Good evening. How are you? It’s been too long.
My mind doesn’t have the right geometry for through-thought right now. The varied polygonal solids won’t settle; won’t Tetris together.
I’ve had a delightful night with friends. Which is not unusual. Which is some dumb fantastic luck. And thus delightful. My social Möbius strip.
I missed J’s call, a small tragedy. His session might have been over. He might have attempted to come and join us. But travel time, and we were wrapping up. So best. That he didn’t. E took him snacks. And we, stepped out into the rain. Treated. Damp sidewalk goodbyes. Jolly one-armed hugs and “Happy Thanksgiving!” Rainy nights have no moon. Depart. Promise not to tell how I punished the speakers in my car? Never mind, you probably couldn’t hear me over the din. But I hope you could feel it in your chest.
There is a soaring in me. Some great elegant bird is showboating his phenomenal wingspan riding thermals in the sunlit vaults of my notably elevated heart. And I just wanted to write that down because it’s true now. Then, when it’s not true, maybe I will remember how it feels.
“Today last year at 2:45 AM my Nana passed. She left behind…”
“Today 5 years ago we lost our favorite furry Sprout. Still miss you bud!”
“On this day 2 months ago my uncle John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. If you don’t know about this disease…”
Last week I had a day when my Facebook feed sported a noticeable density of these mostly wistful reminiscences. It caught my attention because I am acutely aware of time (one of those people with no watch who still always knows the hour and the minutes), yet unrelentingly present. Often on a Monday I cannot recall how I spent the just-elapsed weekend.
The examples above are large, tragic, indelible, it’s fitting that they etch into the consciousness. But I have doubts about my emotional time stamps. My parents’ divorce, the deaths of friends, a moderately recent, sufficiently deep heartbreak, are all available to me in emotional 4D with smell-o-vision. The experience of those moments is just a breath away and yet I could probably not do much better than naming the year they occurred.
I wouldn’t be thinking about any of this, except my life changed recently, and I think I would like to remember the date. If only just to ask myself the question in 5 years, “What did you do with what you understood on August 26, 2015?” Will it all loom as large as it has in these past two weeks? Will the sea change within me show on the shores of my public life.
Okay, that was a little…
Anyway, I’ve written it down now. Perhaps I will remember to look back. And for those of you who can’t help but look back on certain dates, I am sorry for your pain.
“I should be sitting on the other side facing the sunset,” she says of her seat on the stone barrier marking out the plot of M. Rooney. The air smells uncertainly of food –potatoes not quite to their destination of french fried or baked?– and grass, fetid with days of snidely ratcheting humidity. The earth seems to be sweaty and a little sour with it.
Shoegazing. My angular discontent of yesterday has Dali-ed into a treacherous landscape of fatigue sinkholes. One second thoughts are stamped out with Swiss clock precision…The next…
…is five minutes later. Consciousness returns exactly the way it does in the movies, focus sharpening lazily on the near object. I’ve been on vacation, outside of myself, relieved of everything overwhelming for a little while; while my retina receives reflected light from my cuticles that my brain doesn’t bother to register.
It is acceptable at times to run from the burdens, but I fail time and time again at screaming out, warning the others that I will soon fall silent under a muffling blanket of jumbled promises and a paralyzing first-things-first dogma. Because I promised myself, but that first thing has only just begun.
And the night ends in tears.
Staring at the full moon, listening to a song full of dance, understanding that everyone. Stops moving. Sometime.
Understanding that privilege is not (just) 5,000 square feet, or 6 trips to Whole Foods in a week, or even a car with no passengers 99% of the time. It is the great sweeping luxury of: buying without thinking about the bank account; acting without wondering if (praying that) your action will hoist you out of poverty, now.
In that testy apartment building Claire always picked up the packages for her across-the-way neighbor leaving them propped just so up against the door.
It takes 20 years to be recognized for anything that you do.
The family you make of friends and the friends you divine from family defy all of Tolstoy’s bad juju.
Where do people find magic in places where summer never ends?
dead in a coma, Jim.”
Hi readers! Thank you for reading! Thank you very much. I have loved the comments and the likes, and I am constantly surprised and delighted to get another follower. I’m amazed at those of you who (might) still read me even though you were first lured over here by my food blogging.
“I’m not dead yet!”
To keep the catch-phrase theme going…this blog is not dead, but will be going dormant for an unknown amount of time :(. All good reasons: work is bananas, but I am loving, I may take a class this fall to learn a new skill while continuing to work full time. I am “Wookin’ Pa Nub” and I have about 80 plays to read that are all new, unpublished work so I can’t write about them. Too much of several good things is exactly the right problem to have and I am grateful for it. But I will miss putting words on the page and eventually a new rhythm will be found here.
If you stick with me, thanks! If you have to go to greener blog pastures, I totally understand.
Until we meet again, I hope you are creating the lives you want for yourself (even if it feels like progress is only one grain of sand at a time). Peace.
Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten was delightful surprise at the end of this collection. Delightful might not be quite the right word, as the major theme is a protracted military action between the people and the government in Liberia…to clarify by ‘delightful’ I mean pleasingly entertaining. In this case I was entertained, once again, in spite of some techniques and tropes which at a minimum make me squirm uncomfortably, and at worst make me scoff.
There is more griot/tribal leader mysticism/wisdom. There is a glut of provocative character names which rarely make it into the text so I’m not entirely sure what the value is to the reader or the viewer. There is a unit of absolutely badass women who are clearly the leaders in this fight, but are also in some ways caricatures, which takes a way a bit from their power. Finally, this is a huge play! Think dance numbers and pyrotechnics. I’m not kidding it’s all in the notes and stage directions. Still I would probably go see it if it was on. Get your snacks though. And if you’re inclined a tipple at the interval probably wouldn’t go amiss.
Cast: Multi. There are approximately 30 roles. The script notes call for doubling by all but two characters (1F 1 M) and the production notes give a cast of 12 (2 dedicated roles, 10 doublers). Run Time: 84 pp. 110 minutes? Themes: African conflicts between the state and the people; civilian military activism; women’s rights and equal status in society; the Western world’s perception of African conflicts.
File under “I see what you did there.” In The Continuum was developed as part of a graduate acting program and it reeks of dotting academic i’s and crossing performance theory t’s. It has that “Tragedy, Will Robinson, Tragedy!” gravitas built in with the HIV/AIDS topic, and a certain amount of, “If you don’t pay attention you are just passively perpetuating the silencing of [Black] women.” If you can get past all of that, the play is a sort of explanatory fable, which compassionately showcases women doing their best to be modern and successful, while coping with the consequences of sex that disproportionately affect us.
It is hard to both develop characters and delineate them when they are all being played by the same (or a few) actors so I had difficulty picturing this as rising above educational exercise. I have a soft spot for HIV-themed work, and I would support my sisters if they put this on, but it’s not a first line production pick for me.
Cast: 2 2F playing multiple characters. Run Time: 37 pp. 45 minutes? Themes: Women, HIV/AIDS, stigma, success, confronting partners, cross culturalism.
I started doing this to share my musings on Simon Stephens’ plays. This play is one that inspired me to keep posting about plays that I was reading. I am a few months removed from that moment, and I won’t lie, my original judgement about the quality of this play holds, but it does seem a bit ridiculous.
Antebellum asks for a very cool ‘split screen’ technique in its staging. A story set in the lead up to the Atlanta premiere of Gone With The Wind, runs in parallel to a story set in an increasingly conservative Nazi Germany just a few years prior to the Atlanta story. And eventually the two timelines collide.
The play very obviously compares the Jim Crow South with Nazi Germany; the assumed superiority of whites over blacks to that same idea about Aryans over Jews, then it throws in heterosexuality over homosexuality, and there’s more than a whiff of class warfare in here as well. I’m going to be crass and call it an oppression smorgasbord. And I have no doubt that this show will ‘jump the shark’ for some readers/viewers. But somehow the characters and the passions speak and no matter what you make of any of the social issues covered, it’s very entertaining. Kind of an awesome Black-Jewish quasi-historical telenovela. You kind of have to see it to believe it, and if it’s ever running near you, you should.
Cast: 5 2W 3 M Runtime: 80 pp. 100 minutes? Themes: Jim Crow South, nascent Nazi Germany, Gone With the Wind, Marriage, Homosexuality, Judaism, Betrayal
This play is introduced with a Frederico Garcia Lorca quote, “A play is a poem standing up.” That would have come off as pretentious if the text hadn’t absolutely lived up to that assertion. …And Jesus Moonwalks The Mississippi is not poetic in the traditional sense, but the sometimes disjointed, pure emotion sense of poetry is in this play and wrought with a tremendous sense of humor in spite of the sad historic themes.
Most griot, wise mammy, rhythmic, highly devised, look at these deep, cultural BLACK ROOTS!!! types of storytelling make me want to run from whatever venue they are being presented in. There is an element of that here presented without irony and with a seriousness I would be tempted to resist as a director, but it works. There’s no fable here. There is the kind of story that was probably all too true at the end of the Civil War, told with a ‘mysticism’ that is delivered by black characters but is no kookier than anyone else’s idea of ‘holy’ and the result is a showcase of how absurd the whole mess was, and how deep those wounds still are. In a theatre it would be hard for me to make it through the first 10 minutes or so, but it would be well worth it.
Cast: 9 4W 3M 2 unspecified Run Time: 63 pp. 80 minutes? Themes: traditional African American storytelling, slavery, slave children born of the master, American Civil War, death and rebirth, freedom.
Hi everyone! Open Theatre Project, a group of great people committed to community and diverse voices (and new work!) is still recruiting great 10-minute plays for our October Slam!
The details of the call and submission form are here: http://www.theopentheatre.com/call-for-10-min-plays-slam-boston-oct-2015/ Disregard the July 1 deadline and send it on in! And spread the word. New England region playwrights, and comedies particularly coveted.
I have a corner apartment with windows on two sides (in three out of four rooms). In spite of being on the third floor (the top), it takes a long time for it get hot. But once it does, it takes a similarly long period to get cool again. So it’s still hot in here. Like, doing nothing more strenuous than typing in the lightest cotton outfit I own, and still I sweat. I hate air conditioning so this is my own doing, and really just an observation of the current state of affairs.
I planned to write about another play tonight, but some hiccups with the library mean I only have one of the collections I was writing about (the wrong one). And my haphazardly applied precision was made very uncomfortable by the prospect of posting out of order. However, that same misapplied precision is also sad that I broke my posting rhythm, and so here are these words.
I believe the years of effort have paid off and I can consistently pick my true voice out of all the noise in my head. The compass is surer about my personal north, I believe it, and can sometimes even feel the magnetic tug. It is a direction, mind you, not a destination. I have no idea where I am going. But I am familiar with my “you’ll know it when you feel it” feeling. All I am trying to do is string as many of those as close together as I possibly can.
My true voice does not always get the last word. Sometimes I find myself headed due south and that magnetic tug starts to feel more like an angry churn; or a ball and chain; or the proud of Dante’s Purgatorio, laboring under large stones (though mine are more often guilt).
Whether a course correction or a step a long the path, there is nothing but change. Minute, unseen shifts in my psyche, or grand upheavals in my life: change. So I feel myself now, shifting…emotional weight to the other metaphoric leg; emphasis; attention. And all that change requires forgiveness for what I leave behind and shed; exploration of the choices I yield to; always remaining ready to dance, because the next change is coming.
If you read my last post it will come as no surprise that this play was a relief to me. Probably would have been even if it wasn’t also very good. Satellites is a drama about a professional interracial family intentionally moving to a culturally diverse neighborhood with their new child. Every issue in the play is familiar and painfully real: the financial worries of maternity leave in the midst of a big expense like a house; the stress of moving; the new mother’s ache to get back to work pulling against the urge to never leave her child; family; the sudden urgency to make decisions that honor both parents’ ethnicity, culture, values.
There’s nothing new here. Satellites unfolds in linear time. You would need actors who could be very bare and real night after night. This would be a gem in a really intimate theatre. But it is worth reading or performing and discussing. I think there is quite a bit of universality to the experiences here for people of any race.
Cast: 7 4M 3F. Run Time: 67 pp. 75 minutes. Themes: As above. The racial awareness that exists in the microcosm of a relationship reveals a lot about the racial reality we are all living in and unconsciously influenced by.
You may have sensed from reading this blog that I resist being negative. I blame most pieces I don’t like on my own biases and (try to) make it clear that it’s just my boring old opinion that x work is ‘bad.’ I’m going to do the same thing here and confess all that was built up to bring me to this conclusion, but I really didn’t like this play.
The play has two parts but doesn’t require an intermission. The structure of the first part is a lot like The Coloured Museum (Wolfe). The second part features the actors in stereotypically “white” roles in a stupid, bad, mean, empty [Insert name of any all white sitcom]-satirizing plot.
This play felt the most academic to me. Lee’s author’s note made the writing process sound very collaborative, but the result for me has the sterility of a grad school final project. I thought there was nothing new in the Coloured Museum-ish half and as my adjectives above suggest, the mean, vapid satire of the second half didn’t do it for me either. I wouldn’t put this in a season. Perfectly good for reading and talking about (anything that makes you uncomfortable usually is), but I would not go to see this and I would not want to make others believe that they should see it. Finally, I have found a way to just read when it comes to plays. I try not to judge (until I’m finished) and just let the language and action of the play suck me in. In this collection, this was the third play that was well outside my comfort zone so I will confess I was primed not to like it. So here are my platitudes: perhaps it just did not get to cook enough. I know there’s a niche for this work. Probably, I just don’t get it. To each their own.
Cast: 7 6M 1F. Actors should have movement and singing ability. There are (multi-) doubling tracks identified in the script. You could probably mess with the gender ratios (seek author’s permission). Runtime: 54 pp. 65-70 minutes? Themes: the legacy and expectation of racial stereotypes.
Good Goods is an allegory. A family business is both the setting for and nexus of several domestic conflicts which boil over in a 24 hour period. The play is packed with tropes and archetypes –mysterious, friendly outsider as catalyst; you can’t go home again; evil corporation; transformation; unconfessed homoeros; deliberate misunderstanding/misexecution of another character’s desire. These jostle against each other and create an internally consistent olio, but there are times when it jumps the shark for me.
Ms. Anderson writes in the notes that the time is “Between 1961 and 1994. There is a keen sense of hindsight in the characters that places this play on a sliding scale in relation to time.” She goes on to describe the place as, “The side pocket of America. It’s a small, unknown city/county/town/village that doesn’t appear on any map.” It is this Brigadoon-ish location which excuses some of the magical action of the play.
This play was another to reveal my producer-y tendencies. I would gladly support a passionate person who had the vision and follow-through to bring this skillfully to life, but I would not direct it myself. Further, just now in this writing, Good Goods, has made me realize how much of what I like in theatre has to do with scale and realism. More on that later.
Cast: 6 4M 2F. Two of the characters “double.” Runtime: 107 pp. Let’s call it 120 minutes. Plan that intermission. Themes: Historical and current double crosses, worse for being black on black double crosses.
Bulrusher is a full-length coming of age story, which features the awakening and revelation of individual characters and a change in the consciousness of the community the characters represent. The play is set in Boonville, California in 1955, an existing town with a history of a unique local dialect. The author states in the notes that the characters do not have a contemporary self-consciousness, and the play read to me more like the inhabitants of a struggling frontier town from maybe 80 years earlier.
The title character is openly mystical, a lore that is both cast upon her and one that she lives. Falling in love surprises her and reveals her identity at an individual level and with resonance in the community. Bulrusher is well-wrought, the prose and the story move well, and the dialect is a neat element which pulls the ear and the curiosity. The ending is also neutral. I love a play that does not tell you how to feel.
It’s plays like this that make me realize I may a producer more than a director. I absolutely see the value of this show in a season, but the mysticism, songs, and setting don’t light any personal fires for me to make me want to do it. Well worth a read though.
Cast: 6 3M 3F Runtime: 82 pp. Let’s call it 90 minutes? Themes: historical regional, sexuality, identity, coming of age, roots, water, mysticism.