or she is
basically anti-social.

FRIGEON also can apply to any region of North America where ice can be found naturally in mid summer. It is possible to say, therefore, that “a Frigeon may be playing frigeon in the Frigeon.” (Unless, of course, the person is playing “in the gloaming,” in which case he or she would likely be wearing a skirt, standing in a field of clover, and blowing on a bagpipe.)

A bagpipe always reminds me of someone holding a cat under one arm, with the cat’s tail in his or her mouth … and biting on it.

But that’s just my opinion.

LAPLANDER. This is a close friend or relative that you haven’t seen for at least a year. (Unless, of course, this person is actually an anti social musician from Lapland, in which case he or she would be – ta da … Frigeon!

(And you thought high school Latin was rough!)

And finally, there are those individuals who look at us, shake their heads, and wonder how we managed to survive for the past roughly two hundred years or so. These people are called CANADIANS.


And how was your day?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words I Never Knew

I’ll bet you’ve done this. You read a post on someone’s blog, and want to leave a comment. But before you can actually contribute anything in the comment section, you have to copy down a handful of strange looking letters into a little box.

Have you done that?

AND … I’ll bet you thought all those letters were just, uh, letters. Right? And maybe you thought they were just random, or something like that. Right?


What you possibly might not know is that all this blog business actually began in North Dakota, and so it naturally follows that the words you never thought existed, actually are parts of normal conversation in the almost mythical land of … Fargo. (And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Anyway …

In the spirit of open communication, I’ve assembled some of the more common words used in the Fargoeese dialect, with the thought that they might be of use to those few individuals who actually desire to have a vocabulary larger than twenty words …

MURFLEC: (From the word “genuflect”. When you bend over, this is the length of time it takes you to straighten up, once you past the age of fifty. At age sixty, it’s GERFEN MURFLEX. At seventy, it’s DU GERFEN MURFLEX. At eighty, it’s … well, when someone there reaches eighty, I’m sure they’ll think of the right prefix.

SURGLOR: This is a medical term, indicating how long it takes for your mind to register when you wake up in the morning and realize you should have been at work thirty minutes ago. FARFLEG is when you are standing in the bathroom and realize you’ve just brushed your teeth with Ivy Ease, and DEVMERG is when your mate wants to know why you’re running around like a crazy person on Saturday morning.

GRRDEEPER is the driver who cuts in front of you and then is forced to slam on his brakes.

There’s even a term for those individuals who fill out the little comment boxes. These are SHEEEPFLIPPERS, and you really don’t want this word translated …

So … wasn’t this educational? The next time you wonder what word you’ve just copied, send it along, and I’ll be happy to translate for you.


And how was your day?

Friday, November 21, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Sings ...

In THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, Rogers & Hart wrote,

“Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast. Songbirds are well fed …”

I like that. Most of the singers I enjoy fall into the category of “songbirds.” That is, they can actually SING, and express positive personality while doing it. (In other words, anyone I consider good is either old or dead.)

In a previous post, I said I enjoy both Paul Simon and Carly Simon. What I didn’t explain was that I like Paul as a songwriter (he’s an okay singer.)

Carly Simon, on the other had, is a singer with all kinds of personality. Whether you like her or not, it’s difficult not to watch her when she sings.

I liked Reba McEntire even before she did ANNIE GET YOUR GUN on Broadway. She does “cute and charming” better than just about anybody I know.

I first became aware of Linda Ronstadt when she did THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE in New York’s central park. I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of her over the years. She’s never going to be a great beauty, and the more they try to “glamorize” her, the more clown-like she looks. She likes singing back-up more than leads, and her favorite music was written before she was born. How can you not love somebody like that?

One of my favorite singers is Pam Dawber from the old MORK & MINDY TV series. I saw her in a production of MY FAIR LADY, and she was every bit as good as Julie Andrews – and that’s saying something.

Rounding out my favorite female singers are;

Edith Piaf, and

Patti LuPone. Pure raw command and power, both.

In men, one of my favorite singers is Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone’s co-star in EVITA. The man can sing anything, and chooses Broadway tunes that are both obscure and difficult.

I also like Michael Crawford, who starred in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He was also featured in the movie HELLO DOLLY.

Do you get the feeling I like Broadway singers?

Well, I like Willie Nelson, so there! I don’t know why I like Willie Nelson, but I do. He’s one of those people who got better looking as he aged. He’s now 110, and tolerable. But as a singer, he sells sad songs wonderfully well.

I like Sting. He’s been touring lately as a balladeer, and that’s been quite nice.

And finally, I like Theodore Bikel (speaking of balladeers). He had a growing popularity in the U.S., before he moved permanently to Israel. Their gain. Our loss. (I saw him do the lead in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. He was incredible.)

Those are singers who come to my mind with no great effort. I know I’ve missed a few. So … do you think I have any taste at all?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In a Paul Simon mood ...

It's evening.

I've comfortably on my sofa, listening to a new song by Paul Simon.

The song is mellow and relaxed. This is a good thing, because at the moment I feel mellow and relaxed.

I've been a fan of Paul Simon ever since he released his Graceland album. I liked the Graceland Album, and the copy I have looks just like this one.

I also like Carly Simon, but that's another story altogether.


And how was your day?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Reverie

The play I directed has one more weekend of performances. Friday Saturday Sunday and then it’s over. Gone forever.

I like to think that even something as quicksilver as a live presentation never actually expires – that somewhere in the great ether the performances of this play will continue to exist. Perhaps contained within some ubiquitous 4th dimensional equivalent of a television set I can see it again, if I can only figure out how to tune in the correct channel.

No no. There are some plays I’ve directed that a God of true mercy has allowed to fade into a so well deserved oblivion – being far more a product of vanity than any real or perceived talent.

Some plays live better in memory. Maybe most plays. (Okay. All plays.) After a number of years and lies they take on a patina that hides imperfections. They become benchmarks, icons, and, like the mighty H.M.S. Titanic, the romance of the image becomes far more desirable than the rusted relic itself.

Still and yet there was something different about this one.

I joined the company late. This was a first for me. I wasn’t, in fact, scheduled to direct it at all. The director hired for the production literally dropped out at the last minute, and I was asked to take the job two hours before the first rehearsal was scheduled to begin. (Fortunately I had directed the play once before – years ago, and had wisely kept all my notes.) (You could also read this as “I never throw anything away.” See? I TOLD you …)

I remember going to that first rehearsal, and being introduced to the cast and the Stage Manager. There we were, seven cast members and two crew, pieces of a puzzle in anticipation of assembly.

In retrospect I will admit to being lucky. The cast was – is – both collectively and individually talented. The play was – is – BLITHE SPIRIT, by Noel Coward. And, although it was considered sparkling repartee when it was written in 1940, today it can appear to be formidably long and wordy. The performers captured it perfectly, with no seeming great effort whatsoever. They uncovered the style, even the nuances of a form of comedy that no longer exists. I was impressed. More than that, the presentation often gave me shivers. I was observing living breathing history.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, even the setting seemed to take on a life and charm. It was a basic box set, with walls and floor painted white. Yet, when it was completed, it seemed less a utilitarian theatre setting and more like an artwork, quite capable of standing alone. Every time I found an excuse to be on that stage I felt like I was in the middle of a Maxfield Parrish painting. I never tired of being there.

In retrospect, then, this effort has been the main focus of my life for the better part of two months. And now it’s almost finished.

Perhaps I’m looking for closure of a sort. No pictures here, no bells, no whistles. Just words, a reminder to myself that I haven’t seriously written anything in quite a while. People who are dear to me, who have seen the show - they are reminders that I led quite a different life two months ago, and – if somewhat impatiently – it’s waiting for me to catch up.

And I shall. There’s a mountain of work waiting for me. And I’m looking forward to it.

Except …

In another town not terribly far from here another theatre company has added ON GOLDEN POND to their schedule, and are starting their director search.

I’ve always wanted to direct that show.

It couldn’t hurt anything to just send them a resume.

I mean … you know …

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.


And how was your day?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sorry I haven't been with you ...

For the past week I have been really unwell.

But I'm getting better.