The new year, a new fable, a new sky

The stress and activities of the holidays have passed, and so has a long-in-the-planning large group family vacation. Vacations are fun, and often filled with stressful hassles, not so unlike the holidays. It seems as if it’s been nothing but go-go-go, and for the past month or more I’ve felt like I was on some treadmill to finals week.

There’s a poorly mixed metaphor.

tangerine sky

tangerine sky

Now, though, I’m ready to put my energy toward other things, and take on 2011 for the challenge of a new year. I’ve an itch to find inspiration, to take something and explore it, alter it, enhance it, change it in to something new and unexpected. I want the challenge of discovery and creation, and the exhaustion of hard work.

I have some ideas to examine, which range from a pile of scripts to read, to an original video to shoot and edit, to the all-encompassing endeavor of writing and work-shopping a new play.

The new play revolves around a mystery and the search for the truth. But it’s not just the truth but really a search for what is truth. What defines truth is becoming whatever it is one believes, based on knowledge or facts to which credence is given for whatever credit and value is assigned by the believer. Personal opinion has become its own monetary and marketed system, its own economy, its own actuality.

It’s an exploration of our modern society where my truth and your truth co-exist and each maintains its credibility despite the conflicting facts, and it fractures the world we once knew.

It’s all there in a simple modern fable, just waiting to be written and told.

That may be the tangerine sky I’m seeking.


How to make a 3-dimensional life on paper

I have to admit I may not be very good at this editing stuff. I may not be very good at…cutting.

I’ve spent about the past two hours reading again through the script, and noting changes and rearranging phrases. (There’s still one section I fear is a bit messy and may need some serious re-arranging, by the way.) But what I’m really finding is that I keep wanting to add more! I need to cut about 15 minutes off the show, and all I keep thinking of are things that add time!

What I really want to do is work it, with the cast. Play with the rhythms and tempos and energy. Speed it up, slow it down, make it big, small, angry, flirtatious, funny, sinister…get characters to fight, challenge, manipulate, trick, seduce…..find out organically where this thing lives.

I’m kind of new to this writing thing, so really, these other ways are the way I feel comfortable. I can only do so much in my head, er rather, I guess, on paper. I mean, even when I direct, I’m usually found pacing the floor in the back of the rehearsal room.

I’ll trudge along though. I’ll make this thing work.

I’ll get those bitches to Winnipeg.

Coming together, and a random string instrument

Things are finally starting to come together. Last week we took a step back from our script and took a look at what it was all about. There’s a lot of story in there, but there wasn’t much POV, there wasn’t a statement, a lesson, a viola.

Ok, not a viola. Not sure where that would be. And it’s not a musical. Although…wait a sec…what if there were a musician, on stage to play the strains of music we supposedly hear from across the street?….interesting idea. It might complicate things, though. I digress.

The point is that there wasn’t that – a point. Why are we telling what this story? What is it we want audiences to get out of seeing it? What do we get out of it? etcetera etcetera etcetera….

Having had that discussion we’re more primed for moving in to the next editing phase, which is taking the feedback we got from our read-thru a couple weeks ago, fleshing those things out in a focused manner, in order to present the actual actors [who are expected to bring this thing to life] something they can work with. I feel like we might be on to something. We might actually be doing something here.

And with any luck, it might just work.

Archives to Auditions

I’m excited to see what happens tonight at auditions for the show. I’m hoping my (possibly over-) organized plan will help keep the evening from getting out of control. Auditions can be a messy thing.

Even though I’ve been working on this project for a few months now, I can’t believe we’re ready to cast it.

Seems like just the other day I snapped this picture with my laptop’s camera:


This is the 103-year-old archive of the trial transcript—all 300+ pages, with fraying edges, bound by a cloth piece of string. The State of Minnesota v. William Williams. It was unearthed from a dusty archive box, coincidentally in a building about a half-mile from where the murders took place, a location the murderer walked past after committing the crimes. 

This weekend we held a reading of a draft of the script. That went pretty well.

Tonight and tomorrow we audition actors. Fingers crossed for the same.

Winnipeg, and then some

Well, it’s been read, and no one died. Except for the those in the play itself, but that was to be expected.

Overall, I’m very pleased with how the reading went. For the most part, it moved along fine. We discovered there may be some confusion over Winnipeg, or perhaps the word Winnipeg was heard a bit too often. It kind of became a bit silly really, as I myself have never been. To Winnipeg, that is. These things are easily fixed.

There are places where the words and the sentences, not to mention the sentence structure itself, and this is often material that’s original source stuff anyway, was a bit cumbersome and long winded, that is the words, to say out loud, and, it was, to be rather frank, difficult, plus a bit hard to replicate, even when trying.

As I just did. And not successfully.

The ambience of the written word, and the mere scent of its power, were also at times….overwritten.

Again, original sources. Yellow journalism.

Fortunately, good and smart actors can usually smooth that out, even in a cold read. When they didn’t, well, that’s when we all thought, “OK, fix this here thing.”

After reading it, we had a good discussion about what worked, what didn’t, what wasn’t clear, etc. I was surprised that no one said anything I hadn’t anticipated, which makes me feel good about how we’re going about this project. What was really fun was the debates that ensued where people talked about not just which way should the script go but how to interpret the lives of these people. It was if they had just been to a show, and were arguing its points afterwards at some bar.

The good news is that it actually seems cohesive, interesting and totally doable. It needs some cleaning up, a bit of shaping and polishing, but then it will be ready for its cast. And the cast will have to be ready for it – to help bring it more to life. And shape it some more.

The bad news is….well, I’m not quite sure there is any.

So, I guess we’re on the right road. Which apparently leads to Winnipeg.

How to spell ABC

Almost ready. It’s almost ready to be read out loud. Through a few writing sessions we’ve managed to edit the whole piece. Now I just hope to not mess it all up when I make the changes and move some scenes from one end to another. I’m not sure I can wrap my head around it all.

Scene B4, B5, B6B, A2, then B6A, and then A4.

Whatever happened to writing a single, straight story? You know, boy meets girl, boy loses girl? This thing is written in a twisting loop, with mirrored scenes.

Yet, I’m not convinced to relabel it all 1, 2, 3.

It feels good. It feels like it’s coming along. But the next test is Saturday’s reading. How will outside eyes and ears respond?

Will they too believe that sometimes the best way to get from point A to C is to not go through B?

Cutting and Pasting

Another editing session with my writing partner today. We made some progress, but it was tough going for a while.  Sure, we know what it’s all about, but an audience is only going to hear it once. Most likely, anyway.

We had written our story in to little twisted circles, difficult to untangle. The other day when we met we had re-arranged a whole bunch of scenes, trying to make things make sense. We moved a whole bunch again. I’m afraid to look and see if we un-did what we had done-did the other day, because if we done-did it the other day we probably had a good reason to do it. Hmmm.

So we didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped, but we did manage to get the storyline straightened out. At least for the first 1/3 of the script, maybe a bit more. Actually, it should be only the first half. So far, we’re not so good at cutting. Which is problem, because we identified at least two things that need to be written and added, so, in fact it may have gotten longer.

There’s still so much to do, it makes me anxious about next weekend, when we get a group of actors together to read it out loud and have other guests there just to listen, all so they can provide some feedback. What if it’s crap?

Or worse – what if it’s boring?