May 31, 2021

My solo show CHOP is available on Amazon


Just the other day, I published an ebook version of my first solo show Chop. My friend and frequent colleague Grant Knutson was nice enough to write the forward.

Although it was my first full solo show, I'm still proud of the piece. It reads well on the page, not just on its feet on stage. I am asked sometimes if I am worried about my plays being out in the world where people can "steal" them (produce them without paying royalties). I usually reply, "No, not really. It is better than having them languish in a drawer somewhere."

Chop concerns a man at a loss of what to do with himself, profoundly isolated from the busy, happy, productive people in the city around him. Through a chance encounter with a mysterious tattooed woman he is introduced to what might be his true calling - a unique subculture of amputation fetishists.

More info on the play and its history... HERE

Get a copy... HERE




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Dec 31, 2020

Looking Back at 2020

As I have stated before, I mostly use this website as a kind of portfolio of my creative projects. I have also been doing a kind of year-in-review report since 2012 (here's 20122013201420152016, 2017, 2018 and 2019). This past year was challenging for many people, not just me, and for one overriding reason: Covid-19. Everything pretty much came to an abrupt halt in March of this year. Theatres closed. Travel stopped. Social distancing became a thing. Everything turned inward. There was a lot more consumption that production. So, with that in mind here’s the sparse artistic happenings that occurred for me in 2020...

I did not get an illustrious start to the year. In fact, I didn't really do much besides my day job for the first few virus-free months of 2020. My day job involves me teaching college students about theatre and cinema. These classes moved from on campus to an online format starting in mid-March. The online format continued throughout the fall semester.


Created a "digital theatre" piece for a local festival

Perhaps the most substantial project I did this past year was a "digital theatre" project for the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres. Originally, the FIT was planned for the summer. It traditionally happens in the July and August. It was, of course, cancelled this year as theatres shut down everywhere. I had pitched a project to the FIT back in early March through my theatre company Audacity Theatre Lab, so when it was announced they would instead do an online version of the FIT this year in the autumn, Audacity was on the list of previous applicants who were commissioned to participate. Since the traditional in-front-of-a-live-audience theatre project I had originally pitched wasn't going to work, I proposed devising a completely new work that would be tailor-made for streaming in an online video format. The result was Daylan Hillis in Space.

I pulled in my friend and sometime collaborator Jeff Hernandez to be my co-writer. Then I called up Jeff Swearingen, an actor and good friend who I've worked with a lot in the past. Over a few weeks, the script took shape and then Swearingen and I recorded the three-part monologue.

The blurb for the show went thus: Security guard Daylan Hillis feels underappreciated in his job at a top secret government facility. One night his otherwise boring shift is interrupted by an encounter with strange intruders and a chance to show what he is really capable of. 

The piece played "on demand" from October 8 - 31 and seemed to be well-recieved. Good critical feedback as well. Only one review came out where it seemed that the reviewer was way off in the understanding the project.

Along with the project itself, we put together a few behind-the-scenes videos as well. Here's one.



If you wanna see the full project, head... HERE. It is 38 minutes of wonderful weirdness.

Did some world-building for a giant audio theatre piece

The other "big" project I was part of this year was through the college I work at. Since classes were to be conducted online this past fall, I collaborated with two fellow teachers to brainstorm and come up with a unique audio theatre project that the students could help devise and then record and submit from their homes. The other two teachers were full-time faculty while I was the only part-time adjunct involved. The project was called A Blast in Kranesville.

The project took several months and my contribution was mainly in the initial concept and world-building of the piece. I was inspired by the 2013 real-life explosion in West, Texas as well as the psychological effects that the lockdown was having on daily life from the current 2020 pandemic. I also initially wanted it to have a tone sort of like Welcome to Night Vale, though the tone took on a more sincere quality once the students started writing their own monologues.

The premise involved a fictional small town in rural Texas. An explosion happens at a mysterious long-closed factory at the edge of town, resulting in tremors and a weird green mist that seeps up from the ground. A shadowy government agency shows up and locks down the entire town for several weeks. The citizens of the town, sequestered in their own homes for this extent of time each are faced with their own frustrations, confusion and reflections.

Though I led five students through the process of creating and performing original character monologues, I am most proud of the wiki I created that provided background for the town of Kranesville. Read it... HERE.

If you are into projects performed by college students, you can listen to the actual project... HERE.

Recorded and released 4 Cultivated Playwright podcasts

I released four more episodes of my podcast The Cultivated Playwright throughout the year. I still suffer with inconsistentancy with getting the episodes out. 

One episode of those four has me up on a soapbox talking about theatre moving to zoom readings this past summer to continue operating (I'm against it). I am especially proud of a two-part series I did with my friend Jeff Hernandez where we discussed how the role of the artist in society is reflected in the Coen brothers' movie Inside Llewyn Davis.


Produced 10 more YouTube videos in 2020

I keep my YouTube channel as an outlet for a bunch of my interests. I release a video when I wanna share something interesting I've found out or wanna let folks know about a project I'm doing (or did). My channel is a hodge podge of promo vids, camping-related stuff, mini-docs on my fringe touring, theatre-related "talking head" videos and an alternate way to listen to podcasts like Captain Rumbleshanks and  Cultivated Playwright episodes.

I currently have 104 subscribers (up 64 from last year). According to the analytics, in 2020 I had 13,532 views and racked up 1,061 total watch hours, so that was kind of great.


I was featured in a podcast interview and a bit of press, plus conducted an two interviews for TheSoloPerformer blog.

My friend Jaymes Gregory used his down time in lockdown this past year to start a delightful new podcast called Welcome to Jaymesville. It is part Pairie Home Campanion part 60 Minutes and part Welcome to Nightvale, all refracted through the slightly off mind of Jaymes Gregory. He featured me on episode 8.

I started a new series on the http://TheSoloPerformer.blogspot.com/ website called "Inspiring the Show." It is a look at how a cross-section of solo performers got the idea for and then went on to develop their shows. Here's David Mogolov on his show Eating My Garbage and Leslie Tsina on her show Lord of the Files. More in this series are coming in 2021.

When I created Daylan Hillis I was interviewed by Cristee Cook of Dallas Art Beat. It came out as a fun little piece.


I got some camping adventures in

One of my main focuses over the last year or two has been camp more. This urge to get outdoors has been two fold. First, I am trying to "harden up" a bit. As an indoors/bookworm type from back in the day, I could foresee moving into old-manhood wearing cardigans and becoming a comfortable, grouchy creature of habit. Hell, this past ten months has illustrated that this sort of fate is an extremely likely forgone conclusion. So, I have endeavored to do some "hard things" with my time. Hard in a practical sense... like sleeping outdors, trying to start and maintain campfires in the woods, and not mind so much the weather, bugs and uncertainties of being outside for hours on end. My goal is to work up to hiking long distances, but right now I'll settle for little one and two night adventures by car, foot or bike.

The other aspect I like about camping has been the sense of adventure. It is one thing to spend time writing about characters who have fantastic adverntures. It is another thing to be someone who lives actual adventures. Sure, I have travelled a lot in the past and taken my shows to far-flung places to perform for diverse audiences, but I like the idea of more common, more traditional kinds of adventures... like traipsing up a mountain pass with everything one needs in a backpack or bicycling down a converted railway line to camp overnight under a tarp.

With that said, my "adventure" forays were mixed this year. Spring was kind of a bust (see video below), but there was plenty of fun this past autumn.




Other than the above, I spent my time with my wife and kiddo, I watched too much youtube and tried not to squander the forced downtime the universe heaped on me (well, all of us) this past year.


To better times to come.


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Dec 6, 2020

Article on A BLAST IN KRANESVILLE

 


Theater program performs an original audio only TCC production

JOSE ROMERO | campus editor | The Collegian

For first time, SE Campus will host a free audio production of a TCC original play, “A Blast in Kranesville” from Dec. 2-9.

The play is about the fictional rural town of Kranesville, Texas. A mysterious factory explosion creates a chemical mist that triggers a lockdown of the town’s residents, leaving the citizens in disarray. The story is told from the perspective of the citizens of Kranesville.

Most school productions are performed in front of a live audience, but this semester required a different approach.

“Once we knew our Fall 2020 Drama courses would be online, we knew our creative project would need to be quite different than presenting a play on the Roberson stage,” director and actor Drew Hampton said.

Hampton realized that a monologue structure in which actors devise the story from scratch would be the most fitting route to take the production. Performing audio-only play turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. During the summer, actor Jesse Humphreys practiced the format, realizing the challenge that doing a podcast would provoke.

“In live settings, actors have both their physicality and their vocals to rely on in order to convey different emotions,” Humphreys said. “With an audio-only play, the actors have to convey that same level of emotion and intensity with purely their voice.”

Theater director Angela Inman sees going the podcast format as an opportunity to further develop the abilities of the cast and crew. She took the pandemic as a chance to further educate aspiring actors on pivoting depending on circumstance. “This project provides our students with an important lesson beyond basic performance skills,” Inman said. “It illustrates the need for theatre artists to persist in the face of adversity and to use their craft to make sense of circumstances.”

Brad McEntire, another director of the project, shared Inman’s optimism about how the project will allow students to get out of their comfort zones and try something new.

“I am very pleased to have been a part of the project and proud of what the students came up with,” McEntire said. “They [students] really stepped up to this unique moment in their growth and education and showed themselves to be professional, flexible and wonderfully imaginative.”

The podcast will be available to the general public for a limited time—Dec. 2 through the 9—on the event website at https://libg .tccd.edu/ABlastInKranesville.

Original post... HERE

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Nov 30, 2020

A Blast in Kranesville

 


For the last several months I have been part of a team of faculty members and students at the college campus I work at who have been colloborating together to create an orginal "audio theatre" project. The project is titled A BLAST IN KRANESVILLE and involves students both in the devising as well as in the performing of it.

I am proud of the piece, even though the student aspects of the piece are a little uneven. I am particularly proud of the aspect of the project I did the most heavy-lifting on: the world-building. I created an entire fictional small town in rural Texas, complete with an extensive history and diverse set of townspeople. I also invented the framework of the story for the project.

The central event of the piece involves an explosion at a mysterous anbandoned factory at the edge of town. Green mist seeps from the ground and a faceless government agency closes the entire town down for weeks. No questions are answered and each citizen grapples with his or her sudden sense of isolation, frustration and confusion.

I wrote a detailed "wiki" about Kranesville. Very much worth a read.

That and the project itself can be accessed Dec 2-9, 2020 ... HERE

It is worth a listen.

The project alone, without the notes, wiki and context, can be accessed... HERE


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Nov 13, 2020

My review of the DAYLAN HILLIS review in TheaterJones.com

I recently collaborated on a project with Jeff Hernandez and Jeff Swearingen. It was called Daylan Hillis in Space. A sort of "digital theatre" project for the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres. Since the Covid-19 pandemic is still happening, the FIT this year was a "virtual" affair. Projects were recorded and presented online as "on demand" videos.

The FIT lasted October 8 - 31, 2020. On October 28, TheaterJones, the local online journal for the performing arts, released a "review" of the FIT entries. So, to be clear, three days before the festival ended, the review came out. The review was written by Arnold Wayne Jones, an experienced reviewer who often works for the Dallas Voice.

I am putting Jones' review below. It illustrates a major challenge in the arts landscape at the moment. Beyond the obvious producing challenge of trying to present a production digitally that would normally be presented on stage, there is a problem on the recieving end as well. Namely, the dilemma of critical coverage of such projects.

Jones' implicit assumption is that the camera MUST move as if this hybrid project was a piece of cinema. 

Jones was plainly at a loss of how to "cover" such a project. It is not a theatre production, of course, once it is removed from playing in real time in front of a live audience. However, what was presented was also not cinema. Filmmaking was not the goal. This project (notice I don't call it a play) was purpose-built for the online form the presentation would take. The result was a project that falls outside of easy categorization. It is a narrative, sure, but beyond that, the project operates by its own rules. 

After a snarky statement about actor Swearingen being ideal to play "a tightly wound, disappointed, middle-aged white guy with self-esteem issues" Jones states that the director (me) doesn't "know what to do with the camera."

Jones' implicit assumption is that the camera MUST move as if this hybrid project was a pure piece of cinema. This is aside from the fact that the concept of the show was that the main character was addressing the audience through a webcam the entire production. The "static" camera he describes is part of the production concept. It is strange he did not pick up on such an obvious thing.

[Jones] is like a child presented with candy who complains about the wrapper.

On the other hand, the piece was plainly not his cup of tea. Jones' attention was not held the scant 38 minutes of running time (or "35" as he incorrectly states), and that is his to own. I could comment that perhaps, like so many of us, he is unaccustomed to viewing online content over ten or fifteen minutes and has a diminished attention span for focusing on a narrative of any length presented in this way, but that would only be my supposition. 

The "non-descript wall" that he refers to was in the piece by design. The first "act" is set in as mundane and as sterile an  environment as possible. By the way, the second act has the main character metaphorically in the belly of the whale, so it features Daylan's illuminated face floating in the darkness of an alien space craft while the third act sees out titular hero in a colorful, saturated, mysterious landscape on an alien planet. The design of the environments was on purpose. Jones' seems to want something to hold his attention in the background for some reason, instead of focusing on the tale of the central character. He is like a child presented with candy who complains about the wrapper.

As a reviewer, I would hope that he would question and put forth the smallest of analysis about what he was watching. Though, I would hope, as an arts journalist, he would understand the form and content of the project, perhaps he just didn't like the show... and that is okay, too.

As the Latin saying goes, de gustibus non est disputandum ("There is no accounting for taste.")

Here is what Jones had to say:

Review: 22nd Festival of Independent Theatres | Festival of Independent Theatres | ONLINE


FIT to be Online

This year's Festival of Independent Theatres brought six short films from familiar and new groups.


published Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Jeff Swearingen in Daylan Hillis in Space | Photo Credit: Audacity Theatre Lab


Dallas
 — Even though the pandemic has now dragged on for seven interminable months, we are still — as audiences, as theater presenters — struggling to figure out the acceptable contours in translating live in-person performances for “virtual” theatrical experiences. Some companies have done live shows via streaming platforms (or socially distanced in parking lots); some have released previously-recorded performances for current consumption; some have created Zoom readings. The actual post-COVID productions recording a traditional performance have been few (notably, WaterTower Theatre’s full-on version of the solo show I Am My Own Wife). The Festival of Independent Theaters’ crop of shows seem to eschew theatricality for more exploratory visual language, and, well, it’s not always a good fit.

Daylan Hillis in Space (Audacity Theatre Lab) by Brad McEntire and Jeff Hernandez has a one-man show tailormade for its single cast member, Jeff Swearingen. He’s the title character, a mid-level security guard in a top-secret government facility. He’s angry with Susan, who started the job the same time as he but has been promoted faster (most of the play is a series of monologues to her) and who gives him the crappy shifts. But when Daylan investigates a disturbance in a secure room … well, it’s right there in the title.

Swearingen is the natural go-to for the role of a tightly wound, disappointed, middle-aged white guy with self-esteem issues. He modulates the monologue’s pacing and levels well enough to keep us amused. And that’s not always an easy thing. McEntire (who also directs) doesn’t seem to know what to do with a camera. The first half of the play is the same medium-closeup of Daylan in front of a nondescript wall. The setting moves twice, but the single-shot concept never does, making it feel static and confining (Swearingen’s performance often exceeds the borders of the frame). Without varying the image much across 35 minutes, we grow restless and bored. And without an audience to play off of, the jokes land on silence and don’t live in the moment as much. It’s cute, and fun, but it overstays its welcome.

Original post... HERE

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Oct 10, 2020

DAYLAN HILLIS in Dallas Art Beat

Jeff Swaeringen in Daylan Hillis In Space by Audacity Theatre Lab

FIT Festival Series, Part 1: Audacity Theatre Lab presents "Daylan Hillis in Space"

By Cristee Cook


For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival will be virtual. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program offers 6 performance companies in a variety of genres including dance, comedy, drama, and new work.

Dallas Art Beat was approached about a media partnership for the festival, and we were excited for the opportunity to highlight new, independent works in Dallas. We’ll be offering short, get-to-know-you featurettes with each company in the festival in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.

First up, here's a fun chat with Brad McEntire from Audacity Theatre Lab. Co-written by McEntire and Jeff Hernandez, Daylan Hillis in Space is about a security guard who feels underappreciated in his job at a top-secret government facility. When a normal, mundane shift is interrupted with strange intruders, Daylan Hillis gets a chance to prove what he’s really capable of. Directed by McEntire, this “digital theatre” piece features Jeff Swearingen.


Can you give us some background on your project for the FIT Festival?

We were approached by [FIT Festival Producer] David Meglino about the idea of a Virtual FIT. I suggested we'd be interested, but only if we could create a purpose-built project - essentially, online and recorded. He agreed, and we started brainstorming ideas. I came up with an idea involving a security guard with insecurity who is leaving webcam reports for his boss. The idea kind of grew from there. I brought in co-writer Jeff Hernandez and we fleshed out a script. The idea was to use the limitations of the webcam approach and see how far out we could push it. That idea finally became Daylan Hillis in Space.

What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?

This has been tricky. First, we had to acknowledge that we are, technically, no longer doing theatre. Without a live audience watching live actors onstage in real time in the same location, it is, by definition, no longer theatre. But if that is the case, what is it? It isn't necessarily film or video. It is not simply a recording of a stage performance (thank goodness). It was interesting to work in this new space, creating this weird little hybrid project. I mean, it kind of oozes through the cracks of any easy categorization. Then actor Jeff Swearingen came on board, and suddenly it was like getting the old band back together, which has been positive in this time of social distancing. We did a lot of catching up before we got down to work.



Why do you want to tell this story now?

The silver lining of the current situation is that it offers different opportunities, like FIT. During normal times we would be working onstage, with the usual hustle. Now, we have a chance to question the form and break out of old patterns. We have a chance to engage audiences in new ways, even if it is only temporary. If it wasn't for the hot mess that the world has become recently, I doubt this project or anything like it would have even been on the creative radar here at Audacity. In a way, we are creating art that speaks to the times we are living in.

I know watching "theatre" online is not for everyone. There will, however, be those that dig this sort of thing and will like our show. For those that watch and this show blows their hair back, I say thank you. And your hair looks better now anyway.

How are you keeping yourself sustained during this time of uncertainty?

As far as day to day living, I am an adjunct college teacher. I teach theatre and cinema classes. Everything has moved online and looks like it will stay that way until at least next summer. Working from home is a mixed bag of pros and cons. The teaching is not quite as fun, but the commute is better. Now that the weather has stopped being so oppressive, I have returned to my budding midlife crisis activity of hiking and camping. I try to get outdoors as much as I can. That is keeping me sane.

____________________

Audacity Theatre Lab’s Daylan Hillis in Space by Brad McEntire and Jeff Hernandez is available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020 as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres.

Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30. Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more visit: ​festivalofindependenttheatres.org.

Get to know Audacity Theatre Lab at AudacityTheatreLab.com.


Original article... HERE


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