Portland adventure begins…

Heading to Portland tomorrow for the JAW Festival.

Sometimes, writing feels like trying to make sand castles for a living. There’s a tip jar on the beach, and I’m hoping someone puts money into the tip jar and maybe asks me to make a sand castle for them, and there are lots of people around making sand castles, and if you’re lucky people will take pictures of your castle or at least stop to look at it before it disappears into the ocean.

“Look here,” I say, to passers by on the beach. “I built it for you.”

Tomorrow, I get to work on a sandcastle with a group of folks. I’m so lucky.

See you in Portland

Dun dun

Dun dun

Dun dun

JAW!

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The JAW Festival is a preparin’, and here I am scrambling to finish all the submissions for things that have deadlines looming before August. I’m at war with some gnarly sciatica, too.

Don’t neglect your core exercises, kids, and always use lumbar support. That shit will come and bite you in the lower back.

The director is this cat: Scott Ebersold, who recently directed this musical. So that’s wicked. The day I first chatted with him, my roommate talked about an upcoming project with Scott’s collaborator, because theatre world is tiny.

Here’s some screenshots of JAW’s website, so I can keep them in my digital memory book:

 

In the meantime, this anti-gay motherfucker is posting shit about going to Mars, which is messing with my head…

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And not just because he used the word “reorient” when referencing making the space program abut humans more than machines, but also because he is making the story of Mars much more present.

Do I factor this into the play?

I’m selfish. I want Mars.

Oh god, and there’s more:

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That’s the cray-cray Mike Pence we know and love.

The final installment of my blog series on last year’s [a different] Romeo & Juliet is now live. Read it here. 

There are some fightin’ words:

We did not publicize this show to the locals because we anticipated blowback, and we felt that would be unfair to the students, who already had to decide whether to “out” the play to relatives. Would my (progressive Austin) community have come if we’d drawn criticism? I’ve seen bad plays get awards because they pissed off conservatives. Why is the liberal impulse only to show up where conservatives have started fires?

Worse, was this turnout because theatre performed by teens is not seen as legitimate, or interesting art? How can I prove to you that theatre made by teens can be amazing if you don’t give it the chance?

I wrote this article before conservatives started to attack The Public for their depiction of a Trump-like Julius Ceasar. And, despite my antipathy toward Bardolatry, and my own desire for Theatreworld to take a break from producing Shakespeare for year or two, I’m glad that we’re rallying to the defense of The Public.

**

Spent the last week visiting the land of fairy tales and food, revising The Twelve Huntsmen. It’s a massive play, a huge feat to produce, and the kind that needs proof-of-concept (and collaboration) for its first full production.

Much more info will be forthcoming, but I will say that the details are coming together for the JAW Festival.  

May Update-ish

May is drawing to a close, and I’m in Davis, CA, to see a production of my The Jungle Book the high school company Acme Theatre is producing in the park.

I’m screenshot-ing their website to preserve the teen-designed marketing imagery they’re using.

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I scrambled to make it out to California after the Skybridge graduation, but here I am, bearing (ha!) witness to the awesome fact that you can make art with young people.

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It’s a bare-bones production on a hillside, and in a small town, it’s bringing out hundreds of families, many with small children.

I took this picture about a half hour before the show started.

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Here’s the review from the local paper: http://www.davisenterprise.com/arts/jungle-book-a-delight-to-kids-of-all-ages/

The play touts an overt environmentalist message – Mowgli finds that his beloved countryside has been destroyed.  I’m not subtle, and I should be criticized for making something obnoxiously agitprop, but I felt such noisy commentary would hide the stealth project. The play is also about someone struggling to find his place in a series of communities that are not for him. I’m queer. That’s my life. And it’s the life of many queer teens.

Consider this: all of those parents and their kids on that hillside saw a queer piece of theatre. And that’s just cool.

I’ve become a preacher for the idea that Theatre-for-Teens should be treated with the legitimacy we offer to theatre for mature audiences.  I’ve struggled to get my Austin community to see my work for teens, and so I’ve had to refine my thoughts on the matter, and can go on at length about this (and, God-willing, an essay I wrote for Howlround will eventually come out about it). Theatre-for-Teens, when not treated as a legitimate art form, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The results are bloodless rehashing of tired canonized plays OR lazy new crap.

But there’s hope. Thanks to the success of YA novels like Harry Potter and the Twilight series, YA fiction has been recognized as legit for years, and teens have defined popular music for generations, so I believe that Theatre-for-Teens will take a turn, and specifically queer theatre for teens, as teens more and more recognize the normality of the queer experience.

And here’s a shameless plug: buy the book version here

**

Speaking of new plays for teens, a week ago I put up The Untitled Pirate Play with my middle school students.

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While [a different] Romeo & Juliet remains the most risk-taking play I’ve written, as it was a gay adaptation of RJ with two twelve-year-old boys playing the leads, The Untitled Pirate Play brought my department to the level of production values I’ve wanted for three years. I could go on at length about my students, but I try to avoid commenting on them here too often; suffice it to say, they fucking killed it.

And it’s hella fun.

Synopsis:

Carl, who lives in his parents’ basement, wants adventure! And so he stows away aboard the USPS Hubris, a ship owned by Captain Winterford Greenery III. Greenery has a mission – rescue a herd of corgis gifted to him by her majesty the Queen from a band of pirates that have taken over a merchant vessel. He is joined by his first mate Cankle and a crew of sailors, all named “Jim.” These Jims are not what they seem – they are a pirates, led by the fearsome Captain No Beard…

As the play goes on, Greenery loses his ship to the pirates and stumbles onto a secondary story involving a wandering island and creature named Caliban. Meanwhile, No Beard goes mad with power, killing most of his sailors.

I’ll be making a page for this play when I decide whether or not I retitle it. The Untitled Pirate Play fits it well, as it’s essentially an intentional mishmash of pirate tropes, but I may want to see what other stories Carl has in store, in which case something with the titular weight of the Junie B. Jones’ series would make more sense.

***

A message to graduates

Dear Graduates,

Cultivate yourself.

Stay single as long as you can. It’s harder to be single than partnered, as any single person who catches a cold or needs a ride to the airport can tell you, but the easy road is likely to lead to a boring life. Go on adventures. Figure out what you like, what you believe, what will fuel you, and how you can participate in your community. Volunteer for shit. Think big thoughts. Make things. Make mistakes – don’t do anything you can’t undo, but don’t be afraid of catching cold by dancing in the rain. Never settle. Beyond all else, don’t become a “we” until there’s a recognizable “you.” I’ve seen my friends lose themselves in others. Or rather, I’ve experienced the disappearance of people from community, kidnapped by the comfort of boredom, anesthetized by television and video games. But the benefits of being single are not small; I’ve been blessed with the abilities to develop my passions, to live my values and chase things that I think should be chased. Cultivate yourself. Cultivate yourself. Fight for beauty. Now live.

Yours,

B

On Rejection…

Here is what I don’t post on this website:

I always have a stack of rejection letters that far outpaces the acceptances. And I know this is true of many writers – even successful ones. In some cases, the success is built on luck, and even less frequently, on talent. But for many, there’s a big ol’ stack of rejections they’ve built their collection of “Yes’s” upon. I fantasize about that moment where the stacks will be less lopsided.

And I think we need to say it. Because otherwise we only post the success, and create the imaginary, and contribute to the feeling of isolation we feel when we only see our peers’ happiness on social media. 

***

Oh, and they’re shipping out the new Dramatist. I wrote a short thing in it.

April Update, but in May

So close to not failing my New Year’s resolution. If I find the time, I’ll post up more extensive updates.

The update:

  • Dogfuckers in Houston at Queensbury was fabulous. It’s a beautiful theatre, I met some lovely people, and I hope to have a greater relationship with the company.

 

 

  • The Untitled Pirate Play, which I wrote for my junior high students, is coming up.

 

 

One last thing: I’m now officially represented by Bret Adam’s LTD. 

April was a great month.

March Update II

Los Moreno by Mercedes Floresias was selected by the 50PP as one of the best unproduced Latin@ plays. https://50playwrights.org/the-50pp-list/50pps-best-unproduced-latin-plays-2017/

This is a play for which I’m dramaturg, contracted by ScriptWorks and Teatro Vivo. I’ve been working with Mercedes, and the play is delightful. It’s incredibly hard to cast – a perfect cast would be trilingual (English, Spanish, ASL), with a variety of ages and identities – but to whichever company makes it happen, it will be worth it.

**

Sunday, I’m going to be Houston for the reading of Dogfuckers. 

(7pm if you can make it)

I’m also doing a writing workshop that afternoon on space and place and its role in generating playwriting — affectionately secretly titled F*ck the New York Apartment.

For years, when I was Lit Manager for Barnyard Theatre, I read play after play set in the old NY apartment; when I started playwriting in earnest, I started in resistance to these settings…

Trainwhistles = my version of the bedroom breakup scene (two gay runaway teens near the train tracks, sleeping on a rusted sofa).

Game = set in a grungy laundromat, in opposition to the plays set in sparkling cafes…

Even Dogfuckers is set on the porch and the interior of a house that is very much not a living room apartment…

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