Monday, July 2, 2012


As Cousin Tabitha likes to sing around me, I once had a blog, or should I say, it once had me. ⓿ Basically this post is corollary to my previous one, to announce that as part of my accession to not one but TWO new jobs coming my way fast, I’ll be shuttering SuperScript soon. Along with its exponents: The Editing Room, the Facebook page, the Twitter account. ⓿ Originally I had hoped to keep the business going for favored fiction clients only, but with August around the corner, it’s already becoming clear that I’m going to be a tad preoccupied. ⓿ Hence this is my last post on Blogorrhea, the bloggling you thought had long since wheezed its last breath anyway. The only reason I scribble a final post at all, as opposed to just fading away and radiating, is that I tend toward ending rather than mending. And sometimes an Irish Goodbye just won't do. ⓿ AND ALSO: because I’ll be back. Taking a cue from the ingenious Miranda July, Blogorrhea will probably simply evolve into something else in the very near future. And then metamorphose again. ⓿ Meanwhile, for excellent regional arts coverage, you have many resources. Two of my favorites are truly superb: Oregon Arts Watch and Art Scatter. ⓿ For national forums on theater, you can’t do better than Parabasis and HowlRound. ⓿ Oh, and you’re welcome to visit my secret repository of groovy images, Thanatopsis, the off-site storage facility for (some of) those startling sharings that show up on my Facebook timeline. ⓿ Goodbye hello.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Favorite Year(s)

Almost 10 years ago already, I moved my whole life up to Portland Ore. And it amuses me now to recall that some people weren’t very happy about it at the time. Seriously. A few even stopped talking to me, gave me up for lost. Because back then, Portlandia was generally regarded as a theater backwater. How was I supposed to do anything for anybody now, that was the general sentiment. ¶ Mymymy. How much has changed a decade later. Today, as Bob Hicks recently noted, there’s too much good theater to keep up with it all. The city’s definitely on the national theater map — even if our current rep is that we’re the best tryout town in the nation. (Translation: the place where you spend a couple of years to beef up your résumé before you head to Chicago.) ¶ When I dearly departed from Portland Center Stage about three years back, I again had to cope with people’s expectations. Surely now I would pull up stakes at last and follow my friends to Chicago, right? Or Louisville, or Minneapolis, or … ? Nope. I was through with being a theater vagabond. ¶ It was a no-brainer, actually. I had no intention of uprooting my family yet again. But that decision was tantamount to an immediate identity crisis. ¶ My decision to return to my roots as an editor (which was my original entrée into the theater, actually) and hang out my shingle as such was met with instant dismay. Less because it sounded like adopting struggle and poverty as lifestyles, and more because it seemed to mean acquiescing to a life without clout. ¶ Many friends acted like I’d adopted a tiresome avocation, like philately or model trains or joining an unfashionable religious cult. But I was serious. I worked hard to build my business, SuperScript Editorial Services. It meant living on savings that first year out, but one client led to another and eventually the work began to snowball. I found I loved working from my home office, where I was self-directed enough to turn in my assignments ahead of schedule and to serve as a domestic demiurge as well. Most importantly, I spent every day in the company of my beloved terrier, MacHeath, in the last two years of his life — a boon to us both, which I hoped made amends for the years I went day and night without him while working in the theater. ¶ And yet! Gradually during these years the theater work came ebbing back. (Just before it did, I visited a local psychic of some note, who told me something I didn’t really want to hear at the time. “You may be through with theater,” she said. “But theater isn’t through with you.”) There was a lot of script consulting, and there were occasional dramaturgy gigs. And then suddenly, somehow, I joined the ranks of actors and directors who lament that they work more outside their hometowns than in them. ¶ Lots of good counsel came my way about how to negotiate the sometimes lengthy out-of-town gigs. For ex, Kate Eastwood Norris and Cody Nickell advised: “Always buy the smallest bottle of quality olive oil possible; it’s expensive and too heavy to take home with you.” So many thrilling away-gigs over the years. A few favorites: Colorado New Play Summit, Humana, UT Austin, Hollins University’s new play fest, PlayPenn. And a particular favorite: Iowa Playwrights Workshop, which is a veritable crucible for the theater of the future. (One of its alums, Kirsten Greenidge, just won an Obie for playwriting, by the way…) ¶ I’m kind of sad it’s all coming to an end. Sad and glad. Starting in August, I’ll be the new theater history prof at University of Portland, joining an outstanding faculty that includes Larry Larson, Mindi Logan, Andrew Golla, Gregory Pulver and Andrea Stolowitz. And I’m chomping at the bit to meet my new students and to spend my days professing about the field I love so much, past and present. ¶ AND I hope I’ll still be able to collaborate on projects with the Portland companies who have been so welcoming to me, including Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland Playhouse, Hand2Mouth, Third Rail Rep, Northwest Children’s Theater and Oregon Children’s Theatre, among others…’s just those exciting national occasions will now mostly be limited to summertime. ¶ With one major exception: stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring comes to Planet Earth

In honor of the first day of spring, a poem by Mary Oliver. This is from her collection House of Light.



a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awake and dream

Blame it on Inception, I guess, that silly video game-cum-action movie. In 2010 it made pop hash out of the idea of lucid dreaming. And now, premiering tonight, is a new broadcast show (on NBC) called Awake, that takes up some of these notion and adds its own twist. Suddenly this once obscure phenomenon is everywhere.

What is lucid dreaming? Very simply, it’s about cultivating a presence of mind, during the dreaming state, so that you realize you’re dreaming while you’re still doing it. This is more momentous than it sounds — because once you attain that realization, you have the apparent ability to manipulate the elements of your dream. And that can be fun, or terrifying, or revelatory. Or all of these at once.

There’s a ton of stuff on the interwebs about this nowadays. Forums, support groups, numerous how-to guides. For some people, simply becoming aware of the phenomenon induces it the next time they sleep. For many, however (such as in my case), it takes a lot of practice and self-discipline to get underway.

In recent years, there has been so much emphasis placed on the fun-and-games aspect of apparently controlling your dreams (e.g., flying around the cosmos, walking through walls, breathing underwater, etc.) that a new level of engagement is now underway. Sometimes referred to as advanced or conscious dreaming, this new society of oneironauts leaves the dream manipulation to the newbies and instead favors letting the dream take you where it will.

Essentially, this new paradigm asks: who, exactly, is doing the dreaming? You can best explore this gigantic existential question by querying the dream itself. If you encounter a dream figure who looks an awful lot like your deceased Aunt Clara, for example, you can ask her: what do you represent? Why are you here, what do you want? Or, to be more abstract about, if you find yourself in an inexplicable setting like an open field or an unpopulated city, you can just say to the open air: why am I here? Often the responses are out-and-out epiphanies.

So what of the pop versions of lucid dreaming? While most of Inception is sheer fantasy, there are people whose authority I trust who have indeed had group dreams, in which several people seemed to be present together in the same dream location. In theory, this happens to you every night, but doing this consciously and with avowed intent is advanced dreaming indeed.

Awake is an interesting case. In this plot line, a man (played by Liverpudlian actor Jason Isaacs, a perfect James Bond sort if ever there was one) has had a car accident in which either he, his wife or his son were killed. Every time he wakes up, he flips between a reality where his wife is alive and the son is dead, or the other way round. In each reality, he has shrinks (played by Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong!), each of whom insists he gives up the other reality if he’s ever to be mentally stable again.

The parallel to lucid dreaming here is that while lucid, the sense of its reality can be absolute. In terms of how vivid and palpable the experience is, everything can seem to be totally real. And almost any lucid dreamer can attest to the unsettling instance of the false awakening, in which you come out of a dream and start your day only to discover at some point that in fact you only started another dream—one that began with you waking up in your own bed.

There are scads of techniques for coping with this. If you’re ever out and about and you see someone perform certain actions—such as checking the hands (which tend to morph in dreams), snapping a rubber band against the wrist, or even whispering “Am I dreaming,” you may have just witnessed somebody performing what’s called a reality check. The hero of Awake has evolved similar methods to track which of his dream realities he’s currently visiting. Apparently lucid dreaming has gone mainstream.

Anyway. Media glosses on the experience aside, I recommend two good books on the subject, if you’re interested. Robert Waggoner’s Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self advocates junking the illusion that you have control over your dreams in favor of allowing them to divulge their meanings. And Robert Moss’s Active Dreaming has some excellent approaches to what’s known as dream incubation.

As the Aussies say, see you in the dream-time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A cabal for all

You’ve heard of a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese and a pride of lions. I think a cabal of dramaturgs describes us nicely, don’t you? Dramaturgs together make for a disparate group, but they tend to have one important thing in common — a talent for bilocation. Because we stand inside the artistic process as well as outside it, frequently we’re able to hold on to a detached sense of perspective that the theater really, really needs. If you ax me.

That’s why the fabulous Kate Bredeson (theater prof @ Reed College) and I are hosting an informal dramaturgs’ town hall this January, during the Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival. This city-wide celebration of original work for the stage is a kaleidoscopic array of spanking new performances, a good chunk of them created just for those crazy 10 days and nights. It’s been a boon for theater folk and theater audiences both, since at this point (2012’s fest is the fourth already), many theaters are launching into new work specifically to leverage the visibility Fertile Ground can offer them.

Playwrights and dramaturgs have been gaining ascendancy in Portlandia for years now. Some of the city’s most interesting companies have literary components helping to set their artistic agendas, including Portland Playhouse, Third Rail Rep and Artists Repertory Theatre. Playwriting groups are flourishing, some which have intriguing dramaturg/producer components. Commissioning is quietly blossoming (more about that in weeks to come). And certain smaller companies have been quick to add the dramaturg job description to their development processes — sometimes, avowedly, without much idea of what their dramaturgs were actually supposed to be doing for them!

Perhaps, then, it’s a good time for a gathering of the tribes. For us to discuss whether there are ways we can better help drive artistic platforms, rather than those platforms driving us.

If this interests you, Kate and I invite you to attend this meeting when January rolls around. Details are below. Questions? Hail me at mead hunter at juno dot com — if you’re not a spambot (and I’m sure you’re not), just close up the spaces in my address and we’re in touch.


Reed College presents
Hosted by Kate Bredeson and Mead Hunter

Venue: Reed College mainstage theater, 3203 SE Woodstock Boulevard
Festival Date: Jan 22, 2012 @ 2 pm

Tickets: Event is free and open to the public

More information: directions to Reed's theater here.

Why not admit it, dramaturgs are the unsung heroes of new play development; their ideas and their connections often provide the impetus to kick-start original theater projects. Since Portland is fast becoming known as a hotbed of new work, where do we, as dramaturgs, fit into this changing topography? How can we encourage, support and even initiate innovative developments? In this informal meeting, we’ll attempt to map the new play territory locally and nationally and then brainstorm ways to pursue a proactive theater agenda.

Whether you’re a career dramaturg, an occasional practitioner, a new play stakeholder or just curious about the profession of dramaturgy, you are very welcome at this meeting.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Embraceable Her

Brace Yourself: Louanne’s Benefit for Benefits

7 pm Monday, October 3

$20 suggested donation

Artists Repertory Theatre
1515 SW Morrison St.

If you live in Portland, no doubt you’ve heard that beloved theater icon Louanne Moldovan, founder of Cygnet Productions, suffered a terrible one-two punch of accidents this past August. Following a hospital stint that had her trussed up like a Constructivist installation, Louanne’s now at home in a thick C-collar that Elizabeth I might have envied, but which keeps her (Louanne) unable to do much of the work she is so respected for.

On Monday evening, the theater community is coming together to raise funds for her upcoming operation (insurance will not cover this vital procedure — no surprise there, I’m sorry to say) through a retrospective of the company she founded. The evening includes music by Dave Frishberg and two original short plays by Sue Mach and Doug Baldwin. Details below. With a lot of Portland theater royalty turning out to support one its own, this will be a night to remember.

If, like me, extant commitments prevent you attending on Monday, not to worry — just go to any Wells Fargo Bank and make a deposit to the Louanne Moldovan Fund. Or mail a check to the Fund c/o Cygnet Productions, PO Box 15205, Portland OR 97293.

Here’s some more information from the Facebook page about the event:

Cost: $20 donation suggested at the door. Cash or check only (sorry, no credit cards) for tickets and raffle items.

This will be a Cygnet-style literary cabaret — a retrospective of 20 years of fabulous theater. Food and drink will be available, and strange and wondrous things will be raffled off.

Don Alder and Duffy Epstein will emcee. Dave Frishberg will kick the evening off at 7 pm with something witty and Frishbergian, in Artist Repertory Theatre’s Morrison-side lobby. Then the action moves downstairs to the Alder lobby, and then in to the theater. The Andre St. James trio will play during the evening, and Dorothy Sermol will sing. Actors including (but certainly not limited to) Bobby Bermea, Gregg Bielemeier, Dave Bodin, Kristen Brown, Danny Bruno, David Burnett, Eric Hull and VOX, Michele Mariana, Nyla McCarthy, John Morrison, Vana O’Brien, Ted Roisum, Luisa Sermol, Marilyn Stacey, and Wendy Westerwelle will perform excerpts from Cygnet hits such as Love Letters on Fire, The Wild Party, Withering Looks, Variations on a Bard, The Setup, and more (including the command performance of Chicken Kamasutra).

Two 10-minute plays inspired by Louanne’s tumble will be performed, one by Sue Mach and one by actor/playwright Doug Baldwin.

Enjoy a delightful one-of-a-kind evening as some of Portland’s finest talent does what they do best, for a cause close to their hearts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Once more into the screech

A little post-TBA fallout for you.

Remember Taylor Mac’s larger-than-life cabaret, subtitled The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook? Taylor gave us a wild sing-a-long version of a Tiny Tim tune that can only be filed under: OB. SCURE. “The Other Side,” it was called, and I was thunderstruck when he started in on it, because I kid you not, I had been telling James all about that very song not a week before.

Part of the fun of Tiny Tim back in those halcyon days (talking the 60s here, and I was very young, okay?) was that you were never quite sure whether Mr. Tim was for real or whether you were totally being had. This was before Andy Kaufman, mind you; it was pre-DEVO and all kinds of other, later stunts designed to make sure your laughter was nervous.

Everything on the God Bless Tiny Tim album was downright bizarre, and it ranged from retro chic (a pacifist Irving Berlin song) to novelty songs like the familiar “Tip-toe Through the Tulips”; there was even an old vaudeville gag (“The Viper”). But nothing was odder — or more prescient — than “The Other Side,” a song about melting polar icecaps and the world’s subsequent drowning “to wash away the sin.”

Don’t take my word for it. Check out this video tribute to the song, which pairs original footage with the vintage Tiny Tim recording. Pay special attention to the televangelist’s voice at the end, urging you to wade into the water and “having a swimming time” as sea swells.

Then congratulate Taylor Mac and me on our fiercely omnivorous tastes.