Oct 29, 2012

Ruth's Sketchbook

At the beginning of the summer I experimented with painting on the front of one of my sketchbooks. My wife, Ruth, saw it and asked me to do the same to the front cover of her sketchbook. Then 1001 things happened this summer, including a big move. Last week she pulled the unfinished sketchbook I had started for her out of a cardboard packing box. Tonight I finished it. I think it turned out a-okay...
[click on image to see them bigger]




outline

So, I like stumbled onto Emma Coat's Story Shots blog at the beginning of the summer and referencing it in the last post, I was prompted to scroll a bit. In a post she put up called "Writing as a Drawing Tool" I came across this little snippet of awesome...
 
 A general guideline I use for writing out an outline is that each of the following gets a paragraph:
  • the concept of the story
  • who the main character is
  • what is her place in the world
  • what goes wrong (inciting incident)
  • how does she try to fix it (act 1 break)
  • brief description of complications (act 2)
  • what really goes wrong (midpoint)
  • low point
  • resolution (act 3)

Oct 23, 2012

CARTER STUBBS makes progress


I met with the Sundown last night to go over the first draft of the play I've been commissioned to write for them. We had our "creative meeting" at a bar, which I think bodes well for our whimsical, absurd project about a man given a rocket pack who fights a tiger on a Micronesian island. Look for the finished beast next spring.

Oct 20, 2012

Playwriting 101 Top Ten


Jonathan Dorf has put together a sort of 'Top Ten List' about story development on his website Playwriting 101. The site has been up for years, but I just stumbled across it while looking for something else earlier today. It is still good playwriting advice.
  1. Create a world that's true to real life or fantastical or that mixes the mundane with the magical. But whatever set of rules you create for that world, make sure you follow them.
  2. Write a conflict that builds as the play progresses. As you structure the conflict, think in terms of your play having a beginning, a middle and an end.
  3. Write characters that want something (which puts them in conflict with other characters) and try to get what they want at every moment.
  4. Make sure that each character has something at stake, a consequence if he doesn't get what he wants.
  5. Create a "ticking clock" that puts the characters under pressure to get what they want right away.
  6. Make sure there is a good reason, an "event," for your play. It's not enough for two characters to sit around and talk for a while and then leave. There needs to be some important reason why we're watching them now, at this particular moment.
  7. Write dialogue that illuminates your characters and advances the plot at the same time.
  8. Make each character speak in a distinctive voice. If you have trouble with that, try imagining a specific actor you know - even if it's someone who will never play the part - in the role.
  9. Do not have a character tell us something she can show us instead. For example, it's much more effective to hide under the bed than to say "I'm afraid."
  10. Give each character a "moment," something that justifies the character's existence in your play and that makes him attractive for an actor to play. 
  11.  
    This reminds me a bit of Emma Coats' list of 22 story basics she picked up working at Pixar.
     

My 2009-2012 sketchbook

I just finished another sketchbook. This one lasted me from 2009 to 2012. I snapped a few select pages of my sketchbook. It is interesting to look back on the unfiltered ideas just jotted across the page. Some turned into things, some didn't.

sk009 by dribblefunk
sk009, a photo by dribblefunk on Flickr.
 

Oct 18, 2012

New ATL website


Last Friday I spent the bulk of the evening creating a new website for Audacity Theatre Lab, the small outfit I co-founded several years ago (which itself was an evolution from a smaller group I founded in 1999). I develop nearly all of my original theatre work through ATL.

I am extremely pleased with the look and feel of this new site. The unweildy bulk of the content dealing with individual productions/projects has been off-loaded to the blog, which now serves as a sort of portfolio, archive, place for news, press, etc. The website itself is stream-lined with the most relevant and pertinent info and not much else.

Not bad for a few hours of concentrated work...

VAMPS BLOOD AND SMOKING GUNS



At the beginning of the summer I did a one-afternoon acting gig on a small super-low-budget movie called VAMPS, BLOOD & SMOKING GUNS. I played a husband who flirts with women at bars so he can go home to his shrewish wife. The lead in the movie, a female detective, has been sent to seduce and thus catch the "cheating" husband. Later she runs into vampires.

We shot the scene super fast. In fact, I think we did one take, really, from each set-up. The director, Alex Topete, just sent out a digital copy of the movie to us last week. I clipped out my scene for posting here.

Oct 14, 2012

Twain the Public Speaker

I have just finished the book CREATORS by Paul Johnson. There is a wonderful chapter on Mark Twain. In particular, Johnson puts a very nice exploration and celebration of Twain as a lecturer and story-teller. Since working on my original oration CYRANO A-GO-GO this summer I have taken a real interest in the format of the old-school lecturer... part education/part sales pitch/part dramatized entertainment. Here are some nuggets from CREATORS.

On his motivations for doing lecture tours:
Twain took to public speaking, both for money and to publicize his books, early in his career as a writer, and his lectures quickly become a major source of income and fame. Indeed it is hard to say whether, in his lifetime, Twain was better known as a writer or as a speaker - the two roles were inextricably mingled. His lectures were essentially humorous performances; they were dramatic, and he was acting. He came to this life on the coattails of Charles Dickens's readings, which were attracting enormous audiences all over the United States in the late 1860s, just as Twain was getting going. Dickens read from his books, and so did Twain. But whereas Dickens aimed to draw tears (with his "Death of Little Nell") or gasps of horror and excitement (with "The End of Bills Sykes"), Twain wanted laughs. He was essentially a stand-up comedian. Raising a laugh was at the heart of his art and his creativity.
On how he took the stage:
Twain's entrance, early on, went as follows. He would be behind a curtain, playing the piano. (He did this with some skill; and he was the originator of the western saloon joke, later purloined by Oscar Wilde during his American tour in the 1880s, "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.") When the curtain went up, Twain would be engrossed in his music; then, slowly, he would realize that an audience was awaiting his attention and would stand up and walk to the center of the stage. There would be a long pause, then he would begin to speak.
 On his signature look:
Twain dressed the part, or his part, as did Dickens and Oscar Wilde. But whereas Dickens used the male evening attire of early Victorian England, suitably embellished, and Wilde the velvet pantaloons, golden buckles, and greenery-yallery of the aesthetic movement, Twain devised his own attire. His black tailcoat gave place to an all-white suit, of linen or wool, according to the season, with a white silk tie and white shoes. At the time he became a favorite on the lecture circuit, his flaming red hair turned grayish, then a glorious white, or rather the color of foaming champagne, as did his bushy mustache. This white appearance became celebrated, and Twain was recognized wherever he went, in Europe as well as the United States. He basked in this glory and wore his white outfit everywhere, not just onstage.

Lots of food for thought. I particularly like that he developed a "brand" aesthetic to market himself, easy to caricature by cartoonists, long before contemporary technology could spread him image.


Oct 13, 2012

Donnie in the office


Ziegler = Dickens

Charles Dickens came up recently in my readings and I went online to look at pictures of him. Because I'm also making my way through the entirety of the television series THE WEST WING on Amazon Instant Video, I have discovered a brilliant choice for an actor to portray Dickens in an, as yet non-existent, bio-pic. Feast your eyes on the evidence thus:
Charles Dickens
Actor Richard Schiff as Toby Zielger in THE WEST WING
I know, right... uncanny. Casting agents for this non-existent bio-pic, please contact me for instructions on where to send a check.

Wayne White Documentary

So, first off, this looks awesome!

I must admit, though I've heard the name Wayne White a few times in the past, I didn't really know who he was until I stumbled on to the above trailer. After seeing the BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING trailer I did some searching for old Pee Wee's Playhouse episodes. And I came to this Christmas Special. Actually, you just need to watch the first 3 minutes, the intro, to feel the sheer intensity of the awesome...

Oct 12, 2012

A Theatre of One


If you are in the theatre and have had more that a few beers with me - and followed me down the rabbit hole of shop talk and pet theories - I have probably brought up my thoughts on the role of the Individual Artist in the Theatre.

In a nutshell, I believe one of the things (just one of many, actually) holding Theatre back from being as swiftly evolving as other art forms is that the collaborative nature that is instilled in young theatre artists inundates them with the notion that they are interpretive artists and ONLY interpretive artists. The notion that a designer, director, actor (or anyone besides a playwright) can instigate his or her own project seems to be one of those severely outsider ideas, like not needing corporate or government funding or questioning the very practice of selling subscriptions. 

My argument is, we need more artists in the theatre that think of themselves as creative artists -  as opposed to strictly interpretive artists - and who take personal responsibility for their art. We need less folks waiting to be handed projects. Less actors auditioning for whatever they can with no regard to how -  a particular role, in a particular play, put on by a particular theatre -  lines up with their own concepts of personal expression. 

Let me put it this way... I had a conversation with a wonderful actress friend of mine a few years back. Over coffee she made good-natured complaints about the many auditions she'd been to lately with little or no callbacks or other feedback. I asked what the plays and roles were. They were all over the map. I off-handily asked her what kind of acting she did and she looked at me puzzled. I asked her if she considered herself an Artist. She did. I asked, then, as an Artist, what did she want to say in the world? With her acting? Again, she was puzzled. I said the only outlet for whatever message she, personally, felt was important to stand for in the world, was in her choice of roles. Did she care about family values? The power of love? Outsiders and misfits trying to find identity and place (that's my bag...) or what? She said she'd never thought of herself, as an Actor, in those terms before. She "just wanted to perform."

I explained to my friend that artists in other art forms: singer-songwriters, painters, poets, novelists, sculptors, etc. all do their art because they have something to say, to express. If she considers herself a Theatre Artist, surely she has something to say.

Since I began widening my idea of a Theatre-Maker years ago to embrace all the specialities of the Theatre (playwright, performer, director, designer, producer, marketer, etc.) I have come across more and more colleagues who see themselves as merely collaborators. And not just collaborators, but the one in a collaboration who is approached, not the one that does the approaching. Certainly, part of this is from the way we are trained... to specialize. But part of it also has to do with not taking responsibility.

I have a friend who is unfulfilled as an Artist. He openly complains about his plight (usually over beers). No good plays to audition for. If he does audition, he doesn't get cast as often as he'd like. He is a wonderful performer and a budding playwright. I ask him from time to time why he doesn't just start making his own work, from scratch, for himself to create and perform? He openly admits that he doesn't want to be "saddled" with the responcibilities that come with producing, marketing, casting, etc. He would just rather act. Let someone else handle that "business-y"stuff. This is okay, but he will always be beholden to others for his artistic pursuits until he learns to take responsibility, full responsibility, for his Art.

If you are still reading this far, I thank you. I put forth the exposition above because I have come across various discussions related to this Myth of the Individual Artist lately.

Oct 8, 2012

Looking for Structure

“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.”
~ Jean-Luc Godard
I have what might be called a passionate, perhaps even militant, belief in the art of narration. The narrative is everything. I'm reminded of this as I work on my new play CARTER STUBBS TAKES FLIGHT. It has a straight ahead narrative structure to present an eccentric little fable, but as I laid the thing out, it seemed both kinda boring and predictable in chronological order. So, I started playing with the order of events.

As my progress continues on the play, I stumbled across this video the other day. Writer Rebecca Skloot was attempting to find a working structure for her multi-narrative book, so she wrote the different plots out on color-coded index cards. She then spread them all out where she could look at them, and then went searching for stories with multi-threaded narratives that she could borrow from. She ended up storyboarding the story lines from the film The Hurricane (great movie, BTW) on the same color-coded index cards, and then laying out her book material over the movie’s structure. Totally interesting stuff!

  
Rebecca Skloot: How Fried Green Tomatoes and Hurricane Carter Shaped The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks



Oct 5, 2012

ANESTHESIOLOGIST is Award-Winning


I received news that my play FOR THE LOVE OF AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST, put on as a swell production last spring by San Antonio's Overtime Theatre recently won an award. It won an Alamo Theatre Arts Council Globe Award and was named one of the "5 Best Comedies of the Year."

Congrats to the cast and crew that worked so hard at Overtime to bring to life ANESTHESIOLOGIST!

Info HERE.

Oct 3, 2012

St. Germain Gin and Tonic

I dabble in mixology. For a few straight summers I adopted a different "signature" cocktail and made it a point to practice making it until I was good at it. I'm not a bartender and I don't come home and make cocktails every day (well, maybe once or twice a week...), but I enjoy a good drink. There was the summer of Colorado Bulldogs, the summer of Sweet Manhattans, the summer of the Dark and Stormy, and so on.

Lately, I've been on the look out for something I can use St. Germain in. St. Germain is a liqour made with elderflower blossoms and it is sold in a flat-out-awesome bottle.

Today, I believe I've stumbled upon a winner...

St. Germain Gin and Tonic

1½parts Gin
½ part St. Germain
3 parts Tonic Water

Combine all ingredients in a tall ice-filled Collins glass and stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Enjoy. Can also substitute lemon wedge for lime, if you're feeling tenacious...

Also, though I haven't tried it yet, here's another St. Germain cocktail that looks worth exploring... HERE.


 

Oct 2, 2012

The Hernandez Banner

My good friend Jeff Hernandez, who co-hosts the Bike Soccer Jamboree podcasts with me, asked if I would create a header banner for him for his Tumblr or blog or something. Here's what I came up with...
 
[click on the image to see it larger]




You can see into Hernandez's demented little world HERE and HERE. Be warned...