Collaboration with the Kiddos

Pong image

Been spending a good chunk of time this weekend partnering with the boys on music for the big climactic song for this year’s FronteraFest entry. They’re using the software Ableton Live to create tracks and beats to fit the overall feel of the script.

I don’t know that it’s going to be the most memorable piece of music in the history of theater, but it sure is satisfying to have them be a part of it.

I’ve got two of the actors in the three-person drama committed, and I’m working on one more. We’re going to meet for the initial read-through at the end of the month, if all goes well.

Whatever happens, I love the thought of these guys listening to the project they put together and having the audience react. Another new creative collaborative phase for us. I’m totally ready to go on tour with these dudes as soon as I get my chops back in shape…

Processing Gibberish

final stage

It’s been over a week since the play closed, and I’ve had a lot to think about and discuss with people.

As far as official critical response goes, we got a great review, a really good review, and a not-so-great review.

I’ve also had another theater in upstate New York ask to see the script, and got a lot of nice comments from people who’ve had similar experiences with family members in the autistic community.

I had one connection in particular with the mother of an autistic woman whose art was displayed in the lobby. Her daughter (the artist) died just one year ago at the age of 31 and I worried about the emotional impact she and her husband would feel in seeing the play, especially whether the humor might seem insensitive somehow. She was very sweet about the whole thing and wrote a really nice note she added to a copy of the book she and her family put together based on her daughter’s art and poetry.

I’m having a debrief with Lisa next week too to talk about what worked, what didn’t, what we might do differently if we work together again.

I’m relieved it’s over in some ways, bummed it’s not happening anymore in other ways, happy it got the positive reactions it did, and also excited to move on to the next thing, which should be a little lighter (I hope).

I imagine my thoughts will keep evolving as discussions about the experience continue…

A crucial scene from the tech rehearsal before the stage was done

A crucial scene from the tech rehearsal before the stage was done


Three days till we open

tech week GMHad a chance to stop by the theater tonight. This one’s coming down to the wire. Still some challenges left, and plenty of work to do in the next 48 hours, but lots of great stuff too.

This is the cast going over notes with Lisa and Jen after the tech run-through, with the skeleton of the set just built.

Here we go……

Oh, P.S., a few of us were on KOOP radio last week to discuss the play and a bit about our backgrounds. You can find episode 430 of Off Stage and On The Air here. Skip all the way ahead to the 47-minute mark to hear our discussion of the play, and then there’s a podcast addition beyond the hour mark where Julie, Holley and I talk to Lisa about more personal stuff.

Potatoes next??

PotatoI have this long-running joke with my kids about squid and potatoes. It’s not even a joke. It’s just that I’ve been talking about squid and potatoes forever.


I don’t know. They’re funny words together, I guess, and it’s always good to have a default response to a silly question.

That’s part of the reason this Squid Show was about… squid.

Anyway, now I’m thinking about bringing the whole benefit show thing to a resolution by doing a show about potatoes.

I’m thinking about calling it One Night of Potatoes or A Night for the Potato or even Give the Potato Some.

Anyway, if things go okay at Ground Floor Theatre later this month, I’m going to see if they’ll give me a deal to rent the stage in 2018 to put it on.

More on that later. Start thinking about your potato-oriented performance pieces now!

And we’ll do vodka-related drinks, I guess?

p.s. Going to meet with this Vela organization next week about possibly being on their board or involving them in a future fundraiser (my friend Raul works with them). I love that they’re relatively small and growing and focus directly on family impact. Looking forward to it.

Revisiting The Yellow Wallpaper

Yellow WallpaperThere’s a line early on in Gibberish Mostly which references The Yellow Wallpaper. Most in the cast weren’t familiar with this story by Charlotte Perkins Stetson.

I can’t believe it was written in 1892. Still feels remarkably timely and relevant, as sad as that is to say.

It’s a wonderful, subversive, terrifying piece of feminist literature. And its rhythm and pacing are those of a horror film. It’s creepy and tense with a killer payoff. A few snippets:

John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.

You see, he does not believe I am sick!

And what can one do?

If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression,—a slight hysterical tendency,—what is one to do?

My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing. . . . . .

John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.

I am glad my case is not serious! . . . . .

John says I mustn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod-liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat. . . . . .

It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.

I was going to say that I can’t believe it hasn’t been made into a film, but then I saw this. Eight variations in TV and film, the most recent done last year.

Anyway, I’m glad we got a chance to discuss this and I was reminded how great a story it is. One of my all-time favorites.


Rewrites are hard

crumpled paper

I’ve been working with Lisa (director at Ground Floor Theatre) on updates to the script for Gibberish Mostly, and it’s been a lot of work. I’ve always kind of hated rewriting things (I remember in college making a deal with a professor of Creative Writing that I’d just write MORE short stories instead of rewriting one or two again and again (he never should have agreed to that)).

Now I have more at stake. Knowing that the production is going to be out there in public in a few weeks, I want it to look and sound and feel as good as it can. So a lot of that is on me. Things that don’t work well, plot-wise, need to be tightened. Language that sounds stiff needs to be smoothed out.

This piece is tough for me because of its seriousness. I really have no idea how it’s going to go over. I imagine that some people will really like it while others may feel it’s a bit trite or heavy-handed or something. I don’t know.  Also, we just discovered a plot hole that’s taken a lot of time to try and rework.

Trying not to worry about it all too much at this point (I’m just excited it’s happening) but I’ve spent at least a few nights now where I’m toiling over a scene and find that I’ve fallen asleep with the script on my chest.

I’m tired. But it’s rewarding too.

But I’m tired.

(halfway-smiley thingie)

4th Annual One Minute Play Festival

1mpf rehearsal

It’s been a wild ride for the #1MPF this year. With theater shortages and the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, there have been challenges of space, rehearsal availability and audience outreach.

Because we’re in a smaller theater this year, we followed a model that was done in New York where there are two bills of plays over four nights. I saw the first bill on Sunday, and tonight opens bill #2 (or Bill B).

I haven’t had a chance to see as many rehearsals as usual (the photo is from an early one I attended), but it’s still been a hoot. My plays this year are called Twitter and Income Inequality. They’re both about the connectedness and disconnectedness of human relations and interactions, themes I like to return to.

A few years ago I wrote a play called OMG which started with two men conversing playfully via texts but ended on a very dark note where one man stripped and basically exposed himself to the other in a super creepy way. I still occasionally get strange looks from people who saw it. Why? They want to know.

Because the world is both playful and dark, sometimes turning on a dime. That’s why.

This year’s plays are about the deceptively intimate smoke screen of social media, and the significant differences between rich and poor, and also about what connects us as human beings.

A bit pretentious for one-minute plays? Totally. And that’s why they’re so fun to do. It’s all over like THAT.

See you tonight.

Someday I’ll make it to Boulder

Boulder Mork and Mindy

I’m scrambling this weekend to meet a deadline by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company to enter a new play into their Generations competition.

I’d love to win this thing using this play because I hear Boulder’s great, the company helps with travel expenses, gives a stipend, and I love the fact that part of the whole competition recognizes that parents don’t always have the time to be as immersed in the theater world as they might want to.

It’s a week in a cool town doing cool stuff.

Anyway, the play is in good shape, but I’m not sure it’s really quite finished at this point. I’m not sure how much that matters in their decision process. I’ve got another few days to try and tighten it up.

This is one of the few national contests I keep on my radar. So if it doesn’t work out this year, I’ll try again next year. And then eventually I guess I’ll just head over there and climb on some rocks and run through some fields or whatever you do out there these days…

Breaking News: my kids are cute

Yosemite jump

While we were on vacation recently, the kids took photos of themselves with cartoon cutouts of their orthodontists as part of a photo contest.

They just got picked for the finals, and if they win they get a drone with a mounted camera (which I’m sure they’ll use to peer in the bathroom window while I’m taking a shower).

Anyway, if you’re so inclined you can go to this link and vote for them (photo #7) up to 5 times from every device you own.

I’m sure you’ll be inclined to spend hours on this. But it doesn’t cost you anything, they’re sweet, and the thirteen-year-old has been enduring braces like a trooper for more than a year. He’ll be skipping around happily for days if he gets this.

All right, thanks for indulging me. Carry on with your creative endeavors…

Four Mini Interviews

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I occasionally do short interviews with playwrights as part of my gig as the member rep for ScriptWorks, and in the last month or so I did a few of them a little differently, focusing on specific events I’d seen online instead of asking more standard background questions.

Mostly so I can easily reference them somewhere (our archival process is pretty lacking) I’m listing them all here: interviews with Rita Anderson, Joanna Garner, Sarah Loucks and Jelisa Jay Robinson.

**RITA** (July 11, 2017)

Recently I noticed on social media that member Rita Anderson had hosted a couple of play readings at her home. I wanted to ask her how that went for her, and what she thought of the Austin theater scene in general…

I understand you’ve hosted a few readings and events at your house. What inspired you to go this route?

Need (to hear new work out loud). Interest(ed in closed readings in a private setting while work is “under construction”). Desperation (for expediency. NOTHING moves quickly in theatre.)?

What’s been the most challenging aspect of hosting an event at your home?

It takes considerable prep work to host anything, if you do it well. Also, at this juncture, I’m operating as a one-woman band in prepping.

What’s your process of getting actors like? 

Luckily, I’m pretty aware (and getting more aware as time progresses) of local talent. [I also have the secret weapon of a few veteran Austinites whom I trust for recommendations, if I get stuck or am on the fence.] I read a script and picture who might best embody a role—then I just ask the actors if they’re interested/available to participate. The response has been overwhelmingly positive! For the last two events (April and June), I approached directors and they assembled the casts. That ingredient not only took off some of the burden but also I learned a lot about casting, primarily that, as a playwright, I cast differently than directors do. They seem to have a knack for essence, and I tend to cast more stereotypically, I guess.

Do you provide snacks?

Absolutely. It’s the least I can do to thank the actors/directors for their time. Plus, it gives us a little time to relax and be social. I’m also super-relational by nature, and relationship-building is critical for the trust needed to create good art.

You and I have talked about the lack of theatrical space in Austin. Do you think this problem will get worse? Or do you see it improving at some point? 

It is a bit terrifying, yes—especially because I moved to Austin from San Antonio a year and a half ago FOR theatre/new works. My bottom line is, I like where we live and I don’t want to “flee” to NYC or Chicago in order to do it. A wiser person than me recently said, basically, in all troublesome issues, you have two choices—to CURSE or to INVEST. So, I’m investing. I want to stay here and to help fight to find and/or create new venues for art, if that’s where we are as a community.

Is there any significant piece of advice you’d give to other playwrights who might be considering hosting his or her own in-home reading? 

Just that (a) you are not alone: try to connect with other, like-minded artists you want to work with and admire, (b) don’t ask too much or be “production-only” focused straight out of the gate: Let the readings be their own things, and (c) there is nothing new, really, about these intimate gatherings as stand-alone artistic experiences. In playwriting travels, I’ve participated in many such theatrical events from conferences (ATHE, ASTR, CDC) to writing retreats that culminated in Chamber Readings (Creede, CO, etc.).

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