Saturday, March 27, 2021

Process XXII

I love being back in school. Last week in craft and theory we were view a German New Cinema film. My parents took me to foreign films. As a child. Some of them might be considered inappropriate for a nine year old boy. But these were amazing films. 

My brothers love movies and I was exposed to those. And I met friends in college who also loved non-Hollywood films, sophomore year we lived in the same building and it was like every night was a mini-film festival, between cable and their eclectic VHS collections.  

I tried taking a graduate level course when I was twenty-five, but I failed. I dropped out of the course. I have no idea what was going on in my mind that I thought I should do that. I should ask my ex-wife. I must have had some idea. 

I have always had big plans and bigger doubts. I hate talking a big game and then realizing I had no business being in it. I was engaged in creating a new theater company, wasn’t that enough?

And yet, of course, I should have done this earlier in my life, when it would have been a set towards a larger today, but when exactly would I have done that? Every time I thought of going to “grad school” I started a new theater company instead. And that seemed to be the appropriate thing to do at the time.

So, this is it. What is, is. This is the time, this was always going to be the time. There is no other time than this.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Process XXI

"You know how you call a guy whose wife died a widower? Or, if your parents die, you're an orphan. You know, there's no word for someone whose kids die. Because it's like the worst thing that can happen." - "Falcon & The Winter Soldier" 3/19/2021
Yep, that was part of our Friday night TV viewing. We actually laughed.

The comic book I am creating will require no fewer than eight pages. I am taking a short play I wrote a few years back, and adapting it into the comic. Each short scene from the play will take one page. 

What this means is I need to edit a scene, which may take five to ten minutes in performance, and bring it down to fifteen panels. Subtlety gets thrown out the window.

Which is fine. But the strip I meant to have completed by last Saturday night is dicey, a lot happens, and it delves into some issues for the characters … I found it very difficult to distill in this way.

I’m still feeling overwhelmed, or maybe just whelmed, you know?

Wednesday afternoon my wife and I received our first dose of vaccine. I did not cry, though I might have, I was texting a colleague who was anxious about doing so themselves. I was helping to ease their anxiety.

If I wasn’t striving to ease someone’s anxiety every day of this pandemic, I might have cried all through that, instead, too.

Are we on our way out? Is this the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end? It is hard to lament a lost year when I have been so creatively active: productions in Cleveland, California, Chennai, writing a full-length play, a one-act play, a ten-minute play adapted into a screenplay for production.

But that’s just me. I lament what my daughter has lost, her senior year spent at home. Such a social and active young woman, confined to the strict conditions of the COVID-19 Pandemic. What she’s been through may define the rest of her life.

But so. I have drafted another page. Moving forward. Happy first day of spring.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Twenty Years On

William Sidman
"The Dead Sparrow" (1890s)
The events of March 19, 2001 are so close in my memory that it is difficult to believe that everything else has happened since.

Who was I, twenty years ago? A 32 year-old man, not exactly young, certainly younger than this. I had no steady employment, had none for almost three years. Managed a theater project. I had no children.

Twenty years ago I smoked cigarettes, every day. I drank beer and wine, but small liquor. I watched television from tapes, got my news from papers. Agonized at length over what the critics said, not just about my work, but about everyone else’s work.

I hated critics. I used to care about critics.

My concerns were narrowly focused. I was selfish, and took joy in that selfishness in so much as it meant I could concentrate on the two most important people in my universe, my wife and me.

I thought of myself as a writer, but I did not write. I had written one produced play - I had written one play, and had it produced. I contributed small pieces to other shows. But I did not write. I kept journal entries. I wrote about me.

I had no experience with children. I knew no children. I was terrified of children.

My experiences in education were poor. I did not possess a twenty year history with one company, I had not visited scores of schools. I did not know how to create a lesson plan. I knew very few people with children.

I had little patience. I had little compassion. I was not kind to people. My interests were small, I wanted to reach outside of this but I did not know how.

I had an illusion of the future. I had no vision for the theater company I was shepherding, no artistic philosophy of which I was confident. I was blithely ignorant of my place in the larger society.

And I did not know how a child would be part of this. We were in our thirties. If we were going to have a child (only one child) this was the time to have it.

Why? I did not know. Why did I want a child? I did not know. How did I imagine a child to be part of all of this? I did not know.

Everything I think, everything I know, everything I want. Everything I am part of. Every emotion I have. Every expectation of every morning. My awareness, my understanding, my self, my love, my happiness, my hope, my belief in the future. Me. I was born, the person I have become, whoever he is, started on that day, the day I learned my child was dead.

"I Hate This (a play without the baby)" is available at Amazon as paperback or ebook.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

"What Happened" in Performance

Karthik TMK
This, from a review in in August 2004.
"As a play, I don't know ['I Hate This (a play without the baby)'] would work on its own, with an actor other than Hansen performing it, but maybe that is the nature of the autobiographical, non-fiction, one-person-show genre."
Two others have performed the entire script, as a reading in Manchester, England and as an undergraduate thesis in upstate New York.

Last Saturday, March 6, the play received a unique production (under the alternate title What Happened) in Chennai, India, directed by Denver Anthony Nicholas. For the first time the roles were divided between two performers, Karthik TMK and Mrittika Chatterje.

It was, by all accounts, a remarkable production. There were two performances on a single day, and each were sold out. 

Mrittika Chatterjee
Many of the local theater community was in attendance, showing support for the first live play in the area for over a year. The matinee crowd was younger, and less emotional about the subject matter, which could be expected. The evening crowd was older, and much more affected by the work, many openly sobbing at the end.

I was particularly touched to learn how emotional folks became when Mrittika recited the letter from “Becky” near the close of the show. Performed by a woman I can see how much more sympathetic she would appear, more sympathetic than when, for example, a man would perform it, as I traditionally have.

On further reflection, that review may have gotten it entirely wrong, and I may have as well. This piece may work much more effectively when it is interpreted by someone other than myself.

Which is exactly what someone new will be doing very soon.

"I Hate This (a play without the baby)" is available at Amazon as paperback or ebook.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Process XX

In the middle of the week, Wednesday around noon, Tim and I were about to teach a class. I was “subbing” I guess, he had been working with the class all week, I was stepping in for a couple days.

He asked me how things were going, the way you do, and I couldn’t even speak. I could barely create a coherent thought. I was about to teach a class. I have been reading scripts, I have been writing. I have been reading comics, I have been drawing comics. I have been writing text for one job, I have been writing text for the other job.

I have had classes, I have done housework, I have been trying to get out and run during the good weather even though I pulled a muscle in my calf. I have been dreaming the deep dreams, and I have also had a series of headaches that have interrupted my sleep.

One of the universities I attend had Spring Break this week, so I had one thing I didn’t need to deal with. 

I was supposed to sub Friday, too. I forgot to show up.

There is also the let-down from no longer having a show in production. The thing about Zoom plays, once you close your laptop it’s like they never happened. No programs, no ticket stubs, no memories of after-show talks in the lobby, no hugs.

But I do have a lovely little flowerpot my director presented me with, as a gift. I need to find something happy to grow in it.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Process XIX

Homework companions.
The annual new play festival will be different this year, of course. We have all written ten-minute plays to be produced for video. So it’s really a short film festival, which is an education in that I have never written a screenplay before, not even a short one.

There are rules, however, and by that I mean legal safety guidelines. Adapted from my ten-minute play The Children Who Played at Slaughter, I have been through several drafts making the thing even filmable. The cast size needed to be brought down from six to four, their ages needed to be changed (we can’t safely work with children) and several instances where the actors would come into contact needed to be rethought, if not eliminated.

Then the director and my advisor had a brilliant idea: What did I think of animation? I love animation! For my latest draft I was able to restore the original ages for the characters, and the original setting (it had moved from a municipal dump to a firepit in the woods) but I also kept many of the other changes from the re-writes which made it a tighter, nastier piece of work.

You gotta say yes, you know?

Meanwhile, I finally got out onto the road to time out my twenty minute quarantine play. The assignment is to create a play script which could be produced under current conditions of public safety. I plan to write a script which can be performed uninterrupted via Facebook live. So, I needed to see how much time it would take to get from point A to point B ... and C and D and so on.

It’s the first time I have gone running on my own since January, and hey guess what, I pulled a muscle in my calf. But not before I timed out the distances for the play. 
  • 00:00 Scene begins at Monticello & Taylor
  • 03:15 Near-accident at Mt. Vernon Road
  • 07:00 Enter the park at Forest Hill Blvd. and Lee
  • 11:00 Enter the woods
  • 12:15 Encounter at path diversion
  • 13:30 The Bridge
Which leaves some six minutes for this scenario to play out. Bags of time. So far I am thinking of five actors, the runner, the girl, the bicycle rider, the guy in the boat house, and the old man. In practice it would also require a support team, to provide security and assistance -- and light.

My wife asked me, do you need to film this or just write it? I just need to write it. But I’d love to make it happen some time this summer.