448 Plays @ Theater Emory

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When Theater Emory contacted me to join a handful of other playwrights in Atlanta to write a play in 48 hours, I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t realize that they would want a full-length play.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I denied it, but I think I secretly hoped that was the requirement. I think I wanted to kick my own ass.

And that was how, a little more than a week ago, I was in Georgia. Atlanta. A city that defied my Californian imagination. Hills and massive trees and fireflies and history history history greeted me.

I joined three fabulous playwrights: Dana Lynn Formby, Bennett Fisher, and Jireh Holder. (I spent the week living with them; they are now dear, dear friends, and I recommend that anyone wanting to know what the world of theatre can be like, go check out their work.)

The source material: The Briarcliff Estate. More specifically, a dilapidated mansion built by an eccentric Coca Cola heir / developer. We’d collectively create a list of ingredients that we’d each add to our plays based on this material.

An introduction by a brilliant young preservationist — the kind of person who delights and astonishes, whom you’re glad the world has managed to create — introduced us to the estate, and then a dusty tour later… And we were off. 48 hours to write.

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48 hours later.

A new play: The Briars

10,000 words. A full-length

“Told from a chorus of Townsfolk, The Briars tells the story of the rise and fall of Buddy Briar, the city’s eccentric, whose quest for greatness swallows his desire to be loved by the city.”

A play I love, too. With some revision, I’ll post it on the New Play Exchange.

I’m glad I got my ass kicked.

***

I’m in Davis for a chunk of the summer. I’ll be helping with Barnyard Theatre as we produce Kate Tarker’s An Almanac for Farmers and Lovers in Mexico, a play pulled from The Kilroy’s. She’s heading off to The O’Neill, so I don’t suppose we’ll see her in the barn.

Incidentally, this means that we’ll have produced eight female playwrights to six male playwrights on our mainstage. This wasn’t out intention — we just wanted to produce awesome plays. There’s a surge of talented female playwrights coming of age right now, so when you don’t rely on the canon or established playwrights to fill your theatre, your season will look more like America.

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RJ on Howlround

The first in a three-part series on the RJ project just went live!

Read it here

I wrote it a few months ago. It takes some time to go from page to internet, so it’s set in February/March. The next one is April/May — not sure when it appears.

–B

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ROMEO & JULIET on its way…

“I am an independent white male!” declares Lord Catapult, Juliet’s father.

“NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME!” yelps Romeo.

“I hate plays! Someone should write a play about me. TYBALT! It will be a musical, and I’ll play all the parts. I can be angry — and enraged!” yells Tybalt.

“I know 17 gay people. I counted,” says Paris, a Paris Hilton-like figure.

An two twelve-year old boys playing Romeo and Juliet. Having elected to do it.

Yeah, this project will be different from pretty much anything that’s out there.

 

Alt Ed Austin invited me to write a bit about the process that is making this very different RJ a reality. Read it here

 

SN RJ

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RJ and Out of Ink

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Out of Ink, which included my ten-minute play Small Steps closed last night. This is my second time doing it, and I continue to be impressed with the organization. The ten-minute play festival starts with a bake-off in November, where playwrights scribble short things over a weekend. A handful are selected for production, and months later, we’re developing the pieces in rehearsal. And then it’s up for two weeks.

Small Steps opens with Skip Powers saying, “When I realized no one would ever love me, I volunteered to go to Mars. And those fuckers said, ‘Yes!'”

And that, essentially, is what the play is about. I’m working on expanding it to a full length.

Or rather, I will soon return to working on it. I’m in the heavy part of my project bringing the junior high / LGBT version of Romeo and Juliet to Skybridge Academy into life. Most of the words are mine or the students’ — we stole fewer than you’d think from The Bard, but it’s still a hefty play for middle school students.

SN RJ

I have an  article or two coming out soon that I’ll be sharing. Meditations on the process, you know, which has been quite special. I marvel at the fact that we’re not only doing a gay version of Romeo and Juliet with junior high students, but that the students made the choice to do this themselves. In some ways, this show will be like any other junior high show — kids will forget their lines and my blocking isn’t professional or anything — but in other ways, this will be unlike anything else out there.

Brave New World, you know.

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Fairy Tales and Food Part Deux

This week, Emily Henderson of Acme Theatre is in town. We’re working with UT’s Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities Program on a workshop for THE TWELVE HUNTSMEN (working title), culminating on Saturday. Some of my Skybridge students are involved.

Romeo and Juliet: Young and Star-Crossed is progressing. We’re all blocked. Most of them are off-book.

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New Play Exchange

My plays are available at the New Play Exchange

And here’s the image I’ve created for Very Best Coffee

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4+ W / 6+ M | 80 min

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Updates for March

In the last few months, I’ve neglected this website as I’ve been playmaking and writing. My tires need to be rotated and I need to find a new owner for the dilapidated Taurus gathering leaves in the side yard, but I’ve written six full length plays and half a dozen short things since graduating less than two years ago. Choices.

Having finished the draft of my current project, I can work on back burner projects, though, so here’s the update.

In December, my energy turned to the productions at Skybridge. First up was the high school’s production of Very Best Coffee, which lives in the kind of world where Women go to Crying Practice and the Men go to Football Rehearsal. Embedded in this play is a lesbian romance. At Skybridge, this doesn’t raise a single eyebrow.

A shot of tech week:

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Tech Week

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Design by student, Andy R-M

The play is for high school actors, but the audience consists of adults. That possibility, perhaps, is what distinguishes Theatre for Teens from Theatre for Young Audiences. TYA assumes that the audience is (primarily) young people, and thus serves to reflect their world; Theatre for Teens lives in the liminal space between childhood and adulthood, and can encounter more mature issues, and it can criticize adultworld.

Something to ponder.

I’ll create a project page in the next couple of weeks with more details on Very Best Coffee.

I also put up the junior high play, Deleted Scenes from Fairy Tales, which was a glorious disaster. A couple of the kids didn’t memorize their lines adequately, and the result was a mess of improvisation… but the play could handle these kinds of problems. When the students forgot a whole scene, I yelled from the back of the audience, “I WANT THE EVIL FAIRY SCENE!” and the parents didn’t realize that wasn’t part of the script.

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Design by student, Nick L

Next Up

My collaborator and I decided to shelve the ISIS play for now, mainly because our timeline for working together fits another project. This project is titled Small Steps. It’s a full-length play in which a young man, tired of internet dating, goes to Mars. A shorter version is going to be part of ScriptWorks’ Out of Ink Fest.

In April, I’ll be doing an intense developmental workshop on The 12 Huntsmen, the play Acme Theatre of Davis commissioned me to write last summer. We’re partnering with UT’s Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program for this.

Finally, the massive project I just finished writing is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, with a gay romance at its center. A queer adaptation of R&J is hardly revolutionary, I know. Every time I mention it, I’m given yet another title of a gay version, so, in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve seen bare.  What’s actually important is that this is for my middle school students.

My Romeo is an eleven-year-old boy; Juliet is a twelve-year-old boy. We’re not doing Original Practices with a boy in a dress representing heterosexuality. We are doing this in Texas, a place where a couple years ago, a number of schools kicked out a play about gay penguins (portrayed by adults).

What a brave new world.

Romeo and Juliet makes sense as an LGBTYA play. Their love is taboo, and it precipitates a running away situation and suicide, which both engage contemporary problems. (And this opens up a Pandora’s box of other issues, that I’ll explore in future posts as well.)

What makes me feel alive as an artist is the prospect of working in that space of the uncomfortable. That’s where something real happens. This is where we grow, where it’s more about art than craft. And the people you are working with and how you are working can become part of the art itself, as important as the words and performance.

And it makes me uncomfortable. And it may make the Cruz supporters of Dripping Springs uncomfortable as well…

More info forthcoming.

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