Saturday, November 21, 2009

Way, Way Behind

“Everyone has a plan…until they get hit”.
–Mike Tyson

It’s over half way through the month and I’m way behind on my pages. Some days writing feels a lot more like boxing than anything else. It requires discipline, stamina, and strategy. And strategy goes right out the window when you get into the ring.

I’ve been behind in my pages because I’ve been “hit”. What happened? Life happens, of course. Work. Family. Other commitments. Oh, and just plain avoidance and laziness, too.

Boxing also requires a certain amount of confidence and bravery. One part of my resistance is fear. In some ways it seems I don’t know where my play is heading (lacking confidence) but the truth is I know exactly where it is I’m going and what I want to write about but don't really want to go there (fear).

It's about the midpoint when I always wonder if this is trip is worth it. Why did I start this? What was I thinking? It happens every time, but I plunge on. Why? I'm masochistic. That's the long way of saying, I'm a writer.

I also know that if I can smell fear, then I'm on the right track.

So off I go…today I’m back on track, doing my pages…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nothing to see here, move along

Nothing to say right now...still working it between all the other things in my life...

So here's a quote from one of my favorite playwrights:

"To allow others to share in the astonishment of being, the dazzlement of existence, and to shout to God and other human beings our anguish, letting it be known that we were there."

--Eugene Ionesco

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 2

Check out my "rhino blast" over on the official National Playwriting Month blogsite.

When in doubt, keep writing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 7

Well, it's a good thing I did so much writing early this week as my regular regimen of writing has gone out the window. This morning I was back at it, hammering out another four pages.

There is now a new character named Lincoln. Yes, he has a top hat and wears a beard but that's where the similarities between him and the real Lincoln end.

Can I just say...I love imaginary friends!

Now off to do some more writing of another kind and actually do other life stuff.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day Two

I only wrote a two page scene today.

It's not much, but it's coming along. Little by little, this is how we build our dreams. I only need to write an average of three pages a day and at the end of 30 days I'll have 90 pages.

The more scenes I write, the better I get to know the characters. It's interesting to see which characters I get to know first. Eventually I will get to know them all quite well.

If it weren't for some other writing projects going on, I might have been able to do more. But that's life as a writer. There's always something that will get in the way of writing. You can't let that stop you.

Always keep writing, moving forward.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day One

It’s November 1st.

Day one of the National Playwriting Month.

I have begun my play.

The title?


Right now it’s a secret project so I won’t reveal too much. Obviously it’s about America and Family. I know, these are big targets.

My aim for this first draft really is to get a blueprint for when I direct it somewhere a year or two from now. This is an experiment in trusting my instincts and my experience, so I am not going to obsess over character, plot and structure right now. That will be for the revisions. I know that I'll rewrite a lot in rehearsal as a director.

I’ll chart my progress in this blog as much as I can.

It’s going to be a busy month.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hey, that's a really good idea!

As a writer, I’m often approached by non-writers who tell me they have a really good story. I usually patiently nod and agree, yes, that would be a good idea. I then encourage them to get to work and start writing.

Okay, they don’t say those words exactly, they say they have a really good idea. But usually, they barely even have that. For instance, some sample dialogue:

“So you’re a writer, huh? You know what you should write about? India. Yeah, I went to India and it’s really crowded. And lots of culture. And with that movie that came out, it’s really hot right now.”


“I have a great idea for a movie—write about a guy in an office. People can relate to guys in offices.”

The problem with both of these ideas is that…well, they’re not really…good ideas.

But that’s okay.

As writers, we should write down any and all ideas and see what it blossoms into. I have a little black notebook and any time I think of something that might be interesting I write it down. It might be related to an idea for a play already, like adding a line, an activity, a song or another scene between characters. Sometimes it will be a title. I have lots of titles with no actual stories right now. I have a title in my book called “Reunion” and another called “Kitchen Sink”. I have no idea why I wrote them down, and frankly they’re not really good titles. At this point, I don’t care. Because I will also write something down that will turn into a good idea.

The trickiest part of writing a full-length play or a screenplay is recognizing the idea that lends itself to a full-length treatment. There are many plays that can only sustain about ten to fifteen minutes. They have one joke, one premise, only a few characters. The main dramatic question, will so-and-so get what he wants—is going to be answered rather quickly. If Hamlet only wanted to talk to the ghost of his dead father and the ghost only said, “hey, just wanted to say goodbye”, then it would be a short play. But no, the ghost says to Hamlet, “avenge my murder”. Well, for a Prince in Denmark, that is a bit tricky and will take some time. Hence, a good idea for a full-length.

Sometimes you think you have enough going on in your play to justify a full-length and then realize as you get half way there that you really don’t need all that time and space. I’ve been in a few situations like that and I’m usually smart enough to say, “Phew! Thanks for letting me know so now I can rewrite you and make you the best short play ever instead of a painfully long full-length."

A lot of playwrights don’t always do that. They set out to write a full-length and that’s what they’re going to get, damn the torpedoes! And the audience ends up watching plays that really should’ve been only forty-five minutes because that’s about the amount of conflict and complexity the author had put into it. If you ever see an audience looking at their watch or yawning and later talking about how there was only a few good scenes, that might be one reason why.

A play should never be padded with irrelevant scenes but should barrel down a track like a runaway train. Nothing should be extraneous. Always think "less is more".

Of course, this is the arduous task before us. And why so few write truly great plays.

But we will not be daunted!

So let’s get back to our idea…let’s say I write about a guy in an office. Well, we know this isn’t original and has been done well by many other people.

What if the guy is a zombie? Okay, that’s an interesting twist, but so what? That’s still only a sketch that will last five minutes on Saturday Night Live. How can we fill two hours of someone’s life watching a zombie in an office?

Let’s think of conflict…the zombie wants…love, of course. In this cold corporate world, who doesn’t want love? He’s in love with a co-worker who is of course, not a zombie, so he vows to win her love. Now this gets us closer to our goal as many plays and movies can be sustained with a simple “boy gets girl” story. We just need to throw some other complexities into the mix to get the ball rolling…

For instance, we need some obstacles other than that she doesn’t want to date zombies…like how about a successful non-zombie fiancĂ©e that she’s engaged to or what if she’s the boss’s daughter and the boss hates the zombie, ever determined to fire that zombie. What if the zombie is under some curse thereby if he doesn’t win the heart of his true love by midnight on Halloween, he’s going to turn to dust and die. What if his best friend is a werewolf or a vampire with a whole other subplot about how its hard to meet anybody in the city these days who aren't bigoted against his kind?

Suddenly, we’re turning an idea that was an SNL sketch into a romantic story about class and corporate culture. Now, we’re cooking. Granted, this is not the best example and feels more like “spit-balling” but now we actually have a story idea that might sustain us for the length of roughly two hours.

And zombies are hot right now, right?

Okay, it’s not Hamlet, but it would be hard to tell this story in a short play (though actually it probably could be done just as Hamlet could be told in 15 minutes, although it’s a lot funnier when its sped up that much).

So why all this big long post on having an idea that might sustain a play?

Tomorrow is November 1st and you know what that means. Time to start the National Playwriting Month! Or NaPlWriMo for all of you cool kids.
I have my idea for a play. I know what its going to be about. I have my characters and I’m pretty sure about the conflict. Now I just have to see if it will hold up for the amount of time I think it will.

And no, it doesn’t have any zombies in it…

Not yet, anyway.

So what's your big idea?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I feel like I’ve had a long, long summer of not writing and frankly, it’s been a good break. Unlike some writers I know, I never feel guilty about not writing. I think of writing as more than just sitting at your keyboard typing away. Writing is living and witnessing and getting perspective. Writing requires rest and recharging the batteries.

Also, last year was a busy year and I was extremely pleased with the outcome of 7 Minutes to Midnight. Part of me just wanted to rest on that success for awhile.

Now the time has come to get back to another project. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the sunshine has disappeared and the rain is back. This time the project will be a play, not a screenplay. It will be funny and tragic. It may have music but I’m not sure. I have a title, but I don’t feel like sharing it right now. It has six characters and I think the journey of this process may take me into some dark territory as well as surprise me.

Isn’t that what we want with our adventures? A little bit of terror and surprise? Thrill us but make us happy, too? In that way, a good story should be like a roller coaster.

Unlike the screenplays I’ve been writing, I’ve decided to just go free-form on this first draft. No outline. No real idea where I’m heading. I used to write this way when I was first writing plays and I don't recommend it as it usually gets me into trouble. But I do know that I am more likely to surprise myself if I don't pre-plan this particular story. I can always go back and shape it by outlining it. First I want to see what might be lurking there in the back of my head. I need to just get some ideas down and see if there really is a play there.

Some writers call this type of draft their "vomit draft". You literally just type whatever you want, an effort to get everything down on paper as quickly as possible. Hopefully you are so fast that the internal editor can’t catch you, slow you down, make you stop and think about what you’re writing about. Buried amidst a ton of crappy writing will be a jewel of a phrase. Or two. And those jewels will guide you to more treasure. Little by little, the work grows.

Getting things down quickly creates pressure—it taps into that desire and passion of being a storyteller—I need to get my story out NOW! The world must know before it’s too late…Sometimes you just need to push yourself.

Which is to say that next month, November, is National Playwriting Month.

NaPlWriMo is a little like the New York City Marathon, only without all the running and the sweating.

Actually, there’s still sweating. And some blood will flow. Maybe some tears, too.

But no running.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Words

You may have noticed an absence of posts lately.

I blame the sunshine.

No, really.

Seattle has had a record-breaking heat wave this year and I’ve seen the sun so often that I can actually recognize it right away instead of taking the first five seconds to pause, shake my head and say, “wait, aren’t you…?”

It’s encouraged me to stay outside and away from the computer, thus giving a welcome respite to recharge the batteries.

But I have also been self-reflective lately.

Earlier this year a friend of mine who I worked with ended her long battle with cancer. Her absence in the office has been felt deeply and daily, ever since her choice to resign to fight the illness head-on. She was not without her courage and hope. I kept clinging to the idea of her return to the office and when she died, there were many feelings of anger and sadness as well as grief.

Her office is still empty and every time I pass by, I remember the many times I would take refuge in there, some times just to chat and other times to help “clean up” her office. This "clean up" mostly consisted of chatting about books, political affairs, and telling humorous stories. Oh yes, occasionally she would pull out a file from six years ago and ask me if she should throw it out (I always said yes but she would hold on to it, “just in case”), but more often than not she always gave advice, sometimes short and direct, but always wise.

Only recently did I realize how inspiring the last words she gave to me were.

She didn’t actually say them out loud. See, she gave me some pencils.

It was the day we were cleaning out her desk at work and I picked up a clear plastic tube containing some plain wooden #2 pencils. There were some words stenciled on them in different colors but I didn’t pay much attention to them, really.

Casually, she said, “You want ‘em?”.

I didn’t need wooden pencils. I actually use the mechanical kind (unless I’m sketching which I haven’t done since college). So I’m not really sure why I said “yes”. Something just said, take them.

About a week or so after her memorial, I took a closer look at the pencils on my desk. Each word is a different color. Each word is a different instruction. Sometimes I take the pencils out of the little plastic tube and hold them in my hands, like a talisman.

They remind me of her, but also remind me how to live.

Seven words which illuminate the simplicity of life.








Monday, June 15, 2009

Evidently Plays Just Write Themselves

I just heard about this via Mead Hunter--the Drammy awards are Portland theater awards and evidently everyone deserves recognition...except the playwright.


To read about how 30 playwrights responded with a very polite "up yours!" letter, go here.

Why does this get me so pissed off?

Because I've heard directors and artistic directors bemoan how there's no good playwriting or no good new works but on the same token allow for no support for playwrights and create no incentives for good playwriting. It's really a small thing to give recognition for writing a good play in the same way that an actor gets recognition for a performance. So just do it. Give props where its due.

It's like giving Xmas gifts to all your kids except one. Why would you do that?

We don't deserve to be forgotten. If the person running the box office gets a Drammy award (I mean, I've done both box office and playwriting and I'm gonna tell you right now playwriting is MUCH harder and the hours are much worse...), then so should playwrights.

Of course, if you really like rehashing revivals of musicals and seeing bad Shakespeare, then by all means, never mind.

But by the way, even Shakespeare was a new playwright at one time (and not always revered).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Special Song for a Special Day

This is Fresh Feeling by EELS, the first song my wife and I heard as we entered our reception as man and wife.

And yes, I still got that fresh feeling.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

EELS rocks new album

Hey kids, it's music day!

And you thought I only listened to Bob Dylan or Robert Johnson.

I think I totally want to get the new album "Hombre Lobo".

It's sweet!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Writing Sucks!

Okay, I've not posted for awhile.

I've been busy.


You know. Real writing. Not just putting random thoughts down on a blog.

That's what I mean by "Writing Sucks!"

Writing sucks...

your time
your thoughts
your energy
your emotions
your social life
your family life
your sleep
your everything

Oh, an writing also sucks in that writing is hard.

I'm adapting a play into a full-length screenplay. The rough draft is almost complete after about eight days.

It sucks about as much as you think it would suck to completely re-imagine an entire script, which I've spent the past two years making sure it will work really well on stage, so that it works really well on film.

I am learning once again how vastly different the two mediums are.

In a good way.

But it still sucks.

And somewhere deep down inside of me I have to fight that inner demon of a critic, that cynic sitting on my shoulder whispering, "Your writing sucks..."

Back off, man. I'm working here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SLASHER at Live Girls this Wednesday

Come on down and see SLASHER by Allison Moore at Live Girls! Theater as part of their Bakery Spring Readings

Wed May 13th 7pm

Slasher by Allison Moore

Directed by Lisa Jackson Schebetta

Slasher by Allison Moore is a comedy of horrific proportions. When
she’s cast as the “last girl” in a low-budget slasher flick, Sheena thinks it’s the big break she’s been waiting for. But news of the movie unleashes her malingering mother’s thwarted feminist rage, and she’s prepared to do anything to stop filming—even if it kills her.

Allison Moore is a displaced Texan living in Minneapolis where she is
a 2007 Bush Artists Fellow and a 2008 McKnight Fellow. Her play,
Slasher, premiered at the 2009 Humana Festival. Other plays include:
End Times (2007 Kitchen Dog Theatre, Dallas Critics Forum Award),
American Klepto (2006 Fresh Ink/Illusion Theater), Hazard County (2005
Humana Festival), Split (2005 Guthrie Theater commission), Urgent Fury
(2003 Cherry Lane Mentor Project, Mentor: Marsha Norman), and Eighteen
(2001 O'Neill Playwrights' Conference).

Advance tickets available at or 1-800-838-3006

All shows at Live Girls! theater in Ballard 2220 NW Market Lower Level

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NYC Recap

Just got back from New York City last week and have not had much time to process the trip. Part of that was because of family being in town but another part was just that the five days I was there were a blur of activity and excitement.

I love New York City.

Always have. Always will.

Every time I get off the plane and hit the streets I feel that energy and it revs me up. The city is always moving, even if you’re not. Maybe I love it because its such a contrast to the desert where I grew up, where nothing is moving, I don’t know.

Here’s a quick recap:

Saturday night
Got off the plane, took the Airtran then subway into the hotel on Lex. Then rushed off to eat some quick crab cakes and then saw friends in Henry V at The American Globe Theater, just off of Broadway & 46th. Good acting, great fights, and fun cast party at O’Lunney’s afterwards

Brunch at Pietrasanta on W. 49th and 9th ave, nearby where I lived for a summer. Yummy Eggs Benedict and mimosas and then turned to my right only to realize that I was sitting next to Mo Rocca from The Daily Show.

Saw Exit the King on Broadway. Everyone said Susan Sarandon was miscast or not that great. I thought she was decent, if not charismatic. Yet, she pales in comparison to Geoffrey Rush. He is superb! Comic and tragic. Briliant! I love seeing an Ionesco play done well!

Then down to the Village to eat some great Italian food then catch some music at The Bitter End. Saw some kid, must’ve been 16 years old shred guitar like he was Eddie Van Halen. Seriously.

In rehearsal most of the day (there was a fly-by?! Wtf?! I missed it!). Great actors, great director, talked about the play. Then the panel with Ellen Mclaughlin and Leslie Lee. I spent most of the time trying not to think about who I was sitting next to and hoping that my thoughts on playwriting and dramaturgy sounded coherent and not juvenile. I think the most insightful thing I said about talkbacks; “they should be called conversations and they are always too long”.

The reading of my play THE ALBATROSS was smashing. Got some laughs, maybe a few teary eyes at the end, and the “conversation” was quite helpful and supportive. Honestly, I don’t know what is going on with the universe but I have so far been having great experiences with the development of this play. It’s not always like that.

Went out to visit Stony Brook campus on Long Island. Fun train ride. Had lunch with a gaggle of dramaturgs talking about how to fix American Theater. Good times.

That night saw a experimental show by Alec Duffy, produced by Hoi Polloi called “The Less We Talk”. Very similar to an earlier show I’ve seen. More elaborate in scope but just as heartbreaking at times. Great use of singing to tell stories without it being a straight up musical.

Some meetings, a visit to the Drama Book Shop (again) and then off to the airport.


More on the reading later!

Friday, April 24, 2009


THE ALBATROSS, recent winner of the John Gassner competition, will be having a reading on Monday, April 27th, at 7 pm in NYC.

In addition, there will be a special panel on "Creating New Works" with myself, fellow playwrights Ellen McLaughlin and Leslie Lee.

Ellen McLaughlin is a playwright and actress, author of Iphiginia and Tongue of a Bird but is also an actress, originating the role of the Angel in Angels in America by Tony Kushner.

Leslie Lee is a founding artist of La Mama and his play Breeze of Summer was just done at the Signature.

It's easy to say I'm honored to be in the room with these two.

Also on the panel will be the director of the reading, Julia Gibson (who has been completely amazing and wonderful and I'm looking forward to rehearsals with her on Monday) and dramaturg Maxine Kern.

For more information, go to the website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sarah Ruhl, Playwright and my new hero (or is it heroine?)

Check out what Sarah Ruhl says on American Theater's website:

What the next 25 years might bring in theatre:

Either: Our government will start more and more to imitate Scandinavia, and everyone, including artists, will have health care. There will be a new government agency for the arts, granting us months and years to finish projects, simultaneously revitalizing our theatre and our economy.

Or: The government won't imitate Scandinavia, and so, in response, the Dramatists Guild will become an incredible force for change, replacing the United Auto Workers in its pull, determination and tactical brilliance. We will do away with subsidiary rights participation, so that playwrights will only give back their own earnings to a theatre when they earn as much per year as their artistic directors; then, and only then, will writers give tax-deductible donations to the not-for-profit theatres that produce them, out of gratitude and choice (rather than giving away 40 percent of their New York income by fiat). We will convince theatres who produce our work to provide us with health care for two seasons. Playwrights and dramaturgs working at the same theatre will have health insurance; directors and managing directors will have the same health insurance.

I think a lot of people, in the theater and outside the theater world, forget that playwrights don't make much (any) money. They are not on staff, have no salary, and in fact, make much, much less than Joe the Plumber. Unlike theaters, they have no budget. They spend far too much on photocopies and printing out scripts and postage (not to mention the hours and hours of labor creating their imaginary worlds).

In general, if you are audience member watching a professional production at a major regional theater of a new play, those actors make more money then the playwright.

In fact, I'd wager that the person who sold you the ticket at the Box Office is making more money than the playwright. And they probably have health insurance. Although, they might not.

And yet, the playwright is the reason all of these people have jobs...

Is it me, or is something out of whack here...?

Monday, April 13, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

How could I forget that April is National Poetry Month?

And here I am, rewriting THE ALBATROSS all weekend, a play about poets and teaching poetry...shameful, just shameful.

Well, I'm going to write some poems this month.

They will probably be painfully bad, but that won't stop me.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What Makes Theatre So Unique?

So I’ve started teaching my playwriting class again and am so happy to be back in the classroom, thinking and talking about the fundamentals of solid storytelling and playwriting.

And really, good playwriting starts with good storytelling. This is why Shakespeare has lasted throughout the ages and no one knows about any other playwrights of the time except for possibly Marlowe.

(Unless you have an English Lit degree you may know some of the others.)

Not that other writers of the Elizabethan stage were terrible, but Shakespeare and Marlowe knew a good story and how to tell it.

What I love about teaching playwriting is that it connects me back to the fundamentals. Like with anything—acting, directing, playing guitar, riding a bike, golf, eating well, etc.—the fundamentals are key. As with most arts, you can learn the fundamentals in a fairly short time. Say, two years. But to truly master the fundamentals, that takes a lifetime.

Last night I read a great essay by Thornton Wilder called “Some Thoughts on Playwriting”. Wilder is one of those old masters where you think you know all about him because of the success of one play (that play being Our Town which is not just a nostalgic ode to Norman Rockwell but a deep examination of life with very dark undertones). What many people don’t realize was how innovative and revolutionary he was as a writer. Honestly, writing a play which doesn’t need a set—no, actually mandates there not be a set—in a time when lavish sets and costumes were the norm was a radical act and he got a lot of heat from audiences and critics alike. But Wilder was a master storyteller and if the only play you know of by him is Our Town, I suggest you pick up a collection of his works and get acquainted.

Next week in my class we are going to talk about how what makes theatre unique from other arts.

In Wilder’s essay, he lays out four fundamental differences:

1) The theater is an art which depends on the work of many collaborators

2) It is addressed to the group-mind (it needs an audience)

3) It is based upon a pretense and its very nature calls out a multiplication of pretenses (ie-people put on masks or characters pretending to be someone else and we as audience buy into that illusion with no qualms)

4) Its action takes place in a perpetual present time (theatre is always about the now

In the essay, which I recommend you read, goes into succinct explanation of what these things mean and some examples of each.

I’ve read a lot of theory and explanations about what makes drama tick. What’s beautiful about Wilder’s essay is its coming from the mind of a playwright, someone who has seen and knows what works on stage and with an audience. That’s really the bottom line.

And he has a great concluding paragraph:

The theater offers to imaginative narration its highest possibilities. It has many pitfalls and its very vitality betrays it into service as mere diversion and the enhancement of insignificant matter; but it is well to remember that it was the theater that rose to the highest place during those epochs that aftertime has chosen to call “great ages” and that the Athens of Pericles and the reigns of Elizabeth I, Philip II, and Louis XIV were also the ages that gave to the world the greatest dramas it has known.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are - Trailer HD (1080p)

All I can say I Can I wait till October? This movie just looks so cool and how could you not have loved that book as a kid?

Script Frenzy is coming!

So I've totally bailed on the idea of contributing to the co-write thing, though I am still reading the script, which frankly is not that bad...It's not that good, either, but hey, it's Hollywood and that's what rewrites are for...

But now I'm contemplating whether or not to participate in Script Frenzy.

It's like the Nat'l Novel Writing Month but its in April.

And its for scripts.

So its not really like writing a novel in a month...but...

The similarity is that you have to write a 100 page script in a month, starting on April 1st.

I tried this experiment once before about a year ago (and wrote about it here). There is something exciting and beneficial about writing that script fast and furious. It forces you to stop d*cking around and make choices. Some are bad choices, but some are pretty good. And there's an incredible feeling of accomplishment once its done. Of course its not really done (I'm still rewriting that script I wrote, but its getting much better...)

But what's really fun is if you go to the site they have a randomized plot generator.

It's so cool!

Here's my next movie projet:

While boarding a yellow bus

a monarch named Walliump

travels back in time to kill Hitler

Okay, a little bit cliche, but I can make it work.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Dylan Album is Coming!

They haven't given the release date yet, but you know I'm pre-ordering this baby.

More info at the official website.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Albatross is flying high!

Please check out the Stonybrook website for the news and more information about the John Gassner New Play Competition.

There will be a staged reading of THE ALBATROSS in Manhattan on April 27th and April 28th.

(FYI--The rumors that Ellen Page will be playing Sofia are completely absurd.)

If you are around, check it out!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Story Starts with Character (or Everything I Learned About Life I Learned from Indiana Jones)

I got tipped off to a blog by The Mystery Man from John August's site which links to where you can download a transcript of George Lucas, Steven Speilberg and Lawrence Kasdan talking about the intitial story ideas for the Indiana Jones movies.

I just got the transcript but Mystery Man has a nice summary and excerpts of the content.

What's particularly fascinating is not just the idea of being a fly on the wall in that room filled with that much talent, but where they spend their energy and focus. First of all, they spent nine hours a day for five days and this transcript is just the meat of the meeting. That's a long time to spend brainstorming and planning but look at the finished product. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most streamlined and exciting blockbuster movies of all time, using a filmic vocabulary that remains true to an ideal of the past, yet still firmly planted in the aesthetic of the present.

What's also fascinating is that they spent a majority of time working out who the character of Indiana Jones was, not just what he was going to do (his actions) in the movie, but his ideals, his morals, point of view of acadamics v. adventure, his relationships, education, etc.

Here's George Lucas talking about him:

He's the guy who's been all around the world. He's a soldier of fortune. He is also... Well, this gets into that other side of his character, which is totally alien to that side we just talked about. Essentially, I think he is a, and this was the original character and it's an interesting juxtaposition. He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he became sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber, for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or, locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... a bounty hunter.

What's great about this description is that you don't have this told to you, you SEE IT in the first ten minutes of the movie. And then you see it later because its basically what the entire movie is about--will Indy get the Ark before the Nazis?

One of the best peices of advice I got was from a CS podcast of scribe Michael Arndt (who wrote Little Miss Sunshine) who said that the best way to start your movie is to show characters doing what defines them (thus you see each character in that movie actively doing something, like practicing for a beauty pageant, giving a motivational speech, etc.)

By the way, this doesn't just apply to movies, but to all dramatic writing.

Even in theater, the best way to show character is through action, especially as it relates to imagery.

Like two tramps waiting by the side of the road. (Waiting for Godot)
A man stranded in a desert trying to bury his dead horse. (Kicking a Dead Horse)
A salesman trying to get the good leads from his supervisor (Glengary Glen Ross)
A writer in prison defending his stories as he's being interrogated (The Pillowman)

I could go on, but you get the point.

A brilliant opening scene and a well-defined character in a story is not an accident. It is a result of kicking around a lot of ideas, spending a lot of time with the character and what he/she wants.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Lucas, Speilberg or Kasdan in the room.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Masters are all Dying Off...

Sad news yesterday.

Horton Foote died yesterday. You may not have heard of him, but you've probably seen his work.

He wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird for which he won an Academy Award. He also wrote the screenplay version of Of Mice and Men (the one starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovitch which I truly, truly love), as well as many other works including The Trip to Bountiful and The Young Man from Atlanta, a play that garnered him the Pulitzer.

I didn't know the man and haven't read all of his plays but from what I've heard from others is that he was a class act.

He's the kind of hero playwright that when you look at his body of work (and his integrity) you think...yeah, that's the kind of playwright I want to become. That's why I am in this business.

I don't know but I think there was really only a handful of these types of modern masters.

Samuel Beckett. Harold Pinter. Edward Albee. Arthur Miller. Tennessee Williams. Clifford Odetts. Eugene O'Neill. Thornton Wilder. Lilian Hellman. Wendy Wasserstein. Sam Shepard.

What was so wonderful to me about Foote was his devotion to writing about family and the common man. He didn't get sucked into writing what was "hot" or "flashy" or go for any big ideas. He wrote fascinating characters that we could all relate to because we all grew up in a family and understand the dynamics of those relationships.

Seems many of the master modern playwrights are gone now or are coming to their final days.

We lost Harold Pinter in December last year.

Not to be all grim and dreary but really, how long will guys like Edward Albee, John Guare and Peter Schaffer last?

And who are the master playwrights that will replace them?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rich v. Poor Theatre or Slimming Down in 2009

We fight then to discover, to experience the truth about ourselves; to tear away the masks behind which we hide daily. We see theatre - especially in its palpable, carnal aspect - as a place of provocation, a challenge the actor sets himself and also, indirectly, other people. Theatre only has a meaning if it allows us to transcend our stereotyped vision, our conventional feelings and customs, our standards of judgment - not just for the sake of doing so, but so that we may experience what is real and, having already given up all daily escapes and pretenses, in a state of complete defenselessness unveil, give, discover ourselves.

--Jerzy Grotowski

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week about the Polish director and theatre practitioner, Jerzy Grotowski and his ideas about performance and theatre. Most people are familiar with him or his work. Many of his interviews and thoughts are captured in the book, TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE.

I actually got to know his work when I was in my two year Meisner acting program taught by a demanding, wonderful, inspiring and highly intelligent teacher by the name of Bill Esper (probably the greatest living teacher of Meisner on the planet who taught people like Sam Rockwell, Paul Sorvino, Jeff Goldlum and others). Bill assigned us all historical artists to do research on. Some got actors like Eleanora Duse or Lily Langtry. Some got directors like Harold Clurman. He gave me Grotowski. I think he knew I would totally dig it and I totally did…Grotowski’s ideas blew my mind in a lot of ways (but then, it was my first or second year living in NYC so a lot of things really blew my mind).

Grotowski was heavily influenced by ground-breaking theorists who came before him, artists like Artaud, Meyerhold, Brecht and Stanislavsky. Consequently, many theatre luminaries working today have been heavily influenced by Grotowski, mainly Peter Brook, Augusto Boal, Eugenio Barba, Richard Schechner, Joseph Chaikin, the Wooster Group, and anyone else doing any kind of experimental work.

Grotowski came to some major and influential conclusions, one of which is that when you strip everything away, what remains as the essential elements of theater are the actors and the audience.

(He was very much into stripping things away, calling this idea “via negativa” and used many, many strenuous and amazing physical and emotional exercises to break down actors in his training and find more truthful impulses)

So he called this idea of performance which involves the actor/spectator relationship: Poor Theatre.



“The actor, at least in part, is creator, model and creation rolled into one-“

Everything in theatre revolves around the actor/spectator relationship. This element is what differentiates theatre from film, TV, radio, the internet, etc. In fact, he even believed that the actors could behave like priests in a spiritual ceremony, elevating the audience to a higher plane and creating a catharsis or spiritual healing.

(As the years progressed, he got further and further away from any type of performance at all, some of which is mentioned in the classic movie, My Dinner with Andre, starring Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. If you haven’t see it yet, go rent it. Right now. Then you can read the rest of this blog…no, really…).

What’s beautiful about this idea is that first of all, the core elements of theatre is focused around the connection of two or more people. That’s what we are about, isn’t it? People. Theatre is a collaborative and communal event. Also what’s beautiful is what is not included in his basic idea of theater (not that you can’t have it, but that it’s not essential), are the following trappings which we as theater folks and audience members seem to just take for granted:

Sound Design (music, sfx, etc.)
An actual theater auditorium or other specific playing space

To experiment on his ideas, Grotowski created his Laboratory Theater. His concentration was not on giving entertainment, but on experimenting with his actors and eventually presenting the work to audiences (as that defines theater). Really, though, another reason he called it a laboratory is because a “laboratory” is less threatening in name when you are living in Poland than “theater”. Theaters have been known to stir up the people and cause riots. Theater can be a social force. But a laboratory, oh, that’s just scientific experiments…no harm there. Grotowski was smart that way. Also, more people are likely to fund a “laboratory” than a theater. And really, why shouldn’t they?

Now the opposite of Poor Theatre is, of course, Rich Theatre.

Rich Theatre is pretty much most of the theatre you see these days, especially by the huge regional theaters throughout this country, theaters that have operating budgets of anywhere between 3 to 10 million dollars a year.

When you see Rich Theater, you know it because the theatre wants you to know it. When you walk into the theater to see their show, you will first notice the design, or more specifically, the set. They usually spend a lot of money to make it look “really real”. So if it’s a play like “A Streetcar Named Desire”, it looks like a “real” apartment in the French Quarter. The costumes are really real, etc. This is not to say that the actors performances are not brilliant at times, or that the actor/spectator relationship isn’t explored, but there is a lot of focus on the spectacle. You see it a lot in glittery Shakespeare productions and big budget musicals.

Rich Theatre has a higher price tag, both on its production costs and on its ticket price. Hence, many people who see this theater are rich themselves.

So, what’s my point? Why am I bringing up all this 60s hippie-dippy nonsense, this hocus-pocus, silly experimental theatre and theory?

Well, like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Grotowski this past week. One reason is that I am going to be going to a theatre conference in Chicago focusing on these ideas of Poor Theater (and talking about the show I just did last Fall which was very much Poor Theatre)

But I am also thinking about this a lot because of the economy. Which frankly, if you haven’t noticed, sucks.

Here’s what I read this morning from the Chronicle of Philanthropy about what is happening in theaters across the country (as it has been happening large corporations and small business, as well).

Nonprofit Theaters Plan Layoffs and Smaller Shows, Survey Finds

A survey of American nonprofit theaters found that more than half plan to offer cheaper tickets and nearly as many will eliminate administrative staff positions in expectation of shrinking sales and fund raising, Bloomberg news service reports.

The Theatre Communications Group surveyed 210 member organizations last month. Most reported that they are producing new calculations of expenses for the coming year, with theaters that have budgets exceeding $10-million reducing spending by an average of $750,000. A third of companies said they would alter programs to include shows with smaller casts.

Full: From

Fiscal Pulse Survey from TCG:

Now, I gotta admit, I have two reactions to this…

The first is that it sucks. It sucks that everyone in every aspect of the economic spectrum, from large to small businesses, to schools, arts organizations etc. are all having to do cutbacks and people are losing their jobs and their homes. I know that several theaters are forcing employees to go on furloughs.

But there is another part of me that thinks this might not be altogether such a bad thing for theatre in this country.

Okay, to be clear, it is NOT GOOD that theatre people are losing their jobs or forced to take time off. It is not good that theatre is losing funding, because it has never had enough funding anyway.

But a wakeup call that good theater does not equal big sets and pretty costumes. Because a part of me thinks, regional theater employees wouldn’t have to go on furlough if you cut down on your production costs, (ie build less monstrous sets, less money on costumes, makeup and lighting).

I’m not saying don’t ever do big shows or musicals or always do bare bones Shakespeare. Everyone likes to see huge spectacle now and then. But too often, this has become the norm for theater and so the audience has expected that instead of expecting to be moved, entertained, and enlightened. We focus not on the connections of people but on the really cool stuff. We get distracted. No one is to blame, it just happens.

So the economy is teaching us we need to focus on what makes theatre so great. And theatre is great and will never die and many, many regional theaters are going to come out of this just fine, if not stronger. What’s sad is that some regional theaters may not survive. And that, again, just sucks.

This is not a cut and dry issue. I’m not the guy with any answers on how, or if, the American regional theater needs revitalizing. And the fact remains, if funding the arts was actually a priority we wouldn’t be in such dire straits. If making art wasn’t dependent on tickets and applying for grant after grant just to stay afloat, perhaps we could concentrate less on marketing and defending our very existence and actually concentrating more on making our art.

I’m just a director and playwright who is looking around and thinking, everyone is finding creative ways of dealing with this economic shitstorm, so why aren’t we as creative artists coming up with even better ways for ourselves?

When I think of the most inspiring moments of theater I have witnessed, I don’t think about the chandelier in Phantom of the Opera (not to say it wasn’t cool, because it was…).

I think about the people. I think about New Yorkers weeping together as they watched Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses a month after 9/11. I think about Kevin Spacey barreling through the text of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh or the balletic movement and innovative performance of Theatre de Complicite’s Mnemonic or the NYC production of the Revenger’s Tragedy by Red Bull Theater which niftly used curtains and lots of blood to stage a lot of murders.

As playwrights, we sometimes lock ourselves into writing for a small stage. For the past several decades, more and more original plays have four or less characters and one set. Why? It’s cheaper.

For the next few years, it may not be a bad strategy to work on that two or three-hander script, since that’s what theater companies are going to do next season instead of the big cast show.

But I am a firm believer that we can still create on larger canvases, even in the worst of economic times. We can a write a thirty character epic; we just have to be creative and innovative in the construction and execution of the story. And then the next step is actually giving some suggestions to the director and/or producers on ways of doing it.

Because it can be done, just look at Shakespeare.

When Shakespeare wrote a scene that was set in the Forest of Arden, did the Globe players spend a bunch of money for the set designer to make trees and then have a bunch of stage hands move them onstage? Or have sound cues with twittering birds? No. Shakespeare simply had a character say, “Here we are in the forest of Arden”. Add actors who believe in that imaginary environment and the audience is instantly transformed to the garden of Arden.

People love Shakespeare because he is a master dramatist for many reasons. He wrote for all levels of people, both the commoner (aka the groundlings) standing on the dirt by the stage, as well as the nobleman sitting up in the booth seats. His work is universal, not just because of the poetic text, the stories, the characters, or the psychological depth to which he seemed to know his fellow man, but because we can perform his work with or without any production elements. When you add beautiful designs, it can lift the show to certain heights (just to let you know that I do love and appreciate designers and don’t want to eliminate them). But at the core is the basic actor/spectator relationship.

Shakespeare is Poor Theater.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

OBSCURA premieres in Colorado

Emily Stiles is directing a production of OBSCURA at Adams State College in Colorado. I just spoke with her a few days ago and she is very excited about the production.

(Special kudos and thanks to Jenna who gave her the play to read!)

If you happen to be in the area, check it out. Sadly, I'm not going to be able to get out there to see it, though they are going to send me an archive video.

Here's a brief plot synopsis:

What happens to love when it is forgotten? Is love a choice? Is memory? Annie wakes up in a hospital bed after surviving a deadly car crash with two men standing over her. One of them is possibly her husband and the other is her lover, but which is which? The effects of her amnesia play tricks on her mind and her reality as she tries to piece together who she is now and who she was before the accident occurred. OBSCURA propels us into the mysteries of identity and love through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards built on the confused memories of this central character.

I have been so wrapped up in the process of 7 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (which just received a very warm welcome from audiences gathered in Moscow, Idaho for the KCACTF) that I have forgotten about my other earlier plays which continue to be out there wandering about like little lost children looking for a home.

After winning the Getchell Award and being a finalist for the David Mark Cohen, not much has been happening with OBSCURA, which is sad, because I really am very fond of it. Some people have said its too confusing and they feel disoriented (which is like, duh, the point, since you are seeing things through the eyes of an amnesiac which can be very disorienting) and I know that some of the scenes are derivative of perhaps Beckett or Pinter, but I really made some leaps as a writer with the piece. And some times you don't always feel that way. And I really like the character, Annie. She's kind of in a tragic situation, but still struggling even though she doesn't fully understand what's going on all the time. Like all of us.

I hope that Emily and the cast and crew have an awesome opening night and a great run. From talking to her, it sounds like they will.

P.S.--that photo above is from a book by Abelard Morrel--he's awesome.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Looking for some fun on a friday night?

Because its Friday the 13th and doesn't everyone want to hear the story of Kronos eating his babies?

Or get thrills thinking about loose nukes and watching the Doomsday Clock tick down to our final apocalypse?

Well, tonight's the night!!

7 Minutes to Midnight is a finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival David Mark Cohen award (nominated from our 7 state region) and will be given a workshop performance by our cast at the KCACTF/NWDC Festival at the University of Idaho February 17.

But before that we're doing a special benefit performance at Bellevue College in the Carlson Theatre at 7:30 to see this new play which mixes up the birth of the atomic age, Greek myths and American folk music.

All ticket $10 at the door.

All income will support taking this play to the Festival.

Where else can you see Oppenheimer sing Hank Williams tunes or Kronos juggling shuttlecocks?

Are you ready for that great atomic power? On July 16, 1945, the Trinity test in New Mexico awakens the Greek God Kronos (otherwise known as Saturn). After killing his father and devouring his own children, he was banished to the underworld by his son Zeus and is just waiting for the end of the world which will set him free. The dawning of the atomic age means the time draws nigh. Using text, movement and music, this ensemble-based play weaves together several stories from 1945 to now, showing Oppenheimer and other members of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as they try to warn the military and others about the impending cold war and the arms race. It examines the "nuclear" family of the 1950s, the fear of the 1980s, and how millions grew up under the shadow of a mushroom cloud. The clock is ticking for us all.

For more information about The Bulletin and The Doomsday Clock, check out the website:

Bellevue College is located at:
3000 Landerholm Circle SE
Bellevue, WA 98007

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Forgetting that forgettable movie

We watched the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall last night.

It was, shall we say, forgettable.

There was some gross jokes, lots of sex, lots of wailing and oh-poor-me woes by the protagonist, and then we watched a pig get gutted.

That was in the first hour. We did not see the second hour.

For the record, I'm okay with gross jokes, sex and the occasional pig gutting (thought not always in the same movie). I loved Superbad. And Knocked-up had its own comedic charm.

Judd Apatow movies are like advocacy movies for simple, not-so-great looking chubby guys with some charm but not much else going for them.

Because us guys don't always want to see pretty people like Brad Pitt getting younger or more pretty. Somtimes we like to see normal guys drinking beer, eating bad foods and talking about sex.

It's sad, but its true.

Anyway, I kept thinking to myself, this should be funny…the premise is not great but good enough. Man gets dumped, man goes to Hawaii to forget about his ex- and ends up at same resort as her, falls in love with the hired help. The plot is pretty formulaic, following the standard on-the-rails forward progression of most romantic comedies. But that isn’t why it wasn't good. The cast was talented--a lot of the Judd Apatow regulars. So the acting isn’t why it sucked.

Bottom line really is it just wasn't funny.

Although, reading the blog over at celluloid blonde (coincidentally, she just watched the movie and turned it off early, as well), I knew that part of the problem was it wasn't geared toward the right audience--its a rom-com that should cater to women as well as men.

And celluloid blonde bluntly says, about not just women, but everyone:

“No one goes to see a romantic movie to watch a pig get gutted.”

‘nuff said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yes, even the nonprofit sector is losing jobs...or will soon

The economic recession hits jobs in all sectors, including the arts and should be included in the National Economic Recovery Plan which is going before Congress now.

The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities. They enhance community development; spur urban renewal; attract new businesses; draw tourism dollars; and create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers and builds a robust 21st century workforce.

I'm sending this email to my congressmen. You should, too. Go here now.

As Congress considers the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, urge them to include the arts and culture so that they can continue to help revitalize America's economy.

(Besides, should the banks get all the money so they can save their own butts?)

January 28, 2009

The Honorable Maria Cantwell
United States Senate
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4705

Re: Support the Arts in the National Economic Recovery Plan

Dear Senator Cantwell:

As Congress considers the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, I hope they will include the arts and culture sector. It is thoughtful economic policy to invest in our nation's arts infrastructure.

There are approximately 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations, which spend $63.1 billion annually. Without an economic stimulus for the nonprofit arts industry, experts expect about 10% of these organizations (ranging from large arts institutions like museums and orchestras to small community-based organizations in suburban, urban and rural areas) to shut their doors in 2009 - a loss of 260,000 jobs.

For those arts organizations that do not go out of business due to the poor economy, it is expected that, on average, the remaining arts organizations will experience up to 20% in budget cuts in 2009, resulting in losses of approximately 468,000 jobs.

Then-NEA Chairman Dana Gioia issued the following statement prior to his departure, "Arts organizations have been hit enormously hard by the current recession. They've seen their support drop from corporations, foundations, and municipalities. This infusion of funds will help sustain them, their staffs, and the artists they employ. We are hopeful that Congress and the new administration will support this important investment."


Dennis Schebetta

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Get 'em While They're Young

So I’m just reading my news on and then I see this:

Army using video games to tempt recruits

Can I just say WTF!?!

It’s bad enough I have to sit through this crazy MTV style “Citizen Soldier” ad every time I go to see a movie up by my home, but now the US Army is spending our tax money for what is essentially an Armed Forces video game amusement park?

I don’t even know where to begin to comment.

Is it because it’s in Philadelphia?

(Why Philly? Are they going for working class? Middle income or lower income?)

The fact that they call it an “experiment”.

(Hey, give me $12 million and I can do some experimental theatre and it will last a lot longer than a few years and reach a lot more youth then just teen-agers in Philly.)

But nope, I think it’s just the fact that they are wasting 12 MILLION DOLLARS so that teenage boys can play shoot ‘em up on a videoscreen, which, duh, THEY DO ANYWAY.

It’s money that could be used for education (I’m sure the schools in Philadelphia could find a use for it).

I’m not a banker, but that money could probably bail out a hundred people’s mortgages right there.

It’s money that could fund a major nonprofit theater for two years.

Heck, it’s money that could go to protecting the lives of the soldiers who are currently getting shot at in Iraq.

Or it’s money to pump into the VA…

And on and on…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Historic Inauguration

"This is the meaning of [America's] liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath".

Regardless of your politics, you gotta admit, this is one of the most historic political events in American history.

Happy New President!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Theater Begins with the Artists

"Theater begins here"
Motto of The Playwrights Center

This article, written by Polly Carl who heads up The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, is possibly one of the best articles I've read about how the way new plays are selected is "seriously flawed".

My favorite quote is:

"If we start with the idea that playwrights and artists are what drive the theater--that they are indeed our greatest asset--and work backwards from there, it's amazing to think how this will immediately alter our practices."

I wish every Playwright, Literary Director and Artistic Director in the country could read it.

No, screw that.

I wish every actor, director, stage manager, costume designer, scenic designer, lighting designer, box office manager, board member, donor, congressman, patron and maybe even the plumbers should read it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If I could see only one show in NYC right now...

It would be THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee.

Partly because its Young Jean Lee, who is just a brilliant and young playwright. But also partly because it deals with racial issues that we all want to pretend don't exist. I think we're going to find that even though we finally have elected our first black president, that not everyone is okay with that.

Okay, maybe we already know that. But I think we're going to see more actions from people that not everyone is okay with that.

We're definitely going to see more plays about race. In fact, if there isn't a production of Othello happening in your neighborhood this year, I'd be surprised (there are three slotted for the Seattle region, fyi).

Anyway, The Shipment just had a glowing review in the NY Times which called it "subversive" and "seriously funny" as well as "provocative but never polemic".

Here's the description from the press release:

Known for her provocatively satiric performance works, writer/director Young Jean Lee presents the New York premiere of THE SHIPMENT. For this piece, Lee gave herself the most uncomfortable challenge she could imagine: to make—as a Korean-American—a Black American identity politics work. In collaboration with an all-black cast, Lee takes the audience on an awkward and volatile roller-coaster ride through the absurdities and atrocities that arise when trying to discuss the black experience in America. Ludicrous, honest, and devoid of truisms, THE SHIPMENT dares to ask embarrassing questions and to seek solutions to impossible problems.

THE SHIPMENT is also made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations Grant Program.

For more info about her and her company, go here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Human Variable...or...Oh, the Horror!

"Computers are useless. They only give answers."
-- Pablo Picasso

Can a computer make art?

This is one of those existential questions philosophers have been tossing around since the computer's invention. It's up there with "can robots feel emotion" and/or "Do androids dream of electric sheep?"

(Thanks for that, Philip K. Dick).

Microsoft seems to think that an algorithm can make music. They have created a new program called Songsmith, where anybody, and I do mean anybody, can sing along to a drum track and this program will create a chord sequence, aka a song, to accompany you.

Not only is it like having your very own Karaoke back-up band, but its perfect for those fun projects like making elevator music and/or your very own backing music track to your home-made porn!

Seriously, it could be really fun, if you're ten.

Of course, GarageBand on the Mac does almost the same thing, except you have to actually make the choices yourself. It takes a little longer but the results are much better, and so is the music.

Here's what one genius decided to do on this program, matching David Lee Roth's vocals from Running With The Devil and plugging it into Songsmith.

Warning! This audio clip may damage your sense of hearing.

Friday, January 9, 2009

One of these Presidents is not like the other, not like the other...

White House Appoints Office of the Arts?

This just in from artnet.

"The transition team of President-elect Barack Obama is keeping a firm hand on any appointment news, but the buzz in art-and-politics precincts has the new administration seriously considering the idea of an official White House Office of the Arts, overseeing all things having to do with the arts and arts education. The new arts czar wouldn’t be a cabinet-level position -- too complicated and too limiting, say insiders -- but rather a liaison with the president with real access to funds and power."

In other countries, it's quite common to have a Ministry of Culture headed up by someone in the Cabinet who's sole job is to promote the heritage, culture and the arts of that country.

We are not that kind of country.

Yes, we have the NEA, but it was only created relatively recently in our country's history, in 1965, and operates as an independent agency of the federal government. Yes, funding comes from the government, but there is no person in the White House Cabinet who has the job of overseeing our arts and culture.

Why not?

Good question.

We like to spend billions of dollars on tanks and missiles and invading other countries, but for some reason, don't want to spend even 1/100th of that kind of money on the arts (or education for that matter). Because what's really important is blowing people up, not making art.

By the way, it's positively mind-boggling to me how enraged the general public can become over a small percentage of government funding that is used for what people deem as questionable art, like "Piss Christ", but nowhere near that kind of emotion when they realize that billions of your tax payer money pays for guns, bullets, missiles, planes and tanks that KILL people. What they don't realize is that when they cut NEA funding they are also cutting funding for public programs like free Shakespeare in the park, Shakespeare festivals, symphonies, music education programs, art supplies for schools, etc.

(Okay, I'm ranting again. It's been a busy week and I haven't seen the sun in a really long time.)

The buzz around Obama is that he is going to appoint someone. Now, there are pros and cons to this argument of whether or not he should. I will not pretend to be smart enough to understand all the economic and political sides to this equation. I don't know. We could be headed for another Federal Theater Project (which put a lot of theater folks to work) or other type programs that were popular during the Great Depression. Again, lots of pros and cons here.

And I know we have a lot of problems in the world today, most prevalent being our sucky economy. I know we have world health problems.

But art and culture is what differentiates us from animals and machines.

And I don't want to just be a healthy and wealthy automaton.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

So. This is Interesting

As if I don't have enough to do already...

I've been looking over the script to 7 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT and re-thinking some of the staging for the festival in February. I realize that the script is actually in really good shape and the real challenge will just be the new directing and production elements. I took a break and then did some internet surfing to find this contest called COWRITE.

I wouldn't put much stock into it but it is being sponsored by some legit organizations (including Benderspink, one of the best management companies finding new talent--they are behind the discovery of Juno scribe Diablo Cody, for one).

The contest is based around the premise of co-writing a script. First person writes the first 10 pages (and wins $3000!) and then people submit the next ten pages. There is a winner and then people used those 20 pages to continue the story...

Each of the 11 biweekly winners will win $3000 in cash and prizes, a meeting with management/production company Benderspink (A History of Violence, American Pie, Just Friends) and a shot at the grand prize: a $5000 paid rewrite!

I've seen experiments like this done by theater companies to write plays with different playwrights. It's gimmicky and fun.

Oh, and it's usually a dismal failure.

But hey, it's hollywood and who knows, could be a good way to make a movie...


It could be an elaborate way of finding new talent (and only having to read 10 pages of that new talent's work--trust me, most of the time 10 pages is all you need).

If it weren't for the fact that it costs money to enter, I'd be more enthusiastic. But the plus side is that they have the story already, so you just have to come up with the characters and set up. I know that's not easy, but at least its not starting completely from scratch.

Here's the premise:

Determined to be a high-level Jason Bourne type operative, an awkward teenager enlists the help of a mysterious, supposed ex-CIA agent in his hometown and finds himself entangled in a dangerous plot that is way over his head.

Oh, and by the way, have I mentioned in this blog that the first ten pages of any script, play or screenplay, is the hardest?


It is.

Because you have to know where the ending is to make the beginning work so well. Which is why this contest is interesting...because no one has written the ending yet.

I'll definitely have to keep checking back on it, just for the freak show appeal of the experiment.