Friday, December 28, 2007
1) The "Walkabout" that ended.
It was approximately 2 and half years ago that I decided that I needed a change of scenery. My decision was to leave Chicago, travel as much as possible, and try a new city. I had decided on Atlanta. There was an art scene there. I had many friends who had settled down there. And the area, especially suburbs north of the city were lush beautiful country. Next to Chicago, Atlanta seemed to make the most sense as a base of operations. But before nesting in the ATL, I wanted to stretch my wings and see parts of the country, I never had before.
I quit my job at the AMA (A job I had held for 6 years), and I had movers put my stuff into storage. I then cashed out my 401k and flew to Seattle to start a 3 week trip down the length of the West Coast (Seattle to LA). That was a truly remarkable trip, and I can't wait to do it again (except next time I'll start in LA and head up to Seattle).
After a week in LA, I flew to Atlanta bought a car and started my job search. I got a software training position, which required 50% travel so I would get to see even more of the country. However, this position also made it difficult to start putting down any roots in Atlanta's art scene.
Six months into my stay in Atlanta, I started to realize that I was missing Chicago. Like a line from Nelson Algren, Chicago was a part of me for better or for worse. It was time to return. And so return I did, approximately one year ago. It was hard to do, fearful financially, but that too shall pass.
Since coming back in Dec of 2006, I owe so much to my friends. Ron Kroll and Lisa Ruhland were good enough to tolerate me sleeping in the basement at Lisa's home in Berwyn until I got a deposit together for my apartment in Ravenswood. Don Hall and the folks at WNEP welcomed me into the Armageddon Radio Hour. Between that and Jen Ellison's Write Club, the network of already established friends in the windy city grew and grew almost effortlessly. It didn't take long before I was assistant directing WNEP Dada, and even contemplating a possible joining of their company. I was seriously indebted to those folks and that organization for helping me to get my feet wet again, to start flexing those artistic muscles I had let atrophy since the last Mammals production in 2005. So when I was asked if I would be interested in joining (more like asked if I would like to be asked) I felt incredibly torn. I enjoy collaborating with these people. I have so much affection and respect for them. They are my kind of people, but the visions of the type of theater I was meant to make, visions that abandoned me back in 2005, those visions were returning. My dreams and ambitions were coming back. And newer ambitions were accompanying them. I remembered that the reason I returned to Chicago was not only to work with wonderful people like the folks at WNEP, but to start up again The Mammals Theatre Company.
2) Getting back to the Mammals
After deciding that the Mammals Theater Company was where I had to put the bulk of my energy, I got the company back online albeit with a different website (www.chicagomammals.com). I also set about to get a production scheduled. The decision was to do Clay Continent in April 2008. Clay Continent seemed a natural choice since it is the classic sort of Mammals production. It incorporated a creepy horror based narrative. It was emmersive, it used performance art strategies but still was a traditional straight play. And last but not least, I thought it would be fun. It is a signature production of the company first fully realized during the Mammals first year of production in Chicago. The piece is challenging but still accessible, and it was both a crowd pleaser and a critical success.
There will also be a fall show TBA for the Mammals. I am not sure if it will be a remount of a previous production (Mexican Wrestling Macbeth comes to mind), or if it will be a new production or one of the three full length projects I have (The Meatlocker, Animal Control, or Seven Snakes). I think it would be best to wait until Clay Continent opens before settling on the fall project. One thing going forward that I am not doing is announcing seasons. For a small group like the Mammals I don't see the point. People who want to see our work already come to the shows. Selling a season takes work and too much time and locks a small company into a situation that to be blunt it might not be interested in pursuing 6 to 9 months later due to more exciting material appearing in the interim.
Back in the day, The Mammals had their own rehearsal space which was a real boon when it came to putting together our own productions and workshops. It was however, an albatross around our collective necks at all other times. The overhead and upkeep during 3 to 6 month stretches where we weren't in production was too much ultimately. If a company can be in rehearsals and in production 9 months out of the year, then I think having your own space is worth the financial and otherwise commitment. However, even without the space, the Mammals are going to have to do workshops of new pieces and new projects. Among them this year, the Mammals will be having workshops on the presentation of speculative fiction (aka science fiction) with particular emphasis on dystopia in the theater.
The biggest administrative project that needs to be addressed in the new year for the mammals will be re-establishing our 501c3. I have heard that this is not too hard. I shall soon see.
Aside from that, I think the biggest challenge will be not get re-addicted to coffee. That and keeping myself in some sort of shape.
3) Shape up jerk!
I started working out 3 months ago. I got to keep it up. I haven't worked out the past 2 weeks, sort of taking a workout vacation during the holidays and I can feel it. I do feel alot better when I workout. I have an exercise bike now at the house (got it out of storage in Atlanta) so I want to start working out even just a little bit in the morning before I head out to work. Even just 15 or 20 minutes. Get the blood pumping though the veins before the day starts.
And, I know it is a ridiculous cliche, but I got to eat better. I'd be seeing more results with the working out if I wasn't still eating for two.
4) Want to do my show?
After having completed my first full length play, I realized that my ambitions as a playwright needed to be re-examined. There was a time when I was content to direct all my own scripts. More than content, I wanted to be the only one to direct the work. I was obsessed with control over all aspects of the piece. But, even if you can control the production, all the minutia of a live event (forget it man), I am of the mind that I want rather to be obsessive about communicating with as many people as possible. In order to do that I need to get other people interested in directing my scripts. To that end, I joined the Chicago Dramatists. I need an avenue in which to network as a playwright and Chicago Dramatists is the best possible venue for that. The Mammals gives me and opportunity to explore my vision as a director, producer, a dramatist over all. Much of the work I do with the Mammals requires the sort of gestalt approach to creation, works of theater that ride the fence between straight plays and performance art. Chicago Dramatists will give me place where my main focus, all the effort will be towards marketing my work and thinking of myself as a playwright first and foremost ahead of any other role that one performs in the theater world.
5) Is there anything else to live than theater?
I always spend time wondering what sort of things I can do to be a better person, to improve my mind, my soul, in short... me. I plan on learning new languages, pursuing new artistic mediums, paintings I want to brush, people I want to meet, etc, etc. This year I started editing my 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. I didn't finish, but did get half way through a 2007 NaNoWriMo novel. Perhaps, I could think more about committing some time to writing first draft prose in a month other than November. I'm also interested in reading all the science fiction that I haven't picked up since childhood. This is the year I want to finally get a passport and see somewhere outside the US. I want to get to more baseball this year than I did last year, both Major and Minor league. I want to start following Japanese Baseball. This year I could try to get published or to at the very least self publish. I could do that one man sock puppet remembrance of Charles Bukowski. Ingest more science news. Start playing a musical instrument. Get an i-phone, or maybe get those hair plugs I've been dreaming about. Will I do any of these things? Maybe, No the worse for listing these possible resolutions.
Back to theater this year
WNEP's Hopper Project
Fall Production with the Mammals.
Continue with WNEP Write Club
Alright...happy new year to all!!!!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Set 75 years in the future, science has found a way to extend the human lifespan. The years of healthy life one can expect to live increases each year with newer healthcare technology to the point where in the former United States there has not had a registered death by natural cause in 25 years. Lifespan is like computer memory, it seems each new year brings out an upgrade.
A small cult has formed that believes it must kill as many people as it can who are in their twilight years, there borrowed years so to speak. And there is a wave of homicides of healthy centigenarians.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
On the non-art front, next week I am getting all my stuff from storage in Atlanta and bringing it all back to Chicago. Done with Atlanta. That will be such a relieve. The storage has been costing me 100 a month. It will be nice to have that expense gone. It will be nice to have all my books again. I have missed them. i like to be in a house or an apartment with lots and lots of books. I always have. I'll get my DVDs back. This will also be seriously cool. And my CDs. My leather armchair. Ohhh man, I cant wait. My exercise bike. I usually exercise about 2 hours more per week if I have that bike. Microwave, Ice Tea maker. White Sox Coffee Mug. My desk top with all my old files.
Ohhhh man I cant wait. I have to clean up the apartment this weekend. It is amazing how much of a disaster zone it is.
Every time I have something I want to say I predict one of two responses.
"Amen, brother" or "Don't preach to me"
Don has had some rumination about Scott Walter's comment. So have I. However, this morning I think I'd rather issue a challenge. Before anyone tells me what they intended in their post, let me say that this is not a rebuttal to Don's post or Scott's comment.
I have often said after reading my Zen that there is a virtue in smallness. However, I do believe that in the end smallness is a part of the journey. Smallness should not be the destination.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to change the world. And if you want to change the world, the best place to start is your own neighborhood. But it is not enough to stop at the city limits.
We all want contentment. But if we decide that the path to contentment is to want less, do less, see and hear and attempt less, down that road lies perdition. Nobody wants to be Don Quixote Nobody wants to be Cassandra. But, in every realm of human experience it is those that attempted the exceptional that transformed the world we live in. You don't have to attempt world wide distribution of your creative expression. But you should conceive of distributing it to as many people as possible. You should write about BIG things. You plays should be about BIG things. And realize that it is Never Enough. Why? Because tomorrow's needs present themselves regardless of my contentment with today's meal.
When I consume art, I can conceive of being content. When I create art, contentment is a mirage. The piece is never finished. There is always someone out there who hasn't see my creative expression that might derive some kind of value from it.
If live puts us in a position where we have only so much resource to dedicate to our creative expressions, well that is reality. But, I always want to be reaching for something that is just outside my grasp. I always want to be able to life 5 pounds more this week than I did last week. I want lofty goals. I want...I want...I want...
Wow, Bob that's sort of selfish isn't it? That is what I think of as being alive. That is the first thing the actor is taught to figure out. I get out of bed in the morning because of WANT.
Living and creating within your means seems like a good thing. But never stop trying to improve your means. Never stop trying to conceive of your words, your images, your expression in new ways that add value to them to more people.
The solution not be to find contentment with a smaller circle. It is not enough to merely be heard. You must find something to say that matters. And if what you say matters then get that in front of as large an audience as you can.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I've been contemplating what if anything to write about the reading of Animal Control. I have this itch. Was is that itch? A tickle in my throat, a solitary pop rock in my ear. Fear probably. I watched a bit of Peter Brook on DVD and he talked about fear. He talked about those who have no fear of the water are the very best swimmers. So, back to the reading...I think I should jump in and disregard the itch.
I had a great gang of folks there reading the material.
One thing I think that bothered some of the jury was that the tonal quality of the Scenes with the protagonist and his wife were different from the other scenes in the piece. I was told that the scenes with the wife were very 'realistic' very 'kitchen sink'...many of them did by the way take place in the kitchen around a meal. But the other scenes were viewed less 'realistic'. Words like symbolism, Shepard-like, Parable, dreamy, imagined...these were the terms most of the commentors gave. Did I expect that sort of feedback? I knew there was a tonal quality that was different, but I never thought of the non-Lily scenes as dreamy...even with the iconic images and experiments with language, to my mind they were as real as the literal kitchen scenes, the only difference was the way characters used language. Any reason for that was character i.e. poets, musicians, artists, freaks using more ornate speech than say the blue collar folks in the play who were with no artistic aspirations.
How much of this is due to 'problems' with the script? I dont know. I did get the sense from most people in the room that there was alot they liked about the script, the characters, the language...So maybe it is that the shift in language between Lily and the other scenes would feel less jarring if Lily's speech were a little more poetic. If we got to see that she is with this husband for a reason, that even though she doesn't play and instrument she is still of right brain thinker, still capable of matching the fluidity of speech that all the musicians around her use. As it is right now, I think she rarely uses a simile or a metaphor, except for one line of sexual innuendo (that got a sound, smile, response from everybody at the reading).
Another thing about Lily and Axe, people wanted to get a sense of what had changed since the storm for them. Lily seems so in opposition to the wants and desires of Axe, for some of the readers it seemed like why would they have stayed together. What do they give each other. He doesn't want to lose her in the end of the play, but what is he losing other than a voice of complaint about his true desire which is the art? This issue, I do want to address in a future draft. I think that she loves him because of his music. She is transformed by his sound. The romantic musician adoration thing. He is in love with her because she got him off the junk which enabled him to be a better musician. She freed him of that burden and as a result he came in to greater proximity of his true voice. In his mind, she is tied to notion of clean living, staying out of real trouble. Combine that with the adoration she gives him, and that should be enough for any man. These elements need to be brought into the future draft.
I have thought about making Lily since the storm having bad dreams. Dreams about losing Axe or about bad things happening to him. And it is these dreams that drive her to plead with him to not go to the bridge. As opposed to just jealousy, which is what it reads as right now.
Another thing that bother them was that they couldn't conceive of why the Man In Suit would pursue Axe, the protagonist with such vigor. The connection, the intention of Man In Suit's prosecution wasn't clear. The relationship was captivating but not explicable? I need to draw stronger parallels between the Animal Control and the Man In Suit. The hunter and his prey. Man In Suit whistling at the men the way one whistlers at dogs. Lost dogs - Missing Person...does this have to be more evident in the script?
The parallels between Sandwich Man's poem and Axe's Voice/Song...I thing those are pretty clear. If anyone who has read it feels differently, please let me know.
Also, the Photographer. I think we can make her more of a beacon to the dark side. She should be offering more of a forbidden fruit. Not her sex, but everything seamy about nightlife. She should be a voice of temptation so that the deal with the devil and it's relation to her are a little more evident.
How does race play into this piece? There was a time were I was contemplating that Axe was black, but why didn't it follow through with that. Fear, lots of fear. Fear of making a fool of myself writing this character. Fear that even if I knew him, I couldn't know his blackness. Fear that if the play had a black protagonist but wasn't a "black" play there would be no market for it. If Axe is black, then is Lily black...And in the end this wasn't suppose to be a play about Axe's blackness or non blackness. This was supposed to be a play about Government Authority, about the government's relationship to the people after a catastrophe like this. If I introduce a racial element does that complicate my intent or even subvert it?
So, I'm not adding a note about race to the final script. These characters can be any ethnicity the reader envisions. That's my word on that.
Anyway, these are my thoughts thus far about the reading of Animal Control.
Thanks for reading and for any comments.
Monday, December 10, 2007
(She is seated on the bed, looking out the window. He is in an armchair looking at her.)
S-I am up
H-Then get dressed
(She doesn’t move.)
H-I said get dressed
S-I am wearing something
S-I like what I’m wearing. It’s comfortable
H-You can’t go out like that
H- I said, you can’t go out in that. It’s too cold.
S-I’m not going out.
H-You said we’d go out.
S-I don’t want to
H-Look at me… Look at me.
(She looks at him.)
S-I’m not going out.
H-It’s no good just sitting up here.
(She looks back out the window)
H-What are looking at?
H-You can’t see the water from here.
S-Just a bit.
(He goes to the window)
H-I don’t see anything.
S-Mermaids. I see mermaids.
H-I thought you promised me we were going to out? Aren’t you bored up here?
H-I’m not leaving you alone.
S-I’ll be fine
H-Like last time.
S-Will you draw your mermaid a bath?
H-You already had your bath
H-I think we need a radio.
S-No. I like it quiet. Or I can’t hear the waves
H-You can’t hear the waves. Nobody can hear any waves from here?
H-It is too far away. Too high up.
H-You promised we’d go out today.
S-Look there. The sun.
H-If we’re not going anywhere. Will you dance for me?
S-In a minute
H-Like you did on the boardwalk. Before it went to pot.
(He goes to the closet and pulls out a box. It is full of photos.)
(He brings it over and holds it up for her to see.)
S-I used to have hips
H-You still got hips
S-No no no. You’re sweet. Those aren’t hips. Old mermaids don’t keep there hips.
(She touches her legs.)
H-You still got hips, honey. You love this hips
(She points to the photo)
S-You don’t miss those hips?
H-Those hips are these hips.
S-You’re breathing heavy, Stan
H-If were not going out. Then lets stay in. Lets really stand in baby.
S-You like my dancing?
H-I love it. I want you move.
S-But then I can’t see it.
(She points to the window)
H-But if you don’t move, why are we here?
H-No, dance for me now. I can’t stand it in here.
S-Ok…ok…I’ll dance. We don’t have any music.
H-I’ll be your music.
(He starts humming. She is staring out the window. Always out the window. She starts to move her shoulders a little.)
S-Not so loud. I want to hear the waves
H-There’s no waves
S-You’re just look looking right.
H-Show me the waves
(She points to the arm chair.)
(He is smelling her hair.)
S-Over there. I’m going to dance for you. I’m going to show you waves
(He sits down. She stands up. He starts humming again. She hunts around for a shoe under the bed and throws it at him softly.)
S-I told you to be quiet. Listen.
(She dances while looking at the window. It is slow shoulders and hips.)
H-Back at the boardwalk.
(Her garment slips off. She is dancing naked.)
S-I’m treading water. I’m treading water for you baby.
H-I’m back at the boardwalk. Tell me I’m your boy.
S-You’re my boy. Come to me.
(They dance. He is his bathrobe. She is naked. We can hear the ocean.)
S-Put me on the bed.
(He does. She rolls over. He touches her. The phone rings.)
S-You don’t have to get it
H-They wont stop till I get it
(He gets off the bed. Goes to answer the phone. She looks through the photos in the box. We can’t hear the ocean anymore. He comes back and sits on the edge of the bed.)
S-It was the kids?
H-They’ll be here tomorrow
S-You know they have an agenda
S-I don’t want go with them. Were not going.
(He cries a little.)
S-Come to me. You’re my boy.
(She gestures. She invites him. He leans in. Blackout.)
Friday, December 07, 2007
I wrote me a poem. This was back during the depression, but I wrote me a poem that was so powerful, so incredible, that it had the ability to change the perception of anyone who experienced it.
I used to recite this poem everywhere I’d go. People would just open up like dandelions and they’d take the poem where ever they’d go. And, there weren’t no more struggling, weren’t no more strife. People made sure each other was fed and clothed, and they didn’t need no police, no church and no trials cause they weren’t no crime. That poem made every place to which it was spoken into an Eden. I were Eden even in the midst of Depression. Eden.
Then a man in a suit asked me if I would speak my poem for the government. He said the government were going to give me my very own radio station and fill in all the cavities in my teeth.
The only condition were I weren’t to tell my poem to no one in person. No face to face. If I were to get my very own radio station, I were to only say the poem into the microphone what was at the station. And, I had no problem with that. Seemed like trading in a slingshot for a howitzer.
I thought I’d now be spreading the word. I thought I had the catbird seat. So, I make my mark on the paper, and first thing first, they fill in the holes on all my teeth. I were weak for sweets, so I had cavities in every tooth but this one. Government fillings made my mouth warm, but it weren’t till later I found out why.
So the station they give me is out to the middle of the desert, not even barely dirt roads. They say since that there were a war on, this was all they could do for, and not to worry. Once the war was won, we’d upgrade the station. So, I lived there at the station, and once a week I’d see the man in the suit come by with groceries and what not ask me how I’d been.
During those years, aside from him there were no one I saw face to face. It were lonesome, but I stuck with it cause I thought I was coast to coast on the air spreading the word. It weren’t until some native American happened by with one of those battery powered radios that I found out I weren’t broadcasting no where. They put me in the station and gave me the microphone, but they weren’t no signal. The antenna on the roof were bunk.
Once, I figured it out, I fled. And once Idid they were after me. Then every time I’d land in a place where I could settle for a bit, I’d think to tell my poem to somebody again. Tell em to their face and spread the word. But before I could speak the poem my mouth would start to burn. Those government fillings would sizzle red hot. It got so if I even just though of the poem my teeth would burn and turn my spit to steam. I couldn’t eat. I could barely drink. I got so I was fearing the worst.
I knew they was looking for me. So, finally I let the man in the suit catch up. I remember it were a full moon and the van pulled up next to me. They put me in the van, and they give me a shot of something. When I woke up they had taken all my teeth. They left me with just the one right here. The tooth with no filling.
Now before they let me go though, they made me put my mark on some paper meaning that I wasn;t going to say me poem, my special poem to no one no more.
Maybe you want to hear it? Maybe you want it to open you up? To hell with the FBI. I’d tell you if you asked except it’s been so long.
(Touched his mouth)
I can’t…I can’t remember it all. It aint nothing without I say the whole thing through. And it’s been so long I can’t remember it all.
They still tail me in case it comes back I guess. They want to make sure I wont speak it. I can’t. I can’t. But they don’t stop hounding me. They got a man in suit and they got a man what is a wolf man follow me all the time day or night. I can’t tell you that poem. But, I got some new poems though. I got some new ones I want to share with ya.
The couple that preyed together won't stay together. They are going to separate federal prisons.
Brent Eric Finley -- who along with his wife scammed family, friends and neighbors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with a far-fetched scheme of using the CIA and some of its technology to head off serious medical problems -- has been sentenced in federal court to four years and three months in prison. Finley, 38, of Rayville must report to prison by Feb. 4.
His wife, Stacey, who prosecutors believe was the dominant personality in the massive fraud, was sentenced earlier this year to five years and three months in prison.
Over a period of six years, the Finleys persuaded 22 people to pay them a total of $989,898, prosecutors said. Many of the victims, who ranged in age from young adults to the elderly, depleted savings, insurance policies, and pension funds.
Stacey Finley, 34, persuaded her targets -- described by federal prosecutors as "solid, middle-class, educated citizens" -- that she was a CIA agent and could use her agency contacts to have medical scans conducted by satellite. Finley said the scans would reveal hidden medical problems, prosecutors said, and that CIA agents would then enter their homes and administer secret medications while they slept. Those treatments would supposedly prevent serious health problems and hereditary diseases.
The FBI began investigating after one of the victims became suspicious and told a local law enforcement officer.
Stacey Finley is not associated with the spy agency, prosecutors said
The Finleys were ordered to make restitution in the amount of $873,786.94. Prosecutors said that money won't come from what was stolen because the victims' money was spent. They said the Finleys owned a home and five vehicles, but their house was mortgaged and the vehicles financed and there were few other assets.
Asked how so many people could be conned by such far-fetched claims, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington described Finley as "a cult-like, charismatic personality."
Now, that's a story!!!!
Monday, December 03, 2007
Animal Control is coming together. Some times I get real doubtful. Other times, I get real excited. I feel the push, the pressure and the deadline looming. I found it so hard to type out and work on last month, because anytime I sat down at the computer I felt bad if I wasn;t doing the NaNoWriMo. Ultimately, I didn;t get either project done last month. Don't point your finger and gloat though. I did get a heck of alot of stuff done. I will call NaNoWriMo this year a failure but a fabulous failure, and from the ashes of those 50 pages will come some awesome material.
Right now, I'm getting every thing in my spiral bounds into the computer and that can be frustrating. Things that seemed full fleshed out in pencil can seem thin and wispy when you start typing them our. Alot of charm falls by the way side once the genius is no longer doodled and instead is set in type. No longer a amateur delve into outsider art, now it is just words on paper. You spend so much time trying to flesh out one character that you sudden worry if you have the time and energy to flesh out the other character. Are your female characters real? Interesting? Or are all the women at the reading condescending to you, like your a big baby and reading his drivel female characters is easier than worrying about his suicide attempts if no one will read the work out loud at all...(OK enough melodramatics)
So, where once there was confidence. Now there is doubt. It can be a good thing. Remember it doesn't have to perfect. That's why we are reading it. If it were perfect we wouldn;t need it to be read like this. Deep breaths and keep working.
Not all more postwise until the reading happens. If anyone is interested in coming, it will be Sunday December 9th at 7:00pm at the Uptown Writer's Space on Lawrence and Broadway