Thursday, December 01, 2016

Things To Keep In Mind As The New Year Approaches - 8 of 20


8. Believe in truth. 

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. 

If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. 

If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. 

The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
 

Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." 
Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says: 

Above, #8 of twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.


Writing Challenge 2016 #30 - Finality


NWC #30- "FINALITY" Dec 1st at 8am

OKAY! YOU MADE IT!
or you didn't and that's okay too

Tomorrow I'll send a final email with the official numbers. To get those, I'll look at whomever posts the final date and after 48 hours send you a Paypal link for your prize winnings!
If you did NOT finish the challenge but DID write a post on the final date, please email me so that I correctly calculate the winnings. So far it looks like we have 47 authors still in the running. Amazing!


The climax in movies can happen behind a character's eyes because we can ZOOM IN. A realization that they are in love. A sense of finality. An awakening, etc

These are terrible climaxes for theater.
Theater requires a physicalization of the action- especially if it's a climax!
So a realization that someone is in love would result in an ACTION of... tearing up the letter, running out the door, pulling the trigger, etc.

*CHALLENGE= write a climax that has a stage action so huge it takes down the stage, the curtain, the risers, and everything with it. *

Two large forces are coming together and there can be but one ending.
OR
Two very small forces cause a chain reaction that results in...
OR
Prove me wrong. Write a climactic action that DOES take place behind someone's eyes and then physicalize it through scenic, sound, lighting, and costume design. USE ALL FOUR!

Running dry?
Browse this list of Catch 22s from Reddit and see if it inspires you
https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1ndah5/what_catch22s_have_you_encountered_in_real_life/




(Not with a bang, but still struggling to figure out how this last bus play works.  More grandma and goddaughter talk...)


BUS PLAY #4, part 3

(previously)

                          WOMAN
I'm light, but I'm strong.  There's a difference.  You don't live to be one hundred years, one month and one day if you're prone to fall apart when life bats you around.

                          GIRL
Did you know who I was?


                          WOMAN
It came and went.  I couldn't hold onto you in my head.  We had a picture of him holding you after your baptism ceremony.  You're both smiling.  Of course you're still an infant, just nine months old, more baby than the person you are now.  We had a picture on the lazy susan in the middle of the kitchen table.  The salt and pepper and sugar, a picture of President Obama smiling, I loved that picture, and then the picture of the two of you.  I kept forgetting you were his goddaughter and thinking you were his daughter, and I kept wondering why he didn't bring you with him whenever he visited.  Where you were.  I don't think I forgot he was gay, but I think I was confused where his partner was, where the other parent was, since he had a child.  If you hadn't been on the kitchen table where I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, I probably wouldn't have been as confused.  I'm glad I know you now.

                          GIRL
I'm glad I know you, too.

                          WOMAN
We're connected in his head, even if we never met.

                          GIRL
The women in his life.

                          WOMAN
Yes.

                          GIRL
I wonder if I'll remind him of you, when I'm older.

                          WOMAN
I'm sure he'll tell you stories.

                          GIRL
Will he forget me, do you think?

                          WOMAN
I didn't forget him.  I mean, I couldn't have told you who he was, but he obviously loved me, so I figured I must love him, too.  If he was taking care of me at the end, then I must have done something right.  But no, I don't think he'll forget you.  I don't think you'll let him.

                          GIRL
I wish I understood the brain.

                          WOMAN
Me, too.  We have everything for so short a time, though.  It's hardly worth worrying about, is it?  Just appreciate it because you know it doesn't last.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Things To Keep In Mind As The New Year Approaches - 7 of 20

 
7. Stand out. 

Someone has to. 

It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. 

It can feel strange to do or say something different. 

But without that unease, there is no freedom. 

And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.



Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." 
Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says: 

Above, #7 of twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.


Writing Challenge 2016 #29 - No Fourth Wall


NWC #29- "No Fourth Wall" Nov 30th at 8am

Shakespeare didn't have a fourth wall. Moliere didn't either. The times when theater was the most popular, this concept didn't exist. Why deny your audience direct connection with the performers?

Why limit the actions you can have on stage to self-contained, justified, laborious interactions between full rounded characters?  Afraid it will be bad? You don't like this kind of theater? Maybe that's just because people like you don't write in this genre enough!

*CHALLENGE*- Agit Prop this sumbitch.
1. political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art or literature. ("agitprop painters")

Take a well-known tale and use it for your own means. Goldilocks and the three candidates? Little Red Scare? The Wonderful World of School Board Meetings? Who is John from Accounting?

*Bonus*- Write in as many dialects and races and socio-economic backgrounds as you can. These characters are SUPPOSED to be flat comments on large groups of people.

*Bonus*- Interact with the audience PHYSICALLY not just verbally. Make them hold something or reveal something, or find something under their seats.



(Time for agitprop later, gotta get that next bus play done, or at least continued...
Point in the bus play's favor, there will be no stage, no fourth wall.  The plays will take place with other passengers all around)



BUS PLAY #4, part 2

A woman in her late 90s.

A girl of seven years old.

Sitting together, on a bus, on the ice in the middle of a lake.

(Last time...)

                          GIRL
You would be my great-grandmother.

                          WOMAN
Yes, I guess I would.  I never had any great-grandchildren.  That I met.

                          GIRL
The first time I play Scrabble with him, he's going to talk about you a lot.

                          WOMAN
Don't let him win.

                          GIRL
I won't.

                          WOMAN
I never did.

                          GIRL
You don't want to get stuck with the Q.

                          WOMAN
Or the J.

                          GIRL
Or the X.

                          WOMAN
Or the K.

                          GIRL
You hoard the blank tiles and at least one U.

                          WOMAN
You memorize the handful of words that don't need a U to go with a Q.

                          GIRL
You keep the scrabble dictionary nearby.

                          WOMAN
You do a lot of crossword puzzles.

                          GIRL
It's how you keep your mind sharp.

                          WOMAN
So many words.

                          GIRL
You go for the big words and the big scoring tiles.

                          WOMAN
Be careful, though.  You don't want to just come close and end up setting the other person up for a big score.

                          GIRL
But you have to risk it.

                          WOMAN
No, you play it safe.  Avoid the edges.  Make small words if you have to.  Deny the other person a foothold they can build on.

                          GIRL
But if you don't open up the board, the game gets too constricted, no one can play.

                          WOMAN
There's always a play.
Or you can skip a turn.
Don't make it easy for the other person to beat you.

                          GIRL
Doesn't the game stop being fun then?

                          WOMAN
Board games is one of the few places in life where you're allowed to be vicious.  It's encouraged.  Use your brain.  Show no mercy.

                          GIRL
What about cribbage?

                          WOMAN
Also fun.  More chance, though.  More rules.  I like Scrabble just a bit better.  Words and letters.  An orderly board.  Cribbage can be very random.

                          GIRL
He said you were good with a deck of cards.

                          WOMAN
Big family.  Lot of game playing over the years.

                          GIRL
Your hands seem bony.

                          WOMAN
Never did have much meat on me.  And when you're older, the skin sags.  You hollow out.  Blessed with good joints though.  My hands never fell victim to arthritis.

                          GIRL
You skin seems translucent, more blue than pink.

                          WOMAN
Everything gets a little grayer when you're older.  The blood retreats from the extremities.

                          GIRL
Are you fragile?

                          WOMAN
Are you?

                          GIRL
I'm small.

                          WOMAN
I'm light, but I'm strong.  There's a difference.  You don't live to be one hundred years, one month and one day if you're prone to fall apart when life bats you around.



(to be continued)



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Things To Keep In Mind As The New Year Approaches - 6 of 20


6. Be kind to our language. 

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. 

Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. 

(Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) 

What to read? 

Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 

1984 by George Orwell, 

The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, 

The Rebel by Albert Camus, 

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or 

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.


Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." 
Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says: 

Above, #6 of twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.


Writing Challenge 2016 #28 - Hope and Cheese


NWC #28- "HOPE and CHEESE" Nov 29th at 8am

CHALLENGE- create a powerful image of coming together, of people helping people, of hope.

What if it's cheesy? *It'd better be!*
What if it's not cheesy enough?
*Add more cheese!*
Why do you keep bringing up cheese? *I'm really hungry!*
Do I really have to make people feel happy and hopeful and wonderful?* Yes.
Try it. You might like it.*
What if I start hating it and it becomes about the opposite of what it's supposed to be about and I can't help but destroy all things beautiful even as I create them?

*I don't know! You probably have something wrong with you.*
Can I make this children's theater?
*You can do whatever you want, but maybe try to make adults happy too? We all deserve to be happy.*
I don't know how to do this.* It's not really a question, but maybe the reason you don't is that it's a rare and scary thing to try to do well. We really punish artists for being happy and failing to make us happy. Why do we do that?*


(I slather on the cheese all the time, but I've been trying to push one more, possibly very sentimental, bus play idea out of my head and on to the page, so I'll try that...)


BUS PLAY #4

A woman in her late 90s sits on the bus, waiting.

A seven year old girl approaches.

                          GIRL
May I sit with you?

                          WOMAN
I would like that very much.

                          GIRL
I'm sorry we never got to meet.

                          WOMAN
By the time I was on my way out, you were still very young.

                          GIRL
I probably wouldn't have remembered you.

                          WOMAN
I probably wouldn't have remembered you either.

                          GIRL
My brain was still forming.

                          WOMAN
Mine was deteriorating.

                          GIRL
I'll remember you now.

                          WOMAN
And I you.

                          GIRL
It's good that he could tell me stories about you.

                          WOMAN
This is him remembering me when I was still in full control.

                          GIRL
Is it hard to start forgetting?

                          WOMAN
You know, I thought it would be, but I was remarkably OK with it.

                          GIRL
I'm still learning so many things.

                          WOMAN
There's a lot to learn.  It's a big world.

                          GIRL
Did you ever travel?

                          WOMAN
Not like you already have.  I'm not sure whether I even had a passport.  I certainly didn't need one.

                          GIRL
I was born in Montana.

                          WOMAN
I was born in Pennsylvania.

                          GIRL
We were both born in the states.

                          WOMAN
Something else we have in common.

                          GIRL
My little sister was born in Slovakia.

                          WOMAN
I can't imagine.

                          GIRL
It's not that different from here, really.

                          WOMAN
But it's so much older.

                          GIRL
Parts of it are older.  A lot of it is pretty new.

                          WOMAN
He went to visit you over there for the first time shortly after I died.

                          GIRL
He was sad.

                          WOMAN
I know.  I'm sorry about that.  You probably cheered him up quite a bit.

                          GIRL
Yes.

                          WOMAN
Was your little sister born yet?

                          GIRL
Just.  Five months.

                          WOMAN
Oh my.

                          GIRL
One morning, she spit up all over him.

                          WOMAN
Oh dear.

                          GIRL
It was mostly milk.

                          WOMAN
Of course.

                          GIRL
He laughed and laughed.

                          WOMAN
Really.

                          GIRL
We rushed around getting towels, and he stood there in a big white puddle in the middle of the floor.  Holding my sister, and smiling at her.

                          WOMAN
That sounds like him.

                          GIRL
Things are more crowded there.

                          WOMAN
Yes.

                          GIRL
There's so much space here.

                          WOMAN
Yes.

                          GIRL
It's a wonder anyone runs into anyone else at all sometimes.

                          WOMAN
I'm glad we ran into each other.

                          GIRL
I have three grandmas.

                          WOMAN
Goodness.

                          GIRL
You would be my great-grandmother.

                          WOMAN
Yes, I guess I would.  I never had any great-grandchildren.  That I met.

                          GIRL
The first time I play Scrabble with him, he's going to talk about you a lot.

                          WOMAN
Don't let him win.

                          GIRL
I won't.

                          WOMAN
I never did.





(to be continued)


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Writing Challenge 2016 #27 - Bad Theater


NWC #27- "BAD THEATER" Nov 28th at 8am

I hate bad theater. Like... I hate it.

CHALLENGE- write bad theater. REALLY write it. See if you can get the arc of the needle on the bad-o-meter to turn so bad... so far to the left that it bends and bends and bends some more until it starts to reach ALL THE WAY AROUND and touch greatness.

DO NOT TRY TO WRITE GREATNESS

that isn't how this works.

Channel the dark side of the Force
Give yourself permission two days before end end of this challenge to write badly- BUT NOT LAZILY
EPIC BAD
worse than worse
Do what those assholes who ruin theater for the rest of us 'cause their audiences come to see their first show in a decade and resolve to make it the last of their lives... only do what they do MORE

Yeah?
Back your ass so far into badness that something peaks out on the other side

What is bad? up to you. the odds someone reads this are next to nil
hell even you will likely never revisit this moment again so why are you being so gutless?

Maybe you find a voice for a character you didn't know you had inside you?
Everyone needs a good antagonist. Give them their due!



(Not sure I can top the horrible aborted fetus play in my head right now.  I reached for a recent example of bad theater, or at least a bad theater idea, and ended up going down a well-intentioned white person rabbit hole, which I guess is either bad or just precious...)



BAD THEATER INTERRUPTUS

                          1
OK, so our first ensemble movement piece will be set to "Ooo, Child" by Nina Simone.

                          2
No.

                          1
What do you mean, no?

                          2
Are you black?

                          1
I think you mean African American.

                          2
Whatever.  Are you?

                          1
Clearly, no.

                          2
Am I?  Is anyone in this blindingly lily white theater company even remotely a person of color?

                          1
I'm not sure why that's at all germane to what we're doing here.

                          2
Nina Simone was a proud, dark-skinned African American, or black, woman who was also deeply involved in the civil rights struggles of her time - and sadly, continually, our time.

                          1
So white people can't use her music?

                          2
Not to make up for a lack of diversity in your acting company, no.

                          1
That's not what we're doing.

                          2
That's not what you're consciously, deliberately doing, no.  But if you're not just getting a diversity contact high off of all the things associated with the sound of Nina Simone - ?

                          1
And we're not.

                          2
Why not just set it to "Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M.

                          1
So I guess the later sequence we were going to set to Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" doesn't fly with you either.

                          2
Nope.

                          1
Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit"

                          2
You're not serious.

                          1
I thought we were.

                          2
Not unless you're depicting a lynching on stage in which white people aren't the heroes or the victims.

                          1
Art should be colorblind.

                          2
And when society is, then I agree with you.
However, that's not where we are at the moment.

                          1
Pharrell's "Happy"?

                          2
If you must.

                          1
Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World"?

                          2
     (singing, just to be sure)
"Don't know much about history - ?"

                          1
That's the one.

                          2
Sure.

                          1
So we can't address Black Lives Matter?

                          2
Not unless you actually start working with some black artists and let them lead the project, no.

                          1
But that's limiting.

                          2
Only if you circle of artistic collaborators is limited.

                          1
I have black friends.

                          2
OK.  Good for you.

                          1
I'm not prejudiced.  I'm an ally.

                          2
You don't get to choose that label for yourself.  Do the work.  Someone will tell you when you're an ally.  Maybe.  Eventually.

                          1
But this is an important issue.

                          2
So make space for people who are directly affected by it to speak to that issue.

                          1
But I feel that my artistic empathy -

                          2
When a cop pulls you over, do you fear for your life?

                          1
No.

                          2
Then you can't speak to this issue.

                          1
That's limiting my artistic expression.

                          2
In so many other ways you have access and absolutely no limitations.  Clear some of those roadblocks for artists of color.  And step aside.

                          1
Hold the door.

                          2
Essentially?  Yeah.

                          1
I'm offended by that.

                          2
It's not about you.

                          1
It's not about you either.

                          2
I'm not saying it is.

                          1
But you're standing in the way.

                          2
No, I'm standing in *your* way.  *The* way still has plenty of room.

                          1
I can just go ahead and do it anyway,

                          2
Yes you can.  I'm just trying to save you from your own worst, clueless istincts.

                          1
It's not like I'm planning to use James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud."

                          2
Yeah, points for that.  Not all things are that easy to spot.

                          1
Like Nina Simone.

                          2
Like Nina Simone.

                          1
But I like Nina Simone.

                          2
As do I.  She is not, however, the appropriate soundtrack to my life onstage.

                          1
So?

                          2
So if you want Nina Simone to mean something, give her an appropriate context.

                          1
Which would necessitate artists of color.

                          2
Exactly.

                          1
So white people can only do white stories?

                          2
That's simplistic, but closer.

                          1
It's not like I'm trying to stage an all-white version of "A Raisin In The Sun."

                          2
Well, we already have "Death of a Salesman" for that, so I don't know why you would need to.

                          1
I'm not staging Othello with an actor doing black face.

                          2
OK, points for that.  Never do black face.  Or red face.  Or yellow face.  Or brown face.  Basically no face that isn't your own face.

                          1
So Columbus Day or Thanksgiving?

                          2
Problematic at best.

                          1
American History in general?

                          2
Deeply troubled.  But if you can accept that white people aren't always the victims or the heroes or even central to the story of some types of progress, then -

                          1
Things might start to balance out?

                          2
As long as you do your homework and find the right collaborators.

                          1
Because progress often happened in spite of white people, not because of them.

                          2
There are some white heroes.

                          1
But they exist alongside, not instead of, heroes of color.

                          2
Right.

                          1
So what do we do about the show?  This show, right now?  Where we just have white people?

                          2
There are still struggles.

                          1
Just don't appropriate someone else's.

                          2
Or pretend that yours are the most pressing or insurmountable.  Acknowledge that white privilege and institutional racism help you get halfway to your solutions.  Don't be ungrateful.  But don't just take advantage and then pretend you did it all on your own.

                          1
And work to dismantle corrupt systems.

                          2
There ya go.

                          1
We'll need to rethink.

                          2
Rethinking is good.

                          1
It's kind of exhausting.

                          2
Well, we've had it easy for a LONG time.

                          1
Progress doesn't come without hard work.

                          2
And a willingness to sacrifice a little of your own comfort.