Sunday, October 30, 2022

Response to "I Hate This: A Play Without the Baby"

Photo by Cody York
Over the past two weeks, over six hundred people visited the Playhouse Square website to view the film adaptation of I Hate This: A Play Without the Baby, performed by James Rankin, directed by Chennelle Bryant-Harris and filmed by Ananias J. Dixon.

Here are some heartfelt responses the film received, shared with permission.

Via Instagram:
Paul: Your play was powerful. At times I struggled watching it because I could so closely connect to it. Our experiences with stillbirth were almost identical. 

My son Noah was born still 2/2/18 and every detail of that day is burned into my memory, & it forever will be. You experience a wave of every emotion imaginable, and it's difficult to talk to others about those emotions if they haven't experience the same trauma. 

Everything you detailed in your play, from the shock of them telling you they can't find a heart beat, to the memorial service you held, to trying to remove your wife from any trigger (like formula fliers coming in the mail) are the same things I experienced as a husband & father. 

It's been a challenging 4.5 years without Noah. I have his name tattooed on my forearm because I can't physically see him every day but never want to forget. That's all I want from others is to never forget our boy. I appreciate your willingness to share your own experience so beautifully.
Via Facebook:
Lynna: I have seen David perform it years ago and heard the radio version, but it is such a heartbreakingly beautiful play and so worth watching this iteration, performed so wonderfully by James Rankin.

Sarah: This play is such an important play. It's a deep and raw story that David found a way to shape and share with us. 

In this particular point in time of the reversal of Roe vs Wade, this play is even more important. This play, now a film, I cannot emphasize enough that folks should see it if they are able to.
Via email:
Bronwynn: A sensitive, real, multi-dimensional performance ... I love the play's theatricality mixed with realism. By getting glimpses of the couple moving forward for a year beyond their loss, it makes it possible for the audience to endure the experience of their loss. Bravo.

I am so grateful to have had this experience this month, and the to have chance once again tell our story. Many thanks to everyone involved.

Today is the final day of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and tomorrow the link will no longer be available through the Playhouse Square site. Please reach out to me directly if you would like to arrange a viewing for your hospital, clinic or bereavement support group.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Process LXXV

We voted. OKAY?
I was telling someone the other day that my stress level had dropped considerably since we had last communicated a few weeks ago. Then, thinking about it, I realized that is not true.

Just because I do not feel fucking insane does not mean I am not anxious. And there is a lot to be anxious about. We voted on Wednesday, which was cool, that we can still do that. Vote early, I mean. As a white man in America my ability to vote has always been guaranteed.

See? And like that, I am in a spiral of insecurity and doubt about the state of the nation. I weighed the pros and cons of leaving Twitter and it’s not even close. I am hoping that will bring down my stress level, which is, I realize, actually high.

We are negotiating issues regarding my thesis production.

I am waiting by the mail for certified copies of vital certificates.

Yesterday was the deadline for the A Christmas Carol Writing Contest and so I had a lot of data to process and deliver.

"The Thin Place"
by Lucas Hnath
(Dobama Theatre, 2022)
I have this crazy idea that I might have a draft of my Roe/Dobbs play prepared by the end of the weekend.

(If we were still living in the aughts I would name that play Roe/Dobbs, didn’t all plays have a slash mark in their title for a while?)

Creative nonfiction workshop went well, only now that the season has turned I am driving home in the dark and I hate that. The vision in my left eye is blurry and night driving has become fraught.

Friday night I watched a play. The Thin Place at Dobama Theatre. It reminded me that the best thing I can contribute to the art of theater is my attendance.

And that's it, for the week. Okay? Okay.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Leaving Twitter

So I decided to delete my Twitter account. 

I have taken this step not without a little anxiety. I have gotten used to communicating with a wide variety of wonderful people I have never met in person, in some cases may never meet, on a daily basis.

I have also offended a great many people that I didn’t even mean to. Because of Twitter.

Thirteen years of my life are chronicled on Twitter.

But are they? It’s mostly trivia, promotions and shitposting. My children’s photos aren’t there, my plays aren’t there.

My more complicated thoughts aren’t there — some of those are here, though, on this blog. I'm keeping this blog.

Have I made a single dime from Twitter? Advanced my career? Has anyone produced my work because I posted about it on Twitter? I don’t think so.

Lin-Manuel Miranda liked this one.
Twitter aggravates me. Unwelcome posts by horrible people aggravate me. I don’t need to be made aware of their daily nonsense. Their power to irk me lowers my resolve. It makes me lose hope. Tell me what else Twitter does for me can possibly balance that out.

Now that an authoritarian-curious cartoon villain billionaire dingbat has purchased the company, what can I do but absent myself, and hope that others follow.

Let you in on a secret. I bought stock when it went public. To see what might happen. Nothing did. Hung onto it until I might dump it at an appropriate moment, and that moment was yesterday. Made a little cash, but not much.

Anyway, I’m nervous. And excited. It’s like kicking a bad habit. It is kicking a bad habit.

You can find me here.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Hamlet by Jack Kerouac - or - You Crazy Dane

Professor Street Theater
Guerrilla Theater Company opened the doors at the Professor Street Theater thirty years ago today, on Friday, October 23, 1992. Our production was called You Have the Right to Remain Silent! which was fashioned as a game show, with the audience playing games to select from a list of titles which of twenty-one short plays we would perform next.

If that sounds like the Neo-Futurists, you're not wrong. Anyone performing short plays in a random order could be accused of the same, but the plays were original, and so were we.

That night we actually recorded the show on cassette tape. The performance sounds a bit rough, but it was opening night and I am still amazed we got through it. We were so young, and callow.

The show started with two plays, back-to-back, about toxic masculinity. Like, they both feature men shouting horrible things at women. Makes me wonder if some members of the audience were concerned about what they’d gotten themselves into.

Then there’s Hamlet by Jack Kerouac, which some might have heard before, even if they’d never been to Guerrilla, as I cannibalized the entire piece for These Are the Times. It’s one of two pieces I had written which were in the half of the performance that was recorded. It’s just the kind of cerebral drollery you might expect from a theatrical hipster.

The less said about the other piece I had written, the better. Let’s just say the propensity for young Cleveland actors to complain about their being shut out of local professional theater companies is nothing recent.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Process LXXIV

Good news! The screening was a success, and Playhouse Square and University Hospitals also have made streaming I Hate This: A Play Without the Baby available for free through the end of the month. Over four hundred viewers have seen it in just five days, and I hope to make it available to others in the future.

Interviews for workshop are winding down, which is good. I never intended the play to be just a series of individual monologues, I want to find common themes and even similar phrasing to braid them together into a chorus.

“Braided narrative.” That’s a term I learned in craft and theory last week. I Hate This is a braided narrative. It always has been.

And I need to continue plotting my adaptation. Let me rephrase that, I need to begin plotting my narrative.

This week I also enrolled for next semester, my last semester of grad school. What a remarkable feeling. Four months from now my thesis production will be in the rearview and really, that’s it. I don’t want to get too maudlin about this, but it truly has been enjoyable. How would I have survived the shutdown without it?

I have a little under three weeks to complete the first draft of my creative writing essay. I could expand that thing into a book. Or better yet, a play. Really. I like writing plays.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Process LXXIII

Read all the way to the bottom for a special video announcement.

Is transcribing an interview writing? Is editing a transcribed interview creative writing? Is it not simply reiterating what was said? To date I have conducted fifteen interviews on the subject of women’s reproductive rights, spoken to a variety of women on the subject. 

And now I, one not born with a uterus, will edit these conversations into a play for performance on a stage.

Is this writing? And do I have the right to do this? Is it appropriate for me to compose a work on the subject of abortion when it does not affect me directly.

Of course, it does affect me directly. It affects members of my family and so it affects me. But it does not affect my physical person. Me, I am not threatened by this particular violation of civil rights, the right to bodily autonomy.

However, if I put forth the words of those who are – not my words, theirs – am I not doing right by them?

Workshop met in person on Monday night at a local tavern and before class started we spent about a half-hour, the three of us shooting the shit about David Mamet and August Wilson and ill-fated adaptations and whether or not a playwright should give any consideration at all to how some future director interprets their script I realized, “Oh! This is the class!”

We did read and received comments on the monologues we have created, and it does appear that progress is being made.

Also this week, I began to dig into the attic for my creative nonfiction project, reading letters my grandparents sent to each other during the early thirties, when my grandfather was a commercial sailor on the Great Lakes. Grandmother reported the several miscarriages she suffered during that time while he waxed poetic about the lakes and the many cities where they made port: Lorain, Detroit, Chicago, Duluth.

Reading my grandmother describe in details the physical manifestations of her losses, the week I Hate This premieres at Playhouse Square, and also conducting these many interviews about pregnancy and abortion have been overwhelming.

For example, before class on Thursday I was on my way across town and decided to stop in at an abandoned cemetery, seeking the grave of a child who lived an hour. Yes, I did.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

I Hate This (playlist)

When the time came to create the original music for the original 2003 stage production of I Hate This, I gave composer Dennis Yurich a CD with everything I had going on in my head. These are songs that just made sense at the time, some that have associations that pre-date Calvin's birth, and some that don't.

Perhaps I should explain. "CD" stands for "compact disc" an easily-damaged cache for digitally recorded music. 

You're welcome.

The themes Dennis created have been incorporated into the film adaptation that will screen on Saturday, October 15 at Playhouse Square. Here is a playlist of the songs included on that CD I shared with him.

Hospital Themes

For all themes taking place in the hospital, I wanted electronic music. Something suggesting a fast heartbeat.

1. Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead - "Kid A"
2. Idioteque by Radiohead - "Kid A"
3. Blame by Everything But the Girl - "Temperamental"
4. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box by Radiohead - Amnesiac"

Released in 2000, I listened to Kid A a lot when driving back and forth from Tri-C during Bad Epitaph's production of Cloud 9. That was when Toni was first pregnant.

"Blame" is included for obvious reasons. Temperamental was released in 1999.

During FringeNYC 2001 there was a coffee house in Harris's neighborhood that I visited every morning. It seemed like all they played were Radiohead albums, each day a different Radiohead album. The Amnesiac track was also on a mix that a co-worker played for me in New Knoxville that fall.

Kid A is also the pre-show music I prefer when I perform I Hate This on stage. It brings me back to that time.

Brazilian Guitar Themes

5. August Day Song Bebel Gilberto - "Tanto Tempo"
6. August Day Song (King Britt remix) Bebel Gilberto - "Tanto Tempo Remixes"
7. Fragile Sting - "Nothing Like the Sun"
8. Fragil Sting - "Nada Como El Sol ..."

Photo by Cody York
I was washing dishes on a night in December, 2001 at the aforementioned housing in West Central Ohio, listening to that guy's mix CD, and was caught off-guard by King Britt remix of Bebel Gilberto's "August Day Song." 

I knew the tune, but couldn't place it. Toni had actually gotten me the original Tanto Tempo disc when it was released in 2000, but I hadn't listened to it that much at the time.

The Sting tracks were played at the memorial we held in late May. I like the Portuguese version because sometimes it's good not to hear certain things in English.

Those 70s Themes

9. Three Is a Magic Number by Bob Dorough - "Schoolhouse Rock"
10. Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold - "What's Wrong With This Picture"
11. Cat's In The Cradle by Harry Chapin - "Verities and Balderdash"

Thoughtless hold-music from a certain baby food company. A gag employed often on The Simpsons. We used them in the stage version, but not in the film. Theses ditties in particular were chosen because of their resonance with someone who may have been a small boy between the years of 1974 and 1976.

Music for Crying Out Loud

12. Gymnopedie No 1/Var.1 by Jacques Loussier Trio - "Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes"
13. Gymnopedie No 1/Var.3 by Jacques Loussier Trio - "Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes"
14. Gnossienne No 6 by Jacques Loussier Trio - "Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes"
15. Tales from the Far Side by Bill Frisell - "Bill Frisell Quartet"
16. Gutaris Breeze (6000km To Amsterdam) by John Beltram - "Late Night Beats: the Post-Club Sound of Britain"

Discovered in a shower around 4 am in late 1998 (yes, I heard it on NPR) the Loussier themes were among those that carried me through that bizarre depression I had in early 1999. Odd, that, because 1999 was one of the most fruitful and adventurous years of my life. The other pieces are also discoveries I made that year.

The Frisell track figured heavily on the Last Words episode of This American Life, which remains my favorite episode ever.

The Jacques Loussier album was used as pre-show music for the original staged reading at Dobama in August, 2002. Though no more depressing than listening to Kid A before a show (how many people hear the pre-show music, think "uh-oh" and leave?) the Satie themes are too gentle. I wanted a sense of unease to hit people as they came in, not the sense they were about to see a staged performance of something soft and sentimental.

-- Happy Families XTC - "She's Having a Baby"

Have you got Miss Carriage? 
She's the girl who wants a baby that she cannot find. 
Strange, the ones who want to win the race 
Are usually the ones who fall behind.

A British card game for kids. Sometimes you don't even care what the lyrics of certain songs mean until they start making sense. Currently unavailable on Spotify, you can listen to it here.

17. Kang Mandor by Degung Orchestra - "Putumayo Presents: Music From the Tea Lands"

Finally, there is Kang Mandor. I make reference to it in the scene "the Dream" and the very first time I heard it, in April, 2001, I just wept. It so entirely captured my imaginary summer of 2001, the summer I was going to have with my first-born child, the one I had not allowed myself to daydream about, and yet, it was captured in that recording. I have shared this with very few people until today.

Playhouse Square presents the premiere of the video adaptation of "I Hate This (A Play Without the Baby)" by David Hansen, directed by Chennelle Bryant-Harris and performed by James Alexander Rankin, in the Westfield Studio Theatre on Saturday, October 15, 2022. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Process LXXII

Read all the way to the bottom for a special video announcement.

This past week has been pretty incredible, actually. I am stressed by the wide variety of dishes I am carrying at one time … but here I am, carrying them.

To date I have conducted eight interviews for my “interview play” but by the end of the weekend I will have four more in the bag, a grand total of twelve. And they’re good, too.

Actually, now that I think of it, I have already conducted nine interviews. The ninth one is me, telling my story to someone I was speaking to. While taking a run yesterday I realized what I had said, spontaneously, without thinking about it, might make a better framing device than anything I could have written off the top of my head.

Meanwhile, I have conducted eleven writing workshops in the past two weeks, with another six scheduled for next week. They're fun! They're exhausting.  

It is with a certain amount of relief and trepidation I can report I have completed the first major essay for my creative nonfiction class. To be frank, I was intimated by the work of my colleagues and it made bringing this home a much greater challenge than it should have been. But there it is, completed. My hands were literally shaking during my presentation.

The big work for that class is well underway, too. I’m sorry to be so vague about what the subject of these works actually are, it will all come out one way or another, eventually. I will say this; I am investigating unknown elements of my family history. The main lesson I have taken from this class is to follow the research where it leads you. And it has already led me into places I had not realized I could go.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Process LXXI

Read all the way to the bottom for a special video announcement.

So, we’re reading. We’re reading a lot. The playwriting workshop is freewheeling; there is no assigned reading, but by the end of every class, I have two or three books or plays I want or need to read. I was reading the novel Metropolis, now I’m reading a play which is contemporary to that novel, Machinal by Sadie Treadwell.

I am also plowing through small press histories of a certain maternity hospital.

Also, recording promotional videos for the premiere of the film adaptation I Hate This at Playhouse Square.

Finally (okay, not finally) providing writing workshops to Cleveland city schools.

It’s a lot.

I am scatterbrained, putting down one book to pick up another, setting that down to make a note in one notepad (or the other notepad) or to jot down thoughts that itch the back of my brain, to put them here. To remember I was feeling like this when I get to the end of the week and trying to recall what happened.

I have missed drinking during class. We’re almost done here so I can say this. Taking classes on Zoom means you can drink. I know I’m not alone in this.

Tell me I’m not alone in this.