Another quick update

I’m skyping into the rehearsal for The Briars at UC Davis at this exact moment, and I’m having a friggin blast.

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Page for The Briars: Screenshot (5)

 

Also, I uploaded the newest draft of Small Steps on the New Play Exchange

More info coming soon on SS.

Screenshot (4)

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September Update

I’ve tried to hide away to write my play for the high school students. One thing I notice about being a writer is I only get the most important things and the least important things done when I’m under deadline.

  • Bathing – check
  • Eating – check
  • Grocery shopping – not check
  • Steam cleaning the rugs – check
  • Responding to Mom – not check
  • Updating website – not check
  • Figuring out car insurance before the deadline – not check
  • Figuring out car insurance on the deadline – check
  • Dish-washing – check
  • Emailing a playwright about his work with teens – not check
  • Shaving when I’m going to see people I need to impress – not check
  • Shaving when I’m not going to see people for two days – check
  • Floors sweeping – check
  • Heartburn medication purchasing – not check
  • Lessons planning – check

And so on.

Next week, I’ll be in Davis at the Ground and Field Festival, working on The Briars.

I’ve been trying to Skype into rehearsals when possible.

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If you’re in the area, come on out – next Friday and Saturday (we’re Program B)

Working as a playwright at UC Davis has been a quiet dream I’ve had for many years.  I’ve been explicit about my mission – to be the best damn writer and teacher I can be, and to have a career that allows me to return home to work without having to live there. And so developing a play with folks at UCD is right smack in the center of that goal.

More news soon.

As for that play I’m distracting myself from, well, it’s a tough-as-nails play to write. It stabs. The elevator pitch is, “There’s a group of teenagers in a town getting catfished by a demon.” So, yeah.

Now, B, back to work.

 

 

August Updates

The JAW Festival was magical for this emerging playwright. I worked with a fabulous director, electric cast, and professional team. I thought I’d be taking an axe to Small Steps, but ended up worrying it with a scalpel, whittling it hour after hour, often in the cafe of Powell’s book or the hotel lobby.

Act II of Small Steps requires a kind of theatricality my other plays do not. As Skip sails to Mars in his ship Atlantis, he is without gravity. To make this part of our reading, we included a scene or two like this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXEnuQBlQFM/?taken-by=uniqueid

I followed this with a trip to Chicago, a city of thin brick buildings and wooden fire escapes and surprising homages to Austin.

My first time. Sans vehicle, I relied on the subway. You do give yourself to a big city, don’t you? Can’t escape a big city.

Everywhere I went this summer, I met with the lovely folks that make TheatreWorld their home. From a playwright for teens to the lit managers of major theatres, there are so many wonderful theatrecreatures out there.

**

About Small Steps 

I once asked Doug Wright, “What advice do you have for a playwright at this stage (in my career)?” Gracious Doug Wright told me, to paraphrase words that my brain copied inexactly, “Don’t worry about getting an agent. The blank page is the scariest thing. Focus on the blank page. Write a play with the humor of the funniest joke you know, the heart of a love poem, and the urgency of a suicide note.” He admitted that he’d said this before. Playwrights rehearse, after all. I found a few versions of this, but the quote from this article stands out. 

He says:

We write to save our own lives: to render tomorrow less terrifying, to assure ourselves that we are not alone. The best plays, I think, have all the ardor and passion of a love poem, and all the unresolved pain of a suicide note.

Small Steps is my attempt at this. The comedy is built out of jokes that I find funny. (GUY ON APP THAT’S BASED ON GRINDR: What are you looking for? SKIP: Genuine human connection. GUY ON APP: *Blocked.) It is, in fact, a love note for someone, a sliver of an inconvenient heartache. And it’s about Skip’s desire to do something great before he dies, to write his name in the book of history – an ache I share. I follow Caitlyn Doughty who runs the Order of the Good Death, and she postulates that our culture generates from the fear of death; we build monuments to ourselves in the form of having children, of writing books, of making things. This is my trip to Mars.

***

News:

The Briars will be developed at UC Davis’s Ground and Field Theatre Festival. Info forthcoming.

 

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