Tag Archives: theater
19 Jan

Guantánamo, again. The back-stage, behind-the-scenes gruesome theater of the US war on terror continues to cast its long dirty shadow.

This is a Harper’s article about the faking (as suicides) of the deaths prisoners who, it appears, were instead tortured then murdered by their US captors or interrogators. It’s well researched and argued and well worth reading.

Update on CHAT festival

7 Jan

The time’s approaching for the CHAT festival at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s been so much fun to write for this event, as part of the Virtual Performance Factory.. Like many playwrights, I’m well acquainted with “development hell” and this gig, by contrast, has always involved a guarantee that the thing will be taken into full production—in collaboration with Icarus, a commercial video game company (Fallen Earth producers).

The brief? To write a short script for live performance with audience interaction (no, Mildred, not the dreaded “audience participation” where people are hauled on stage before the rest of a seated audience for ritual humiliation–but a way of scripting for an interactive space where the audience become a part of the event). Also to include: virtual and video-game elements, which are being designed and produced by Icarus.

My piece involves a head-injured soldier who lives in a cardboard-box homeless village under a freeway, but steps through the “doors” of memory into another world–the world of remembered war-fare, modeled on an action video game. Continue reading

Playwrights on Writing – latimes.com

7 Jan

An interesting series of interviews with a wide range of contemporary playwrights, published in the LA times.
Playwrights on Writing – latimes.com.

I discovered this through The Loop Online, a free playwrights’ networking and information resource which is curated by the indefatigable Gary Garrison–Well worth joining for playwrights!

Aliens and the green ceiling

17 Jun

If you grew up here and have an American passport, you might not know this. But there are many, many people (such as me) living and working legally in the US on all kinds of visas, sometimes for decades, for whom the green card remains an elusive and arduous long term goal–especially since 9/11. The country isn’t just populated by “illegals” (a chilling word that turns an adjective into a noun/ person) and citizens / permanent residents. There’s a big gray zone out there teaching, practicing medicine, serving tacos, running businesses, repairing bicycles, writing plays and films…

In the theater, some of us write plays, have them produced in American theaters, and entertain/ engage American audiences. These plays are, arguably, part of the American theater. They are produced with American actors & directors & audiences. They are certainly part of a conversation between the writer and the country that stages their work. But the writers, without the elusive green card, cannot receive NEA money for “American” plays, or many other opportunities besides (Playwrights Horizons and many, many, new play development venues are for “American writers”). There is no “alien” minority slot.

Arena Stage has just announced a wonderful new commissioning and development program for “outstanding new American plays”. What makes these plays “American” however, is not their production, their collaborators, or their AUDIENCE–but the stamp in the passport of their writer. Continue reading

Umbrellas

13 Jun

Tadeusz Kantor and circus clowns are the poets of the umbrella. Kantor, who also wrote the wonderful sentence “Today’s theatre is impregnated with conformity,” has much to say about umbrellas. I can’t find my favorite quote right now, which is along the lines that umbrellas shelter an amazing range of human affairs (poverty, loneliness, indifference, poetry). But there’s this:

“The Idea of Journey”
“In my painting THE IDEA OF A JOURNEY has close thematic links to my whole output.
It is an idea of art. As a MENTAL JOURNEY, of the development of ideas, of discovering new areas of exploration.
From 1963 traveling accessories made their appearance in my pictures:
PARCELS (EMBALLAGES)
BAGS
SUITCASES
RUCKSACKS
FIGURES OF ETERNAL WANDERERS.”
Halczak, Anna. Tadeusz Kantor. Cricoteka. Cricot 2 . Kraków: Cricoteka 2002.

The umbrella is a ghost in this list, I think. . . a fragile, impermanent skeleton that wears its flesh in the rain, that’s only there for temporary shelter between wanderings, or along the way.

Anyway, tonight was the first meeting of my playwriting workshop at the Playwrights Foundation and umbrellas featured. I asked everyone to bring in an umbrella they’d found, begged or borrowed. We wrote scenes based on a “police report” initial encounter with the object, then used those descriptions to build characters based on the properties of each particular umbrella. From there, to a scene five minutes before and five minutes after the encounter with the umbrella.

Later: an argument over an umbrella (prompt for a scene) in which it becomes clear that the argument’s about more than the umbrella.

People wrote lovely and surprising things. I love this exercise because it’s a simple and vivid way to teach subtext, conflict, and scene shape.

Tomorrow we will work with string and found dialogue. I’m planning the whole workshop around objects as writing prompts. And I plan a secret event with the umbrellas (to do with making a space in which to write) but won’t post it til after tomorrow in case some of my students read this!