Monday, August 31, 2009

4th Time...? Not the Charm

hello, my lovelies.... welcome to the long-awaited, much-anticipated wrap up of the 19th annual scriptwriters/houston 10x10 showcase of new plays.

but who am i kidding...? that was two weeks ago... (more?) we've moved on... we've digested the highs and lows of the weekend. but i feel i must revisit this go-around and express my thoughts and insights on the whole operation.

let me begin by saying: this is it. i'm done. i'm out.

this fourth affair with the blue hairs of the 10x10 left little enchantment in my heart for the group. unorganized. amateurish. the whole thing left me wanting. not that any given year has been 100%. but we know how rocky this experience started and, well, it didn't end much better.

i should preface this with stating i enjoyed working with my director very much. yes, he thought my characters were gay when they clearly were not. yes, he left town for nearly three weeks in the middle of rehearsal time. and, yes....he obviously didn't work closely enough with tech to really hammer down the problems with my play.

but before i get to all of that... let's revisit the other 9 plays first.

family portrait
i like the writer and there were some moments of very clever snipes. but, ultimately, the piece is 8 grating moments of hate and slur....with an attempt at putting a positive face on it with a false ending. "i wasn't able to give my children a proper childhood." why not? and is being the screaming banshee of hoboken really the better option? love your children... try your best... don't harp on every flaw, belittle every aspect of their lives and try to pass it off as love. i simply didn't buy it and the lead actress's affected performance only made it more painful.

this play came in third with the judges. i also heard some muttering that this piece had been performed somewhere before...which should have disqualified it. but whatever...

the workshop
it read so funny on the page... but then lost its way in performance. too much going on? too much dependence on slapstick and physical humor as opposed to the words written? the fact that the actor who delivers the final, HI-larious monologue was almost unintelligible didn't help. most people i know tuned out and hated this piece.

it won judges favorite.

dance with me
nine minutes of poorly written dialogue and a buried message. it redeems itself in the final moments when we're all allowed to watch an old lady dance to "the cupid shuffle." that moment won over the entire audience....enough for them to ignore the other nine.

the final dress rehearsal for this was a logistical nightmare. wrong music, wrong timing, wrong sound effects. the first night the older actress lost her lines and the piece lost two minutes of dialogue. it was saved by the booth when they brought in the sound effects early to move the action along.

it was runner-up for audience favorite.

the sombre, gay play of the year. the first few minutes are jumbled and distracting. dialogue switches back between two gay couples (2 men, 2 women) and much is lost. i think it has it's moments when it allows just two people to settle down and discuss in the second half of the piece. ultimately, however, it's all cliche' and retread. nothing original. some fine acting, i thought... some of the best of the night.

oh....and i still don't see any part of that piece that really shows one of the gay men at the beginning is the one that's dead. so you have a current conversation and a past conversation. how do we know that? where is that said? the only way to know "jeff" is seated at the table at the beginning is to read his name in the program. otherwise, i honestly feel it's never clear.

this play tied for runner-up with the judges.

another charmer from the charmer of the 10x10. he writes unoffensive, safe, whimsical, down-home plays and the goblins of the 10x10 love him. i actually really like the play too. it benefits greatly from a talented cast... and it's clever and funny. but safe. always safe. i'm never big on safe.

this play won audience favorite overwhelmingly.

some interesting moments... but it feels as if it goes on five minutes too long. again, not necessarily benefited from its lead actor (also its author). originally, the entire show felt like a high school UIL one-act. stilted, stiff, cheesy lighting. the director originally had each "extra" come on and off the stage. made the entire piece feel even longer and dragged it out. finally, she put everyone on stage and it helped. still... ultimately a deeper message lost with a lot of excess.

cute. very cute. harmless and aimless.... i actually kinda liked it. the chemistry between the two actors added much. i dunno? beyond the underlying misogyny...i liked it.

forbidden fruit
for some odd reason...this play did not connect with most audience members and friends i've talked to. it's my favorite play out of the ten. it starts off on a very bizarre note and just continues down the rabbit hole. interesting and fresh... funny but dark. the play, i think, provides the most daring ending of the night. a friend of mine was pitch-perfect as the bartender... and i just really enjoyed the ride.

critic's choice
this play runs about 15 to 17 minutes in a TEN minute competition. it feels about 25 minutes long. pointless, self-indulgent. it's a wink to the inner circle that has nothing really to say but attempt to skewer the very person who wrote it. anyone who has to place the PhD after their name in a THEATRE program, is self-indulgent. i do not know a single person who enjoyed this piece.... BUT...

it tied as runner-up with the judges.

upstairs dirty bomb
what can i say about my play....? it never quite lived up the promise of its title. i do think it's better than the production it was given (a familiar feeling of mine when discussing the 10x10). for some reason people laughed more at the second half. of course, my play only runs about 7 minutes. but after the 17 minutes of the prior piece of shit.... i think everyone was simply ready for the show to be over.

so maybe i was partly screwed by placement?

but mostly...i was screwed by the booth. not to mention a bit of slapdash direction and a novice actor who tried his best but simply couldn't bring what was needed to the play.

and again...i really enjoyed working with my director and my cast. two of them i would work with easily again. and one of them received a lot of laughs.

final dress rehearsal was a nightmare, as previously stated. opening night... the sounds were all off. turns out, the booth spent so much time fixing the other plays they royally fucked up during the final dress rehearsal, they forgot to update the changes for my play.

so the vacuum cleaner that was supposed to be over the opening music took the place of what was supposed to be the first big boom from upstairs. and... the booth decided to play the vacuum cleaner noise for a while. which threw off other sound effects. all in just threw off my actors, threw off the timing...and the entire piece came across as flat.

saturday night... music and vacuum cleaner is right... then when it came time for the first big boom...................


my actors paused, looking up...waiting. nothing. so he stomped as loud as he could in place of the sound effect. the first half of the play had my actors stomping where sound should have been.

again...threw off the actors. threw off the timing. the piece fell flat.

sunday matinee.... crappy, unappreciative audience all around. matinee audiences always suck. but guess what...?

music and vacuum cleaner fine. first sound...perfect. every sound after that... perfect. on time and rather funny.

remember: this was the first time i'd actually heard all the sound effects in their proper places... after a week of tech and two prior performances... this was the first i heard it all.

it changed everything and i was actually happy with the piece.

i think i took some chances... yes, it probably isn't as funny as i had hoped. but it at least challenged individuals... especially those on the left who think so highly of themselves that they're beyond reproach.

and i'm guilty of this too. hell, it was a pretty autobiographical piece. many of the lines i have said to my friends verbatim.

but anyway... i can't put up with the lack of professionalism and the drive to put on the best shows possible. it's amateurish and i'm done.

i want to focus on longer things and better productions.

the 10x10 has served its purpose for me over the past four years... it got me writing again. it put my name back out there.... and it's put me in contact with a lot of really plugged in theatre people.

but the curtain is down on that part of my life.

onward and upward!


p.s. i'd love to read any comments people might have who actually saw the shows... so don't be shy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

as is always the case, i hit snooze on my alarm two, three, sometimes four times every morning. but upon my alarm sounding for the second time this morning, i reached over and heard the dj utter, "we'll talk more about the passing of edward kennedy..." i sat straight up and said, "oh no."

i turned off my alarm clock, headed out to the living room and turned on msnbc. there was the crew of morning joe mourning the loss of the liberal lion of the senate, edward m. kennedy.

the new york times reported it succinctly and put it best:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
i've been surprised at how strongly the news of teddy's passing has hit me this morning. i teared up.... i can't stop thinking about it.

it's true i was not alive when kennedy fought for civil rights and led the charge on capitol hill back in the 60's. nor was i around for chappaquiddick... i wasn't old enough to remember his presidential run in 1980 nor was i much into politics before the mid-90s.

but as a student of history and a lover of cannot look back on the latter part of the 20th century and not see his impact on the lives of all americans.

he championed many causes that are close to my heart such as civil rights, equal rights and the greatest calling of his life: health care for all.

he always fought for "the poor and voiceless."

he came from much, yes, but believed greatly in giving back equally as much.

i'm saddened most by the fact that he didn't live to see any real, substantive health care reform. "health care is a right, not a privilege," he often said.

i firmly believe the debate over health care has suffered without his involvement. he was an adamant voice for his causes but he also knew how to reach across the aisle and bring republicans in to help pass legislation. this type of finesse is simply difficult to find currently in the halls of congress.

perhaps now...out of respect for his legacy....congress will try to work harder on some sort of health care reform.

one can only hope....

this quote from senator kennedy in the times article this morning also stood out to me:

We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make. I have lived a blessed time.
our future is better because ted kennedy lived.

washington, as well as core liberal values, has lost a giant.

edward m. kennedy
february 22, 1932 – august 25, 2009

may the dream live on without him....


Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick Update

we have sound.

we got some laughs.

it's not perfect. and there's a lot of openings for mistakes.

but it's promising.

we'll see....


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Initial/Random Thoughts

so tonight was the second evening of tech rehearsal for this year's 10x10 festival of new plays. tech rehearsal. that's "technical rehearsal" for you non-theatre types.

so one might hope that during TECH rehearsal....they might have working sound. you know, for timing, etc.

yeah...not last night. not tonight.

some backstory: i swore after the first year i did the 10x10 i would never write anything that depended on sound effects or music. it was a nightmare that first year....wrong music. late music. music not working. just not good.

but now i've gone back on that promise to myself...and i have A LOT of VERY important sound effects. please note my unusual use of all caps... they're THAT important.

and now....we've yet to have sound. two full nights of tech rehearsal. no sound.


tomorrow night is the final dress rehearsal before we open on friday. i'm nervous... but suddenly excited. allow me to explain....

i had felt a bit disconnected... just not a lot of rehearsal and i've had to miss some that we have had. i didn't feel a strong connection to my cast and i just felt separated from the fucking thing.

but now i'm loving what the cast is doing with the play. and my director has just been a blast the past two nights. especially tonight when he showed up to the theatre ten sheets to the wind. oh. my. god. you could smell the cabernet on his breath. it was fabulous.... and hilarious. and made the cast comfortable... and we were all joking about it and having fun with each other...

and they got up there on stage and just had FUN with the piece.

the first night of tech... they were still a bit stiff. lacking projection, as well. but tonight....they got some laughs (from the handful of people who were still there) and i think it might just be okay.

my director from last year stuck around and i went up to her and asked: "funny or offensive?" and she said, "funny." she seemed to have had a good chuckle. i'm sure some of it shocked her, the sweet thing... but i feel better.

they dropped some lines..... there's still some minor tweaking... but it's looking good.

if they can work out the sound effects and if my actors can remember their lines (and my non-actor avoids freaking out the first time he's onstage in front of a full house) - we should be fine.

so...two funny things and then i'll give my initial thoughts on each play.

a) i was told the most fabulous phrase for babies tonight: "crotch fruit." i plan to write an entire play around these two words.

b) we were all sitting around joking with my drunken director when someone asked me if i would write them a part where they could play a pedophile. i looked at him and said, "yeah... ask the gay guy to write a play about pedophilia. because we don't have enough problems." another playwright put her head on my shoulder and said, "i like him."

just making friends everywhere i go....

okay, the plays and my initial thoughts. names avoided (for now) to protect the innocent.

1. may have had promise at one time... but completely destroyed by a single actress who makes it beyond painful to watch.

2. another play i liked on the page....but here's it's a muffled mess. and the best part of the play (the final monologue) is HI-larious... but killed in delivery. disappointing.

3. not bad...some nice moments. overall, more strongly directed and acted than written.

4. confusing at first... disjointed. but then two actors are allowed to come together and it's very touching. major props to the two actors.

5. harmless. charming. well-crafted. a nice piece. very funny with some very talented actors.

6. why do they always start off the second act with the most bizarre play? a jumbled mess. not helped at all by the lead actor. the lighting and the staging all feel very high school UIL.

7. very cute. doesn't really go anywhere...but you know i love that. and very cute.

8. perhaps my favorite. starts off bizarre and just continues down to it's dark conclusion. well written, well staged. excellent actress involved.

9. still a bit of a mess.... saved by some very good performances (one in particular). goes on WAY too long. when i timed it last night, it ran about 17 minutes.

10. well, you'll just have to wait and judge for yourself.

more thoughts after the run...maybe even after dress rehearsal tomorrow night. i also owe you, my lovelies, some thoughts on the festival of originals (FOO).

nightie, night.