Friday, April 20, 2012

I Quit! I Win!

Mission: Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or "best" scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.

Jumped on the ScriptFrenzy bandwagon this year, the timing was right. ScriptFrenzy is associated with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which you have heard of. That "competition" began as motivation for people to finally write that novel. If people all over are writing, at the same time, and talking about it, that provides community for what can otherwise seem a solitary endeavor.

It also inspires a lot of people to trying creative writing who otherwise would not. You may have your own opinion about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I don't see how writing can harm anyone.

Started in 2007, ScriptFrenzy originally had a goal of 20,000 words, but switched to a goal of 100 pages because that is the way people who write scripts measure things. For example, I weigh 20,000 pages. 

Now, it is not yet April 30. And I have not written 100 pages. However, I quit! Thanks to this inspiring challenge, I have created the first draft of what is (currently) a 53 page one-act play in only 20 days. Creating this short work was my goal, and I made it -- so I'm done! And I win!

No, I cannot legitimately claim one of the awesome ScriptFrenzyWinner badges this year. Perhaps next year. But it was an extremely useful exercise, and I liked all the support and encouragement. Best wishes to all those still trying to reach their goal.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Romeo and Juliet (1994 Rehearsal Notes)

Guerrilla Theater Company
Romeo & Juliet
Rehearsal, August 1994.
We were marking through Act Three, scene 5, the “Nightingale Scene.” The young couple, newly married, have consummated their vows and now Romeo must depart Juliet’s chamber before he (wanted by the authorities for murder) is found.

“I’m missing something,” I said. “Let’s take it again.” I was sitting in the seats watching, Eric walked back up the stairs from the Boutique where he exited this scene, and Tracey wiped away some tears and sniffled loudly. Beemer stood nearby, ready to repeat her brief entrance as the Nurse.

Our Romeo and Juliet were, despite my original conceit to cast them as grotesque, very attractive. A Korean-American man and a young woman of the Jewish persuasion. I was amused when the Morning Journal, featuring a prominent photo of the happy couple, referred to their relationship as “multi-racial.”

I paused for a moment to recover my thought. Some believe I am pensive when in fact I am easily distracted and often absent-minded. My cast waited patiently.

“I mean, this is a game, right?” I said. “I mean, not a fun game, but it’s like, you don’t want him to go, right?”

Tracey stared at me. I continued.

“So you do what we all do, you pretend, you argue, it’s not day, it’s still night.”

I thought of the dull light that shone through the blinds of her apartment, sifted down between the massive apartment buildings of Washington Heights -- no direct sunlight, ever, at night the street was awash with traffic light, it was all diffused, we forgot what time it was, what day it was, whether it was day or night.

“And besides, you just woke up, you’re half asleep, I need to see that. And you --”

“Uh-huh,” Eric said, tense, always at the ready.

“You’re trying to be responsible, but you’re still this romantic ... right? How is’t my soul? Let’s talk, it is not day. -- that bit there, you’re acting like you just want to make her happy but I need to believe in that moment, you can’t go, you’re weakened by your love, by the fear of, of, of, of where you have to go, which is nowhere basically, you’re casting yourself into the unknown, right? I mean, Mantua, where the fuck is that, it’s like hurry up and wait, excuse me, I’m rambling, but do you get me?”

“Uh-huh,” he said, “I gotcha, Dave.” Then he took off his pants.

“Good,” I said. And thought again. And they waited. Beemer just squatted on a chair and peered at me, looking just a little bored. Eric and Tracey were stripped to their Guerrilla T-Shirts and underpants in anticipation of beginning the scene again, ready to get dressed, ready to kiss, ready to cry.

“Good,” I said. “So finally he takes off, right? And you make the best if it -- Then, window, let day in, and let life out. And Romeo you take that as a cue to leave, and Juliet, BAM, you’re right back in there -- Art thou gone so? And Romeo, you are right back there, you go right back there. Someone has to be brave enough to break this off and neither of you are. And when he finally goes, and you are left there by yourself, Tracey, I need you to take time -- you need to see him, he’s in your sight, then he’s gone, and you can still picture him and he’s outside and he’s five yards away and then he’s five miles away, and you can feel the distance growing between you and the further he goes away the wider your heart splits open and HA, Jesus Christ, ha ha, where did that come from?”

All three of them looked at me blankly.

“Uh. So let’s, uh ... see that.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Romeo and Juliet (1994)

Guerrilla Theater Company presents The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet in September 9 - October 1, 1994 at the Actors' Gym, 2393 Professor Avenue in Tremont.

Just before dawn, in a Verona remarkably like the modern day Midwest, a moment before first light, the first, gentle strains of A Warm Place by Nine Inch Nails warbles over the audience. In the dim glow we find Romeo, wandering listlessly, composing a poem to himself.

An ominous tableau is made even more disturbing by the lilting voice of the Prince, cutting over the music.
The Prince: Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean ...
With the dawn our Romeo can see his friends approaching, and he is gone. We are listening to a radio, and the dee jay cuts in:
Dee Jay: 107.9 The End. Good morning, I'm Vic Gideon and it looks like we're gonna have another hot one this beautiful July day, with a projected high of ninety-four degrees. Don't let the heat go to your head -- and if you must speak daggers, please do not use any. It's the Offspring with "Come Out and Play" on Verona's Only Modern Music Station, 107.9 The End.
Scene Magazine reviewer Keith Joseph, confused by the young age of everyone in the cast, he suggested that the concept was that the entire show took place in a high school, that even the parents were teenagers, and the Prince, in fact, a Principal. This last image, bolstered by the slight manner in which all reprimands were delivered, and the whole voice-coming-over-a-speaker thing, seems upon reflection to be forgivable.

So did his appraisal of Tybalt as a “mean, dyke, punk rocker” and Mercutio as a “strident mall chick,” a description which irked Gooch deeply.

James Damico in the Free Times gave us two paragraphs (and no photo!) in which he accused us of considerably cutting the text and removing the story from its larger social context, and said Torque was the only actor who could handle the language. He closed by observing that “Mercutio, one of the ballsiest males in Shakespeare, is played for some elusive purpose, by a woman.”

One of my favorite moments in the entire play for downright giddy excitement is, of course, the Capulet Party Scene. Shame it comes so early in the production.

As Lord Capulet, Torque was excellent. Magisterial, his verse mellifluous, by turns stern, caring and ridiculous -- if he did not want any part in this production he never showed it on-stage. The party is his, he orders the servants about and commands the dee jay to play some appropriate music for such a modern party. The dee jay obliges with ABBA’s Does Your Mother Know, which provoked a few snickers.

The revelers have their normal costumes on, they simply wore whatever masks we could find in the basement. Some are leftovers from New Year’s with plumes of feathers. There was a Phantom mask, a Nixon mask, and of course, the Gorilla mask. Benvolio has on a rainbow fright wig and a funny nose and glasses. Tybalt’s is a simple neutral mask, sprayed cherry red -- and when she spies Romeo chatting up her cousin Juliet, she makes a bee-line right for him.
Lord Capulet: (stopping Tybalt) Why, how now, my kin? Wherefore storm you so?

Tybalt: Uncle, this is a Montague, our foe,
A villain that is hither come in spite
To scorn our solemnity this night.

Lord Capulet: Young Romeo is it?
Capulet is all smiles, perhaps he knew there were Montagues there, eating his food, flirting with his progeny, but he won’t have a fight started in his house, not so soon after the last one. He speaks soothingly to Tybalt. She is beginning to fidget like an animal about to strike.
Tybalt: I’ll not endure him.
And she tries to push by her uncle, but he snaps and grabs her by the arm.
Lord Capulet: He shall be endured!
The music cuts out suddenly. Conversation has stopped and all eyes are on Lord Capulet.

(Keep in mind -- the entire cast is on the tiny stage here, thirteen actors, doing a creative but conscious job of mingling, silently so as to not detract from the main focus of the scene, and staying out of the audience’s direct line of sight.)

Capulet takes a moment, forces a laugh, gestures to the dee jay who begins a slow song, Walking to You by Everything But the Girl. Capulet pulls his fiery niece to him and they begin to dance. The party releases a collective sigh at this sweet sight and return to their conversations. Capulet hisses the rest of his commands in her ear as she fumes in humiliation.
Capulet: What, goodman, girl? I say he shall. Go to.
Am I the master here or you? Go to.
It was Torque and Xanthe’s idea -- during rehearsal Torque asked if he could “try something” and did the dance bit. Suddenly I needed a slow song, either instrumental or with non-intrusive lyrics.
I met your boyfriend on St. Martin’s Lane
And he said “fancy running into you again,”
We talked a minute or so, then he turned to go,
And I walked into the crowd again.

And the morning was a different place
In every passerby I saw your face
Love leaves a lonely ghost
With one thought upper most
Is this the case in every case?
Am I walking to you?
Am I walking to you?
In every thing that I do
Am I still walking to you?
The song is played as Romeo and Juliet have their first conversation. I guess that made it their song.

When the party ends, partygoers depart through town. Black-shirted Capulet couples move through the city, holding hands -- one masked reveler says good night to an exhausted Tybalt, obviously smitten but receiving only a curt handshake good-bye. County Paris walks the streets alone -- he was last seen looking for his intended, the elusive Juliet.

She appears behind the last row of the house right seating section. Her balcony will be that last row, an entire seating section needs to turn around to see her.
Juliet: Ay me.
Romeo: She speaks! O, speak again ...
Juliet: O Romeo --
Romeo already crouching, falls to the floor.

Theirs is a heartfelt, pulsing mating ritual. She asks for specifics regarding his intentions, and he struts about the big open stage, bragging, making circles and leaping, emboldened by her attentions.

A barrier has been placed halfway down the aisle for this scene, and she cannot move past, nor can he move to the first step of the platform, it is forbidden. They can barely touch. Only at the last do they strain their utmost, craning their necks for one kiss -- and fail. Romeo must be content with one kiss on his hand, and the feel of it on her face. The anticipation of reprising the few stolen kisses at the party must wait for their promised marriage day.

Most of the other characters were pretty arch, but I had made Romeo and Juliet sincere, and attempted to imbue them with true, giddy, romantic love. It was not my intention, setting out on this production, for this to happen. But theater, like life, rarely turns out the way you plan. My first marriage was falling apart. I was in love.

Some saw this discrepancy between the ironic and the earnest as a major weakness in the production, especially those who did not see the supporting characters as deeply etched with flaws, but as cartoons. “The Guerrillas,” said Plain Dealer critic Carolyn Jack, “can’t seem to decide if their version of Romeo and Juliet is a parody or not ... this production turns its characters into slackers, punks and other smart-alecky MTV types who drip with sarcasm.”

Perhaps. She went on to credit Eric and Tracey with “affecting and ultimately serious portrayals” and went on to say they had “a fresh, impulsive, giggly honesty that would delight anyone who has seen Shakespeare’s young lovers played, as they so often are, by self-important 35 year-olds.”

Jack put it most succinctly when she said the lovers’ scenes “look like bits of a BBC broadcast spliced into a Simpsons episode.”

Act One was an hour and a half long. And September, 1994 was very hot. And there was no real circulation in the theater, and the lights were very close to the audience. Opening night, sitting in the back row, a few feet from the ceiling, I could feel the temperature rise perceptibly. I truly worried we would lose people before the end of the show, but most everyone came back, ready to fan themselves with their programs. The second half was only an hour.

On the Cleveland Freenet, I came across a review of our show on the freenet.arts.thtr.critic bulletin board. An audience member praised the show highly. She was “surprised that the performance was the actual shakespeare r&j, olde english intact,” and that “most performances were double plus good.” She also pointed out, “the worst part of the whole play was how warm the actor’s gym became. uncomfortably warm. not the best circumstances in which to hear the bard.”

She closed by saying, “get out and see the show if you can. but wear a tank top.”

The Internet. Hmn. We were closing for good, and I wondered if the Net (we called it the Net in those days) would ever become something big enough that it could have had any use in promoting our plays. Or anything else for that matter.

In the Plain Press, the neighborhood newspaper for the Near West Side, Virginia Jones also reported, “the house was uncomfortably hot.” Joseph remarked in Scene Magazine that “better ventilation and more toilet facilities would have helped.” We had one toilet in the Boutique downstairs, which always served us well when we had a dozen audience members, but a sold-out house of 90 had a difficult time with it after ninety minutes of sitting. We got permission from Edison’s to send people over there, and our ten-minute intermission sometimes stretched to twenty-five.

The Free Times, the Plain Dealer, Scene Magazine, the Plain Press, the Akron-Beacon Journal, the Morning Journal, the Gay Peoples’ Chronicle, the CWRU Observer ... Guerrilla Theater Company was covered. Finally, after two years, everyone was writing about us. We probably attracted more attention simply because we were also announcing our demise, and that made people want to see us before we were gone.

Saturday, October 1st, marked our final performance. Scollard took a piece of chalk and wrote one of Mercutio’s lines (act 2, sc. 1) on the big, black, back wall of The Actors’ Gym, to be our epitaph:

“The Ape Is Dead.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Interpretation

¿Donde está el Siete Madres?
in·ter·pret   [in-tur-prit] v.

to bring out the meaning of (a dramatic work, music, etc.) by performance or execution.
Often in the theater we use the word reinterpretation, which means "to interpret again." Which is to say ... to interpret. Perhaps, to interpret differently. But still, it is merely another interpretation.

Much has been made of the recent interpretation of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real at the Goodman Theatre. Apparently what they mean is adaptation because from all available description (and I have co-workers who have seen it and told me about it) a deeply heartfelt, if misunderstood, play by the greatest American playwright has been stewed, screwed and tattooed, festooned with artifice and sights contrived to offend. We aren't just talking design choices here, a text which traditionally runs close to three hours plays in less than two, which characters cut, collapsed or entirely replaced.

This should be galling to me, as I love this play. I love Williams' poetry, and his use of dreamlike imagery. It is wonderful and horrible, and no one saw it when it debuted on Broadway in 1953 and that may be another reason I like it so well. But it is because precisely because so many have badmouthed it, I wish that I could see it. My expectations appropriately lowered, what could I lose? And after all, some of my favorite productions have been interesting, inspired interpretations of well-trod works. The Skin of Our Teeth at Cleveland Public Theatre comes to mind. Or, you know ... pretty much any single Shakespeare you and or anyone has ever seen.

Saturday night I left the kids at the in-laws and went Uptown to check out the Everything Is Terrible tour, which just happened to be in Athens that night. Since I was first turned onto this site (Josh? Brian? Who takes credit for this?) I have been enjoying their online video productions. Their mission is to collect professionally produced video tapes (they have to be from tapes) and carefully edit them to highlight the sheer awfulness of modern civilization.

You may notice a large amount of their subjects are made-for-TV movies, motivational videos, or locally produced broadcasting, created between 1988 and 1992. The George H.W. Bush era was truly the heyday of inexpensive, godawful filmmaking.

Unfortunately, I was not able to remain for the main event, the audience interactive film Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! which also features live music. But I did enjoy the first hour, which was greatest hits collection, presented on a large screen at full-volume. This mash-up of deliriously edited, horrible terrible video included several scenes which have already been pulled from YouTube because of copyright violation. This included a horrifying ventriloquist dummy which the EIT folks had edited to lip-synch to Justin Bieber's Baby.

The introduction included an original video featuring a puppet explaining the definition of FAIR USE, in an appeal for understanding. EIT is covered by the First Amendment because their work comments upon the original. The manner in which they present the original critiques the original. Watch this shudder-inducing scene from the Rodney Dangerfield comedy, Ladybugs.

Okay. Once you have taken a show to wash the shame away, ask yourself ... was that commentary, or is that scene inherently creepy on its own right, and the slasher-movie music therefore redundant?

As long as I am drawing a line from big-budget slash-ups of Tennessee Williams to hilarious, ghastly, ironic, online video montages, I would regret not bringing up Video Psychotherapy, which began in the 1980s as the brainchild of area cinematographer Ted Zbozien and broadcast late-night on the Mayfield Heights public access channel.

He took a store-bought ventriloquist dummy, suited it up with a black turtleneck, blazer and black sunglasses, had his friend Jeff Adams provide a mocking voice, and you had The Doctor, a fascistic mental overlord who submits his views to an endless reel of superfast edits featuring terrible screams, exploding heads, plummeting bodies and extended riffs of ordinance.

The Doctor's largely spontaneous rants are all the more delicious because they include the swingy stylings of the Art Institute of Chicago playing Dreaming of the Master from the album Nice Guys. Video of the original shows are hard to come by, even on YouTube, because Zbozien carefully guarded the tapes after the show's original run. Recently, however, he has reemerged online with a new puppet, made-to-order -- again, to avoid copyright infringement.

Late 1980s Video Psychotherapy

However, his use of existing clips from copyrighted works of film and video appear to fall more acceptably under the FAIR USE doctrine, because each clip is so brief, and cannot be taken to represent the whole. I mean ... I'm not a lawyer ...

The Republic of Gilead

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend long hours with The Famous History and Life of King Henry VIII (All Is True) written by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, which I will directing this summer for the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival. This is one of Shakespeare's late works, the co-writing credit (which is widely accepted) an indication that he may have started writing it and abandoned it, or was too preoccupied with business matters to give it his entire attention, or if you believe such things, that he was already dead (i.e. not the Shakespeare of Stratford) and other writers were taking scripts he had barely fleshed out, expanding upon them and keeping his name on them.

Whatever you believe, what most people know about Henry VIII (the play) is that it was the one that was being presented when the original Globe Theatre burned to the ground in 1613. There are no quotations from it that went on to be famous. My personal favorite: "All hoods make not monks."

My plan is to edit the thing down to 90 minutes, the text hardly warrants anything longer. The major problem with cutting Henry VIII is that, as arcane courtly intrigues go, it's plot stands out as being at once terribly complex and stupifyingly boring.

However, as I have had almost a year to mull this puppy over, the one thing that strikes me as interesting is that if you took this play by itself, absent any knowledge of the English history that came before or after it, you would not be so impressed by Henry's break with the Catholic Church (arguably what the pay is all about) but rather the extent to which women do not exist as human beings. Catherine of Aragon, historically a great English ambassador, is relegated to the status of non-person when the King decides to divorce her. The First Divorced Woman, how does THAT make a girl feel?

The argument is that the King, now middle-aged, wants a male heir and Catherine can no longer provide him with children. So he dumps her for a pretty, much younger wife. And it's 2012 and I'm thinking, hell, thank goodness no fat, white, self-righteous Christian men of power do that anymore.

So I've been reading The Handmaid's Tale. And I am looking forward to how we may interpret this.

UPDATE: My bad, EIT's "Baby Doll" is, indeed, available online. More creepy dummy goodness!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On Creativity

The wife and I went to see the Cleveland Play House production of RED at the Allen Theatre on Wednesday. My memory of the Broadway production were still strong, and I was looking forward to rediscovering it. The wife enjoyed it a great deal, leaving the theater with her head swirling. My original take on the script was that it wasn’t as powerful as it might have been, against the towering, brutish character of Rothko, assistant Ken (on paper) came across as the idea of someone who might exist, rather than anyone who actually does.

The most powerful impressions of when I saw it in 2010 was Molina’s subtlety of humor, the strength of his fragility, and the design -- the sound, the set, the light, and the paintings. Especially the paintings. As I found each of these elements wanting in this incarnation, the script came to the fore as the real star of the show, and I respect it a great deal more. And I actually thought Randy Harrison’s Ken was an improvement on the original,* pushing what I had previously dismissed as a requisite painful backstory into something necessary to the narrative.

I believe now that RED could be, and perhaps some day should be, performed with little or no set at all -- and none of Rothko’s paintings. The Broadway and CPH sets were almost identical, a realistic painter’s studio. On B’way, however, every scene featured a different Rothko, upstage, looming over the proceedings. When either player described the work, we could see it, but the paintings kept changing. After all, the artist is supposed to be creating over thirty different large-scale canvases. At the Allen we got one main one that stays for several scenes, a few others to the side which had to be viewed from a severe angle (Rothko would not have approved of that) and of course, the blank canvas that gets primed right before our eyes, a neat trick which is thrilling the first time you see it.

Most missteps in this production were directorial. The most glaring of which was choosing to put on painting on the “fourth wall” -- a painting wee do not see, because it is hung on the proscenium, invisibile to us, with the actors looking out at us to see and comment on it. At one significant moment, Rothko is inspired TO PAINT! He instructs Ken to bring him paint, to add pigment, Rothko is massaging a brush … what can be going on int that man’s head? In New York, he was facing upstage, at an actual canvas, one he has already informed us is unfinished, and in that moment, we, the audience, are thinking the same thing … Is he going to PAINT? What will he PAINT? Is this really going to HAPPEN?

It is an electric moment of possibility, which I will tell you goes unfulfilled, with an explosion of anger and regret. However, in Cleveland, he was facing us, the audience. There was no actual canvas. Is he going to paint? Of course not, don't be silly, there’s no canvas there, dummy, there will be no painting.

These is one of those moments in the theater that I recall the voice of Roger sitting next to me in the audience, when I am so fortunate to attend a show with him, that he hear him mutter under his breath, “Bad choice …”

He does that a lot during other people's plays.

Directorial choices notwithstanding, it was in large a great night. And we had plenty to talk about on the way home. Because these are the stories I love the best. Stories about artists, and about the act of creation. Those are the plays I enjoy, and the films, about writers and painters, about designers and even about chefs.

Remember Suede? Suede remembers YOU.

My favorite movies include The Moderns (painting) Ed Wood (moviemaking) Big Night (cooking). This is why I enjoyed the first few seasons of Project Runway, to my own surprise, because it was about watching designers realizing their ideas. It’s why I can’t watch it anymore, because the producers emphasize headgames and physical exhaustion and the work is terrible.

We are currently trying desperately to catch up on this thing Mad Men. We started season two last night on Netflix. Now, I won’t pretend that my primary interest is not the same as everyone’s; the style, the music, the smoking and drinking, the dream that someone like Jon Hamm could actually walk among us.

But it’s also about ideas, and about creativity. About using art and words to shape emotions and to change the way people think. Sure. It’s about advertising. About selling stuff. And we can have a lengthy discussion about the difference between selling a philosophy and selling deodorant. The point is, I am drawn to stories that play out discussions and actions, the negotiation between people, to create art.

My wife and I were winding back through the previous season, I was trying to piece together how Peggy came to where she is at this point. The show takes its time, there are few sudden leaps in any direction for any of the characters. So, how did this reserved, plain-looking woman, get the attention of someone with as much power and ego as Draper. It may have come as a surprise to some that this meek woman wants something, we all do, we all want something. But there were clear lines at that time, and she crossed them to get where she wanted to be.

Then my wife reminded me, she was in the sample pool for lipstick. She was able to tell Don that in order to “understand” a woman, you should ask a women. Now, in the episode we saw last night Peggy uses the tired phrase “sex sells” and Don calls her on it. That’s not why he hired her, so that she could talk like just another man.

But he didn’t say it like that. He said it better than that. Because he’s Don Draper. And you don't even know you are.

Some who have witnessed The Velocity of Autumn at Beck Center have remarked about the manner in which art acts as a bridge between the estranged mother and son whose story it is. And this strikes me as odd, not because it is not true. I guess it is. As the person playing the son in question, I am so embedded into the character, getting from point A to point Z, I am not thinking of the larger how of how we communicate. It's just me and my mother, trying to reach each other, and not knowing how. And she paints, professionally. Or used to. My character is a searcher, a watcher. A life-long student. I hadn't thought of how it appears to others.

UPDATE 7/25/2019: The "original" Ken on Broadway, whom I was apparently so unimpressed with, was Eddie Redmayne. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Randall Park Mall (op-ed)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
August 9, 1976

Just about every superlative in the English language has been applied to Randall Park Mall, opening this week in the southeast suburban area of the city.

Indeed, the mall IS the world’s largest shopping center.

Yes, it is a place of exceptional convenience and beauty, with an unusual number of outstanding department stores and many, many fine shops presented in a most expansive, luxurious arrangement.

And it represents an enormous investment of energy, time and money by its developer, Edward J. DeBartolo of Youngstown.

But there is more meaning than this to Randall Park Mall -- considerably more.

The mall constitutes a community improvement in which all of Greater Cleveland can share pride. Its construction is an expression of solid confidence in the region’s economic present and future. Unquestionably, this will be a catalyst for future growth.

It is significant that Randall Park Mall brought a new addition to merchandising in Cleveland. Joseph Horne Co., the prestigious Pittsburgh-based retail firm, placed its department store in the distinguished company of four similar businesses that have been long established and successful here. Horne’s, it should be noted, has a 127-year history of success and growth.

It was 12 years ago that DeBartolo first announced his plans for the future use of the Randall Park race track site which he acquired in 1961. The plans at that time proposed an $85 million development including a single-level shopping mall and three department stores.

Unlike some developers who let their dream projects shrink or fade away, DeBartolo made his come alive and grow. The remarkable accomplishment that now is the two-level, $300 million Randall Park Mall, therefore is a testimonial also to the business courage, confidence, discernment and foresight of DeBartolo himself.

It is good for DeBartolo that he has attracted nationwide notice as the country’s leading builder of shopping centers and malls. It is good for Cleveland, too.

For today and the tomorrows to come, Randall Park Mall is a highly visible mark on this area as a quality place to live, work and do business.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Perhaps it goes without saying that one who has not been creating regular blog posts may be occupied with other things. That, implies, of course, that anyone who can create daily blog posts has no life. But I used to be able to do that, and believe me I was hella busy then, too.

However, this blog was created for a purpose, first as a research tool in my writing and later as a promotional tool for all of my theater work. (It also happens to be about my Cleveland.) Since the outreach tour closed, my day-to-day life has been packed with events that I either fell anyone else would find uninteresting, are too private to confide, or that I am already holding forth about somewhere else.

1. Training for the Cleveland Marathon, a fact which is well-documented on my other blog, Daddy Runs Fast. This takes up a great deal of time that might otherwise be spent blogging.

2. Performing in the Beck Center production of Eric Coble's The Velocity of Autumn, starring Dorothy Silver, now playing through April 29. I am the other performer in this two-person play. Yes, I could share rehearsal process for the outreach tour, because I wrote that and because it's a different kind of work. Trying to develop a character for a play like this one is far too personal for me to write about. I could have chosen to post the reviews here, but in this case I have decided not to read any of them until the show closes. You have Google, look them up if you like.

You should get tickets. Oh that's right, you can't, the entire run has sold out.

3. Developing a new script for the 2013 outreach tour. Yes, I could spend time writing about writing that. Instead, I am writing it. A one-time Facebook suggestion from the Dramatist Guild inspired me to sign up for Script Frenzy, a "competition" with no actual reward except the knowledge that, through mutual encouragement, you were able to write 100 pages during the month of April. For some this comes easy. For the rest of it, it does not. As of today, I have completed 16 pages. It is April 5th. I am making good time, and there's a three-day weekend coming up. And then there's home and work. However, my discoveries of 1976 will continue (and the script it inspires) and there is a summerful of activities which will be valid sources for observation. But I did want you to know that I am thinking of you. Each and every day. Yes, I am.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Romeo and Juliet (1976)

Bonnie Sacks and Robert Black

THE TIME: Summer, 1500
THE PLACE: Verona and Mantua

On Friday, August 13, 1976, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival opened its 15th season with a period production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by William Glover.
"The lesson - if indeed Shakespeare intends one - is that reconciliation of our hatred comes ultimately from the death of our loved ones. It is a lesson still be learned from Johannesburg to Belfast, from Calvary to Beirut." - Director's Note
The 1976 GLSF season closed with R&J, and included The Tempest, Dear Liar by Jerome Kitty, Ah, Wilderness by O'Neill and Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.

As with all things Bicentennial, the program includes the interesting factoid that the very first recorded production of Shakespeare in the colonies was in New York on March 23, 1730 and that play was, indeed, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. It was produced by the physician Joachimus Bertrand, who cast himself as the apothecary.

Don't laugh, man. I was in a version of R&J at Ohio University in 1989 where the Apothecary was played by Seabury Quinn, Jr. He owned that production.

The company included the young John Q. Bruce as Benvolio, who would a few years later play Jimmy in GLSF Artistic Director Vincent Dowling's television adaptation of Playboy of the Western World, and the startlingly handsome Jonathan Farwell as the fiery Tybalt.

Plain Dealer theater critic Bill Doll heaped this production with praise. Please enjoy the following highlights, which I swear I did not make up:
A marvelous presentation ... it fairly jumps with life. Character and speech bolt from the stage in great slices of meaning and mood.The stage swells with life.

Voices dip and soar, speed up and slow down, slicing through the brocaded tapestries of Elizabethan stage talk to distill, not gut, it. It's clear William Glover's actors make words what they are, in essence, vessels and masks for our emotions.

As corny as saying it seems, the speeches actually sound as if they come from within the characters: not merely reciting his lines.

Robert Black's Romeo emerges as an impulsive, terribly youthful adolescent. In fact. one might say that they boy has a problem in controlling his need to become infatuated so easily.

Bonnie Sack's Juliet is a child-woman brimming with contradiction: a child who is sensual, a knowing adult who is recklessly innocent, a whimpering wisp capable of controlling seduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, Plain Dealer theater critic, Mr. Bill Doll.

Great Lakes Theater's 50th Anniversary Season production of Romeo and Juliet opens Saturday, April 14, 2012.

GLSF "Romeo and Juliet" 1976 program
The Plain Dealer