Saturday, June 30, 2007

Old loves

Today I found an old love. I watched Hannah and her Sisters. I remember being a young man in Florida starving for something exceptional, involving... The VCR was still novel and we the people never before had the opportunity to watch what we wanted when we wanted. After being exposed to Woody Allen, I found I wanted to watch him, everything he ever wrote. Then Woody Allen told me to watch Ingmar Bergman and from there I moved onto Kurosawa, Fellini, the videotape became a window to worlds unknown to me. Those worlds inspired me to want to makes worlds of my own.

Seeing that movie made me feel young again. It reminded of how I felt and thought back then. When my mind was a fresh untouched (or less touched) canvas. I was filled with the excitement of discovery. We must remember that feeling of discovery.

Self discovery? Are there depths which to dive to within me? Are there tales to be told and worth telling within my reach?

I used to always attempt to stretch to reach an inch or a mile past my certainty. I have aged and been scarred as a result. And, it is with a sense a apprehension I write this...as a younger man I thought I had nothing to lose. Now decades later, I know better.

But, doesn't this make the effort, the reaching toward a higher plateau even more heroic? Yes my body aches, but it is not yet broken. Should I break myself? Will not nature eventually break me? So if I am to be broken, should it not be in service to those dreams those goals. Should not the old man gasp trying to realize the vision of youth with the experience of one's mileage on the this darned earth?

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm getting the band back together

So, I am looking for a new domain name for the return of the Mammals. We have been away for far too long and it is time to do what it is I came to Chicago to do (both times) which is get engaged.

The old domain name is no more (someone has purchased it out from under me while I was sleepwalking in Atlanta. I'm pretty sure what the new domain will be, but anybody out there have suggestions as to who to buy the domain from I'm thinking about godaddy but I want to know if anybody has had real great experience of nightmares with domain and hosting.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Skepticism

Michael Moore helped me to realize the following

Skepticism is more than a right that Americans may or may not engage in. Skepticism is an obligation, a patriotic duty, and every great American who ever changed our world for the better demonstrated this essential American trait.

The benefit of our nation does not run parallel to the popularity or demonstraible obedience it's members show its leaders.

Isn't it time for us to prove America belongs to the people? All the people, not just the blue bloods.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

5/5 Meme

Sorry everybody - I wrote a novel

1) Name your area of expertise/interest:

Writing and Directing for Theatre.

2) How did you become interested in it?

I'm trying to pinpoint how I became what I am. Hard for me to say, so here are some stories...

My sister and I were each others' sole playmates for a majority of pre adolescene. Our folks bought land way out on the dirt roads, wanting to get away from the city and the traffic and the people. One thing my sister and I did often was make radio shows for our folks. I can still remember my dad laughing at jokes me and my sis wrote and performed on cassette tape.

I remember in the third grade, There was this thing called the Magic Circle, it was a psychologic technique/tactic used by the grade school teachers to get kids to open up and share. There is a whole story in there about how my mother hated it cause of the "magic" association, but that is for another time. Anyway, I really wanted to be able to share but didn't have too many tramatic and hilarious escapades to recount, so I became a magnificent liar in the 3rd grade. That is to say, my ambitions as a liar were magnificent. The actual lies were so over the top I got found out almost instantly when in the presenc of grown ups. I was sent to see a psychologist who tested me and determined that I was so smart that 3rd grade reality was a bore to my advanced mind;). Someone somewhere suggested to my parents, hey if he likes telling grandious stories, put him on stage where he can do it without it being lies (this has my mind spinning. I so rarely go back to these memories.) We went to a community theatre, where a musical revue was being performed. I remember my dad saying "it isn't over till the fat lady sings" just then what appeared to be the biggest woman I ever saw grabbed her children, pulled them onto stage and they closed the performance in true Von Trapp family fashion.

Also, after seeing Star Wars and seeing behind the scenes film footage, that was the first time I realized that there were people who spent their time telling stories about places I'd rather be. My dad had bought me a book about the making of Star Wars or was it Empire Strikes Back (memory combines the images). I poured over those books, the evoloution of design for the animals, the aliens, the robots. And my mind filled with potential stories, most of those stories are gone to the ether...but my imagination was sparked.

The radio shows came back in the 5th grade, but this time it was me and a buddy from grade school. His name was Waco (after the town in Texas, which was his truck driving father's favorite). Return of the Jedi, or was it to be Revenge of the Jedi and the Hobbit cartoon were the major influences at that time. We held auditions in the classroom walk in closet for the female lead in our radio show.

I also believed that these people (actors,movie directors,etc.) lived in a lap of luxury. Somehow even at that young age, the concept of Hollywood wealth and glamour had been communicated to my young impressable mind. So I loved the idea of being a priveleged hollywood elite. Ha!

3)How did you learn to do it?

Directing came first, then writing came out of necessity.

While a college student in Florida, I learned to direct all my favorite playwrights. Then I moved to NY where all my favorite playwrights were busy producing and directing their own work already. The void of directors who worked with contemporary dramatists in Florida was already filled in NY. I realized that if i wanted to make a difference I needed to start writing. First I wrote so that I could direct. I wanted material that I could manipulate and control without worry, and that seemed the most obvious route.

Then eventually I wrote things that I felt only I could direct. This was becuase I wasnt able to get everything from in my mind on the page. The writer in me needed more time to convene with the director to work things out in the mind, on the page, and on the stage. I was utilizing the rehearsal process as an arena to complete the final draft of a script. This was an incredibly useful step for me when it came to realizing an arc to the story rather than just a series of interesting images. Which was my starting point. Eventually I learned better how to arrive at a "well made" story (Aristolean well made) Even if my scripts were "experimental" or "way out there".

Now, I'm thinking of myself primarily as a writer will the skills necessary to direct the shows. I am trying and succeeding I hope, to get everything on the page, even if that means stage directions that rival O'Neills.

Long story short, you learn by doing. oh yeah, and don't wait for someone to discover you. Do it yourself. But do it!

4)Who/What has been your biggest influence?

At what point in my life? This is a tough question for me, I have trouble thinking of one individual who through the years has been the site of inspiration or to which I held myself up to comparison.

In high school - Pink Floyd, George Lucas, Joseph Campbell, Bloom County
In Community College - Stephen Sondheim, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Sam Shepard
At University - Art in America Magazine, Samuel Beckett, John Zorn, Maria Irene Fornes, and Erik Ehn
In New York - Julie Taymor, Guy Maddin, Mac Wellman, Robert Wilson,
In Chicago - Juxtapoz, Studs Terkel, Johnny Cash, Nelson Algren

Ok, the more I think about it, the man who probably more than any other set me on the path I'm on was my gifted teacher in high school, Jim Tiller. He challenged me to be more that a comedian, more than a laugh hog. He was the first person to tell me that I shouldn't just be an actor, that I should be a director/writer. No one else issued that challenge to me. And even though I didn't direct while he was still alive, his words seemed to rise back to surface a year into Community College when I started directing and loved it so much that I stopped acting.

5)What would you teach people about it?

Motion is holy...keep it moving...somehow...even if it is slow moving...active

Half as long, twice as good

Right out of the gate? Graduated high school and thinking about going to a college for a theatre degree? Don't! Unless you are getting a serious scholarship for a BFA program from the college. Most of these schools are now just sort of factories where the majority of the faculty focus on a minority of the students. The reamining students are allowed to tag along in order to help cover the college's cost of doing theatre, maintaining the building, and paying the teachers. Most BA theatre students will come out of their 4 year programs with only 1 or 2 performancess under their belt, lots of required time in the shop, hanging lights, sewing costumes. Oh yeah the student will also have spent 5 to 6 figures. Now if you were to not borrow that same 75,000 dollars and instead relocate to chicago or new york or la for 1 or 2 years, work the dayjob pouring coffee, waiting tables, etc. and try out for every show you can...

1st - You'll get a taste of the lifestyle that most theatre practitioners maintain after college while waiting or striving for that big break.

2nd - College will still be there in a year or two, and after actually living the life of a starving artist, you may discover that going to school for accounting, or a communications degree isnt all that bad.

3rd - Lets say that after 2 years on the street (ok you're now 20 years old, ancient!) if you still want to get a degree in theatre...you will have a leg up on your competition. You will have life experience, you may have a bunch of shows under your belt if you are lucky and/or hustled the past 2 years. You'll also have a firmer notion of what it is you want to do or say as an artist aside from "I like being in front of an audience". Most kids whether they want to be actors, directors, writers for theatre leave the college with a degree and an assload of debt at the age of 22. Most Americans and artists havn't really learned how to think critically as an adult at that point. That isnt to say that they dont have the capacity. What I'm saying is that they are still children due to experience. And even the most intelligent and observant child will lack the prespective of an adult. Life has to kick you in the nuts once or twice first before you realize things like the following.

-no one is going to just give you what you need in life.
-aside from your parents (if you're lucky) most people including some of your teachers aren't going to give enough of a damn if you starve to death.
-life is tough. You have to work for living. Only the lottery winners have it easy
-P.S. you are not going to win the lottery

Most the kids in school haven't realized this and they are on stages trying to use method techniques to play characters 10 to 20 years old than them. They dont have the life experience to play 40 or 50 year olds convincingly. The analytical tools they are getting would be better suited if they were all playing 20 year olds rather than dreaming of playing Martha and George in Virginia Woolf in their senior year. All this and they are going into debt. Regardless of any noble intent on behalf of its better teachers) the Univserity based Theatrical education model is a drain.

If after 2 years of striving and hard work, etc. etc. you still love theater and have to do theatre school then you can consider spending 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars getting that degree.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Roll Out!

So, a couple clicks here and there and I ended up at youtube watching this...



And damnit I had a reaction. These damn toy peddlers have mind control!!!

Nothing much just sort of what I've been up to

So, last week there was the SKALD. I attended 3 of the 5 evenings. Life stops you sometimes from making every event unless you have some function to perform at each event. I was able though to show my support for most of the performances and participate in the workshops. I really want to see my pal Lykins in Nocturne. Have to look that up, the where and when. Saturday was a rough day for me, I dont know if I had a hang over or what but I couldnt get out of bed for most of the day. Now the day before I had a fair bit of alcohol. Much more that I usually drink. Usually I drink about 1 or 2 beers every other or every third week. I just dont drink like back in college. But Friday there was a office party on one of the boats out at the pier. Plenty of Jack and Coke and Jack and Ginger, then I had Warm Guniness with some of the SKALDers after the show. Anyway, I got up on Saturday late (2pm) got some lunch and felt faint at the restaurant, actually woosy. I think it was too much liquor, and exhaustion. I felt much better on Sunday and got around again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Not to be too needy but...

Is there anybody out there? I rarely get comments, which is ok, but I would like to know if I'm just polishing the dolphin here or if anybody actually reads what I write.

Don, Rav, Goss I know you guys check me, anyone else?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Play Development is to Playwright what Big Bad Wolf is to Little Red

Playwright development hell stories

I'm sorry, but I feel that deep down those poor playwrights who took someones money to commission a work and then have a less fulfilling product afterwards...

The playwright gets what they deserved. Not because they are sell outs or bad people or what have you. But, it appears that play development is the Wolf at the door even if the wolf really thinks it's grandma. In fact that is a great metaphor. Play development sits sickly in a bed that it has usurped disguised as the maternal nurturer that we all want, we show up with a basket full of goodies, and the wolf having played the role of grandma so long actually believes it has our best interests at heart, even as it's instinct kicks in a we hobble away missing a digit or a limb. So how many times do playwrights have to hear these stories before they realize it is at best, a Faustian bargain most of the time. It seems that playwrights who hope to make it (which doesn't mean have an impact on culture so much as live solely off of their writing despite is dindling audience, lack of market value, etc.)enter into it hoping it will enable them, and playwrights who have actually made it and now feel secure without feeling indebted openly critize DP.

Who out there has a story about going into development and actually coming out with a better play than when they went in, and getting someone to produce it with enough resource that it was worth the time, energy, and money invested. I have yet to hear that story.

I have heard lots of stories about playwrights who decide that they want to be paid as writers (they deserve it, I'm told, because what they do is hard and we should be paid for things that are hard, and they have kids and kids need to eat) so if they happen to be in the right place at the right time they get one of these development deals. Then hoping that they can get another one, they speak in diplomatic tones after the fact about how good the producing organization has been to them, even if the producing organization hasn't been all that good to the work.

I have no pity for these playwrights. For the past 15 years, I have had to work a day job (forbid!!!) to support my own writing, to produce my own shows, etc. etc.

In fact 95-99 percent of the people I know in the theatre here in Chicago have to work day jobs or the have a spouse that works the day job, or they make ends meet with significantly less from teaching or whatnot.

So when I hear about individuals who enter into Faustian bargains and the last magic bullet shoots and kills off the edginess or vitally or social relevance or risk of the script just before opening night...I dont get the shocked or downtrodden expressions. That is the risk you take when you take the devil's money.

It has nothing to do with your inherit right as a wordsmith or as a craftsman. It has nothing to do with how hard the task is that you have set for yourself. People who get paid have bosses that they have to answer to. So what the final product is ends up being the boss' decision. You can walk away or get fired. But, if you take their money, they are going to get to boss you until you stop taking their money.

I'm sorry but the playwright who makes a living writing plays is just about an extinct specie. When the few mastodons left expire then the only remining vocational playwrights will be best likened to lottery winners.

I don't like it. But, it is the truth. I except alot of people who read this will disagree vehemently with points in it. I'll just have to remember no one believed cassandra either.

We arent talking about the death of theatre or even the death of playwrighting. We are taking about a major shift in the art itself, in this country, due to economic obstacles.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Random Weird and suck stuff

So this past Thursday and Friday I was sent to Boston for work. The long and short of Boston was that I thought the downtown area was awesome. I would love to back for a 3 day trip maybe see a game at Fenway. We went to place called Durkin Park for dinner which has apparently been open since the late 1700's. They had a life sized pig statue carved out of wood that was from 1879. It was still definitely a pig, but one hell of a beat up pig. Anyway leaving Boston was hell. Our flight was scheduled for 6. Didn't board until 7:30 and then sat at the gate until just after midnight. After we had burned though both their movies (Wild Hogs, and Astronaut Farmer...no matter what you have hear 2 overrated movies) and finished the pretzels, they finally decided to let us off if we wanted to go to the one restaurant still open in Logan to get something to eat. So, about a dozen of us do. It is a little booth about 200-300 yards away from the gate. We are getting in line, when suddenly one of our fellow passengers (probably the last one of us to attempt to find the restaurant) runs by the food booth yelling, "we have 3 minutes to get back on the plane! The plane is going to leave the gate in three minutes!" We all haul ass back. Mind you , United didn't make an announcement, if it weren't for this one fellow passenger, I would probably have been left at Logan with nothing, no cell phone (in my carry on, on the plane).

When we get back to the gate, sure enough the door has been closed and locked. There is a bit of grumbling, the attendant at the gate, is dealing with someone else and is very careful not to make eye contact with any of the dozen passengers that they just let off less than 5 minutes ago. One of the other's asks out loud to anyone who will answer "do you think they aren't going to let us back on." To which I answered loud enough so all could hear, but directly to him rather than the untied agent, "they can either let me back on the plane or take me to Boston jail, cause if they don't let me back after sitting for 5 hours and then coaxing me off the plane...well I'm going to do something to someone that is going to get me arrested."
It was a sentiment shared by all of us. Finally the attendant not wanting a mini riot opens the door and lets us back on where the flight attendants info us that yes, most definitely they were about to just take off an leave us. Unfucking believable. For work have no choice, but i will never out of my own pocket fly united ever again.

We get back to Chicago about 2:30am. I take a cab. Once I get in the cab, I ask the guy if he takes credit cards just to be sure (they are required to if they pick up at the airports) He asks if I have any cash at all. I tell him a "20 and my card, is this going to be a problem?" No answer for him, he just drives. About five minutes into the drive, I mention the huge delay, to which this cabbie starts berating me "You should just be happy man! It isn't about you! I am sick and tired of you fucking privileged assholes getting into my cab and crying." I try to play it off, but the angry asshole wont have it, he just keeps up with the berating. Finally we get to my apartment and then this son of a bitch tries to run a scam on me.

"Here's the card"
"Man, cant you give me the twenty and put the rest on the card man?"
"Fine, how much?"
"Twenty eight"
"Here's the twenty, I need a receipt"
"No problem, here's the card slip...right the total amount plus tip"
"If I just gave you a twenty, why would I do that, cash plus card that would be a 50 dollar ride, am I right"
"Fine man, put whatever the fuck you want man"

unbelievable

"I put 10 on here"
"fine, that's your receipt"
"no man, you got to give me a receipt for the total"
"look, you charged ten,you got a receipt, what is the fucking problem"

I just decided to eat the 20 on my expense report. If it hadn't been 3am in morning, he an I would have had words and I might have even gotten the receipt, but after the night I had, I had to either let it go or get into a fist fight with a cabbie.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Don's Meme

What the hell is a Meme? Is it merely an opportunity to go off about meme? (please don't leer at the screen)

Well, Don Hall has tagged most everyone I know with a blog, so I'm not going to tag anyone. I will however put up 8 random facts about me.

1) I once was secretly engaged to be wed, although the break up was pretty public.

2) In high school I wrestled until it become clear that I could not be at practice and rehearsal at the same time. My wrestling coach attended everyone of my shows and continued to show support after I left the team.

3) Shows I love that I shouldn't like
Rachel Ray 40 dollars a day, Mexico One Plate at a Time, Check Please

ughhh this is harder than I thought

4) I love what I got in life, but there are two women for whom I would give it all up...neko case or bjork.

5) When challenged to name a man crush...I avoided obvious choices like Brad Pitt or George Clooney and instead when straight for (or should I say went gay for) Richard Roundtree.

6) Where as I dont have a problem with people using pot, If I smell your pot when I am in my apartment, I get furious.

7) Another thing I cant stand is the sound of loose change or my own keys jangling in my pockets when I walk.

8) In the very first election I was old enough to vote for, I did vote...but can not remember who it was I voted for...