Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. – Mark Twain

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

That's What Friends Are For

Okay. Here's the story - listen up.

(Listen up? Listen up?! Where did that come from?)

Anyway ...

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

On Becoming A Writer

As the leader of a writing group, I’m often asked this question “what can I do to be a writer?”

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.”

Any questions?


The Library - part 2

Everything is finally straightened and put away. Thought I'd show you the completed room while it still looks this way.

Looking down the line, past Science Fiction, archeology, biography, military history, toward ...

... theatre books. This is a larger view of what you saw before. I don't remember ever deciding to start a collection.

This is the view from the other direction. In the bookcase are books on religion. See the top of the desk? I'd forgotten what that looked like.

Oh. This is the clock behind my desk. I'm restoring it - still looking for an ornate clock face. I keep it here anyway. When I'm in this room, time is not important.
Can you tell? This is my happy place.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The library

I'm fortunate - my house is large enough to have a library room. For the past year it's been used as junk storage ... to the point where I couldn't get in the door.

So I cleaned and put away ... and pitched.

Come on in, have a look ...

Here's the stairway going up.

I have lots of plays. Lots and lots.

And props. My whole house is filled with props.

And Art. I love this piece. Love it!
so ... that's part of the one wall I can now reach comfortably. More later.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Dichotomy

Okay. Enough people have asked about this drama critic post that …

(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.


Well, almost.

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.”

“Yeah yeah.”

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

Check This Out, Then We'll Talk ...

the stranger
Seattle's Only Newspaper
October 7, 2008
Feature: Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves
In No Particular Order
A Much-Needed List of Advice for Theaters … Read the whole article at »