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 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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