Tag Archives: theatre

A Grand Design – Cover Art Input Needed

Last week, I announced my intention of publishing my produced plays, to date, on Amazon. Given that the plays are in performance-script stage, and putting them together is largely a matter of technicalities, I started planning my cover design – because that’s really what I need at this point.

I spent a few minutes discussing my ideas with a co-worker (happy to name him/link to his tumblr if he sees this and would like, but also want to respect his privacy) and his perspective as a graphic designer was (as the opinions of graphic designers always are) quite useful.

Basically, he confirmed my feelings: my produced plays should have a unified look, which meant a unified design that can stretch across multiple plays (while also separating them from my other fiction).

So I started looking at the published plays I own. Here. Have a look:

 

(And yes, that is my foot in the corner.)

 

So, these plays. I could talk about these plays a LOT. Like seeing David Tennant for the first time in PUSH UP, and thinking, “Man, he just LEAPS out from every single other person on the stage.” Or how much it meant when Jo Clifford, who was my MFA supervisor in Edinburgh, personally addressed a copy of EVERY ONE to me. Each of the other plays has its own story; if people want to read, I’m happy to blog them in the lean times. Or maybe they deserve their own book.

Anyway. So, having studied the plays, here were my thoughts:

1. Samuel French and the Marlowe both demand that the reader know the playwright before purchasing. The newest of the plays, Ali Smith’s The Seer, was probably a well-performed piece, the play’s blank title and lack of imagery doesn’t really speak to me; I saw it (probably reviewed it) but the blank cover doesn’t give me any kind of aide memoire. I don’t remember much about The Seer, or ever feel inclined to pick it up. No good for a newish playwright, then.

2. The black-and-imagery with the colored spine of the NHB releases speaks most strongly to me as a reader. The images are evocative. They feature live performance stills – and this is where my plan to use these as the template falls down. I don’t have live performance shots of all these productions. I could do video capture stills, but…

3. A number of plays (Clifford’s is just an example) featured imagery rather than literal representation of events portrayed in the script; Yazmin Reza’s DESOLATION is another example of this. (Reza, for those who don’t make the immediate connection, also wrote ART). THE NIGHT SHIFT by Mark Murphy is somewhere between items (2) and (3), with a stylized image that evokes the mood and staging of the play, if not the literal photos one might expect to see.

Where did all this bring me?

The following four versions of an image. Your thoughts would be much appreciated. I’ve settled on the basic elements: the lefthand colorbar and wash over the rest of the image (color will probably change from one play to the next) and the representational photography, but the way those are used, the photograph itself, the fonts that the play names (which, for those who want to know are POST, Playing it Cool, Stuck Up A Tree and Mousewings)…those are all open for discussion.

But I’m trying to make a basic template. And I’d appreciate your input. Here’s what my ideas amounted to on Thursday night:

Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit…anywhere you think might be useful. Opinions on this one are crowd-sourced. Let me know what you think, and know your thoughts are appreciated.

The Vagina Blogs: NYC #Vaginagate #Solidarity Event

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to every single one of the (as of initial writing) nearly 1K people who have visited, read, or reposted/tumbled “Vagina Vagina Vagina.”

Things are happening. This Monday, playwright Eve Ensler will be reading her groundbreaking play, THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES on the steps of the capitol in Michigan. Multiple state senators are involved. This story is receiving attention from the MI Democratic Party, which is involved in setting up the event, as well as the Huffington Post.

I Want To Show Support, But I’m Not In Michigan. What Can I Do?

Live in New York City? Tomorrow night, some friends (both old and new) and I are going to meet up in Union Square. We’re going to peacefully show show solidarity with women around the country. Don’t live in NYC? You can do this in your city or town, too. How?

The Vagina Blogs.

Write a blog, tumblr, comment, or other piece, preferably (but not required to be) 400-500 words long. Tag it as #VaginaBlogs, wherever you post it, and link back to this post so we can register a trackback link. Don’t have a vagina, but have a problem with this conversation not being over yet? WE WELCOME YOUR SUPPORT. Join us.

A Vagina Blog can be about your vagina. It can be about how you and your vagina feel about the continued national assault on our right to stop being asked whether No Means No. How do you feel about the national conversation? How do the women in your life feel about having to constantly repeat that No Means No? How do you feel about how, nationally, time and energy are consistently being wasted by people who really should have better things to worry about legislating? It can be funny, it can be personal, it can be serious. There are as many different kinds of #VaginaBlogs as there are women who have #vaginas and men who support our right to have ownership over them.

We will be in Union Square reading out people’s blogs, tweets and more for as long as can be sustained. Join us, either here or in your own city, by using the hashtag #VaginaBlogs and contributing your thoughts.


SIMPLE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: 

1. Write 400-500 words (it can be more or less, these are just suggestions) about Vaginagate and the national conversation on women’s reproductive rights.

2. Include the hashtag #VaginaBlogs.

3. Post it on your blog, tumblr, twitter or facebook. (If you don’t a safe place to post your entry, submit it in the comments below.)

4. Submit a link where we can find your post in the comments below.

 THAT’S ALL IT TAKES.

Also, consider emailing your blog to the Michigan House Speaker: JamesBolger@house.mi.gov. You can find information on your own national representatives via http://www.opencongress.org/.

We’ll start reading in Union Square as soon as we gather.

Join us.

And if you don’t like reading or talking in public, come anyway. You don’t have to read, and your presence makes a difference.

Check back for updates, because we’re going to try to livestream our readings. If you’re in another city and you want to do something similar, please leave a comment with your location and a spot that works.

We’ll read until we can’t read anymore, whether we run out of material or the park closes or we’re all tired and some of us have to go back home to sleep before going to our jobs in the morning. We’ll read peacefully and we’ll read with love.

And maybe we’ll keep reading on Tuesday.

What actions are happening in your city? Link to this post in order to get a trackback link and spread the word. Check back here for updates. And as one commenter on Vagina Vagina Vagina put it: VAGINA HUGS! 

UPDATE: 12:51pm: Just got off the phone with Eve Ensler’s team. While there won’t be a livestream of the event in MI, they are filming it and will post excerpts online after the fact. We are also changing the hash tag to #VaginaBlogs to respect Ms. Ensler’s copyright. I’ve changed everything but the URL to this post, because that had already been distributed. Please act respectfully.

During the phone call, Ensler’s team drew my attention to her piece OVER IT, written last year.

This line in particular stood out to me: I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are reallyfucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.”

If writing a Vagina Blog isn’t your thing, take inspiration from OVER IT. What are you over? What are you fed up with? Tag your entry #VaginaBlog and link back to it here. 

UPDATE 6/19/2012: 
Our gathering in Union Square was amazing; will update further soon. Till then, thank you to everyone who contributed, whether it was by showing up or posting in the comments below. We definitely plan to keep #VaginaBlogs alive, and may do further public readings, so please continue to reference, track back, comment, etc. back to this post. Hoping to be able to post some video in the next few days, provided Qik Vid worked.

 

De Facto De-Funding at Creative Scotland?

From Joyce McMillan’s blog:

“Creative Scotland have instead decided to withdraw their entire middle range of funding, known as flexible funding, which offered basic income security on a two or three year cycle to small- and medium- scale arts organisations with a strong creative record. The result is to throw some 49 Scottish arts organisations from a condition of modest security, into a condition of complete insecurity, in which they have to bargain from project to project for their continuing right to exist.”

It was when I read the names of some of the 49 companies now in jeopardy that I felt my mental jaw drop: Vanishing Point Theatre Company, Grid-Iron, and the CCA in Glasgow (their equivilent of New York City’s MoMA) were included on the list. For the record, Vanishing Point’s Lost Ones, which I reviewed seven years ago during the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has stuck with me like few other productions over the years.

Why I’m Opening My Big Mouth

I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for four years, from 2003-2007. During that time, I attended Queen Margaret University College’s MFA program in Dramatic Writing; at the time, the theater department was run by Maggie Kinloch – who has since moved to RSAMD.

I dove headfirst into the arts scene. Edinburgh was where I started reviewing for The British Theatre Guide. It’s where my plays PLAYING IT COOL, STUCK UP A TREE, and MOUSEWINGS had their world premiers. I made numerous short films there, applied for and received funding for arts projects from my university, organized script development workshops and was an active member in the Traverse Theater’s Young Writer’s Group (I was lucky enough to have two plays workshopped as part of the program), plus traveled to INTERPLAY – EUROPE as one of their delegates. I’ve stayed in touch with many of you since leaving Edinburgh, and this this fall, my one-act play MILLENNIAL EX will be featured in a collection of short plays from around the world on the subject of marriage equality at a festival in Glasgow.

So I have something of an interest in what goes on within the Scottish theater scene, but rarely have the time to indulge that interest, and so was not aware of the current funding debate taking place until this morning. @MarkFisher was kind enough to point me towards information on the current debate, and that’s why I missed this morning’s sunshine and will now be spending the remainder of the afternoon inside as rain thunders down in Manhattan.

Theater Funding in Scotland vs. America – Where the Money Comes From

There are some things about arts funding in the UK, and in Scotland, which may be unfamiliar to some of my American readers. The main one, I think is:

In the UK, public funding bodies exist, geared toward distributing funding for (and thereby encouraging the development of) artistic forms of expression within a specific mission statement. They have the mission and responsibility to enrich citizens’ cultural lives and develop resources that showcase and develop both the country’s heritage and its future.

(My feeling is that in America, there is not a similar or analogous organization that answers to and is responsible for the funding of such a wide range of theaters and types of theatrical projects as is Creative Scotland. But that’s another discussion, and one I’m happy to have in the comments.)

These funding bodies and their missions, and the ways in which these obligations to fund are interpreted and fulfilled, are a point of contention between organization and practitioner. (Pardon the stealth edit as I try to make my point clearer.)

What the What?

Okay. Let’s say you have a theatre company in Scotland and want to apply for funding for this really fantastic idea you have. You go to Creative Scotland and fill out an application form. You pick the kind of funding that fits your project.

In the past, Creative Scotland had a category which funded on a project-only basis. Technically, these were grants that a theater company would receive, once per cycle (clarification stealth edit). They weren’t meant as funding that would keep the company running year round, but practically…

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice & Men…

…that doesn’t seem to be what happened. A number of companies, including, I would assume, those McMillan names in the above excerpt, have received grants from Creative Scotland to a degree where their project-to-project funding is sustaining their organization and where the loss of that funding puts those companies in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, it seems from the reading I’ve done this morning that Creative Scotland’s response is: we’re not defunding you, we’re just cancelling this form of funding. You shouldn’t have been depending on these funds in the first place.

Pardon the analogy, but to me that reads a bit like a drug dealer saying, “Well, it’s not withdrawal, because you weren’t supposed to get addicted to heroin in the first place.”

I’ll be interested to see how this situation develops.

For those who are interested, some additional reading
http://stramasharts.wordpress.com 
http://annebonnar.wordpress.com 
http://joycemcmillan.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/three-deadly-sins-of-creative-scotlands-bad-funding-review-column-25-5-12/

 

THEATER REVIEW: “To Kill A Kelpie” by Matthew McVarish

First, to declare a bias – Matthew McVarish and I were at drama school together in Scotland, and I’ve previously reviewed his sold-out debut show, One man went to busk (it’s the second review on the page). In addition, he and I will be working on a project about marriage equality together later this year for Glasgay 2012.

That said, I’m pleased and lucky to be able to say that this new work, To Kill a Kelpie, offers an hour of drama both light and dark, and is a strong piece of theatrical art with a message. Co-produced by Poorboy Theater company Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse (where McVarish is also involved), and executive produced by Pamela Pine, the show is directed by Sandy Thomson.

The evening unfolds in two parts: first, McVarish’s hourlong drama about two brothers who finally break their own silence as regards something that was done to them both many years ago, then a guided discussion including representatives from various organizations that try to deal with ending sexual abuse.

As one might expect, there is heaviness to this drama. How could their not be, given the topic at hand? And yet McVarish’s script makes a conscious decision to take place in its own moment, as two brothers try to find a way of communicating through the silence that has plagued their adult relationship. As they try to understand what was done to them, the different coping mechanisms they ask themselves and the ways in which they parse the events that took place while they were children reveal two men who have each, in their own way, carried the scars of their abuse for years. Additionally, the quickness with which the two brothers reconnect lends itself well to lighter moments: this is not a play where the audience should be afraid to laugh from time to time.

The play asks uncomfortable questions: one brother reveals that he’s struggled to even recognize his own sexuality over the years, because he had tangled up the acts perpetrated upon him and his own desire to love other men. The other denies any feeling of having been affected, although it slowly becomes more obvious that, in fact, he has. Both brothers have found their relationships to others, particularly children, impossibly strained as they constantly try to sort through their own baggage.

Performers McVarish (as Fionnghall, the brother who seems, on the surface, to b e more of a loose canon) and Allan Lindsay (Dubhghal, who has returned from doing aid work among tsunami-afflicted natives somewhere quite far away) navigate the questions their characters ask themselves with honesty and frankness. Some parts of their conversation are uncomfortable: one admits he is afraid his sister doesn’t want him around her children, the other terrified he may have the potential to cause the same damage enacted upon him onto another. Forgiveness, revenge, therapy and repression are all tried as the characters range for coping mechanisms; in the end, it is conversation – speaking about their trauma, and about how each has begun the journey of unpacking that trauma – that offers the best hope for healing.

As the play draws to an ambiguous ending, the audience is invited to take a few moments to stretch before heading into a follow-up discussion. Led by Pamela Pine, the discussion first invites comments and questions from audience members before asking audience members if there’s anything they think they might do differently in their lives going forward. Aside from stressing the importance of parental and community involvement to determine when children might be at risk, the discussion also creates a space where audience members are invited to share their own stories of surviving abuse.

What was remarkable about this portion of the evening, to me, was the clarity with which one could see how To Kill a Kelpie had created a space where audience members, whose ages covered a large range, felt they could speak openly about experiences taking place around them. On opening night in New York City, audience members spoke – some at length – about how positive they found the play, and about how well it communicated emotions that echoed reactions they’d had to their own experiences.

For more information about Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, you can visit their website at www.stopcsa.org. To Kill a Kelpie will run in NYC through April 15th, first in the East Village before heading uptown. More details are available on the production’s website.

THEATER REVIEW: “The Beautiful Laugh” at La Mama

Clowning is a respected art with a long history, distinct from other forms of theater. My understanding of clowning comes out of familiarity with more classical European traditions, such as Marcel Marceau and the Commedia Del Arte style captured so excellently in The Corn Exchange’s production of Dublin by Lamplight, or the Harlequin story as viewed through the memory of a production I saw at Tivoli, in Cophenhagen, when I was about seven years old. In these forms, it’s often the precision of physical movement that distinguishes the skilled from the unskilled performer.

The style of clowning used in That Beautiful Laugh is different. It is a physical kind of comedy, related – particularly in the case of performer Carlton Ward – to circus acts and Coney Island contortionists, but it is also a comedy of noises and expression.

At the top of the show, a narrator (Alan Tudyk of Firefly, Dollhouse, Suburgatory and more) explains that there are multiple kinds of laughs, and lists some – as we wind through the cyclical routines presented by Flan (Tudyk), Ian (Ward) and Darla Waffles Something (Julia Ogilvie), the audience is no doubt meant to experience some of these different kinds of laughs. Whether or not the ultimate laugh – that beautiful laugh – is attained is, I suspect, largely in the hands of the audience on any given night.

THEATER REVIEW: The Deepest Play Ever @ the New Ohio Theatre


Boo Killebrew, Chinasa Ogbuagu, TJ Witham & Jordan Barbour. Photo by Colin D. Young.

“I’m going to The Deepest Play Ever,” I told my friends on Wednesday, “and yes, that’s the actual title.” Which wasn’t exactly accurate. The full title of the production is “The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos, The Post-Post-Apocalyptical Allegory of Mother LaMadre And Her Son Golden Calf OR: Zombies Will EAT Your Brain! AN EPIC TRAGIDRAMEDY.”

But I make a practice of shortening anything longer than a Fiona Apple album title, so.

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Theater Review: “Eternal Equinox” by Joyce Sachs, 59E59

Playing through March 31st, Eternal Equinox compares politics in relationships both creative and sexual. Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy) and Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), two painters from the Bloomsbury groupr, spend the bulk of this full-length play trying to understand and negotiate their relationships with one another – particularly when others become involved.
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