In February of 2010 I submitted a post regarding the (then) present disposition of a play I had written years before, but until then had never released. The play is titled MORGAN and to this day remains a passion in my life.
It’s funny how some things come into being. My young daughter and I had been watching one of the many dreary King Arthur movies on television, when she turned to me and asked, “Morgan le Fay? Who is HE?”
I answered as best I could, but in the back of my mind I was already envisioning a play that would justify that question.
Before I put a single word on paper, I spent three years reading every novel, history, and commentary I could find regarding the literary Arthur Pendragon and his estranged half-sister, Morgan. (There’s reasonable evidence to suggest that an “Arthur” actually lived, and that he was so far removed from the legend as to be almost unrecognizable.)
I made a couple of interesting discoveries.
The first – a somewhat humbling realization. In 6th century England there were both crude and sophisticated civilizations, religions, and codes of conduct. Intelligent thought was in evidence. My country has yet to HAVE a 6th century. During the time of Arthur, where I live was swamp lands – Indians hadn’t even reached here.
The other discovery was more to the point. Throughout most of the narratives, there is a recurrent theme along these lines; Morgan was evil, a schemer, a witch, jealous of her half-brother, and constantly plotting his downfall for never fully explained reasons. Eventually Arthur “wins,” but only after prolonged struggle and cost (including his life.)
I soon realized the problem started with Arthur. He was ultimately the winner, and history is almost always written by the last group standing. The truth, as I discovered, is that Morgan was the victim in every sense of the word. As a child she witnessed her lands taken away, her father killed, and her mother raped. To put it in modern terms, Morgan witnessed a terrorist attack.
So that became Act I of my play.
Act II chronicles Morgan’s rise to power. It seems reasonable (as literature) to suggest that Druids existed at that time, that Merlin was a Druid High Priest, and that they wielded real mystical power. Morgan, being a woman, realized her only opportunity to effect justice was by embracing black arts. She became second only to Merlin, and outlasted him.
Act III follows her descent into madness and the suggestion of recovery. She became an absolute power, and “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” She became Hitler at his worst. With the death of Arthur she loses her powers and there is an implication that she could eventually regain a degree of sanity.
The play ends with an irony. Without her constant prodding, Arthur would have been nothing. If left in peace, he would have been an insignificant king of a lackluster kingdom, one in a long line of dusty footnotes. Instead of destroying him, she directly and indirectly created the legend.
Now you have the picture. It’s a large and complex work. No theatre I know is capable of producing it. (Key words here are “I know.”) About a year ago I was discussing the language in the play with a friend who produces mainly Shakespeare plays. She asked to read it, and a month later asked if I would allow the work to be considered for production by them.
I agreed, made note of it in a blog, and then forgot about it.
A couple of days ago one of my favorite commentators asked for an update. Here it is.
In November the Shakespeare producer contacted me and said her company would produce the play if I would direct. Since at the time I was neck deep in the RICHARD III production, I postponed answering.
And that’s where I am now. I don’t know if I want to do this.
In our Writer's Group gift exchange, a good friend gave me this Teapot calendar for Christmas. Not an expensive gift this, but a warming one. She is well aware of my undisguised attraction to anything teapot.
Above a teapot on the opposite side of the room is another wall hanging, given to me by a loving daughter some years back. It also reminds me of constant support and encouragement.
A long number of years ago I fancied myself to be an artist. I played with brushes for awhile, graduated to smearing paint on canvas with a knife, a saw, even once encouraged a small child to wallow across a canvas barefoot. (True story. Unfortunately, the child was half way across my kitchen before I could catch her ...)
And then I discovered the airbrush. With no effort at all I could produce ten paintings at a time, and they were so utterly bazaar that utterly bazaar human beings would purchase them and hold them dearly close (figuratively speaking.)
It was shortly after I started detailing the neighbor's dog that I saw a pictorial in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC supposing what other planets might look like.
My immediate reaction was "I can do that," and, placing cans on black canvas, happily sprayed up a storm - sometimes literally.
The cans sold easily. All of the paintings - seven of 'em - sold, except one. I was surprised. The one to be found wanting was of an exploding star, and by a fluke looked not too bad.
That was years ago.
I found the thing today while I was digging Christmas trivia out of a closet.
I know, I know. This wee tale sounds suspiciously like a writer over/under stimulated.
Could be. But how, then, do you explain this dumb thing?
Why is it we always get together at these strange hours of the night?
I got a new computer - can you tell? I was going to buy one, but a friend who loves me gave me this one, and I've literally spent the entire day moving files and arranging little icons like ducks in a row ... (Now isn't that a silly statement? My mother used to raise ducks, and I'm reasonably sure she never tried to put any of them in a row. An annoyed duck is not a pretty sight.)
Yesterday I finished re-writing the second of three plays I'm contracted to direct. The play is called "Zack," and is set in England in the year 1916. It pretends to be a comedy, but much of the dialog aimed toward and about women was, to me, offensive, so I changed it. I've discovered that I'm strongly in favor of woman's liberation and equality. Some of the better influences in my life have come from truly smart women ... (Unfortunately I didn't marry any of them, but that's a story for another time.)
Tomorrow - later today - I may actually get back to writing on any one of the three plays "in progress" and neatly stored in Documents. Or I may not. I have a small antique cabinet in the basement, partially restored. Maybe I'll partially restore it a bit more,
I had forgotten what it's like to be between shows, The sun still comes up and goes down. My neighborhood is in color - I had forgotten. A squirrel waits for an offering of bread. I think that when a squirrel is not afraid of you, why, that's a pretty wonderful thing.
I look around at the darkened seating, a program or two occupying spaces where people had staked out territory only fourteen hours ago. Around the edges of the stage are the folding chairs used to seat the overflow of enthusiastic late comers … students mostly, I think, taking notes at first, and then caught up, caught up, pens laid aside, forgotten.
Every night it was the same.
RICHARD III closed last night. Six performances. An inordinate amount of work for just six performances, don’t you think?
It’s cold in here. You know the feeling – the kind of dry chill that reminds you of just how large the room is, and how minute is the portion you occupy. Last night it was warm in exactly this very spot. Did someone forget to turn off the air conditioning? It really doesn’t matter.
I stare at the stage – empty now. They dismantled the set this morning. Men came in – and a few women. With power screwdrivers they came, with ladders and furniture covers and dollies and in no time at all they took everything away – the throne, the platforms, walls windows doors everything.
But in the comforter of darkness I still see them – figures claw out of the darkness and stand resolutely on stairs that are no longer there and say “I am here! I am ANNE and MARGARET and BUCKINGHAM and GREY and CATESBY and RICHMOND …
And in the shadows, RICHARD … always in the shadows Richard …
People are coming. They are at some distance, but this is a theatre, after all. Sound is encouraged to carry. I suspect they are the crew about to turn the stage into the home for JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
Our production of RICHARD III opened Friday to a literally packed house (and stage. We ended up placing folding chairs around the fringes of the acting areas. That was interesting ...) On Saturday night not only were all these seats filled, but we sold a fistfull of "standing room only" tickets. So many people filled the theatre that we had to turn on the air conditioning ... in the middle of November.
The other production of RICHARD (being offered by another company in direct competition to ours) was panned by every media critic, and we are now listed under "Best Bets In Entertainment" in the city guide.
Never - NEVER - in the wildest stretches of my imagination would I have envisioned this reaction. I have now been interviewed three times, by serious people, seeking inspired enlightenment.
(And - let me tell you - it's difficult to appear guru-like when you are laughing so hard that it hurts.)
Huh. Not really. It's twenty after eleven. Seems later. Much.
The play opens in six days and suddenly the theatre and others want to make changes. The producer, a woman with dubious talent and the uncanny ability to spout inane pedantic and totally cloying advice, sweetly suggests I count to ten, and then everything will be just fine.
I want to count to one and then kill her. It's the humane thing to do - I want to put her out of my misery.
But I won't. Instead I'll watch my vision pecked by people who do so in order to advance their own agendas ,,, It's happened before, and eventually I dropped away for ... years ... because I wanted something pure and was optimistic enough to think that next time I would get it.
But next time was no different from the last time, or the time before that, or the hundreds of times before that ...
So I will count to ten and tell myself that everything will be just fine because what I really really really really want is to be really really really mediocre.
Are there enough pills or drinks or drugs in the world to allow me to believe that? Dear God, why did you plant in me the desire to create - to reflect something of You - and then surround me with morons?!
Last night I didn’t come home wondering why I had ever agreed to direct a production of RICHARD III.
For most of my adult life I’ve been drawn to this play – first as an actor and later as a director. It’s far more fun playing a bad guy than a good one. There are an almost infinite number of ways to express satisfaction bordering on breathing heavy while following even the most simple of inclinations (like taking a sledge hammer to the screaming car radio next to you at the traffic light, or shoving a cell phone somewhere after listening to half of an inane conversation in the elevator.) In any case, when RICHARD says “Off with his head,” (and he says it often), there’s an empathy there. Admit it.
So I wanted to play RICHARD. I even had half a dozen or so words memorized. “Now is the winter of our discontent …” That was good, and made me sound so so cultured. And then there was “since I cannot prove a lover, I’m gonna be the best villain you ever saw in your life…” (or words to that effect.) Honesty here. I respected that.
But when the opportunity came along, I shied away from auditioning for the role. After all, this was Shakespeare. (See? Even his name pops up in italics.) I mean, this was like playing God, and only Morgan Freeman and George Burns played God, and look what happened to them!
Eventually I fell into directing and playwriting. (No fool here. As an actor I played a role. As I director/writer I played ALL the roles.) That’s what I told myself. The truth was, I was never comfortable memorizing lines at the best of times. And. getting older, I found I wasn’t healing as fast as when I was younger, and actors will gladly throw themselves in front of the Avenue C Bus if someone asks them to.)
So I directed stuff – lots and lots (and lots) of stuff. I was most successful in directing comedies and musicals, but I also directed dramas that were considered respectable. Please understand that none of this was ego driven as ego is normally regarded. I like dealing with concepts. When I see that an idea will work, that’s enough, I’m happy. Everything that follows is simply a necessary part of the job. (Frankly, even confiding my thoughts and motivations to you feels uncomfortably close to bragging.)
So I never directed a Shakespeare play – until some fool theatre asked me to. Actually the conversation was more along the lines of …
Me: Richard the Third? You’re doing Richard the Third?! I’ve always wanted to direct that play!
Theatre Rep: Okay.
That was it. See where blind rhetoric can lead? Let that be a lesson to you.
So here we were – first rehearsal, second, third … Actors approach reverently, eyes lowered (And when was the last time you saw THAT happen?) And I fake them around the stage, and I’m surrounded by living bobble heads thinking I actually have some kind of clue about what I’m doing. (Note to Malmesbury. You’re the only Brit I know. Do you understand this stuff? God, you really do come from a superior race.)
And then we came to last night. At some point the blah blah blah became passionate dialogue – surprised everyone, most of all me. People were caught in the moment of discovery. I could see the excitement. Where did it come from?
It's about a quarter to one in the morning. Quiet time. I hear a truck somewhere in the distance going in a southernly direction. It's gone now.
I've taken a couple of pain killers to help me sleep. While I'm waiting for them to kick in, we can chat for a little hour. I've missed you. At the moment you seem like an age ago, a world away.
The play I'm directing has taken over my life. RICHARD III. Shakespeare. This thing has colored my every waking thought for a month now, jealous for attention. I'm not only directing the play, I'm also producing it. Details. Everyone wants attention. Everyone wants.
I'm learning slowly that old Will was an interesting character. He uses words that don't fit easily in the modern mouth. He makes up words. He's a terrible speller. But underneath all the posturing is subtext so beautiful it takes my breath away. Why anyone would feel the need to change this - to have ego so vaulted that thinking alterations would improve even a tiny jot ... I don't see it. I really don't.
I noticed last night that it's getting darker earlier. Evenings are cooler. Right now the weather is perfect - warm during the day and cool at night. I love to take walks at one or two in the morning. Think time. My neighborhood looks different. Even the houses slumber. I will hear a cat or two, they seem to enjoy the darkness as well. There is one who has taken the fancy to sleep in my basement window well during the day. I suspect that, like me, she is drawn to wander under the thick blanket of stars.
I miss living out west. Arizona, New Mexico, parts of California - the sky is so much larger there. You can stretch out a hand and lightly brush a thousand touches of light. I have several friends who live in New York. One in particular wants me to move there. Sometimes I wonder if she's aware that there is a sky?
Okay. Better now - dozier. Funny. I never in my life was drawn to pills of any kind and for any reason. But of late I I've been taking pain killers. They kill pain. All kinds.
In his book, Mein Kempf, Adolf Hitler states, “If you tell a lie long enough, loud enough, and often enough, the people will believe it.”
Here are two examples demonstrating the accuracy of that statement.
“President Obama was not born in this country,” and “President Obama is not a Christian. He’s a Muslim.”
Frankly, I’m now well past getting weary by all the hyperbole. It bores me, and I’ve seriously started questioning the intensions of the gossip mongers behind the rumors, and the intelligence of their growing number of apparently simple minded followers.
If Barack Obama was not born in this country, isn’t that something that should have been determined before he ran for President? Oh. Excuse me. It was investigated at the time. If he was not born in Hawaii as he claims, there was a truly Machiavellian cover-up involving a number of people, orchestrated by a junior Senator from Illinois, and all before he announced his candidacy. (Perversely, if he’s that good, maybe he should be in office.)
But I want to be fair. For those who allege with confidence that the President was not born in this country, please tell me where he was born, and the proof of your declaration. And please, facts only, no innuendo.
And then there’s the “Is he or isn’t he a Christian” business. Where were the skeptics during the denunciation of his then minister Jeremiah Wright? Remember all that? The then candidate for President went out of his way to separate himself from the church he had attended for years. There are those who would have you believe that – again – a large number of people (The Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago) were willing to hide the fact that Obama was secretly a Muslim. Interestingly, the followers of Islam don’t seem to take kindly to believers who regularly break religious laws. So it would appear that if the President is a closet Muslim, every follower of Allah must be in on it. If this is true, he is deserving of the most awesome respect.
The reason behind this discourse is a concern for the reasons behind these subjective slurs. Obviously attacks on policy aren’t enough. There is an apparent need to demean the character of the man we elected as President. The ancient Greeks had a word that may apply, The word is “Gnostic,” and means “hidden knowledge.” Those who possessed this supposed information considered themselves superior to those who did not.
I discovered YouTube. I watched stuff. And more stuff. And more stuff. I glutted on stuff. Wow. Sam? I'm disappointed you didn't tell me. Is there anything else out there I should know about?
Julie, my often writing partner, showed me a book about tiny houses on wheels, so for the past while I’ve been mentally touring Europe, stealing chickens from rich people, and watching sad-eyed women dancing around the evening camp fire. Sometimes I think I was born about 400 years too late.
I discovered comments from you were no longer coming to my email, but were now being stored in an inane section of my blog called “comments.” I published everything I read, and sent Blogger a few comments of my own in the best tradition of Mel Gibson. (Speaking of which, Kari, you are absolutely correct. I wasn’t trying to excuse anything, just pointing out that we love to rush to judgment. Malmesbury, you constantly enrich my blog with your visits. I’m humbled by your astute observations.)
And I’ve been busy with what is supposedly my vocation/avocation (depending on who’s paying at the moment.)
My play on commission is finished. I hate parts of it with a genuine purple passion, but in re-write I’ll improve the work and annoy actors at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.
The other play I’m writing is going much slower. This is a work of love, so I’m purposely caressing it, sometimes with one single word nestled carefully behind another.
For those who tuned in late, I’ve been hired to direct a production of RICHARD III for a local theatre in November. Rehearsals will start in a few weeks, and already a number of performers have started breathing heavy. (It’s going to be a truly scary play – several of the characters carry real daggers. Hopefully they will only stab each other or themselves, and not anyone who paid to see the show.)
This same theatre has now asked me to direct two other plays. The first is called ZACK, scheduled for production in May of 2011, and – to my surprise – one of my own plays, to follow in August of 2011. Okay …
And that’s about all for now. I feel greatly unburdened. Thank you so very much for hanging in there with me.
I’ve been watching with a growing (if somewhat jaded) interest in the case against Mel Gibson that is being theatrically played out in the court of public opinion.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard the tapes. They are reprehensible, vile, evil to the point of being demonic. Okay? These rants are the product of a deranged mind.
(And responses have been equally vehement. Note to would-be judges – if you are going to condemn Mr. Gibson’s choices of words, please don’t use the same words yourself. It confuses me.)
And – have you noticed – these tapes (5 so far) would not have had quite the emotional impact if they had been released all at once. Instead, release for each tape has been separated by a few days, allowing the press to instigate the same call for torches and pitchforks several times in a row.
It bothers me that we don’t know how old these tapes are. It bothers me that they are being released right at the time when Mel Gibson’s child custody case is starting. I find it difficult to believe this is a coincidence. In any case, the date when the tapes are released does not make Mel Gibson less guilty. On the other hand, it appears to make Oksana Grigorieva less innocent. Why didn’t she call the police after recording the first tirade? Or the second one? Or the third one? Or … why now?
Both Whoopi Goldberg and Jody Foster have been castigated for suggesting positive aspects to Mel Gibson’s character based on their personal experiences. Since we won’t tolerate any grey areas of actual knowledge here, they are dismissed as naive or stupid - guilty by association.
Nobody has answered this question – why is he mad? What started him down an emotional hill so steep that he literally has difficulty breathing? Is he truly a monster, or is he sick? If we judge without an answer to this question, what does that say about us?
And that is what concerns me the most. We don’t really care what Mel Gibson has or has not done. He's a token. We are content with one side of the story, which allows us to anoint him king of everything despicable in the male psyche. To give our passions proper heat we cling to conclusions based on other people’s calculated sensationalism and a decided lust for witch hunting.
Innocent until proven guilty only applies to people we like.
So, in case you feel I am defending Mel Gibson, I am not. In his condemnation of others he condemns himself.
In the Spring of this year I was invited by Theatre Vault website to submit an article listing areas and directions where Community Theatre (in a general sense) could stand improvement.
I responded, pointing out my favorite picky details that have slightly dented a 55-year love affair with good and great theatrical experiences.
Apparently my article was acceptable to the regular readers of Theatre Vault. (Nobody was breathing heavily at my front door.) And, a few weeks ago, the Editor of the TV website invited me to submit another article along the same lines.
This time I hesitated. For one thing, I felt I had adequately covered the subject the first time around. There’s a fine line between constructive criticism and theatre bashing, and I’ve been on the receiving end of spurious attack enough times to not wish to inflict that on anybody else.
But I changed my mind. In response to a recent less than glowing review of mine, a reader pointedly reminded me that I was “reviewing a community theatre production, and not Broadway’s latest and greatest.”
I found this comment to be demeaning, not only to the theatre group he supports, but also to the community of non-professional theatres as a whole.
And I’ve heard it before. “It’s just community theatre.” To imply that one standard should or does exist for professional theatre and a lower one exists for community theatre is to suggest that the many incredibly gifted performers in community theatre are not good enough to stand equal to their paid brothers and sisters.
In fact, almost the opposite is true. There are over 40 theatrical organizations in this city, all fighting for the same dollars and patrons. No group is going to survive without constantly challenging the others to improve. Furthermore, many years ago the area went off the “A” list for professional touring companies, simply because they knew they couldn’t compete with both the quality and quantity of local presentations. Only in the areas of elaborately staged large musicals will you see much in the way of professional theatre here, and even these groups don’t always make a profit.
The bottom line is simply this; there’s only one standard. As an audience member, if you like a show, it’s good. If you don’t, it isn’t. It’s as simple as that. Your judgment should be based solely on taste and experience, without qualifications. If you are working on a show, and have the mind set that it’s “just community theatre,” the show is dead already. Make it the best it can possibly be, and settle for nothing less. Invite – even dare – comparisons to anybody. A positive, rather than defensive, attitude is everything.
I’ve been around for awhile. I’ve seen this country change and change again. Some of it has been pretty good. We seem to be innovative to the point where it’s mind boggling. On the other hand, some of our directions and aspirations have been something less than admirable. (Why the Canadians speak to us at all has always been a mystery to me.)
During my lifetime a bunch of Presidents have come and gone. Some of ‘em were pretty good. Some of ‘em were just pretty. I’ve personally seen three, interviewed two.
I’m actually happy with the guy running the country at the moment. He’s not perfect – I think it would bother me if he was. But he still seems to be smarter than I am, and that’s why I voted for him in the first place.
Here’s an observation, then. I don’t think – in my entire life – I’ve ever seen so many disasters (man made and otherwise) fall over each other without a break as much as they have during the present administration. I saw a picture of the President today, and his hair is turning white. It’s not the first time, either. Other presidents have aged greatly during their time in office.
All this is leading to a question, rhetorical perhaps. Why would a smart person want the job? Think about it before answering. It’s a trick question.
I've just been elected to the board of a theatre company. With the thought of actually contributing something, at the first meeting I suggested they start a playwriting competition. They liked the idea. Here 'tis.
BCTCO Playwriting Competition
Bread & Circus Theatre Company (BCTCO) is pleased to announce its first ever playwriting competition. From submitted manuscripts, the theatre will produce an original play in August, 2010
This competition is open to all playwrights.
Only full-length plays will be accepted, submitted in standard script format.
Scripts may be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing a hard copy to:
Yeah, yeah, you’re undoubtedly going to hear a lot about this in the next few months. But the story so far has been unique in my experiences – so I thought I’d share some observations as I go along …
Some time ago, around Christmas I think, a theatre I frequent announced their 2010-2011 season. I like this little group, gutsy they are – normally their offerings are lesser known works by famous playwrights, and occasionally they throw in a classic – last season it was Shaw, this season Noel Coward, and starting in the Fall, Shakespeare.
I remember hearing me say it. I was talking to the Artistic Director and said,
“Wow! You’re doing Richard the Third? I’ve always wanted to do Richard the Third!”
So now I’m directing Richard the Third. And what’s the moral here? Altogether now:
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!
So in December of 2009 I was contracted to direct R3 in November 2010.
Fine. Eleven months to think and plan.
And worry. What have I done?! This is Shakespeare. Shakespeare! Who in their right mind would trust me with arguably the greatest playwright who ever lived? I had (and have) visions of the British cutting off diplomatic relations, and blockading harbors, and unmanned aircraft being aimed at the theatre, and Sean Connery telling me he saw the show and was shaken but not stirred …
And they would be so right. Benny Hill is my inspiration. Ohgodohgodohgodohgod what have I done?
Here was my first hurtle. I was handed the script, and told to cut 45 pages out of it.
“It’s long,” I was told. “Lots of repetition. Lots of references to people nobody cares about. You'll have fun.”
So I cut 42 pages. I have, after all, some principles. Maybe, with luck, when I die I’ll only be sent to the fifth level of hell …
In April the theatre held unified auditions, meaning they cast not a show, but a season. Out of the 44 characters written into R3, I was able to cast three – all women. Whatever you think of Willie S, he wrote strong women characters. The three actresses I have could eat their male counterparts for lunch.
And that’s where I am at the moment. There’s more – much more. Actors shy away (Ha!) and now I’ve learned that three productions of the same play are going to be produced roughly at the same time in the same city.
Script Frenzy has ended. They wanted 100 pages in 30 days, they got 104 pages in 28 days. They gave Julie and I a logo saying that we are winners (as opposed to the one that simply concedes that we would be capable of covering a good sized wall with words ..
I have mostly sort of completed casting for the production of RICHARD III that I'm scheduled to direct in the fall. It was a surprise, then, when I stumbled across auditions mentioned on Facebook. Oops - auditions are for another company. I forgot that THREE productions of the play are scheduled to open within weeks of each other. (Who came up with that idea?)
I just finished seeing RENT, and writing reviews for A THOUSAND CLOWNS and I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER. My fingers hurt.
I am unaware of any politicians doing anything profoundly outrageous so far today, resulting in no heavy breathing on my part (and no cause for consternation and/or bemused interest from friends who live in civilized countries.).
Julie is off swatting at the windmill down the street, and the gauntlet Q threw at my feet I will pick up - tomorrow.
For the moment, then, the sun is shining and the weather is balmy warm. I'm going to take my drink, sit in the lawn chair I should have taken in last fall, and just smell the dandelions.
balcony39 has left a new comment on your post "Okay. I'm About To Intimidate A Windmill. Again": As a foreigner, tho' frequent visitor to the USA when I first started to read this I seriously thought the Gov of Arizona had it in for illegal aliens (from Mars etc.) You guys and your politicians are so wacked it seemed utterly feasible. Then I read on and I saw the raw ugly all pervasive face of rising hard right Neo Nazism. Ugly, Ugly, Ugly!!! Think on In Xanadu. Read a bit of history and see how the little stuff, and such a nasty bill is not a small thing, leads to the total erosion of human rights. Good luck!
I thought the observations from balcony 39 deserved more than simply being buried in the comments section of my post.
First of all, I sincerely apologize for the appearance of having “wacked” politicians. The United States of America is a republic, and republics constantly evolve, and sometimes it’s not pretty. If you read our history, you will note that regardless of whatever direction we lurch, eventually – and it could take years – the will of all the people dominates.
To compare the Arizona law to Neo Nazism is to focus on the wrong period of history. (And, respectfully, it’s condescending of you not to look deeper.) Unlike Nazi Germany, this is not a national law, it is a state law, and every civil rights organization in the country is lining up to take a shot at it. They are doing this because they can do this. On the national level, our President has people examining it – closely. Already parts of this law have been revised, and this is before it even goes into effect. This is literally the will of the people in action.
The real problem here is one of attitude. The “aliens” of today are regarded the same way African Americans were regarded in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. I suspect that earning respect and equality today will be every bit as difficult as it was 60 tears ago.
A couple of days ago I was staring at a blank computer screen (“You are getting sleepy, sleepy …”) and in the background the Governor of Arizona was signing a declaration of war against illegal aliens.
I was intrigued.
In the first place, the Governor of Arizona looks like the product of bad casting.
(“No no,” you would cry, “She’s not the Governor. She’s the Governor’s ex wife’s obnoxious Aunt Florence who is the first one eaten by the pod people... in the swamp … on Mars”)
In the second place, I was attracted by the obvious and loud opposition to the law the Governor was signing.
“Illegal aliens and the crimes they bring in are overrunning the state,” the Governor says. “They have to be stopped.”
I’m not sure why, but this seemed to many to be a radical concept.
“Sanctuary,” I know of one alien claiming. “Give me sanctuary.” And this person was taken into a church, housed, fed, and encouraged to resist deportation.
Would the church be as willing to take in a bicycle thief?
What’s the difference?
By best estimates, there are millions of illegal aliens in this country. Not thousands, not tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands – millions. I can’t even fathom that many people.
And, being illegal, they don’t pay taxes on anything.
They don’t pay for fire departments, road repairs, or city lights, yet they use these services every day.
These millions of people also get health care. Free.
The children of illegal aliens attend our already over filled public schools. Again, there is not even a beginning of financial support from their parents.
There used to be a rational that “they are filling jobs nobody else wants.” With unemployment standing at about ten per cent, I don’t think that excuse still works.
The one cry I hear from opponents to this law is that of racial profiling. Aliens must carry identification when they are out in public. This strikes me as funny. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t carry identification with them.
It isn’t that I don’t feel sympathy for suffering people – I do. But breaking the law and stealing from the government is not a good way to start a relationship. I’m beginning to feel like I’m being pushed – and worse, secretly scorned and laughed at.
And that is a mistake.
They have attracted my attention
The last I knew, laws were still being enacted and enforced in this country by the majority.
And the last I knew, that was still me ... and the Governor of Arizona ... and one or two other people..
Julie Morrison and I are now in day 23 of Script Frenzy. The story has evolved, having started with our only very vague guideline that a romance would evolve between the two central characters in a small independent film studio. (This is a contest, after all. Blah blah romance fills pages quickly, and with only blah blah thought required to ladle this stuff out.)
Yeah, well, from past experience I should have known better.
Julie has this great heart for the badly downtrodden. Before I knew it, we had battered women camped out in the second floor of our “studio.” To give depth to the pain women can go through, it’s revealed that our central female character has made some unwise decisions in the past. As a result – and without going into a lot of detail – she is kidnapped by a man she had crossed, and (at this point in the story) about to be forced into amateur porno films. Heavy stuff here. Heavy heavy heavy. (On the other hand, and taken completely out of context, Julie’s line “A naked girl will attract attention” seemed to me to be something of an understatement.)
So much for our blah blah shallow quickie romance story. Oh well, Jennifer Lopez probably wouldn’t be interested anyway.)
Now. Although my writing partner and I don’t suggest to each other what to write, we do exchange technical suggestions. (Her contributions encourage me to add depth to my writing – something that doesn’t come natural to any man. For my part, having worked most of my life in television, film, and theatre, I can offer technical details that give a story a bit more creditability.)
All this is background to the story I’m about to tell you – true story – about the time I was asked to direct a series of porno films. In reading a gazillion posts on lots and lots of blogs, I don’t recall that subject coming up very often, so you might find it interesting.
It was right after I had won my second Emmy, and I was riding pretty high. I was regularly directing regional sporting events on television, one network was interested in me, I was doing specials of every kind, and on the side producing/directing commercials for a large advertising agency. (If you are over 30 and watch television at all, you’ve seen some of them.)
I had worked with “Dan” and his crew from the agency for a couple of years. Once or twice a month they’d take over a studio after normal working hours and we’d crank out commercials until the sun came up (and employees started coming in.)
Dan and I got along great. After a session or two, I had learned what he was looking for in general, and we became part of a smooth and efficient team.
After one particularly long and difficult shoot, Dan and I were having breakfast together when he broached the subject of adult films.
“I’ve been producing films for about two years now,” he stated flatly.
“Porno,” I questioned.
“We call them Adult films,” he corrected.
“What happened to your old director,” I asked.
"He moved on,” I was told. No other information was asked or given.
Here was the offer. We would produce ten films in ten days. An empty building would be our studio, equipment would be rented from the agency, and we would start each evening at seven, and must be completed by sunrise the next day.
Dan would produce, I would direct, and the two techs – camera and audio – would come from the agency, in fact would be men I had worked with on several occasions. “Talent” would come from a waiting list at the mega university that in many ways dominates the capital city in this state.
I was to be paid $200 per night – not a great amount of money, but at the end of ten days I’d walk away with $2000, tax free. Similarly, the techs were to be paid $150 each. The female talent each night would earn $200, and her male partner would be unpaid.
That was it. I was impressed with how incredibly easy it all was.
I declined the offer. I would love to say I was filled with indignation, but I wasn’t. There was no indication that anyone involved was being forced in any way to participate. Money was the draw, and at that time in my life I didn’t have the moral or religious attitudes that would later influence my life.
So I said “no.” Overall I counted at least 25 people who would be involved in the total project, and I didn’t think that many people could keep a secret.
Dan accepted my decision graciously, and nothing more was said. Three years later he moved to Denver.
All this was a number of years ago, and until Julie and I started this work, I had totally forgotten about it. I don’t know, nor care, if the “business” continued or ended.
On the other hand, I’m impressed as to how easy it all appears to be.
Day 19 of Script Frenzy. The last dozen or so pages are pretty good. Hmm. We may have something beyond blah blah blah. Wouldn't that be funny?
Day 2 of holding auditions for Richard III. I can easily cast Lady Anne, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Margaret. I still have no Richard and would like stronger male supporting characters. In the theatre there seems to always be more talented women than there are men. With the men I have so far, their female counterparts would eat them for breakfast.
Day 1. Are you kidding me? Is it that time of year already? A-a-a-h-h-h-h-h!!!!
When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain, Before high-piled books, in charactery, Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain; When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And think that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, That I shall never look upon thee more, Never have relish in the faery power Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
I never intended to write a “this is where I stand” series. As most of you know, I love to pose questions that will evoke responses, but I make at least a token effort to keep my own opinions private. I’ve often commented – lamented – that a writer is more an observer than a participant in life.
However. The present political situation in this country, the decidedly unprofessional attitudes of many of our leaders, and the resulting unreasoned anger by citizens in general, have made me realize that to encourage debate without making my own position known, is not disinterested reporting, it’s avoiding confrontation.
So I’ve decided to level the playing field; this is how I feel, and why. Based on that, I invite your response. No more high altitude bombing. (I know I’m hitting something, I’m just not sure what.)
For the past year, I’ve watch the antics of congress and the senate with both growing interest and apprehension. In many instances the two major political powers flatly have refused to work with each other. Vaguely I can remember this happening one or more times in the past. During these time periods no viable business of the government was conducted. At the time there was a standing joke that this inaction may not have been a bad thing at all.
In this case, however, a purposeful antagonism seems to have abraded the distance between the democrats and the republicans. I’ve seen far more name calling and finger pointing than I expect from elected officials. Hate is an effective recruiting tool, but is almost always not satisfied until a violent action accompanies it.
Now you have my viewpoint on our present congress and senate. Their disrespect for each other doesn’t even come close to my disappointment in them as a whole.
With that as background, then, here are my observations of the progress of the present health care reform bill.
I remember when the bill was bring drafted, the President went on TV and said (paraphrased) “Here it is. If anybody has a better idea, let me know.” I don’t recall anybody stepping forward. Up to and including the time when the bill was made into law, there was STILL no better plan offered, just the demand to scrap everything and start over.
Those in favor of the law will explain in detail why it will work. Those opposed will explain (in my case with a condescending tone of voice) why it won’t work. The truth is, since none of this has been put into effect yet, nobody actually knows how it will work. Seems to me that the prudent course of action would be to observe something happening before praising or condemning it.
There seems to be a great amount of talk about “starting over.” Why? Admittedly, the work is not perfect. What’s wrong with fixing the problem areas instead of simply dropping everything? This law will provide millions of people with health insurance. Having given it to them, can you honestly face them and say you are now taking it away? What truly offends me are the people who are working so hard to withdraw the insurance have no fears of losing their own.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
In case you are unaware, this is the opening paragraph from the United States Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 men on July 4, 1776.
I’ve always enjoyed the pure audacity of this document. Here were a number of wealthy and influential men laying everything they held dear – including their lives – on the line for their convictions.
Two hundred and thirty-four years later it’s easy to view these people as two dimensional, frozen in portraits, a faded parchment one of the few artifacts reminding us that they lived at all.
Oddly enough, it was an Englishman commenting on my last post who unintentionally reminded me that grumbling from the safe obscurity of the sidelines doesn’t cut it. (Good show, Malmesbury.)
So. In order to give some kind of perspective to my critiques of the people who lead this country, here’s where I stand on those who either are in power, or think they are.
I support the President of the United States. I voted for him. (And was surprised when he won.) He’s not perfect – largely inexperienced. I know that. But I liked many of his ideas. And he’s smart. Sarah Palin once commented that if Barack Obama was elected, we’d have a college professor in office. To me, that was a selling point. I WANT someone as President who is smarter than I am. God knows I want someone in there who is smarter than Sarah Palin! I’ve been told that the effect of any President isn’t felt until 8 years after that person takes office. I’m willing to wait at least a little while before offering a judgment.
I have nothing against John McCain, but I felt nothing strongly for him, either. He had – has – a sarcastic streak I don’t appreciate. That turned me off, and thus so did he. As of late, he’s joined the “hell no” bandwagon. That’s fine. When I think of him, I will be reminded of the slogan. Good job, John.
I’m amazed at the popularity of Sarah Palin. The woman is hard pressed to put together two coherent sentences in a row. Yes, I read her book. Everything I see her do is motivated primarily to promote Sarah Palin. At some point I’d like to see her sink into the obscurity she so richly deserves.
On the day the Health Reform bill was made into law, the Republican minority leader, John Boehner, announced that he would make every effort to see that law repealed at the earliest possible opportunity. He has no better plan in mind. If he succeeds, I sincerely hope the 56 million people he will deprive of health insurance will take the opportunity to thank him personally.
And to those congressmen and senators who yell out during speeches and preach hate at every opportunity, I have zero tolerance. Zero. I don’t care how impassioned they are, this is unacceptable, immature, self-serving and rude. And in case you think I’m being too hard on them, consider this; forget for a moment that they are congressmen and senators. Would you want someone like that in the car behind you on the way home?
To: The Congress and Senate of these United States From: One really irritated rabbit
Re: I WANT MY VOTE BACK!
When I was in school, I was taught that it was rude to interrupt when someone else was speaking. When I was in business, if someone disrupted a meeting (which, by the way, never happened) that person would be asked to leave. Why, as a congressman or Senator, do you think it’s appropriate to scream out an inane comment when another public figure is speaking? Do you honestly think I appreciate this display of immaturity representing me? Do you think an insincere apology will mollify me? Sir or madam, it will not. I want you gone – out of here. I want your head shaved and painted orange. I want you stripped naked, and paraded out of town in the middle of winter while clinging by your fingernails to the top of a forty-foot tar covered telephone pole. And it’s not for you that I want this. You are history. Rather, I want the imbecile who replaces you to go into the job fully educated.
I don’t want one party to vote a hundred percent for a bill where the other party votes a hundred percent against it. And if a bill is voted into law, I don’t want to hear – that very day, that you are going to work to have it repealed at the first opportunity. Excuse me for asking, but … if you are so dissatisfied with this bill that you brag that you had nothing to do with it’s creation … my question is, why didn’t you? What am I paying you for? What are you doing up there? I think I’ve had enough. Clean out your desks and go. No hurry. Take all morning if you must.
What started my tirade? Today I heard a man casually comment that he’d like to see someone “take a gun an’ shoot the President an’ all them damn democrats.” True story.
Shocked (and more than a little naive), I asked the man why he wanted all these people murdered.
“Because of the - - health reform law,” he grumbled.
I thought about that. “Isn’t killing people over a health bill something of an oxymoron,” I asked.
The man bristled, sure that I was belittling him. He left, the anger more obvious than it was before he forced conversation upon me.
I wondered if he was encouraged by all the pompous rhetoric you have been spouting over the past weeks and months? I wonder if he will find justification in some form of violent action by following your leadership.?
And if someone is killed, I wonder if you can be tried as an accomplice or instigator? Boy, I hope so.
And so, whatever your motivations are, I want you to be aware of the following:
(1) YOU NO LONGER REPRESENT ME! I release you from your claimed obligations. You are, in fact, a source of great personal embarrassment.
(2) You have lost my vote. Not only have you lost my vote in the upcoming elections, but I’m going to see if I can take back my vote from the last several times you ran for office.
(3) It takes a lot – it really does, but you do NOT have the approval of a rabbit!
I'm feeling pressed. Several things happening at the same time.
Someone asked me today if I am retiring. From what? What does that mean?
In a few days Julie and I will again start writing for Script Frenzy - during the month of April we will write 100 pages in 30 days. A piece of cake. Last year we finished several days ahead of schedule. It was fun. creative, and we ended with something we're still working on.
Thursday I'm being interviewed in a town twenty miles away. I'm applying to direct a play at a theatre twenty miles in another direction. I'm not even sure I absolutely want this job. Why am I doing this?
I have two plays I'm writing that are near to completion. I look at them often - almost every day. I know the words - I have the words in my mind, but for some reason I can't/won't put them on paper. Why is that?
Here's a good one. I've been hired to direct a production of Richard III in November. Are these people out of their minds?! I'm a drop-your-pants kind of director. So far I haven't found much of that in Richard III. help .....
A friend emailed me because gossip built a wall between us. I was depressed. I thought I knew him better. I thought he knew me better. I emailed him back. I feel better. I hope he does, too. Why do people do these things? Is life really that jaded?
Last year I accepted a board position with a local drama school. I don't know why, but now, all of a sudden, these people actually expect me to DO something. I don't remember reading anything like that in the by-laws.
The theatre website for which I write hasn't contacted me in about a week. Relief. On the other hand, they haven't contacted me in a WEEK! What are they telling me? / So if you need to reach me, I'll be under the bed. Leave a message. Unless a gypsy caravan comes thru, in which case I'm outta here. I've always wanted to visit Volgagrad.
Theatre Review – Hedda Gabler Curtain Players Community Theatre 03/14/10
When the play Hedda Gabler was first produced in 1891, audiences didn’t understand it, and reviewers failed to recognize it as the great classic it would become. And when we say “it,” of course we refer to the central character of Hedda. She alone drives the plot forward. She alone makes the unremarkable characters around her remarkable, bending them to her formidable will.
In fact, if this was a one person play, it would still be fascinating.
Hedda is a study in contrasts. She hates her place in the society of her age, yet almost desperately wants to be accepted by it. She finds a sense of obliged destiny fulfilled by being married, but has nothing but disdain for her husband. Being raised by a single parent (a father in the military), her interests do not at all reflect those of proper young ladies during the latter part of the Victoria influenced era. Her open yearning for equality is her attraction, and the very denial of it determines not only her character, but also her fate.
Knowing all this in advance, I was intrigued to see how Curtain Players would handle an epic play in a petite theatre.
Frankly, they did pretty well.
The setting for the play is both comfortable and bright. Since the audience area is only six rows deep, there is an abiding intimacy here. Likewise the costumes appeared to be correct (and expensive) to my untrained eye. “Job well done” to designers Matt Hermes and Drew Washburn, and to costumer Joyce Leahy.
In a cast of worthy performances, Micah Jenkins first stands out. As the cuckold husband, his presentation of subtle weakness was constantly creative. I was impressed. I often forgot I was watching someone act.
I never forgot I was watching acting when I saw Joe Lusher as the judge. I wasn’t surprised to read of his Shakespearian background. I can only describe his performance as “rich.” I would occasionally back away from the involvement of the work to just enjoy pure style.
As the writer Lovborg, I was impressed with the raw power that Jeremy Ryan Brown brought to the set. He was the only male in the cast who could consistently stand up to the Godzilla-like personality of Hedda Gabler.
In a strong supporting role was Laura Miller as Thea. She must be good. I disliked the weakness in this character from her first moment on stage.
Also in smaller roles were Nancy Meyer and Linda Browning Hughes. In both cases I would like to have seen more.
And then there’s Hedda … When she first stepped on stage, Emma Bach reminded me of Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. After three minutes she reminded me of Lady Macbeth. By the end of the evening I wasn’t sure exactly what I had seen – other than it wasn’t going to fit well into any of my pre-conceived boxes. Here is a character so complex, so driven, yet so fragile … Ms Bach handled it all with seeming ease. In addition she added an almost hypnotic charm – one of those “I-am-the-flame-you-are-the-moth” kind of things.
With the high quality of everything else, I was disappointed with the direction. For example, the character of Hedda was too openly domineering, right from the beginning. A softer start would have allowed the character to “grow”, revealing more depth. What bothered me the most was the amateurish blocking – the unmotivated moving of people from one side of the set to another. Often three people would be jockeying for position to see who stands next to whom. Not good. And likely these mistakes might have been unnoticed if the quality of acting was less than it is.
Hedda Gabler will continue to be performed at Curtain Players Community theatre this coming weekend.
In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure-dome decree: where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground with walls and towers were girdled round: And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Jack Bunny is the alter ego of a playwright, theatrical director, and drama critic. If you are at a party and see a 150 pound rabbit at the punch bowl, it might be him!
(On the other hand, it might also mean that perhaps you should step away from the punch bowl for awhile.)
ANOTHER DUMB GHOST STORY (Full length)
THE REVENANT (Full length)
CORIE (Full length)
MORGAN (Full length)
VOLLEYS (Full length)
ELYCE TIMES ONE (Full length - written with J.E. Ocean)
THE DISENCHANTED FROG (Children's One-act)
THE ART OF BUILDING BRIDGES (One-act)
FROM MY VANTAGE POINT (One-act)
THE TRIAL (One-act)
WHAT'S NEW IN LATHERDUE? (Reader theatre One-act)
ROUGH DRAFT (One-act)
THE GRAND GILDER (One-act)
Old friend remembered
We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
George Bernard Shaw
I hate writing, I love having written.
If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
It must be summer. I can smell California burning.
Starbucks is where certain relationships go to die.
I can only answer the question 'What am I to do?' if I can answer the prior question, 'Of what story do I find myself a part?'
Walmart always makes me cry ...
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
The Bible in the hand of one man is more dangerous than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another.
Can people stop dying please? Just for a little bit. maybe.
Mettle not in the affairs of Dragons, for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
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.
In my many years I have come to the conclusion that one useless person is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a Congress.
Wearing underwear is as formal as I get.
"Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain ..."
Our revels now are ended.
These, our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.