Monday, December 31, 2007

The Playwrights Are Revolting!

We end 2007 with controversy, miei amici. Which seems about right for a fairly fractious year.

I moderate a playwriting unit that meets every other week to read new work by member writers and to respond to it. The group is a joy to me, because it means I frequently get to hear original work in the crucible of its creation, brought in by brave writers who trust each other enough to show work while it’s still in progress.

Here’s the prob: how best to respond to that work. For four years, the format (as established by me) has been that the writer whose work we’re reading sets up the guidelines for how s/he wants responses. She can ask questions of us along certain lines. He can ask the other writers if they have questions. It’s fine for the playwright to want no response at all, of course. Et cetera. S/he can also invite any and all comments with no filtering at all, which personally I disapprove of, but again it is up to the writer.

Well, suddenly there’s a movement afoot to switch to a no-holds-barred approach to response. And it really disturbs me. I feel it leads to script doctoring of the most reckless kind – even, yes, when people don’t start out meaning to do it. I’ve seen it happen in other groups; the writer seems to be asking for advice, and the next you know you hearing “you should do this” or “I would do that.” And all too often these easily voiced suggestions have nothing to do with the writer’s impetus for writing the script in the first place.

So I’m tempest-toss’d. Do you have an idea about this? What do you do in your own writers’ groups?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Premature E-cachinnation

Days to go before it’s 2008, I realize, but already I’ve resolved to devolve in the coming year. There’s something I’d like to do a lot less, and it’s a something that’s frequently regarded by others as a signature of sorts for me – my smile.

The impetus for this, you ax? It comes out of a conversation I had a while back with Adam Bock. Now Adam is not a smiley kind of guy, in my opinion, but it came out that we came to feel we both offer up our smiles too much and too easily, as a reflex. Adam observed that it’s a trait endemic to gay men in particular – smiling as an act of submission, a way of saying “see, I’m harmless.” Just as so many gay people wind up in helping professions as an unconscious way of self-justification (“I make an important contribution to society”), so too does the self-deprecating smile telegraph that the smiler is soft and toothless and not worth attacking.

Also, because society tends to look on smiling, friendly people as weaker than their more impassive counterparts, smiling for gay men can broadcast an acceptance of their own second-class status.

There is a study related to this, which John Tierney quoted in The New York Times earlier this year, that speaks to this bias:

While we typically think of a smile as displaying our emotional state (happiness), it also appears that smiles convey information about the signaler’s status. Specifically, lower status individuals appear to smile more than higher status individuals. I suspect that this is due, in part, to the fact that there are several different types of smiles, including a true happiness smile and a true embarrassment smile. The latter smile, the embarrassment display, is often seen as an appeasement display in primates. Jimmy Carter smiled a lot, George Bush smiles much less. Jimmy Carter is generally perceived to be warm and friendly, but not very dominant and strong. George Bush is perceived be somewhat less warm and friendly, but is seen as quite dominant and strong.

Not that we shouldn’t smile at all, thank heavens people do. But for me, well . . . it’s a habit I’d like to break. And let me add that (notwithstanding the illustration I chose to accompany this post) I’m not saying my smile is fake or forced, I’ve just come to the point where I distrust my very readiness to smile. To always seek to blend with others, to pacify, to help and to cheerlead.

So don’t take it personally if the next time we meet my face is a perfect Botox blank. Blame Adam!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ye Olde Yule Log

Remember the never-ending fireplace show that WPIX used to air out of New York every holiday season? Endlessly looping round and round, in defiance of all dramatic expectation, it really was just a burning log crackling away in a fireplace. To the eternal accompaniment, naturally, of Christmas carols mit schlag. In the past I had many a late night visitor who sat with me in front of the TV, talking quietly and sipping something hot, while the Yule Log did its holiday thing in front of us.

No doubt at the time we thought we were all very po-mo and ironic, but was nice.

And actually there was some dramatic development. If you watched the screen assiduously and long enough, you would be rewarded by the sight of a hand -- slowly emerging from the left of the screen, like an old-time vaudeville kill crook -- to adjust the log in the fire! Very exciting.

Now all you web-o-maniacs may enjoy the virtual Log from the comfort of your computer station. There are many versions available on YouTube; I've included the longest one I could find, but there are others that eschew the holiday tunes to provide you with the more elemental snap, crackle & pop of the fire itself.

Anyone know how to make a YouTube vid loop automatically, just like on the TV??

Happy Holidays, everybody.
With Love from

the mead

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For Your Eyes Only

Portland Center Stage’s
Now Hear This
invites you to a concert reading of


a new play by Jason Grote


December 29, 2007
Noon to approximately 2 pm
@ Portland Center Stage
128 NW Eleventh Avenue (between Couch & Davis)

Admission is free, but space is very limited, so RSVP

Please call Megan Ward at (503) 445-3845 or e-mail
to reserve your seat


If you came to JAW last year, you’ll remember Jason Grote as the provocateur who brought us Box Americana. Jason writes smart, funny and imaginative dialogue that creates a world in which these vivid characters can play. His other plays include 1001, This Storm Is What We Call Progress, and Hamilton Township.

Maria/Stuart is a wild ride with a fabulously dysfunctional family. All families have secrets, but this one includes an inherited shapeshifting spook who faxes in unpleasant truths and has an unslakable thirst for soda. Grote uses Friedrich Schiller’s Maria Stuart as his inspiration, but the play is hardly an adaptation; it jumps off the deep end immediately to veer into terra incognita. Trust me, it’s a comedy!

Our outstanding cast includes:
JoAnn Johnson, Sharonlee McLean, Sarah Lucht, Karla Mason, Julie Jeske Murray and Chris Murray, with stage directions read by Stefan Kay

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lurkers vs. Commenters: a coda

I happened across this posting tonight whilst looking for something else. It should come as no surprise that there are blogs about blogging, but this post, from Blog about Your Blog, addresses what so many of you said recently in one way or another that I thought I'd share this treatise. Bon appetit.


Everyone likes comments.

There are bloggers who put comments above visits when judging their own success. I’m always pleased to see in the morning several comments stretched over my blogs. In fact nothing makes the process more enjoyable for me than reading a new commenter and seeing them come back.

Over at Jakob Nielsen they determined that reader participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

· 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
· 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
· 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

Now it’s true that this ratio is something that you’re just going to have to accept, there will always be a much higher percentage of lurkers. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are some ways to improve upon them though. I’ve sifted through a lot of them and here are what I consider the best ten ways to squeeze those comments out of your readers and of course in doing so make you smile (go on it’s ok - at least a grin).

1. Ask for the comment. Invite your readers to leave a comment or participate. For new readers to your site they may feel a little out of your community. This is your chance to say ‘hey I want to hear what you’ve got!’

2. End your post with a question. This gives a springboard for your readers to know what they can say if they want to comment but not sure what to say.

3. Make it easy to post a comment. If it is too hard to leave a comment who is going to bother? You’re already batting against the 90:9:1 ratio. Don’t make it so your readers have to a particular account to leave a comment. I’m not against the verification text myself to stop spam either.

4. Make friends with other bloggers, by leaving comments and striking up conversations you will often get loyal readers in return. It’s never a good idea to go out of your way to be negative on someone else’s blog because you’ll only hurt your own reputation in the long run.

5. Interact positively with your comments. If someone takes the time to leave a comment you should respond! Even if you don’t agree with what’s said you can always discuss it like an adult without turning it into a negative conversation. Others will see you responding and be encouraged themselves.

As with anything some of these will work for you and others may not. Why not pick one and force yourself to do it for at least 2 weeks to see what difference it makes to the comments.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger

Is it something I said?

Maybe it's something I fail to say. Or the way my blog postings are worded, or perhaps they're just not compelling enough to invite comment. I know from the site meter that people arrive and depart from this virtual Illyria, yet only rarely do they feel moved to leave behind some trace.

Sister Michael Anthony always used to say that comparing yourself to others is fatal. But I can't help but be a bit jealous of those colleagues o'mine whose posts always inspire a few responses, and occasionally -- as in the case of Blogger Extraordinaire Prince Gomolvilas -- elicit long chains of reaction.

Okay, bad example. I just visited Bamboo Nation (Mr. G's aforementioned blogolopolis) and noticed that it is ineluctably fascinating. But what about the blogs of certain friends who detail the most quotidian of their doings and average several comments per posting?

You say: hey Dr Phun, how bout a little whine with that cheese, and of course you're right. But to brandish another cliche: I just want to be loved, is that so wrong??

So I ax you. Allow me, for once, to solicit your comments directly. What am I doing wrong? You're the only one who can help me, Obi-wan. What excites readers' interest enough for them to reassure me I am not all alone out here?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So this is Bob Hicks.

If you search for "Bob Hicks" on Google Images, a bewildering plethora of photos appear, none of which is Bob. My favorite is the most inexplicable one, of course -- this picture of the popular crooner Linda Rodney. Qu'est-ce que c'est, eh?

To clarify, none of the images that pop up are our Bob Hicks. There are numerous other personages claiming to be Bob Hicks, but only our Bob retired from The Oregonian last Friday, after decades of service to that paper and to the theater commmunity as Portland's leading arts and culture journalist. In an outpouring of appreciation, the theater community (as organized by Sherry Lamoreaux, Mary MacDonald Lewis and others), took out a colossal ad in the paper to which Bob contributed so much. Contributions beyond what the ad cost were sent to PATA for its Valentine Fund. Sherry as reported the outcome of all this on pdxbackstage.

As part of our BobFest, I wrote a short piece for The O, which it never actually got round to ... running. Harrumph. So here it is, for your personal delectation and for Mister Aitch's. Happy Trails to Our Bob Hicks.


Crritic! Samuel Beckett used this term as an epithet, complete with its famously emphatic spelling, by putting it in the mouth of his rag-tag character Estragon from Waiting for Godot. Estragon spits out the word trillingly, with relish and malice aforethought, using it to trounce his fellow-waiter Vladimir in a name-calling contest.

Evidently Beckett did not think fondly of critics, and Western literature (dramatic and otherwise) is rife with writers at odds with professional opiners. Yet time has proven that a critic need not be merely a pontificator. She or he can illuminate works of art for us in ways that open them up, reveal them. The gifted critic can provide us with a point of entry into a new work, or give us a fresh vantage on a familiar one.

Such a one is Bob Hicks.

Bob, who is The Oregonian’s senior critic, retires on December 7 after decades of service to the publication as an arts editor and writer. For nearly half of those years, he was the newspaper’s full-time theater critic; he also edited the Friday entertainment supplement and the Sunday arts section. When Bob steps down, therefore, the performing arts community loses more than a discerning critic. It loses a champion.

For many of us, the tireless Mr. Hicks epitomizes excellence in arts journalism. Over the years he has become a friend and an ally to our community, but that familiarity never blunted his criticism one iota. Quite the contrary—it honed it. Bob’s sharpest critiques were always leveled at those who settled for mediocrity. Whether he wrote about revivals or world premieres, for him the greater failure was not falling short of a presumed status quo, but rather failing to strive for distinction.

In this way, through an aesthetic that developed gradually over the years, Bob has exhorted us to surpass our immediate artistic goals and to embrace a vision larger than ourselves. Bob had nothing less in his sights than a vision of what the arts could be in a town where we continually raised the bar for one another. He has given our audiences context when it was helpful, and lent perspective when it was most needed. Repeatedly he has challenged artists to surpass their own high watermarks, and he has encouraged Portlanders to support this as a civic endeavor. He has expressed his disappointment when we let him down, and he has eloquently offered his admiration whenever we succeeded. No wonder we miss him already.

Rest assured, however, that Bob won’t be going away altogether; his interests are too wide-ranging for him to remain totally absent. Recent cultural investigations have covered an increasingly broad spectrum, including visual arts, opera, classical music, movies, food, books, dance, performance art and even arts politics. Did you know that he's been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism – twice? Hence, with any luck, he’ll continue to be a welcome sight on the Portland theater scene.

See you in the lobby, Bob.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mistletoe Madness

When my previous posting mentioned having a transcendent time at Susannah Mars' holiday cabaret, Mars on Life, little did I know that Susannah had been through a harrowing performing experience only days before.

One of the warmest and most transporting moments of the show is a song entitled "Thalj" -- "Snow." Song entirely in Arabic, Susannah uses this music and its language and her voice to give us the special gift of shared wonder with another culture, one that is little understood by most of the world, I'm sure.

Evidently not everybody has appreciated the interlude. Well, one person, anyway. The show was disrupted last week by an outraged spectator. You can read an account of this on a Portland theater blog called OnStage; currently this posting is the top one. Playwright and actor Patrick Wohlmut (a frequent contributor to this blog) eloquently describes the event as well as its implications for us -- please check it out if you can.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Seasoned Greetings

Great night out at the theater with my sainted mother, who’s here in Portland, with her equally sainted sister, to see “my” “adaptation” of A Christmas Carol at PCS. Actually that blessed event slouches toward the Armory this Friday; tonight we went to see the incomparable Susannah Mars in her holiday show at A.R.T., Mars on Life. As always Susannah charmed us all the way into the holidays. It’s great to be able to say of a performing artist that the warmth and genuineness so evident onstage is simply who she really is. Both mother and son were totally beguiled by Ms. Mars.

As for Christmas Carol, here’s another fun video for it, created by PCS’s fab resident Multimedia Designer Patrick Weishampel, profiling the show’s cast and creative team. Near as I can make out, I am the only member of that team Patrick did not interview. But how can I carp about it when Ted deChatelet singles me out for praise along the way? Love that Ted. Patrick, too. Love Susannah, plus sainted mother and equally sainted aunt/godmother.

Dang. Did I think I just lost my street cred re: Eschewing Syrupy Sentimentality?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Okay, I realize that when noted author, actor and snarkateur Patrick Wohlmut exhorted me (via my own tag board, mind you) to come up with a fresh post, what follows is not what he had in mind. But it's what I've got: the first review in of the new PCS adaptation of A Christmas Carol, adapted by moi-meme.

The always perceptive Rich Wattenberg is generally positive in his review, but his demurrers tear at my heart because.....I know he's right. Tech difficulties plagued the preview process up to and into opening night. EmbarRRRrassing! But they seem to be behind us now, knock on virtual wood. Anyhow, the behemoth is open at last. And anyhow, audiences seems to be loving it. And I'm tickled to be praised in the critical press for "eschewing syrupy sentimentality."

In fact, that's going on my business card. "Mr Mead, eschewing syrupy sentimentality for over 30 years." Or: "Dr Phun, eschewing syrupy sentimentality for all occasions -- weddings, bar mitzvahs...."

And anyhow:

Theater review: A jolly "Christmas Carol"
by Richard Wattenberg/ Special to The Oregonian
Sunday December 02, 2007, 4:40 PM

We know that "Nutcrackers" wait in the wings. And "Messiah" rehearsals are sending Handel soaring to the rafters. And various other seasonal stocking stuffers are coming, too. But this weekend, the first major holiday shoe dropped, in the form of a new version of "A Christmas Carol" at Portland Center Stage.

After a six-year hiatus, Center Stage has returned to the classic Charles Dickens story. Adapted by Mead Hunter and directed by Cliff Fannin Baker this year's dramatization of the novel is very different from the spare David McCann version directed by Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman in 2000 and 2001. Spiced with loads of holiday music and magical theater effects, this production has its rough edges, but it's plenty of fun.

Although more traditional than the McCann version, Hunter's script eschews syrupy sentimentality. Offering a brisk, clear telling of the story, Hunter's adaptation will please viewers of all ages. Certainly, moments of the current production touch the heart, but a playfully good-spirited, often broad humor is its distinguishing feature.

In the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, Wesley Mann skillfully sets the tone. A little, jowly fellow, Mann's Scrooge quickly -- perhaps too quickly -- changes from the unpleasant, stodgy miser of the early scenes into a mumbling, bumbling, likable old man once the Christmas ghosts begin to appear.

The Ghost of Christmas Future's ominous warnings to Scrooge may not create much dramatic tension, but the dear old chap's dancing, prancing joy at the discovery after his night of strange visitations that he still has a chance to change his ways is delightfully entertaining.

A talented cast of actors adeptly creates the host of colorful characters who people this Scrooge's world. Tim True is fine as the gentle, well-meaning Bob Cratchit, and Ted deChatelet ably portrays Scrooge's patient and loyal nephew Fred. Ted Roisum's ghostly Marley is amusingly eerie both in appearance and sound, and Todd Van Voris is fun in a variety of roles.

Several actors, including some of the company's youthful performers (who all wonderfully hold their own in this production), work well together to give us a spooky, but not too spooky, Ghost of Christmas Past. Perhaps most fun of all, however, is Julianna Jaffe's jovially over-the-top, operatic Ghost of Christmas Present.

Rick Lewis' musical compositions and arrangements capture the holiday spirit and provide splendid aural support for the play's unearthly happenings. With respect to those happenings, this production depends heavily on well-engineered scenery and stage effects.

Sure, Scrooge's shop may seem a bit cramped, the high-flying Christmas Present may seem to have a bumpier ride than necessary, and some of the actors may occasionally be seen scurrying about in the wings, but such flaws hardly disturb the evening's merriment.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

That most wonderful time of the year


All right, so for me that "most wonderful time" would be Hallowe’en, but I know most people prefer the “holiday season” – Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. And this year we’re observing TMWTOTY with a new version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by none other than moi-meme. No one is more astonished than I am to relate, now that we’re about to show our first preview, that the whole adaptation experience has been so much…fun.

Why so surprised, well…frankly, I went into this process worried that it was going to be a perfunctory chore. After all, countless people have adapted Dickens’ novella before me; Dickens himself was the first, in fact. What could I possibly do with it that is new and fresh – especially given that we promised the theatergoing public a spectacular yet “traditional” version.

Well, we found ways to do both – “we” meaning Cliff Fannin Baker, who directs this production, and Rick Lewis, who composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the songs. To tell you what, precisely, is so different would be to give things away…so content yourself in the interim with these just-for-fun vids, courtesy of PCS.


Friday, November 23, 2007

It's just a ride

Love out to playwright and director E. Hunter Spreen for this snippet from a rant from the eloquent Bill Hicks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

L.A. Escapade, part two

First stop in Pasadena was to meet my good friend Raul Staggs, the noted “casting guru,” as the Angels Gate Cultural Center describes him. We got together at the famed Theatre@Boston Court, over on Mentor Avenue. In only a few years of existence, Boston Court has gained a near-legendary reputation for compelling new work, so I was excited to see something in situ at last. I was in luck: the Court was running a tense, eerie new piece by Carlos Murillo (that’s Carlos Murillo the playwright, not the composer, the inorganic chemist or the boxer) entitled Dark Play or stories for boys. Carlos is an inveterate structuralist who revels in word play – repeated motifs that develop (or remain static) in a viral mode, as stories are fractured, split asunder and rejoined in meaningful ways. The title of Dark Play is in itself a reference to imbricated layers of meaning; through dialogue we find out that the term comes from psychology, indicating a game of sort in which one player know he’s playing, and the other…does not.

As directed by Michael Michetti, the production was outstanding on all levels. I felt privileged to see it.

Later I met with Bryan Davidson, a playwright and literary manager I knew from A.S.K.’s golden age, way, way back in the 20th century. Between Bryan and Raul (another A.S.K. vet) I came away fully updated on L.A theater gossip. And later still I reunited with the fab Jessica Kubzansky (co-artistic director of the Boston Court, along with Michael Michetti) and later still with friends from the old neighborhood.

The Big Event, the reason for this whole descent into the L.A. megalopolis, came that evening: the workshop presentation of Part Three of Nancy Keystone’s epic work in progress, Apollo. By the time I arrived around 7:30 (with the performance slated for 8), Diavolo’s dance studio was already thick with groovesters clamoring for a seat. I was impressed but also intimidated; nearly everybody was wearing the same black pants. Was it going to be an arms-folded, ok-now-wow-me sort of crowd?

I need not have worried. A festive air suffused the studio lobby, like everybody felt as fortunate to be there as I did. For me personally, it was a lovely homecoming to recognized so many theater luminaries: Nike Doukas, Camille Saviola, Leo Marks, Angie Kim, to name just a few. Most thrillingly for me was getting to hobnob with the elegant and courtly Laural Meade, the playwright/provocateuse whose performance constructions I remember so fondly.

But the performance of Apollo. Brilliant. A thrill to recognize certain sections and motifs, which were experiments for Nancy during her Portland residency, now fully developed. And of course there were entirely new sections, one of which was deeply moving – something you don’t expect from intellectually layered work like this. I came away wishing to speed the clock up to the world premiere of the play, in January of 2009, when we’ll see all three parts performed together for the first time.

About 20 people stayed behind for the talkback I moderated, and the audience turned out to be warm, smart and supportive. Nancy's science advisor participated, and was cogent, humorous, sanguine. In him I could see the Sloan Foundation's vision at work -- Sloan seeks to put a public face on science and the scientists who seeks to advance human knowlesge, and they could hardly have found a better rep than Craig Peterson. In addition to being an engaging personality and a compelling speaker, the guy has the best title in the universe: Spacecraft Systems Engineer. That's his actual title at JPL. I was ready to beam up on the spot.

By the way, Apollo's premiere will be one of the linchpins of Portland’s first-ever citywide New Works Festival. Stayed tuned for details about that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What's Mead's Big Trip, you ax?

Last week, as you recall, Will Robinson, I returned to Los Angeles after an absence of five years. It turns out L.A. is like riding a bicycle. Imagine my bemusement to discover I was hurtling down the 5 at 85mph without so much as a by-your-leave. Evidently not even a brace of years in Portland OR, where a 10-mile drive is considered a trek, can blunt a former Angeleno’s "freeway" "skills."

Actually the drive from Burbank Airport (now rechristened the Bob Hope in an unintentionally ironic act of twee homage) was the only death-defying act of my three-day stay. Since I was quartered in Pasadena – at the cozy Comfort Inn (not), I spent most of my time down south in a lovely green bubble, like Glinda the Good Witch. Pasadena and South Pasadena (the latter's my erstwhile home), are verdant and sleepy; coffee is excellent, you can get around on foot (to an extent), there are Greene & Greene houses with actual residents. In short, the area has little to do with the rest of L.A. County.

As with anyone or anything I love, I’m highly critical of L.A. But that doesn’t mean I disapprove of it. I really enjoyed the delirious sense of vertigo that suffuses life there. It’s nuts – which again is why I appreciated having the calm oasis of South Pasadena as a base. A single day in L.A. might find you coping with the smug claustrophobia of Encino, the alarming cheery pastels of Long Beach and the eerie outward calm of the South Central (please don’t feed the pit bulls!), but as long as you manage to wind up back at your retreat….

A writer who describes Los Angeles better than anyone else I know is Geoff Manaugh; check out his remarkable BLDGBLOG. As Mr. Manaugh says with exquisite accuracy:

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it's bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don't matter. You're free.

That’s what I liked about the place so much. When I first went there in 1988, I was utterly alone and invisible as a wraith. I feel free to reinvent myself yet again with total impunity, and I proceeded to do that. So do many that find themselves there, whether by choice or through the apparently random machinations of career, love, etc.

Oh – Polly’s put the kettle on. Got to go. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode, Will Robinson, Will Robinson.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Now Hear This

We at PCS are launching a monthly reading series next week, called NOW HEAR THIS, to try out plays that excite us and to invite our friends into our script consideration process. Our arrangement with Equity dictates that audiences must attend by invitation (as oppposed through general advertising), so as a member in good standing of this blog, you are hereby personally invited.

Our first outing is the outrageously scabrous Bingo with the Indians. Here are the details:


Portland Center Stage's monthly reading series
invites you to a concert reading of


A play by Adam Rapp


November 17, 2007
Noon to approximately 2 pm

@ Portland Center Stage
128 NW Eleventh Avenue (between Couch & Davis)

Admission is free, but space is very limited, so reservations are vital -- please call Megan Ward at (503) 445-3845 or e-mail to reserve your seat.


Bingo with the Indians is about Wilson, Dee and Stash, a trio of desperate downtown theater geeks who travel to an upstate rural community with the aim of knocking over a bingo parlor. In this way they plan to fund their next black box show, but the cooler-than-thou thespians don’t reckon on the local yokels: terminally teen-aged Steve, his raving sapphist girlfriend, and his checked-out mom.

This play is a rarity among Rapp’s scripts in that it is an out-and-out comedy, but it has all the razor-sharp insight of the bleaker plays for which he is better known, such as Red Light Winter, Blackbird and Nocturne.

Our outstanding cast includes:

PLEASE READ THIS: Bingo with the Indians refers to sexual
situations some may consider unsavory, and it contains language that would make Mamet blush. Do not bring the kids.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lost in Space, already

As foretold, I’m heading down to glam L.A. County this weekend. I have not been back to L.A. since I left in fall of 2002; I expect to be totally intimidated by the freeways, to take a wrong turn and wind up lost in the trackless wilderness of Valley Village. Mercy!

I'm aiming for Pasadena, actually, and later to Boyle Heights in East L.A., where I'll see Part 3 of Nancy Keystone and Critical Mass Performance Group’s epic theater piece, Apollo. Follow this link and it will direct you to a site about Part Two, which was developed at PCS, and from that page there’s a nifty page all about Critical Mass’ remarkable work as an ensemble. (For some reason, you can’t get there from here, sorry.)

This leg of the adventure was funded partly by a grant from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, through its connection to San Francisco's fab Magic Theatre. In recognition of that, I’ll be leading a post-play discussion with Nancy and an affable man named Craig Peterson. Craig, who is a JPL astrophysicist, recently served as a science advisor to the project. The discussion happens right after the Monday performance (see below), so for all you blogomaniacs who live in the area – come on down! Here’s all about it. Photos to come!

C R I T I C A L MASS performance group
presents a WORK–IN-PROGRESS:

APOLLO [part 3]: Liberation
written and directed by NANCY KEYSTONE
original music by RANDY TICO

An epic narrative of America, exploring the U.S. space program, its relationship with Nazi rocket engineers, and the surprising intersection with the Civil Rights Movement…from the U.S. Civil War, to Nazi Germany, to the American South of the 1960’s, to the reaches of Outer Space…

performed by & created in collaboration with:
• • • • •
@ the Brewery Arts Complex
616 Moulton Ave. LA 90031
Main St. exit off the 5 Freeway, just south of downtown

TICKETS $15 / $10 (students w/ ID) • cash at the door • snacks included
rsvp & info: 323.993.7263

Please join us for a workshop presentation of the final part of the trilogy. Parts 1 & 2, which explored the relationship of Nazi rocket engineers and the U.S. space program, premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2005 (under the title Apollo [Part 1]: Lebensraum). Part 3 will premiere at Portland Center Stage in Oregon, where the entire trilogy will be performed together.
• • • • •
Apollo [Part 3]: Liberation is being developed through the generous support of the Flintridge Foundation;
Partly commissioned with support from San Diego Repertory Theatre and Magic Theater/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation New Science & Technology Plays Initiative;
Partly developed at Portland Center Stage with the support of Theatre Communications Group and the Pew Charitable Trusts through the National Theatre Artist Residency Program.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Blogophilia, case study 1: Splattworks

In case you don’t have the [time / inclination / scientific curiosity / existential dread / procrastinating skills / insomnia] to constantly monitor my additions to the list of other people’s blogs, over there to the right, allow me to draw your attention, from time to time, to one of my many favorites. These days my fave rave is Splattworks, the virtual lair and mental lumber room of playwright and blogoholic Steve Patterson. I love this guy’s writing, and any day that Google Reader fails to provide me with a fresh installment of his musings, I feel peevish and froward and start attempting to hack into Steve’s site meter.

Okay, I don’t really do that, but my own blog has a devotee who does attempt this almost daily – knock it off, Mr. T!

Anyway. If you only have time today for a taste, check out his blog entry of October 17, entitled “Flashback: Winter Cascades," which is full of somber wist. Or his Halloween post about the success of our Frenching the Bones escapade. (Yes, it went splendidly and was SRO, thank you, not that you asked or anything but thanks all the same....)

And this Sunday lucky Portlanders will be treated to a reading of Mr. Splatterson’s latest opus, Turquoise and Obsidian, at Miracle Theatre Company, as the posted poster postulates below. Come on down!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Feast of All Hallows Eve

The children have seen them
In quiet places where the moss grows green
Colored shells
Jangle together
The wind is cold, the year is old,
The trees whisper together

And bent in the wind they lean.

—“Witches Hat,” Robin Williamson

Got to love Portland, a town after my own heart. When I went to Kaua’i in early September, it was beastly hot, like it could never be anything again but the top o’th’summer. And when I returned eight days later, autumn was in full swing, with leaves turning color, the sky bruise-purple, and rainrainrain……ah, so good to come home.

More importantly for my pagan soul, the night I returned – and this was September 17, mind you – I passed a porch with a jack-o-lantern on its top step. Yes, I mean a carved pumpkin with a burning candle in it, leering at me madly. And all over the neighborhood were homes already festooned with Halloween regalia: strings of orange lights, spooky construction paper cut-outs taped to windows.

Leaving PCS this evening, it thrilled me to feel the excited atmosphere of the downtown – traffic conspicuously absent, people rushing around, some in costume, even. The sense of festivity in the air. And in Irvington, where I live, black-clad kids rushing from door to door, the smell of wood fires and candle wax and burning pumpkin in the air.

No trick or treat for me, though. Coming home to a dark house that we kept that way all evening, I proceeded to celebrate in my own way. Nothing too wild; my days as card-tearing, broomstick-riding, cauldron-stirring witch are dormant, for the time being. But I still observe that hour of meditation, when I visit with Those Who Must Be Remembered. My much-missed grandparents, Irene and Joe. My high school buddy Mike Prosek, who died of lymphatic cancer shortly after we graduated. Randy West, of Storefront fame, the first person I knew (of many to come) to die of AIDS.

The whole impetus for Hallowe’en, you know, is that it’s the night of the year when the veil between the spirit world and ours is the thinnest. If you’re ever going to make contact with someone who has passed on before, this is the time to attempt it. For years I performed a Dumb Supper on this night, an achingly beautiful ritual in which you prepare a meal – in complete silence – for you and the missed one, and you eat together in wordless communion. For me, sometimes this coming together is simply sensed; other times it is movingly palpable. And healing.

It makes exquisite sense to me that the ancient Irish considered Samhain (that’s Halloween to you) the end of the old year and the start of the new one.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Hallows.....

PlayGroup is PCS’s writers’ unit, which meets every other week to read new member writing, commiserate, talk about theater issues, and generally be of support to one another. Our latest provocation is an outrageous group show, devised just in time for Halloween, entitled Frenching the Bones. The title refers to an actual culinary term about scraping meat off ribs. Yikes!

We are indebted to member Sam Gregory for the ooky concept, centered around a nine-course dinner. Each playwright drew a course name out of a hat, and was therewith charged with writing a short playlet that somehow combined the substance of that course with ... horror. We start with an insouciant amuse-bouche, and gnaw and gnash our way to the heady “wine & spirits” course at the end.

The spirit of the Grand Guignol lives on!

Sam’s brainchild is free of charge, and all are welcome. Here are the details:


WHO: Portland Center Stage PlayGroup
WHAT: Frenching the Bones
WHEN: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 -- 8 PM
WHERE: CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, Portland OR


Frenching the Bones: A Night of New One Acts on Horror & Food

On October 30, PlayGroup presents a reading of nine brief one-acts exploring the twisting connections between horror and food.

Comic and Grotesque, Touching and Horrifying, Tasty and Tasteless, the nine courses on this menu run the gamut of sensations.

Four talented actors take all 28 roles.

The evening will be directed by Matthew B. Zrebski, with stage directions voiced by Virginia Belt.

The playwrights include William S. Gregory, Hunt Holman, Althea Hukari, Shelly Lipkin, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone and Matthew B. Zrebski.

The cast includes Sharon Mann, Chris Murray, Gary Norman and Cecily Overman.

The show starts at 8 PM, and runs under two hours.

We are indebted to OREGON CULTURAL TRUST for supporting the work of PlayGroup, and to COHO PRODUCTIONS for providing us with a place to perform as a way of encouraging original playwriting.

See you at CoHo!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I see Paris, I see France

Bumptious bloggers have reminded me that I posted a photo of Russell Parkman's set model for The Underpants weeks ago without ever making good on my promise to explain why. Well. Above is a photo of Russell's model; for a close-in peek of a more refined version, please check out my post of 9/25.

This is a play with a plot that turns on a series of maneuvers set in motion when young wife Louise’s lingerie slips down around her ankles at a very public event. Man after man starts showing up at Louise’s home, hoping to rent a room there under the oblivious eye of Theo, the stuffed shirt of a husband. And all the while the wacky upstairs neighbor eggs Louise on toward infidelity, encouraging her to revenge herself on her husband’s indifference by engaging in dalliances with the tenants. Hence, since feminine machinations drive the play forward, Rose (Rose Riordan, the play’s fearless directrix)wanted a living room in which men felt uncomfortable – out of their element, like visitors to a foreign country.

Look at that model; everything about it is sinuous, curvaceous. I don’t think there’s a right angle in Russell’s design. The confectionery colors suggest flounce and bounce. Even the wallpaper, dappled as it is with queen-sized cherries, suggests – or rather announces -- a comic longing for love or at least romantic adventure. (You have to click on the 9/25 image to see this.) Freud would be pleased; not only is he referenced within the first minutes of Steve Martin’s free adaptation of this play, he gets a set worthy of a libido run amok.

Here’s a little historical tie-in for you betwixt The Underpants and Cabaret. When the Nazis came to power (and Chris Coleman’s Cabaret ends with the ratification of Hitler’s government), one of their first official actions was to ban any artists perceived as “degenerate” or otherwise counter to the new order. This play’s original author, celebrated playwright Carl Sternheim, was certainly on the list.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Well, somebody has to say it. Yes, I turn timeless today. And so though it's a 12-hour day at PCS and though I'm still drowning in a constant stream of internally produced PUS (that's right, thank you), I will still strive to celebrate the me of me all day today.

The illustration on the left is from an ancient Incredible String Band anthology entitled Relics. That seemed apropos for my 75th solar return.

No need to send presents, but psychic flashes of all kinds would be most welcome.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

one sick mofo

Discovered recently during my astral travels that one of my favorite writers, Jason Grote, has been ill with symptoms that sound like mine. And I left him a sympathy note, which I’m more or less redacting in this post in order to conserve what little energy I have (hakhak).

As I was saying to meine grote, as with him, this disgusting business started off small -- a coughling and a sniffle or two -- and soon graduated into a plethora of unpleasantries.
One lovely thing that helped me through it all a birthday present from my sainted mother: ye olde Addams Family episodes, on DVD. That helped a lot on those daze when all I could do was sit in bed and moan like Lurch.

Plus it was something of an epiphany to realize how much the show influenced me as a kid. Or perhaps I should say: ratified me. I distinctly remember the time that my (sainted) mother and I visited Great-Aunt Edna’s house in Saint Louis – a mysterious and ooky manse that from the outside looked exactly like the Addamses. I mean exactly. At one point during the visit I left the sitting room on the pretext of needing to pee, then sneaked upstairs to have a look around. Room after room after room was full of furniture covered with sheets. To my young imagination, it looked like a ghost cotillion.

Edna died somewhere in the 1960s. Thousands of dollars were found stuffed under her mattress. She survived the depression, Mom explained, and evidently never regained her trust in banks.

When I moved to Portland in 2002, I dismayed my realtors by telling them that I was essentially looking for a haunted house. I wanted something at least three stories tall, preferably old, drafty and imposing, the sort of place that kids would dare each other to ring its doorbell on Halloween. Never mind that I didn’t need such a place. Houses like that didn’t exist in Los Angeles, and now that I’d moved to Wuthering Heights, I wanted a home to match.

There are many such houses in Portland, but for various reasons, I did not wind up with one of them. I like my house very much, but Morticia would not feel comfortable here.
And as for me, well … looking at her old episodes, I realized that it was the Addams home I was looking for all along. Maybe it’s still out there waiting for me.

Also during my long convalescence, whenever I grew too enfeebled to sit up, all I had to do was switch the laptop from The Addams Family to a library DVD of Cymbeline, which providentially I had checked out only days before becoming bedridden. Let me tell you. At least in this BBC version, watching that play was likely dropping a couple of ludes. I mean soporific. Presumably it's more compelling in performance...?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

More about Cabaret, old chum

In preparation for all the Prologues, Q&A sessions and everything else associated with the Portland Center Stage production of Cabaret, this summer I finally broke down and read The Berlin Stories, by Christopher Isherwood. These remarkable, mostly autobiographical accounts of Berlin partying while Hitler rises to power are harrowing, funny, revealing and absorbing. I should have read them decades ago; it’s the sort of book that can show a young writer there’s a middle ground between confessional diarism and fiction.

Don't do as I did, though, and take the book on vacation with you. Imagine me avidly and anxiously rushing through these stories, as “Cliff Bradshaw” (Isherwood’s nom de guerre) traipses through Berlin’s seedier spider traps with the Nazis growing ever more menacing and numerous….and all while I’m sunning myself at the edge of the world in emerald green Kaua’i. Embodying a new definition of cognitive dissonance. I hardly needed to be transported away from Hanalei, but it was a journey worth taking nevertheless.

Since then, in my follow-up research, it touched me to learn that there’s now a plaque on the front of the house where much of The Berlin Stories unfolded, acknowledging the building’s historical and literary importance. It makes Cabaret all the more poignant knowing that most of its characters – Fraulein Schneider, Ernst, Fraulein Kost, Bobby, and of course Sally Bowles herself – actually lived, and lived in that very residence. I hope to visit it myself someday.

Meanwhile, here’s a some fun spots for you: Storm Large’s promo for the production, done in character; same for Wade McCollum; and also a brief introduction by the play’s director and my boss, Chris Coleman. Cheers.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The History of American Playwriting, Part One

From Wait It Gets Better, the blog of playwright and bon vivant Wayne Peter Liebman. This is a conversation Wayne had with a chance acquaintance he met while visiting Lake Arrowhead.

What is it you do?

Me: I’m a playwright.

Oh. It’s a good living?

Me: Nobody makes a living writing plays. Maybe five people.
Like, can you name five living playwrights?

Arthur Miller!

Me: Rightio.

Tennessee Williams!

Me: Right again.

What’s his name. The funny guy.

Me: Adam Rapp?

Yeah. The Odd Couple, right?

By the way, this photo of Ugo Tognazzi, taken during his he-man heyday long before his desexed role in La Cage aux Folles, has nothing to do with Wayne or with the content of this post. I just can’t get over Ugo.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Cabaret Indeed.

So Cabaret opened tonight at Portland Center Stage, marking the official start of season #2 in the Gerding Theater at the Armory. And it was a triumph -- a fabulous, thrilling, affecting production.

Long before opening, a continual buzz was in the air about it because of its two stars, Wade McCollum and Storm Large -- both of them Portland performing arts royalty that have fan bases well beyond Stumptown.
Wade excels at tour de force roles in plays like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rocky Horror and Bat Boy the Musical; Cabaret's sexually and politically dangerous EmCee is a natural role for him. And Storm as Sally Bowles! She doesn't have to look far for her character's objectives; in an incarnation not so long ago, Storm was living the cabaret life to the absolute max.

By the way, the photos I've included here, all by photographer par excellence Owen Carey, give you a good peek at what tonight looked like. If you are interested, there are many more photographs and good insights into what it was like to build this ambitious production at Chris Coleman's own blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This just in

Here's a fresh take on new play development from Vassar, passed on to me by a young, fast-out-of-the-gate writer and thinker and polyglot who has been a huge asset in recent JAW festivals. Leave it to her and her cronies to come up with a new spin on the developmental process:

The Dynamo Theater Lab, sponsored by the Vassar College Drama Department, is seeking playwrights to help us experiment with the process of theater making. In the spring of 2008, our company will use new plays as a springboard to explore rehearsal and performance possibilities. We hope to discover new methods of bringing plays to an audience by changing the parameters of the rehearsal process. Over the course of six weeks, we will work on three previously unproduced plays. Each play will be rehearsed for one week and then presented to the public. After three weeks we will repeat the cycle, giving each play another round of rehearsal and public presentation, to incorporate lessons we learned from the first incarnation and to test out new ideas. Neither workshop readings nor polished productions, the work we create in this condensed period will invite our audiences into a dynamic, immediately imaginative experience.

We are interested in working with different types and styles of plays, but are especially seeking texts that experiment with theatrical form or that deal with important contemporary issues. Because the Dynamo Lab will consist of 12-15 Vassar students, medium to large cast sizes are encouraged. If you are interested in collaborating, please contact us at Most of all, we are interested in starting conversations with playwrights, to discuss your ideas for our proposed experiment and what part you could see yourself taking in it.

Go ahead, take them up on the offer, or at least inquire after the details. Sounds like good clean fun to me. By the way, did you know that the legendary Hallie Flanagan, of Federal Theatre Project fame, taught at Vassar? C'est vrai.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Literary Bagatelle 4U

Did you know that Haruki Murakami has his own web site? Well -- let me qualify -- I doubt very much the man has anything to do with this site. It's a Random House production intended to attract interest in Murakami's books. But if you're a fan, it's fun to wander around in the site's arty fixtures. And best of all is the site's eerie, minimalist soundtrack. It subtly shifts hues and tones, from tinkly to moody to quietly insouciant, and seems to morph makes a great wallpaper while you're paying your bills. Or mulling over what you should have said to your boss. Or musing over Jason Grote's impenetrable calm.

Speaking of minimalism, if you've never read Murakami's writing, do yourself a favor and get ahold of some of it. The short story collection of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is great for when attention deficit strikes, but it's the longer piece -- Kafka on the Shore, or Hard-Boiled Wonderland, where HM really shines. Haven't read the latest opus yet, After Dark, but from the way reviewers have described it, it may feel the way his site's music sounds.

These days I'm admiring of several prose writers that I'd call minimalist: Amy Hempel, Tom Spanbauer,
Chuck Palahniuk. (Check out CP's entertaining advice about writing at the above link.) Their work has taught me to excise all but the essential in my own writing. (Oh NO, another lit manager who secretly scribbles in his office at night -- it's true, I confess it.) The dashing but fell Palahniuk has a terrifc article about this in his collections of essays, Stranger than Fiction. The photo below is Tom, not Chuck, by the way....

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Yes, got back late last night from the emerald green island of Kaua'i. The place was, well...not what I expected. Though I had warnings, to this effect: (1) it takes forever to get anywhere, so plan to spend a lot of time in your rental car; and (2) food will be very expensive and very bad.

Turns out these caveats are way true! It took us several days to accept them, but once accepted, we turned them to our advantage by sticking largely to the north shore, where we were staying, as well as by avoiding destination restaurants and eating local.

I now understand what Dull Gret meant when she said: PIG GOOD.

The two photographs here weren't taken by me; my partner took pictures a'plenty, but I knocked his camera off a table (accidentally, Prince, no drama to report there) just before we saw our two best days of jaw-dropping these pictures are courtesy of Stephen and Karen Conn, interpid travelers whose photography I appreciate because yes, this is what Kaua'i really looks like.

Favorite thing about the island: the tropical showers that would come and go without warning. They could be fierce or soft as powder, but either way, the air afterward felt charged and shimmery. It's a lovely thing to be nudged into wakefullness in the night by the sound of a sopping shower; underneath its steady music, you hear water coursing rapidly through rivulets or dripping off the roof overhangs or drumming on the sand. A sonata to lull you back to sleep...

Got back to Portland just in time for showers of our own -- a perfect homecoming -- and to find that autumn is now in full swing here, with the dogwoods and maples showing their fall colors.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ghost Light

Over the hills and far away with no lap top.....see you in seven....

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Does what we do matter?

Seems to me we in these latter daze of theater, we often speak disparagingly of our own field. Perhaps "disparaging" is too strong -- let's say we're meekly self-deprecating. "It's not rocket science," someone will say, or "it's only theater," indicating that drama queens should calm the hell down because it's not important. "We're not solving world hunger here," etcetcetc.

But it does matter -- content matters, sure, but so does the act of writing and the fact that we as human beings wish to express ourselves in this way. It doesn't just affect the reader or the audience; it changes us most of all.

Anyhow. Perusing the website of legendary Powell's Bookstore today, I was poring over an essay by David Bornstein in which he writes about writing in just this way. Hired to coach disadvantaged students on how to describe themselves on college application forms, the job gradually morphed from a chore to an epiphany as he witnessed the act of writing reveal the students to themselves.

Actually Mr. B's essay describes the experience as a bellwether for the way we can make a difference in the world, so ultimately it's not "about" writing, but rather about our power to effect change. Nevertheless, it was ratifying for this struggling scribbler.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Portland, when it sizzles

You have Mickey Birnbaum to thank for turning me on to this important development, created to make life commodious for the world's first terrenauts.

Yes, you deserve better recompense for visiting this site, but this is the best I can do at 4am when it's too darn hot to sleep and Lisa D'Amour won't return my emails and I toss & turn figuring I must have somehow brought that on.....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Making excellent use of that chill time

You too may freak out your friends and family with this fun program, courtesy of those inventive people over at Blabber.

Be honest with me: you didn't think that was Burl Ives in the picture, did you???

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vacation, all I ever wanted

Yes, I am actually on vacation from Portland Center Stage. It's a Big Deal -- three weeks away from the theater along with an oft-reiterated VOW not to check email, not to check voicemail. So far so good, but it's freaky how often the thought occurs to me that I could be monitoring my work via remote control.

A while ago a neighbor, Harry, asked me how things were going at the theater. Just as though he had pressed a red button, at once I launched into my usual jeremiad:

ME: Oy, it's frantic, there's so much going on, I don't know how we're going to get it all underway..." etc.

HARRY: But isn't that how you like it?

ME: What do you mean?

HARRY: seems like it's the same for all the theater people I've ever known. They're always overworking and desperate to get something going and they seem to be enjoying that.

Does that seem like an obvious observation? I was flummoxed, momentarily. Because I was thinking: my god, Harry's right. As much as I complain about the work load, the anxieties, the exasperating aspects of constant collaboration....I'm also feeding off the nervous energy. And now I notice I miss it. So it turns out that theater is more than an excuse to drink a lot of coffee; it has a way of becoming its own raison d'etre, a handy energy sop, because you can never ever finish all there is to do.

So now I'm on the road. Yep: GONE. Checking in, as you can see, just not with PCS. Because I've done the week-off-at-home thing, where the idea is to push through with my own writing, and you know what? If people find out you're in town, you've just bought a work-at-home week. SO. It's three weeks of roaming around, in town and out, promising myself I won't cave into my genetically encoded workaholism and read those PCS emails, though I can hear them piling up from here: bing bing bing.

YOU, though. You are welcome to reach out and fondle and I will respond in kind....yes that's right, I'm talking to youse.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

more technomania

So I add a tag-board -- see it there, to the far right, just under my pulchritudinous visage? -- and then within an hour, a shout out appears, courtesy of the glam Marc Acito, of How I Paid for College fame. A celeb! On my bloggling!

But then: you're all celebs to me -- from the dashing Enrique Urueta to the ever-lurking Ken Roht to my own dear sainted mother -- but MARC ACITO. I have taken the liberty of imbedding HIS visage, in another portrait by the tireless Gwenn Seemel. Now you too can accost him on the streets....

By the way, just in case you're not a charter member of the computer cognoscenti, the idea of the tag-board is that now you can leave messages for me, or for yourself or for others, on the board without having to comment on a posting. My assumption here is that the astral plane teems with people hoping to do just that. Leave messages, I mean, not teem.

Have at it. Please.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

molto spiritoso!

Demon video provocateuse Rose Riordan strikes in her relentless drive to freak me out on acid. This time she's enlisted the help of the evil genius of IceTruck. Click on the above link to check it out, and then -- if you like -- accept the invitation at the end to foist this onto another vicitm...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

PlayPenn + YOU

Wow, two outstanding opportunities in one evening (if you check out the next post as well, I mean). PlayPenn is a recent and welcome addition to the tiny universe of good developmental festivals for orginal playwriting; take advantage of its open submission policy while it lasts!

I admire these guys. Admittedly I'm partial to them because of their excellent taste -- by which of course I mean that we're in perfect accord -- inviting in boundary-busters such as Jordan Harrison and
Sheila Callaghan -- so what's not to like??


PlayPenn 2008 Submission Guidelines

PlayPenn, Philadelphia’s professional New Play Development Conference invites you to submit a sample of your work for consideration for development of the full-length play during our 2008 Conference.

The 2008 conference will be held in Philadelphia from July 13 – 27 at the Adrienne Theatre. Invited playwrights will have the opportunity to work with a director of choice, dramaturg and professional Philadelphia actors over a two week period that allows for 29 hours of rehearsal and staged reading time. The public staged reading will be presented over the final weekend of the conference. PlayPenn will provide travel for casting for both writer and director, travel to and from the conference, housing, per diem and an honorarium.

Since 2005 PlayPenn has developed as many as six plays each summer. We offer a process that focuses on writers’ needs, providing rehearsal time, dramaturgical assistance, ample time to write and ultimately a public forum in which to view the work accomplished over the course of the development period in the form of a staged reading. Within reason, playwrights are given responsibility and freedom to pursue their own goals with collaborators of their choosing. Plays developed at our 2005 and 2006 conferences have been, and will be produced by Great Britain’s National Theatre, The Roundabout Theatre (Fall ’07) (THE OVERWHELMING by JT Rogers), The Humana Festival, Illusion Theatre (ACT A LADY by Jordan Harrison) and Crowded Fire Theatre (WE ARE NOT THESE HANDS by Sheila Callaghan) and more with SCARCITY by Lucy Thurber scheduled to receive production at the Atlantic Theatre in the Fall.

What is PlayPenn?

PlayPenn is an annual conference for the development of new plays, the advancement of new voices in the theatre both locally and nationally, and the cross-fertilization of writers, directors, dramaturgs and actors.

PlayPenn is a new play development conference. The goal of the conference is to develop plays, through a process of collaboration, experimentation, rehearsal and rewriting rather than fully realized productions of finished works. By focusing on playwrights’ needs PlayPenn makes the fundamental work of the theatre possible without the constraints and pressures of production, promotion and commercial consideration.

By providing a laboratory and the necessary tools for playwrights offering the potential for the most progressive and substantive results for playwrights’ work, PlayPenn’s process is helping to develop the next generation of playwrights for Philadelphia, the region and the nation.

PlayPenn’s National Advisory Board

Lee Blessing
Walter Dallas
Russell Davis
Steven Dietz
Liz Engelman
Frank Gagliano
Sara Garonzik
Bruce Graham
Lillian Groag
Jeffrey Hatcher
Robert Hedley
Michael Holllinger
Willy Holtzman
David Strathairn
Tazewell Thompson
Michele Volansky

For more information visit our website at


Because of an increasing number of submissions PlayPenn is receiving each year, we can only consider a single submission from each playwright.

Your submission should include:

1. Ten pages of a play you feel will benefit from the process and resources offered by PlayPenn, simply bound. Plays that have been previously produced are not eligible for consideration. The play may have been previously read or work-shopped.

2. Your full mailing address, phone number and e-mail address

3. A cover letter containing information about the development of the play and where it is at this point in its development.
4. A short synopsis of the play.

5. Breakdown of the cast (how many in the cast, doubling, etc.)

6. An up-to-date resume and short bio.

*** If you would like confirmation of receipt of your submission,
please include a self-addressed, stamped postcard.

We encourage you to submit using double-sided printing and staples or paper clips to reduce the use of paper and your costs.

Send your materials to:

220 West Evergreen Avenue, D-2
Philadelphia, PA 19118


paul meshejian, artistic director
220 west evergreen avenue, d-2
philadelphia, pa 19118
215.242.2814 (fax)

Need funds? Try the Scientific Method.

Seen this one? If you have a script along scientific lines, or were thinking about writing one (come on, I know you already have your Sloan proposal at the ready), here's your chance. It doesn't cost to enter and the brass ring's worth 10K. Also the dazzling list of people they've invited in as judges in the past is encouraging: Luis Alfaro, Morgan Jenness (full list below).....a very good sign that.

Overall it seems like a great outfit -- even if they don't know how to spell dramaturg.



Website: E-mail:

The Professional Artists Lab and the California NanoSystems Institute at the
University of California, Santa Barbara continue their collaboration with
the third STAGE International Script Competition, open to plays about
science and technology.

The winner of the Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating
Exploration (STAGE) Competition will receive a $10,000 USD prize, along with
opportunities for developing and promoting the winning script, including
access to advice and guidance from professional theatre and film artists as
well as experts in the fields of science, engineering and technology.

Submitted plays must explore scientific and/or technological stories,
themes, issues or events. (The competition is not open to plays written in
the genre of science fiction.) Entries must be postmarked by December 31,
2007. The winning play will be announced in July, 2007.

Scripts will be judged by an esteemed panel of jurors from both the arts and
sciences. Previous judges included:
Nobel Laureates David Gross (2004 Physics) and Alan Heeger (2000 Chemistry);
playwright and MacArthur Fellow Luis Alfaro; award-winning theatre, film and
television director Arvin Brown; Dr. Polly Carl, Producing Artistic Director
of the Minneapolis Playwrights' Center; Obie Award-winning playwright Lonnie
Carter; award-winning playwright Constance Congdon; award-winning playwright
and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher; Morgan Jenness, dramaturge and literary
agent at Abrams Artists Agency; Professional Artists Lab
Playwright-in-Residence Barbara Lebow; Eduardo Machado, award-winning
playwright and Artistic Director of New York's INTAR Theatre; and Tony and
Olivier award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and director Mark Medoff.

For details about the competition and submission guidelines, visit For questions or additional information, please

Information about the winners of the second round of the STAGE Competition
may be found at:

STAGE endeavors to:

- foster new and imaginative voices and methods of storytelling.
- catalyze the development of art that depicts the technological age in
which we live.
- cultivate appreciation and collaboration between the two cultures of
science and art.
- promote understanding of the sciences in the public arena.
- accomplish all of the above within an international community.

The Professional Artists Lab ( is a dynamic artistic
laboratory in the Department of Film & Media Studies and the Media Arts &
Technology Program at UCSB, in which professional actors, directors, writers
and producers create and develop new works in film, theatre, television,
radio and multi-media performance.

The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) (, one
of the prestigious California Institutes for Science and Innovation, focuses
on dramatic breakthroughs in materials, devices and resulting technologies,
made possible by controlling form and function at the nanoscale. These
breakthroughs are being accomplished through the integration of many science
and engineering disciplines, and will have broad applications for innovation
in communication, biomedical, energy and environmental technologies.


STAGE Script Competition
Professional Artists Lab
CNSI - MC 6105
3241 Elings Hall - Bldg. 266
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6105

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Noticed this tonight on a wryly observed website called The Playgoer and wanted to share it:

Since the question has come up . . . let's clear up this playwright/playwriting confusion once and for all.

The term playwright bears this wonderful anachronistic notion of the dramatist as "handicraftsman." (Hence "wright" as in shipwright.) It's very much in the same vein as dramaturgy, which, as Michael Feingold once helpfully pointed out in a column, is an etymological cousin of metalurgy.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Playwright" dates from 1616--yes, the very year of Shakespeare's death. But it was his rival Ben Jonson who is credited with coining the term (or at least authoring its first extant appearance):

1616 B. JONSON Epigr. xlix, in Wks. I. 781 Play-wright me reades, and still my verses damnes, He sayes, I want the tongue of Epigrammes; I haue no salt: no bawdrie he doth meane. For wittie, in his language, is obscene. Play-wright, I loath to haue thy manners knowne In my chast booke: professe them in thine owne.
I'll leave it to the more adventurous antiquarians out there to unpack that.

Note the hyphenation. It also appears as such in OED's next historical example...

a1677 M. CLIFFORD Notes Dryden's Poems (1687) iv. 16 Wherein you may..thrive better, than at this damn'd Trade of a Play-wright
...where apparently this guy Clifford is telling Dryden to avoid the profession, even back then!

My off-the-cuff historical diagnosis is that we see here the growth of the theatre business in 17th century England, after such hitmakers as Shakespeare and Jonson proved one could make a profession out of poetry for the stage. Concurrently in this period you also will see dramatists referred to flat out as "poets," in Restoration prologues, for instance. ("Our poets," etc) But that fell by the wayside once plays turned pretty consistently to prose by 1800. And so "playwright" was all that was left, I guess. And so it remains.

Notice also how the hardwiring into the word of menial craftsmanship--as opposed to ethereal poetry and high art--coincides with that ol' anti-theatrical prejudice. While many a dramatist to this day would be proud to be deemed a good craftsman, they don't share that honor with would-be "novelwrights" and "symphonywrights." Come to think of it, "Dramatic Composer" doesn't sound all that bad, does it?

As for the verb form, "Playwriting" is totally legit since it's actually a different word, not "playwright" modified--that is, "writing plays" as opposed to being a "wright" of plays. OED does recognize "playwrighting" but only dates it from 1892--which is puzzling since "wright" as a verb seems to have gone out of style around...oh, 1616. "Playwriting" actually appears to predate "Playwrighting" which shows it's not some corruption. Maybe putting that hyphen back in would help: play-writing?

We also might be interested in reviving what Carlyle in 1831 termed the "playwrightess."

Monday, August 6, 2007

PDX = new plays for now people

The fabulous new publication PDXmagazine continues to champion the worthy cause of NEW PLAYS NOW in both its print and its virtual pages. Read all about it at:

I'm especially glad to see this article (by actor/writer Patrick Wohlmut) because, as the article points out, all the playwrights profiled are either current members of PlayGroup @ PCS or alumni of it. That's the ultracool Ebbe Roe Smith in the picture to the left, captured in his natural habitat by photographer by Amaren Colosi.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hey, it's all about me!

I mean: what’s a blog for if not megalomania? I’ve had a run of favorable press recently. First there was an interview in followspot, Portland’s leading theater blog, about PCS’s upcoming JAW Festival. Then there was a “hot seat” discussion in the July issue of PDXmagazine between myself and the glam Trisha Pancio Marketing Director at Artists Repertory Theatre and also President of the Portland Area Theatre Alliance) in which we opined about the future of Portland theater. And then too there are some new contributions to Lit Up!, an ongoing column on The Playwrights’ Center’s extremely informative website – a resource no playwright should be going without, by the way…..

… you see, it’s been a Festival of Dr Fun. And a nice boost of much-needed energy for me, as I veer recklessly into JAW mode……

Friday, June 29, 2007

One Night Only, One Night Only.....

What is the Many Hats Collaboration? As Alison Hallett described it in the Portland Mercury:

Many Hats is a theater company founded by three out-of-towners, women who have worked in New York and California, did time at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, and came together in Portland in 2004 around an interest in iconoclastic, challenging theater.

This coming Monday, July 2, 2007, the fabulous performance Many Hats unveils Rest Room. This is a piece the company presented last year as a site-specific piece for PCS’s Just Add Water Festival (JAW), where it caused an immediate sensation. Because the play took place inside a tiny women’s restroom, only a cupful of people could be in the “theater” with the actors. But many more could watch from outside the facilities, thanks to a live video feed.

Rest Room ran six times during the portion of JAW known as You Are There (the site-specific anthology). Between performances, the video feed was left trained on the row of stalls inside the restroom, and it was amusing to watch the consternation of patrons who approached the monitor only to behold a series of toilets. Most hastened away, lest something take place they would rather not see.

Now Many Hats unveils a new version of the play on July 2 as a benefit for the company. The short piece explores issues of women and addiction in an intriguing and surprising way. This is a great opportunity to witness the work of one of Portland’s most inventive ensembles.

Catch it while you can. Five performances only, all on this one night, in the eternally twilight atmosphere of the Armory’s spacious women’s restroom on the Gallery level.

Times: 7:00pm, 7:30pm, 8:00pm, 8:30pm, 9:00pm
(the first two “seatings” are wait-listed at this writing)

Location: The Gerding Theater at the Armory
128 NW Eleventh Avenue (at Davis)

Suggested donation: $10

Reservations: 503.952.6646

See you there.