Blog Archive

Friday, November 19, 2021

Collaboration is multiplication*

 


Art is hard.

Unless you have a lot of friends helping.

I didn't become a writer because I'm a social person. I'm not a social person... except... I am a social person. 

My pandemic has been all about collaboration. I know that sound weird... collaboration during lockdown and social distancing and trying my best not to catch or spread a disease. Luckily there's Zoom.

I hate Zoom.

Except, it's allowed me to have lots of collaborators for new works.

And I love it!

Both the works I have been collaborating on started just before the kick off of the Grand Pandemic.

One was with a gentleman I'd just met the year before. A retired software engineer who wanted to be a playwright and joined a small group of writers I was leading. He is a strange and wonderful human being and we hit it off almost immediately and our creative gifts compliment each other so well. Writing our play together has been so much fun, we're starting another one.

And a disability organization, Art Spark TX (https://www.artsparktx.org/), asked me to work on a play for them. (I'm a disabled vet and a board member of TILT Performance Group (https://www.tiltperformance.org/), shattering disability stereotypes through inclusive theatre.) This has been amazing.  We are still working on a first draft, but I am having so much fun. A small group of us meet once every couple of weeks and talk about what I've written. They are all artists and have great ideas that really push me in the right direction. 

From sitting in my little hole, dreaming my dreams and smearing them across nice, clean, blank paper to talking and writing and talking and sharing and...  :)

Theatre is always a collaborative art. I am not an actor or a director or a sound engineer or a lighting expert or a costume designer or a fundraiser or any of the many, many other people it takes to create a work of art on stage. And whenever others have taken my words and turned them into theatre, I have always been amazed at their generosity, creativity, and hard work. They have taken my words are created something I never imagined and I am so thankful to be a small part.

I know I haven't written in this blog in a long time, but I hope that will change. The collaborations have shown me so much and I feel the need to share.

* “When you work together with teammates, you can do remarkable things. If you work alone, you leave a lot of victories on the table. Collaboration has a multiplying effect on everything you do because it releases and harnesses not only your skills but also those of everyone on the team.”
– John Maxwell

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Sow Doubt and Disruption*

 A friend and I wrote a play based on an old play.  The old play was popular when it was written but was awful.  What we wrote is fun and the experience was wonderful.  Second draft complete.  Now it's time to find out what some of our friends think.  Then another rewrite.

Another friend asked me to write a play about a subject I care a great deal about.  We gathered a group of like minded people.  We have been meeting and dreaming and planning and learning.  Another wonderful experience.  There is an outline, but no words on the page yet, but we grow closer to what we believe needs and what we want to say.

I listened to a talk from a couple of artist yesterday.  One talked about art as disruption.  It's not a word I have used for my art, but it describes my desire perfectly.

I want to disrupt the normal.

Tim Robbins said "It becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery."

Afraid what I fling is not monkey wrenches... but it still has to do with monkeys.  

I'm probably not one of the "superior."

Anyway, despite a global pandemic, my friends have kept me going and I cannot thank them enough.


*Tim Robbins - Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Too long

 

   It has been more than a year since I added to this blog.  Too long.
   I wrote some since the last post.  Couple of 15 minute monologues for friends.  A couple of 10-minute plays.  Nothing revolutionary.
   But there has been a revolution in me... and the world.
   I turned 65 at the end of June 2019.  16, 18, 21, 30, 40... None of the classic milestone birthdays had ever meant much to me.  But 65...
   My son died May 10, 1982.  He was 10 months old.  He was born in June.  We had nearly the same birthday.  Me, 28 June.  Him, 23 June.
   For years, the time between the beginning of May and the end of June was difficult for me.  I did what I could to avoid thinking about...
   But my grieving was stuffed.  I avoided my feelings.  I turned to alcohol and drugs.  After I got sober many years ago, I still avoided my feelings.
   Until my 65th birthday.  I have been grieving... and avoiding for nearly a year now.
   It's May again.

   And the world... <shakes head and snorts>

  Life in Pink - Kate Nash

  I questioned (prayed) whether I should write anymore.

  And the answer.  An acceptance that the world cut short.

  Requests... many requests for writing.  People, the creator(s) of the universe, friends, family, colleagues. The answer has been made abundantly clear. 

KEEP WRITING! 

   You too.

   The notes for the play from the post a year ago?  Still... still...  Another day... perhaps.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

New Work In Progress - Notes, 16 Feb 2019

Stick Chart

I make notes before I start to write.  Some of the stuff is major, some trivial.  They are taken in more or less in chronological order.  I keep a list of titles at the top that expands as I research.  (An asterisk marks those items that came from my "ideas for plays" list.)  An ever changing character list is always at the bottom.  I know as I make this list, that probably only 25 or 30 percent of what goes into the notes will ever make it into the play.  Some of the notes will simply be ignored, others will become a small reference, or make some small change to the direction the play moves forward in.  Notes may run from a couple of pages to a couple of dozen pages.  These notes represent about a week of work.

I will continue to post my ever expanding and changing notes as the work progresses.

My own personal struggle is always with plot.  I often turn to mythology.  I've loved mythology since I was a boy.  I also like fairy tales.  The negative about these is that my own education is/was Euro-centric (i.e. priviledged white male,) so my awareness of other mythologies and other children's stories is limited.  The internet helps, but, having not been enculturated with them, I don't have nearly as good a feel for them as those I grew up with.

NOTES:
Titles - The Daughters of Hiroshima, Shadow Maidens, Hibakusha, Disfigured, In-Between People, Blind Horse, The Society of Keloid Girls, The Kids in Art School, UnDark

The Goddess who wanted to be human - Villain?
Feet of Clay - sore feet, disabled
Climb down from the mountain top
her people need her
she wants children and a quiet life
She fears she will pass on being a goddess to her children
angry that her people need her
tired

*Focus on “The Broken Toy”

*Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar." —Jeff Foster

*As a person with a disability, what is my vision and my relationship to God.   “ the Hiroshima maidens got burned and disfigured, there's a word, "disfigured," because of, why? Because—They were in Hiroshima. They were too close to avoid the fire, too far to be consumed. If I was five seconds earlier or later I wouldn't have been hit by a car, my life would be on some different time line, it was an accident, it had nothing to do with whether I was a good or a bad person or just an in-between person, we don't live in an ordered universe.”  No one as Nasty - Susan Nussbaum 
“The Hiroshima maidens provide both writers with a potent figure to counter the moral and medical construction of disability. Faced with the horror of the external event of the atom bomb, any interpretation which fixes responsibility for disability on the disabled person becomes obscene.” The Dramaturgy of Disability - Victoria Ann Lewis  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=mqr;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0037.318;view=text;rgn=main;xc=1;g=mqrg
Nancy Becker Kennedy said in Tell Them I'm a Mermaid, "I used to put on the Nancy Fabulous Show. Keep them laughing so they wouldn't feel so sorry for me."

The women (Hiroshima Maidens) had all experienced similar lives following the war, such as being hidden from view by parents, stared at when they ventured outside, unwanted by employers, and rejected as potential wives for fear they were genetically damaged. 
the Society of Keloid Girls
genbaku otome, or "atomic bomb maidens"
Tanimoto was the subject of the US TV program “This Is Your Life” on May 11, 1955
Miyoko Matsubara - didn’t come to America for surgery

A crazy cult that has set up a village on the perimeter of  the concrete dome covering an atomic bomb site. Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll.  OR maybe Trinity Site, New Mexico.
Or Bomb shelter.

The horses were used for playing polo. Trinity

Jumbo containment vessel.

Radium as a miracle cure.  1920’s

A wink and a nod
'a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse'

Character wants to go home

Tiny Tim

Veterans

The Ballad of Charles Whitman

St. Julia of Carthage

"La casa no descansa en la tierra sino en la mujer" o "El peso de la casa no recae sobre la tierra sino sobre una mujer"  "The house does not rest on the ground, but on a woman."

"jolet jen Anij" (Gifts from God)

Stick Charts - The charts represented major ocean swell patterns and the ways the islands disrupted those patterns, typically determined by sensing disruptions in ocean swells by islands during sea navigation.

Apocalypse - a feeble fizzle rather than a serious of extraordinary disasters.

Mirrors

A conversation with death

Characters:
1. Goddess with bad feet, disabled, POC.  She is not the leader.  She is broken and depressed.  Pregnant.
2. Tiny Tim (Timothy) - formerly a precious touching symbol of innocents of the disabled; now, angry, hostile, frustrated.  Suffers from Marfans
3. Inventor - Jacqueline de Vaucanson, young woman, descended from Jacques De Vaucanson
4. Duck named Cover.  A Duck One footed Duck - Vaucanson, a one-legged robot duck in a wheel chair that thinks its a real duck
5. Daughter of Hiroshima maiden - she has been a pariah her whole life because her mother was a bomb victim.
6. A local effected by bomb testing.

Friday, February 15, 2019

New Work in Progress, 15 Feb 2019

Trinity
   

As I work on this piece, I am going to share the progress in "real" time.  Real is in quotes because, I started a couple of weeks ago and already have a couple of pages of notes.
    Let me go back to the genesis of this new play:
    I keep lists of notes on ideas for plays.  I've been doing this for years.  The list is several "pages" long.  (Pages is in quotes, because the files are digital.  There are no pages.)  Most of the entries are interesting things I discovered during research for other projects, news articles, random reading, etc. 
     When I am barren; when ideas are few, I open my ideas notes and read through it.  Several of the ideas in the notebook have already become plays or been incorporated into plays.
     Now, bits of recent history that seems to be informing everything I write. 
     I joined the board of TILT Performance Group about a year ago.  TILT creates professional theatre with persons with disabilities.  I am a person with a disability... a very, very minor disability.  Persons with disabilities were often characters in my plays before I became a board member.
     I started participating in a performance group called Warrior Chorus last summer.  Warrior Chorus is a group of Military Veterans who gathered, read classic Greek literature about war (Iliad and other works,) and then created our own works of art to be shared with the public.  I wrote a one man piece talking about my experiences as an F-4E (Phantom Fighter Jet) crew chief.  This was a surprisingly powerful experience for me. I had not realized how much my military experience had affected me and informed all my art.  I had always included veterans in my works, but...
     Finally, as a small boy in grade school, I was strongly affected by my experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Duck and Cover.  By the time I was a junior in High School, I had concluded I would not live to be 30.  I assumed that sooner or later, the bomb would be used, and life as I had known it would be over... even if I survived, which I hoped I wouldn't.  My plan in case of a nuclear exchange was to climb up on the roof and watch the end of the world.  In college, as I learned to write, I researched Civil Defense.  As an F-4E crew chief, every war game ended with loading every plane that would still fly with a nuclear bomb and sending it out to end the world.  In North Carolina, where I was stationed, we loaded dummy bombs.  During war games in Germany, we loaded a live nuclear bomb on a plane with my name sprayed painted on the canopy opposite the pilots.  I strapped in the pilots, started the engine, and waved my arms to direct the plane to the runway.  With the fall of the Berlin Wall, I thought the miracle I had prayed for had occurred. 
     I was wrong.
     Trump started blustering about nuking Korea and the warning about incoming missiles was broadcast in Hawaii.

     Anyway, that's where I started this new project.

     MORE WILL BE REVEALED! 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Going to Reseda to Die*



In 1962, I was in the third grade.  We lived in south Denver.  With the advent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we started having Civil Defense Drills as well as the usual Fire Drills at school.  The headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was 80 miles south of my house/school.  This was the first time I thought about dying.

At the age of seventeen, I decided I wouldn't live to be thirty.  That sooner or later, a full scale nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States would occur.  When hadn't a weapon been used by one side or the other.  I planned to go up on the roof and watch.

I lived in Austin in 1976 and I was "going" to the University of Texas.  (I say "going" because what I was actually doing was writing, playing bridge, and smoking pot.)  I started writing a screenplay about "The Bomb."  It was my second attempt at a screenplay.  The first was a western about the sheriff who investigated and caught Alferd (not a typo) Packer.

I struggled with this second screenplay.  The plot was about a family who goes into their bomb shelter and a nuclear war happens.  The war opens a hole in the side of their shelter and through the hole steps what appear to be cave humans.  A family who had survived the war and were living in the world after.

Seemed a little artificial.

I got married and my wife got pregnant, and being a pothead with no skills and no degree, I joined the Air Force.

In the Air Force, I was in charge of an aerospace vehicle (jet airplane) that was part of our great nations nuclear triad.  At the end of every exercise (read war games,) we loaded my aircraft and all the other aircraft in my squadron that could still fly, with a dummy nuclear bomb and flew a mission to drop that bomb.

In a concrete revetment in Germany, during an exercise, we loaded a live nuclear bomb on my aircraft...

And in 2016, despite the Iranians and the North Koreans, all that seemed far in the past.

I'm still writing that screenplay, now a play.

But I am struggling to get a grip on it.  Every start seems a little artificial.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

*Screenwriters Blues - Soul Coughing

Friday, June 29, 2018

Warrior Chorus ATX, Part 1

   


     Until I joined Warrior Chorus in Austin, TX, I hadn't realized how many of my dramas involved veterans.  Often the veterans in my work are just... people, a character who says her/his lines without more than a slight passing reference to her/his experiences in the military.   I have for years wanted to write a piece directly related to my experiences, but had not yet found the story and the voice the piece needed.  But as I considered my work in light of The Warrior Chorus workshop, and my conversations with my new veteran friends, I saw, as if for the first time, that several of my works spoke directly about the experiences of veterans in and out of service and about those around them who were affected by the veterans in their lives and by war.
     I wrote a screenplay, "Earthen Vessels," about a woman in the Air Force who was drone pilot and an Iraq war veteran.  I wrote a full-length play (a comedy), "The Small Platoon," about a mother and her family burying her son who was killed in Iraq.  I wrote a one-act play, "Go Home, Mister Chaplin" (now titled "The Joy of Force,")  that was performed at FronteraFest three years ago, about an Iraq war veteran trying to recover  the remains of her brother, killed in Iraq, which were stored in the basement of a funeral home in Midland, TX (based on a news report). 
     Last fall, I wrote another full-length play, "Drongo," about a family living in one of the bombed out cities that are now littering the world, and, in particular, Syria and Yemen.  The images from those cities has haunted me.
     And a new story is emerging, my story, as I read the Illiad and talk to vets and we share our experiences. A story I have needed to tell for many years.