Monday, April 30, 2007

Long-Form Storytelling

One of the reasons I'm hesitant about a production blog is the fact that I wonder if it's really a good idea for people to know the stuff that directors are thinking about before the show opens. I mean, it's never anything *good*. The show could be brilliant. Alternately, it could be terrible. But there's a sense in which I'm the least qualified person to make that judgment.

One frustrating thing, I think, is that we never get the luxury of standing back and looking at our work with fresh eyes. That's the real reason why so many of us have difficulty marketing ourselves -- it's not being self-deprecating, so much as it's the fact that you're necessarily fixated on the things that need to be worked on. When I look at one of my shows, all that I see is a collection of flaws.

The other problem with writing about your own work is that it's almost impossible to document the work you're doing and to actually *do* it at the same time. The blind panic of production week is beginning to set in, and with it that odd, serene despair.

The greatest struggle that I've been having with this piece is the transition of a collection of sketches into something resembling, y'know, a play. (Funny, how it didn't occur to me that this would be difficult until, like, yesterday.)

But then, the transition from short-form into long-form is something that I've done a lot, in the past -- Lokasenna was originally a collection of sketches developed by students that I turned into a play. (And has, bizarrely enough, been recently re-adapted into sketch form again.) Both Son of the Dragon and Broceliande began as sequences of loosely-related poetry around which a frame was constructed. And Libertarian Rage was a bunch of sketches that, well, never really developed a satisfactory through-line.

The reason for this process is probably that every large project needs to be broken down into smaller parts before it can be undertaken. But I've always considered myself a long-form writer. My favorite composer is Wagner, and my favorite poet is Tennyson, for largely the same reasons -- their ability to take recurring phrases and themes, and intertwine them in complex and interesting ways that illuminate the central ideas of their stories in a way that wouldn't be possible on a smaller scale.

Achieving these things, I think, requires significantly more time and focus then I've had for this project. Hell, at this point I'll be happy if people understand what the fuck is going on.

Friday, April 27, 2007

But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assu-u-ured...

Sent this inquiry out to our mailing list, but figured it couldn't hurt to post it here as well:

Due to a number of factors, we got off to a late start putting this one together, and we're running behind (even for us). We're still missing a number of pieces, and we could use your help in the following areas:

1) We are in urgent need of a stage manager/running crew. No experience necessary. Seriously. A monkey with Parkinson's could do this job. We just need the bodies. Comes with a small stipend.

2) We need to provide at least one usher for every performance. If you're strapped for cash, this is a great way to see the show for free.

3) We're still looking for the following properties, if anyone out there would care to lend/donate them to us:

-canvas and easel
-wheelchair, or possibly a rolling office chair with arms
-microphone stand

Monday, April 23, 2007

Warrior Needs Food, Badly

Our 2005 show Camelot is Crumbling left me more emotionally exhausted than any other show we've done. I'm a great believer in taking responsibility for my own work, and that if a show of mine is poorly received, I'm at least partly to blame for it -- but the fact remains that I had invested a tremendous amount of myself in a project that ended up generating low audience numbers and active hostility from a number of critics.

When 2006 rolled around, I had no desire to undertake something so ambitious again so soon -- our first two shows suffered largely from their scope exceeding their venues, both essentially being sprawling epics crammed into an hour-long Fringe slot -- so I began flipping through my piles of unfinished scripts, now looking for any short-form work I'd done -- outlines for ten-minute plays, half-finished sketches, rants from my blog at the time. What I found was that my short-form stuff was divided into two categories: political satire and pop-culture parodies. The former became Libertarian Rage. The latter became Warrior Needs Food, Badly.

Libertarian Rage ended up being another exhausting project, too, though for different reasons -- that it was (unsurprisingly) a show riddled with so much negativity: a lot of my anger about our last project, and how we regard our entertainment, found its way into the production, but mostly the script was just my way of laughing bitterly at a system that I felt completely shut out of.

In a weird way, I regard the two shows as having a symbiotic relationship: they're both sketch comedy showcases, for one thing, but it's deeper than that -- that the jaded cynicism of Rage felt to me to be in diametric opposition to the wide-eyed optimism of Warrior. If Rage was a play about everything I hated about America, then in some sense Warrior was a love letter to the country of my birth. And all the things I love about it! Its hyperactive desire to entertain; the way so many cultures are blended together, while still maintaining their own distinct identities and qualities.

Lokasenna was based on Scandinavian mythology, Camelot on British. But in 2006, we devoted two shows to exploring that mythology which is uniquely American.

I doubt that anyone thinks that deeply about it, when they're watching the two of us running around and bumping into each other. But on some level, that's what it means to me.