December 23, 2008

Who'da thought?

Another guilty pleasure film: The Breakfast Club.

I loved this movie way before it became cool. Say, when I was a teenager, and the movie wasn't old enough to be retro. It almost goes without saying that the character I most identified with (and still do) is . . .

Take the Which Character Am I? Quiz

OK. Without the kleptomania and pathological lying (mainly because I'd go to fucking jail in a heartbeat). If I could find a way to market that and make money, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

December 21, 2008

Pimp this blog!

SCENE: Blog platform. AUTHOR, dressed in formal attire and reeking of self-importance, enters. Takes folded letter from pocket, and begins to read . . .

Ah-hem. Dearest reader, if you read this blog and enjoy the content here, it would give me, the author, great personal satisfaction to know that. Should you require some direction, I would encourage you to link to this blog, quote from it, comment, and so on. Please give myself, the author, credit for anything you copy-and-paste on your own blog or site. I much look forward to entering a dialogue with you, and this would help tremendously. Thank you. Signed, the author.

I digress (working title: AVPD Moebius)

This is a short piece I did off the top of my head while at a party tonight. To date, this is the most deliberately personal thing I've written. It basically describes what it's like for me to interact with people on a day-to-day basis. I'm not entirely comfortable broadcasting the details of this on my blog, but I can tell more via e-mail.


SETTING: Swanky party with cool people hanging out and music playing.

Swanky party. GHOST floats through guests along perimeter of party. No one seems to notice. Unless otherwise stated, lettered scenes don't have to go in order.

Two STUDENTS enter. Go to bar. Get beer. One says, "Let's go on the roof." They do.

COUPLE argues. One storms off, leaving other alone. Ghost gives other a rose. Other chases after one, knocking rose to ground and trampling it. Ghost gently gathers crushed petals.

DJ puts on David Bowie's "Major Tom." People sing along softly. Ghost listens.

Professional with cell phone glued to ear pushes past ghost like it's a rickety screen door. Talks about tomorrow's meeting.

HOBO wanders into party. Urgently grabs a guest: "Do you see it? Do you see it? It's right there! (pointing to ghost). Why can't nobody see it?" Leaves in a hurry, muttering to self.

Repeat at least 5 times, preferably 10 or more.

December 15, 2008

Scene in progress (pt 2)

Orixa awakens weeping, trembling, whimpering in . . .

A room in Grandmother's house. Dark, intimate, like a cave or womb or tomb. We are CATS watching from the shadows.

GRANDMOTHER rushes to help. Comforts Orixa. Calms her fears while Orixa clings to her. Brings Orixa a slice of minced meat pie*.

Orixa notices something strange about Grandmother's eyes (a bit larger than usual? Maybe just the shadows playing on Grandmother's face). Grandmother soothes Orixa while Orixa eats the pie. Gentle pats, strokes, scratches - almost as though Orixa is canine. Orixa notices something weird about Grandmother's hands (too big? Slightly clawed? Maybe Grandmother just hasn't clipped her nails in a while). Grandmother gives Orixa a maternal kiss. Orixa wolfs down the pie. Nearly chokes. Coughs up something (What the - ?). It's a human finger bone.

Orixa sits limply, staring at Grandmother. Recoils when Grandmother reaches to discard the bone.
Stares at Grandmother in mute horror. Grandmother closes the distance. Coaxes Orixa out of cloak. Hugs Orixa close - tender, protective, soothing.

Gently leads Orixa to a dark spot amidst the cats (ie, us). Takes out a wolfskin. Shows it to Orixa. See? Harmless. Urges her to try it on. Orixa refuses. Grandmother dons wolfskin. Transforms into a huge WOLF. Shift is fluid, natural as breathing. Not so much a real wolf as the spirit of night - shadows and moonlight and mist - taking wolf form. During transformation, Orixa retreats. Notices shears. Stealthily picks them up and hides them.

Wolf approaches, almost gliding to her. Extends a hand/paw to Orixa, a silent invitation to be part of this magic. Orixa hesitates. Accepts. Wolf pulls Orixa close. Inhales her scent. Gives her an affectionate lick. Orixa lets Wolf hold her close, keeping her warm (Much better than that ratty old cloak, isn't it, dear?).

Orixa musters all her strength and courage. Stabs Wolf. Wolf falls upon Orixa, dead.
Orixa slips from Wolf. A pregnant pause. Orixa uses shears to remove the Wolf's pelt. Grandmother - human Grandmother - lies beneath. Orixa caresses Grandmother one last time. Takes wolfskin off her. Holds wolfskin close while gazing at Grandmother. Changes into wolf. Transformation slow and painful as bones, joints, skin stretch and contort into shape. Metamorphosis complete, Orixa devours Grandmother's flesh. Flees to . . .

TBC . . .

Note: During Witch Hunting Times (my moniker), it was believed that witches could transform into wolves by putting on wolf skins.

Note 2: In one telling of Red Riding Hood, the wolf gets Red Riding Hood to eat some of Granny's flesh (unbeknownst to Red Riding Hood).

December 11, 2008

Scene in progress (pt 1)

Orixa dons the cloak*, becoming Red Riding Hood as the dreamscape changes to . . .

A deep in dense forest. Twilight. We are TREES in wilderness, silent witnesses to what's to come. Strange SHADOWS pass through the woods, watching and following Orixa as she wanders helplessly. Something malevolent, predatory about them.

Orixa walks along a path through the trees (ie, us). Absently grazes leaves and branches, perhaps plucks off a few twigs or picks up a few things from the forest floor. Notices something glimmering just off the path. Hesitates a moment. Pursues the shining and finds a pair of polished shears. Examines them carefully, tests their sharpness on a stray twig before pocketing them.

Night falls.

Orixa tries to return to path but can't find it. Tears through trees (ie, us), frantically searching for signs of her passing - tracks, broken branches, the positions of the stars, anything - but finds none.

Orixa stumbles upon a small glade. Catches her breath. In the darkness, Orixa notices baleful red eyes gleaming like bicycle lights. She takes out shears. Sees something horrible in the shadows. Drops shears and runs as fast as she can.

Shadows swoop upon Orixa. Orixa screams, faints. Blackout.

TBC . . .

*Note: In the previous scene (the one in my head, not the one on paper), I imagined the old woman (or rather, the fairy in disguise) to have been weaving a blood red cloak.

November 16, 2008

Act 4, Scene 4

[Mood music: Dead Can Dance - "The Lotus Eaters"]

With the loving cruelty of a dominatrix, Seraph tears away all traces of Orixa's mundane self piece by piece. Orixa resists as though Seraph skins her alive, trying to shield herself. but Seraph persists. They writhe intertwined like two snakes on a caduceus - intimate, graceful, hypnotic. Seraph strokes and kisses and licks away Orixa's pain and injury, healing the wounds even as they are made. Orixa surrenders, allowing Seraph to strip away the last vestiges of her human form.

The seed of Orixa's being is naked. Seraph comforts her.

[Mood music: Danzig - "Her Black Wings"]

Seraph adorns Orixa with a gown like the midnight sky, glorious black wings, and a halo like a crown of golden thorns. Orixa flows into her new form like blood flows through veins. Seraph gently guides her with the fluid grace of a swimming snake, caressing and kissing and licking each part of Orixa as it assumes its new shape. Orixa is now an angel of night and dreams.

Seraph marvels at her. Orixa stretches her wings. Together they fly out of our world into the Words Beyond.

November 15, 2008

A Kick in the Pants

Over on my Etude 4 - Practical example post, Laura said:
You know what I think? I think this needs to be experienced. In this show I was watching last night, the performer told a story about how she looked out of her window and saw a rainbow that in its particular setting was so shockingly beautiful that it took her breath away, and her automatic reaction was to rush around the house trying to get a camera and take a photo of it. And when she finally found the camera, and the batteries for the camera, and pointed it at the sky, the rainbow was gone. And she had tried so hard to capture and hold onto it (when a photo would never have really been the same, anyway) that she missed the opportunity to experience it. And I thought, what a beautiful metaphor for theatre. You can't ever capture it and save it for later. It is in the moment of communion between the artists and the audience. This is what I think of when I read your work. It is intriguing and haunting, but I imagine I could never really, truly "get" it just by reading it. I want to experience it instead. Your work is clearly meant for nothing so much as experience. So there's your task, my friend. I plan to visit friends in NYC in late Feb. Think you can get up a show by then? :)
So it's official. I need to have this written, cast, rehearsed, and ready for performance by late February. So it looks like I'll actually get a world premiere.

Anybody in the NYC area who can put me in touch with actors/dancers who want to work on a movement-oriented piece?

November 14, 2008

Act 4 notes

Scene 1
We are trees in the heart of the enchanted forest. Orixa in torpor.

SERAPH wanders into forest. Gothic fantasy of a fairy tale prince. Princely woman wearing red, as though garments and makeup dyed with blood. Something slightly off that gives a hint of danger (claws? fangs? pointed ears?). Calls to mind serpent, big cat, bird of prey.

S comes upon the briars gleaming in the moonlight. Approaches briars. Briars untangle and blossom with crimson roses. They usher S deeper into the forest by sprinkling petals along a path toward O. Looks like blood raining from their thorns. S follows the rose petal path. She reaches O.

Scene 2
[Mood music: Air, "How Does It Make You Feel". Something gentle, sensual, intimate.]

Time slows to a crawl. S caresses O from head to toe, seeking signs of life. Gazes at O for a moment. S unmasks O. Very careful, painstaking. Like holding spider silk. Sets mask aside. If S had lungs her breath would catch.

Seraph spoons Orixa. (What happens before this? I think I wrote something.)

S considers for a moment. Kisses O. By turns sweet and edgy. Might involve a bit of nibbling, a hint of vampirism. (Is the kiss breaking or casting a spell?) O awakens. They see each other for the first time. Time stops.

Scene 3
[Mood music: Massive Attack, "Angel". Something intimate, sensual, hypnotic.]

Seraph fluidly removes human guise. Has 3 pairs of blood red wings. No angel of light an air, but blood and darkness. Angel or demon? S offers hand to Orixa. O accepts.

Takes flight with O. Tender yet firm grasp. Briars fall away as S jets out of the forest, taking O up, up, up . . .

Scene 4
[Mood music: Blondie, "Rapture". Something transcendent, intimate, chthonic.]

Seraph envelops Orixa in tender, protective embrace. Rips off O's human form. Adorns O with a pair of glorious black wings. Sets crown made of golden thorns upon O's head. Leads O toward heaven.

Fly around each other. Intimate, sensual, edgy. Like serpents of a caduceus. Auryn. Fluid as blood flowing.

November 11, 2008

Content is King - er, Queen

Tony has a great conversation about content going on at his blog.

Why is it so great? Because it's an actual exchange of ideas free from posturing, line-drawing, and argument. It's all about understanding and bonding with people. A breath of fresh air and a great change of pace.

[Jedi mind trick]

You will visit Tony's blog and contribute to the conversation now.

[/Jedi mind trick]

November 7, 2008

Notes on Masks

I've been on a strange wavelength lately when it comes to theatre. I've been devouring resources about physical theatre and acting that takes actors beyond humanizing (or rather, beyond interpreting/creating characters in a purely socio-psychological context). There is a deeper reality I want to show through my work, a reality where logic and reason don't necessarily function as they do here. Peter Brook may call it the Holy Theatre, but I'm not sure how squarely that fits what I'm working on.

I was in my favorite public library the other day (aka Barnes & Noble), and I came across The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre by Jaques LeCoq (trans. David Bradby). He says a lot of intriguing things about masks and theatricality, especially what the neutral mask does for actors. Here are a few things I jotted down . . .
  • Neutral mask - face is neutral, perfectly balanced mask which produces physical sensation of calm
  • When placed on face, should enable one to experience the state of neutrality prior to action, a state of receptiveness to everything around us, with no inner conflict
  • Something Japanese about it - calm, lack of expression, equilibrium
And some quotes . . .
"Essentially, the neutral mask opens up the actor to the space around him. It puts him in a state of discovery, of openness, of freedom to receive. Itallows him to watch, to hear, to feel, to touch elementary things with the freshness of beginnings. You take on the neutral mask as you might take on a character, with the difference that there is no character, only a neutral generic being. A character experiences conflict, has a history, a past, a context, passions. On the contrary, a neutral mask puts the actor in a state of perfect balance and economy of movement. Its moves have a truthfulness, its gestures and actions are economical."

"Beneath the neutral mask the actor's face disappears and his body becomes far more noticeable . . . Every movement is revealed as powerfully expressive . . . The neutral mask, in the end, unmasks!"

"The natural world speaks directly to the neutral state. When I walk through the forest, I am the forest."

"In our way of working we enter a text through the body . . . working through movement, we ask the actors to get to grips physically with the text, its images, its words, its dynamics. Relating to it does not mean interpreting. To interpret means to shed light on its different aspects, such as its period, context, society, psychology, or morality. It is the director's responsibility to decide which aspects to emphasize. My teaching method steers clear of any interpretation, concentrating on the constant respect for the internal dynamics of the text, avoiding all a priori readings."
I'm skewing toward using Transformational Acting to develop this piece, although I may just trust the director enough to bring those aspects to life.

November 6, 2008

More Strange Things About RVCBard

I know I was only supposed to list 7 things, but here are some more:

I "discovered" algebra when I was in 5th grade.

I was doing some kind of math problem, and instead of doing it the way the teacher told me to (too slow and completely inefficient), I used variables for solving the problems. But instead of x, I used a simple question mark.

To this day I've excelled at more abstract, complex stuff and struggled with rudimentary basics. For instance, I did better in trigonometry than algebra or geometry, and better at calculus than at trig. Not sure why.

I was in the gifted program.

Between 5th and 8th grade, I was part of the gifted program at school. Keep in mind that this was a relatively conservative, partly rural district on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. If I was so smart even these provincial White people had to recognize it, I often wonder if the true extent of my abilities has been hidden or at least downplayed by myself and the world around me (including the educational system). Probably has, and it's a struggle not to be bitter about it when considering my lack of worldly success.

November 5, 2008

7 Strange Things about RVCBard

Matt Freeman tagged me for the 7 Strange Things meme, so if this is Too Much Information, it's all his fault.

1. I have dreams about dead people and the future.

Yes, to the skeptic a lot of shit's just unavoidable, but my dreams are often pretty specific. I generally know the person(s) involved and the context under which the events happen. For instance, right before the first time I went to China, I had a dream that my dad (who has systemic lupus) was hospitalized for a related illness while I was there, and I was rushing around trying to get a plane ticket to go home but no one would help me. After I got back, my mother told me that my dad was hospitalized for a lupus-related episode that probably could've killed him.

I often dream about dead people or people who die in my dreams. The death dreams usually focus on members of my family, and they often creep me out because I'd have no reason to suspect they would die soon. I had a dream of my paternal grandfather that involved him giving me a cherry red bicycle (I think I was about 9 or 10 in the dream), and I remember asking him if he's the same grandpa who died, to which he flat-out says, "Yes."

As a corollary to that, from time to time a song gets stuck in my head and later on I hear it somewhere. No, not stuff they play all the time on the radio (I don't even listen to radio nowadays). Not stuff where I expect it to happen (like I'll think about a disco song and go to a disco club and hear it). Just completely out of the blue. What sucks about it is that it's a rarely a song I actually like.

2. I'm double-jointed in my thumbs.

3. I play (and design) tabletop role-playing games.

And not just the mainstream shit like D&D and World of Darkness. I have quite a few indie/experimental/fringe games that I'd really like to play. I even made one called Kathanaksaya that was a hit with my gaming group back in Richmond.

I used to have an extensive collection of stuff, and I've done a Great RPG Purge at least twice for store credit or cash at the local gaming store. But I kept the good non-mainstream stuff.

4. I loathe purses.

I really, really hate them! I don't like having them or carrying them. I'm sure I'd seem more feminine if I had one full of a bunch of crap I don't need (like makeup and shit), but I refuse to sacrifice comfort for appearances. Do you know how fucking heavy purses can get? For all that, I can carry a backpack, which I do.

5. I have a terrible bug phobia.

Roaches, praying mantises, cicadas and other big bugs (ie - anything bigger than a bee) terrify the fuck out of me. It's really bad. I can't even stand being in the same room with one of these suckers, alive or dead (Who are we kidding? They're never dead. They just play dead). I only kill them because that makes sure they won't crawl on me. I can barely move, and if they come near me I'll run away as far as I can. If I can't run, or if the fuckers touch me, it's over. Really. It's pretty traumatic for me.

Spiders are OK, though. I don't care if they're poisonous. I don't care if they are poisonous. I'd sleep with a black widow in the room before I would a cockroach.

I know what you're thinking, "Why the fuck did you move to New York?"

Because New York roaches aren't Florida roaches. New York roaches have the good manners to run when you cut the lights on. Florida roaches fucking attack.

6. I have an active and overcharged erotic imagination.

Especially around my period. For some reason they often involve hardcore gay sex, incest, or sometimes animals (or part-animals, like this guy).

It's no secret that I'm a kinky pansexual pervert who could've been a temple prostitute in a former life. But still.

7. Sex motivates me to learn.

I took up Chinese because I was deeply in lust with Jet Li. I went more deeply into Judaism because sexual pleasure is the woman's right instead of the man's. I'm almost a lot more interested in veganism because I heard meat makes your stuff taste nasty (and Anne Hathaway being somewhat vegan doesn't hurt either).

I'm passing some Chocolate Salty Balls to Isaac, Devilvet, and Laura. And if you don't do it, you have to pull your pants down, stand on your head, and tell everybody that you're a big, fat, naked chicken!

A Story I Like - The Sky Maiden

I first read this story in Harold Kushner's "Who Needs God?" It's what I most remember from the book, and it resonates so much with what I'm consistently going through now:

The members of a certain West African tribe tell the legend of the Sky Maiden. It happened once that the people of the tribe noticed their cows were giving less milk than they used to. They could not understand why. One young man volunteered to stay up all night to see what might be happening. After several hours of waiting in the darkness, hiding in a bush, he saw something extraordinary. A young woman of astonishing beauty rode a moonbeam down from heaven to earth, carrying a large pail. She milked the cows, filled her pail, and climbed back up the moonbeam to the sky. The man could not believe what he had seen. The next night, he set a trap near where the cows were kept, and when the maiden came down to milk the cows, he sprang the trap and caught her. "Who are you?" he demanded.
She explained that she was a Sky Maiden, a member of a tribe that lived in the sky and had no food of their own. It was her job to come to earth at night and find food. She pleaded with him to let her out of the net and she would do anything he asked. The man said he would release her only if she agreed to marry him. "I will marry you," she said, "but first you must let me go home for three days to prepare myself. Then I will return and be your wife." He agreed.
Three days later she returned, carrying a large box. "I will be your wife and make you very happy," she told him, "but you must promise me never to look inside this box."
For several weeks they were very happy together. Then one day, while his wife was out, the man was overcome with curiosity and opened the box. There was nothing in it. When the woman came back, she saw her husband looking strangely at her and said, "You looked in the box, didn¹t you? I can¹t live with you anymore."
"Why?" the man asked. "What's so terrible about my peeking into an empty box?"
"I'm not leaving you because you opened the box. I thought you probably would. I'm leaving you because you said it was empty. It wasn't empty; it was full of sky. It contained the light and the air and the smells of my home in the sky. When I went home for the last time, I filled that box with everything that was most precious to me to remind me of where I came from. How can I be your wife if what is most precious to me is emptiness to you?"

November 4, 2008



Now everybody do a fist-bump for President Obama.

(And pray that nobody kills him.)

Favorite Online Videos - Chocolate Salty Balls

I'm working at now, and I'm loving it! I basically get paid to look at online videos - most of them funny as hell - and write descriptions for them and tell people (like you, dear reader) about them.

I'm taking a note from Devilvet and posting my favorite videos as I find them on the site. I'll try to focus on the new stuff unless it's a really good video from a few months back.

In light of the strong possibility of Obama's victory, I really found this song to be an appropriate follow-up to the announcement that Obama wins:

October 20, 2008

Etude 4 - Practical example

Scene 1
We enter and get settled.

[Mood music: complete silence]

In the womblike darkness, ORIXA sits alone, completely still and absorbed in thought. Clothed completely in white, her face is covered by an expressionless white mask. There is a stillness to her that makes her seem pristine, ethereal, spooky - as if she could be a virgin, a saint, or a ghost.

Once we are in place, Orixa looks at us and sees us - really sees us. Her gaze is intent, laserlike, not so much just seeing as dissecting. And for a moment we all have a foot in 2 different worlds: the ordinary world and the world beneath it.

The ordinary world fades away.

Scene 2
[Mood music: "Teardrop" by Massive Attack]

We are now trees and/or spirits in a forest on a moonlit night, a sanctuary of dreams both dark and light. Shadowy SHAPES - they could be trees, animals (cats? owls? wolves?), or even ghosts - move subtly in the background as if blown by a gentle wind or floating on their own. Several pairs of eyes could watch from the darkness.

Orixa decorates us with lotus blossoms (origami?). Focused and graceful, she resembles a priestess making offerings at a holy shrine. She finds a clear spot, sits, and meditates.

A CATERPILLAR enters the forest carrying a spinning wheel.

Orixa notices it.

Slow and deliberate, the caterpillar finds a spot with plenty of moonlight then carefully arranges itself and the wheel.

Orixa watches, transfixed.

The caterpillar spins and spins, weaving yards and yards of enchanted "fabric" (more like a silken shawl) of a mystically significant color (maybe royal blue). Unrushed and methodical, there is a meditative quality to the way the caterpillar goes about its work.

Orixa inches closer - but not too close.

The caterpillar slowly and carefully wraps itself in the cloth. It forms a cocoon around itself, covering its feet, body, and head. It goes perfectly still.

Orixa approaches the cocoon. She tries to peek inside, listens at it, taps it. Nothing happens.

Orixa goes to the spinning wheel, examining it like a crash-landed UFO.

The cocoon stirs, slightly at first but soon it stretches the fabric until it starts to split.

Orixa waits.

Scene 3

[Mood music: dubstep]

The cocoon unravels. A FAIRY emerges, peeling off the cocoon. A creature of dark glamor that resembles a blood red rose in all its contradictory beauty - soft petal and sharp thorn, red blossom and green stem. She may even have wings like a lunar moth, making her look like a kind of feral angel of forest and roses and moonlight. Fluid and ininhibited, her slightest movements in tune with a strange, hypnotic rhythm. Even the least of her movements is part of a dance.

Orixa marvels, orbiting around the fairy as she rids herself of the cocoon.

Her cocoon shed, the fairy holds a hand out to Orixa, inviting her to the spinning wheel. She leads Orixa to the wheel the way a great dancer leads an inexperienced partner - smooth, confident, even seductive. She patiently guides Orixa through the motions of the wheel. As Orixa gets used to the wheel, the fairy gradually lets Orixa weave by herself.

Orixa's hand slips, and she stabs herself on the spindle. The fairy gently examines the wound. Orixa drifts to sleep. The fairy catches her as she slumps, wrapping her in her discarded cocoon and guiding her to the floor as the shadowy shapes transform into BRIARS. The fairy disappears into the night.

The briars gather around Orixa, forming a thorny cocoon around her as she dreams . . .

October 16, 2008

Etude 4 - Interaction

Previously, we discussed basic movements, activities, and tasks.

Now let's take add a new layer - interactions.

You may want to brush up a little on grammar for this one.

For the purpose of this exercise, I'm defining an interaction as any physical action that needs two or more actors - one to "send" and one to "receive." In grammatical terms, interactions require both a subject and an object. Either can be animate or inanimate, sentient or non-sentient. But they must have (or be endowed with) the ability to act and/or respond.

Here are a few samples:
abduct, attack, beg, comfort, command,
dance, defend, defy, demand, dismiss,
expose, feed, fight, flirt, follow,
fuck, greet, ignore, invite, kiss,
lead, meet, mock, obey, offer,
play, refuse, reject, restrain, show,
soothe, spy, tempt, trade, watch,
I'm noticing a couple of things about interactions that struck me as particularly interesting. As with tasks, there is a kind of implied drama - the potential for conflict - inherent in these actions. But there is something else there, something more subtle yet profound. Besides suggesting character, interactions can also suggest a relationship without having to say what it is.

The practical example will explore to what extent this works.

October 13, 2008

New blog: EclectiCopy

I've started a new blog! This one's for business instead of pleasure, but I'll find a way to combine the two of them (being the complete glutton I am for wanting to have the cake, eat it, and share it with everyone).

EclectiCopy is my blog for marketing and copywriting that's part editorial, part portfolio, part madhouse. Go check it out to see what I'm up to.

October 8, 2008

Living Free(gan)

So I'm all moved (again), and this time it's a loft in East Williamsburg.

I haven't spent any money since Saturday night, and I couldn't be happier that I didn't.

On the job front: still looking. I'm going to set up a blog for my copywriting stuff, as well as continue to write articles. People like my portfolio (h/t Adam), so I should probably get it up there.

October 1, 2008

Bonsai Theater

Nature is the ultimate theater.

There is no 4th wall. The very act of living is a drama. Being itself tells a story. Forests, oceans, deserts, mountains - all have eons of narrative, ages of plot behind them.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that I got a lot of inspiration about the style of my play from the Bonsai exhibit at Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I'd love to visit it at night when there aren't so many people around, just to look at the bonsai.

Like the geek I am, I read the little display plaques talking about where bonsai come from, how they're shaped, what they mean. What intrigued me the most about what I learned was the idea that bonsai are more than just living sculptures. They are actors in an unspoken story. Their shapes suggest an entire landscape, even a story.

So as I was looking at the bonsai, I thought of them as miniature models for a story. I took in the details about each one, wondering what its story was. A trunk bent at a severe angle recalls a powerful storm that razed the land. A blue bowl was more than an aesthetic touch - it was the suggestion of water. What body of water? Where? What happened near or beneath the tree? Who or what was involved?

It made me think about my play and how it's presented to the audience (I thought about Matt's play too, but in a different context).

The process is quite Zen, "empty," because the active part is invisible, only grasped by the imagination, never by the overt display. The point is to engage the audience's own ability to create story by suggesting narrative rather than imposing one upon them. The performance is meant to help the audience see the unseen.

(Digressing to talk about Matt's play . . .

In retrospect, it makes me think of birdsong. Now, what kind of birds is up for grabs - but the constant repetition suggests parrots, mockingbirds, cuckoos, and other "chripy" birds (as opposed to, say eages or owls). I'm not saying Matt's play is about birds. It's just the connection I made when I heard birds in the garden.)

But the question remains: How can we apply bonsai to theater?

Clearly, if we're working from a text there has to be a kind of narrative, doesn't there? I'm not so sure.

Let us imagine that I'm just giving you small slices of the overall story, something like fractured dreams, where the audience is meant to connect the dots, to imagine the story behind the performance. Of course, American audiences are used to having things spoon-fed to them. Actors tend to relish roles they can sink their teeth into. Directors and designers might have a feld day with the freedom they have - or they may simply become overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities. Or worse yet, they don't recognize this freedom then fall back on convention and cliche (as in, remaking my play in Walt Disney's image).

I could use a little perspective here. Actors, directors, designers - what do you think?

September 27, 2008

Etudes 2&3 - practical example

Continuing from where we left off (with some additions) . . .
We enter and get settled. In the womblike darkness, we see ORIXA sitting onstage, absorbed in thought. Clothed completely in white with her face covered by an expressionless white mask, she seems ethereal and spooky, ghostlike. Maybe it's because she sits too still for too long, or the way she almost seems invisible because she does not react to us at all.

Once we are in place, Orixa looks at us and sees us - really sees us. Her gaze is intent, laserlike, not so much just seeing as dissecting. And for a moment we all have a foot in 2 different worlds: our everyday world and the world of the play.

The everyday world fades away.

We are now trees and/or spirits in a spooky forest on a foggy, moonlit night. There is a sense of presence in this place, as if something unseen sees us. Shadowy SHAPES - trees perhaps, or maybe ghosts - move subtly in the background.

A CATERPILLAR slowly and deliberately enters the forest carrying a spinning wheel. It finds a spot with plenty of moonlight then carefully arranges itself and the wheel.

Orixa watches, transfixed.

The caterpillar spins and spins, weaving yards and yards of enchanted "fabric" (more like a silken shawl) of a mystically significant color. Unrushed and methodical, there is a meditative quality to the way the caterpillar goes about its work.

Orixa marvels, drawing closer - but not too close.

As the caterpillar completes the task, it slowly and carefully wraps itself in the cloth. It forms a coccoon around itself, covering its feet, body, and head. It goes perfectly still.

Orixa carefully examines the coccoon. She tries to peek inside, listens at it, taps it.

The coccoon stirs (Orixa retreats), slightly at first but sooni t stretches the fabric until it starts to split.

Orixa waits for the thing inside.

The coccoon unravels. A FAIRY emerges. A creature of dark glamor that resembles a blood red rose in all its contradictory beauty - soft petal and sharp thorn, red blossom and green stem. She may even have wings like a lunar moth, making her look like a kind of feral angel of forest and roses and moonlight.
That's it for now. I know: cliffhangers are cheap, but this is honestly where I stopped.

Etude 3 - Task

Now that we've explored a bit with activities, let's add another layer of complexity by working with tasks.

I'm defining task here as any physical activity with an inherent goal. The most obvious example, of course, is a chore such as sweeping, cleaning, washing, etc. But there are also things like building, arranging, etc. Fortunately, my vocabulary is a little more extensive this time around:
clean, organize, dress, find
arrange, cut, cook, seek,
wash, pack, guard, examine,
sweep, comb, escape
Although this etude seems like a repeat of the previous one, there is one significant difference: the presence of a clear action or objective. The previous actions could serve as objectives, but in this case the questions are clear. Will the character finish the task? Does anything get in the character's way? How does the character resolve (or attempt to resolve) the problem?

In the next layer, we start to get interactive. But that's for later.

Etude 2 - Activity

In the first etude, we worked with basic physical actions. Now, let's expand that to include ongoing activities.

But first, let's review a bit of Newton's laws of motion. In particular, the law of inertia:
Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.
Newton in mind, let us define an activity as a physical action that continues until it reaches its natural conclusion or is interrupted by another action.

For this exercise and the others similar to it, I won't go into detail for each step like I did before (Go to the first etude to get the overall idea). The only thing that really changes is the word bank. To make everyone's life easier, here are some examples:
read, write, eat, drink, play,
sleep, grow, transform, die
Not the most extensive word bank in the world, but I hope you get the idea.

Naturally, this raises the question: Can't we just use basic movements as activities? In principle, certainly. These exercises aren't rungs on a ladder so much as concentric circles. But to get the most from the exercise, it might help to expand your "movement vocabulary" to include actions that are explicitly activities.

Doing this exercise, what I noticed about activities, as opposed to simple actions, is that they have more innate dramatic material. The Newtonian aspect introduces the possibility of conflict in the form of obstruction or interruption. It's not always the case, and there's no need to deliberately go for it in this exercise (in fact, I know I didn't), but being aware of it sometimes gives you a lovely surprise if it shows up.

I will follow with a practical example after I finish with the next etude.

Someone I must meet: Suzan-Lori Parks

When I was back home in Virginia for a weekend, I caught a show on HBO about Black people. I don't remember the name of it, but there were all kinds of people talking: Chris Rock, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Al Sharpton, Venus Williams, and so on. I liked how different it was from a lot of stuff. It didn't talk about Black people as it had Black people talking about themselves and their relationship to what they're doing.

Anyway, I saw the bit with Suzan-Lori Parks. Having never seen or heard her before, I had to watch. She was riveting. Completely riveting. She's someone I'd love to talk theater with because I get the sense that she'd understand what I'm getting at here. She'd get it without pretending to be colorblind or gender-blind about it. She'd get it. I wouldn't have to explain it. I wouldn't have to justify it. She'd get it. She's the one I'm writing for.

And bell hooks is on my list too.

September 25, 2008

Etude 1 - Practical example (opening scene)

Applying the previous exercise to my current work, here is the opening of the play:
We enter and get settled. In the womblike darkness, we see ORIXA sitting onstage, absorbed in thought. Clothed completely in white with her face covered by an expressionless white mask, she seems ethereal and spooky, ghostlike. Maybe it's because she sits too still for too long, or the way she almost seems invisible because she does not react to us at all.

Once we are in place, Orixa looks at us and sees us - really sees us. Her gaze is intent, laserlike, not so much just seeing as dissecting. And for a moment we all have a foot in 2 different worlds: our everyday world and the world of the play.

The everyday world fades away.

September 24, 2008

Etude 1 - Basic Movement

"All physical action is a rich source of dance movement." - Stuart Hodes, "A Map of Making Dance"

"Engineers don't have to reinvent the wheel, but in dance it's done all the time. A walk is basic but can be done in infinitely many ways, with original variations constantly being found." - Stuart Hodes, "A Map of Making Dance"

"Qualities can lead directly to movement . . . [M]ovement has both inner and outer attributes. When walking, for instance, you place one foot after the other - the outer attribute. But a walk can be bold, hesitant, serene, fidgety, or have numberless other inner attributes. We call the inner attributes qualities. Dance is sublimely equipped to communicate the subtlest qualities, and it is impossible to dance without projecting a quality of some kind." - Stuart Hodes, "A Map of Making Dance"

This exercise is about getting used to speaking in terms of basic physical movement. The exercise itself is pretty simple, but I'm presenting it in this linear step-by-step mode to get the idea across.

1. Make a list of simple physical actions. Do not spend more than about 5 minutes on this. Here's mine (feel free to use it):
breathe, climb, walk, run, jump,
swim, fall, catch, throw, cut,
hold, fly, choke, strike, stroke,
bite, scratch, touch, kiss, stab,
clap, cry, laugh, smash
2. Create or choose a character. Don't feel limited to people. The character can be an inanimate object or force of nature. Consider a crowd that acts as a single entity as well.
I'll use the bitabohs as my character.

(WTF are bitabohs? Malevolent West African tree spirits that attack humans that come into their territory. They are usually allies or servants of witches.)
3. Have that character do one or more actions.
Let's have the bitabohs walk.
4. Describe 3 to 5 attributes and/or qualities for each action. Each attribute/quality can be a phrase, but it should only describe only one aspect of the movement. And they don't need to be logical either. Find a way to make the movement "wrong" or "off" somehow if you're so inclined.
What do I want to say about the bitabohs' walk?
  • uproot then reroot themselves to walk
  • zombielike gait - creepy, slow
  • strange cadence to their steps
5. Describe the character in more detail if you want. But remember to keep that short too.
What can I say about the bitabohs?
  • eerily humanoid - including faces frozen in rage or terror
  • could have wind chimes made of human bones in their branches
Putting it all together:
BITABOHS emerge. They are eerily humanoid figures with gnarled limbs and vaguely human faces contorted in expressions of rage and horror. They may even have wind chimes made of human bones tied to their branches. They "walk" by uprooting and rerooting themselves. There is a creepy cadence to their lumbering, zombielike gait.
Of course, you can make it hard for yourself and write a scene with 2 or more characters with this exercise. It's harder than it looks and easier than you think.

What you may find is that it challenges - or at least blurs - the dogma of not being able to act in feelings. Of course, it's nigh impossible to act something like: Character feels sad. After all, how would Character show that? But in the absence of spoken dialogue, how do we convey sadness if we're unable to say there should be a sad quality to it? This is not to get you to start saying, "Character walks sadly" all the time, but to get you to think about how to include the emotional dimension in the absence of something as direct as "Character feels sad."

On Writing a Movement-Oriented Piece

One of the central dilemmas of creating a movement-oriented piece is how to 'speak" without words.

Naturally, I turned to dance (particularly ballet) to find a means of creating a narrative without the need for spoken dialogue. Of course, actual dance scripts (that is, story without choreography) are hard to come by. The closest I've come is a scenario for "A Streetcar Named Desire" that I found online. Even looking at that, I got confused because it simply read as extended stage directions.

Here is where I'm glad I'm in New York: New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Let all of us bookworms release an infatuated sigh.

Now that the little hearts have stopped floating around my head, let's get back to the business at hand.

As a writer, I like looking at creating my pieces from the performer's angle. They are, ultimately, the ones who have to make sense of the things I put on paper. They are the ones turning text into performance. So, it behooves me to understand what they're looking for and to give them something to do. My intuition says that actors will love the freedom a movement piece gives them to co-create (rather than interpret) the characters. But it's really hard to write for in a way they can use if you don't know what to go for. If it's too vague, they have no direction. If it's too specific, they're straight-jacketed by my words.

What I needed was a blueprint, a template, a starting point.

Enter A Map of Making Dances by Stuart Hodes.

If you can get your hands on it, do so. There is a diamond mine of ideas and inspiration for developing a story without words. Just looking at how dancers - and, by extension, actors - approach something as simple as walking gives me so much hope and inspiration for what I'm working on now.

I've used the exercises in the book as a springboard for exercises of my own, especially with writing.

The exercises I've developed start with basic movements and progress to more complex events. Each of them sort of builds on the previosu ones, so it's easy to create a very complicated scene using relatively simple movements.

For each of the exercises, I'm limiting myself to 3 to 5 sentences or phrases. This is for two reasons: to take advantage of the fragmented imagery I have for the piece and to maintain a kind of elegance when describing movement. As I complete rewrites, I can add more layers to things as I see fit. But not in the Getting It On Paper stage.

I'll talk about the actual exercises in future posts (feel free to try them) and maybe give examples.

September 21, 2008

Starting Over

The play as I envisioned it isn't working. I know I haven't posted many of my brain droppings here (and for good reason), but I have been struggling to put pen to paper. I'm sure the block is entirely my own doing, given how many "rules" I have in my brain as I write. In addition, I just can't figure out this main character: who is she, what she wants, why she does what she does. On the one hand, that's sort of up to the actor, but it's hard to write for a completely passive character.

On the other hand . . .

I had a bit of a revelation about her. Let's just say that I've been taking the story from the wrong POV.

September 18, 2008

Introverts Anonymous

This is something I should probably have tattooed on my forehead: INTROVERT.

I mentioned this before, but few actually picked up on it. Basically, I recharge energy by being alone with my thoughts and expend energy being around other people. Even around nice people. Even around people I like. Even around the people who are most precious to me.

For a long time, though, it's been a struggle since I have absolutely no desire to be an extrovert. I enjoy my rich inner life. I love living in my own little world. In fact, that's what playwriting is for me: giving people a piece of one of those many worlds I inhabit on a day-to-day basis. I'm privately and frequently grateful for the secret gift of being able to experience the sacredness of the most trivial things: sunlight streaking through clouds, smell of rain, the caress of a breeze, trees applauding and pretending they sit by the sea, flourescent green flight of a lunar moth, winking headlights of a passing car, twin rainbows against a slate gray sky, brilliant corona of a full moon on a cloudless night, strands of cool grass tickling my feet, stars talking in a language like tapping on crystal, darkness and silence within the womb of the universe, the decomposition of dead things, the transformation from seed to flower.

But when I'm around people - at least, when I'm fully present around people - I can't sense those things. Some sort of distortion happens, like a cell phone on an airplane during take-off. I can't get my bearings, can't tell North from South, sea from sky, self from mask. And the real me, the me that's supposedly behind this, sort of just tailspins.

It's at these moments when I sometimes experience extrovert envy. I guess the moon feels the same of the sun at times. Then she remembers the beauty and mystery and power of night, of darkness, of silence. Then doesn't mind the new moon phase where she isn't seen.

September 16, 2008


Ezine Articles has accepted my "7 Reasons" article. Whoopee. Now I'm an expert! I'll probably post more in the future, but first I'll give my brain a breather.

Now back to your regularly scheduled irrelevance.

Response to Laura

Laura left in the comments section of my previous post:
I have one of those open-ended questions for you, my friend... perhaps a writing prompt, if you will. As someone who jumped herself into the theatrosphere about the same time I did: Why? A)What did/do you want out of blogging? and B)What did/do you want out of joining up your blog with the rest of this rambunctious "community"?
Her question is so good I had to follow up in an actual post.

This won't be long, but I think it can open up discussion in new ways. I know that in my very first post, I mentioned generating conversation with and between other theater folks. But if I'm honest with myself, it goes deeper than that.

The first word that came up when I read your question was: gateway.

Too often IRL, when I met other Theater People, they functioned more as gatekeepers. Instead of finding fellow artists to talk to, I felt sort of brushed off. Virtually none of the people I met locally acted like I was important enough to listen to or ask questions to. If I'm blunt with myself, I know they have no reason to care. I also know that I'm not gregarious or charismatic or immediately likeable. But it still stung.

I'd hoped blogging would be a way to get the more aesthetic conversations I crave. I literally had nobody to do this with. It's not that I don't care about politics and arts funding. I do (or I wouldn't want to make money doing it). But there are other things worth thinking and talking about. There are things beyond the topic of the day that I'm interested in. Things like experimentations in form and content, problem-solving for shoestring budgets, balancing theater with "real life" responsibilities, deepening and expanding our theatre vocabulary, giving ourselves more tools to understand and evaluate avant-garde work, etc.

It sometimes feels like I want to play ball, but I always have to warm the bench.

September 12, 2008

Theater blogosphere community (or lack thereof)

Devilvet posted something that touched a nerve today.
We all have agendas here. These agendas are multifaceted and leveled. Sometimes our various pet causes and issues run parallel and sometimes they don't. But each and every one us while we are committed to our ideas must also realize that some days, when it comes to the things that we decided to take on, we have to carry our own water. Well can passionately cry out or shout out for someone to speak to us on that which we care about, but we must also be wary of biting at those with whom we wish to commune.

I have been scolded in the past often for my 'glass is half empty' take on the assumptions/perceptions/ and to my mind misuses of the word community. But, if the theatrosphere is to become and remain a community, we have to find ways to challenge and cajole each other that show some sort of appreciation for that end. If the tone of our debates, etc reaches a pitch where it seems like we are rather exiling certain folks from the community of the theatrosphere because of a distaste or impatience with their approach or their path... well then what to we get? A bunch of angry individuals instead of a system of support or community.

I am not saying we must play nice. Hell, anyone who looks through my talks with Don Hall or Scott Walters will know, I aint interested in tea time talk. But, at the same time, let us encourage more than we scold. Let us not lose our sense of humor, and let us aim more often toward fraternity rather than condemnation.

We must always strive to be supportive as often as possible. And where we disagree we have a duty to expound on it, without attempting to digitally exorcise that which we find distasteful at the expense of our community.

The direction of inquiry this week I fear leads to a place where people share less, skulk and bray self admiration at the expense of others more, and we all lose.

Perhaps a page has turned in the system of blogs I think of as our theatrosphere. I hope not. It was a source of great joy, provocation, and community for me.

Hey, you know, if I'm using that ....gulp word... something must be changing.

lets make a push to talk to each other more often. Let us share more!!! Share more people!!!

Ask for more if you want more!!
I'm not exactly sure what Devilvet means by support here, but if it simply means engaging with people who may not always be in our "clique," then I think he's absolutely right.

And here's me asking for more:

Just reciprocate.

I generally don't talk to hear myself talk or to sound clever. I really want to connect with the person I'm speaking to. It takes a lot of energy for me to be around people. I only say something when I feel compelled to speak, even if it's just a one-liner or a joke that I just had to share because I wanted to give you something funny.

I know that what I say isn't as cool or smart or interesting as what you're doing, but is it too much to ask that if I comment on your blog, you at least make a token attempt to do likewise on mine? Here are some examples:
  • Hi.
  • Cool.
  • Interesting.
  • This is dumb.
  • Fuck you.
Now, if you have a bit more time than that, I always appreciate open-ended questions. Really. I have a tendency to keep stuff in, and I occasionally need to be drawn out to express more (The irony of a writer not alwys knowing what to say is not lost on me).

That's what support is like for me.

What about you? What do you want more of?

September 11, 2008

When I Grow Up

I'm going to do something that's likely very, very stupid on this post. I'm going to tell you what I want to do when I grow up. Isaac posted a blurb about this over on his blog. But since I'm continually dissatisfied with what I write (I veer between being as great as Shakespeare and a talentless poser who's just faking it until she realizes there's no hope for her), I revised it.

Also, to give a bit of context: I'm not writing this for my health. I really do want to do this. I really can do this. I just need a crack in the door.

I write text for artists, designers, and performers to talk about their work. Whether the audience is a funding organization, a donor, or just the average person on the street, I provide the words that express how powerful and engaging their work really is.

Let me be really honest. You can find someone with more skill, more experience, and more connections. You can find someone faster and cheaper. But you won't find many who are artists themselves. I'm a playwright. So I understand what it means to put your heart into something you create. I know what it's like to have dry spells and struggle with the direction you want your work to take. I can relate to how you can be both confident and insecure about your work. I understand the need for space. I understand flow.

I know a lot of stuff is all hype and no substance. But that's not me. I'm not doing this for fame and fortune. I don't want to get rick quick or become an overnight success. I just want to make a living using my writing skills to help the kind of people I enjoy working with - creative, passionate, intelligent people out there doing what they love. I want to tell the world about these wonderful people and the awesome work they're doing.

Who better to do that than someone who knows what you go through?

Communication at Work (LOL funny)

Just watch it.

September 9, 2008

Wrote something

I wrote an article ("7 Reasons Why Indie Theatre Rocks") on Booksie and submitted it to others. Go here to take a look at the article. Feel free to comment. And if you have some writing, feel free to sign up, so I can read your stuff and leave comments that make you feel like sunshine too!

September 2, 2008

What I've Been Doing Lately

I've been helping out with setting up, a new performance art listing for the New York metro area. Think of it as Craigslist for live performance - with video.

So if you know about a show coming up and want to let people know about it, go ahead and list it on the site (it's free). We're working out the bugs and kinks, so your feedback will help a lot.

Thanks a bunch for your help.

August 25, 2008

Red Riding Hood (a scene)

We are the vermin living between the cracks and crevices of grandmother's house. We watch as . . .

The wolf enters dressed in granny's nightclothes. It practices its grandmother schtick - all slow, achy steps with strategic coughs. It takes a few tries, but the wolf gradually assumes an eerily accurate portrayal of a sick old woman.

Red Riding Hood enters. She takes in the sight of her sick "grandmother." She rushes to help. She gently ushers "granny" to bed, easing her down with almost maternal tenderness then covers "granny" with a blanket.

Red Riding Hood takes a good long look at her "grandmother." The wolf looks back with devouring eyes before it yawns and kicks off grandmother's slippers. Red Riding Hood kicks off her shoes.

The wolf slips off grandmother's cap (or head scarf). Red Riding Hood slips off her cloak.

The wolf peels off grandmother's nightgown. Red Riding Hood peels off her dress.

The wolf holds up the blanket, inviting . . .

Red Riding Hood hesitates. The wolf gives her more room.

Red Riding Hood slides into bed. She traces the wolf's brows - what big eyes. The wolf stares openly - all the better to see her with.

Red Riding Hood feels the wolf's ears - what big ears. The wolf listens to Red Riding Hood's heartbeat - all the better to hear her with.

Red Riding Hood examines the wolf's hands - what big hands. The wolf holds her close, intimate and just shy of crushing. All the better to hold her with.

Red Riding Hood loosely embraces the wolf. The wolf strokes Red Riding Hood's skin, coaxing her to relax. Red Riding Hood snuggles into the wolf's arms. The wolf sniffs Red Riding Hood then tastes her with a long lick along her neck, shoulders, chest.

Red Riding Hood startles and shoves the wolf away - what big teeth!

The wolf bares its fangs, snarls, and pounces. All the better to eat her with.

Darkness and a scream as Red Riding Hood is gobbled up.

August 18, 2008

I've been Fringing in NYC!

I volunteered for a few hours to get free tickets for a few shows at the FringeNYC. I might do a bit more this weekend just because the shows have been so cool. I managed to snag a theater-related job to pay the rent (see StageBuddy), and it seems things are looking good so far.

Now that I've seen a few Fringe shows, I'm starting to feel like I live in NYC, whereas before it seemed like I couldn't find anything to do. Speaking of FringeNYC, check out @lice in www.onderland if you haven't already. It's a real treat and similar to what I'm working on now - sorta.

I also purchased a few of my favorite drama books at a discount. Guess which ones they are (hint: I mentioned them on Parabasis).

August 17, 2008

Snow White (a scene)

We are the wedding guests. Servants walk around with trays of hors d'ouerves and drinks. There may even be a pristine white wedding cake.

Snow White and her prince preside over the celebration, young and beautiful and happy - for now. The prince parades his bride around, greeting us, tanking us for coming, asking if we'd tried this or that.

Everyone finds their seat when Snow White waves in the entertainment.

Servants drag the queen into the party and shove her to the ground.

Stripped of her dignity - perhaps even her clothes - she looks like a striking yet harmless old woman. Snow White chuckles. Everyone boos, hisses, and jeers. The queen does her best to shield herself from the onslaught of insults, food, and spit.


A servant enters bearing a gift box which is open with great ceremony, revealing a pair of apple red shoes, the queen's shoes.

As soon as she sees them, the queen struggles fiercely, but she can't escape. They get the shoes on her.


Snow White claps, acting as a kind of metronome. Everyone joins in. "Dance! Dance! Dance!" we chant. The queen tries to resist, but the magic and the music are too strong. She begins to dance. She moves in perfect time, stepping and spinning, leaping and twirling. It's a schizophrenic display as her legs and feet move to the music while her upper body tries to resist.

Snow White chuckles.

The tempo gets faster. It's clear the dance pains the queen as she hisses, yelps, whimpers, and sobs with every step. Yet still she dances. Even as she tries to stop herself. Even as she tries to reach to us for help. She doesn't stop.

Snow White laughs.

Now the dance is a total frenzy. The queen moves with abandon as she is danced beyond reason, beyond control, beyond sanity. Snow White laughs. But the queen is still dancing, dancing, dancing . . .

Then she falls down dead.


Snow White applauds ("Bravo!"). She and her prince share a chaste kiss.

August 16, 2008

Fringe NYC and other distractions

It seems I came to Brooklyn just in time. FringeNYC is underway, and apparently tickets are cheap. I'd like to get at least 5 shows in, but I can't afford it (especially since I'm not currently employed). :(

But how I want to go!

There's so much to choose from. If anybody's in NYC who's doing the Fringe and/or has extra tickets, let me know. Then again, I could show up early dressed in black and see where that takes me.

In other news, I've discovered a few places I really like. The first is St. Mark's Place between 1st and 2nd Avenue (Manhattan). Lots of restaurants with good food. The only problem is that the portions are huge, and I have to force myself to eat it all (generally to the point of wishing I hadn't). I've discovered that if I keep busy and drink enough water, I can easily stay full on 2 meals a day.

St. Mark's also has a used bookshop with a treasure trove of drama texts. I don't mean plays. I mean books about drama. I'm going to pick up "The Empty Space" and "Theater and Its Double" when I get a chance (maybe tomorrow; it depends).

If I ever go crazy enough to actually want to live in Manhattan, I hope I can find something close to St. Mark's.

Isaac showed me around the major parts of Boerum Hill. I really like that part of Brooklyn too. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to rent a room there before it gets completely gentrified.

And I have a question: Why does it seem like every time I go out it takes at least half an hour longer than HopStop says it should?

August 9, 2008

Things To Do NYC

If I'm moving to NYC, I don't want to get stuck into the same routine I can find here. When it comes to NYC, I always hear two things: it's the city that never sleeps, and you can find anything. I'm going to put that to the test. So, here's a list of things I want to do within my first six months to a year in NYC.

1. Find some all-night haunts.

I'm a night owl, and I tend to keep vampire hours. But I'm not crazy about bars. I just need a hole in the wall away from home where I can chill and write without being bothered.

2. Go to goth clubs.

I need a mix of the old and new: Bauhaus as well as Marilyn Manson. DIY goth wear as well as Hot Topic. Ghosts and faeries as well as vampires. See my pic? That's what I should feel comfortable looking like there.

3. Visit a rave.

I want to lose myself in digital music. I don't even need glow sticks. And the DJ had better be kick-ass. If everything sounds the same (and I'll know), I'm gonna be pissed.

4. Get involved in some avant-garde theater productions.

Not as an usher, and not at the box office. I want to put the actual show on. Whether that means being a gopher on the set and/or helping strike, so be it. But I don't want to just take money or show people to their seats.

5. Find a playwrights' group/support group.

I'm an artist. Sensitivity is my birthright. I need groupies/moral supporters to help keep me on track instead of getting lost in (shudder) work. It's also cheaper and more fun than therapy.

6. Work someplace really interesting.

Like a sex museum. Or a "haunted" mansion. Or something. Basically, I want people to choke on their drinks when I tell them, and I want to have to lie to my parents about what I do for a living. No, not a stripper. But I would be interested in conceptualizing a burlesque sort of Cirque du Soleil performance.

7. Make friends with rich people*.

It's not what you think. I'm not looking for a back door into wealth. But I've been around broke people my whole life. So I know how to handle hardship. It's handling success that's going to be a problem. I'd like to know how to do that before learning the hard way who my real friends are.

*I define rich here as someone who can afford to own two or more homes.

8. Share a kiss on the Brooklyn Bridge beneath the moonlight.

This one is hard to explain. So I won't.

9. Have a torrid love affair.

It may or may not lead to (ick!) marriage, but I could use some overwhelming passion in my life.

10. Go to a fetish ball.

Ever since I saw it on HBO's Real Sex series, I was hooked. Mystery, intimacy, ritual. It's all so . . . theatrical! Whips and chains and handcuffs! Leather boots and pants and collars! "Yes, Mistress!"

July 28, 2008

Art and Money

Don wrote a great article about how theater artists' assumptions about the relationship between money and art often don't make sense (and sometimes work against them).

Everything he says makes perfect sense to me. Then again, I'm not a Theater Person. I'm just someone who wants to stage weird experimental plays. I really don't know why I want to do this other than a craving for mystery and intimacy. In a sense, I'm the ultimate amateur. I write plays because I'm enamored with the process*.

But - and this is somewhat ironic - it often seems that a lot of Theater People don't want people like me involved in the actual making of a show. Sure, I'd be allowed to usher people to their seats or work the box office. I'd definitely be welcome to help strike. But writing the play? Designing something? Even - gasp! - acting? No need to apply. I'll have to go through the "proper channels".

IOW, doing something I don't want to do at greatly reduced pay so I can, perhaps, sometimes in the distant future, have a sliver of a chance at doing what I really want to do.

Anybody else notice the irony in this?

*I enjoy the process of transformation. The act of change - in all its forms - is a source of (often morbid) fascination to me. Babies growing in the womb, werewolves changing, rotting fruit, turds turning to dirt, seeds becoming trees, decaying carcasses, fluffy clouds to rain clouds, coccoon to butterfly, etc.

Yet Another NYLACHI playwright

Yes, folks. It's official. I'm moving to Brooklyn in a couple of weeks, and I couldn't be happier unless I suddenly became independently wealthy and met my soulmate on the same day.

July 6, 2008


I never particularly liked poetry, but from time to time I'm inspired to write some. It's never anything serious, just brain farts. Here's the latest one:

hand me no bouquet
on my wedding day
for my love is not some sweet
frilly frothy thing
give me rather a seed
to plant in the soul of my heart
and water with the sweat of my brow
and tears of laughter and pain

give me no gold or diamonds
on my wedding ring
for my love is not all shine and sparkle
dazzling for all to see
i shall wear a ring of iron
hard thick heavy
as i am strong enough to bear it
and it strong enough to bear me

play for me no music
on my wedding day
for no word or sound
goes as deep as my love
i want only silence
as we exchange our vows
straight from heart to heart
unfettered by forms

give me no light
where i am wed
for i cannot know
where love will take me
let us have night
my love and i two souls
in the darkness together
finding our way together

June 26, 2008

Coming Soon at RVCBard Theater . . .

Nobody Gets AIDS.

(just a teaser for a bit of spec work I'm doing. More later.)

June 20, 2008

H/t Isaac Butler at Parabasis

On Blackness. A must-read.

Transparent creation

The Advantage of Secrecy
Devilvet responded to a post at Rat Sass with a question:
Does the concealment of process give the artist an advantage? And if so is that advantage sustainable in world devoid of private space?
To which I answer: I don't know. Or rather, I can't speak to any one else's experience with this, only my own.

For me, the secrecy surrounding my writing can feel like an advantage, but that's because I'm by nature a private person. However, if I'm honest with myself, I've often become very productive once I know who I'm writing for and what their particular concerns are. I remember working on my first play (sadly, never produced), and the main actor responded that one of the lines I wrote felt awkward and unnatural to say. I immediately replaced the line with a simple gesture.

Then again, I was rewriting, not creating from scratch.

Although I can go deeper when I'm by myself, I'm also my own worst critic, and I can stymie my own process by continually second-guessing myself. Writing, for me, is often a letting-go rather than a making-happen. But, when I know who my audience is, when I know who the performers will be, I quickly get over it and get done. For whatever reason, it never works when I strictly do it for myself. It does work when I get a little outside pressure. Or at least some outside perspective to drag me outside my head.

Isn't the Script Supposed to Come before the Production?
I suppose this puts me in a bind when it comes to production because most companies want the script complete first, and I tend to work better - rather, work period - once I know about the actors. For instance, I was pretty much stalled in writing my new play until my friend in Shanghai told me he'd be interested staging it for the performance group he belongs to there. As soon as he told me a little about the actors, I quickly overcame my anxieties about writing and finished the scene (more or less as I originally imagined it, not as a "rewrite").

Strangely enough, I think that in the past, a lot of playwrights worked like this (Shakespeare springs to mind). The only places that come close to this are playwright-oriented places (like 7-On Playwrights in Sydney and 13 Playwrights in New York) are geared toward this model, but from what I've seen, the results tend to be anything but the things people say they're tired of seeing and performing.

Go figure.

New scene

FYI, the scenes appear in the order I saved the drafts, not in the order I posted them.

June 8, 2008

Act 2, Scene 2

(Glade deep in the wilderness. We are trees surrounding it.)

Trees awaken and "transform" into dryads. Satyrs emerge from the depths of the forest. There is a freedom and energy to their frolicking - a sort of physical prayer - which has a primal rhythm to it that is by turns violent and erotic. Rabbit seamlessly flows into the merry-making. Red Riding Hood looks on. She clings to the edge of the glade, hovering between approach and retreat. Unable to hold out any longer, she joins in.

The celebration gradually becomes a frenzied blur of fighting and dancing and fucking. In the midst of this, Rabbit is seized and torn to pieces. Everyone smears Rabbit's blood on themselves - a kind of anointment - and devour Rabbit's flesh. They turn on Red Riding Hood as if trying to fuck her and eat her simultaneously. They scratch her up, tear her clothes, rip her cloak. She barely escapes. Once she is clear of them, the dryads and satyrs "disappear."

June 4, 2008

Act 2, Scene 1

Mirrors transform into Thorns that surround Snow White, who is Sleeping Beauty again. There is a jerkiness to their shifting that is creepy and zombie-like. We form the outer layer of the thorns.

PRINCE wearing a blood red cloak tries to make his way to Sleeping Beauty. Thorns writhe as they close in on him. Prince tries to leave, but Thorns have entwined around him. He tries to escape, but Thorns entangle him and stab him to death.

As Prince dies, Thorns take the cloak. They pass it to and fro, marveling at its color and texture. They handle the cloak with such care and grace that it resembles a slow dance. Some of us closest to the stage could be a part of this "dance" as well.

The cloak "floats" from Thorns to rest on Sleeping Beauty. She stirs, pulling the cloak around her.

As she awakens, Thorns become Trees. In something like a courtly dance, Trees align themselves along a narrow path. We are trees just beyond the path.

Sleeping Beauty wakes up as Red Riding Hood.

More on process

Another word about process. It's not normal for me to work in a linear fashion. My initial drafts look like bits of action, image, dialogue, plot, theory, and stray thoughts floating on a sheet of printer paper. From this raw material I forge something that resembles a scene. One of my weaknesses as a writer is my tendency to stall if I don't have everything in figured out ahead of time. I also have a habit of wanting to perfect one scene before moving on to the next. It induces a kind of paralysis in my writing, where I'm doing the same scene over and over again because I "need" it to be perfect before moving on to what happens next. As a result, I often get frustrated and down on myself then abandon whatever it is I'm working on. I think I can get trapped inside my head. I guess I need someone or something to help pull me out of that. I really want to stop sabotaging my work like this, but I'm unsure of the best way to proceed.

I suppose I should give myself permission to write about what interests me at the moment until the draft is done. So, from here on out, everything might not be in order, but it is part of the same piece.


I had a breakthrough tonight about something that was holding back my progress with this play. As it turns out (as always), I was simply making things harder for myself. I'll talk about this later after I post Red Riding Hood and/or a revision of Snow White. In a nutshell, I was falling into habitual thought patterns about what I "should" write instead of sticking to the enchantment that motivated me in the first place. I'll post more on this later, after I get the next scene(s) done.

Remind me to ask about the dream I had about Bee Bee.

June 1, 2008


Looking over the first part of the story, I'm thinking of altering some of the more erotic elements. I like them, don't get me wrong, but I think they're a bit too transparent. I think I was embellishing on my original idea instead of sticking to it and suggesting rather than being blatant.

Also, I've lately questioned the wisdom of having trees, mirrors, etc. be portrayed by actors. It might be asking too much to have so many bodies on the stage. Perhaps just having the audience (the ever-present "we" I often describe) be these things is enough.

I hope to get a draft of Red Riding Hood soon. But that's where I am now.

May 25, 2008

Fairy Tale Scholarship

This is a site that analyzes fairy tales from a variety of perspectives. I haven't been reading it lately (deliberately, to avoid sponging others' ideas instead of developing my own), but it does give some in-depth material about fairy tales that you normally can't find.

bell hooks' "Remembered Rapture"

I have to buy this book.

Feedback (Stuff I Can Answer Now)

Now that I've had time to think about it, I'll clarify and articulate some of the feedback I'm looking for.

I pretty much take Matt Freeman's stance toward playwriting and feedback. Blogging my process is NOT my natural way of doing things, but because this is an experimental piece, I think an experimental approach to process is appropriate.

In my previous post I described at the kind of environment I wanted to foster. Now let's talk methods.

I like the "Yes, and..." concept:
As I post my ideas about theatre tribes, I get many comments that seek to knock down some idea, or seek to applaud it. But what I wish for is someone who wants to extend it. Someone who wants to build on an idea, strengthen it by adding a support beam, illsutrate it by providing a personal story or some other example.
Why not apply something similar to feedback for works in progress? Without getting too technical, the general idea is to do 4 things:

1. Describe which part(s) resonate with you and why.
2. Follow up with a question (or questions) related to that.
3. Share an observation about the style/content.
4. Follow up a question (or questions) related to that.

For example . . .

Sample Poster said:
"I was really enchanted by how you describe the trees. I guess it's because that's so different from how we usually conceive of the natural world. [snip explanation]

Several times you reference the audience when you describe what happens. That's not something you usually see in a script. What was the idea behind that?"

May 24, 2008

Feedback (Why Post My WIP?)

If you follow Devilvet's blog, you may have read some of these things, but I'm reposting some of those things here in a more coherent way.

Most people only interact with the playwriting process through critique or reviews. I wonder if there are other options we haven't explored yet. I'm curious to see what can happen if we take a more exploratory approach (at least at this stage), something that can help writers see the potential directions their work can take in form, content, and interpretation.

Central to this process would be the concept of safe space (drawn from my experiences as someone who inhabits minority space). To explain sort of what I'm getting at, let me draw a parallel between what I'm aiming for here and the experience of minority space vs. privileged space. Privileged space often - even unintentionally - serves to maintain the status quo (which is often problematic for people on the margins). As a result, the environment feels imposing and judgmental rather than open. OTOH, when I'm in minority space, I feel freer to express what I think and feel about things because the atmosphere is one of sharing. It's not about agreeing with or liking everyone or everything. It's about shared visions, values, and/or experiences.

The environment I want to foster for WIP is very much like that in minority space. There needs to be an engagement with the work that's more substantial than "liked it" or "didn't like it" but not as rigorous as a critique. The idea is to figure out what a WIP is doing, not whether it's any good or not. What I'm going for is getting a stronger grasp on what Stuart Spencer calls a script's Ur-play. That is, the play you really need to write (often oh so different from the one you put on paper).

Let me be clear: I definitely don't want to analyze my plays to death before I'm done. However, I do want to get a better sense of my play's style and content and become aware of the possibilities these present. Although on the surface these conversations don't do much, they do serve an important function once the serious revisions begin. Namely, they keep me in touch with the emotional core of my work. One of my weaknesses as a writer is that I try to do too much with each piece. I tinker so much that I often chip the heart of my script away. As a result, I tend to spend more time un-writing than writing or rewriting. Something like this can help me stay focused as I'm revising my work.

I don't have a precise methodology for this, only general concepts and principles, various areas of emphasis (described above). Overall, I like a format that offers an observation followed by a related question (a version of "Yes, and...") But this is not set in stone. It's just an idea of what I hope to get out of all this.

May 22, 2008

Act 1, Scene 4 (draft 2)

(Queen's palace.)
Queen summons Snow White. Snow White arrives. Queen ushers her to Mirror. She combs Snow White's hair as she sings or hums a haunting melody. She frequently glances in Mirror as her fingers crawl like spider legs in Snow White's hair.

Queen shows Snow White two barrettes: one a blossom, the other a butterfly. There is something too warm, too solicitous, too seductive about how she does this. Snow White hesitates. She picks the butterfly. Queen fixes it in her hair. She gazes at Snow White in Mirror.

Queen escorts Snow White - with Mirror following - into . . .
(Labyrinthine garden. We are the flowers and trees. Lovely and graceful STATUES arrive. Their beauty is hollow, for they are made of stone. There are an economy and elegance to their "steps" that suggest a court dance. They take their places in a clearing in the garden and watch, shifting positions ever so often. They could carry mirrors as basins. Meanwhile . . . )
Queen and Snow White walk among us, now and then stopping to smell the roses. Queen leads Snow White to clearing. They sit and relax for a moment.

Queen offers Snow White an apple. Snow White tastes a morsel and falls unconscious. Queen gazes at Snow White for a while, maybe even giving her a gentle caress. She takes the comb - now a knife - and slits Snow White's throat. Queen devours the youth and life pouring out of Snow White.

As Queen drinks, Statues transform into MIRRORS. Queen is now a VAMPIRE.

Once she has her fill, Vampire tries to look into Mirrors, but they turn away from her and leave. Now alone, she wraps herself in shadow and gloom and disappears.

Act 1, Scene 3 (draft 2)

(Queen's palace.)
Queen appraises herself in Mirror. Mirror touches faint wrinkles on Queen's face. Queen recoils.
[Listening to: "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin]
Queen has terrible nightmare where . . .

Mirrors turn grotesque, demonic. They attack Queen, ripping at her clothes and flesh like sharks, like piranhas, like vultures. They could also throw things at her as well - makeup, shoes, combs and brushes, etc. Queen tries to escape, but Mirrors cage her in. She tries to shield herself, but it's no use. They tear and tear until there is barely anything left to cover the essentials.

Queen bends and shrivels into a feeble old woman. Mirrors disappear. Old, ugly, and alone, Queen weeps.
[Listening to: "Angel" by Massive Attack]
Snow White arrives. She comforts Queen, who regains her composure. With hands and lips and tongue, Snow White pays homage to Queen as she replaces Queen's clothes. It is reminiscent of a priestess worshiping an altar. Clothes and dignity restored, Queen dismisses Snow White.

Queen thinks for a moment. A Mirror returns.

Act 1, Scene 2 (draft 2)

(As Woman becomes Queen.)
Snow White awakens and walks amongst us, cleaning us off and dressing us up with flowers.

Queen summons Snow White. Snow White obeys and gets to work cleaning Mirrors. Queen leaves. A Mirror follows.

Near Mirror, Snow White finds a pair of Queen's shoes. She examines them as if they are relics. She slips them on, appraising herself in Mirrors. She seems more and more like Queen. It is an unsettling resemblance. Maybe the shoes are a bit too small, though.

Snow White daydreams about three PRINCES. There is nothing charming about them. They are hard and rough, maybe even a little bloody. Despite their royal attire, they are more like wild lions than men. Mirrors join us as SPECTATORS of a strange circus where . . .

The first Prince does various tricks with 3 eggs. At the end of his performance, he cracks them open. Instead of yolk, each one bears one kind of treasure: silver, gold, and gems.

The second Prince has a fine cloak. He puts it on and vanishes, reappearing in our world. He takes a few trinkets from us and brings them back to her. He gives the cloak to Snow White to try.

Snow White dons the cloak and goes to the underworld.
(Underworld. Spectators - and we - are GHOSTS floating in limbo.)
Snow White travels amongst us, retrieves an OLD WOMAN.
(World of the living. Ghosts become MIRRORS again, as do we.)
Snow White returns with Old Woman.

The third Prince has a simple bottle or skein full of water. He gives some water to Old Woman, who is instantly revived and rejuvenated.

Queen returns. Daydream disperses.
[Listening to: "Venus in Furs" by The Velvet Underground]
Snow White notices Queen and cowers at her feet. Queen beckons Snow White to return the shoes. Snow White obeys. Queen lets the moment hover.

Queen whips Snow White. Her measured strikes - and Snow White's carefully timed trembling - carry the weight of a religious ritual with a strong BDSM twist. Her strikes grow more feverish and unrestrained. Once exhausted, she dismisses Snow White.

Act 1, Scene 1 (draft 2)

(Here and now as Sleeping Beauty dreams)
WOMAN arrives late. Beautiful but no longer young, she has the cold beauty of a rare gem or a glacier and moves with serpentine grace. She searches for a seat amongst us.
[Listening to: "Face to Face" by Siouxsie and the Banshees]
She and Mirror notice each other. Entranced, they come together and dance. They in complete harmony, Woman and Mirror, person and reflection.

Meanwhile, Trees transform into enchanted MIRRORS with eerily anthropomorphic features. They have a distorted quality similar to funhouse mirrors reflected in their postures and expressions. They rearrange themselves and and strike poses.
(We are now mirrors in a palace.)
Woman approaches Mirrors. They each give her something: makeup (lipstick at least), gloves, gown, boots, and crown. There is an element of ritual to how she dons the makeup (like war paint) and clothes (like a priceless suit of armor). She is transformed into QUEEN, a woman of terrible beauty with more than a hint of the dominatrix about her. Queen admires herself in Mirror(s).

Sleeping Beauty is now SNOW WHITE.

Prologue (draft 2)

(As we settle in and get quiet, we become sentient trees inhabiting an enchanted forest. This is a mythic landscape that embodies mystery and power. It is the abode of dreams and spirits – haunted and haunting, surreal, otherworldly. Deep shadows may hide . . . things. There may be fog and a full moon.)

Other TREES appear. They seem uncannily humanoid, even to the point of having facial expressions. They walk by uprooting then re-rooting themselves. Their slow, lumbering gait, a sort of shambling, has a rhythm to it, each step like a drumbeat. One by one, they root themselves to a spot and watch. Occasionally they could shift or stir.

[Listening to “Carousel” by Siouxsie and the Banshees]

GIRL rides a bike through the forest. There is something ethereal and creepy about her that makes her resemble a ghost (which, perhaps, she is).

CRONE draped in a shadowy cloak glides amongst us. She keeps to the shadows as she slowly approaches, intrigued by this incarnation of human ingenuity. She has a vitality about her that suggests great hidden power.

Girl notices Crone and invites her to examine the bike. Crone emerges from the shadows and does so. She then mounts the bike and rides. She flies above and around the treetops then descends. (Perhaps Trees lower themselves then return to normal to indicate this.) Girl marvels.

Crone turns bike into spinning wheel, perhaps by flipping it upside down. Girl marvels. Crone beckons Girl to the wheel. Girl hesitates. Crone ushers Girl to the wheel and positions her, a gesture both encouraging and seductive. Girl tries her hand at spinning but slips up and pricks her finger. She starts to lose consciousness.

Crone transforms into a powerful ENCHANTRESS who wears power and beauty like a garment of dreams and nightmares. She laughs as she disappears.

Girl drifts into a torpor and is now SLEEPING BEAUTY. She dreams of . . .

A DWARF trying out the spinning wheel then turning it back into a bike and riding away . . .

A blood RED CLOAK worn by a mysterious figure wandering through the forest . . .

A GROOM carrying a blood-soaked sack . . .

A MIRROR beckoning all to look . . .