Monday, July 30, 2007

Response to Jay, and more questions to him and others you wish to share...

Tony's original post

Where did you first find your faith? The faith that great new plays were possible?

And have you moved from that point? To me this idea of faith and theater is a key to how I became addicted to this medium. Somewhere I had one or 2 or three experiences of literal ecstasy in the theatre as a teller of tales or a spectator that gave me a sort of faith that some sort of salvation or redemption (even in a momentary metaphorical sense) was possible through theatre.

So what are the answers to those 2 questions? I would encourage you dear reader(and I will try myself) to be as specific as possible, not about the kind of play you want to read, but what moment or play put you in the place wear your faith began. (A near future post probably)

I think I agree with most of your points about the tedium that is modern scripts. Not enough risk, imagination, mythic stature, etc.

The only reason I started writing plays is because I wanted to see different sorts of stories on stage. Stories that were too rarely told for my taste. If there were more playwrights writing the sort of stories I wanted to see, then I probably never would have taken the leap from directing to playwrighting so many years ago.

I might willingly share a script or two that I have written with Tony or with anyone, but often I hesitate for a number of reasons...

I primarily direct my own stuff. Why? Because the same frustrations that Tony communicated about the text...I have felt those same frustrations when it comes to the majority of directors and companies out there.

So, I'm not in habit of submitting my work to other theatre companies. I am in the habit of sharing my work with other theatre artists...I guess in the fleeting hope or faith that I'll finally run into like minded individuals whose level of taste matches their artistic creativity, that their raw talent is matched by a selflessness towards the story.

The same way in which you want to find that faith restored by a script, I want to find that faith restored by a producing organization that has a vision for new work other than simply picking ripe fruit that has fallen off the tree into their lap, the producing organization or theatre company that has few if any prima donnas, yadda yadda yadda yadda...(I don't know anything about Halycon except what I can see on the site, so please note this isn't criticism directed specifically at Tony or his company)

Perhaps the only comfort you can take until that faith restoring script comes your way is that...IT IS OUT THERE. There is a needle in the haystack, and there is also a camel small enough to walk through the eye of it. But just like books, movies, bands, there is a ton a ton a ton of crap out there and it's mere existence is enough to make it an obstacle to your goal.

I remember living in Florida as a college student, and not being able to wait until I got to NYC where all the work was going to be great, the land of oz...then I got there and after seeing about 100 shows realized that 90 of them sucked, and only 1 or 2 out the remaining ten filled me with a beacon of light and faith.

Anyway, if you Tony, or dear reader want to read something I'd be glad to share it with you. If you want to talk shop or commiserate that's fine too (but lets do it over a beer or a cup of coffee)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Seven Snakes

As I said before, I don't know that I will be putting the entire reedited Seven Snakes Prose. But, I have put a list of links over on the right side column that puts the text in order from beginning to end, in case anyone would like to be able to read in sequence without parsing through the entire blog or tag list.

Due to budget there were no regular physicians on staff, just five full time nurses, one for each floor. If a patient’s situation got bad enough the five nurses couldn’t handle it then a surgeon might get choppered in.

Mother – Usually just in time to confirm official time of death.

It happened maybe twice I can remember, both times it was a female surgeon.

Mother – What are the odds?

Mother and the other nurses always could use an extra hand, so once they sensed my compassion for these old guys, they starting teaching me everything they knew. Everyday, I followed them doing rounds, learning everything there was to know about being a nurse. This was the only school I’d ever know.

Years passed, the budget got smaller, the patients got older, the hospital population thinned. The staff was downsized one nurse at a time until only my mother and I were left to take care of twenty odd remaining octogenarian veterans.

Mother – You’re the last nurse left. Hell, with me gone you’re the only female on the old Skillet for a hundred miles in any direction.

Most of the old men were gentlemen

Mother – I don’t think there are none of em could get it up anyway. Still once you got them tits, sure gave those old bastards’ eyeballs a workout didn’t.

I always has gotten a lot of attention, but it with a few of them it did get a little ridiculous.

Mother – You got to be careful. You give some of these old guys a little care and they get ideas, I know those old sumbitches, a few of them would like nothing better than to break off a fingerbone in yer fanny.

Not all of them were horny old perverts but that didn't mean they were any less hard to handle.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Some of you are now updated in my links section...I'm going to try to keep it more focused on the chicago folks than the whole theatro blogo sphere.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Here we go!!!


The Mammals Theatre Company will be remounting their critically acclaimed production of

Adapted and Directed by Bob Fisher

Assembled from excerpts of Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, and various short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, CLAY CONITNENT is a blood soaked pageant of diabolical villainy recounting the tale of one doctor’s desperate attempt to overcome his own demonic possession.

Often Ingenious…the Mammals do a close to flawless job handling difficult but thrilling material.
-Brian Nemtusak, The Reader

Performance dates are as follows

Friday November 9th, 2007
Saturday November 10th, 2007
Friday November 16th, 2007
Saturday November 17th, 2007

at the Peter Jones Gallery

The Mammals explore new performance works embracing the genres of science fiction, horror, and phantasmagoria, as well as utilize techniques of these three genres in application to classic texts from the western canon. While appealing to a broad section of the public, science fiction, horror, and the phantasmagorical have been able to most successfully incorporate the vast inheritance of non-naturalistic performance strategies passed down from experimental pioneers of presentation and storytelling.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When writing or making art...

Thinking about this statement by Flannery O Conner I read on Marisa Wegrzyn's blog

* (on Nelson Algren) I have the impression page by page of a talent wasted by sentimentalism and a certain over-indulgence in the writing.

For the record, I love Algren but that aint what I'm thinking on, instead...

is it better/worse to push a little too far maybe?...
when writing, when creating, when rehearsing, when composing...
sort of like the notion that you can always pull back...
always thin it down...
like dressing for a cold cold day, you can always take off a layer?

What do you guys think? Any stories about going to far as a good or bad thing creatively...

Please share

More Seven Snakes

Currently, I'm still dividing the prose up into mini chapters. It helps me with the editing. Even if I'm now hearing mostly dialogue/monologue...I am hopeful for more that one format...or still yet to decide between one format or the other. But even if the mini chapters disappear, they are helping me to focus the storytelling, helping me focus an agenda, a purpose, a direction for each digestible bit of narrative...anyway...I like sharing it and appreciate your comments at least until I get a third to half the way through

Chapter Three – Veterans and the VA

The Octogenarians veterans at the VA were the only males I had seen in the flesh through the middle of my seventeenth year.

Mother – Not counting Donkeyface, but he couldn’t have been younger than retirement age hisself

My first memories are of wandering the halls of the VA hospital. Mother got a job there as a nurse.

Mother- I couldn’t leave her alone in the hut in the heat. The VA had ceiling fans at least.

Five floors of linoleum and cinder blocks. Grey curtains blowing through the sharp window panes. Desperate tongues wagging.

Mother- Often under funded though the years as of late

The whole building itself seemed to be signaling surrender.

Mother – Bed pans is what I remember. Bed pans high as the sky.

At all hours day or night, a soft sorrow filled moaning could be heard

Mother- A hundred cats releasing their last meows

A lonesome sound from lonesome men. Those invalids were like poorly made puppets in a horrorfilm. Rust covered mufflers and cattlebones held together with wires and gauze, suspended with old rope or misplaced fishing line.

Mother – from the start I had a notion that you were doomed to be a Florence nightingale.

I don’t remember, but apparently I was always adopting this old man or that old man the way other girls might take in stray kittens.

Mother – Some old bastard would be showing her pictures from his wallet, and she’d have poured some warm milk in its bowl and refreshed the dentureine.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Working Title for Boxing Play

Joe Janes suggested that the title of the boxing play wasn't a good indicator of what you get with the script.
Seriously. I don't think it reflects the weight and depth and grittiness of your play. It's not as compelling as the story is.

I agree with him, so I've been thinking...
I'm thinking of changing the working title of the boxing play from "I Can't Go Down" to simply



Monday, July 23, 2007

Seven Snakes Prose

Chapter One – Mother’s Preparations

Mother picked the spot where she wanted me to dig. She wanted her grave to be within a grove of cacti that was just inside our property line. She didn’t have the back to move all that sand, but while I dug, she decorated the surrounding cacti. She used thumbleweeds woven with bright colored strips of cloth letting the resulting bramble catch the needles thus crowning each cacti. When the wind whipped away at the tips of the colored cloth each crown seemed like a burning scrub.

Mother – Did I tell you sent out invitions?
Daughter – To your own funeral?
Mother – Donkeyface was by to pick em up

Donkeyface was the closest thing we had to a postman out here abouts on the Skillet. We called him Donkeyface because calling him “face like a donkey’s ass” just didn’t have good enough flow. That, and he delivered post from ontop his donkey. Sometimes donkeyface would be on top his mount close to the noon hour when you had no choice but to squint, it being so bright so hot on the skillet, those times you couldn’t tell where his face began and the donkey’s ass ended. I weren’t too fond of Donkeyface.

Mother- So Donkeyface comes by and says
DF- Well I’m guessing these are special?
Mother- I said “Yeah” and he says
DF-What’ll they be
Mother- And like a green dum dum. I say what they are, and then he says
DF- I’d hate for any of these special postals to not get where they were intended?
Mother- What the Shit?!!

Once was a time you could get a parcel delivered using stamps. Nowadays on the Skillet, assholes like Donkeyface occasionally require bribes. So Donkeyface asked mother if he could have one more romp since she might be alive and kicking by the time he got back.

DF-Come on now. You know my mind.
Mother – Can’t be done Donkeyface. It’s that time of the month.
DF- No it’s not. You’re too old for it to be no time of no month
Mother- What do you know of it. Hell, tell you what. If you want I’ll go ahead and rub one out.
DF-I’m aok with that just so long as you got the palm spit for it.
Daughter- Mother?!
Mother- You need that to counter the dry air and resultant friction
Daughter- Mother, why are you telling me this?
Mother- That Donkeyface can be slippery. I want you sufficiently repulsed so as to avoid him being able to trick you into coitus.
Daughter-Well Mother, mission accomplished.

She finished her decoration and I finished digging the hole. It was hot hard work, and when we got back to the hut I collapsed in my cot. In the morning, I woke up to find a note pinned to my shirt. I had a notion what it was, but I didn’t want to confirm it. So instead, I brushed my teeth, staring at the reflection of the note in the mirror. Then, I went and made coffee for two. I didn’t go to see if she was in her cot, nor did I call for her. I just sat at the table with two cups of coffee, the first cup light and sweet for me, the second cup the way she liked it, “stripped”. When I could procrastinate no longer, I pulled the note off my shirt and read it.

I went out to the hole. She was there inside, face down. I think she stumbled her attempt to get inside the grave. Her hip and neck were painfully displaced asif one or both had been broken during a fall. She was face down so I was spared any possible expressions of pain on her face. Still that was a hell of a thing to see. I’m not sure I’ve totally forgiven her for making me see her like that. A bit cowardly on her part. She didn’t want to wake me, but it’s alright to ask me to throw dirt on top of a corpse of a loved one all twisted up like that? I used the shovel edge like an axe and chopped down all but one of the cacti and threw them in the grave with her, aside from myself the only mourners she’d have. No one accepted her invitations. One cactus remained to mark the grave so I’d know where to plant any future tears I might want to shed.

Chapter Two – Mother Love

It was Mother who had taught me a love of westerns. She loved the men. Good guys, bad guys, it didn’t matter to mother so long as they walked tall, so long as they were “real men”. Her all time favorite was the man with no name, Clint Eastwood.

Mother- There aint no Eastwoods anymore. All that’s left is Eli Wallachs

In death, as while living, mother were half woman, half cactus. I held her hard as I could to me. The puncture wounds were a small price to pay to feel her against me, meat to meat, even for a few moments.

Mother – You’re a tough cause that is the way I raised you to be.

She would play a little game every time we watched one of his movies. When he made his very first appearance she’d stop still and stock of the man, breath in deep the fragrance of sweat, saddle leather, and hand rolled tobacco. Then she’d wag her finger at me, warning me off.

Mother- That’s my name girlie! You better watch yourself. Don’t you be eyein’ my man!

I’d tease back at her. I’d pretend I was working up the courage to be eyein her man. I’d get behind the TV and make her dare me to peak around the front and look at the man.

Mother- Then we’d chase each other around the hut with fly swatters, laughin’ and squealin’

Nearer toward the end of her life, after we had burned out most of the westerns we had on vhs, she took a more serious, reverent mood while watching westerns. Finally, there was one left, one left that we hadn’t yet worn out with love and rewinding. An old tape and even older videocassette player. Most of the time we could at least see the shape, the silhouettes of the men against the glass of the television screen, sometimes a fog of electrons would overtake the visuals altogether. Mother and I would huddle close to the television with our eyes closed. She wouldn’t permit even a hiccup. If she couldn’t see she at least wanted to hear. The music, the pauses, the voices of the men. She sat there in the dark holding me tight, and those deep voices gave her a sort of swoon. I too swooned. Everything I knew about men I learned from those old westerns or from listening to the octogenarians at the old VA hospital go on about their youth

Talking to myself

I have started and restarted and then restarted again the rewrite of Seven Sidewinders. I think today I am going to advance in the prose, jump to a real fun and juicy scene, perhaps that will be the cup of joe I need to jump back in not just with my toes, but up to my knees.

I know it is a bizarre script, unlike other things I've attempted. That jazzes me. So why the stagnation this weekend? Just exhausted in general. Brain need a break after all that Boxing. Or is it the money problems. Not big but still stuck right there like a pimple in the small of my back.

I dont know. Got to write tonight. Got to do it.
Want this is be big, wide, puppet, mask, special, fuck unlike anything ya ever saw.

I can't just fall asleep again tonight. I got to write. Why so fucking tired all the time? Is it the summer? The heat? The humidity? Is it the bright bright light. Sure it makes for great bicycle weather but I dont write on a bicycle.

You can do it, you can do it. Fuck it you can do it. Dont stop. It doesn't all have to gold, but I have to keep doing it. dont stop.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Getting a shout out from Ralph Lewis (furtherest on the left) on comments from my last post was a most wonderful thing. He was one of a brave few, Catherine Porter and Barry Rowell being the other two, who gave a fresh faced Floridian kid his first chance when I hit the big apple. If it weren't for these wonderful people and their wonderful company, I might have spent all my time in NYC sitting by myself lonely in a starbucks. They were the first friends I made in NYC and I didn;t know how much I missed them until I heard word in that crazy comment. They put up my first baby "Clay Continent" as part of a festival called "Big Art in Small Places" back in 1998.

Memories...The Rat Conference at the Ohio Theater, Hanging out at Dixon Place, VGs, and my personal favorite...The Great Jones Diner.

It looks like things are going well for the folks at PWP and I couldn't be happier. They were some of the truly best folks I met in NYC. I hope someday to see them again soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What will the Mammals do first?

Well, I was thinking about (re)debuting with the boxing play, but that will take some money and what not and I don't want to wait until late spring 2008 before I actually get a show up. So between Spring 2008 production of "I Can't Go Down" and now, the Mammals will be remounting Clay Continent - tentatively in the Month of November 2007 and then again in 2008.

More to come on this...on the new mammal website which should be launched mid August.

Monday, July 16, 2007

How did it go?

So yesterday was the reading of my boxing noir piece "I Can't Go Down".

Some time has passed since I've been in that sort of environment, a place where you invite others to comment upon something you've been working on or dreaming about for such a length of time.

It is hard not to feel exposed, over exposed. But, just like a visit to the doctor, you have to take off your clothes in order for a most comprehensive examination.

When it was over, one of the participates asked me how I was feeling. Up until the morning of the reading I had one very definite positive feeling. But after the reading, or more specifically after the post show critic and commentary, I felt a little lethargic...There was a part of me that was ready to set thing down, to say "Alright you finished! Good job!", but the feeling I have now is "The first draft has its beginning, middle, and the real work begins...".

I am a little exhausted this morning. I wanted to rest and see the taxidermied head of this script displayed proudly on my mantle, but not yet. So, my plan is to draw up a list of things I want to incorporate from yesterday's notes that I think might not be there yet. Then, I'm going to put this thing away for a week or two. Then come back to it. I feel I have something here that is very good, and if I can sculpt it a little more, who knows maybe I'll have something truly great.

Focusing solely on the positive...after we had picked voraciously at anything mole on the skin of the script that might possibly be melanomous, the majority of consensus was that...

a) the tale being told was compelling.
b) that the characters were well drawn, distinctive, and for lack of a better sort of characters that actors love to play.
c) that even if the text could use some paring down in places, the core of the language used had a poetry and lyricism that rang true.

So, I'll put that in my pocket when I need a little cheering up from time to time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thoughts inspired by Joyce Carol Oates intro to American Gothic Tales

Puritanical passion, piousness, nourishment and paranoia

Whose determination to subdue evil is fed by a historical notion

in proximty to that

Desire toward individuality. Self relience, self determination, experimentation and variety

Could our culture be viewed as a shifting between these two positions and ideologies. Could America be a paradoxical place where these both exist? And if one of them overshadows the other could America not be American anymore?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why I came back to Chicago in the first place

This Sunday I will once again have the privilege of hearing actors in a room speaking words that I wrote. I feel quite blessed. The play's working title is "I Can't Go Down". It is a boxing noir for stage. It has been quite the labor of love (emphasis on labor though). I started the play approximately 3 years ago. Had a reading of various bits and pieces that it was back in July of 2005. Then a spiritual crisis and relocation took my me to Atlanta were the work stagnated. I felt that I had something powerful and human in this story, but not being able to conceive of how to mount a production in Atlanta actually stopped me from putting pen to paper and finishing the work. Then when the spiritual crisis was resolved I returned to Chicago and returned to the script.

Now, I'm feeling excitement and relief. Excitement that I have a wonderful group of extremely talented actors who are so willing to give me their time and energy to read the work aloud. Excitement at the potential realization of a vision that I have been harbouring for a little over 3 years. And, Relief that regardless of anyone else's eventual verdict of the work, I am able to finish it. I have to admit that during the past three years, there have been plenty of moments of doubt as to whether or not I would ever finish it, whether or not i had the story inside me after all, whether I had sufficient patience, discipline, or even a bit of the craft necessary to finish a two act play and feel again that sense of personal success that one gets when they hold in their hands a completed draft (even if it needs polishing).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scene Four

(Hotel Room and Dreamspace)

(MANNY’S dream. In the Hotel Bed we see both MANNY and MEAT sleeping in one bunk back to back. A train goes by. A moment of pure darkness and when our eyes adjust, They are both still in bed, but a second form of MANNY from within his dream stand downstage of the hotel room and addresses us. )

I dream I’m in a train car full of beautiful young ladies dressed for summer with books in their laps. All of them are reading intently. Absorbed. Gloved fingers sweeping along pages. Soft young lips parting, silently pronouncing sentences. Their breath blowing fragrant quiet kisses towards their storybooks. I close my eyes, but I cant stop thinking about all those lips.

(Deep breath)

I wish hard that I was a younger man or at least a thinner man. Since, I’m neither with nothing to lose, I figure I’ll have a little fun at least. And so, I strut toward the center of the car so all the girls can see me. At the top of my lungs I say “hello ladies!”, and tip my hat like a true sport. They all hide smiles, but none look up.

(We hear an distance feminine giggle. Alluring. It echoes sometimes sounding like a feminine giggle, sometimes sounding like child’s giggle.)

A giggle? I spin around to find the giggle, but it always seems to coming from behind me. What are you gonna do? Somebody somewhere in the world will always be giggling at you.

(Pause. MANNY feels his age. Upstage we see a shadow of a tent. Inside the tent is STITCH. The shadow calls out for MEATLOCKER who rises from the bed half asleep. We see the shape of MANNY’s back still in bed even as he talks to us from downstage. MEAT mimics taking the shadow of STITCH out of the shadow tent and to a spot to urinate. Once the shadow of STITCH finishes, MEATLOCKER returns the shadow to it’s tent and then goes back to bed.)

The train is like marmalade beneath. My legs are begging to sit. The only open seat is next to the girls’ chaperon, older, heavy but still a handsome lady, still pinchable, last ripe days before the few spots of grey spread over the whole face. We’re sitting next to each other, neither looking up, both of us blushing. I’m sure of it. We enter a tunnel and the electric lights in the car turn on. Everyone has something to read but me. The chaperon is reading a newspaper. I don’t want to be obvious and turn toward her to read at her elbow so I try to steal glances at the photos in the reflection of the window pane. She’s reading the sports page. There’s a story about me, about my boy, he’s won the championship. There’s a picture of him and me. He’s holding up the belt. I’m holding up my fists, half shouting half laughing. I don’t remember that fight. How could I forget we won. The chaperon folds over her paper. I want to ask her to turn back. I want to see if she recognizes me. Maybe she’ll congratulate me. Maybe she’ll let me buy her a drink since my face is in the paper. I don’t want to startle her. I want to reach out to touch her, but my mouth wont open. It wont. It wont. It wont. I don’t know why.


It doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’m too rough a type for her. Even if she does read the sports page. I try to look in the reflection at the girls and see what they are reading. Are they too looking at the sports page? Am I an unknowing celebrity in this car? Is that why they giggle? I catch the reflection of my face, but my face is all out of order. None of the features are where they belong. I don’t look like the man in photo and they cant tell its me maybe. I go to touch my face slowly afraid that I’m going to break something or set something still like crossing your eyes and they never go back, but throw your mouth and nose into the mix. Just before I touch my face the train car comes to an abrupt stop, we are still in the tunnel. None of the women move they are all now staring straight at me but frozen. I’m convinced we have to get off the train for repairs, but I haven’t be paying attention. I don’t know if I’m in the very first car or the last one. I don’t know in which direction we’ve been moving. I’m nervous. The ladies frozen. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, but underneath that thought, I know that somehow it does.

(Pause. Slow fade. MANNY on the bed starts making noises. MEAT shakes him a little.)

Wake up Manny. Wake up


Friday, July 06, 2007


The Writer Who Fell Asleep on His Pen

The Sandwich Man sometimes speaks in parables. Here is one of his proselytizations.

The writer wrote in bed the way a smoker might smoke in bed, carelessly. Until one morning he awoke finding he was impaled upon his own pen. All night long he had dreamed of pain, and now he woke up finding half the length of his instrument between two ribs less than inch from penetrating one of his ventricles.

The wound never fully healed, and some nights after tempestuous dreaming he would awaken to find his chest was leaking. He himself had become the pen, his blood had become the ink with which he unconsciously writes upon bedsheets blood red rorschachs, indecipherable maps, incomprehensible utopian manifestos. He tries to read the bedsheets but all they tell him is that he will never be an accountant. His obit will be the obit of a poet, a somnambulist who writes on the wall about his headboard, pushing his finger into his own chest. The words seem so important to the dreamer, but in the morning, nothing is remembered of the story and the blood on the wall is illegible.

Then the cops come, and even when they realize there hasn't been any foul play they still charge the dreamer for disturbing the peace.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Keith Olbermann


Impeachment or Resignation

Get er done

Sunday, July 01, 2007