Thursday, June 28, 2007

Iowa Fringe approaching!

Finally received our venue assignment for the Iowa Fringe:

Performance Dates

Thursday, July 19, 6:30pm
Friday, July 20, 8pm
Saturday, July 21, 5pm
Sunday, July 22, 3:30pm

Location: Des Moines Central Library
Main Floor, South Wing - Room #3
1000 Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50309

Ticket prices are $10.00.

More information can, as usual, be found on our website at

Des Moines is a way out of my usual stomping grounds, so I don't have the network of support there in place that I do in, say, somewhere I've been living and working for four years. I've also received our venue assignment late -- just sent out press releases not ten minutes ago, and the show opens in three weeks. Out-of-town touring is always kind of a crap shoot, so if you have any friends or relatives in the area who you think would be interested in a foul-mouthed travelogue, I'd be much obliged if you passed it on to them.

Also, the MPR interview I mentioned in my last notice is now online at And a reminder that one of my ten-minute scripts is going to be remounted this Saturday as part of Theatre Limina's 10-minute play festival -- more information at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

random MV stuff

First things first: not strictly Maximum-Verbosity-related, except insofar as I've written it, but one of my scripts (titled "Arrested Adolescence") was recently produced at Theatre Limina's ten-minute play festival, called "Bent" (promising "Gender inversions, perversions, aversions, and revisions", according to the website. I have done my best to write to these expectations).

It was selected as the audience favorite of the evening, with a whopping 4.75 out of 5 average(!). Audience comments include:

"Finally! Humor, a story, a reason to care for the folks." "Touching and funny." "Best play of the night."

It'll be remounted as part of an encore performance this Saturday, June 30th, 7pm at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. For more info visit

I've also written (somewhat tangentially) about the experience at Maximum Verbosity's Production Blog:

As long as we're on the subject -- I'm currently writing for five different websites, so keeping track of my online adventures can be something of a nightmare. For those who are interested, I've created a Livejournal which is nothing more than a list of updates to all of my other sites. Feel free to add or syndicate

Performed a preview last night at the Fringe-For-All of my upcoming one-man show. It was enthusiastically received, with Matthew Everett dubbing it his "Favorite Comedy Moment" of the evening. Glowingly reviewed here:

"...his ever-expanding skill and bending language to his will and slinging it at you from five different directions at once - that's the primary reason you should see his show. He is damn good at what he does. He is smart. He is funny. He is brilliant. No question."

Wow...thanks, dude.

I was also pulled aside at the event and interviewed about the Festival and my show for MPR, so there should be a few sound bites from me on "All Things Considered" this afternoon between three and six sometime.

Annnd speaking of interviews, I never mentioned that I was quoted in an article about the Fringe for Intermission Magazine:

Fringe Season Is Upon Us, and things are only going to be getting progressively crazier. I'm off to the Iowa Fringe in Des Moines in three weeks, not to mention the countless previews and showcases taking place. I'm sure you'll be hearing more from me soon.

Getting Bent

For the past four years, I’ve been doing most of my work as a triple-threat – writing, directing, and acting. This may require some explanation, especially since it’s something of a controversial decision these days.

For one thing, the bulk of my training is as a mime, a field in which you’re expected to create, develop, and present your own work – so when I began working on larger-scale productions, it seemed like a logical extension of that process. Most of my heroes – writers like Moliere, Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen – functioned the same way, and I believe their scripts were significantly improved by their multi-layered investment.

For another thing, I think that our roles in theatre have become much too specialized. At the theatre where I received much of my training, we were all expected to write, direct, act, stage manage, run tech, and scrub the toilets after the audience had gone home – to give us an appreciation of all of the elements that make up a production. Furthermore, I view production as an organic extension of the creation of a script, not a separate process. I rewrite freely over the course of rehearsals, and don’t consider myself to have completed a rough draft until the first run closes.

The downsides are obvious. It’s an extraordinary investment of time and energy. I find myself having to resort to a number of people as both stand-ins and outside eyes. Half of the time I’m not second-guessing myself enough, the other half of the time far too much. But the biggest problem is this: I consider myself to be a decent writer, and an adequate (if limited) actor. I’m a lousy director. I don’t think visually. I get far more interested in process than in product, in the (only partially true) belief that one leads to the other.

There’s more to it than that, though. Like every playwright, I had a bad experience with a director.

The year was 2001. The director was a teacher of mine who I idolized. She promptly eliminated the opening dream sequence of the show, on the grounds that it was “surreal” (well, no shit), replacing it with a series of newspaper headlines shouted from off-stage condemning the US response to the 9-11 attacks. (Never mind that this had nothing whatsoever to do with the story.) Things kind of went downhill from there.

In one scene, a domestic argument between a wife and her drunken husband, she rewrote it (while I was too sick to come to rehearsal, no less) to say that he was not drunk, merely “tired”, thereby rendering their dialogue completely incoherent. She pulled me aside and solemnly explained to me that the world my play had created was a circus, and therefore decked out the main character as a ringmaster. (Aside from the fact that this was completely absurd, this seemed to me to ignore that my protagonists are almost uniformly the *victims* of their fantasies, not the heroes.) She also stuck him in a beard which the actor generously described as “Osama bin Laden caught in a paper shredder.” The cast asked me on a number of occasions to rescue the script from her. I didn’t.

She removed all of the jokes (“Too smart-alecky!”) and all of the fantasy sequences (“Too bizarre!”) – in short, removed every element that made the script unique or challenging. What’s more, she didn’t do it to clarify the story or explore the spirit of the script from another angle – she did it for no other purpose than to advance her own political agenda. I thought I’d put this behind me, but I guess it had soured me on the experience a lot more than I had thought. In fact, this was the beginning of my belief that maybe I actually could direct – because, if I could recognize that someone was making a decision that was so absolutely *wrong*, then surely I must have some sense of what would be *right*.

And, to a degree, I was right. I turned out to be a significantly better director than, say, her. But that doesn’t necessarily make me good.

I just had a script produced as part of Theatre Limina’s ten-minute play festival ("Bent"). It was pretty awesomely successful – wall-to-wall laughter, creepy in all the places it was supposed to be creepy. It was the hit of the evening, and the audience almost unanimously selected it for an encore performance. And it was so successful, precisely *because* I was nowhere near the direction of it.

The director took it and made it his own. I was barely consulted – he cut several jokes here and there, moved this sequence around, chose a different music cue – and nearly every decision was exactly right. And they’re decisions that I *couldn’t* have made, because I’m too close to it. I don’t object to the changes he made, because he understood the script, and ultimately that’s what matters. A director who can do that – take over a script and shut the playwright out in exactly the *right* way – is worth their weight in gold. So I’m reconsidering my position on the triple-threat thing.

But don’t take my word for it – judge for yourself. It’s getting remounted this Saturday, June 30th, 7pm at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. Be there or, y’know, don’t.

I'm Writing So Much

...even *I* can't keep track of all my blogs.

Womb with a View, on the website of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, contains my reviews of Twin Cities theatre. My production company's website is at Maximum Verbosity, and the Maximum Verbosity Production Blog contains plugs for my own work and musings on art in general. My political writing is for the most part cross-posted to both Libertarian Rage and Liberal Media Elite, two sites that, oddly enough, seem to have a very different audience.

For those whose interests overlap with mine in more than one place, or want to keep track what I've what I'm doing without hopping between five different sites, I've started a Livejournal which is nothing more than a collection of links to updates of the other blogs. Feel free to add or syndicate

if it makes your life easier. I know it'll make mine.