Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Insightful article about the industry known as theatre

I'm not the first to link to this (Frank's Wild Lunch is), but everybody should be reading this.

It's provocative, thoughtful - and respectful - about the organizations it critiques.

Monday, May 28, 2007

PROOF: You LIve On A Planet

This'll be my last video post for a while.

However, I'd like to point you to a post by Dave Tutin inspired by the movie BOBBY and about the failure of the Vietnam Protest generation. As usual, amazingly insightful.

Dave also posts a Richard Harris quote that's a good reminder that when you're the artist, your job isn't always to get along. Sometimes it's to inspire a little fear in those around you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Angel in the Snow.

Yesterday we drove through Rocky Mountian National Park.

Everything was shot yesterday in the park - including the snow.

All clips are reversed. Except for one. Can you tell which one?

The track is from Elliott Smith's latest, NEW MOON.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Eric Overmyer's ON THE VERGE

I recently got a call from Mr. Overmyer's office about a possible meeting with him. If you'll remember, I couldn't do it because I'm not in LA but out in Boulder, CO (where he was born) hustling words for an ad agency for the months of May and June. But it gave me an excuse to re-read one of his better known plays again, ON THE VERGE.

It's one of my wife's favorite plays.

In it, three Victorian women set off across the globe to explore terra incognita.

The Himalayas. The darkest hearts of Africa. Parts of the New World. Along the way, they argue about whether women should wear pants, stop for tea and cake, make journal entries about their expedition and complain about manioc, a pasty native foodstuff.

They also begin to find things behind bushes, in the dirt, elsewhere, that seem to belong not to their era, but some other, more mysterious era.

The first of these artifacts is an eggbeater.

As they move on, it comes to light that they aren't just moving through new spaces, but new times. Eventually, they end up in 1955 dancing with Eisenhower to big band numbers. This comfortable era is a place that two of the three women decide to stay, while the third, truly intrepid, moves on, deeper and further into the unknown.

It's a play that's a play in the best sense - it's playful. And it reminded me a lot of Clubbed Thumb's work. A play that requires strong women. A play that's funny, strange, provocative.

Some people in the "theatrosphere" (as dubbed by Parabasis) have occasionally maligned Overmyer (and others like him) because he seemed to leave theatre to make a living in TV. Of course, as a writer on ST. ELSWHERE, HOMICIDE, LAW AND ORDER and THE WIRE, he's much more than a writer. He's really gone on to shape a part of our culture, creating some realistic, gritty and true drama that set a high standard for what's good in the television procedural and redefined the cop show.

Maybe they should read ON THE VERGE, which still feels fresh today. It's clear his heart lays in the same place most us in theatre love - with actors making something amazing happen in small dark spaces using only language and movement.

What have you been exploring lately?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Everything is Miscellaneous.

Yes, it's true. Everything. Except, of course, you.

And now I'm reading all about it. And you should, too.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

TRUE WEST in Fort Collins

I finally got enough time off during a weekend to check out some local theatre and headed up to Fort Collins to see TRUE WEST.

The drive itself would've been worth it. We followed 34 over from Estes Park through the narrow, spectacular canyons of the front range. It was more than fitting for the show's title.

Held in the "historic" Armstrong hotel, the show wasn't perfect, but it was definitely worthwhile. It's a play that always clicks for me in certain places no matter who is doing it. Visceral, funny, muscular and emotionally rigorous, it does what a lot of plays these days don't - it stays in one place for a condensed period of time. (I suppose it could be considered an "elevator play" that way.) In other words, it's not television. It's not a movie. It's a play.

I always appreciate that.

Last night's show also got me appreciating the play from another angle: Austin's angle. As the straightlaced, uptight brother, I always thought of his character as the less interesting of the two protagonists. But sitting in the back of the audience watching Lee take apart a typewriter, I found Austin to be the richer territory. He's the brother that Lee has come to see. And he has something Lee doesn't: An actual relationship with the "old man". He's seen the old man's teeth in a bag of chop suey. He knows what makes the old man tick. Lee, who wants to protect the old man too, doesn't. And no matter how much time he spends in the desert, Lee never will.

That understanding suddenly steered me away from always thinking that Sinise's version of Austin is the only one to do. From the new perspective, I could see the teeth speech as a taunting moment as well. And I could see that the play's early scenes could be enriched - since Austin at the top wants to leave the old man alone and get on with his life. And that is some of what drives his fear of Lee from the start.

There was one other great thing about the show - its scrappy sense of production. The lights weren't much more than up and down. The set looked pieced together from a junk yard. The whole thing had a kind of finger-in-the-face of more polite kinds of shows - a sort of we-don't-have-much-but-that's-not-gonna-stop-us attitude that is always good to be in touch with.

It mirrored the uneven scene work that Shepard's writing has and that today would make it an unproduceable play from a dramaturgical point of view.

After it was done, I asked my theatre campanion - Gregg Foster - if he thought it felt dated. Even with the typewriter, he said it worked pretty well for him. Not bad for a 30 year old play.

I know a lot of theatre has come and gone since it was first produced at the Magic in SF, but I wonder we might be better off going back to that uneven, unweildy, surreal naturalism that Shepard showed us so long ago. It has a spontanaeity that often feels missing from today's theatre (McDonagh excepted).

After all, audiences haven't been getting bigger since then.

Friday, May 18, 2007

H comes to Denver.

The freelance gig in Denver looks like it's going to be a long gig. Maybe until the end of June. This is good for financial reasons right before we have the child whom I'm still calling "Baby Noodles", but also tough because we're apart.

Luckily, Heather's been able to come out and visit. This week she was here from Sunday through this morning. Which meant we enjoyed our 2nd wedding anniversary in Boulder (we ate the St Julien; I gave her a massage from the spa there; She gave me some new Yankees caps). We also went on the "peak to peak" drive from Nederland to Estes Park.

But maybe the most important thing to happen is that I got a full dose of baby kicks from the Noodles. He is growing stronger every day and it's quite something to feel him become more and more real as time passes.

It's also given me a whole new subject to dream about - taking care of someone else. Both anxiety causing and sort of wonderful at once, I find myself worrying in my sleep about him and wondering while I'm awake how I'm going to do it.

Other thoughts drift in too - why I'm not as produced as I'd like to be. How will I help my work find its way to the stage. Why I'm not better and faster at writing. Why I've been unsatisfied with my achievements so far.

These are all questions that come from the nature of who I am, of course, but also, in light of the coming change, seem more than self-concerned. They seem small.

It seems like a long time ago when I wrote this ominous thing.

And, of course, it was.

Back then, I hadn't worked in months. I didn't know where Heather and I were going to live. I'd only just finished DRESSING THE GIRL. BEYOND THE OWING was still a complete mess (now it's just a mess, maybe). I hadn't worked with Clubbed Thumb.

And, most importantly, I didn't know that I was going to be a father.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What I did today for a dollar.

In advertising, the day is long.

I started the day at 8 am. This photo was taken at 7:21 pm.

I'm still at the office. It's 9:43 pm.

Best of luck to you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A stray thought about the NY Times...

This morning as I was paging through the NY Times over an expensive omelette at the Boulderado Hotel in Boulder, CO., I noticed an article on a new VH1 reality show in the Arts Section. Now, I know it's not news that the paper has made a big push to cover more television and rock 'n roll and pop stuff in general. But most of the criticism I've heard voiced about this has been about what it means the paper is NOT covering - theatre, more serious or unusual films, dance, orchestral stuff, etc. Even more ire has been leveled at Isherwood for his troublesome reviews of new theatre work.

But the question that struck me was - Do the people running the NY Times really think that by covering "Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School Starring Mo' Nique" people are going to think that the paper's suddenly "with it" and worth a $1 every morning?

I once thought the paper was worth that and more when the Book Review under Anatole Broyard published a weekly essay on some interesting subject regarding trends in criticism, culture and letters and Mel Gussow's name was still appearing regularly in the paper. But seeing well-written, well-thought out articles about the latest Flavor Flav show on what was once the music channel for people slightly too old for MTV, it makes me think the paper's too expensive to even considering for packing material.

I also wondered if the author of the article, Virginia Heffernan - who I'm sure is very smart - was told to write the article or if she thought, "DANG! THAT SHOW NEEDS TO BE COVERED IT"S SO DARN IMPORTANT!!!"

Of course, even if she didn't think that, certianly, someone at the paper did.


And why do I need an AO Scott reveiw of Spiderman III or The Dukes of Hazzard or Paris Hilton's House of Wax?

Again, I have to believe that someone wants to show how "with it" the paper is to people who currently are getting more of their news from other sources.

(I have similar questions about the "Rock Show Reviews" that they occasionally run. Why does the NY Times review an Oasis concert? Who cares? Especially when concert tours usually mean the performers are in town only for a day or two and most likely the article is running AFTER they've left town?)

Now, I'm not saying that an occasional article on pop culture is a waste of time. Pop cultural trends are important to cover. But couldn't that be done with a more interesting and more in depth article that appears once in a while as opposed to making a "beat" of television shows that really aren't worthwhile?

My guess is that despite all the write ups of American Idol and The Apprentice, the papers circulation is continuing to go down and, worse, the number of advertisers dumping $$ into the paper is continuing to shrink.

And the kids who the paper hopes to win back to newsprint probably look at those articles the way I used to look at my parents when they used the word "cool". Simultaneously, people like me, who once turned to this self-proclaimed "artibiter of taste", turn away from it because it is less and less useful in identifying and exploring interesting ideas in culture at large.

Makes you wonder if there's an underserved market out there just waiting for another paper to voice its interests.

The cast of Flavor Flav's new show, in case yer innarrested.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Posts I'll probably never write.

In Denver, the air is thin. So thin that you tend to dry out more quickly and thus, if you drink coffee like you usually do, you get dehydrated and sick.

This was my fate this week as I worked many many hours on Dell Enterprise ads and Qwest television spots.

It also led to not calling Heather as often as I'd like and missing the important developments of the young man Heather and I now call "Baby Noodles". Apparently he kicks at every opportunity and can now be seen through the belly.

But, I'm here in Denver making money. And this is a good thing because 1) I need the money, 2) I'll need the money and 3) It's put me back in touch with that industrious adverting guy who was me back in the 90s - which is to say I'm very very busy.

Interestingly, I'm surrounded by some of the best ad people of the last 20 years. David Stohlberg, Mark Oakley, Ron Saltmarsh, David Ayriss, Gregg Foster, Ken Markey and Bob Rickert - to mention only a few.

It's a little like going back to ad school and feeling both inspired and depressed by all the good work you're around.

Or put another way, it's kinda nice to have the ass kicked.

The busy-ness however has also got me thinking about all the posts I mean to write but that, when I'm busy like this, I don't.

I figure it might make a nice post in itself, so here goes.


1. I don't like it when people post big chunks of their latest plays. (I suppose someone reads these things, but I don't.)

2. Why fishing sucks.

3. THE HOAX, ZODIAC, HOT FUZZ, FRACTURE - reviews of these movies. (I liked the first three, not the last one)

4. A theory of Baby names

5. A list of all the celebrities I've met and worked with

6. A list of all the "famous" authors I've met at Stuart Brent Books

7. How to play tennis with a pregnant woman and still lose (I may write this yet)

8. 6 uses for flowers in a relationship

9. Why getting rid of a landline when you're in a long distance relationship is a bad idea

10. Cavities and other gifts advertising gives your brain

11. My first year in AA

12. So, you moved across the country from SF into an apartment in NYC on Sept. 10, 2001 - now what?

13. Living without furniture: Please sit anywhere you like

14. Artists and writers I admire and who made a difference to me

15. What it's like to have a production in a LORT theatre

16. Here are all my letters of rejection, scanned and posted

17. A very short guide to prayer

18. Why I bought Danskos

19. CHRONIC TOWN by REM. The best EP ever made by anyone?

20. Life without coffee is not worth living

21. How to practice contraception when you're not sure where you're living or how you're making a living after you leave NY and move to LA

22. Bloggers I feel slighted by

23. What I would do to the NYT if I ran the Arts Section

24. People I'd like to punch and people I should've punched

25. The art of making comments

26. Playwrights who get produced eventhough most of their work seems to be crap to me

27. A list of posts I'll never maybe never write

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yes, I love you and I'll call you soon. Really.

When we moved to LA, we were warned that there would be people that we would see, people we would meet, people we'd get to know who would seem to love us while we were in their presence, make promises to call us when parting, but whom we'd more than likely never hear from again.

This has turned out to be untrue for the most part. A cliche that is repeated ad naseum until you think it's a law of nature.

Part of this is that I've found that most people will talk to you at least once in LA. Why? There is the fear, of course, that you may turn into someone someday and partly because nobody knows what will happen later. But I also believe there's a real curiousity among people there to find out what's happening. Film making is, after all, a highly social art.

The last two days are a case in point. A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to two well-known Emmy winning producer/writers. I wanted to meet them.

One of them, a playwright, called me yesterday to see if I was around.

You cannot understand the disappointment I felt when I had to say I was working out of town and couldn't do it. But I also felt it was ultimately left in a way that means it will/could happen some day. And that anything, indeed, can happen.

And I love my wife.
a picture of my desk in denver

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do schools today kill creativity?

Too busy to write a real post this evening, but I thought this was thought provoking and worthwhile.

So is the site from which it came. I've put a link to it on the blogroll under "Ideas worth spreading."

A warning - the clip is 20 minutes long.