Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coming attractions: Charise Castro Smith

Charise Castro Smith’s amazing new play BoomCrackleFly opens tomorrow at Miracle Theater Group — and what an opening it will be. Ms. Smith’s here in town for occasion, and she was able to answer a few questions between rehearsals.


SO. First off: I love your script, and I love the wild, reckless sensibility that informs it. It’s going to be amazing to see how Miracle manages to stage it – people bobbing in a world covered with water, for instance. Would you say you believe your first responsibility, as a writer, is to your poetic vision, without regard to staging concerns? And that it’s up to the director to figure out how to realize that vision?

This is one of the first questions people usually ask after reading this play — how do you think they will stage the magical huge stuff? I think one of the great things about theater is the fact that if an actor stands on stage and says something is true, then at that moment it's true. It's the huge imaginative possibility of theater to call all sorts of things into being with language. If you think about some of the things that happen in Shakespeare's plays: forests moving from one place to another, ghosts, battles, tempests...I just try to listen to the characters as I'm writing and trust that the actor's and director will make it happen. And I think that Olga and the actors at Milagro are doing a really amazing job of just that.

Your work holds all kinds of contradictions in suspension; it’s hallucinatory, yet also tremendously vivid. Who would you say are your literary influences?

I've been a lifelong serious reader of just about anything I could get my hands on. One first aha moments with a play was sitting on the floor of the public library when I was thirteen or so and reading Jose Rivera's Marisol and just watching this whole new world open up in front of me. Then about a year later I read Angels in America and was totally blown away too. With Boomcracklefly I sort of had Thornton Wilder's The Skin of our Teeth bouncing around in my mind. It's one of my favorite plays.

Hemingway appears in this play – is he an influence? Why does he appear in the play to the two sisters? Why Hemingway, I mean, and not Dante or Kushner or Sappho?

I grew up in Miami, and my family and I would sometimes drive down to Key West for the weekend. There's a whole culture of street performers there -- jugglers and clowns and people who get together and put on little shows by the water at sunset every night. So I think that's were the acrobat sisters came from. And then Hemingway is also such a huge figure in Key West. The house he lived in there is a museum now- and there's this little studio in the back where he had his office and wrote. He's sort of a local celebrity there. He's also interesting to me because he's such a big historical macho man and yet he writes some of his female characters with such tenderness. Catherine in A Farewell to Arms just breaks my heart.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a couple of different plays right now. One is about the life and adventures of a little girl spy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Another is about the last couple months of Queen Isabella's life. And also writing a couple of other shorter plays and some cool projects as an actor in New York.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Slouching toward spring in Portlandia

Just 28 hours to go till the equinox, at this writing — but hey, who’s counting. It's been spring here for weeks, as evidenced by the number of trees in my neighborhood that are now completely swathed in neon green moss.

By way of celebrating the changing tides of the seasons, here is a poem by Portland icon Susan Denning — she of the tremendously useful resource for writers called Paper Fort, as well as the online literary magazine, Caffeine Destiny.

For more of Susan’s work, visit her page at Inknode. And celebrate the return of light with us.


Tell her wait, little interrupter. Why bother
she is slow. She is field hungry, moving
to the edge of the garden, where she wants
to stay and stay. Spring on its way, why listen.
She is solidly hers. Ducks overhead and the sky
a speckled target. A suggestion of owls in the trees.
The trees repeat her name. How the trees insist.
The birdbath unfreezes, the ground sprouts
and shifts. Tell her back to the house with its curtains
and floors. Tell her dress the paper dolls in leaves,
give them paper knives and forks. Stand them on the counter.
Tell her lovely, little negotiator. She would rather gather
mice. She has had it with the roses. How the bugs persist.
Tell her she can wish for goats eating up the weeds—
she can hope for rabbits. Deer lingering by the fence.
She wants her animals near. She wants the only sound
to be their movements. Call her steady. Tell her resist.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

Not to worry, I will have new posts (real ones) soon. Meanwhile, in honor of St Patrick's Day, I offer what is probably the very worst "Irish" song of all time.

Just to be clear, by the way, these jokers are not actually The Irish Rovers.