Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Sky is Falling is a show that I wrote as part of May Day Play Day here in Boston, a 24-hour play festival. This new production will be a good chance to tweak and refine the script a little bit. The play has a cast of 3 or 4 women and was just a ton of fun when we did it in Boston. Here's the summary:
Samantha is informed by her guru that the rapture will arrive tomorrow, and she and the elect will be taken from the earth in space ships. Samantha’s sister and her grandmother aren’t surprised by the apocalyptic news—they’ve heard it from her before. But they go along for a wild night of farewells and a surprising visitation.
It's a fun comedy, but there's also something underneath that a lot more serious, about sisters and how hard it can be to connect with our own family.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Our other two bins are almost ready to go, too. They'd had a hard time taking off, but a transplant of worms from Bin A helped boost the population. In about 3-4 weeks, we should have another 10-20 pounds of castings, just when the garden will really be hungry for high octane organic fertilizer. We've added a little of this stuff to house plants, and it's worked very well (we have a very happy rosemary plant now).
The bins haven't been consuming much of our vegetable waste, just a few pounds every week and a half or so, but the worms are thriving, so I think we're going to see if we can feed them a little more.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Then I try to load the software (I did this in the wrong order, I now realize). Big problem. It won't run on my laptop, because I don't have a fast enough processor (I have a Pentium III, and it needs a Pentium 4 or better). Crap. The family desktop computer does have a Pentium 4, so I could download it and edit it there, right? Ah, unfortunately, my desktop only has USB ports and my camera output is via a firewire cable. Surely, I could just buy a cable that will convert the output, right? $120 for a cable that will go from firewire to USB.
Now I'm trying to figure out if I should just edit with the Microsoft MovieMaker software that I have, or some other free-ish software, or should I try to get a new more powerful laptop? That could run me $500 or more, though. (Which I don't have at the moment.) Ouch. I'll have to muddle through with the free software now and start saving my pennies.
(Will I soon find myself longing for the days of Super 8 film?)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
My secret this week has been making sure that when I arrive at my desk to write my e-mail application is closed down, my web browser is closed, and I don't make a to-do list. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, because a) I'm a compulsive list-maker, so any list is a good list, and b) I'm trying to get more done, so having a list should make me more organized and get more done. Right?
Normally I keep a to-do list on a 3x5 card, and that covers my desired chores/goals for two days. I long ago figured out that it's impossible to accopmlish more in one day than will fit on a 3x5 card. I tried using a software program for a to-do list, but it just added one more thing to do to my already long list. My daily habit is to start a new 3x5 card, and then write in my journal, and then get to my actual writing. Sounds good, yes? However, what I figured out is that composing my to-do list before I started writing put me in completely the wrong mind-set. It got my head into the daily list of clutter and chores, and not at all around writing. Plus, creating the list always ended up taking more than just two minutes, because I'd be at the computer, so I might do one or two really easy tasks or have research a phone number first. And, once the list was complete, I'd have it on my desk, so that while I was writing, if I suddenly remembered something else I needed to do, there it was--I could just write it down. But that also meant that my subconscious was always analyzing what I should be doing and how to get more done and in what order, all when it was supposed to be cranking around character and language.
So this week, I've waited for e-mail, internet, and to-do lists until after I finished my writing for the day. What I find is that I'm able to write longer and with better concentration. My list of chores isn't waiting for me--I can create it when it's the time to actually start thinking about such things. And I've made writing top priority, which is the only way it gets done, because otherwise there are a million tasks waiting to push it to the back of the line.
I'm going to get less done, but that's all right, because I'll do a lot more writing. (I don't think this will work for night time writers--I write in the early morning, so this works for me.)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Last night I had my first guitar lesson. Actually, my daughter is getting lessons, but they're letting me sit in, too. Probably about fifteen years ago, I taught myself a few songs from "teach yourself guitar" books, but that was about it.
Our teacher's great--full of enthusiasm and overflowing with music--his fingers are always playing some riff. And he talks about scales and polychromatics, or something, and I have no idea what he's saying, but it sounds cool.
Because I used to try a little finger picking, he's got me learning the first few bars of Blackbird (a la Paul McCartney). It's tough, but I'm getting better (it's only been 24 hours). And, just as he warned, my fingers hurt. I figure the more I practice, the quicker I'll build calluses.
I've always thought that to be a really well-rounded theatre person, you should be able to either sing or play an instrument, be able to act, write, direct, and design a set or hang lights. Or at least design a and print a program and put together a marketing campaign for a production. I've got most of those covered, but I'm still short on the instrument (singing is a lost cause).
I've been talking about getting lessons for years, but never had the time or money. But Kira's not doing summer camp, and requested instead to get guitar lessons and insisted that she'll practice all the time. (We'll see.) I have had music lessons before--when I was in fourth grade, I took lessons on the recorder from a German woman in our subdivision. I have no idea why. I can't imagine a 10-year-old kid saying, "Hey, mom and dad, I just have to play the recorder! All the kids are doing it! It'll be the most fun ever!" But maybe I did. And I played clarinet in the 7th grade orchestra and absolutely hated it, as well as my teacher. I did not have any great musical aptitude (and probably still don't) and avoided practice at all costs.
Since then, I've accumulated a few musical instruments (trumpet, harmonica, guitar), but mostly they've served as decoration or closet filler.
This time, maybe it'll be different. Who knows? I might never be as good as the twelve-year old kid in this video, but he's giving me something to shoot for.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
- I really like making stuff. It doesn't matter whether it's with wood or words, there's a process and a result. In the case of the bookcase, the result feels a little more concrete.
- I don't always need a big complicated outline. In this case, I was able to draw a sketch on an index card and that was enough to build. The case is simple and strong, built in solid maple that has a certain glow. Just like the tone of language affects the perception of a play, the choice of wood makes a big difference.
- Sometimes I'm not ready to build yet. I bought the boards and they sat on our basement floor for a month or two until the moment was right. The same thing often happens with plays--I'll have an idea, maybe do some research, but I don't have the right space in my life to write it yet. Rushing ahead doesn't work.
- I'm not formally trained. I've seen some of the work by the students at the North Bennett Street School in Boston's North End, and I'm blown away. They are true craftsmen and artists, who know their tools intimately. I'm not at that level in my carpentry, not by a long shot. In terms of writing plays, I do a lot by instinct and from experience of 20 years of writing scripts. Sometimes wonder how my work would turn out if I had gone to graduate school. In the end, though, my book case serves me quite well, it looks good and hold books, and I enjoyed making it. That might be mostly what I need from the plays I create, too.
- The project needs to come together in a certain sequence. All the boards need to be cut to the proper length, assembled dry, adjusted, glued, nailed or screwed, then patience is required for each step of finishing--sanding, sealing, and over and over again until the surface is just right. Plays work much the same--from outline, to rough draft, to big cuts, to polishes after each reading and production.
- I never build the same piece twice. I'm always looking for a new challenge or to fill a new need in what I build from wood. I enjoy solving problems as they arise.
- I tend not to get paid for my work. (Actually, this isn't totally true either of playwriting or of carpentry.) For the carpentry, this feels natural. For the playwriting, it's a struggle.
- Though I have an audience (my wife and family and anyone who visits), ultimately, the piece needs to be done such that I'm satisfied with it. I will know every flaw, even if they're not readily visible to others. And I will learn to live with those flaws, because they're a part of the project. Perfection is not my goal, neither in writing nor in carpentry.
- Sometimes it's beautiful.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
I've had books in S&K anthologies in the past (most recently in 2000) and nothing much, production-wise, has come from them. But, whether it's rational or not, I have hopes that this time it'll lead to more productions. It's been a long time. These are different plays. The format they're using is a little different. We'll see.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I've been in the festival a number of times (Insomnia in '05, and Measuring Matthew and Ship of Fools in '04) and I've gotten good feedback, plus they pay ($100) and they bring in big audiences (maybe 1,000 for the run, or more), which helps me feel good about my annual numbers. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it down to see the show, which stinks, because I've never seen it before. Oh, well, with any luck the play will end up with a bunch more productions. It's a comedy about two women on the first manned mission to mars--after a year of being cooped up in space together, their obsessions are driving each other insane. I'm planning to include it in a new collection of short plays I'm putting together, Collected Obsessions.