Sep 10, 2016

Off the Grind...

I have retreated a bit from the grind. The grind is what I call the ever-present need to keep getting work in front of people, to keep my name out there, to try to move the ball that is my career further down the field ( a very crowded, continually difficult, and perpetually younger field).

I am now nearly a year into my 40s and my wife and I are expecting our first kiddo this coming winter. I feel a change in my perspective, a shifting in my outlook and ambitions. I look back on the last 25 years of making theatre and realize I have accomplished some of the things that I really wanted, some things I thought I really wanted and a lot of just wheel-spinning achievements that ultimately didn't really move me very far in the direction I wanted to go.

And part of that dilemma is that I never really settled on what direction I actually wanted to go.

Starting out I just wanted to do. I wanted to make stuff, particularly theatre, of any kind, as most young artists do. Then, after some time, I wanted to see what I could pull off. I pushed hard against the limits of myself. The trick wasn't to do something of super high quality or of super high originality, but just to do it. To actually pull it off.

As I began to develop an original voice and explore different directions my artistic bent would take me, I leaned towards things I began to wear as badges of identity... solo performance, weird plays with kitsch factors, long-form improv.

Since the new year, I have produced two projects. I co-wrote (with my friend Jeff), designed, directed and produced a full-length play called NIGHT OF THE TARANTUBEARS. It ran for two weekends, had a great cast of actors that I genuinely enjoyed working with, was reviewed by one media source (positively) and was seen by very few people. It will probably not go anywhere. The other project this past June was the 3rd Annual Dallas Solo Fest. I brought in eight solo performers from around the country showcasing a variety of different kinds of one-person shows. It was marginally successful. Some shows kicked ass, some not so much. It had a solid opening weekend and then a pretty over-looked second weekend. It lost money. I will do it again next year... mostly out of spite. I refuse to end the DSF on a note of semi-failure.

As far as the amount of activity I have turned out, on average, year after year for the last two decades, this past year has been paltry. Paultry in the extreme.

I have one 90% finished play I wrote last year that was commissioned by a local theatre. I pulled it after the first few production meetings. It was too big for the organization, which was partly my fault for not keeping the scope of the organization in mind and partly their fault for not having their shit together. I don't know quite what to do with the play (except, you know, fine tune it and do some readings somewhere). I think about producing it myself for my small company Audacity, but I fear another world-premiere being overlooked again (i.e. in playwriting circles this means "wasted").

This summer I completed two other plays. I attended a writing retreat and worked up a full-length reboot of the first play I ever wrote, a one-act from 1996 called ARSENIC & ROSES (this new version doesn't have a name yet). It, too, is about 90% complete. Again, I'm not sure what to do with it. The other play is a ten-minute piece for a collection of holiday shows a tiny theatre group does every year. I've had a piece presented in it for the last three years. It is a fun, easy, low-stakes thing. There's a chance it won't be selected this year, but I hope it is.

I have two ideas that I will develop into works for the stage percolating in my brain. One a solo piece and the other a contemporary full-length tragedy. The tragedy has the potential to be part of the New Play Circuit, since it will tackle race, class, and other social-economic things that theatres seem to salivate over nowadays. It might be great or it might be crap. If it is great, it may put me on the map, or it might just be another in a long line of things I create that make absolutely no impact on the larger cultural landscape. 

This raises the question: do I want to be part of the larger cultural landscape? I have been playing the "maverick theatre artist" so long, I can't even see the cultural mainstream any longer. I can't see why it is valuable, why I should go after it. 

The thing is, I can't see any growth on the indie level any longer. I have practically self-exiled myself away from the bigger game. I have the chops now and the knowledge of my craft, but I'm tired of making things that make no ripples. But without getting in the game at all, I'm just that guy who "used to do stuff." 

I'll just be on the sidelines, with all my chops and knowledge, not even using it.

I wish I knew what other theatres artists did, particularly playwrights. How and why they decided to enter the arena of American Theatre. Was that the goal, or was it a stepping stone to ultimately being a show runner for television? How'd they get an agent? How'd they get into residencies? Did they all go to Yale or Brown or Columbia? Did they all do the route of South Coast Rep, Playwrights Horizons, New Dramtists and so on? If so, how'd they get on that route?

Most of all, I'd wanna ask them, was it fulfilling? Did adding plays to the world, even if they are done Off-Broadway, Regionally or even on Broadway itself (they still do that, right?), did it give them the feeling that they were actually making a difference?

I can't tell anymore.

So, I'm taking this time to reflect, to settle under myself, to reformulate what I want to do in the theatre. What direction do I want to go? 

I can't stay where I am.

I'm sure I'll get restless again. I'll get that itch to create, to get out there. I'll jump back into the grind. Until then, Imma just gonna try to figure some stuff out...

Sep 1, 2016

Sundown's 5th Annual Drunken Mixed Tape

Two years ago, Sundown presented my extremely short work LIZARD BOY EATS A DORITO. This year, they are doing a sort of "Best of..." and LIZARD BOY was chosen.

Here's the details:

SEPTEMBER 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30- OCTOBER 2 @ 8PM

DENTON, TX 76201

We All (Still) Make Mistakes, The B Sides: A Drunken Mixtape features a variety of stellar acts ranging from the scripted and linear to the devised and absurd. This year’s festival explores how some of our biggest mistakes may inspire breakthroughs both personally and artistically.

In a new festival format, each night of performances will feature a different line-up of acts. 12 nights, 14 works, 1 festival!

Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 students/seniors.
Side B Special: Bring your program back to an additional performance and receive $8 admission.

To reserve tickets or pay in advance, call 940-220-9302 or email

Aug 31, 2016

Bike Soccer Jamboree Episode 52 - YouTube Tricks

In Episode 52 of the Bike Soccer Jamboree Podcast I explain how  and why I shot this YouTube video. If you want a behind-the-scenes breakdown, give it a listen... HERE

Aug 30, 2016

Kathy George Indie Artist Residency

An ambience conducive to creativity
A few weeks back (August 12-19), I served as the first theatre-artist-in-residence at the Kathy George Indie Artist Residency in Ashford, Washington. Sponsored by Seattle's Minion Productions, this week-long retreat offered me a chance to get away from my regular routine and concentrate on my writing in the isolated and idyllic setting of Ashford, Washington, right next to Mount Rainier National Park.

Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offered me a great cabin. Tucked a bit off an access road in dense woods, it was a perfect place to focus. Just me, alone, with the work that needed to be done. I went up specifically to finish a full-length play. The play in question is a reboot of the first play I ever wrote, Arsenic & Roses.

I wrote the one-act Arsenic & Roses in 1996 while I was in college studying acting. It had its first production at the College of Santa Fe in the tiny Weckesser Studio black box. I directed it myself. Over the years the play has been presented a number of times. With every production I tweaked it and tried to make it better.

As the 20 year mark approached (geez, I've been writing plays now for 20 years!), I wanted to stop fiddling with Arsenic and Roses. But I was not happy with it. Like most early works, it falls so far short of the current work I do. So, I figured I'd just rewrite the thing. From scratch.

Sitting down in the tiny A-frame cabin the first full day I was there was so difficult. After staring at the void for nearly forty minutes, I gradually began to put words to page, then to keyboard and screen. I wrote the first few pages and then let the piece take me forward. Everyday, I would tally the page count. Some days I only created 7 pages. On one particulalrly prolific day during the week, I completed 15 pages.

I would alternate two roughly two or three hour work sessions each day with walks outdoors, or the occassional cigar on the deck out front. It was really kinda nice once I settled into a routine.

Afternoon walk
The goal wasn't perfection, only completion. And it worked. After a full week, I had a 62 page, full-length reboot.  

This was the first arts residency/retreat I have been a part of. It was hugely beneficial. Much gratitude to Grant at Minion. I will be taking a second pass at the first draft I completed at the cabin later in the month and then begin the arduous task of play development readings and workshops, submissions and then eventual productions. I will rename this new version of the play (I just don't know what yet).

Aug 23, 2016

Bike Soccer Jamboree Episode 51 - Work Habits

In Episode 51 of the completely unnecessary podcast Bike Soccer Jamboree, Jeff Hernandez and I discuss living the creative life. We go over productivity routines, doing a few big, important things vs. lots of small projects and, most of all, how to maneuver daily life to get shit done.

Oh, and the glory of $0.17 spiral notebooks.
Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve really started to see through things I consider bullshit. For myself, I have to consider, am I doing this so-called ‘creative work’ for real or am I just bandaging over my feelings, trying to feel creative, by doing something easy and short-handy? So I can tell myself I’m a creative person? What I’m saying is, you have to chisel out the time to do the important stuff. It has to be important enough to you to make you want to do it. You don’t makeyourself do it, you just are organically gonna do it.

I don't always give a shout out to the BSJ podcasts, but this one is totally worth a listen... HERE.

Jul 31, 2016

Camp Cooking Backyard Test

For the last few days I've had a hankering to go camping. Two things: 1.) I don't have a bunch of money to sink on buying gear and 2.) it is too hot here in Texas to actually go camp out for a while.

To remedy the first, I am frugally gathering equipment, some of it DIY. For the weather, I'll just have to wait until the wort of the summer dies down.

Here's me testing a Mainstay "Grease Pot" I got from Walmart for under $7. It should work out pretty well considering I won't be using it too terribly often.

Watch more of my videos at: