Tag Archives: Plays

,When: She Writes A Little

22 Jan

One of my favorite  humans has just left. 

…I hermit myself,  quite often,  because as an anxiety-fueled person,  it is a requirement.  But I imagine it must be somewhat akin to a person with onslaught senility…in that a part of me very much wants to participate  and understands the joys and loss,  while the other part of me is just incapable  of dealing with that information. 

…Anyway, I’ve missed her. 

And,  as we do,  we had a good walk, and talk. About all the things. As Aaron Sorkin  would want us to.  And she was honest and brave. And she was real.  Which is always such a privileged thing to be on the receiving end of.  

…And this comes just after a fantastical hang time with my “Dark’s,” –the surviving drinkable age range of the show that drove me to my last break down, (they didn’t,  but–you get it) leaving  me (ironically)  with a buddy-crew of mates,  I would not trade for fucking gold.  

…And I am writing again.  For real. 

I’ve a stage read this Thursday,  and last week was the first time in over half a year that I enjoyed going to rehearsal. Or acting. Or any of it, frankly. Followed then by seeing a well played show this weekend, hang time with my mates, an Act and two scenes into a new script since Tuesday, and an artistic retreat  with a group of women, to be met with none other,  in two weeks. 

…Just us,  a cabin, and infinite artistic abilities. 

Outside of my artistic  cocoon: it is shit.  But inside…inside I am protected by heart-family,  energy,  wit, and a shit ton of very stiffly-poured drinks.

…And characters,  that fill my mind and tell me secrets, and appear,  all of a sudden (from out of nowhere), in print. 

I’ll take it. 

~D

We Were Dating,  Now We’re Not

2 Dec

Doing a show is like having a whirlwind romance, where you meet and get married in like a week, and said relationship lasts with total devotion, until you unceremoniously strike your home and get a Mexican divorce–however long your run is-days later.

…Because working on a character across a full rehearsal and production schedule, is absolutely consuming and requires not only devotion of time and physical and mental presence, but also through sickness and through health, as long as you both shall live (together .) 

…And it doesn’t matter if you “have a headache tonight, ” or “really need some alone time, ” or “start to feel suffocated” by their insistent presence. Doesn’t matter that it seems you –at times– have absolutely put yourself and your needs on the back burner and have from time to time gotten completely lost inside the relationship, which starts to blur (as time goes on)  in fully realizing just where you end and they pick up (or vice versa.) 

…You see each other through your finest moments,  and miserable worst, and yet you are able to commit fully to this marriage because –I guess,  really– of two things:

1. You have made this commitment with full knowledge of what is required of you, in front of all of those witnesses, who will hold your ass to it, by supportive teamwork. 

2. This passionate affaire, has a sell-by date, which you are also fully aware of on the outset, so: there’s really just no damn excuse not to give it your all,  while you can. 

At this point,  I’ve been married –MANY times. 59, in fact. I make Liz Taylor and Mickey Rooney look Catholic by comparison. And luckily for me,  I’ve enjoyed the HELL out of the bulk of them, and have bins and books full of our Honeymoon days together, which already make me misty-eyed with memory,  and I’m not even middle-aged as yet. 

…The thing is: as great as the bulk of those marriages are in my memory, there is even something singularly satisfying in the terrible ones, in that: I made the absolute best effort I could to make it work out, and even if it ended shitty,  I know that to be true. 

…Because I actually really really love to “commit.” 

…(In a show, that is.) 

…But along with these “marriages,” I’ve also had me some “flings.” 27, of note. And these,  while intriguing, only seem to mostly “hot and bother” me, and while enjoyable in the moment, leave me as unfulfilled at their ending, as a one-night-stand. 

–Which, in fact, most of them ARE.

The Staged Read, is an enigmatic animal. They are considerably lower maintenance than a real relationship in that you don’t live with the character. At most, you might workshop (or, “date”) it for a few days, but by and large, it’s just a tease. 

…Even if you really like the character. Even if the cast is a dream. Even if your Director is creative as fuck. You still are hampered from full investment to grow it into a real relatonship, because Staged Reads are the flings we have in foreign countries, while on Holiday. They aren’t allowed to become more than that, because of your surrounding circumstances, even if you really, really, really like them, and you get on with total ease, and know you could make the most magnificent children together…

…And even knowing this, a lot of the time, you still can’t help getting sucked into the “what if,” daydream which sometimes comes with the really, really special flings.

…These will be the ones you always pine over, the ones you wish you could learn all the  secret intimacies about…everything from the corny, “how they take their tea, ” to the deeply sheltered truths they hide… the ones that even though you held them for a moment,  you can’t help but think that they are one of those ones who,”got away. ”

Yesterday’s “Joe Egg, ” read is one of those for me. 

We dated heavily for several weeks, and it was disturbing but so enlightening, and…She’s gone now… 

…Out of my life… 

…The supremely gifted family: broken up. And though I am so very satisfied to have met the role at all,  never mind with this amazing group of people — I know in my gut-parts, she and I would have had one of THE best marriages that I have ever had…

…If only…

If only.

~D

Giggle Bubbles

9 Mar

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Acting is a weird profession.

…What other one on the planet requires you to be other people, embrace and empathize with serial killers and monsters, partake in voyeuristic fake sexual activities, and fuck with your mind and emotions on a continual basis as “part of the job?” 

Maybe an undercover cop. 

That’s about it.

…But what’s even more screwed up, is the fact that this seems perfectly normal to us and aside from a few character-inflicted hangovers, can come and go in any combination or variety, multiply even as needed, simultaneously, and then go cold turkey dormant at the drop of the hat…sure leaving a few mood swings in their wake, but other than that, fairly harmlessly.

…I mean, we do shit on a stage that puts people behind bars for life, sends them into lockdown therapy, demands suicide watch, and lands them on the cover your more unsavory pulp-newspapers and magazines. Pretty much on a continual basis. Then, two hours (or sixteen) later, we go home, pop a beer cap, and eat some pizza, like nothing has happened.

I don’t care who you are, that’s just fucked up.

And we’re, you know, just sorta used to that.

…But every once in a while, it does kinda throw you.  You’ll do a role a little too close to home, or something will get into your head a little too deeply, and it becomes more difficult to divorce yourself at the end of the day. 

…Sometimes you have that Christopher Reeves-Somewhere-In-Time penny moment, when you become suddenly distracted by the most innocent of things and it rips you out of your happy little acting bubble, realizing that it’s all fake and you are you, and the delicacy of the moment is completely shattered…scrambling helplessly to hold onto the last tail end of this projected truth so you can do the job that people in the seats, right now, staring up at you, are waiting for you to do.

…And sometimes you’re just artistically sideswiped and get the giggles.

Epic giggles.

Inappropriate-can’t-hold-your-shit-together-for-the-life-of-you giggles.

There is no cure.

This is the kind of thing where you so suddenly realize the total absurdity of the situation you are in and that this is your life, and this moment needs to happen because people and their jobs and careers are depending on you…which should put enormous amounts of significance on it all, you would think…but doesn’t…because it’s all riding on the right timing of a burp, or how fast you can drop trow, or how much tongue to use in this kiss, or even just delivering a line which has some double meaning to you and your scene partner, and so now neither one can look the other in the eye at all, when it comes time to say it.

Giggle bubbles.

…I’ve just hit one.

I am currently sipping coffee, on break from reading a script. It is not a comedy. In fact it is the most far flung from it. I keep expecting with the next page turn that it will invent a new apocalypse, strain of disease, or drug O.D.

…It is a one-woman show, containing several characters undertaken by the single actor. I will not be responsible for the acting portion of said piece, I will be the stage direction usher, for a dear friend, who will be.

…This all comes as part of a gig for one of the Universities, in their writing department. A script writing and development class has come full circle and they have brought in a few professional actors to stage read the shows for the playwrights, so they can take notes on further changes and workshopping needed before launching them out into the world and publisher’s doorsteps.

…There are several scripts and all of the actors split time in role sizes and stage directions, as “cast” by the facilitator of the gig. None of the actors have read the scripts, or know the roles until the final edit has trickled in and been forwarded. Of the four pieces I’m in, this is the only one I’ve received thus far. And it is a masterpiece of definition in being a new work by a new playwright.

What does this mean?

…People are told to write what they know, write what will catch your attention and draw an audience, know the audience you are writing FOR, and/or make a statement or impression that will stay with you.

…Because of this, there are many, many, many plays in this world riding the soap opera wave of personal tragedy with shock-theatre gimmick, attempting to assail you with either a deluge of tears, pissing anger, sexual enticement and/or whatever performance art involving a dude taking a dump on a five-dollar-bill while dressed as a mime, falls under.

Classic new playwrighting syndrome.

…And this particular script has it all.

I seriously can’t keep a straight face while reading.

This poor woman central character is emotionally pushed through so many events in 30 pages, and had so many orgasms while doing it, that it’s like a theatrical version of Rasputin. She’s been hypothetically, stabbed, shot, gutted, run over by a car, a bus, a train, thrown off a plane in flight, survived a couple of world wars and her dog just died.

…I’m only on page 13.

…I had to take a break.

…From laughing.

My fucking stomach hurts.

…Now, I’m not intending to be “mean,” this is just one of those instances I was talking about before…when I realize the total absurdity of what we do and how we do it, and what we are asking the audience to do, by trusting and coming on this journey with us…which (literally in this case) is about every sexually erotic and explicit deed and curse word, with every broken down junky personal tragedy you can throw in there, in an explosion of screaming in your face offensive, yet autobiographical who-de-haw, that I’ve read in a long-ass time.

And this Wednesday, I will be it’s narrator.

…At some point I will need to actually face an audience, with my dear friend, and support her, as she undergoes fucking herself, the audience, and the English language all to hell.

…And I need to do it with a straight face.

My job is just cocking weird…is what I’m saying.

~D

An Unholy Ripple

3 Dec

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Now that “Twelfth Night” has completed it’s run, am ready to dive straight into the deep-end of “Children’s Hour” and start swimmin.’

Today: Some study time on Lillian Hellman, author of the show…and a particular favorite of mine. In other words, it’s more “review” than anything else, but you never know what you’ll find when following an already mined seam.

…The focus now is “History.” What made her write the piece, from where she got the idea, the autobiographical element of the main female relationship, where the title hailed from. In other words: it’s roots of inception, to better inform of the time in which it was written, the social significance of its theme, the years of various censorship made to it, the bannings, the revisions, the productions…all of it.

If we’re gonna get good n’ squidgy here, one should go all the way.

…Anyway, thought I’d bring you along on the ride.

***

She was all of 26, in 1934, when Hellman’s partner, Dashiell Hammett (of “Thin Man” and Sam Spade fame) told her to get off her ass, stop wasting all her creative energy doctoring Hollywood scripts, and come up with something of her own. Going completely against character, she decided to follow someone else’s advice, and began research on an intriguing court case, from 1810.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, Jane Cumming Gordon, a pupil at an all-girl’s boarding school, accused her schoolmistresses of having an affair in full view of the girls in their charge, upon occasion even in the same beds as where the pupils slept. The girl’s influential grandmother, Dame Cumming Gordon advised all to remove their daughters from the school immediately, within days leaving it deserted and the two respective schoolmistresses without a livelihood. Jane Pririe and Marianne Woods, filed, sued, and would go on to win the case, on libel and slander. Of course this was after an entire decade in the courts, and the printings of hundreds of damning articles, news posts, and social commentaries having been scattered to the winds, though oddly enough the court case transcripts themselves locked away by command of the court: fearful that their contents, if disclosed, “would corrupt the morals of any who chanced upon them.”

…The damage to the reputations of Pririe and Woods, beyond repair…they eventually dropped out of sight and headlines…until 1931, when four copies of the original court transcripts were found by Scottish Law Historian, William Roughhead, who added it’s commentaries in his book published that year, “Bad Companions”…a copy of which Lillian Hellman became soon after, captivated with.

Changes to the case would be made, alterations to the women’s relationship and it’s ending taking place… giving a certain more dramatic outcome…but by and large, this was to the be the meat of the stew which would within three years take the theatrical, sexual, moral, religious, and ethical world by storm once again…with the Broadway debut of, “The Children’s Hour.”

…Difficult to find actors willing to undertake the subject matter, the play was ultimately banned in Boston, Chicago and London…and the Pulitzer Prize committee refused it’s consideration for award, (despite it’s many hailings on importance in social awareness, human rights, and political controversy), due to (ironically) it’s impropriety.

…After two films based on the play, an updating of the script leading to a successful Broadway relaunch in the fifties, and Hellman herself showing up on McCarthy’s blacklisting, (thus further launching the play’s themes of secrecy, lies, malice and persecution)…a new autobiographical element to the piece, first came to light.

“Pentimento,” the second book of Hellman’s autobiographical trilogy, was first published in 1973, and with it, the telling of a close friendship lasting from school years to adulthood, with a woman called, “Julia.”

Later put on film, (earning Vanessa Redgrave an Oscar for her title role, portrayal), “Julia” told of the friendship of Hellman and a woman she idolized and idealized. A child, tossed by a gallivanting Actress mother, on her rich parents to raise…who did, within a strict and ridged regime. Julia, however, a free spirit, with the blood of a natural rebel, fought all contests of keeping her caged…to which the wide-eyed, uberly conservative and skittish Hellman became rapt and besotted with.

…Julia, later a political revolutionary and underground movement member in a number of causes throughout Europe through her College years abroad, eventually seduced Hellman so far into her power of spirit, that in WWII, Hellman (an American Jew) agreed to transport much of Julia’s inherited fortune with her across the German border, in order to buy Jews and other Political prisoners, out of harms way.

…A later foreign correspondent of many wars and revolutions…boasting a much road-leathered skin akin to Hemmingway…this was to be the first terrifying tryst with death in which Hellman ever attempted. Her recounting of it, a wonder if nothing else in the foreshadowing of what would eventually serve as a lifestyle so shockingly different from the little girl of so long ago. Much attributed not only to that one journey, but…in my opinion…for what happened to follow.

Julia, the single mother of a baby duly dubbed “Lilly,” (whom she had sent to live with a farming family, safely away from her Political workings), was murdered, not long after…by the Gestapo. Hellman, upon being informed, conducted an exhaustive search for the baby…who was never to be found. Her dedication to Julia: transforming her morally, socially, politically, from that moment onward…into something made of harder stuff…the kind of hard-hitting, information-digging, political-freedom-hailing, toughened broad, that she would later become so renowned for.

…And it was Julia, so she claims, who was her first love.

…Not in consummation, but an unrequited adoration…as, though Hellman confessed of her love, Julia’s devotion (but non-romantic inclinations), kept it forever snipped in the bud.

…It was in this way, that Martha and Karen were born.

So they lived a life together…stood by one another…loved and dedicated themselves to one another. A friendship of physical innocents, wrapped up in romantic desires and steadfast devotion.

…”This is not a new sin we have been accused of…” as Karen, states…long after the damage has been done, to a relationship, a school, a town, and two souls.

From the mouths of babes. A lie is told. Or perhaps, in it’s way, a “half-truth.” But the damage it can do, is as irreparable, once begun, as the bullet that ends a life.

Jane. Marianne. Karen. Martha. Lillian. Julia.

…When you know the history behind it all, the lines of fact and fiction begin to bleed together so thinly you can hardly make out where one begins and the other ends. Six women’s lives and relationships making up the whole of a piece of theatre so relevant still to this day.

…As Mr. Director noted, on our first read-through with the cast, “We’re designing the show on a very simple theme: a ripple effect. The set, the relationships, the conversations had…the lie that starts it all. One drop in a still pond of water…with endless consequence.”

This show is going to obliterate my everything.

…And I’m totally ready for it.

***

“The Children’s Hour”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditi,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

~D

A Buddy Date

27 Oct

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It’s buddy night.

The Fella, “Marty” and I grab beer, Cheetos, and pizza, and put on the Michigan game.

…”Marty” loses her mind as her Alma Mater’s Quarterback is outed on an injury, and all hell breaks loose. She’s jumping up and down, screaming at the TV, baiting the other team’s players with mean commentaries, bitching the umpires out on their calls, and yelling her ass off when any yardage is gained at all. She also yells when yardage is lost, but it sounds totally different from the other scream.

…The Fella might get evicted for this, but seems to be taking it quite well. In fact, I think it’s kinda catching. Cuz half way in, he’s hollering at the TV as well.

…In between plays, they go through all the intricacies of the game for me…using diagrams and dots, with swishing and articulate angles, in a host of examples of plays. I watch, blinking on, as I am not now, nor have ever been the slightest bit interested in Football, and prob’ly never will be. But for some reason, with the level of excitement they wield, and the intensity of their miming and explanations, I start to actually get a little into it all. Surprising, how much they get me to retain before “Marty” commands the game be shut off, end of the last quarter…so she doesn’t have to watch her beloved team “not win.”

…Notice how I didn’t say “lose.” It’s cuz I understand her grief, and I care about her too much for that.

…To try and ease the pain, we then pop on “Halo,” and commence blowing the absolute shit outta things, as therapy. For something like four hours. Then it turns to theatre talks, and chip eatings and tech stuffs and playwrights, and classical vs. contemporary works and how they sell, and why, and which ones we wanna do. It’s nearly two now as I complete this blog, (began earlier in the evening), and we have just finally left The Fella’s and The BFF’s house…nine hours later.

So we had a good day of it.

…Was nice to be back in the apartment again. I hadn’t been since The BFF moved to L.A.. And though I thought it might be kinda sad to go hang out there all night without her…there was no need to think so. She’s all over the place, in the million little ways that people you love always are. I miss her, sure, but it turned into the good kind…because we were thinkin’ about her, she was checkin’ in from time to time, and I know she was stoked that we had hang time together, so The Fella’s inclination to just work non-stop all the time, would get a much needed rest.

At least for tonight.

…If you call us “rest.” Which I really doubt you could. But at least beer was involved.

And now: to bed.

Full run again tomorrow. Early scene workings before the “go.” Need to get some good sleep.

It’s gonna be a long one.

~D

Miss Scarlet, With The Car, In the Bathroom

2 Jul

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Exactly one week from Friday, I will be amongst many in a throng of humanity, crammed into Seattle Art Museum listening to a series of lectures on the rules and regulations of gorilla-filming for the 48 Hour Film Festival.  Thankfully, some several-year veteran’s are the ones who have built our team, selecting it’s members with whatever crystal ball of weirdness they own.  I know it’s an “iffy” brand, because they want me to be a part of the deal…and I’ve never been on a film set in my life.

…I adore film, don’t get me wrong! 

…I want to make babies with it and pepper the world-over with them…like a Queen Victoria of cinema.  That isn’t the concern.  It’s that I am “of theatre.”  Like the “in my bones” kind.  And I’m not a cross-over when it comes to displays of my talents.  I am particularly unphotogenic…to the point that head shots and archival candids are the absolute bane of my existence.  And this is partly because everything on my face is giant. 

…There is nowhere to GO, no safe haven to retreat to when an entire face is just yelling at you with every feature.  So I consider it fortunate that this is a “good” thing for theatre, and we all get along swimmingly for it, la-de-dah.

But now, two perfectly lovely people want me to do some film.  And I said “yes,” because they are perfect and lovely.  And then I thought about my little “problem” and added a small asterix to my contract clause.  We are working exclusively on “handshake” terms, so not being in exact writing, it goes something like this:

“I will be honored to do this film shoot with you, on the strict understanding that I in no way have to act on screen in it.”

…The addendum clause to the addendum clause they replied back, goes something like:

“…Unless we really, really need you, cuz for whatever reason it’s the only way to go.”

…To which my legal department responded:

“…But what if I had another solid behind-the-screen job that might even make it a conflict of interest in time and schedule budgeting?”

…To which they said:

“Fine.  You’re head writer.”

…To which I said:

“Um…I’ve never written a screenplay in my life!”

….To which they said:

“You’re like a 7-time produced playwright. Suck it up, and learn.”

…So that is what I have been doing. 

I have a job.  I know what it is.  And my giant face won’t be screaming at people on a screen the size of a two-story house afterwards. 

I can work with this. 

…And I have been.

Two practice runs in fully timed and detailed mock-up situations.  And several panicked moments of complete spontaneous inadequacy.  One of the mock ups though has even been claimed by Team Leader to film later, just “because.”  He thinks it’s solid.  He likes the “reveal.” And no one paid him to tell me that.

…Every stumble-effort success, is still a “success.”  So, play on.

Tomorrow, will be my third pass.  A couple notes from Team Leader as an Editor and Director on things to be mindful of from passes one and two, are simmering even now, in my brain.  Just a-waiting.  Married with a couple things I’ve learned on my own, along the way. Here is my mental notebook going into run three:

1)  Less locations, less effects for post.
2)  Shorter.  Always shorter.
3)  It’s not meant to win an Oscar.
4)  Over-“dramaticalness” reads on screen faster than a fart is found out in an elevator.
5)  Maybe find a different way to kill people than with cars.
6)  Find a wine-bitch.  I work waaay better when I stop thinking and editing crap before I’ve even allowed myself to actually write it.
7)  Pretend like this isn’t going to be seen by thousands of people on a movie screen with my name on it.
8)  Pack my toothbrush.
9)  Make peace, right now, that no sleeping will be taking place.
10) Remember: we are having fun.

…So goes my next gig.  Followed quickly by the next two, back-to-back, up on stage.

Rest time is over, friends.

Season’s starting!

Time to get the head back in the game.

…”About fucking time!” Says I.

~D

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