Friday, September 28, 2007

Puttin' on THE RITZ

See that guy under the table (under Rosie Perez)?

That's my pal Terry (aka Best Man at my wedding) on the left, with his shirt off, of course, to show his manly arms.

His show THE RITZ opens offically on October 11th, but you can get tickets now for previews. That is, after you see my show LOVE & DEATH IN THE TIME OF CRAYOLA.

Love & Death Tonight!

If you're in NYC, go see my award-winning play LOVE & DEATH IN THE TIME OF CRAYOLA. It's in this tonight at 8 pm! I dare ya!

Or see it on Sunday at 2 pm!

C'mon, just do it...please...You'll like it! It's funny!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Totally Gross

It’s yucky rainy outside—not quite sprinkling, not quite raining, just a spitting water in your face kind of nastiness. And the clouds are doing what they do best in Seattle--block any and all sunlight. I looked at the forecast and it says we have six more months of rain…no, seriously.

Time to get out the B vitamins and Selenium and ask my doctor about anti-depressants.

Yet, in spite of the weather and the thoughts of impending darkness for months and months, I will remain positive.

I do, however, have to mention one thing…Seattle is not as clean as it would like to believe.

WARNING: The following anecdote is gross and its about poop so if poop is not your thing, just stop reading now…I mean it.

Last Monday—a week ago—I got off the bus and walked down the steps for the underpass by Mercer, to go under Aurora Avenue. On the steps was a pile of human feces. Yes, poop. It must’ve been there at least since the night before and was probably delivered by one of the many homeless people who sleep in the lawn masquerading as a park across the street. I walked on and thought nothing of it…

Until Friday of last week when I got off the bus, headed down the steps of the underpass and saw it again. If you’ve never seen a pile of four day old human poop, it’s a sight to behold.

And then I forgot about it…

Until today.

When I got off the bus.

And it was STILL THERE.

It’s starting to get black like charcoal and shriveling, but its still a pile of human poop.

And I face a slight dilemma here because I’m thinking to myself, “who do I call?” Who’s job is it to clean up the poop? It must be someone’s job, right? And surely, I’m not the only person who has been witness to the defecation. And yet, it’s still there.

This is obviously a sign that Seattle does not do enough cleaning of its streets and sidewalks.

It’s bad enough I clean up my dog’s poop. But I draw the line at human poop. Humans should know better. There are other places more suitable for pooping. The next time one of those unfortunate souls asks for money, I’m going to slip the smelly guy a dollar and say, “Look, here’s a buck if you don’t poop on the steps anymore. Find a bush, for God’s sake.”

Okay, and now I promise not to write about poop in this blog for at least a month.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Super Duper!

So here’s the scoop.

If you read Variety on a regular basis, or you’re a total comic book geek, you might already know this but Warner Brothers studios is putting together a movie version of Justice League of America. Based on the DC comics, this group of superfriends are made up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash and sometimes others like the Green Arrow. George Miller (director of Babe and Mad Max and most recently Happy Feet) has signed on to direct.

WB is on the fast track to make this movie because there are impending contracts about to run out—SAG and the WGA. What does that mean in movie business terms? It means there could be a whole lot of negotiations and a possible talent strike. When a talent strike happens, no movies get made. So all studios are ramping up projects in pre-production and pushing up production dates to get a whole lot of movies made and banked for the summer of 2009. They have to start making the movie before March to not be affected by the upcoming negotiations.

The JLA project is one of those movies.

Also, it seems that the two actors you’d think most likely to be in the movie, Christian Bale (Batman) and the other guy who played Superman in the movie, or even the guy who plays Superman on Smallville, are NOT signed on and will be unavailable for filming in February.

So a talent search is on and for some reason the casting call went out to Seattle. I got wind of it through a message board sight. The allure of the fact that it films in Sydney for three months, starting in February, made me send in my headshot just for the hell of it, knowing full well that I’m not really right for Superman or Batman, or any other superhero (barely young enough and definitely not in superhero shape). The casting director called me in anyway and I was glad to go because I have yet to audition for this person and want them to consider me for other projects.

They sent out four options of different sides to prepare. Now, the script for JLA has just been finished and is being kept under wraps. So the sides they gave me were for other movies. Not obscure movies. Very well known movies.

Good Will Hunting. Swingers. A Few Good Men.

Now, I really wanted to do the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech from A Few Good Men—I mean, it’s really fun to say—but I just couldn’t get Jack Nicholson out of my head, so opted for the Swingers scene. Besides, I’m more the Jon Favreau type anyway.

The casting office was located in Westlake, not too far from work. I decided to walk. Of course, by the time I walked over there, the drizzly cloudy day became a hot, sunny day and I was sweating up a storm by the time I arrived. I literally had to dry myself off in the bathroom. And of course, no one in Seattle ever has any thought to regulating room temperature so the offices were hot and humid and I just kept sweating. Eventually, I dried off before I walked into the room.

I met the two women who were running the auditions who were very full of energy (evidently they did the casting for Sleepless in Seattle, so they’ve been around awhile). I stood on my mark for the camera and told them my funny story. They laughed (a good sign). Then I did my audition. It went really well, actually. Mostly, I think any anxiety about it I had was dissipated by the fact that I was obviously not right for the part (I could tell by the listing that they want hot young 25 year old models who can barely form sentences). Afterwards they even commented on how well my transitions were from beat to beat.

I walked out of there feeling good and then walked down to the Seattle Rep to see a reading of a new play with Lisa.

Will I ever hear from the casting people again? We’ll see. Perhaps there will be a commercial or other film project in the future that is better suited for my talents.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A funny story from my past...

I have my audition today...(aren't you curious to know what it is for?) I have to come in with a funny story so this is the story I'm going to tell them...

This happened to me in college, my first or second year, and I had this house with a friend of mine which had a gas fireplace. At the time I was acting in a production of Romeo & Juliet and trying to grow a beard for the show. I was dating this girl for about two months. We had yet to have sex, yet, though…and I was planning this big night for us…I was going to cook her dinner, watch a romantic movie, and she would stay the night…My roommate was going to be gone that night and I got all dressed up. I put some laid back guitar music on and then she came over. I cooked chicken marsala and lit some candles and poured some wine. I had never actually lit a gas fireplace ever, in my life, but for some reason I thought tonight would be a good night to try. I said, "Hey, lets take our wine over by the fireplace."

So I turn on the gas and I try to light a match. It doesn’t light. So I try it again. And again. I just can’t get the stupid thing to light and this girl is kind of laughing at me…

And meanwhile the gas is going hisssssssssssss….

And then I finally light a match and reach my hand into the fireplace to light the fire.


A huge fireball explodes in my face. I freak out. The highest pitch scream I’ve ever made is coming out of my body and it frightens me almost as much as the fact that I think I'm on fire, my eyeballs are melting or that I'm going to be disfigured for life. My hands are patting myself down and I'm backing away. She screams. Then I catch my breathe, realizing that I'm not on fire. I can still see. It's okay. Until a searing burning sensation creeps onto my face. Like a really intense sunburn. I go look in the mirror and see my beard and eyebrows singed.

Then to make matters worse, she takes me not to the ER of the closest hospital but all the way across town, like a forty minute drive, because they have a special burn unit. Now I’m pissed for several reason 1) I'm obviously not getting laid tonight and 2) my face hurts more and more every passing minute and 3) it’s 8 o’clock at night and I’m pretty sure the burn unit probably deals with real emergencies, like people stuck in burning buildings or reconstructive surgery. So I really want to yell at her to go to the closest ER but I don’t because I’m afraid she’s going to not take me at all. It turns out I’m right. We go to their ER where they X-ray my lungs because they think I might’ve “swallowed some of the flame” and then after they tell me its not really that bad and to put this ointment on it.

We broke up about a week later. We never had sex. And I had to shave my beard.

But luckily my eyebrows did grow back. Who knew they were so resilient.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Save Me

“We could be heroes…just for one day…”
-- David Bowie

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero?

If so, which one?

Friday I will be auditioning for a superhero…

And no, it’s not to dress up as Spider-man at some birthday party.

More later…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

“Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day after tomorrow just as well.”

Mark Twain

For the past few entries I’ve been meaning to talk about…Procrastination.

But I’ve been putting it off…

It’s not like I haven’t been busy…My day job has acquired 30% more work because of some shifting around of personnel and it’s the crazy month of the year before the new budgets, blah blah blah…And I’m organizing this regional meeting for The Dramatists Guild of America, and I do actually want to spend time with my wife and my dog and have drinks with friends and see movies and plays and enjoy the sunshine, if and when it ever appears again…so it’s not about being lazy…it’s just about putting things off…really…

This is not about finding the time to write, which is difficult and could be the topic of another blog. Because sometimes you sit down to write and find yourself doing other things, like checking email and surfing the net (I like to call that “research”). In your fast-paced life, there are just too many things going on that eat up your time. Carving out time to write is difficult but can be done. I can bitch and moan about having to work 50 hours a week and have a family life, etc. but others have paved this road before me and been successful.

When it comes to writing, procrastination can kill. A project can be put off and putt off until the impulse to write, the desire to express something or tell a story just fizzles…

That’s one good reason I like the theatre—it gives you a hard deadline. At some point an audience is coming to the show and you have to be ready. Sometimes you are, but usually you need two more weeks. But opening night always looms over your head.

Before any production, though, you’ve got to write the play. And to do that, you also need a deadline. You need to set an “opening night” for yourself. That could mean setting a date for writing “Fade out” or actually setting up a reading yourself with actors to hear your finished script.

The key to battling procrastination is to create deadlines and stick to them by setting small goals, breaking things down into little chunks. To finish that play or screenplay, say to yourself, “I need five pages a week for twenty four weeks—that will be a 120 page screenplay. The deadline for that would be…” And put it on your calendar. Stay on track, even when you don’t feel like writing and especially when it seems you don’t have the time. You never have the time. No one ever does. That’s just life. So find the time. Take the big chunks and the little chunks and see what you can do with each. Sometimes I’ve done some great work when I’ve had to write a scene under the gun. You just have to think about what you want to accomplish and aim for that goal.

Writing happens word by word. We string words together and make sentences, then pages Simple, right. If you only write a one page scene don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve done something.

A writer writes. So stop procrastinating.

Oh, and if you’re really looking for a challenge, the National Playwriting Month, inspired by the idea of National Novel Writing Month, which gets people to write a novel in one month.

Go here to check it out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Everybody Poops...Eventually

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
- Gene Fowler

My mom used to always ask me if I was “regular”.

This is probably far more information than you’d care to know about me but it has to do with this whole thing people call “writer’s block”. Everybody knows to eat your fiber and bran and all that and that the signs of a healthy person can be seen in…well, in their poop. If you poop regular, you’re good. If not, usually something is…backed up.

What does your poop have to do with writer’s block?

Nothing. I just wanted to have a blog about poop.

Kidding. A little.

In contrast to my belief that constipation can be a real serious problem, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sometimes you can get stuck on some story idea or it can be harder to write than other days. Honestly, every day is a hard day to write. We’re constantly fighting the good fight of producing pages. Always. It makes us feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill, watching it roll down, going back to get it…repeat…Most new writers have this ideal that writers only write when they get inspired, when the muse hits them like lightning (and the music swells just like in Shakespeare in Love and you write and write as if the gods were whispering in your ear and your pen burns the page its going so fast…).

This does not happen with most writers.

And the other writers that do experience that thrill of bliss…well, they aren’t much fun at parties.

Everyone who writes knows that writing is a pain in the ass. But having written…that’s glorious…its so nice to have something that’s been revised and polished and starting to resemble the first impulses you had long, long ago.

Someone once asked me awhile ago, “what do you do about writer’s block?” I told them, “I write.”

I know. It’s flippant. But it’s true.

I went on to explain that I write something—anything—down. Just to prove I can put a word on the page. I free write for a few minutes. That free writing can be thinking about the grocery list, the to do list at work, the annoying cube mate, my favorite beer, why I like coffee, or why I think Spielberg should cast me as Indiana Jones’ son in the next movie. Or maybe you can just write lists…a list of your favorite colors, favorite movies, or people or things that you hate…There are also plenty of writing exercises to be found in plenty of books to help you, as well. Whatever. The point is not quality, it’s to get the pen moving, or the hands typing. It’s to write. There’s always something to write about. No matter how trivial or stupid. Because once you start doing it, you realize that not all writing has to be brilliant. That’s probably why you’re stuck.

Because really there is no block. There’s just you and you’re in your own way.

To digress again…Remember in The Matrix when Neo goes to visit the Oracle and that little creepy bald kid is in the waiting room bending a spoon? He hands it to Neo and says, “There is no spoon.” Get it? There is no block, only the one you put on yourself. Once you realize that you don’t have to write a perfect first draft you’ve given yourself permission to suck. And that’s what you need. Permission will free you.

Once you get something down you can always rewrite. And like I’ve said before, rewriting is the promise of perfection (though you have to accept you never quite get there). The first draft always sucks. So let it suck.

You don’t sit down on the crapper with the pressure of “This must be the most glorious poop ever!” You’ll never be regular that way and you’ll always be disappointed.

There is no block. Say it. It feels good.

“There is no block.”

Now, procrastination…that’s another thing…for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Keep that dead dog crap off my stage! (Private v. Personal)

The most interesting thing about writing stories is that no matter what the story is about, or who, it’s really about the writer. Give ten writers the same plot, characters, and events and the story would still be different. This is why Seneca's Oedipus Rex is so different than Sophocles'

Because plot is not necessarily story.

If you gave ten writers the plot, characters and events that make up “Little Red Riding Hood”, you’d get ten different stories. The plot is just a collection of facts. Red goes to see Grandma. Wolf tries to trick and eat Red. A hunter saves Red and Grandma by killing the wolf. But what’s the story really about? Each writer may think Red has different wants and relationships with the forest or the wolf. One Red may be frightened of the wolf or doesn’t want to go visit Grandma. Another writer’s Red may love the adventure of it or love Grandma’s cooking. Is Little Red Riding Hood the story of a girl facing her fears? Is it the story of her connecting with her Grandma (youth v. old age?)? What if we told the story, not from Red’s point of view, but from the wolf’s, who is just doing what’s in his nature? Suddenly the story might become a tragedy.

When we tell a story, we reveal how we see the world. So every story I write is really about me. All the characters are from my head and grapple with my own burning questions or issues. Some are more personal than others. No writer can write about something outside of his/her experience. And usually the personal issues of the writer are universal…becomes everyone has a family, has a lover/wife/husband/partner, feels love, anger, loneliness, or deals with rites of passage like growing up or follows their dream or whatever…

Stories should never be private. Private means “so personal, so secret” that it has no relevance to anyone else and is in fact not designed to. Private is not universal.

Personal is for others, involving humanity. Private is “just for me, “aka self-indulgent. In more crude terms…Personal is making love. Private is masturbation.

These thoughts are on my mind because I’m going to develop a solo performance. A monologue. I figure if it worked for Eric Bogosian, it can work for me. Bogosian is a playwright (SubUrbia, Talk Radio) and performer (currently on one of the Law & Orders) and you can check him out on Utube.

I saw him perform his show “Wake Up & Smell the Coffee” at the Jane Street Theater in New York City when I lived there. It was one of those theatrical experiences you remember because you think, “Holy crap, that’s a charismatic performer who doesn’t pull his punches and doesn’t waste my time. He’s got the goods.” Not quite as momentous as when I saw Mnemonic, but still quite thrilling.

What I like most about him is that he doesn’t merely stand up with a microphone and tell me a story about his personal life (like Denis Leary or Mike Daisey). He actually performs characters in dramatic situations. Okay, sometimes he tells personal stories—well, rants is a better word. He even did a character with his own name once. But he never confused the fact that he knew theatre was a construct and therefore the character of “Eric Bogosian” is different than the real person.

Sometimes that personal style of storytelling can be done quite well (Spalding Gray was a master). But usually in less capable hands, it sucks.

Why? Most times the solo performer confuses personal with private.

Theatre involves an audience/actor relationship. Solo performance is not merely a way of expressing emotions without any thought to what you are actually trying to convey. I’ve seen actors who “felt so sad” onstage, but communicated nothing to the audience. It’s not your job as performer to feel sad, but to tell a story. In the end, the audience should feel sad (or whatever you want them to feel, get, understand, etc.). Some solo performers confuse the art of confessing with the art of telling a story. So what you end up with is a lot of crap about a dead dog but no relevance. There’s no story, no social commentary, political context. No point of view about the world. It’s more “let me tell you about something that made me sad”.

So what?

Theatre is too important to waste time on triviality. Also, theatre is not therapy. Theatre is communication. So keep the banality and the confessionals off the stage.

I’m not interested in relating stories about my childhood like reading from some diary. And it’s not because I’m afraid of revealing my inner demons and secrets or telling the truth or “what will others think of me?” I’m a writer. I got over that a long time ago.

I won’t discount the idea of digging into my own personal memories and thoughts. But I want my stories to be compelling and universal. I want it to be about me and you and the world we live in. I can trust it will be about me, because I’m writing from my point of view. Who else is telling the story?

The real question I’m struggling with right now is “what is the story I want to tell as a solo performer”?

And that’s why I’m procrastinating by writing this rant instead of working on it. Or working at all, really.

Ah, procrastination…that’s a topic for tomorrow…

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mamet Schmamet!

I splashed soapy water all over my pants and shirt in the kitchen while washing my coffee cup. It must be Monday…

But anyway…

It has been announced that my short play DOG PARK will be produced at Theater Schmeater, here in Seattle. It will run with three other plays “that could have been written by Mamet”concurrently with their production of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.

For the announcement go here.

What is most funny is their tagline for the play (which I did not get the privilege of making up):

“In Seattle's Magnuson Dog Park, Jake and Duke take a special interest in the young pup Tiger, trying to get him to mate with Bambi, the poodle.”

By the way, I used the name Duke in honor of my sister and brother-in-law who recently lost a dog with that name. May he romp in doggy heaven.

If you are familiar with Mamet, you may enjoy this spoof movie trailer. If you don't know Mamet, beware--he uses the F**K word...a lot...

And now back to your regularly scheduled Monday. I have to dry my pants.

The image above is courtesy of Zach Trenhol from the Theater Schmeater website

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Have You Been Stolen?

Your Photo of the Day is courtesy of the Shanghai police.

They say a picture says a thousand words...this only says nine, but its really funny.

By the way, Shanghai is the name of city and is also a verb (meaning to trick someone into servitude as a sailor, usually by getting them drunk...)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Today is Wednesday

I am very busy at work. But here are today’s headlines:

I have started running with Maddy in an effort to get myself in shape and tire her out. So far the results are indeterminate on both...

I burned myself on my arm cooking Chicken Marsala last night. Mental note—don’t use too much olive oil…or get the hell out of the way when you splash it in the sizzling hot pan.

We also had drinks with fellow PhD candidates at Conor Bryne. Last night was "Old Time Social" hour. I have never seen so many fiddle players assembled in one pub before. Made me want to get up and dance.

Big news of the day: I'm happy to report one of my short plays will be produced soon right here in Seattle. More news to come on that front as it develops.

But since we’ve been playing odds lately, let me show you what I was up against:

65 plays submitted. 4 chosen.

The odds were 16 to 1.

So I did all right there. Yeah for me!

Oh, and I got my new Paul Auster book, Travels in the Scriptorium, which I haven’t started reading yet because I’m still finishing Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms.

Lastly, I start rehearsals tomorrow evening for two staged readings of two separate screenplays later this month.

More news tomorrow or the next day, I don't know...