Thursday, December 31, 2009
It’s New Year’s eve. I’m home, and not going anywhere. It’s not that I’m anti party – far from it. Ask me next week and I’ll be there. Just not tonight. A dozen years ago tonight a friend was killed in a head-on collision. That was enough for me.
So I’m here instead of there.
I spent most of today thinking about this past year. Thumbing through old theatre programs and notes, I submitted a “year-in-review” article to a theatre website, and in the process I’ve revisited more than just shows.
This past year I was often angry. I can see elements of this in my writing. I have no idea where it’s leading. But I’m aware …
There were times when I reacted but should have been quiet. There were times when I was silent and should have reacted. This year I’ll try to have less fear and more resolve.
I need to tell my friends more that I love them. They know, but I need to say it more often.
There are those with whom I have no future. I need to let go.
I’d love to win the Pulitzer prize for literature. This would be a good year.
I need to finish the projects I start – at least more of them.
And that reminds me. I think I’d like to do something new this year. Maybe I’ll run for governor of Alaska. I meet the qualifications. I’m breathing.
Or I could just run away with gypsies. That’s been on my short list for years.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Okay. Here's the story - listen up.
(Listen up? Listen up?! Where did that come from?)
I needed some decor for a play some years ago. Was driving down the street when I saw this tacky clock in a bucket of junk at a yard sale. The guy wanted fifty cents and couldn't look me in the eye when I bought it.
After the play closed, my best friend in the world admired the clock, and for years it hung in his living room, daring somebody to say something.
Eventually the thing moved to my den. I've looked at it for several years now. I'm accustomed to seeing it. It scares me. I think I might be starting to like it.
Okay, here's where you come in.
I'd like to restore it to it's original tacky glory. I think it is supposed to have columns on the sides - holes are there. And on the top a broken cherub once perched. But I can find NO information anywhere. I need somebody to tell me what I need and possibly where to get it.
Other than burying the thing in the back yard, does anybody have any experience with this sort of thing?
Friday, December 25, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I answer, “write something.”
“No no,” the person persists, “what can I do to be a good writer?”
“Write something good,” I respond.
Some people don’t know when to quit. “What can I do to become a successful writer?”
I rarely answer that question, because the price of success is too high for most people. Success (as most hopefuls define the word) could mean abandoning everything else in life – eating, sleeping, home, relationships – everything. The point of breathing is to write. It’s not just an attitude you wear one day like a coat. It's certainly not a job.
In her blog, My Inflammatory Writ, New York City playwright Kari poignantly expresses her understanding of what that means.
“By fifteen, (I was) a playwright, unleashing the voices in my head and my heart.
At twenty eight, I wonder why I ever thought I could be anything else.
Writing is the way to answer the unanswerable.
My way of praying.
When I know nothing else, I know that I write.
When I forget who I am, writing is my way of remembering.
Of finding my way back.
I can’t be scared of doing the only thing that brings me peace
in a world and a life where peace is impossible.”
Looking down the line, past Science Fiction, archeology, biography, military history, toward ...
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
So I cleaned and put away ... and pitched.
Come on in, have a look ...
I have lots of plays. Lots and lots.
Friday, December 4, 2009
(Asked? Asked?! Does sniggering count as “asked?” Does … never mind.)
Ever wonder how these things get started? I mean, I write plays. That’s all. I write plays, and after I write a play I look around for a theatre to produce it. I watch the audience during the performances. Where and how do they react? Where do I need to re-write?
This has been my routine for a long time. Write, critique my musings during a below-the-radar run, re-write, email the finished product to a contest, a commission, or to my alleged agent six or seven states away.
The middle part takes a little work. You know, the part about looking around for a theatre to produce an unknown work for the first time – that few people will come to see – and will not make a dime in profit for the theatre.
“The Sound of Music pays for our entire season.”
So I do what I do. I sit on committees in any of four small theatres within driving distance. I help build sets. I take tickets. It’s fun. And I direct plays. It pays. And in the back of my mind I keep thinking, “here are actors for a reading, here is a theatre …”
Ya still with me? I’m building my case here.
I’ve found that if I aggressively promote a theatre, ultimately it works in my favor. For example, many times the plays I direct become critically and financially successful. As a result, my next audition attracts more gifted and experienced performers. Then, because I have a cast that is gifted and experienced, my next show stands a better chance of becoming successful. That’s how that goes, and I've always been open about acknowledging the formula.
And so it was with the last show I directed, Inherit The Wind. It was an outstanding show, thanks in large part to casting some of the best (and most well know) actors available. I found that promotion of the play did not include any reviews. Simply, the theatre felt that the reviewers and critics in this city are so unqualified (for one reason or another.) that no reviews would be accepted from anyone.
I was shocked. It occurred to me (naively) that even a bad review is better than none at all. What do I know? Since my agent is on the West Coast, (and I’m not), it’s been years since one of my plays has been locally judged by anyone but me.
If the problem was a lack of trust in the critic, it occurred to me that here was something I might be able to fix. Years ago I was the drama critic for a smallish newspaper chain and a television station. I specialized in covering the theatres nobody else wanted, and was held in high regard by the very theatres I now frequent. At the time, I stopped reviewing because, as a playwright, I felt like I was reviewing what I should be doing.
I stopped for another reason, as well.
For the most part, I consider drama critics to be lower than pond scum. They have little in the way of integrity – everything is subjective. Newspaper drama critics are journalists. This does not automatically qualify them to critique theatre, and they are hired – and evaluated – by people who know even less. Many critics are arrogant and condescending. There’s no way to challenge their opinions – once it’s in print, the game is over. Further, five out of six critics know they must build a following in order to keep a job. There are only so many ways you can say something positive about a performance or a show. However there are an almost infinite number of ways you can destroy a show or a theatre, and at the same time make yourself appear clever and witty and powerful. They ignore the fact that the primary responsibility is to critique, not criticize – that the true goal is to improve the quality of the craft. Unfortunately, I believe that local critics are literary vampires – their primary urges are to suck the life out of any group that incurs disfavor.
I hope I haven’t been too subtle in expressing my opinion of those who work in this, the next to oldest profession.
One final thing here has kept me moving forward. In contacting various publishing groups, I stumbled across several theatre websites – I never knew these even existed. One in particular caught my attention - publishing not only reviews, but auditions, feature articles, and whatever strikes the fancy of the various contributors. I was impressed, and courted them openly. Although I hold drama critics – myself included – in low regard , it pleases me to promote, wherever and however, the art and craft of which I am a part.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Seattle's Only Newspaper
October 7, 2008
Feature: Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves
In No Particular Order
By BRENDAN KILEY
A Much-Needed List of Advice for Theaters … Read the whole article at http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/ten-things-theaters-need-to-do-right-now-to-save-themselves/Content?oid=691862 »
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Hate to admit it ...
... but I don't want you to hear it from someone else ...
I am now a contributing drama critic for a theatre website.
That's what happens, I suppose, when you associate with some of those people for awhile ...
I mean, what can I do? Are there shots you can take for something like that?
(I guess the only saving grace is that I'm doing it under another name,)
Monday, November 23, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
WHAT MAKES GOOD THEATRE?
To explore an answer to this question, I must first expand it slightly – what makes good theatre for me? In other words, I start with the premise that not everyone looks at “theatre” the same way. This observation allows me to create a simple rule - If I see something and like it, it’s good theatre. If I don’t, it isn’t.
Why complicate something that’s subjective to begin with?
“This above all: to thine own self be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Yeah, yeah, thank you Willy for filling in the last half of the rule – How can I expect anyone else to believe in what I do … if I don’t?
Look at it this way. We live in an age of “good enough.” If there’s something in your play that’s “good enough,” it’s not. Fix it! Find it and change it until it is a treat all by itself. Get the idea? Your work should be one treat falling over another. Make blah blah transitions into memorable highpoints.
Here’s another constant; as a director, make your stage picture attractive – always always always. This should be obvious, but apparently isn’t – your actors aren’t there merely to occupy space. Think of them as pawns in a Maxfield Parrish painting. Let one picture flow into another. Get passionate about this, because it’s important and infusive.
So … you getting the idea yet? Good theatre is all about you. Look your best. It’s your first date with a drop dead gorgeous redhead.
Weave your style throughout the play you are directing. Be bold in presenting your personality. Why? Because great theatre goes beyond what is on the written page. Once a playwright adds “The End” to a script, no matter how well written it may be, that script becomes history. Even before the first printing, the society that spawned it will have evolved. Your personality encourages a homogenous relationship between your audience and the playwright. (I presume you are in agreement, understand and support what the playwright is saying. I assume you actually have – or can convincingly fake – a personality.)
Listen to what your actors suggest. Your authority won’t be emasculated by listening, and sometime you will be given a real gem of an idea (for which, in spite of your modest denials, you will ultimately be given the credit).
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. A mistake won’t destroy your career. (Probably.) A mistake only tells you what doesn’t work. That’s all. (Mostly.)
Don’t be afraid to break the rules. In fact the rules change almost daily. Absolutely nothing is sacred. Expand your mind past the physical limitations you observe while ambling down the aisle toward the stage. What can you see? What could you see? What might be improved by being unseen? (And who knows? You could get lucky and actually do something innovative, and they would erect a statue of you directly across the street from the statue of George Cohan, thus forcing the pigeons to make hard decisions regarding which statue to visit in order to … visit. Wouldn’t that be great?!)
And finally – remember the old adage “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” followed by “It’s all small stuff?” Remember that? Well, ignore it. In creating great theatre it should be “Sweat the small stuff,” followed by “Because there’s no big stuff.” Past the obvious disciplines of blocking, pace, and characterization, everything – and I mean everything - is detail and nuance. Everything is foreshadowing, motivation, color, mood, temperament, subtext, and the list of details goes on and on. Take care of these, concentrate with everything that’s in you on these, and by seeming magic the big picture is suddenly there. It may not be exactly what you expected – it seldom is. But it will be true, and that’s everything.
A little over fifty years ago I saw THE GLASS MENAGERIE for the first time. I still remember that production, still distinctly remember all the sights, sounds – even the sweet smells. I’d like to think that – fifty years from now – someone will remember my work that way.
If that happens, I’ll know why.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
From: Theatre Vault Administration
Date: Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 11:04 PM
Subject: Re: INHERIT THE WIND at Little Theatre Off Broadway
To: (Jack Bunny)
Dear Mr. (Bunny),
I spoke to a board member of LTOB today and was informed that as a company policy they no longer invite reviewers to their productions.
Best wishes for a strong finish to your run,
I contacted the theatre. They told me that past reviews have been “inconsistent in quality.”
Huh? Have you ever heard of such a thing? I mean ...
This was a new and different kind of theatre to me.
As a result, the only thing I have to share is this letter, mailed to the theatre the day after we opened.
I attended my first play at LTOB last evening. I am writing this today because of my experience.
It was, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in quite a long while. I have seen plays and musicals downtown, and even in Las Vegas, but your company's production of Inherit The Wind just stopped me in my tracks! It was brilliant.
I will be attending future plays, but believe me, the bar has been set very, very high.Thank you for a very enjoyable, wonderful experience.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It’s been a long two days.
For the first time since July I’m not directing any plays, coaching any actors, holding or attending meetings, or writing furiously to beat real or self-imposed deadlines. Yesterday morning I spent almost half an hour just staring out my back door, zombie-like, willing myself to recognize the colorings of leaves covering my yard. When I turned back into my kitchen, the dog was asleep in a heated pool of sunlight. In closing the door, he muttered something under his breath. I couldn’t quite catch the inflection. Probably just as well.
I spent part of yesterday going through a collection of emails that had been ignored or set aside for far too long. Nothing earth shattering – those I had answered as they came in. Rather, here were requests of one kind or another – usually for information. And there were those friends who simply wanted to talk. I answered every one of these, often with sheepish apologies for not responding sooner. My friends understand.
One of the emails was from a close friend who has invited me and my wife to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family. Since I have no family who loves me within several states from here, I happily said yes. My friend’s daughter told me I have been adopted into the family. This brought me to tears. I miss large family holidays.
I have a project going. I tore out the carpet leading to my second floor, and am slowly refinishing the hardwood stairs. Right now I’m striping off old paint and varnish. The wood underneath – in a 60-year-old home, will be beautiful. When I finish. Some day. In the meantime, the dog is perfectly happy scampering UP the stairs, but, with no carpet to dig into, he’s afraid to come down. So he moans. (Did you know a dog could moan?) About fifty times a day he waits pathetically for somebody to lug his fuzzy … self … down to the living room. Man’s best friend? HA!
For most of today I read plays. I’m on the play reading committee for a local theatre, and – since I’m w-a-y behind in this commitment, today I played catch up. Here’s a couple of theatre facts for you; some theatres specialize in plays that are over a hundred years old. (Don’t ask me why.) Second fact – most of these plays are absolutely unknown today. Third fact – the reason they’re unknown is because they are bad. Bad! Bad bad bad! I suppose (I know) that there were good things written after Willie Shakespeare and before G.B. Shaw. Must be. Just my luck to be part of a theatre group that is trying to prove otherwise.
Tomorrow starts the third weekend of INHERIT THE WIND. As the director, I tell myself I’m there to make sure the show is consistent in presentation from one performance to another. In truth, that’s one of the tasks the stage Manager handles. Largely my job is to appear sage at the cast party. As do the others, I’ve learned to play my part well.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
With that premise in mind, I offer the thought that every good writing begins with a descent into madness; depth is never the result of a casual glance, but rather an unblinking stare, no matter how blinding that stare might become.
And behind the initial impression is always the question – “How do I feel about this?
How do I feel, how do I feel, how do I feel?”
And there’s the problem. Sometimes I get tired of “feeling.”
On the one hand, discovery is a wonderful thing. What does this mean? What is the subtext? Where would this or that naturally lead? To suggest answers, a writer will often step outside him or herself – an observer, rather than a participant, in humanity. Like an
intruding spirit, silently watching. To interject – anything – would alter direction of the story. And the writer, without substance here, would never do this.
On the other hand, there’s the gypsy thing. For months, late at night, I’d hear what sounded like sleigh bells. No kidding. I’d dream about being in a gypsy caravan, going I don’t care where. A friend suggested that I wanted to travel or perhaps move. Could be. This sounded like a real possibility. Strangely, after I started directing the play HARVEY in July, the dreams stopped. I hadn’t thought about that until right now.
During the time I’ve been in rehearsal for one play and then another, even a pretense of observation became impractical. (Other than drinking heavily, nothing isolates you from the attentions of actors.)
Life moves from passive to active. And this is a good thing. Isn’t it? Problems are addressed, insecurities seem somewhat farther away … life is skittles and beer (Don’t ask me. I heard it somewhere.)
But then, with the veneer of humanity imposed, something happens to sensitivity, ya know? No matter how hard you try, the will … hardens, and …
The process starts all over again.
Do you know something I don’t?
Monday, November 2, 2009
Here’s the cast as they appeared during one of the later rehearsals. Notice few are in costume. With thirty-four people in the cast, the only times we got everybody together on the stage was for performances. Oh well …
Here’s the setting as it was appeared on opening night. In a few places the paint is still wet.
It is my hope that, sometime before we close this thing, I might actually take pictures of all the performers TOGETHER, IN COSTUME, ON THE STAGE!
(Insert heavy breathing here.)
I mean, is that too much to ask?
On the other hand, here's the important part - the show went well, and was received with favorable reviews and glowing individual comments. Since the lead performers are highly respected throughout the state, I anticipate that we will have a most profitable run in every sense of the word.
And how was your day?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I've enjoyed directing it - 34 people on a 28 foot stage.
I'm ready for whatever is next. Onward and upward. A play Julie and I wrote together is presently being considered at one of the local theatres. One of my favorite people wants to direct it. I can just go and watch and appear momentarily cool.
Life is sweet.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Yeah, I did. I remember me doing it.
What I may not have mentioned to you is that I entered the first 15 pages of the play in The Writers Digest national play writing competition. (I know I didn't mention to them that I'd only completed 20 pages at the time.)
So ... anyway ... yesterday I received a letter from them, informing me that my play had received an "Honorable Mention."
(Profound relief here. They didn't actually want to read the completed work.)
And, in case I should consider "Honorable Mention" as less that a memorable consolation, the editor of Writers Digest further defined my play as judged to be in the top 100 of the 13,581 plays that had been entered in the competition.
So ... don't get me wrong. I'm honored by their recognition. (I'd rather have won, but I'm still honored.)
And I can't help but wonder if there was any prize given to the poor soul who had to actually read 13,581 plays ...
And how was your day?
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Today was not a good day. It wasn’t a bad day, in that nothing occurred that would have triggered genuine loss. But it wasn’t a good day.
There are days when I can avoid being influenced by those individuals who are profoundly shallow and self-serving. There are days when I can actually avoid thinking about beloved projects I know I’ll never finish. There are days when the mere act of breathing doesn’t involve rasping dull pain.
Obviously, today wasn’t one of those days.
Two unrelated events occurred today which guided me unknowingly into this present reverie. Then again, perhaps, like Greek tragedy, nothing is perchance, nothing is unrelated.
I got an email today from Lenore P., casual, an everyday event – “let’s get together for lunch soon.”
Let’s get together for lunch. We WERE at lunch, my dear! Don’t you remember?! You were wearing that purple thing, sitting across from me in the little Armenian Restaurant downstairs from my apartment. Don’t you remember? If you’ll give me a moment, I can tell you what we had to eat. Greek salad for me, and a cold pasts dish for you. And we were in school together. College. It was May, I’m pretty sure. And warm. In 1959 the month of May was warm in Bloomington Indiana.
The second event was a comment aimed at my friend Julie’s latest blog. The post was on fear as a part of life, and the comment was, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly for newer and richer experience.”
I think all my realizations today have intelligent design behind them. A puzzle is laid out before me, if I have wit to see it .
Good thing I like puzzles.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Well, that's not exactly true. I can't remember a show I've directed where I didn't also design the set - at the very least in rough form.
But then, I wasn't supposed to be directing INHERIT THE WIND in the first place. A friend of mine was supposed to get the job, I had just finishing directing a play for another theatre, I'm (in theory) writing a play for a contest, blah blah blah, lots of reasons why I took only a passive interest in the physical design for the production.
So when the directing offer came my way (long and largely uninteresting story for another day), I was somewhat disquieted to learn the design of the set had already been assigned to someone who's artistic subtlety I only marginally admired.
It wasn't that the man was a bad designer - he was actually quite good ... in his own way. But his work, to me, is normally very heavy and massive in appearance. (Not that I optioned for something light and airy, but ... you know what I mean.)
So I was somewhat less than thrilled ...
But I saw the finished design on paper. It was the mirror image (for some reason) of the very rough sketch I had first discussed with my friend. Construction followed, and the revised design proved to be quite practical. I liked stomping around on it. Levels. I like levels.
And then the painting started.
Red? A red courtroom? Red?
And then ...
Maybe this won't be so bad after all.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I was back.
Many things were exactly as I had held them in fond memory – the promise of shore buried in the rubble of unimagined boulders – remnants of a long abandoned amusement park – now jealous guardians of the surf-gouged shoreline.
Looking past the beach it was easy to see where glaciers had advanced, irresistible mountains of another age. Forward they had arrogantly marched, forward, only to be halted by capricious nature, within inches of where I was standing. Now only their shadows and the myriad creatures they once held dear remain, the only notation they had ever existed at all.
It was important for me to be here. The play I’m writing deals – in part – with the blessed/cursed wanderlust that surfaces within me from time to time, fevering my imagination. Only yesterday I wrote:
“I am a presence in an imagined gypsy caravan. Like fog, we float silently through the forest gloom. Away, away, dreaming past massively aged trees – witnesses to my good and bad intentions. With each mile – each yard, each step – more of the myself I know is left behind. New valleys beckon. I am slowly rushing to quiet.”
For a long moment I'm vaguely aware that I'm holding my breath, distracted, almost crying, absorbing as much as I can. Who knows when I’ll stand here again? The illusion of fleeting peace passes over me. I tell myself that I’m being “one with nature,” and do my best to embrace all the other contrived nonsense that defines my generation.
Friday, October 2, 2009
It’s been an interesting few weeks. Fortunately I’ve had Wednesday and Thursday off, as well as the week-end. (Good thing. Thanks to the dog I must now rip up what remains of the carpet on the stairs and upper hall.) I planned on refinishing the wood floors in about a year from now … The dog decided that now would be more appropriate.
(Have you ever heard of a dog that EATS carpet? I mean, for real?)
The play INHERIT THE WIND is moving along. (Okay, so that’s not the smoothest transition in the world.) I presently have 31 people in the cast. When you consider that the stage of this theatre is 26 feet wide, it makes for creative directing. (Contrast that with the show I just closed, HARVEY, with 11 in the cast on a stage 38 feet wide.) For the past couple of weeks we’ve been thrashing around in a rehearsal hall. Tuesday we move onto the actual theatre stage, and I’ll give you the blow-by-blow as it occurs.
Tomorrow (actually later today) I’m going to Cleveland Ohio for a three day writer’s retreat. This is a good thing. Directing plays written by other people is fun (and pays well), but during these periods I write very little, if anything. I was reading The Inflammatory Writ the other day, and commented to the author that her subject matter would make a good play, with the implication that she should write it. She simply replied that everything is a play. That hit me, because she is so right. It also occurred to me that if I truly felt the material was worth developing, why was I asking someone else to do it? I need to get back to writing.
In mid October I’m conducting an acting seminar to benefit a struggling theatre in a city about thirty miles east of here. It’s a petite facility. Although they stage wonderful productions, they seat at most 30 people. Consequently, they are always hungry (And – let’s face it. They are interested in producing one of my plays, and if a seminar will encourage them in the right direction, well …) I received a copy of their ad for the seminar, and was jolted. They are charging 40 dollars a head for people to hear me speak for three hours. Uh … I, uh, certainly don’t expect to see many from the crowd I run around with …
And then there’s that. I miss the people I follow and those who follow me. They haven’t left – I’m the one who pulled away, to swat for a period at theatrical windmills. Suddenly I feel the loss. I do miss you, and I will be back …until the next flight of fancy takes me in another capricious direction.
But you know that, don’t you?
Okay, I wasn't gonna do this, but you forced me. The first twenty of my friends who respond will receive, at no additional cost, one slightly chewed square of carpet ...
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I am sick. So-o-o-o sick. I have a sore throat to the point where I can't talk.
(Although I've discovered that if you consume an entire box of throat lozenges at one time, not only can you babble incoherently with no effort, but you can also fly for short distances.)
Problem is, I'm directing a show, right? I'm being PAID to direct a show. And I've learned that directing and conducting are not the same thing at all.
Directing is when you instruct people to move here or there, by example and by verbal instruction.
Conducting, I've discovered, is when you wave at an actor on stage, resulting in one of two reactions.
(1) The actor gets the standard "deer in the headlights" look, points to him or herself, and mouths the words "Who? Me?"
(2) The actor drops out of character, smiles because you've singled him or her out ... and waves back.
Ya see why I like writing plays better than directing 'em? I only fight with myself!
(But that's another story altogether.)
And how was your day?
Monday, September 21, 2009
HARVEY closed this past Saturday. It was a good show, and had a good run. Directing the production was a pleasure.
When I left the theatre (at a little after 2:00 AM) - literally as I was walking out the door, on impulse I turned and took one final picture of what had been my set.
All this is entirely appropriate. One of the people on the stage is Tina Gleason. Tina is a friend, and the director of the next play this theatre will produce, ON GOLDEN POND. Following her will be the musical version of the Dr. Jekyll story, and we will all end up as bound photo albums gathering dust and fingerprints in the lobby.
I'm now a week into rehearsal for INHERIT THE WIND at another theatre. Their present play, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, has another week to run.
When they close, I'll be there to help tear down the set.
For everything there is a season.
And how was your day?
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
HARVEY opened this past weekend. Smallish audiences. I expected nothing more. Note to potential theatrical producers – don’t open a play on Labor Day weekend and expect large crowds. Next week they will come …
Held one private audition yesterday for INHERIT THE WIND. Officially, auditions for this play aren’t scheduled until next weekend, but a possible lead player will be out of time then, so …
I miss my writer friends. I do. Directing HARVEY and INHERIT THE WIND is grand fun, but it’s not the same as creating a work, and sharing that creation with others, and hearing – for the very first time – the works other people have created.
I really enjoy the company of writers. There’s a mixture of arrogance and vulnerability. They long to be accepted, and at the same time rush to solitude. They don’t see the world the way others do. I love science fiction/fantasy writers, because they believe there WILL BE a future.
Odd. For the past few days I’ve been writing like crazy. Odd how, when I am overly busy, overly tired … that’s when the time I do have is precious …
I met an interesting man about a month ago. From the way he stood and moved, I could tell he was military – and he was, having retired from the Navy after thirty years. His final tour of duty was aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise … (Did you know a ship can have more than one Captain? I didn’t know that.) Since first meeting him, he has told me about at least a dozen adventures, each more fascinating than the one before.
“Why don’t you write these down,” I ask, with all the sincerity that’s in me.
Almost shyly he looks at me. “I couldn’t do that,” he replies. “I’m not a writer, I’m just a story teller.”
The first of October four other writers and I are renting a house on Lake Erie for a few days and just write – no television, no internet, just writing. And eating. And walking on the beach. Heaven. Heaven heaven heaven heaven heaven! (One of our writers is a potential chef who wants to write cookbooks. Now I ask you – can it get any better than that?)
The weekend after the retreat I’m conducting an acting seminar at a local theatre. The group in charge of the event is charging $40.00 a head for people to listen to me talk for three hours. (Are you kidding me?!) One of my HARVEY cast looked sadly at me and asked if I was including a dog and pony show.
Could be …
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
After being in rehearsal since late July, the opening night for this play is now just a few days away.
I suppose I should be glad. I mean, in the past – by this point – I would be more than ready to move on. As a director I would have by now proven my point (to myself), and, like many of the cast, I would already be anticipating my next project.
I’m working with an awesome group of performers. As an ensemble, they are a finely tuned instrument, and with every rehearsal we uncover and explore more shadings, more nuances.
Selfishly, it’s gonna be hard to give that up.
I’m directing INHERIT THE WIND next. Auditions are in two weeks. Already people have started calling, requesting information that, surprisingly, I’m reluctant to give. INHERIT THE WIND is a large cast show. I’m grateful for interest. I know I’m gonna need people willing to throw themselves into the work. I know this.
I’m also aware that HARVEY cast members have other work waiting for them. Two in our show already have been cast in other plays. They start into rehearsal right after our show opens. Several are planning to audition for INHERIT THE WIND. One cast member is starting his own drama school. Two others have film roles in their futures. All this I expected. These people are the best of the best. They are in demand. It’s unusual (and a draw) that they all happen to be together in any show.
This is good stuff. Good stuff! But it all reminds me that true theatre moments and performances are fleeting, illusionary. That is not only their very nature, but also their appeal.
Slowly I become aware of purpose. If we have presented the work properly, then you, our audience, our equal partner, will recognize these as moments as they are presented to you, and hold them close in memory for the rest of your life. Not too much to ask. We are such stuff as dreams are made on.
We freely admit that we are gypsies, melancholy and fatalistic. Ourselves are the only gift we have to give. Ah, but when the gift is accepted, the awareness and experience shared …
in those rare moments …
we are justified.
And how was your day?
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I have a couple of days off.
I may take the afternoons and go to the theatre and work. The set construction is not progressing fast enough for me, and sometimes you can accomplish a lot when there are no distractions.
I may not do that at all.
I may take a day to mow the lawn and trim around flower beds and trees and other stuff that will not, with a sense of self preservation, jump out of my way.
Or I may take a day or two and sort (read mostly throw away) the dozen or so large cardboard boxes someone mysteriously placed in my den, effectively blocking the storage units this stuff is supposed to be in.
I could do that. I could. I really could.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I like spending time on a set under construction. It's like being in a Maxfield Parrish painting while the artist is working on it. There is unreleased energy here.
Shadows also abound here - future shadows. I can feel them, waiting. waiting for the actors to play their parts, to justify the shadows very existence. "Stand here," the shadows demand, "and here and here and here."
And the actors, eager to please, do as the future shadows instruct.
And there is peace, harmony, contentment, a sense of completion.
I like that.
Our play hasn't opened yet, and the theatre has already announced the audition dates for the play that will follow us.
In its own way, that also is comforting.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I hear bells. Seriously. I wake up at night hearing them – bells attached to the collars of horses.
I’m in a caravan of wagons. Going … out there. Somewhere. It’s so real. I’m not sure we have a direction, that is, we – I – have no defined goal. It’s more like a drawing … yes. I’m being drawn in a direction.
Funny. I’m in no hurry to get there – no hurry at all. I think I’m with a traveling company of gypsies. Don’t laugh. They are kind to me and pleasant – Hungarian or Russian, I think. And that’s fine. I like Hungarians and Russians. As people groups they are fatalistic, melancholy, and maybe as a result they are giving and warmly funny.
Julie tells me I’m dreaming a movie. Could be. The wagon I’m in is certainly something out of a 1930’s movie. But it feels so real. And the time feels like the 1930’s as well – somewhen between the world wars.
Last night was cool and blanket dark. After the horses were tethered and fed, someone built a roaring campfire. From a distance I could hear a mournful violin, and see the shadowy form of someone dancing around the fire. The scene became more and more surreal until I could no longer define what I was looking at.
Today I was cleaning out a cabinet in my den, and in one drawer I found a bell.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
We have possibilities here. In a world where being mediocre is considered the ultimate goal for just about everything, I'll have to think about what to do with possibilities.
And how was...?
I'm not quite done yet.
I'm involved in one play after another (including two of my own) now through the first of the year. Since I'm doing my best to be open with you, I wanted you to know these things. Am I over committed? Could be, but opportunities arise. Shouldn't they be taken? When might they come around again? How soon again might I come across a work with possibilities?