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

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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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March Update

 

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SHE GETS NAKED (reading) on the set of THE CHRISTIANS at SF Playhouse

The slow progress of the development process can feel like a curse. Not only because it means that some of us have to be patient as we scramble our way into the theatrical ‘pipeline,’ but also because the playwright and the world changes over the years. I wrote the first draft of She Gets Naked four years ago, and I’m in many ways a different person. The present moves past. 

I love commentary comedy. I love The Daily Show, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Colbert, and the others. Satire responds to the world of the moment. It is impatient. In contrast, the slow cooking of art means that it often must respond to a social condition rather a specific event.

She Gets Naked in the End involves homophobia that, at the time of the writing, was enshrined in American law. Since the writing, the laws changed, we can get married, and I wondered if this made the play dated. Certainly, the two women are experiencing a heavier level of internalized homophobia than external or structural — no-one ever howls ‘faggot’ or ‘dike’ at them, they are not prevented from adopting a kid or something — and the internal temporally transcends law, but a naive part of me thought the play would become more of a museum piece as the changing law reflected changing cultural mores.

As a playwright, I’m a better gauge as to how much a piece reflects what I wish to say and not how the audience eats the play, but I found myself saying at Monday’s reading, yes, this is what I want to say right now, these are my questions and concerns for right now.

It’s a terrible backwards gift, isn’t it? “Oh, yes, this is still what I want to say, even more so now. FUCK! WHY HASN’T THIS CHANGED?? This has only gotten worse.

Right now, all art is about Trump. He’s inescapable. He is the inappropriate use of power. He is the bloated embodiment of rape culture. He is the screaming pile of America’s racist garbage, of white anxiety, of of of…

I felt it when the lead character’s mother, a clearly downwardly mobile white southerner, screams that she is not white trash, she’s better than the latino characters, calling them ‘illegal.’

Every advance a man made on “she” felt nakedly about Trumps comments. “No one cares about ugly woman,” the mother says. She might as well be the president. The President judges women based on how big their breasts are.

At least a grab without consent results in a man getting his hand broken.

Yeah. There’s a gut check of a gift for a playwright. Guess, what, B, your play makes sense. The plays optimism about the future, that’s what’s misplaced… All art is about Trump right now, whether we like it or not, and this is about Trump.

What a weird backwards gift.

**

In other news, we’ve gotten the contracts in order, to the production of THE JUNGLE BOOK at Acme Theatre is moving forward!

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February Update

A couple good things to report:

She Gets Naked in the End will be read at SF Playhouse on March 6!

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Design by Emily Henderson

 

Info on tickets here

– o –

Dogfuckers or “the one with the dogs” will be read in Houston at the Queensbury Theatre.

Examine the image they made…

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The quotation marks are wonky, but I struggled to figure out those anyway… How many commas does the long version of the title have? God, I don’t know. If you’re just doing one title or the other, it’s easy.

Or, “the one with the dogs”

vs.

Dogfuckers

I don’t know.

If you’re in the area, come on out. I’ll be there. I may be teaching a workshop in Houston, too.

Info here

– o –

Rumor has it that my friends at Acme Theatre will be producing The Jungle Book this spring. I say “rumor” because it’s not on the website as we’re finalizing the legal deets.

– o –

Finally…

I’m almost finished with the performance draft of my play for junior high students. It’s a swashbuckling melodrama comedy that combines elements stolen from Moby DickTreasure Island, The Goonies, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Tempest.  I still haven’t found a friggin title that doesn’t make me want to throw things, so right now it’s The Untitled Pirate Play. 

This will be my tenth full-length play I’ve written since I graduated from UT less than three years ago.

You can tell I’ve been focused on writing it because I’ve achieved a high score on the Chrome dinosaur game that I play when I’m stuck…

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January Update

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, and so I vow that this New Year, I shall update every month.

Gentrification finally got to my block, and a nearly 50% rent hike broke up the Rainbow Confetti House in East Austin and swept me south of the river. I’m only now catching up with all of the lost work, including posting about my most recent show…

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In Two Truths and Lies, a group of teenagers reinvent themselves at a summer camp.

 

The impulse for this play was to have teenagers play teenagers in a realistic world. Each part would challenge each actor. I’d previously written Very Best Coffee and [a different] Romeo & Juliet and Nameless in the Desert for my teenage actors, and each of these has some element of theatricalism to the world. I knew that it was time to work with realism, and so I went about fashioning this world.

As the world of the summer camp emerged, it became clear that it was about the lies the kids were telling each other — and themselves. One kid pretends to be from England and that her brother is not her brother; another pretends to be the ghost of a kid’s dead brother. Summer camps frequently appropriate from the cultures of native people, an occurrence that This American Life pointed out in this episode, and the myth-making of the camp became a driving force. The backbone of the play is one kid, Eric, who searches for “the truth,” and believes he’s seen an alien…

In these pictures, you can see our little theatre.

As a side note, the poster was designed by one of my students. I gave him not instructions on how to do it, and so he was surprised by how delighted I was when he finished it. He didn’t realize how much it echoed the book covers of the YA novels I read when I was his age, the I Know What You Did Last Summer or R.L. Stine Fear Street look.

Contact me if you want to read the current draft. It’s an ensemble play, about 100 minutes. I’ll be putting up a page for it when I get a chance.

Also

This project consumed most of my time, but I also managed to work with 14/48 Austin again and squeezed out a ten-minute play about a woman chased by wolves.

Short plays used to be my bread-and-butter, and now they are occasional desserts….

Info on another project or two coming up soon….