Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Emperors pretty pink suit.

German writer and Statesman Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe proposed that for critiquing art, (specifically plays, but it is a universal application) we aks ourselves three questions.

1) What is the artist trying to say?
2) How well did the artist say it?
3) Was it worth saying?

The beautiful thing about art, in any medium or form, is it's subjective nature.  No painting, no piece of music, no movie, no play, no...well...anything will affect two people exactly the same way.  Another beautiful thing about art,, in any medium or form, is that it will inspire in all of us, an opinion and the need to share it.  So what Goethe has provided for us, is not at all some way to difinitively answer if that piece of art is good, or not.  Because of the subjective nature of art, that question can never really be answered.  What it provides instead, is the framework on which to build the discussion.  Instead of just saying, I loved it, or I hated it, these questions give us something to build on why we loved or hated it.  They also allow us, if we actually ask ourselves these questions, to think for ourselves.  Not simply react to an initial opinion, but actually analyze why we have that opinion.  I like that.  I'm a big fan of thinking.

Now I will never be as smart, or have the realm of influence of Mr. Goethe, but I am a little bit self absorbed, and try to boil things down to a position  So, because I know these questions, and because I'm a big fan of thinking, almost any time I see, hear, or observe some new work, in whatever medium, I will ask myself these questions.  However, I also noticed, that these questions, as you will see, are as much about the artist, as they are about the work itself.  They can be applied to the work, but it always draws back to the creator of the work.  So for me, I created three more questions that leave the creator of the work out of it almost entirely.

1) Is it relevant?  I made this the number one question, because to me it is the most important.  If it doesn't mean anything, then what's the point?

2) Is it provocative?  Is it causing me to feel something? Is it giving me something to think about?  Is something happening in front of me that is moving me to think or feel?

3) Is it entertaining?  Now this may seem like a throwaway question, but it really isn't.  I have seen so many plays, movies, whatever, that may have left the first two completely to the wind, but boy did I have a good time, and I felt that that time was well spent. Some piece of work may be completely pointless, and ultimately leave me with nothing to think about beyond where to go for dinner afterwards, but boy did I have a good time.  Now if that's the case, whatever this piece may be, will certainly not stand the test of time, but in this moment, it's exactly perfect.  Think....pop music.

So now I'll tie this all together with one example.  I can absolutely see, understand, and even defend the existence of the musical Oklahoma, based on Goethe's three questions.  It holds up one hundred percent.  I know it's place and value both when it was written, and now.  However, on a much more personal level, it gets a big fat zero, on my personal questions.  To me, and I speak for me alone, it is not relevant, provocative, nor entertaining.  Sitting through any production of Oklahoma, for me, is absolute death.

I will use not just Goethe's questions, but my own, whenever I have a discussion about art.  I find myself having this discussion primarily regarding plays, or film, but these are the questions that build my personal foundation for any discussion.

Now this next part is going to seemingly come from left field, but bear with me, I promise by the end of it all, it does come together.

If you know me at all, if you've read my facebook posts, or blogs, if we've had the conversation, you know how I feel about body shaming.  Shaming of any type really.  I think all shaming, whatever form it takes, is one of the lowest things one person can do to another.  Especially when applied to another persons body.  To use the very physical form of a person, as a weapon against them is among the most dispicable things a person can do.  Seriously, to do this, reveals so much more about the character of the person shaming, than it does the person being shamed.  I will fight this with everything I have, whenever and wherever I see it.  There is zero place for this, in my little bubble of reality, and although my sphere of influence is as small as a person can have, within that sphere, there will never, ever be question where I stand on this topic.

There is also, especially in American social culture, this bizarre idea, that the naked human form is something to be ashamed of.  I'm not gonna waste words about how this has happened. The intrinsic link between nudity, and sex. I won't get into discussion of morality, or propriety, or decency.  None of these things really mean anything to me personally, or have much relevance to the discussion at hand.  I will simply note, that it's there.  This strange link between shame, and nudity. The further application to use nudity as a method of shaming. Although I hate it, I understand where it comes from based on our nations Judeo/Christian foundation. I also don't have it.  I never have.  I've never been ashamed of my own body, regardless what form it may take from time to time.  I've never been inclined to even think of a way to shame, when I see another naked body.  Nudity, and shame are not linked in my brain.  They just aren't.  So anytime, another celebrity gets caught in some degree of undress, and the whole world freaks out...I get it on an intellectual level.  I'm not stupid.  I understand the freak out. I just don't get it on a personal level.  Every. Damn. Time, the only thing I can think what.  Janet Jacksons nipple popped out in a halftime show, and we are still feeling FCC repercussions, and in my head all I can think is ain't any of y'all seen a nipple before. Literally...calm your tits.  This is NOT the big deal you're making of it.

Sooo....after ALL that we go.

This past week, in various parts of the country, in public parks, statues of a very naked Donald Trump mysteriously, and seemingly randomly appeared.  We, as a nation, collectively gasped. Then we laughed. Then we took pictures, and passed around the stories.  Then we made jokes. We made commentary.  We tweeted.  We posted.

Then the blogs came out.  Then the articles. Then all the little things telling us that this had crossed a line.  We shouldn't be laughing.  We shouldn't be commenting. No matter how horrible a person is, (and he is), we should never resort to body shaming.

Wait what?

And everybody jumped on that bandwagon.  The wagon that I'm usually the first to jump on.  Hell, the wagon I'm usually driving.

And here's where I tie it all together.

Because I do not inherently associate shame to nudity, this idea hadn't even crossed my mind.  The artist(s) whoever they may be, had titled these little statues, The Emporor Has No Clothes.  Or something to that effect, and in my head, that's all it ever was.  So let's look at it that way for a moment.

1) What is the artist trying to say?  Well, since the statues were titled, it seems pretty obvious.  These statues were a direct reference to the story I'm sure we're all familiar with, and I won't retell here.  In the metaphorical sense, it couldn't be more appropriate. Donald Trump may literally be, the stupidest person to ever run for President.  He clearly has no idea of what the constitution actually contains.  He hasn't the vaguest idea, the purpose of congress.  He is seemingly completely unaware of how checks and balances actually work.  He has complete disdain for actual law, and guaranteed constituional right.  He seems to have the idea that were he to be elected, he would then be granted some magic god stick that he simply has to wave around, to make things happen.  He is a small man, who says small things, loudly.  Most of those leaders who still give him endorsement, much like the folks in the story, do nothing more than enable him to continue thinking this, although they themselves know that nothing he is saying, can actually ever happen.  The story of The Emporors New Clothes, is very literally happening on the grandest stage, right before our eyes.  The artist, in creating these statues, with this title, couldn't have been any more clear, in what they are trying to say.

2) How well did he say it? This one could probably be debated with various points of view.  Since I live in a city where there was no statue, I never actually saw one.  I saw a few photographs of them. I can't speak to the quality itself.  From what I could gather, they seemed fair representation.  It was quite obvious who the statues were meant to represent.  The question applies more I think, to the metaphor.  The metaphor which was apparently lost, to the more immediate concerns of nudity and shame.  So really one has to wonder at this point, is it the fault of the artist, of the audience misses the point?  Or was there a way the artist could have made the point better, so that the audience doesn't miss it?  Or...was there really some body shaming going on?  Maybe.  I can't speak to that, because I am not the artist.  I know that for me as personal audience that was never the point.  I never felt that.  I think that if Mr, Trump had the body of an Olympic adonis, then the conversation of body shaming would never have come up at all.  Since instead, he has a body type that we as Americans have collectively agreed is physically less aesthetically pleasing...then obviously the shame would happen.  It could also be that the statues were less than kind regarding the genital region of the body, but again, to me this spoke much less of shame, and more to the fact that Mr. Trump himself brought the topic to the discussion during the debates.  So on a personl level, I think the artist said it very well, but on a grander stage, perhaps he failed.

3) Was it worth saying? Without question. Not only is it worth saying, it must be said over and over and over again.  I think right now that there may be no more important statement to make, than the absolute incompetence of the man, to the job for which he is so vigorously campaigning.  Not only must we address this issue, we must also address the fact that he has the support of men, who know absolutely that he is wholly unqualified.

So for me. Yes. This holds up absolutely when applying Goethe's theorem.

Now to my own.

1) Is it relevant? It couldn't be moreso.

2) Is it provocative? Obviously.  Not only personally, but on the grand stage.  We have talked about it.  We have been moved to speak and think about it. We have most certainly been provoked.

3) Is it entertaining?  Oh I laughed.  I laughed and laughed.  I was, without question, entertained.

So yeah. On all counts.  All six of my personal question, this statue holds up.  This statue should exist. This should be something we talk about, both as the work itself, and the metaphor it represents. I also, freely allow that others may wholeheartedly disagree.  That is the beauty of art.  That is the wonder of our stories.  They are all subjective.  We will all be moved differently. We should also all, as much as possible, contribute the the conversation.  Or even better, we should contribute to what's being discussed.

Make More Art.  Tell More Stories. Don't just have the discussion.

Be the discussion.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

ROUND² p.s.

My blog.  This blog. This particular space is, and always has been, my personal little dumping ground.  All the swimming thoughts in my head, just sort of end up here, in whatever fashion.  I don't often get specific here.  I don't name names here.  Sometimes I may be about specific events, or specific people, but I never refer to them.  I enjoy the ambiguity.  I enjoy that even though I may be speaking of something very specific, the generalization of it here, gives it something more relateable.
Tonight I am going to break form.  Tonight I am going to get very specific.

Tonight I am going to name names.

Tonight I am going to speak on a very specific event in my life, and this entire thing becomes much less universal tonight.  I won't hold it against you, if you lose interest.  I won't blame you, if you choose not to read.  It's very okay.  Of course you are welcome to stay, and I assure you this is a VERY rare event, and future blogs will return to random form, but tonight...

Tonight I need to say the things that have needed said for a while now.  Tonight is a bit overdue.  So here goes.

If you follow my life on social media, or in the real world in even the tiniest way, you know that the past few months, I've been almost singularly focused on a play that I wrote, and then subsequently had produced.  This is the story of that event.  The story that goes beyond the facebook posts.

To preface, this is not, by a LONG shot, the first play I've written.  This isn't even the first play I've had produced.  It is however, the first that I've written or had produced in over a decade.  Is is the first since I moved back to Salt Lake City.  It was also...hmmm...accidental?  No, that's not right.  Unplanned.  Unexpected...the right word eludes me...perhaps I'll find it as I progress.

The whole thing starts a year ago.  Last year, summer of 2015, a group of college students, professors, and theatricians brought, for the first time ever, a Fringe Festival to Salt Lake City.  To me, this is one of the most significant theatrical moments here in a very long time.  Some would agree.  Some would disagree.  Whatever.  To me, this is it.

See cause here's the thing.  Everybody's got a thing.  This is true in general, but pretty specific to the theatre world as well.  And I'm not saying that we are singularly focused on that one thing, and there is nothing else.  We tend to be well rounded.  We have MANY likes, and dislikes, but the top, there is a thing.  For some, it's musicals.  For some, it's Shakespeare.  For some it's the American Classics.  I like all of those things.  All of those things are fine, and provide artistic, or creative outlet. None of these things though, is my thing.  I could discuss and debate the finer points of this argument with anyone, at any time, and probably really enjoy the conversation, but for the sake of brevity (too late), I'll move along.

My thing is the new. The fresh.  The lesser known.  The contemporary.  The unknown voices.  It always has been.  My thing is the story that people haven't heard yet.  I like the stories that are fresh.  I like the stories that are nearly impossible to sell, because producers don't like taking the chance.  And that's fair.  People don't tend to buy tickets to theatrical events they aren't familiar with...but for me, those are the ones that are most interesting.  We all have a thing.

So I went to the Fringe Festival last year.  I volunteered to help.  I was there everyday.  I loved it.  It broke my heart. Here was this thing. My thing.  Happening all around me.  So much talent.  So much fresh.  So much....wonderful and amazing, and there I was, witness to this thing that filled my soul so much, and yet, not a part of it. I vowed the vow that one vows to oneself, that is both sacred and silent, that I would not miss the next one.

And so starting from over a year ago now, Fringe became my primary focus.  I found someone willing to produce.  To make sure we had a show in the festival.  We played with a few scripts.  In the back of my head, this felt like cheating.  You see, I felt then, and feel even more strongly now...on a personal level, that an opportunity like this should absolutely be used for original work.  Published work, just feels like...cheating.  It feels like not taking advantage of the unique opportunity to say something new.  However, even though this is how I feel, it was more important to me in the moment, just to make sure we got in.  The what was secondary to the just doing of it.

At the turn of the 20th century, a playwright by the name of Arthur Schnitzler wrote a play called La Ronde.  It was the type of play written mostly to be just passed around among friends.  It is a play using ten different scenes with revolving characters, each in different sexual scenarios.  It was a commentary really on sex between the classes.  So you'd have a rich guy with a poor girl.  A political leader with an on and so on.  It's a fun little play, and was really quite scandalous at the time.

In the early to mid part of the 1990's, playwright David Hare updated La Ronde, into a play he called The Blue Room. The Blue Room had a limited, and yet highly publicized stint on Broadway, due to the fact that celebrity du jour Nicole Kidman played the female parts in a 2 actor show.  Had it not received that publicity, The Blue Room would likely have slipped into obscurity.  Ultimately I'm glad it didn't.  I really like that play.  Two actors playing five different characters each.  Each character rotating through ten different scenes of different sexual scenarios. There is some really incredible dialogue in that play, and the "round" nature of it, is really a lot of fun.

So it was decided that for the 2016 Fringe Festival we would do The Blue Room.  It seemed the perfect "fringe" type show.  It had it all.  Obscurity. Great lines.  Ability for actor showcase. Sex.  What's not to love.  I started shopping the script around, and found an actress willing to take on the challenge.  Things were moving forward beautifully.  Next came the director.  A man here in town, who really is a fantastic director, and has an amazing reputation offered his services.  I couldn't be more ecstatic.

It was during one of our preliminary production meetings for The Blue Room, to be produced at the 2016 GLS Fringe Festival, that we started really digging into the script.  We started breaking it down, and began to realize some little problems.  You see, the script, although written in the 90's, was coming across a little dated.  References to things, events, and people that aren't really relevent to 2016.  In fact, the more we got into it, the more it became clear, that although structurally, a fun play, the overall story itself, was not really relevent to life in the digital age.  Things really have changed that much in the past 20 years.

So we started talking about it.  The script itself would need some adjustment, which is a HUGE taboo...or...


You see, La Ronde is public domain.  David Hare took the concepts of that play to create The Blue Room.  There was absolutely nothing in the world saying we couldn't do the same thing.  What if...just...what if, we did that.  What if we updated La Ronde to be more reflective of sex in the digital age.

My heart started racing.  Could we?  Were we?  Were we actually discussing writing our own script?  See, I fucking LOVE writing.  This was almost a dream...but at the same time so incredibly frightening.  I haven't written a single word of character dialogue in over a decade.

Fuck it.

We made an executive decision then and there.  We would update La Ronde.  We were going to do it.  And how about instead of two actors, we use four.  And how about instead of just straight heterosexual situations, we explore more.  Sex today is more inclusive of all types of attraction.  Those stories could fit in.  And how about if we incorporate how digitial technology has affected how people get together.  And how about...and how about...and it was a wonderful discussion.

We were off and running.  Somewhere, in the middle of the discussion my mind started turning to the title.  What would we call this thing.  The original concept we were taking this from was called La Ronde, which literally translates to english as The Round.  This would be the second (that I know of) updated version of The Round....

and that is how ROUND² was born.  It seemed very clever at first.  By the time the final product rolled around, it was less significant.

So I had one director.  One actress.  I needed one more actor and actress.  I immediately knew who I wanted for the other actress.  That was never a question.  I presented the idea to her.  I gave her my copy of The Blue Room to read, and told her, that this isn't the play we're doing, but it will serve as loose inspiration.  She read it.  She agreed.  The actor proved more difficult.

As it does, life happens.  Life happened.  Another show came along.  A show that at first seemed would serve as not much more than inconvenience.  It was a show that my director was also directing.  In preliminary discussion, we figured we could make it work to do both.  In that show, he also cast my original actress in the lead.  He actually also cast me in a small role.  We figured since we were all working on the same shows, we could make it work.

We applied our show to the festival.  We were accepted into the festival.  The ball was rolling.  This me...this was everything.  It's been years since I'd experienced this kind of excitement.  We didn't have a show per se...but goddammit I was going to be writing again.  I freely confess now, that this turned out to be much more difficult that I had originally anticipated.  In our first discussion, throwing out ideas of what to incorporate into our show, it seemed like I had a wealth of stories to tell.  The more I tried to refine those stories.  The more I tried to fit the stories to the discussion we'd had, the more the show sucked.  I wrote.  It sucked.  I outlined. The outline sucked.  At first it was frustrating.  And then it was discouraging.  And then it was terrifying.  Everytime I came up with something new, the worse it got.  Seems through complete lack of use, any ability I'd once had for playwriting, had completely disappeared.  Everything felt like a lie.  The characters were not, but were instead simpy characatures.  Tropes of what we've come to expect from so many other similar stories.

I reached out to other writers.  I reached out to friends.  I reached out to other actors.  I was mining for anything, that may make a fun story.  Here I was, with a show in the festival. A director, and two actresses, and a search for one more actor, and absofuckinlutely NO story to tell.  I was petrified.

During all of this, because life, as it does, happens...things started to unravel.  Fall apart.  Due to many things that I just won't get into, we lost our "official" producer for the show.  There went the money.  Doesn't matter if there is a show or not, if there is no funding for it.  It was also becoming more and more clear, that it would be impossible to do both shows at the same time.  My director and original actress, both had contractual agreements, and huge desire for the other show, and unfortunately were put in a position where they had to choose.  I was also in this position.  They chose one show.  I chose Fringe.  I did this with absolutely no hard feelings.  This is how it goes in the theatre world sometimes.  Now though, here I was, with no show, no money, no director,  just one other actress, and one other person who will get further mention later.

That was it.  The dream was done.  I was, and I will not lie, crushed.  I don't remember the last time in my life, I felt that low.  Everything I had worked so hard for, for months, was ended.  I didn't have answers. I gave up.  I did.  There it is.  I admit now, that I was defeated.  I'm not the giving up type...but I had fought so hard, for so long, and in the course of one morning in march, it was all...all of it....done.

I'm not going to turn this into some miracle story.  It isn't.  There were a lot of texts.  There was a lot of behind the scenes maneuvering.  There was a lot of shit going on, that even I am probably not aware of.  All I know, is that in my weakness, I gave up.  I threw in the towel.  Thank all of the imaginary gods, for other people.  It is true, that sometimes when we have no more fight in us, there are other people willing to pick up the banner, and trudge forward.  May you all have people like that in your life.

I'll skip through the most of it, but although for incredibly boring and officious reasons, our original producers, couldn't produce, I got a text later that same morning that they would still "unoficially produce".  Certain liabilities had to be shifted.  Some certain things had to be agreed to, but the money was there.  One problem solved.  I knew I was down a director and one of my two actresses.  I contacted the other actress, and told her what was going on.  She never hesitated.  She was still in.  I told her we didn't have a director.  She didn't care.  I told her we didn't have a play.  She didn't care.  She was in it.

So let's do it.

The search for the director came next.  We reached out.  Same story.  We don't have a show, but we have a slot to put a show.  I don't have a play, but I have a vague idea of what the play may be.  And through some sweet serendipity, we found the director.

It was coming together again.  The show was saved.  Except at this point there was still no show to save.  Only a working title.  And so that's what I went with. Everything grew from there.

I went back to the labor of creation.  Picking up where I left off.  With practically nothing.  I dove into this story.  I went back to my original outline.  The ideas we threw out in discussion, with people no longer involved in the project.  Then something happened.  One day at work, I was wrapped up in what the story was, and what kind of stories I wanted to tell.  I was trying to structurally make this round type play fit with four characters...characters that I didn't even know what, or who they were...and I heard a whisper.  FINALLY.

A character was speaking to me.  A war veteran.  Injured.  A guy in a wheelchair, with a broken heart.  Well wasn't this something.  This had nothing to do with anything we'd ever talked about, but here he was in my head, and he was telling me his story.  He was telling me about his injury.  How he got it.  What he needed.  And there it was.

From that moment, the entire play was there.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't perfect.  It wasn't clear, but it was there.  Within about twenty minutes of first hearing The Vet talk to me, I had the full outline of the play.


And they all had a voice.  They all had something they needed to tell me.  Needed me to put out into the world.

And so I started writing.  The first scene came out in just a couple hours.  I didn't write the next scenes for a couple weeks, but when I did...the final three scenes of the play, came out in the course of one weekend.  This play, took for fuck ever to gestate, but the birth was practically moments.

We found another actress.  We finally found our other actor. We had a director.  We had a play.  We had money.  We had everything.  And then, because it's life, and it happens, we lost our actor.  Nothing is ever easy.  I reached out to a friend.  We had our other actor.  We had our first read.  Almost.  We lost an actress.


This show had now officially become a veritable revolving door of people involved.  HUGE problem, we were now also less than 6 weeks from opening the show.

Another problem.  We had a one hour time slot at fringe.  This is a thing.  Fringe runs on an incredibly strict and regulated clock.  With over 50 shows to rotate through a limited number of spaces, each company is contractually obligated to stay within their time frame.  This is not negtioable.  Our time frame was 60 minutes.  Our sitting read of my script, without acting, without staging, without all the things that aren't words, that take time, ran at almost 90 minutes.

Turns out I'd accidentally written a full length play.


We reached out to another actress.  We got an actress.  It was gonna be tricky, as she was involved in another show also happening at Fringe, but we could, with a bit of playing nice, make it work.

We made it work.

The bulk of our preliminary rehearsals were spent in cutting and doctoring the script.  We had to cut cut cut.  We had to fix.  I, through the eyes of some insanely talented and insightful friends, and fellow actors, got to see all the things I'd done wrong with the script.  Even more exciting, I got to see these same friends, and actors, give voice and words to the characters, that were more true than the ones I had written.

We excised a LOT of shit.
I'm very glad about that.

We also, out of necessity, cut a lot of stuff that I really liked.  Some stuff that was, to the full story, necessary.  Some of the cuts, made for some little logic holes in the shorter version.  We had to let that ride though.  Our very shortest run time during production was 52 minutes.  Our longest run was 58 minutes.  We BARELY got it in under the wire.  Considering that we were still making slight cuts and adjustments practically right up to opening...I can't complain at all.

That's what post production re writes are for.
I haven't started that yet.
It's been a little bit necessary for me to step away from it all for a moment.
It will also be very necessary for me to come back to it soon.

We never drew a large audience.  We did have appreciative audiences.  I like that better.  Not a lot of people saw it, but from the feedback I've received, those who did, liked it.  I'm glad for that.

It's impossible to be objective by this point.  By the time we opened, I actually had no idea if the show was good.  I knew it had flaws.  I knew it had things that I wished I could fix...but just couldn't.  I focused on all the things I wasn't satisfied with.  I naturally assumed that the flaws I saw, would be apparent to everybody.

Even if they were though, people still liked it.  I'm glad for that.  Because in reality, I do too.
I like the full version better.
I can't wait to start workshopping the full version.

That's gonna be a minute.

So financially, was no great success.  But I've never measured myself in dollars.  As a creator I was fulfilled.  As a performer, I was thrilled.  As an artist, I was...what I always am...just another artist.

Just another storyteller.

And I absofuckinlutely couldn't do it alone.
And really...that's the point of this.  Tonight.  The reason I'm writing all of this.

After all of those words leading up to this...was for this.

I could not have done this alone.
I did NOT do this alone.

This was not just me.  This was never just about me.  I cannot claim credit for any of it.  And I absolutely MUST recognize those who helped me reach this personal little dream.

BOBBY CODY: Bobby came in to replace our original director.  I could not possibly be happier about this.  Some of you reading this know Bobby.  Most of you won't.  That's a shame.  When we talk about "good people", Bobby is that person.  He is truly one of the most genuinely kind and giving humans I've ever known, and one of those people that I consider some cosmic gift, to know.  Beyond that though, is the knowledge, experience, and ability he brings to the craft.  Working with him was thrilling.  He loves to experiment and discover.  He loves to dig deep in to a script, and find every little nuance.  Funny thing, I also love this.  He came on from day one, and expressed a love for this story, that matched my own.  He was dedicated absolutely to finding the truth in it.  Every one of the characters in this little story, is a little bit broken.  Sometimes the easy choice with broken characters, is to give in to the pathos inherent in brokenness.  Bobby refused to let us do that.  Bobby made sure, in every sense, that we did not treat these people with pity.  He always pushed us to find the deeper honesty.  Even when the characters lie.  Bobby and I spent literally hours upon hours, outside of rehearsal, discussing things, that even I as the original writer, hadn't realized about these people.  His insight to human nature is mind boggling.  In form of the consumate professional, every single rehearsal, he checked some incredibly heavy real life shit at the door, and never once wavered from giving us his absolute attention, and dedication.  Considering much of what the real life stuff is, I can truly say that it is an incredibly rare experience to work with someone with that kind of absolute commitment to a project.  I cannot imagine this experience without him.  Through every trouble, Bobby was there with words of encouragement, with insight, with skill, with care, and mostly, with love.

ALI LENTE:  A year and a half ago I directed the play RABBIT HOLE.  I cast Ali in the lead female role.  I loved that show, and I absolutely loved working with Ali.  When we lost our second actress, on the day of our first read, I went into a panic.  We were a mere weeks away from opening.  I was at a complete loss, and this late in the game, with all the other shows happening in town, it seemed it may be impossible to find a replacement.  It was suggested at the read, that we reach out to Ali, and see if she may be interested.  The instant her name was brought up, I felt two things.  First I felt an overwhelming relief.  If she was available, she was A) perfect for the role, and B) Beyond capable of tackling it.  I knew so well her ability.  I knew what she would bring to the show.  I was familiar with her both as a person, and a performer, and knew what she would bring.  Not only was I confident that she would be wonderful, I felt a calm about that role that had not yet experienced.  The second thing I felt was disgust.  At myself.  It was such an obvious choice, such a perfect choice, that couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of it already.   We reached out to her.  Sent her the only available copy of the script at the time, which happened to be the full version, that we knew we were going to cut, but the cuts hadn't been made.  Explained to her the situation we were in.  She read it.  She told us that she was in another fringe show, and we'd have to share time.  Ultimately she agreed, and from the moment she joined the project, I never...not once...had another concern about the character WIFE.  I know that this character could not possibly be in more capable hands.  Ali KILLED it.  She was, as I knew she would be, perfect. Ali has a unique ability to convey in her characters, both a toughness, and a vulnerability...simultaneously.  She was in one instant, insanely funny, and a split second later, heartbreaking.  She absolutely OWNED that role, and absolutely beautiful doing it.

JOHN R. BELLISTON: I've known John for a very long time.  He has been a friend of mine for many years.  Through our friendship, we've gained a mutual respect for each others opinions as writers.  He and I could not possibly be more different in our style, or type of storytelling, but we share a lot of our work.  We seek each others feedback.  We talk end over end about our various projects.  We've been doing this for years.  When it was first decided that I would be writing this play, I had an entirely different idea of what the play would be.  I had a troublesome little problem with that story, and I went to John.  He incredibly, and graciously, helped me with that problem.  He wrote a beautiful little piece, that would have been used in that play.  That play didn't happen, and so that bit he wrote for me, also didn't happen.  When I finished Round², John was one of the first people I sent the first draft to.  I, as I often do, wanted his feedback.  His input.  One of the things I value as a writer, is the critique of peers, and John is almost always one of the first peers I go to.  When I sent him the script, the role of HUSBAND was already cast.  I never sent him the script, with the idea that he would actually perform in it. Life, as it does, happened. When it turned out that we were in need of a new actor to play that role, I just kind of, in a testing the waters sort of way, threw it out to him, that we were in need, and if he were interested...or knew someone who might be.  He jumped at the chance.  I was a bit surprised.  Not that I thought he couldn't do it.  It just...well, it's a heavy role, that requires a lot of an actor.  Some might call it bravery, and for John it certainly was.  And that's what I admire most.  You see, for me...well...there's almost nothing I won't do on stage.  If it's in the script, and I say yes to the script, I say yes to everything that the script requires.  So for specific example, if I need to get naked on honestly aint no thing.  Whatever.  For me, this is not at all braver, because it doesn't scare me.  This role, required things (like stage nudity, among other things) that many actors will shy away from.  This role, requires a lot of things, that many actors will say no to the role, based soley on those things.  And this is why I was suprised.  He said yes.  And I knew he was afraid.  He later told me the reason he said yes, was because he was terrified.  Bravery is something that is almost never required of me, but one of those noble virtues that I admire the most.  So when I see it, I am always amazed.  John has bravery in spades.  He said yes.  And then he did yes.  When the time came, he never held back.  In fact, he blew the whole fucking thing, right out of the water.

NATALIA NOBLE: Natalia is the actress, who was the second of anybody to sign on to this project. When we lost everybody, Natalia was the one who stayed by me.  When I had absolutely nothing.  No script. No show. No supporting cast. No director. Natalia is the one who said, "fuck it, lets do this." (except those are my words, for her actions) If Natalia ever once, had a doubt, she never expressed it.  Natalia was in go mode from day one.  Natalia continually surprised, and amazed me.  I cannot count the ways she surprised me, in all the best ways.  When I first started putting this story together, but before it was actually written, I was talking about it with Natalia one night.  It was a point I was actually getting very excited, because I'd just been through the hell of thinking the show may not even happen, but now it was a full green light.  I had been through the torture of not having a story to tell, but now, even though the actual words weren't yet on paper, I knew the story.  I knew the full structure.  I knew everything about it.  I just hadn't put it down yet.  So in my excitement, and because she had been with me from the first moments, and stuck with me through all the various hells, I wanted her to know, finally, the story we were telling.  I told it to her.  We sat in the dark, while I told her the entire story, scene by scene.  She listened.  To all of it.  I must have rambled that shit out for twenty mintues.  She just sat.  Silently listening. I finished.  I told her the entire thing.  I finished.  She sat for a second.  I waited.  Actually in truth, in fear.  There was that moment of silence, where I convinced myself that she was going to tell me she hated it.  Writers insecurity or whatever, but she was really my first test audience.  Finally, after what was probably less than 5 seconds, but felt like a year, she said to me, "I want to play THE GIRL."
I was not prepared for that.  In my imaginings, at first, I had pictured her as WIFE.  This is because I'm a moron.  It's because I am a horrible judge of people.  Which is why I do my best to never judge anyone to begin with, but turns out, that even when we think we aren't...we are.  You see, there are some immediate and easy comparisons between GIRL and Natalia.  Both are clever.  Both intelligent.  Both are very often the smartest person in the room, but that's the surface stuff.  You see, the real Natalia, and GIRL, are pretty much diametric opposites.  Where GIRL feels nothing, Natalia feels everything.  Natalia is quite possibly the most empathetic person I've ever known.  She has a sensitivity that defies explanation.  Or at the least the ability to explain by someone as clumsy as myself.  Natalia can tell you the emotional state of everyone around you at any given moment.  Natalia genuinely loves everybody.  GIRL has never felt love in her life.  GIRL is my favorite character.  GIRL is the one person in the show I actually relate to.  In the most horrible ways.  I often tell anyone who's read or seen the show, that GIRL is me, except prettier, smarter, and stronger. Really what I'm saying is that Natalia and GIRL could not possibly be more different.  So I judged Natalia as both person and actress, when I pre imagined her in the more sensitive and feeling role. Which is why I was so surprised when she told me she wanted GIRL. I also didn't all...for one second to say okay.  I may be stupid enough to misjudge people, but I'm not so stupid that I can't realize when I've made that mistake.  The second she said she wanted it, I knew she was perfect for it.  And she was.  Perfecter than I could have ever imagined.  Natalia came in, from day one with such an incredible care for this character.  By the time we got to our first working/cutting rehearsal, I think Natalia knew GIRL better than I did.  Being the exact opposite of the character, meant nothing to her ability to make her, even better, than I ever could.  Natalia knew what she would say, when it was obvious in the text, that I didn't.  Natalia proposed line fixes, edits, and cuts, that fixed so much of my clumsiness and weakness as a writer.  It got to the point where I realized that an entire scene one monologue was much too long...needed reworked from top to bottom, and I felt 100 percent comfortable as the writer, just handing the whole thing to her, and basically saying, work your magic.  She did.  She was.  She is.
Natalia, as an actor, leaves it all on the floor.  She holds nothing back.  She never hesitates.  She never questions.  She pushes.  Then pushes further.  Then says lets try this...lets see what happens if...Natalia is a goddamn explorer in rehearsal.  There is nothing more exciting as a fellow actor.  When you find another person who says yes...who says lets go...who says lets find this fucker and tear it to pieces...
When you find that actor....good christ....there are no words.
In my selfishness, I want to work with Natalia over and over and over for the rest of my life on every thing I ever do.  I don't want to share...but she is so fucking good, I will never not have to share....and the time will come, that I may lose her to the bigger and better altogether, and when that happens, there will be no one on this planet more happy for her, and more heartbroken for my own artistic loss.

ANNIE BRANTLEY:  I have told this to a few people.  I may have even told her.  Now I'm putting it out to the digital world.  The quality of my life is better because Annie is in it.  Not just my theatre life, but my real life.  Over the past few years, Annie has become one of my closest and dearest friends.  I could go on and on about the thousands of ways Annie makes my life better, but since I'm being specific about this experience, I'll stick to that.  Simply put, this show would not exist without Annie.  The stage manager of any show ever of all time, is very often the greatest, and most unsung hero.  They typically do three times the work of any other person on the production, and receive the least amount of credit. They arrive first, and leave last at every rehearsal.  They do ALL of the shit, and most of it is the shit that no one else wants...or often is even capable of doing.  Annie does all of this and so much more.  Annie was with me at the first Fringe Festival in 2015.  She was there when I said, I couldn't let another go by, and not be part of it.  She said okay. She was there when we were talking about shows to do.  She was there when we decided on The Blue Room.  She was there when we got our first actress, and director.  She was there in our first meeting when we decided to write our own show.  She was there when everyone else dropped out.  She was there when I was ready to give it all up.  She was there to pick up the flag, and keep fighting for me, when I had given up.  She was the one who wouldn't let me give up.  She was there when we got Bobby to direct.  She was there when our next actors and actors dropped.  She was the one who suggested Ali, causing me to feel both absolute relief, and stupid for not thinking of it myself.  You see, that's what Annie does for me.  She is the better part of my brain.  She knows the answers to my questions.  She is the one who when I come up with some stupid idea, says okay...lets figure out how to make it work.  When the idea of VET first came to me, I went to Annie, and said out of the blue...,"I think I'm gonna need a wheelchair." Annie said okay.  And we got a wheelchair.  Everytime this show had to cross a different road, it was Annie who navigated the path.  This show would not exist without Annie.  I cannot emphasize that enough, and because this show is something of a dream come true for me, there is no amount of grattitude in the world, sufficient to express.  Because Annie is in my life, ROUND² exists as a thing.  It really is that simple.  I will never in my life wish to do a show, that Annie is not part of.  If I ever have a choice, she will be.

And I guess for now, that's about it.  There's more.  I could write a book about this experience.  I won't.  It'd be a boring book.  But a lot happened, and all that's here, just barely scratches the surface.

I'm going to finish putting together the full lenght version.  Once it's ready, I'll get the people closest to the script, those interested, to workshop it a bit more.  Once I feel good about that, I'll see if I can get a bit of a bigger workshop together.  Once that happens perhaps I'll shop it around for full production.  I'd like to see that happen.  Of course it's impossible to be objective.  I could be wrong, but I think this show has legs, and I'd like to see how far those legs might carry it.  Production and publication being the long term ultimate goals, step at a time.

If you're at all interested, I'll keep you posted.
Even if you're not at all interested, if we're friends on social media...I'll keep you posted.

I've put this show through one ringer.  Here's to Round 2.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Of Gods and Men.

If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. - George Gordon Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night. - George Gordon Bryon

He has no indisposition that I know of, but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion. - Catherine Byron, speaking of her son George Gordon.

 Did you know Lord Byron fucked his sister?  Okay, technically his half sister, but still...and not just a little bit either.  All the time.  They had a kid together.  He was also neither shy nor embarrassed about it.  She wasn't the only one. Not by a long shot.  Lord Byron fucked just about everybody.  Men. Women. Whatever.  He never, not once in his life had a successful relationship.  His infidelity was the stuff of legends.

He was always pushing convention.  He hated taboo.  He hated societal standard. Mostly he hated being told what he could or couldn't do.  He was a master of Socratic method. He had an incredible thirst for life.  He didn't just want it for himself, but he wanted it for everybody, and it was his understanding that our little systems were merely inhibitors to a life more fully lived.

He was also a master of words.  His poetry made him a legend in his own lifetime.  He was truly a celebrity in every sense.  He was skilled in the art of seduction.  Men and women both wanted him. Despite his nature, his infidelity, his rumored cruel nature, his danger was magnetic.  Even more compelling to the argument, now, nearly two hundred years after his death, his words still have the power to quicken heart rates, and make breathing shallow.

Most of this is common knowledge.  His trysts with both the Shelleys. The mad weekend, that eventually spawned Frankenstein,  and the third quatro from one of his most famous poems Childe Harold.  His indifference to criticism and judgement. His seething power, that virtually overcame anyone in his presence.  We know all about the many suicides, of the many women, who couldn't have him.  Or those who did have him, but couldn't keep him.  Two hundred years later, and the man is still a celebrity.

What is lesser known, is that he was incredibly insecure.  He had a club foot, and walked with a limp. We sometimes picture him with his long black cane, but few realize that the cane was not simply a fashion statement, but was a necessity.  He made famous the cast of seduction known simply as The Underlook, but what we don't talk about, is the reason he did this, is because he had a hard time looking people in the eye.  You see, beneath the poetic god we have created in historical rememberence, there lies a simple man, who was pretty good with words.

I will never claim that kind of ability with words.  Sometimes I luck out, and string a few good ones together, but I will never come up with She walks in beauty, like the night.  Two hundred years from now, no one will know my name.  I have no particular familial lust. I do my best to never be cruel.  I am the exact opposite of flamboyant.  I also have two relatively normal feet.  Essentially what I'm saying is I am not, nor would I really dare, draw any real comparison between myself and Lord Byron.

This however, does not mean that I don't find some similarities that I'm drawn to. He knew that words have power.  He learned to harness that power into something bigger than himself.  Hell, he learned how to harness that power into something bigger than the western world.  I can't do that.  My realm of influence extends to maybe three or four people.  And even then, there isn't so much influence, as...I dunno...people I know.  But I do know that words have power.  

He claimed the need to write, in order to avoid madness.  I also know what this means.  For him.  For myself.  I don't know that I'm crazy, and I never make any such claim.  I do know though, the descent into my own particular abyss.  I have danced in my own darkness, and befriended the demons in there.  Those demons sometimes want to be let out to play, and sometimes it's very difficult to not let them.  Sometimes they want to explode out of me, and make me different.

Sometimes I feel things unbearable, and I bottle those things up right quick.  I don't talk about the things I feel.  I don't tell other people, using out loud words, the things that I want to say.  Sometimes I feel like if I do open my mouth, everything will just fall out of me.  I am no longer a mass of skin and sinew, but rather a conflagration of concepts that can't be explained. The more I feel, the less I'm capable of communication.  I can say the words "I love you.", and it is empty.  The words do not tell the story, because the truth of those words...have no words.  I become less, and so I lie. Or I stay silent, and all those things become the definition of me, that only I will know.

And so I write.  I still don't tell my story.  I still don't tell you those things that have become me.  I tell other lies.  I fictionalize myself.  I let you believe whatever you want, because now... doesn't matter anymore.  Now I can let my pain live somewhere else.  I can let my struggle, and my stupidity, and that thing, whatever it is, that defies my attempts at explanation, exist in quantum state in the part of me that is me, and the part of me that is what I've created of you, and the part of me that lives beside me, but apart from me.

I don't even care if that makes sense, because it makes sense to me, and that is part of the madness, and that is how writing makes it all go away.

So I write.  I write a stream of bullshit conciousness like this one.  I talk about Lord Byron, so that I don't have to talk about myself.  I use the word "you", knowing that you may or may not know that you are the you I'm talking about.  Writing makes it not matter. all.  It's how I lie to myself.  It's how I convince myself that I've told you everything that I need to, and the words have been released, and what you do with them is your choice, and my mass of fucking undefineable, can define again.

Lord Byron also knew something else I know.  This is it.  This.  Right now.  We have a limited number of tomorrows.  When we get to our last tomorrow, well then...whatever we had to do, whatever we had to give, whatever was left undone, it doesn't matter anymore. You want to do something?  Fucking do it.  Because if you don't, you may never get to.  You want to give in to temptaion?  Fucking do it.  What is temptation anyway?  It's simply a thing you want to do, but someone else has told you not to. A parent. A teacher. A god. A concept. A societal conract that has been broken so many times, it's been rendered farce.  Why? Why do we let these things dictate our action? Why?  Fucking why?

You. Are. Going. To. Die.  Everything you want to do, that you don't do, is a complete fucking waste.  Now I'm not laying grounds for carte blanche hedonism, or maybe I am, it doesn't matter.  I'm not you.  I'm not living your life.  But I think it would be a damn shame if you live your life by someone else's rules.  Make your own.  Then break your own.

I have one rule.  I won't break that rule.  That rule is my own, and I am lucky enough to have figured out how to do that.  If I could give you only one gift in this silly sunshiney parade, it would be the same for you.  To discover your rule, and to own your life.

Own your life.

And for the love of all that's dangerous.


Byron dangerous.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A bit of time travel.

Dear Me, (1991)

    You really do love her, don't you.  Cherish that.  Twenty five years later, you're going to look back, and remember every part of her.  You will remember every single time you stood next to her, and everything inside you felt so good.  You will remember what it was like to feel like you were important to another human being.

    You are going to break her heart...but that comes later.  Don't worry about that right now, but when the time comes, you will learn something about yourself.  Don't worry about that either.  It's the most important thing you will ever learn, but you won't know that right away.  You're too young and stupid for that lesson.

     I know right now, you imagine a life with her.  You think you're going to marry her.  You won't.  I wish I could tell you to not be so eager.  I can't.  It wouldn't matter anyway.  You wouldn't listen.  You always were an obstinate little shit.  You'll get better at that...but not much.

     Right now, everything you know is wrong.  Everything you think you will become, you won't.  Everything you imagine for yourself,'s just so small.  Kind of like your life experience.

      You are focused on all the wrong things...but, and here is the big but...that's okay.  Because right now you don't know it, but you're also, without even realizing now, that you are placing in your memory all the stuff that will matter.  Thank you.

     You are going to have a beautiful life.  You are going to make so many mistakes.  You are going to say so many stupid things. You sir, are going to fuck up.  A lot.

     You will marry someone else, and you will love her like no other.

      You will love so many people, and your heart will shatter.

     You will, my dear boy, understand a pain, that you cannot in your youth, even begin to comprehend.

    Don't be afraid.  It only hurts forever.  And that's okay.  I know you don't really get that yet.  But it is, and you will.  You will understand that more fully than almost anything else.

    Your pain will make you brave.  It will also make you oh so very afraid.  It will make you so incredibly stupid.  And so very smart.

    You will learn the word discernment.

    You will learn the value of genuine kindness.

     And thank you.

     Thank you 1991 me, for taking chances.  For taking risks.  Because of those stupid things you do, you gave me experience.  You gave me wisdom.  Wisdom you didn't have then, but gave to me so many years later.  Thank you for knowing that desire does not equal entitlement.  In fact, for that little nugget of truth, go ahead and pass the grattitude down to five year old us, would you?

     You see, 1991 me, twenty five years from where you are, you will be sitting on a porch, smoking cigarettes (yes, you smoke now, and you love it.  Shut up) and you will remember her.  You will remember how much you loved her.  You will remember vividly, the kisses you are sharing with her now.  You will remember what it felt like to hold her, and to laugh with her.  You will remember all of the other hers that came after her.  You will think of the hers that you wish could be..the her that captures...the her that...well...isn't.  You will know why, and that's even more important.

    I won't bore you too much with the details of your jaded future self.  I'll tell you this, he knows things differently than you did.  You taught him some things, that he values more than almost anything else in the world, and he wouldn't know those things, without you...and what you're doing right now.  So keep up the good work.

    I'll tell you this too.  Nothing turned out at all the way you think it will.

    It turned out so much fucking better.

    But just keep loving her.  Love her so much.  So completely.  You love her with every goddamn thing you have.  I need you to do that.  I know you will...but...

    Tonight, I will smoke, and remember.

    Tonight you will hold her, and kiss her.

    Tonight we will both smile.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Oh ye foolish mortal

He had sworn, never again.  The love game had failed him one too many times.  Or perhaps he failed it, two too many.  Regardless, he'd tapped out.  This was a game for the younger, and the better. Those who still maintained the ability to be enchanted. He'd lost that years ago, constantly finding himself in situations, that once had profoundly affected him.  Where once his heart would race, and his breathing become there was simply observation of what was missing.  And he took pride in that.  In his hubris, he had found salvation.  Kindness comes easier when there's nothing to gain. Nothing to lose.

And he went into the world, armed with a new self knowledge. This was better.  This was for the best. And he would see the world new. The younger and the better doing what the younger and better do best.  He took a perverse delight in being unaffected. That little beating red lump of flesh trapped beneath skin and ribs, became oak, and then became stone.

His life became easier, unencumbered with longing or desire, and he found clarity in simplicity. He discovered so many other things to love instead. Life. Words. Tiny moments with himself, shared with no one. This was easy. This was perfect.

Occasionally at first, people would ask him if this was real. If he was serious. Sometimes others would say it was simply a facade. Some would tell him he just needed to put himself out there again. Some would ask if he was ever going to.  He would simply smile and say no.

He knew other things as well. The secrets he kept to himself. The pain he would inevitably feel.  The pain he would inevitably cause.  He knew the things about himself that no one else knew.  No one else could ever know.

And he knew it was all for the best.

She danced into his existence with a smile, and an indifference he could never be prepared for.  His truths to her were lies, and his words to her were met with empty platitudes of gratitude.  She could see every beauty in the world, except her own.  Her smile was her facade. His experience was his.

And he told himself, over and over and over again, that it was all for the best.

So why couldn't he stop thinking of her.

His mind raged. Screaming its silent denial into a frozen cozmos. Why? He made a promise. A fucking promise. She stole his ability to keep it. Even worse...she'd never know.

His stupid fucking beating lump of stone beneath ribs and skin became oak. Then it became flesh. Then it ripped and shredded, and became nova in his chest. 

He watched her tears with a smile on his face.

He heard her words, of her own pain, and he could do nothing for his own.



The price he knew that life demands for constant service rendered.

The price he'd tried so desperately to skip out on. 

He let it happen.  The way he always had.

He gathered the pieces back.

Her pain.  Completely seperate from his own...and yet the cause of it.

He sits alone. Reminded of all of life's little bullshit tricks. Realizing his own foolishness. He watches the tendrils of cigarette smoke, paint her eyes as it floats away.

He remembers why...

He forces himself over and over and over again...why...



It must all be for the best.