Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Sandy Island Sunday
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Memorial Day weekend -- Family Camp
Friday, May 26, 2006
Why do Brits rule?
I think the American playwright thinks "out of the Box" as much as any muse-inspired neurotic word-drunk dream- or cause- obsessed writer anywhere does. Our American Business/Academy model for the development process may shove them back in the box-- to improve them. The Brits-- and as far as I can tell the Irish-- have a supported theatre with fewer gatekeepers, lower costs, and although the directing ranks are filled with well-connected Old Boys from Oxbridge, entry level writers are not required to have academic or professional credentials or to work their way through untold rounds of readers. Directors actually read plays-- for all I know, they may only read the first 4 pages, or limit themselves to writers with Type O blood, but the program notes say things like "by the end of the first scene the voices were in my head, begging to be put on stage..." There, somehow, putting on a flawed new play is not a high- risk project: it's R&D, and "interesting" seems to be OK. Theatres even sell copies of the-- certainly obscure, probably unsuccessful-- script in the lobby! When I go to London I see new plays at the Cottylesloe (sp?) but also in basements; flawed but interesting new plays performed before audiences that, as in NYC or Boston, may be outnumbered by the cast. They are usually brilliantly performed, often featuring actors I've seen on "Masterpiece Theatre" or "Mystery" and reverently directed by people with extensive experience nurturing new scripts. Apparently being connected to a flop is not a career-killer. The authors may be young or experienced, but generally the play has just been written: it is not the product of years of Development Hell. It feels fresh and individual-- it has a POV and a way with words. I'll point again to McDonough-- I saw his trilogy in Galway the year in which he'd finished writing it! I noticed elementary awkwardness and overwriting that over here would have been met with demands for rewrites-- which might well have stretched on and on until the
playwright lost confidence in his talent. After all, he's a high school dropout with no theatre experience whatsoever-- what business does he have writing plays and expecting professionals to put them on? His plays went from Galway to London and then to NYC and world fame within 3 years of their inspiration--- less than half the time it takes a typical American script to make it from completion to a first public performance. (McDonough may still crash and burn-- his meteoric rise is a tough act for anyone to follow, including himself)
But I think that the main reason the Brits are "better" is that plays
matter more in that culture. The audience is closer to a cross
section, and includes more working people as well as more politicians
and intellectuals. It is hard to imagine an American version of
Hare's "The Permanent Way". Who in NYC would pay $100 a ticket (NOT
that it cost $100 in London-- that's part of the point, that the
National sells 10 pound tickets to the general public, but the same
show cost much more to see here) to see an account of the NYC rail
transport system?-- even though the transport system is an important
part of the lives of millions and a good trope to use to examine the
way the society works-- or doesn't work. Would the unions see it and
argue about it? The newspaper columnists? The transport
administrators? (Well, here the columnists and administrators
generally do not use public transport-- they have limos and corporate
jets) Would anyone expect a play to change the way the government
does business? One writes with a different and perhaps wider mind
set when it might matter.... when it is not mainly entertainment or
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Interactive Mystery scenario
Jan 16th has WAY too much in the way of dialogue! The interactive things are basically improv scenarios which allow the actors to engage the audience in conversation, table by table, so that the people have the illusion of "knowing" the characters. The audience then gets to work out some plot turns themselves, and either compete to "solve" the crime or participate in the solution. About ten years ago some acquaintance of mine -- I don't even remember who!-- thought she'd like me to write one for her. She brought me a typical pattern. As I recall it went something like: 3 actors seated with the customers, in character; 2 enter, argue: distraction-- (maybe the lights go out) during which one of the entering pair is murdered. Partner is accused, but another actor supplies alibi, then a 3rd is accused. Detective appears, questions. Then the actors fan out into the audience and discuss backstory, who they suspect, why they could or could not be the perp etc. They gossip, joke, reveal, then the detective consults the audience and a choice is made-- through vote, or drawing slips of paper with instructions, or by audience suggestion-- as an improv troupe does-- and the next scene the actors play is based on the choice. There are about 5 choices/scenes/discussions followed by a solution. At some point early on the "body" is removed, and that actor -- well disguised-- comes back as another character. The whole thing lasts about an hour and 20 minutes.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Report from the Front
Subject: ONE MORE TIME:
back on may 06th, 2006 i wrote asking you if i could use your words to the one-act play "one more time" for a class project. you gave your consent. i'm just giving you a follow-up about how it went as you asked that this be done. this worked very well for my classmate and myself. we are both first semester students and our "blocking" could have been better but all told the instructor said we really had an understanding of the material and we had a feel for the characters (i am very pleased with the instructor's critique) i trust i'll get better with "blocking knowledge" as i continue to grow in obtaining a skill set for this genre. it was fun to do this play and i just wanted to say again thank you for its usage.
sincerely, m m.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Platform Production Meeting
I had to pass up the opportunity for comps to the Huntington's Loves Labors Lost in order to attend a required production meeting for the Playwrights Platform Summer Festival at the Boston Playwrights Theatre at Boston U. I regret this-- LLL is a favorite of mine. I saw it as a pre teen, done by the Yellow Springs Shakespeare, and I loved it then-- as I do now. I loved the wordplay, and the pedantry, and the pageant of The Worthies... I was a kid in love with the Greeks and Romans, myth and history, and I knew who the Worthies were at a tender age. So I loved the play for all the things that nmake it one of then less-frequently produced of the Shakespeare comedies. I've seen it as often as I can, within the limitation of my budget, and all but once or the 6 or 7 I've seen I've enjoyed. Both the Publick Theatre in Boston and Shakespeare and Co. in Lenox have done delightful productions within the last 5 years or so....
The PP production meeting was well attended and organized-- except that I expected to see my director there assuring everyone -- and me-- that she's on top of things. I know that she is directing another playwright's piece in the PP Festival, and also one in the Boston Theatre Marathon this week end, so she is certainly familiar with the BPT space and knows what furniture and props and lights and sound are available. I assume that she has copies of all the info sent out in PP emails that I have. I just don't know what I'm supposed to be doing for the upcoming production, or when, so consequently my life is on hold. I don't want to commit time to other things when I don't know whether the director and cast are amenable to rewrites, or when I am expected to show up at rehearsal or how difficult it will be to, say, get bios from the cast and print out programs-- that's the writers' responsibility.
Nice to see old friends like Frank Shefton at the meeting, and chat a bit with some of the newer writers whom I don't really know yet. I wish I were better at learning names.....
Friday, May 05, 2006
from Drum's Political Animal - bad old news for Women
"DIVERSITY REDUX....Speaking of diversity, here's some news about the portrayal of boys vs. girls in G-rated films:
There are three male characters for every female.
Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters (real and animated) are female.
Less than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.
More than four out of five (83 percent) of films’ narrators are male.
The full report, based on the 101 top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004, is here. The authors also note that males are less likely than females to be portrayed as parents and that nonwhite males are way less likely to be portrayed as parents. In addition, Black and Hispanic males are extremely scarce in G-rated films (they appear at well under half their actual rate in the general population), and when they are present they're far more often portrayed as violent than white males.
If you think that a study like this could have been done in, say, 1970, with about the same results, you're right. But it sure is annoyingly PC to keep pointing it out in this enlightened day and age, isn't it? That must be why the report got exactly one mention in the press after it was released: a 400-word piece in USA Today that gave over nearly half its space to a critic who said the whole thing was no big deal. Sheesh."
Monday, May 01, 2006
casting BOSTON'S BROTHERS IN LIBERTY
I'm looking for a cast for my May 7th reading at Playwight's Platform. The script is on my web site, it is the first play that appears when you clink on the link to "full length plays". I need to fill 10 male roles (!)-- some can be doubled-- and 4 females, plus a Narrator who in a production would be a strolling musician--- but for this first-draft reading I only hope to hear the dialogue. I'm looking for some people who don't hate such "costume" plays in principle to listen and give me feedback at the reading, and a small army of actors comfortable with period language to read the parts, letting me hear what it sounds like and telling me whether in their opinion the roles are playable.
BOSTON'S BROTHERS IN LIBERTY
By G. L. Horton
A dock worker’s family struggles to survive in pre-revolutionary Boston, where the British crown’s need to raise revenue combined with the colonists’ resistance to taxation and to Parliament’s restraint of trade has escalated discontent to near rebellion.
The resultant economic collapse turns neighbor against neighbor as individually and collectively they try to find a path to prosperity. The Caldwells side with the rebels, mainly because smuggling is the only job available for the males. However, the the family’s food and lodging depends on its women, who work in Caleb’s tavern. The tavernkeeper is convinced that hostility to the British is bad for business.
Jonny, an Irish soldier in the Redcoat army who has seen what the British government has done in his own country, is inclined to be sympathetic to the colonials, but he is pessimistic about their chances of winning concessions from King George. Jonny is attracted to Caldwell’s niece Mary, a bar maid in Caleb’s tavern, and she returns his interest, but neither has the resources or the freedom to consider marriage. Mary’s cousin Luke finds Jonny a charming fellow too, and tries to convince the soldier that he can successfully desert and join the colonist’s cause. War looms-- all who have even a degree of freedom must choose a side and take their chances.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
James MATThew Caldwell, 38, dock laborer
SARAH, 33, his wife
James MARK Caldwell, 16, his son
LUKE, 14, younger son
SERENA, 12, daughter
MARY Walters, 22, Sarah's niece
CALEB Knowlton, 45, tavern keeper
TINKER DAN, 35
PATrick Carr, 25
Granny FEN, 60
SGT Packer, 50
REV. Dillon, 50
Some of these roles can be doubled.
If it makes sense to say something about the play's history, here it is:
Decades back, can't remember the year but the Platform was renting the space on Charles St then, Ellen Stewart -- LaMamma herself-- came to the Platform and did a writing workshop. She asigned an arbitrary subject: the Boston Massacre; and some arbitrary elements -- I forget exactly what-- and maybe a dozen or 15 of us got to work. I did some historical research-- most people, considering the time constraints, went mythic or expressionist. We narrowed down to a few who were serious, and La Mamma put out feelers to fund development and production(s) in a subsequent session. Never happened. I threw the scenes that I'd printed out and heard read during the "semester" into a drawer, and the rest of the 1st draft was on my primitive computer's back up disks-- Trash 80? Osborne? Whatever---. When I went looking for the script a couple of years ago I had an incomplete mess, much of it in an unreadable antique wp program-- Peachtree? Heaven knows-- . But I had 5 or 6 scenes of hard copy and I could guess at about every 3rd or 4th word of the garbage files my text translator produced from my old text files. In late 2004 I went back for more research, and in early 2005 I wrote a new 1st draft, hoping to hear the play read at either the Platform or the ICWP retreat at Ohio State U in the summer of 05. OSU just hadn't enough actors to do a reading: we had ONE male, age 60, and my play is full of young men spoiling for a fight! The man and 6 women tried valiantly to do multiple characterizations and let me hear the first few scenes, but after a while got so confused about who was playing what that we just dissolved in giggles and gave up.
What I hope to discover from the reading is whether the basic plot and theme are interesting enough for me to continue to work on-- possibly hoping for colleges or Historical Re-enactors to do it some day, since big costume plays are economically out of the question in theatres.