Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playwriting in 3D notes

The Playwriting in 3D talk on Saturday felt like it was very successful. We had about 30 people attend, and I'd say that almost all of them were writers (next time, I hope we draw in some designers, too).

I was there early to work with our four terrific designers--Karen Perlow (lighting), PJ Strachman (lighting), David Remedios (sound), and David Reiffel (sound)--and Dawn Simmons from StageSource to set up the space. Every time I get to meet with this group of designers, I am reminded how much I like designers as a group--in addition to being terrific artists, they're intensely practical. They're used to jumping in and solving problems as they arrive--so the fact that our borrowed digital projectors were crapping out on us less than an hour before the event, didn't seem to phase anyone. They just found a way to solve the problem.

The format of the afternoon was pretty simple--each designer did a 15-20 minutes show-and-tell, then I led a discussion between all of us, and then, after a break for some homemade brownies (baked by yours truly), we opened up the floor for Q&A.

The show-and-tell segments were particularly fun--we alternated between lighting and sound designers. The lighting designers showed slide presentations of work they'd done in the past, and talked about how they'd approached the script or how various elements of the show all worked together. The sound guys had all kinds of fun gadgets with them that we hooked into the theatre sound system (and a big shout out to the Central Square theatre and to Alison from the Nora, and Taylor, the T.D.) for all kinds of cool, loud, and disturbing sounds.

The end result of the entire afternoon was not a take-home list of dos and don'ts, but something much less tangible but, in my opinion, more valuable--a much clearer sense of how sound and lighting designers approach a script and a production. In terms of how to communicate with them via stage directions, the answer is probably to write more descriptively (minimally) and less proscriptively. But really, the designers are looking deeply at the themes and characters in our plays, and trying to figure out how to enhance and clarify or amplify all of it.

One thing I appreciate about all the designers at our workshop was their inherent flexibility--they understand that some elements of their design will have to be changed as the production of the script begins to be fully realized. This same lesson applies, I think, to playwrights as well--though we keep in mind our original intentions, we also need to come to a realistic embrace of the elements of each particular production and try to understand better how to rewrite to make all the collaborative aspects of the show work effectively.

In the end, the afternoon felt like a great gift--it's not often that we're able to sit down with a bunch of designers and just talk about the art of theatre, without the pressure of a production bearing down upon us.

I'm hopeful that we'll do more of these sorts of talks here in Boston (next up on my list: costume and set designers, magic and its practical applications in making theatre, and an introduction to stage combat for writers). I also hope that writers in other cities will put together similar events--it's so important that we keep finding ways in the theatre to learn from each other, and these sorts of peer-to-peer, artist-to-artist, exchanges aren't really that hard to arrange. It's up to us to keep finding ways to improve our writing and our productions, and this can be one of them. Not every city has an organization like StageSource, which made all this run smoothly, but there are plenty of dark afternoons in theatre spaces, just waiting to be filled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

reminder: Playwriting in 3D on Saturday, April 25

There are just a few more days left to sign up for Playwriting in 3D, which takes place, Saturday, April 25, 12pm - 3pm, at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge. Admission is $15 for StageSource and Rhombus members, $25 for non-members. Payment is due at time of sign-up. Sign-up on-line or by phone by calling 617-720-6066.

We'll have an extended conversation with two lighting designers and two sound designers, looking at how we can expand and change the collaborative process of making theatre to more fully use all aspects of theatricality. There will be show & tell and lots of Q&A (and snacks). We want to help writers and designers come to an understanding of a common vocabulary that will help them work more effectively together (and make cool stuff happen on stage).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This week: you can listen to my radio play, Love & Lightning online

Shoestring Radio Theatre has my radio play Love & Lightning available on their web site for listening all of this week. It's my only radio show that's available on the web (and only for this week). So check it out if you can--it's a 27-minute (very dark) comedy about a romantic weekend on the prairie that goes horribly wrong.

This is more of my early work that's resurfacing. This script was written around 1993 or so, and this production is from 1996.

Here's link:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lost Oasis at Another Country

Another Country productions, run by Lyralen Kaye, who also produce the SlamBoston play slams, is doing a fundraiser May 18 and 19, and they will include a production of my one-act play, Lost Oasis.

This is a play with an important history for me--it was one of the plays in Theatre in the Wild, which was the inaugural production for Chameleon Stage in 1993 (a theatre I helped start and which is still around today) in Evergeen, Colorado. It was my earliest foray into site specific work. (It's also my first and only play to be done in NYC's Central Park.)

In a fun twist (or sad commentary on how we never throw things away), I just delivered the tent that was used in the original production to my director tonight (Art Hennessey--very glad to have a chance to work with him), for use in the the May production.

It's especially gratifying to see a play produced after 16 years and feel that it still holds up.

Here are the details for the show:
What -    The Factory Theatre & Another Country Productions present…
Best of the Best, Playwrights of Another Country Productions
 When -   Monday May 18 & Tuesday May 19 @ 7:30pm
Where -  The Factory Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, the South End
 Tickets - $15

Box Office –617-933-8600: www., search: Factory Theatre

Friday, April 17, 2009

good post about book marketing

Editorial Ass has a great post about book marketing, which includes lots of basic, practical advice, as well as some ballpark numbers for how much stuff costs (which is really helpful). It's definitely one to check in with once you've got that book contract in hand and are trying to understand how your book might get marketed. (I'd sure like to have problem soon with my new book...)

Recognition in 2009 Boston Theatre Marathon

Some good news (which has been known for a while, but I've been too swamped to blog lately): my short play, Recognition, will be included in this year's Boston Theatre Marathon, on Sunday, May 17th, at the BCA/Wimberly Theatre. The Wellesley Summer Theatre will produce my play, with Nora Hussey directing. They're an immensely talented group, a perfect match for my play, really, and I'm excited to have the chance to work with Nora, after seeing her work a number of times.

The BTM is one my favorite theatrical events--50 ten-minute plays, by 50 different writers, produced by 50 different New England theatres, all in the space of 10 hours. There is no better way to get a sampling of the Boston theatre community. I've been very fortunate over the years--this will be the sixth time one of my plays has been part of the Marathon.

Recognition was originally created as part of the T plays last fall, with the Mill 6 Theatre Collaborative--a group of plays created on and about the T (Boston's subway system). Three of those scripts will be included in this year's Marathon.

I should find out what time slot my play will have in a few weeks.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Day in the Life (or why I fall asleep at random moments)

Today was a little busier than normal today, because Tracy went to Connecticut to visit her parents, but still, it's not so atypical. I often finish (and sometimes start) the day pretty tired, and often wonder why (and my daughter teases me for falling asleep in front of the TV, or while reading stories to my son, etc.). Here was my day today:
  • Up at 5:30, because that's the only way I can get in a shower before everyone else needs to wake up for school/work.
  • Worked for 1/2 hour. Lately, it's just writing in my journal and answering a few e-mails. Once I start the new novel, I might get up at5am again, so I can write for a full hour in the early a.m.
  • Walked dog. Almost a mile (less than normal, because of the rain). Saw 5 wild turkeys--1 tom, and 4 hens.
  • Got up the kids, made breakfast (bagels and oatmeal), and shepherded them (mostly Noah. Kira is self-sufficient at age 14) through the process..
  • Walked Noah to school. (1 mile round tip)
  • Answered e-mails and read blogs (a.k.a. procrastinated)
  • Wrote 9 pages of new play, finishing a draft of a one-act for high schoolers. (It's rough and messy, but it's a first draft, so that's okay.)
  • Looked over, signed, and mailed contracts with a publisher for them to publish five of my short plays. (I'll make an official announcement once they actually sign on their end.)
  • Picked some of the layer of stuff from the floor of my son's room, because it was almost impassable due to various creative play projects that involved dumping out entire bins of toys and dress up clothes.
  • Got a full-length play submission ready to go (researched theatre, wrote cover letter, packed it all up.)
  • Walked to post office and bank (about 1 mile round trip)
  • Scouted out a site where we want to set up a community vegetable garden/art project. It's a strip of land about 200 feet long by 2 feet wide. More on this soon. Has potential to be really cool.
  • Dog out again (1/2 mile)
  • Lunch (leftovers, plus chocolate. I've been scarfing down these Hershey's Special Dark miniatures I bought yesterday. The bag won't make it through the night.) and reading newspaper.
  • Power nap. 20 minutes of heaven.
  • Read a book that I should have finished this week, but won't.
  • Answered more e-mail. Got inbox back down to single digits. Tweeted.
  • Got the word out about the Playwriting in 3D workshop I'm leading in 3 weeks, by posting to lists, blogging (see below), and e-mails.
  • Got a query about my novel ready and e-mailed to an agent.
  • Retrieved Noah from a play date at friend's house. (This play date bought me almost 2 hours of extra work time.) (1 mile round trip). Their house is neat, gorgeously decorated, and spotless, even though they have three kids under the age of 9. I immediately resolve that we must find a way to keep our house cleaner (realizing that this has no chance of actually happening).
  • Made two homemade pizzas (using our cool new pizza stone)
  • Dishes
  • Washed and folded 3 loads of laundry
  • Walked dog, with son in tow, despite the rain (3/4 miles)
  • Started looking at headshots used by other writers, because I have a photo session tomorrow morning, and I need to show them some examples of how I might want the photo to look, or something. Just make me look cool, or intense, or friendly, or handsome, or something. I'm not used to being photographed like this and am uncommonly nervous about it all (friends have been reassuring me online today).
  • Got son into shower and washed dishes (not in the same place, that would be gross).
  • Played 3 games of Rat-a-Tat-Cat (Noah is addicted to this card game) and one game of Set. Then read bedtime stories.
  • Wrote this blog post, and will soon watch Daily Show episodes and eat the rest of my chocolate, rather than making the grocery list for tomorrow's shopping. (Wishing there was a beer in the house.) Likely to fall asleep in front of the computer.

And that was my day.

Playwriting in 3D Workshop coming April 25, in Cambridge, MA

I'm leading a workshop with StageSource on Saturday, April 25: Playwriting in 3D. Here's the general description:
As playwrights strive to create work that takes full advantage of the three-dimensional world of the theatre, they need to understand how designers think and how they use design to shape the environment and impact of a production. What are the possibilities? What confuses designers in a script and what delights them? Are there ways to start the interaction between playwrights and designers sooner? What vocabulary will allow playwrights and designers to work more effectively together? These are just some of the questions that we'll address in an extended conversation with four designers ? Karen Perlow and P.J. Strachman (lighting design), and David Reiffel and Dave Remedios (sound design). Moderated by Rhombus Group's Patrick Gabridge This is an afternoon for anyone interested in new work, design, and the collaborative process.

Join us on Saturday, April 25th, 12-3pm, at Central Square Theatre (450 Mass Ave, Cambrige) for this discussion, presentation and audience Q&A. Admission is $15 for StageSource and Rhombus members, $25 for non-members. Payment is due at time of sign-up. Sign-up on-line or by phone by calling 617-720-6066.

I'm trying to get our theatre community to think about how we create work, in lots of ways. In this case, I want us to ask who is involved and when, in the process of creating plays. My hope is that it'll start helping improve the quality of work that we put up on stage and make it more fully inhabit all the dimensions of the stage. No matter how the discussion ends up, it should be a fun and interesting afternoon--the designers we've got on board are experienced and have lots of good stories and strong opinions.

Part of what motivated me to get into this is that I feel that as artists, we have lots of training options open to us early in our careers, but later on, we seem to be on our own. I want us to take a more active role in setting up peer-to-peer education and training opportunities throughout our discipline. This particular idea came about during last year's Rhombus Six Views festival's panel with Gary Garrison and various Boston artistic directors about methods of new play development. (If this one goes well, we hope to do another with set and costume designers.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cool Op-Art in Sunday NY Times and another funny article

I really liked this article in the Sunday NY Times, especially the art and the way she breaks down the anonymity of all those blank faces on public transportation.

Also a friend (thanks, Rick!) pass along this article on The Diagram Prize, which judges books by their titles. Definitely good for a laugh.