Thursday, September 28, 2006

censorship, author's rights, directors

On Sep 28, 2006, M C wrote:
An actress friend of mine.. told me that her boyfriend gave a play to someone to do. "And they destroyed it." Has anyone sat while their play was being destroyed?

I replied:
Mess up the production, yes? But spoil the play? The author can yank the rights if what is on stage is "wrong". Friends of mine have done this. I turned down a production of my "most important" play because the company had no black actors and weren't willing to reach out to any.
Several friends have arrived at opening to discover that the director has re-written or re-arranged the script without permission. At that point they usually pray it won't be reviewed and will disappear without comment. I've shown up to discover my German-American Protestant senior citizen characters being played as 1st generation Irish Catholics, but it didn't bother me much. The play has been done before and after that, and no one else has ever decided to play them with that accent.
Playwrights can sue-- some do. Unauthrized changes happens all the time, to one degree or another. The cult of the director causes one set of problems, the cuts of genteel censors are something else.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Plagiarism, plays about current events

There's plenty of precedent for the use of newspaper material-- especially when one reporter's version has been taken up by the wire services and is rewritten/re-reported by other papers. Dos Passos "USA" and depression-era Living Newspaper shows incorporate just such material. But like all litigated matters, it depends on whether an entity with lawyers wants to make a particular artist's life hell.

I've both performed in and written plays that used "public record" material. All were and are defensible as "fair use" of material from multiple sources, but would not be defended in court simply because no writer or producer could afford to pay a lawyer to defend them. Fortunately, this usually becomes an issue only when a play is high
profile and there is actually money being made: and since almost no plays or playwrights in fact make real money, the temptation to sue is not very strong. Disney does it to intimidate. The psychologist whose work Bryony Lavory based "Frozen" on was very upset to be so portrayed. At the end of the long New Yorker article about it, Lavery's play continues unmolested.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Doing what we Can?

On Sep 24, John wrote to tell me that I am fooling myself if I think that the people will be voting "them" out in November. Don't I realize what's up with electronic voting machines opeating with proprietary source code?

John Says: fyi: 40% of americans will be e-voting this november, and the
source code which tells the machines how to tally votes will be
kept in the hands of private coporations.

fyi: in the last presidential election, for the first time in our
electoral history, exit polls were flipped in precincts with e-voting.

I reply:
I KNOW this crap! Anybody does, who has been paying attention! How do you suggest that we, as writers, grab the attention of people who haven't been paying it, or who just don't care? What do you suggest I do that I haven't done? Signed the petitions, letters to editors, praised the angels-side support of ALL the Massachusetts congressmen and senators, sent thanks and encouragement to my painter friend in Brookline and my playwright friend in Ohio who have taken a year out
of their lives to work full time on this issue, Verified Voting.... What next? Short of hara-kiri on the steps of the Election Commission? Or of ABC News?

I was a poll worker in Tuesday's Massachusetts primary. Huge turnout for a primary-- 50% voted even though there were no real contests on the Republican side. 20% is usual. Among the Democrats, the most liberal candidates won, almost across the board.
People who had not voted since optical scan replaced the old lever machines did ask about a paper trail, and we poll workers were glad to assure them that even though Diebold made the machines, this model uses hand marked paper ballots which are preserved in locked boxes for recount in case of any suspicion of irregularites.

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New Gizmo on my web site

Today Wyn, my Wizard Web Mistress, installed a Jukebox on the monologues page of my site. It has a scrolling playlist which invites people to listen to one or another of the actors reading monologues. It works on the computers in our house. Could some of you pretty please check and let me know if there are PCs or browsers with which it doesn't work? Thanks!
My It started modestly with a free-with-your-dialup host about 7 years ago, and as a small-business site with its own domain has grown to the point that yesterday's visitor count was 1883, hits 54,000, and I get one or two requests for production permission per day. If an acting student Googles "free student monologues", my site comes up #1 in the search results. #1! Many of the students who visit don't really want what I have to offer-- they are looking for monologues by David Mamet, or Arthur Miller, or Shakespeare. These searchers go away immediately-- but they don't go away mad, because there is nothing misleading about my site's key words and metas. My web mistress friend, whose savvy has guided the site's development over the years, is as concerned to discourage people who would not be interested in what the site has to offer as she is to attract those who are likely to want it. Wyn Snow has her own web design business --- The other techie involved in the Stagepage site is my husband David Meyer, who is also currently producing the Stagepage Podcasts showcasing my work. People will be able to hear David's program titled "Getting on the Web", where he interviews Wyn for advice about how playwrights or other Starving Artists can set up their own inexpensive sites to promote their work.
I shouldn't have said that trying to make my work as easily available to theatre-deprived Middle America as the Public Domain stuff on the shelves of Podunk's high school library was my most important goal. Actually, the fact that amateurs in France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Russia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uganda, and the Union of South Africa have found my plays and performed them, and that third world teachers without much access to libraries write to ask if they may print them out and use them in English classes, makes me happiest of all.......

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mouthoffs and the Podcast project

On Sep 19, 2006, at 2:11 PM, Bill wrote:
Hey, Geralyn!
You know that a number of TAS actors have used monologues from your
plays for audition purposes; and that I also do scene study from your
body of work.
Thanks for this new resource.... I downloaded your "Mouth-0ffs"
yesterday. Wonderful and rich material for cold reading exercises and
for possible audition monologues.
Break a leg,

Thanks, Bill! It makes me happy to imagine young people performing my stuff. If any of your students would like to send me an mp3 or m4a audio file of their performance, I'd love to use it for the Podcasts my husband is producing using mywork. David has put his old college radio/TV production skills together with his computer skills and launched a weekly 10-20 minute radio show, combining monologues or scenes from my StagePage Collected Works with interviews and features on theatre topics. For instance, the last week in August Larry Stark of interviewed me
about my August 14-20 trip to the Women Playwrights Retreat at Ohio State U, and Carol Shelton, one of the Ohio Senior Theatre actresses who read what we playwrights were writing during the Retreat, is heard performing an anti-war rant that she connected strongly with and recorded as an mp3 using my laptop's Garage Band. On Sept 10th's Podcast, Eliza Wyatt, Robert Bonotto and I chat about local theatre and actors John M. Costa and Penny Benson perform 2 very different interpretations of the same Mouth-Off monologue. Sept 17th is June Lewin talking with me about our touring show, Rosanna Alfaro's Martha Mitchell Musical. You can listen to any of these at Podomatic,
or-- better yet! raise my husband's spirits by raising the show's ranking: Search the iTunes Music Store or Yahoo! Podcast sections
for "stage page" and subscribe.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

My Own Web Site, StagePage

Is the subject of this email:
G.L. Horton;I like the site your plays are on. Is that your own site or is that
a site that other writers can use? If other writers can use, how does one
sign up?

It is my own site, the product of years of weekly labor by 3 skilled, intelligent people. My web mistress friend, Wyn Snow, is brilliant-- and she has her own web design business --- My site has grown to an average of more than 1500 visitors per day. I don't expect that it will make me either rich or famous, but it is a consistent source of below-the-radar productions.
The other techie involved in the Stagepage site, my husband David Meyer, is also producing Stagepage Podcasts showcasing my work.If you go to the podcast site
you'll be able to hear David's program titled "Getting on the Web", Wyn's tips onhow playwrights or other Starving Artists can set up their own inexpensive sites to promote their work. Or-- better yet! Raise my ranking! Search the iTunes Music Store or Yahoo! podcast sections for "stage page" and subscribe.

I belong to several organizations that offer to host a simple web site, or to link to an existing individual playwright web site. The Dramatists Guild just began to offer this service. I was amazed to see that only a couple dozen playwright members have signed up to be included! Of course it won't be widely used until there's an
inclusive list and theatre people figure out how to make it work for them-- but let's get started, writers! Today's young people, unlike theatre practitioners of previous generations, really do search the web to find what they want-- including plays, scenes, and monologues.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights links to sites featuring plays by women authors. The Mass. Cultural Council is sponsoring a searchable list of performers, writers, troups and
teachers in the New England region,
My local Boston writers' group, PlaywrightsPlatform, also links to writers' sites; as does Rob Matson's Storyfoundry. Playwrights On The Web, ditto.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Play To Go To School

From Professor Alan Woods
I wonder if you'd be willing to let me use Boston's Brothers in Liberty for a class I'm teaching this term at Ohio State. The course is for first year honors students, and is " Introduction to Theatre: Making History ---- Honors Early Experience Research Seminar " Each student is assigned a play, and they spend the term reconstructing everything they can find out about the playwright, where the play has been produced (or, if not, what reaction the writer's had to the script), and so forth--as a way of exploring the way theatre happens in the contemporary world.

If you will permit me to assign the play, you'd also be agreeing to have the student contact you and interview you for an oral history. The student will write a formal research paper, based on the interview and the research, and the interview then becomes part of our oral history archives here.

I would, of course, be happy to answer any questions you might have. I do hope you'll let our students--most of whom have little or no theatrical background--learn about theatre through your work.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Making Nice at the Local Post Office

Mailing out manuscripts is WAY cheaper via Media Mail-- but getting the P.O. to cooperate may be difficult. The "bound or unbound?" question is alive and important. My experience is like that of other writers who have wrestled with it: my post office did not recognize Media Mail or help me with it. But once we had the printed regulations in hand we talked it through together, and both bound and loose leaf script MS are now accepted cheerfully by them. When the clerks see me in line they get out the "Media Mail" rubber stamp! "Unbound" is important to novelists and "long short story" writers besides us, and I've had this conversation with them. Entire POs seem to come to an attitude: either writers are pets to be enjoyed and encouraged, or they are dangerous freeloaders who should be resisted and harassed! Going an extra mile to a PO where you can get the clerks to be helpful rather than hostile may be worth the effort....
My PO recently told me that the new self-serve machine won't do Media Mail. Now I'm wondering whether this is true or if they just want me to stand in line? I do stand in line-- I've never tried going up to the back window and handing the stamped package in. I do hand it to the PO truck driver some times, or leave it in my house mailbox if I'm sure the regular carrier is working......

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Playwrights Propose Change through Street Theatre

Jay says the press would take notice and the people demand change if the protest were dramatic enough: "think about it: 100 pretty white girls on a hunger strike in the capitol"

Anita says: "Ordinary citizens? Many might just think of it as just another anorexia convention. However, the bathing suit competition should be arresting."

MY 2 cents:
Here is the Off Playwright Topic part-- our elections and the laws and regulations (and appointments made by those who win them) are for sale: upwards of 90% of elections are won by the candidate with the most money, and the vast majority of that money raised is from corporate or other private interests. When poor people don't bother to vote because "you can't fight city hall", they aren't ignorant, just reasonably pessimistic. Media "buys" drive both turnout and preference. Among
developed democracies, our system ranks below average in terms of participation and above average in corruption.Most advanced democracies forbid corporate contributions, mandate free TV and radio time for candidates to campaign and debate, and set up a system other than "winner-take-all" in which gerrymandering is such a temptation. (I am active in grassroots groups working for election reform.)

On body politics as theatre: Would the Starving Babes performance art ploy work? I don't know, but I think it is creepy for a man to promote it.

The Raging Grannies and Cindy Sherman are on a hunger strike/rotating fast now. Is it working? I never hear it mentioned except in press releases from the people who are participating. I did seriously consider joining it-- I've done limited symbolic fasts
before-- but decided that maintaining my health and energy to fight the good fight for as long as my body and brain can is more important.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On public readings of drafts

Sep 13 P B says:

"... When a playwright tells me s/he wants another reading of a script we've read before....
I am interested in knowing if the changes are substantial and if they reflect in any
way the feedback that the playwright received at his/her previous reading.."

I reply:
I'm not sure how useful it is to hear a re-write of a play heard
within the memory of many of the people in the room. Audience
members "know" the material that has been cut-- there's no way to un-
know it. People can say things like "it moves better now" or "what
happened to the part about how they met on a canoe ride? That was my
favorite" or "I like the new scene with the father"-- but these are
the sort of comments that are best made by trusted friends or a
mentor who is willing to read successive drafts and follow and
discuss the revision process. Or-- best of all-- by a director and
actors committed to a production who understand their objectives and
characters from the inside and can judge in a practical way whether
the changes make the scenes work for them within an over-all arc.
The public reading of a full script is supposed to reveal what the
words presently on the page communicate to a group of "ordinary"
listeners who have never encountered them before-- the state of
innocence the author him-or-her self can never return to and can't
know w/o a fresh audience coming together to have the unique
experience and react to it.

I think the "reflect previous feedback" is a danger. People get
invested in having the playwright take their advice and will
reinforce changes that do as improvements, even when they are leading
the writer away from the unique vision that is the core of the
play. I try very hard to not to do this myself: but it is a big
temptation! The audience as audience is hardly ever wrong-- but
I've seen lots of plays get worse from taking good advice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

2 recurring Questions

playwrights ponder:
1) what's a "professional"?
The implication is that somebody got paid-- but who, and how much...
This is assuming that "professional" is a term of approbation and refers to merit. Not always. We know what people are called who perform sexual acts professionally. Sometimes "for love" is the category that gets the approbation and refers to merit.

As a playwright question, however, the question behind the question is probably: "Can I send my play that was done in a high school gym and sold 67 $8 tickets and nobody but the janitor got paid to a theatre whose guidelines say that only accept scripts that haven't been "professionally" produced?" And the answer to that is "probably"-- because guidelines mean what the person who wrote them think they
mean, not what "should be" meant according to the dictionary or legal definitions of the words.

2) Does a writer really want feedback? I particularly welcome things from actors like "I found it hard to just sit silent when Sue revealed she'd stolen the letter. I really wanted to cuss her out" and "I don't understand why my character isn't in the scene in the tavern. It seems to me he would be there-- he loves to party. I can see that if I have to double the cop, I can't be-- but why can't I be the the actor double the delivery man in scene 4, and have that other actor double the cop in the tavern scene?"
I don't want anyone to tell me what to write, but I'm very happy to hear solutions for problems I've failed to anticipate within whatI've written-- esp technical ones.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

NOMTI Meeting and playwright stuff

NOMTI's First Meeting (I plan to be there)
To all Playwrights' Platform members:

"This year's first meeting of New Opera and Theater Initiative (NOMTI)
will be at 7 PM this Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Berklee College of Music in
downtown Boston. We will meet in room 402, or there will at least be a
sign there directing you to the actual meeting place.

As you may know, Playwrights' Platform members have reciprocal
membership privileges with NOMTI. This year we are doing a group
project called The Exquisite Corpse, and we encourage everyone to
participate. (The details of the project appear in an earlier email.)
Whatever the results of the experiment are, we'll present them (using
professional singer/actors) to an invited audience in the spring. We
hope you'll come and join us."

Some Stagepage confusion today -- regrettable shouting on the domestic front. An update (on Sat?) adding a mp3 button and changing the order of the 1st page of mouthoffs resulted in my "get" from the remote site wiping out 5 monlogs I'd written and posted within the past week. This oops was followed by another oops-- discovering that my nightly Backup isn't backing up Stagepage or its updates...... where'd it all go....???? David was not sympathetic, and his "help" didn't find the missing texts in any of the likely places searched.

I found near-final drafts of my missing mouthoffs on my "notes and drafts" file, proofed them and put them on the top mouthoff page in the order I thought best that they should go-- placing some that I know have been mp3'd recently near the top , waiting for the magic buttons to happen when David sends them to Wyn and she posts them. Of course it's ok to change the order then-- you're the experts-- but a heads-up email would be very helpful. If when I open the page I don't see what I left there last time, I tend to panic.......
I've now figured out a way to back up new pieces in one of my Documents folders as I post them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I complain about ageism in the aggregate, and in the theatre and in visual and narrative arts-- because I believe that humanity lives by narrative. I want to see women on stage who have their own stories and are not prizes or nurturers or mere obstacles for the central male characters. I want to see women who look like us, like the women in the audience, not like the babes on TV. The fact that men just aren't very interested in "us" annoys me, and the fact that men mostly determine what stories get told and what the women who are in them look like really pisses me off. I hear older women say that men-- and this includes gay men-- are reluctant to work with not-young women as colleagues or to assist them in realizing their own visions: it's a situation that is fraught with unresolved mother-issues, and easier for them to avoid than deal with.
OTOH, in personal relationships I can't complain. My first husband was 6 years older, my present is 5 years younger-- and I've had love affairs with men twice my age and half my age (and one woman).... I play tennis with boys on the high school team, and my grandsons think I'm cool. I have about an equal number of male and female friends-- though I must admit than I am closer to the females, and closest of all to my daughter. I really enjoy my young friends , especially the playwrights and actors, and some times I regret that I don't have as many friends from younger cohorts as from my own-- especially as my friends from older cohorts are dying off! But the way we Americans live, organized around jobs and moving frequently, makes it hard work to "make new friends, and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold".

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Religious plays

To a dramaturg looking for scripts about religion:
I've sung in a Unitarian choir since childhood-- heard at least 2500 sermons-- and my master's degree is in the sociology of religion. Religion is a recurrent theme in my plays, and I've written at least a dozen that center on it.
One Acts: Sacred Space-- is about the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980's.
The Gender Agenda-- shows a liberal Protestant church's Women's Committee challenged by a transexual.
Many of my ten minute plays deal with various New Age practices: Snakes and Ladders, The Lost Prince of Paradise, In The Dark, And the Lion Shall Lie Down With..., One Fiery Leaf, Cyberscripture, etc.
Full length: The Prophet Freeman-- is about a preacher in the rural midwest who claims supernatural powers.
Spirit and Flesh-- is also about someone who claims powers: Spiritualist Victoria Woodhull, who ran for President in 1872 on a platform of Equal Rights and Free Love.
"Under Siege"-- my play set in an abortion clinic, explores how different religious traditions affect attitudes toward child-bearing.
Other plays of mine feature ghosts and Greek Gods.

All are on my web site,

I also directed Eliza Wyatt's beautiful 1980's play Mirror Images, which is about Muslim women during the Iranian revolution.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Path to 9/11

What's going on at the Globe? Are your reporters and editors still on summer vacation, or just totally unplugged?
How, when the internet is boiling over with outrage, and liberal and even centrist Democrats are bombarding ABC with demands that the slanted 9/11 "documentary" miniseries be fact-corrected or pulled, can the Globe print a puff-piece based on ABC's press releases? Has the Globe joined the media outlets that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the right wing of the Republican party, and begun to print propaganda as news ?

Below is just one of the action-urging emails that have flooded my inbox for the past week. This one is from Act For Change, but dozens of progressive organizations have sent me similar messages. Several of the officials slandered in this "documentary" are said to be considering lawsuits to set the record straight.

"On September 10th and 11th, ABC is planning to air a "docu-drama"
called "Path to 9/11," which is being billed as "an objective telling
of the events of 9/11." In fact, the film was written by an unabashed
conservative who twists the facts to blame President Clinton.

ABC's new six-hour film was apparently screened in advance ONLY to
conservative bloggers and journalists -- and received extensive praise
from none other than Rush Limbaugh. The film is apparently also
riddled with factual errors and distortions; former counterterrorism
czar Richard Clarke has completely refuted one of the key scenes in
the show.

It's simply stunning to think that as this fall's election approaches,
a major television network would devote six hours of prime-time
programming to air such a slanted and inaccurate program.

Tell ABC -- this type of inaccurate and slanted program does not
belong on primetime television, and they should cancel this show."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Salon

Eliza writes to me: "I've been away in Newport for final fling of Laurence's stay - but Robert
Bonotto said he was coming over to your place Tuesday evening and would bring his water colors of Italy with him, so we were hoping to visit too. Hope that's okay."
I was more than ok. In addition to the pictures and theatre gossip, the two composers-- Robert B and Laurence Bull-- meeting for the first time had to exchange info about mentors and influences and describe their work and share contacts. Fascinating glimpse into their world.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

cnot a holiday for the unemployed or artists....
Last night The Kids came back from Dance Camp, which I skipped after going and enjoying it the last few years. Mountains of laundry return from Maine, and I'm doing my Family Duty by seeing that they get washed and dried while others are busy preparing for The First Day of School.
There will appear to be a decrescendo in My Life In Art, but it is only because I've gone from an accomplishment to a preparation stage. The books I requested through Interlibrary Loan to research historic material for the Centlivre play have all come in at once, and I am reading and note-taking frantically because they must all be returned in 3 weeks. It would be lovely to just order them from Amazon, make notes in the margins, and have them on hand during rewrites-- but financially impossible.
When I'm not reading, I'm memorizing my lines for Bessie In "Awake and Sing". I played the role 7 years ago, and thought it would come back quickly. Apparently the short rehearsal period and six performance run of the play play back then didn't groove these lines in, the way Martha was grooved in 18 years ago.
Busy, busy.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday Podcast up again

Modest numbers so far, but David feels that he is beginning to understand the Podcast process-- although it won't be obvious from this week's feature, which is a discussion between Larry Stark of the TheaterMirror and me about political theatre. There was a problem with Larry's sound level, and no amount of post-prod tinkering with our primitive equipment helped much.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

End of Eden

Washingon Post: End of Eden


Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

"There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Give the Underdog a break!

Hi G.L. Horton, R A here. I was wondering if your monologue "Walter the
Warrior" is in a play or simply on its own. If it is from a play of yours, are
there prints of this play I could find at libraries and such? How long is it? I
really liked the monoluge and wanted to use it for a class performance in my
college acting class, but it has to meet certain criteria to be usable.

Tell your teacher to give obscure self-publishing playwrights a break! My goal is Literary Immortality, and I'm sort of resigned to the idea that it will be posthumous. So: Why should commercial publishers be the gatekeepers? The Library of Congress considers web published material to be "published". Maybe 3 new American plays out of the 300-500 that are produced yearly are put out by a publishing house and available in libraries. Don't settle for such a meager supply!
Anyway, the play that "Walter the Warrior" will eventually be part of isn't written yet. It's about an New Age Arts Camp in Maine where my family has gone for years, and will be a musical.... rather like "Hair".... once I have found a composer to collaborate with. So far I just have notes and monologues and scenes for it, but I expect to finish a first draft libretto before the end of 2007.