Monday, December 10, 2018

Adventures In Slumberland (script)

Photo: Steve Wagner
NEMO: Can I help put up the tree? I want to go out into the street and sing carols and see all the people!
MAMA: No, no, no.
NEMO: I am missing everyone! They are missing me!
MAMA: Nemo, no one misses you, you are no-one.
Adventures In Slumberland was my first script for Talespinner Children’s Theatre, an adaptation based on characters created by the legendary comic strip artist and animator Winsor McCay.

Perhaps you are old enough to remember the animated film of the same name, which was released in 1989. If so, you have a poor idea of what the original comic strip (Little Nemo in Slumberland) was all about, trust me, my short play had little to do with that.

The great animator Hayao Miyazaki actually had a hand in that film’s production for a very brief moment before walking away. Among other problems he had with the production as it was developing, he reportedly could not get behind a story that literally takes place in a dream, because that means it isn’t real.

And he’s not wrong. You go to sleep, think a lot of amazing things, but in the morning you are still the same person you were when you went to sleep. None of it actually happened.

This, and other issues, were foremost in my mind when creating this play. If the protagonist is a five year-old boy, how might a dream actually change him?

And as it was to be a holiday play, shouldn't it all take place on Christmas Eve? But if the action takes place over the course of only one night, we would miss out on all those hilarious waking moments which concluded every single McCay Slumberland comic strip. I needed to resolve that issue, too.

Then there are all those so-called “Easter eggs” I was aching to include; nods to other pop culture references to Little Nemo, including those found in the comic book Sandman, lyrics from Genesis, and that more contemporary animation with a character named "Nemo." (Chennelle calls them Easter eggs, someone else might call them copyright violations.)

One of my favorite parts of McCay’s strip is how he was able to accurately depict what a dream looks like, how a dream works, how people talk in dreams. Also how maddeningly repetitive or frustrating they can be. Nemo spent years trying to reach the Princess, always failing just before waking -- because that’s what happens in dreams!

But meeting the Princess is a MacGuffin, not the actual goal of the adventure. Neither is finding Santa Claus. I loved including Santa Claus, but he’s not the main event, either! I am so subversive.

My first children’s play, Adventures In Slumberland, is a forty-minute, honest-to-goodness, Joseph Campbell-inspired hero’s journey toward self-actualization and personhood.

And it’s now available in paperback and eBook. Please share and enjoy with the literary manager of your local children’s theater, college or school.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Serial (podcast)

Emmanuel Dzotsi & Sarah Koenig
Photo: Sandy Honig
Recently, Aaron Sorkin wrote an essay for New York Magazine in which he described the journey of his new stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. He was tasked with a seemingly intractable puzzle; stay entirely faithful to the original without changing a thing, but make it fresh and new.

While Mockingbird is a widely-cherished piece of work (the book, the original 1990 stage play by Christopher Stergel, and the award-winning film) presenting it as-is to a 2018 audience held a host of challenges; two notable problems are the unchangeable (see: undramatic) character of protagonist Atticus Finch, and the fact that a story which is primarily about race has few characters of color. Those present do not speak very much.

In the first case, Sorkin has addressed the problem of Atticus’s seemingly flawless character by making that his flaw. Atticus Finch believes that, as Sorkin puts it, as another put it before him, “there are fine people on both sides.” His crisis of conscience comes when that belief is permanently shaken.

As to the other, to creating scenes where the Finch housekeeper Calpurnia, and the accused Tom Robinson get to speak their minds where previously they had not, that is an issue where the estate of Harper Lee felt it necessary to take this new production to court.

Unlike in the 1960 novel, this recent trial played out in Mr. Robinson’s favor.

But the trial in this new adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird still ends in tragedy, as it must. Justice is denied. And the frustration felt by Atticus Finch and the disillusionment experienced by his young daughter Scout remains the main focus of this story, the one white Americans who love it most relate to.

Sorkin here quotes his friend and colleague, director David Fincher, stating, “art isn’t supposed to answer questions, it’s supposed to ask them.” The internet tells me it was actually the playwright Anton Chekhov who said that, but who knows. The point is, Mockingbird remains a troubling work, and in an era where violence against black men in America by those in authority is still an everyday occurrence, is it enough to simply ask questions? Do we not demand answers?

Justice is also the theme of the third season of the podcast Serial. A spin-off from This American Life, the concept is simple -- instead of one, brief story, or one episode-long story, one entire modern American mystery is investigated over the course of weeks.

It would have been hard to top Serial’s first season, and it was. The 1999 murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee had much going for it to create a pop culture phenomenon; teen sex, interracial relationships, Islamophobia, drugs, an attractive anti-hero in the convicted boyfriend, Adnan Syed, and even late 90s nostalgia (pinging cell towers, anyone?)

Episode Six mural art by Martinez E-B
Photo by Moth Studio
And then there is the producer-host, Sarah Koenig, who has no qualms about crossing journalistic boundaries and becoming part of the story. She breaks the cardinal rule of impartiality, developing something of a crush on Syed, and openly expressing confusion and concern about what the truth actually is, which is fine for me because 1) she’s entirely up-front and transparent about it and 2) who the fuck is impartial anymore?

Season two was something of a let-down. The Bowe Bergdahl case, a story of American involvement in Afghanistan, was compelling, fascinating even. But as a central character Bergdahl is, excuse me for saying so, boring. Worse, I don’t like him. Worse, I don’t care about him.

Season three left me emotionally startled at the jump, and kept me there, and for very personal reasons. They broke the mold of the first two seasons by changing focus from a single mystery to be plumbed (a murder, a disappearance) to a larger social ill to be remedied -- namely, the American criminal justice system. And the main character was not a person, but a city. Cleveland.

For nine weeks, Koenig and reporter-producer Emmanuel Dzotsi set up shop in the Justice Center downtown, and followed the stories they found there, drawing a complex web of tales depicting a dysfunctional system through which we meet a engaging collection of characters (people) in places a little too close for comfort.

In episode six (You In the Red Shirt) a citizen is harassed by East Cleveland officers in “the park.” It’s not just any park, though. They say its proper name just once, Forest Hill Park. I take a run in that park every day. There is a world within my world of which I remain blithely ignorant.

I am not going to describe the stories, these citizens, you need to listen to the podcast yourself. Perhaps you already have. But I was startled by how Koenig chose to conclude, with a litany of suggestions. And it’s a long list.
“Don't pile six charges onto a single crime when one charge will do. Don't overcharge to force a guilty plea. Don't lock anyone up, unless they're demonstrably violent. Admit that police officers lie under oath. Get out of the punishment business and turn toward the urgent problem of fairness.”
She goes on for four paragraphs. In this holiday season, she even quotes Dickens: “Don't be insensibly tempted ... into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course.”

Her final word is, “Let's all accept that something's gone wrong. Let's make that our premise.”

And so, they say that art isn’t supposed to answer questions, it’s supposed to ask them. But these days, it is as though even journalism -- tasked with reporting the truth -- doesn’t even ask the questions. Koenig and her team do ask questions, some very difficult questions.

And they dare to provide some answers. Because for God’s sake someone has to.

Behind the Scenes of Serial Season Three, featuring Sarah Koenig and Emamanuel Dzotsi, comes to Playhouse Square on Saturday, December 15, 2018.

Related:
SeriaLand, a blog by Cleveland attorney Rebecca Maurer, providing greater historical context to Serial Season Three.

Cleveland Talks Serial, a podcast produced by IdeaStream. A round table discussion on the series.

Sources:
Serial (podcast)

"Bringing To Kill a Mockingbird to Broadway was nearly impossible" by Aaron Sorkin, New York Magazine 11/26/2018

Monday, December 3, 2018

Christmas Wrapping (song)

This weekend, ageing alt-rock hipster Twitter was going nuts over a tweet from Andy Partridge (XTC) in which he lavished praise on that holiday classic Christmas Wrapping by Akron's own The Waitresses.

"So much about this that I wished i'd done," Partridge said. "The cheekiness."

Waitress scribe Chris Butler on Facebook responded simply, "Speechless."

Indeed. If I received such praise from the man who wrote Dear God I would also be gobsmacked.

Why is Christmas Wrapping such an endurable bop? It's completely dated; early 80s white girl rapping, syncopated, post-punk pop with jangly guitars and jingle bells, even the lyrics lock it rigidly to the year it was released:
Had his number, but never the time.
Most of '81 passed along those lines.
Perhaps it is that sentiment, about never having the time, which makes the story part of the song something everyone relates to.

Butler was commissioned by a record label to create a Waitresses song for a compilation album of indie holiday tunes, and he found the idea of writing a Christmas song (especially in the middle of summer) to be as oppressive as the holiday itself can be.


"I hated Christmas," he told reporter John Petrick in 2005. "It wasn't about joy. It was something to cope with."

And so, he created a narrative of a young adult - not a parent or a child - working, dating, getting sick, looking for connection, settling for a solo Christmas dinner in her apartment before finding that last minute date at the grocery store.

Truth be told, I was not hip to this song when it was released. I was thirteen and not as cool as all that. But there was an early 80s revival in the mid-1990s, as Gen Xers were recovering bits of their lost childhood, and this record went to the top of my personal holiday playlist in a big way.

Because of nostalgia for the New Wave era. Because it’s downtown and upbeat. Because it’s about striving and failing and being happy with what you have. Because the late Patty Donahue knows what boys like, she’s a square peg, and she can use my comb.

Source:
"How an obscure 80s punk band created a Christmas classic" by John Petrick, The Star Online 12/22/2005

UPDATE: In my original draft, I erroneously said the track was synth-laden. "No synths!" - C.Butler

Monday, November 19, 2018

Calling All Ears (radio drama)

Fall quarter my sophomore year at Ohio University, our acting professor reached out to my buddies and I about a special project. A class in the RTV building was studying radio drama and they had a special guest, David Ossman.

Most recently Ossman was a producer for various programs on NPR, and PBS voice-over work. We knew him, however, as a member of The Firesign Theatre, that satirical radio comedy troupe of the late 60s-early 70s. We were very excited to get to work with him, and even went to the local record store to pick up copies of their work to bone up before meeting him.

Seriously. We went to the local record store and bought vinyl copies of Don’t Crush That Dwarf Hand Me The Pliers, Everything You Know Is Wrong, I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus, Wait For The Electrician (Or Someone Like Him) and How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All. They were all right there, waiting for us, in the store. Athens!

I was a little bummed out because at the moment my voice was almost destroyed. That quarter part of theater practicum was clearing out the attic space in Kantner Hall decades worth of props and smaller set pieces which had been stored there and largely forgotten about. The entire room had a thick layer of dust and I was surprised to learn the deep gray cement floor was, when vacuumed, actually a pristine white.

The end result of having inhaled so much dust, however, was that I could barely speak. However, one of the scripts we worked on in the radio production class featured an elderly gentleman, and I was able to push through a rather convincing impression of the character of the decrepit manservant Catherwood from The Future Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye, originally performed by (yes, indeed) David Ossman.

David Ossman, left
The technicians learned a lot but we actors did, too, about microphone placement, Foley effects, pacing, the use of music, etc., etc. In one all-too-brief session I learned lessons that we would apply through our time at school, creating radio dramas that Guerrilla Theater would broadcast on WRUW, and that we would employ much later creating radio drama for WCPN.

That was the first time I met David Ossman. The second was when he produced Calling All Ears for WCPN 90.3, which broadcast the night before Thanksgiving, November 27, 1991. Produced in collaboration with Cleveland Public Theatre, the event was held at the Metro Campus of Cuyahoga Community College.

An evening of “live radio theater” the show was to include three winners of a writing competition, though apparently one of them was for some forgotten reason unusable (inappropriate? too complicated?) and so the third piece was one from Ossman’s bag of tricks, Max Morgan: Crime Cabbie. As he explained it, by the 1950s radio drama was on the wane, with every conceivable detective show angle played out, and this was a satire of one of those.

It was thrilling and unnerving was when I discovered I was cast as the bartender Fergus, opposite Ossman himself as Max Morgan! Unfortunately, my twenty-three year-old self worked a little too hard to impress, and as a result I spent much of the performance trying to out-dick the dick, playing a smarmy variation on Nick Danger instead of the role I had been cast as, the easily-impressed sounding board for the actual hero of the story.

Most memorable for me was the large acting company, where I met for the first numerous players who would have a profound effect on my life. Freshly out of school and only recently settled into a daily Cleveland existence, this process introduced me to a large Cleveland theater community -- and we were all so young then, too.


Brian Pedaci, Peggy Sullivan, David Thonnings, Jenny Litt, Lee T. Wilson, Shruti Amin; there were all folks I would play with in the following years. I also made the acquaintance of Dave Caban from WRUW, Karen Schaefer from WCPN, and broadcast project director Jordan Davis.

My favorite piece of the evening was penned by the late Cleveland playwright Aubrey Wertheim. Originally titled Make Way for Dyke-lings, the more radio-friendly Along Party Lines is totally early 90s. Imagine if you will, a pair of suburban teenage girls waiting in the food court at Tower City to meet and see a movie with a pair of strange guys one of them met over a “party line.”

A "party line." Look that up, Millennials. I’ll wait.

The whole thing is crammed with Foley and recorded effects, a vast company of colorful characters, and a surprisingly progressive take on young adult relationships. It also includes my favorite tagline for Tremont, one which I find amusing even today.


The early 90s were a difficult time for Cleveland, the city center continue to be hollowed out, Tower City and the Galleria were already going into decline, the entire nation was in economic doldrums, there was no clear end to our woes. But it was a joyful moment, as a young artist, to meet and collaborate with so many exciting people.

Even so, the attendance that evening was all right, perhaps a hundred people were in the audience for this live event, enough to generate an audible audience response but not a very strong one. Getting people to come downtown, to do absolutely anything, was a difficult challenge at that time.

This past weekend I returned, with my family, to that same venue, the auditorium at the Tri-C Metro Campus, to see my daughter perform her first concert with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, a unique and exceptionally talented ensemble under the direction of Liza Grossman. The place was packed, the room buzzing with excitement. It got me all excited for the holidays.

Get out into the world this season. Enjoy Cleveland. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Professor Street Theater

2275 Professor Street (1992)
It was November 4, 1992. We were having rehearsal for our third week of performances of You Have the Right to Remain Silent!

I went up to the office during a break to check the election returns on CNN, where I was stunned to see the projected returns quite solidly suggested that Bill Clinton was going to win.

The idea that twelve years of Republican presidency, and specifically the Reagan-Bush Era, was coming to a close, was beyond my ken.

In 1980 I was twelve. Then I was twenty-four.

I came downstairs and announced the news, which led to a general cheer from the entire company.

Retro, our more libertarian member, sneered, “Man. What the hell are you people gonna write about now?”

The space was the Professor Street Theater. We’d signed the lease in August, $700 a month for two thousand feet of performance space downstairs and four rooms upstairs.

Four could squat for $175 each and we’d never need to generate a penny’s worth of profit for our work. We presented Silent! for eight months, closing in May to take a short break, produced a Shakespeare and then vacated for a different Tremont location.

Retro held onto the lease for a while, creating and presenting the Off-Hollywood Flick Fest there before the owner sold the place and it was a private residence and artists’ studio for nearly twenty-five years before the coffee shop Beviamo relocated there last year.

Professor Street Theater (above) and Beviamo Cafe (below)

Last April, I stepped into the space at 2275 Professor for the first time for the first time in almost a quarter century for a latte, and to get majorly freaked out.

It’s the same room, only so much brighter and different. Our early 90s landlord was adamant about our not changing a thing about the building, he pitched a fit when we painted a sign on the front door without his permission. It was easier to ask forgiveness.

The walls had been paneled all the way to the ceiling, the present occupants stripped away top level revealing fashionable brick, and painted the lower part white, brightening to room. We had papered over the windows for show privacy and to render the room entirely dark if necessary. Now the room is full of natural light.

Then & now.
While there are a few major alterations (the bathroom has been rerouted) what was startling was how the same the room felt. It was disorienting, sitting on a new platform in the window, sipping coffee and looking over the space like a hovering ghost.

Thoughts of a revival were inevitable. What if we staged a fundraiser, reading old scripts, or even writing new ones, right here where it all happened? No, really, maybe we shouldn’t. And besides, no one knows where the scripts are anymore. I don’t have them.

So what did we have to write about, now that "our guy" was going to the White House? We had only for two been weeks criticizing the George H. W Bush administration, would we now be praising and supporting this new president? Waving the flag for the status quo?

We did begin that way, we had to. He repealed the gag rule, that abortion could not be discussed in the military. And we would champion his attempts at health care reform and allowing gays to serve openly in the military … two agendas which failed, and failed badly in short order.

Much of our work turned inward, and by that I mean not only introspective (and also, unfortunately, at each other) but more local.

In the final days of 1992, an African-American man died while in police custody. He had been placed in a choke hold which rendered him unconscious, and was later determined to have been the cause of death. Then, as now, excessive force is an issue which plagues the Cleveland police department. Torque wrote a piece about that.

The choke hold play (title?)
There were audience members who openly objected to the political stuff, especially when it wasn’t funny. We took a stand against being portrayed as a sketch comedy group (or God forbid, improv) and intentionally threw in conceptual pieces for their own sake, with no punchline whatsoever.

The Scene Magazine reviewer, turgidly recounting every minute sexual reference from the performance he witnessed (even creating a few where they didn't existed) claimed the choke hold scene "backfired like a '62 Buick."

He also described Beemer as a "solid gold b----," so I guess that's funny?

After election day we retired a piece written by Jelly Jam, one I was proud to have had a hand in, creating a recorded soundscape of musical and nature sounds, and a weird voice-over (Lee's voice slowed down.)

With the lights dimmed, the entire company of seven crawled the floor, rose to their feet, came together but then fell away as the voice described and ancient ritual which made a people strong, but as more and more failed to participate, the civilization collapsed.

The ritual was called “voting.”

Yes, we were young and determined and optimistic and basic. We were also right.

Vote on November 6th.


Source: "Comedy for the Young at Heart" by Keith Joseph, Cleveland Scene, 2/18/1993

Thanks to Kim Martin for the 2018 photos!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Big Month of Plays

"Everything Is Okay (and Other Helpful Lies)"
by Melissa T. Crum & Caitlin Lewins
Cleveland Public Theatre
Photo by Steve Wagner
The Dark Room

It’s been a huge month for theater, which is usually the case for October as traditional season cycles begin. The difference this year is that I have actually had the opportunity to attend several of them, which is not often the case.

I actually had the chance to begin the month by attending the Dark Room, Cleveland Public Theatre’s monthly playwriting “open mic.” It’s free, it happens every second Tuesday, and there is beer. In addition to several ten minute plays written by about a half dozen writers, I threw in a few odd pages from a new piece I have started. They didn’t go anywhere, but people laughed, and so I am encouraged.

See you there November 13th.

Hello, Dolly!

The KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square has begun. First up, Hello Dolly! Featuring the incomparable Betty Buckley. She really was delightful and made a warm connection with the audience.

Waiting for the show to begin.
Personally, I loved when she crossed the stage to kneel and pick up a stray prop that rolled across the stage following a big, company dance routine. She didn’t break character or stop her delivery for a moment, just picked it up and set it aside like it was her job, because she a professional and it is.

Everything Is Okay (and Other Helpful Lies)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to witness a preview performance of Everything Is Okay (and Other Helpful Lies) at Cleveland Public Theatre. Written by Melissa T. Crum and Caitlin Lewins and under the powerful direction of Matthew Wright, this Millennial musical is a breathtakingly ambitious and brilliant event.

It has been very inspiring to watch and listen as Missy and Caitlin first presented this piece as a cabaret of songs at the first Entry Point, later performing an uncompleted version of the book at this year’s Entry Point (there was a point in the second act where character was broken and one announced, “Okay, we’re not sure how we’re wrapping this all up yet, but it may go like this ...”) to this fully-realized performance, executed with urgency and style. And may I say the band is fucking incredible?

The show opens to a sold out crowd tonight!

Colin Holter speaking before "Mamma Mia!"
Great Lakes Theater
Mamma Mia!

The company for whom I am employed, Great Lakes Theater, is currently presenting Mamma Mia! and Joseph Hanreddy’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in rotating repertory, and these productions are each a smash. The Jane Austen play is entirely sold out, with Mamma Mia! which runs an additional week, almost to capacity. Tickets are still available, especially on Halloween.

As a member of the education department, I often host GLT’s weekly pre-show event, Playnotes, where we engage an area expert to provide historical background to that afternoon’s performance. Last weekend our guest was Colin Holter, composer, teacher, and writer on music. He described to a packed salon the origins of ABBA’s original success in the mid-1970s, the particular techniques they use in their singing to catch the ear and the heart, and their enduring popularity.

Holter brought a guitar and was able to play and sing a few verse to better illustrate these techniques, and the assembled were rapt and impressed. He will speak again before matinee performances on Saturdays November 3rd and 10th, which currently have a limited number of available seats.

"When the Tiger Sneezed" by Toni  K. Thayer
Talespinner Children's Theatre
When the Lion Sneezed

Every year, in addition to their main stage work at Reinberger Auditorium, Talespinner Children's Theatre produces a shorter program, designed for touring. For 2019 that production is When the Lion Sneezed (Tales of Ancient Assyria and Beyond) written by Toni K. Thayer, a beautiful artist, educator, and my spouse.

It is a tradition that this touring show debuts at the annual Harlequinade gala in the fall and this year was no exception. What was unusual was the storm which blew through and knocked over powerlines across the city last Saturday night. The electricity went out roughly an hour and a half before guests were due to arrive, but thanks to smart thinking and a team of volunteers who just kept working by battery-operated lanterns (we have kinds of crazy things in theaters) they were able to procure a generator which lit up the party room upstairs.

The stage downstairs was still dark, however, but as this play was designed to be produced anywhere, they swiftly adapted it to the party room and we had the opportunity to witness and enjoy Toni’s delightful tale of the origin of cats -- and the diverse ways we feel about them.

"Sweat" by Lynn Nottage
Cleveland Play House
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
Sweat

Earlier this week, Chennelle and I saw the Cleveland Play House production of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat. If there is a contemporary play that deserves a Pulitzer Prize, it is this play, and this local production, directed by Laura Kepley, is outstanding.

It is also a thrill to see that half of the cast consists of Cleveland actors, namely Bob Ellis, Chris Seibert, Jimmy D. Woody and CPH Associate Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming.

Sweat is an epic take on the decline of American manufacturing jobs and an even-handed observation of the events which led to the election of Donald J. Trump. Not that Trump is the answer, as it is evident that he is absolutely not, but is a clear-eyed explanation of how we arrived at this present moment.

"MST3K Live 30th Anniversary Tour"
The Agora
MST3K Live!

Last night the boy and I attended the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Live 30th Anniversary Tour at the Agora. My goodness, I have not been to the Agora in years and years and years. The movie being taken apart was Deathstalker II, and during the first few minutes the ‘bots made a GWAR joke, which was striking to me because that may have been the last concert I attended there!

Jokes flew fast and furiously, and there is really nothing like laughing together in a packed house. Robots Tom Servo and Crow were joined by both Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray.

I’ve been enjoying MST3K since the early 90s, so Joel is my favorite, but the Netflix reboot featuring Jonah is also hilarious and the pop culture references are fresh so my son can enjoy they, too. The old episodes are practically Dada-esque to him, most satire is … which may be why his generation loves nonsense humor. It’s good pushback and it irritates the grown-ups.

iGen humor.
The Way I Danced With You

It’s time. We announced auditions for this weekend a few days ago, and the available slots filled up pretty fast. There is a company in there somewhere and I am very excited to discover who they are.

Cleveland Public Theatre presents "Everything Is Okay (and other Helpful Lies)" in the Levin Theatre through November 10, 2018.

Great Lakes Theatre presents "Mamma Mia!" at the Hanna Theatre through November 11, 2018.

Cleveland Play House presents "Sweat" at the Outcalt Theatre through November 4, 2018.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Twenty-Nineteen

"About a Ghoul"
(Talespinner Children's Theatre, 2019)
How do you get that next production? That’s a question. Without a name, without a history, when your work has largely been confined to your own community, without representation, how does one push their own work into the larger world?

In the gig economy, there are plentiful opportunities to attract attention to yourself, but there are thousands of others taking those same opportunities. Yes, there are many examples now of playwrights whose work has been discovered on New Play Exchange. For a moment I thought I was one of those.

In January, a small company in a large city cold-contacted me about one of my previously produced works. They really wanted it! I was interviewed by the artistic director. I was consulted about concept. They requested a contract, which I sent. Then … nothing.

I tried to reach out once, just a big hello? Are we on? No response. They announced their season in the summer, and no surprise, my play was not there. How disappointing. That’s not how you do that.

The entire year has been like that.

Casting spells in the rain.
(Harry Potter World, Orlando)
The year literally began on the tarmac. After a significant delay, we touchdown in Orlando minutes before midnight New Year’s Eve, and rang in 2018 waiting to exit. It was a last-minute decision, to drop everything and scurry off to see Harry Potter and Mickey Mouse. After the horrors of the holidays, the wife just wanted time with her family.

What we got were four wet days in an amusement park, with temps in the mid-forties. But we were adventurous, we dined and played and loved together as a family under a dark cloud, because that’s a metaphor for everything these days.

New writing was under the radar this past year, I spent far more time doing crossword puzzles. It’s just a fact. However, works that have been in development or previously presented found their home, some more than one home.

The Way I Danced With You was presented as part of their Factory Series at Blank Canvas Theatre, and it was a very successful weekend. Funny, I did not think it was particularly well-attended. It’s not a big house, and it felt like there a lot of empty seats. And yet, the feedback was highly positive -- and it keeps coming. Since March numerous people, folks I didn’t even remember attending, have told me what an impression it made how much they are still thinking about it.

"The Way I Danced With You
(Blank Canvas Theatre, 2018)
The script will receive a full run of performances, opening March 21, at Ensemble Theatre. Directed by Tyler J. Whidden, The Way I Danced With You will headline the 2019 Columbi New Plays Festival. Auditions were announced yesterday.

Last year I lamented how I had fallen away from writing, longhand, every morning. Well, it took most of the year, but I now have an established ritual of writing 30 minutes or three pages every single morning, without fail. And it makes a difference. I even pushed through an illness to keep covering the page.

Just last night, Talespinner Children’s Theatre announced their 2019 season, which will include the world premiere of About a Ghoul, my new play inspired by Moroccan folk tales.

On the publication front, I have two exciting developments. In an effort to control my own work, I decided to self-publish I Hate This on Amazon. Ten years ago there was a limited edition of that script released in Britain, with all profits going to a national charity. To my surprise, I have found copies of that script going for as much as $50 on various websites. So I have published a version for $5.95, which means pennies for me, but at least it is available to whoever wants it at a price they can afford. You can get an electronic version for even less.

The second publication is still in the works, and I look forward to announcing that soon.

Forward. Always forward.