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Results 1 - 25 of 142
1. 7 Things You Don't Know About Me

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this month's blog series at readergirlz! I had a lot of fun gathering candid and heartfelt responses from authors. Lorie Ann asked me to post my own list, so here goes nothing:

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

1) I've been writing stories and songs since birth, practically.

2) I am capable of charming squirrels out of trees.

3) There is no television show I have loved more completely from start to finish than Leverage.

4) I love word play.

5) Synchronicity and causality are recurring themes in my life.

6) Chances are, I'm shorter than you.

7) I project. In more ways than one.

So there you have it! I hope March has been lovely for all of you. Don't forget to mark your calendars for Operation Teen Book Drop 2014, which will be happening in just a few weeks on April 17th. Stay tuned to the readergirlz blog, Facebook, and Twitter to learn how you can participate and #rockthedrop!


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2. The anti resume

Okay. I admit it. I've been lazy and unmotivated lately. My playwriting effort has been limited for the most part, to short plays/sketches because they come easy to me and they are also easy to submit to various short play festivals.

While in submission mode and providing an accompanying description as to my background, the thought occurs to me as to whether I should label myself "playwright", having never had a play produced. Is a professionally produced play necessary to give a person who writes plays, "playwright"? Is the mere act of completing a play alright to call ourselves playwrights? Just some thoughts. But I digress.

My playwriting achievements as I've frequently shared here in this blog, are two two-act plays, which have been submitted to perhaps two dozen theatres, a one-act play submitted to six sources, in addition to numerous short-shorts i.e. 10-20 minute and under play-ettes submitted to numerous competitions. They - the plays - are all still waiting for the theatre world to discover them, as is the playwright.

All of this is leading to a very interesting blog passed on by the Playwright's Competition Calendar, a blog to which I'm subscribed, focusing on rejection. Written by Monica Byrne, a writer and playwright, she shares a blog focusing on what she calls, her "anti resume, resume." In it, she lists her rejections and breaks it down further in percentages.

In my case and if a similar exercise was pursued, there would also be a section for started-but-not-completed plays, completed plays languishing in cyber space due to fear of rejection or plays with themes that don't seem to fit theatre's niche.

Excuses thy name is Eleanor but I found Monica's anti-resume somehow comforting. Perhaps playwrights or aspiring playwrights will feel the same way: http://monicacatherine.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/my-anti-resume/

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3. Adapting Henry V

By Gus Gallagher


In the Autumn of 2011 I found myself at something of a loose end in the beautiful city of Tbilisi, Georgia, working with the Marjanishvili Theatre there on a production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Unsure of what my next project might be, my attention turned to an old love, Shakespeare’s Henry V. Having long been intrigued by both the story and the title character, I set about reading the text afresh. For perhaps the first time, I realised I no longer sought to play the lead role myself, but found myself still driven to have the story told in a fresh, vibrant, immediate fashion.

Prior to setting out for Georgia, I’d been involved with a five-man production of Doctor Faustus during which I had been struck by how well the classical verse seemed to lend itself to the more intimate company structure. In previous years I had also been a member of a small-cast version of Macbeth, which had likewise seemed to benefit from the experiment. These earlier experiences must have been in my mind when I started thinking about how I might stage Henry V.

Henry V

Morgan Philpott in Creation Theatre’s production of Henry V

At first, I was curious to see if it might be possible to tell the story using only five actors, and was interested to see that it was. However, as I took another swing at it, I began to distil the idea further. It became apparent to me that in most key scenes there were three distinct ‘voices’. These, I thought later, might more often than not be termed the petitioner, the advocate, and the judge. The petitioner often seemed to pose ‘The Question’ at the top of the scene (such as The Archbishop of Canterbury in I.2), whilst the advocate rallies either for or against his or her cause (such as Exeter in the same scene). Finally, each key scene seemed to have a singular figure who would judge the outcome and lead the way onwards (Henry).

Obviously, it was not possible to achieve a wholesale three-man cut of the text without considerable and audacious changes to the original — mostly in the form of character amalgamations, slight re-ordering or outright edits — but I believe the integrity of the piece as a whole, and crucially the story, remain intact.

Having gladly agreed to an application of performance rights from Creation Theatre in Oxford, I then stood back completely from the process of production. What I was intrigued to find was how well the three-man format seemed to bring out the comedy of the piece. The pace, also, seemed more in tune with what I believe was Shakespeare’s intent. Of course, both these factors are entirely to the credit of the director, cast and creative team, but I was pleased to see them both used so effectively in a production in which I played a modest role.

Gus Gallagher trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After ten years as an actor, playing such roles as Romeo, Coriolanus, Mercutio, Macduff, and Dr. Faustus, he turned his attention to writing. The Creation Theatre adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry V is Gus’s first produced work. He is currently working on a piece about the life and times of King William IV, as well as a play about The Jarrow March of 1936. Oxford World’s Classics are sponsoring the production, which is on at Oxford Castle Unlocked until September 14.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog.

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Image credit: Morgan Philpott in Henry V. Image copyright Creation Theatre Company. Photography by Richard Budd. Do not reproduce without permission.

The post Adapting Henry V appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Poetry Friday: B by Sara Kay

She's gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn't coming, I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I've tried.

- an excerpt of B by Sarah Kay

I am only posting a piece of the piece here because you simply have to see and hear the entire thing as it was intended to be seen and heard, as performed by the poet herself: Watch Sarah Kay's TED Talk on YouTube.

Visit Sarah Kay's official website.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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5. Playwright makes some progress

It's becoming somewhat of an obsession but one in which Joe McKenna and his friends would most likely approve.

Added some more dialogue to "Old Soldiers" play today, although the ending is still up in the air. Wondering if it will ever have any solid substance.

"Really, Eleanor - we deserve better than this," Joe would comment upon my somewhat limited progress. "How much longer do we have to wait. It's been almost four years, now."

It's not for lack of trying. During sleepless nights, Joe and his friends plus the other characters pop in to say hello. Too bad that can't offer advice.

I'm fortunate to be a visual writer and see my words actually come to life and play out in the various scenes. Problems arise when I re-read the existing story line and the realization that something is awry. For example, my dilemma today was whether or not it's logical for a young character to be a great grandson and how old should he be? Then there is the issue of which war Joe and his friends were in.

This is followed by the dreaded 2-R's - Re-write and a Re-thinking - after which ennui sets in accompanied by self-doubt as to whether it will ever be finished. The problem is that I can't let it go for whatever reason. In writing my two other full plays that took approximately a year and-a-half to two years to complete, they seemed to write themselves. The two are so familiar to me that I can quote lines and passages from both.

One of my biggest concerns as expressed on numerous occasions that may be a contributing factor to the delay, is using the format for radio. The issue of having sufficient sound effects is always there. The dialogue is strong and if it was performed on stage would offer an interesting piece of theatre. However, my main objective is, as it always has been, to finish the play once and for all. And therein lays the problem.

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6. Joe McKenna has run into a problem and the playwright is angsting

I'm in angst - again.

In spite of a concerted effort to finish my "Old Soldiers" play in the hope of entering it in the BBC International Playwriting Radio Competition, I've encountered a new and unexpected problem. Content is fine.

"Now what, Eleanor?" Joe is asking me. "How much longer are you going to keep us waiting?"

I know, Joe! I know!

Today for whatever reason, I decided to check the rules in as far as the number of pages and characters allowed.

"All scripts submitted must be a minimum of 45 pages of A4 paper (or equivalent) and a maximum of 65 pages (note, a rough guide is a minute per page; please read and time your play before you send it). The play should have a maximum of six central characters (there may be up to 3 small "doubling" characters too, who don’t have more than a few lines each). Your script must be accompanied by a short synopsis which outlines the complete story of the play. This must be no more than 400 words."

The way that I view it, there could be and then again, maybe not, more than six main characters. It's all in one's definition of "main characters." Do main characters re-occur throughout the play? How does one define a "minor character?" There are give or take a character, nine characters in total. The play opens with the four old army buddies, who definitely are main characters. Then there are other lesser characters who come-and-go but contribute to the over-all plot of the play, that add up to more than the three doubling characters. Eliminating one or two in my mind, would ruin the flow of the play. Everyone has a part to play - excuse the pun.

I've reached the 45 page mark, which is in itself an accomplishment. Really in a quandry as to how to proceed. Maybe the best thing to do is to finish the play, submit it and put it in the hands of fate. Do I have a choice?

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7. Drama

by Raina Telgemeier Scholastic 2012 Romance and friendships are tried and tested during the production of a middle grade play where everything is one giant emotional... drama. Callie is crushing on Greg, and after he breaks up with his girlfriend Bonnie it looks like she might get a chance at him, but after one sweet kiss it goes south when Bonnie and Greg reunite. Good thing there's the

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8. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Middle school has tons of drama. Tons. So you can imagine what it's like being involved in a middle school play: there's constant drama on and off the stage! Filled with life, energy, and color, the brand-new graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a must-have for anyone who works backstage or on stage, and should be immediately placed in the hands of middle school students, drama teachers, and comic book collectors alike. But you don't have to know the theatre to appreciate the story - pretty much anyone who's suffered the mortification and triumphs of middle school, first crushes, and group projects can relate!

Callie, the book's spunky protagonist, is thrilled when Mr. Madera announces the selection for the school's spring musical: Moon Over Mississippi, a musical Callie l-o-v-e-s. When the the student stage crew is assembled with their director/supervisor, duties are quickly divvied up: Callie volunteers to be in charge of set design, while her friend Liz becomes the costume designer. Loren's set to be the stage manager; Delfina signs up for makeup; Matt will hit the lights; Mirko's doing sound; Sanjay will help with carpentry.

And just like that, the next fourteen weeks fly by, packed with breakups, shakeups, schoolwork, and rehearsals. Before they know it, the curtain's rising on opening night. Soon afterwards, the drama continues at a school dance.

Laid out in the customary graphic novel fashion, with clear panels and gorgeous colors by Gurihiru, the book also pulls in the feel of a play, with an overture that sets the scene, then act breaks - even an entr'acte! - all leading to The End. For those of you who like to read the scene breakdown in the program before the house lights dim, here you go: In Act I, we meet Callie's initial crush and the stage crew. Act II introduces us to Jesse and Justin, twin brothers who quickly befriend Callie. During the auditions in Act III, Justin shines, and Jesse joins the stage crew. Rehearsals continue in Act IV, tech in Act V, performances in Act VI, and the school dance in Act VII. The final act wraps up the storylines and the school year.

Callie gets an A+ for being such an awesome lead character. She speaks her mind a lot of the time, but still gets tongue-tied (or thumb-tied, when texting or sending IMs) sometimes. She's loyal to her buddies and extremely devoted to the show. She really wants her set to pop - truly! With the show set in the time of the Civil War, she's determined to figure out a way to make functioning, confetti-spewing cannons. Subtle lessons about responsibility are taught within these pages, as some students bite off more than they can chew while others really pay attention to detail and do their research. For example, Callie and Liz watch films like Gone With the Wind to get ideas for their designs, and Callie has many a sleepless night over the creation of her cannons...and what's going on with her friends.

The cast is extremely diverse, not only in heritage and appearance but also in personality and personal style and interests. From the moment the twins are introduced, you can hear Justin's bubbly voice and Jesse's slightly quieter one. There's something about these brothers that makes you want to hug them. Energetic Justin practically jumps off the page, squeeing (yes, he has a speech bubble which says, "Squee!") and telling Callie, "You are officially my new favorite person." (He also approves of her name: "Callie! What a happy-sounding name, very sunshiny.") By contrast, Callie's best friend Liz is very calm, and Jesse, who becomes Callie's new crush, is somewhere in-between.

The crushes keep crushing; Callie's not the only one confused about who she likes, and who likes her. In a wonderful scene, one of the teens confides in another, revealing that a character is gay. Someone confides in someone else, and it's simply the truth, no shame, no heaviness to it. If only all books (and films, and TV shows) handled all characters' lives in such a way, to be aware of what could be called sensitive subject matter but not shying away from it, and letting it be simply the truth rather than A Big Deal (or a ratings gimmick), then more readers/viewers would see themselves in those characters and thus respond more strongly and positively to the stories being told.

All of the characters who are working on Moon Over Mississippi have found a sanctuary in their school's theatre. Whether they are working on props, practicing lines, setting up lights, looking through old costumes, or waiting in the wings, they are safe - and excited, and nervous, and anxious.

This book also includes not one but two memorable trips to bookstores. Look at the reactions Callie has on pages 128-130: absolutely priceless, and completely felt by ANYONE who has ever entered a building, a museum, a store, any place that's all about something they love more than anything.

When the last curtain dropped, and I found I had reached the end of the book, I wanted to re-read the entire thing right away. I would have, too, if I hadn't had to go on stage. This is a true story. Just ask Raina: She received photographic evidence of me reading this book backstage!

You might be thinking, "Oh, she loved this book just because she loves the theatre." No, I loved this book because it's awesome. I loved this book because Raina Telgemeier's artwork is wonderful, and because she's a masterful storyteller, both in words and pictures. I loved the characters, the colors, the details, the dialogue. I wish my middle school productions had been this cool, and I wish I had friends like Callie's, and a friend like Callie. I can only hope that my work as an actress and as a writer inspires others like Raina's has inspired her fellow artists and readers.

If you loved Telgemeier's previous graphic novels, including Smile and the illustrated versions of The Baby-Sitters Club, then you're going to love this book.

Drama is available in both softcover AND hardcover, published by Scholastic Graphix.

Related Posts and Outside Links

Read my interview with Raina Telgemeier.

Consult my Middle School Must-Haves Booklist.

Watch the Drama trailer on YouTube.

Virtually flip through the book.

Check out the #DRAMADAY contest!

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9. tomb of the unknown craftsman, the final days

Yesterday I went to see the Grayson Perry show at the British Museum. FINALLY!!! I've been trying to go to this show for months, and I've tried many times, but it's like there's been an invisible force field around it, and everytime I tried to go, something would conspire against me. Even this time, the tickets had sold out. I stood there looking dejected at the desk, knowing the show was only running for two more days, and if I didn't see it then, I probably wouldn't. The ticket man said, 'Well, you could get British Museum membership... members don't need tickets to enter...' So I did it. I paid £44 frickin' pounds of hard-earned money to see the Grayson Perry show, because I think he's worth it.



I have a huge admiration for Perry's work, I see him almost as a bit of a role model, even though I don't know much about him personally and we work in different fields. We have a similar love of the kind of heavy lines and quirky expressions and patterning details that you find in old woodcut prints and folk art paintings. And I like how the guy thinks, he rides around on a wildly kitted out pink motorcycle with his teddy bear in a little shrine in the back because, let's face it, pottery doesn't usually get a lot of attention. But Perry's does, and it stands up to the scrutiny, because he's a genuine craftsman who has put a lot of time and care into making his work so good. It's not just bare-bones conceptual stuff that can be thrown together without much skill, the guy really knows how to draw and just as much, he's spent a lot of time looking at and studying and making studies of older artwork.

Many pieces in the show were things he'd selected from the British Museum's collection, such as these carved pipes. I made a couple little sketches; the guy in the top centre, with the moustache, made me laugh. I love his expression, and why is he sitting on the other guy's bum?



Here's a snapshot of the originals. They come from a place not far from where I grew up.




Here's a huge tapestry showing lots of modern-day places of pilgrimage, everywhere from Jerusalem to Hollywood to Westfield shopping centre. One of the things I like about Perry's work is how he takes traditional techniques and lets them illustrate things in modern-day society. I had a huge revelation about this about ten years ago when I first saw Maithil paintings by women in Nepal, who took traditional, very flat styles to illustrate things like people riding on buses and bicycles. Their pictures, with their strange lack of perspective, looked so odd, but so beautiful. Illustrator David McKee (Mr Benn, Elmer the Elephant) plays around with stuff like this in children's picture books.



Something cool happened while I was in the exhibition. I started looking at this elderly lady, in her lovely red coat and fabulous glasses, and thought, gosh, I wish I could look like that when I'm old. She's beautiful. And then I read the wall caption over her shoulder and, gosh, she could have been paid to sit there as part of the exhibition. Gave me goosebumps!



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10. Wende Museum launches BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE

On October 21st, The Wende Museum and Archives of the Cold War in Los Angeles launched my middle grade novel Breaking Stalin’s Nose. The program included an opening of the exhibition of drawings I made for the book and a staged reading.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose is a middle grade novel about a young man’s unveiling of truth in Stalinist Russia, while the Wende Museum is dedicated to history of Cold War-era Eastern Europe, and as such I couldn’t have hoped for a more appropriate context for the book’s launch. At the museum, an enormous collection of the Cold War artifacts is displayed in the upstairs rooms and housed in a gigantic ground level vault. Some of the museum’s artifacts including the Soviet Pioneers memorabilia and a porcelain bust of Stalin were displayed along with the drawings exhibition.


However, the highlight of the evening was a staged reading by a cast of remarkable actors. Elya Baskin, who played every evil Russian in every Hollywood blockbuster from Transformers to Austin Powers, read for Stalin in one chapter and for Stalin’s Nose in another. Brenda Wehle, a renowned stage actress who began her career at the famous Guthrie Theatre Company in Minneapolis and went on to play many memorable roles on and off-Brodway read for the schoolteacher Nina Petrovna, and in the last chapter, for a woman waiting to visit her son in the Lubyanka prison. Young Bryce Robinson read for the hero of the book Sasha Zaichik. Bryce began his career at age six, impressing the viewers with his performance in television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Monk, October Road, Dexter, and movies -- Marley & Me, Valentine’s Day, and The Switch. And lastly, Timur Bekbosunov, a Kazakh-American opera tenor known for his solo appearances with the LA Philarmonic, American Repertory Theater, Opera Boston as well as performances with his band the Dime Museum sang Stalinist songs mentioned in the book.

We read six chapters from the book. This is how we began.

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11. Making Of LULLABY



You might or might not have seen this lovely show that my friends Matthew and Tim did with Duckie at the Barbican - have a look. Have you ever seen a sleepover show? I wish I could sleep in a theatre every night.

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12. What the Moon Saw Playlist

The world premiere of the play What The Moon Saw, or "I Only Appear To Be Dead" by Stephanie Fleischmann is less than a month away. The play sees Hans Christian Andersen experiencing his stories in a post-9/11 world. The main pieces featured are The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Little Match Girl, The Snow Queen, and, of course, What the Moon Saw.

Though the production is not a musical, it does have original music. Please note that the songs listed below are not in the show, but rather tend to be the songs that play in my head when I'm rehearsing my lines or approaching the theatre.

Moon by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
Sad Stephen's Song by Duncan Sheik
I'm in Love by Maria Mena
Wedding Dress by Matt Nathanson
It's Only a Paper Moon written by Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, and Billy Rose (Any number of artists have sung this, so pick your favorite version!)
All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow (inspired by the poem Fun by Wyn Cooper)
All I Wanna Do cover by Amy Studt
Why Should the Fire Die? by Nickel Creek
You'd Ought To Be Satisfied Now by Jonatha Brooke (words by Woody Guthrie, music by Jonatha Brooke)
Moonchild by Cibo Matto
Moon by David Poe

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13. SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT: WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS GETTING PRODUCED

I wish I could also say "right here in River City ..." but not quite yet. However, there are companies in the US who are making it their mission to create equity, and Halcyon Theatre in Chicago is one of them. They are offering a festival of FULL PRODUCTIONS, of five women playwrights this summer. Go here and see: http://www.halcyontheatre.org/mission
This isn't their first year to produce women's plays either, but this year they went out and got five women to write plays inspired by other women's plays (from the past). Who wouldn't love to see that? If you are in or around Chicago, go see. If you can make the trip, go do. If you have funds you can share to support Halcyon's mission, please do that. Support women playwrights however you can, please. Right now, women are being produced only 20% compared to men. We are aiming for 50% by 2020. Anything you can do to support that is much appreciated. Talk to your theatre companies. Let them know you appreciate seeing plays by women, want to see plays by women, then show up when they present plays by women. Women write every kind of play. My last play is "The Godmother." It's about the mob in Kansas City during the Prohibition. In case you thought she was a fairy godmother in a silver coach with white horses. Just saying. Now get outa here you crazy kids.

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14. from a play called "The Woods" by David Mamet

NICK: I'll call you.

RUTH: Yeah. Don't.

(Pause.)

I'm sorry.

NICK: Alright.

RUTH: You know. It gets cold.

NICK: Mm.

RUTH: We put clothes on.

NICK: Uh-huh.

RUTH: Yes. I've got to tell you: We put on clothes, we can not make out what we look like.

(Pause.)

We make mistakes. We all get guarded.

(Pause.)

It's very lonely, and we all get desperate to be warm.
We have to find our lovers when it's warm.
We look at people and we see the things they are.
When they are on the Beach, or when they're happy.

(Pause.)

Some things that look like maybe they'd be good for us.

(Pause.)

It gets real cold up here until the fog burns out.

NICK: Mmm.

RUTH: You need insulation.

NICK: Well, we're right up on the Lake.

(Pause.)

RUTH: Yes.

(Pause.)

NICK: We had talked about it at one time.

RUTH: The thing about fish, they stay down there, it makes no difference to them.

NICK: Waves don't make a difference.

RUTH: What?

NICK: The waves don't make a difference.

(Pause.)

They're on the surface, but they don't affect the water underneath.

RUTH: They don't?

NICK: No.

RUTH: Currents, only, right?

(Pause.)

I don't know. I don't know.
Everything gets over.

(Pause.)

You know?
We all try to be very brave. What do you call it when you try not to show anything?

NICK: I don't know.

(Pause.)

RUTH: We all try to be warriors. Or pirates, something. They all used to go to sea and rape the cabin boys. The Vikings.

(Pause.)

The worst part, maybe, is just learning little things.
The things about each other. Other people.

(Pause.)

Like if they play the piano.
Until you have taken care of them when they are sick.
The way their sweat tastes.

(Pause.)

Those are the worst things.

NICK: We could call each other up.

RUTH: Oh, you're so sorry sometimes.

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15. Poetry Friday: Monticello by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Carol at the diner tried to be a singer
Mark still swears he'll end up on TV
Everyone has plans for something greater
But they never leave town
They just let themselves drown
But I won't be pulled down
Not me
...
I know this might sound crazy
But I’m not like other people
And though settling for less is fine for some
If I keep treading water here in nowhere Indiana
I know exactly who I will become

- selected verses from the song Monticello from Edges: A Song Cycle by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

You may listen to the song at their website.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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16. Picked by Christopher Shinn



When I saw Christopher Shinn's new play, Picked, in New York last week, I had no intention of writing about it. Chris and I were at NYU together for a couple years, we've stayed in touch a bit over the last decade, and I've enjoyed following his career. I don't like writing about friends' work, because anything short of "It's the most perfect and brilliant piece of writing since the invention of the alphabet," feels in some way like a betrayal.

But most of the reviews for the play have been so shallow and superficial that I just want to line up the New York theatre reviewers and whack them all upside the head. Maybe not all -- Ben Brantley's review in The Times is thoughtful and intelligent. Beyond that review, though, it's thin pickings.

I'm not looking for positive reviews -- sure, I liked the play, I like Chris, I would like the world to agree with me on both points. But I'll take a thoughtful and insightful negative review over a vapid positive review any day. Most of the reviews I read of the show were vaguely negative, sort of middling. But the reasons they offered for their vague negativity and their middling were banal, suggesting the reviewer didn't really pay a whole lot of attention. And the positive reviews weren't really much better. (No, I'm not going to link to them; they were too enervating to make me want to seek them out again. You, too, can use Google if you're curious.)

I didn't take notes and I didn't go in thinking I'd write about the show, so this is just a collection of remembered impressions after one viewing, not a review. I feel compelled to say something to acknowledge the complexity of the play, and the complexity of my response to it (both good and bad), because I haven't seen enough other people do so yet.



Picked tells the story of a young actor named Kevin (Michael Stahl-David) who attracts the attention of a Hollywood director, John (Mark Blum), who bears a certain resemblance to James Cameron (the movie he wants Kevin to star in is called, if I remember correctly, Harbor, which happens to have the same amount of letters as Avatar, and also to end in r). The first scene offers Blum lots of opportunities to chew the scenery -- as one of my companions at the show said, "This is the sort of thing actors should have to pay to get to perform!" John is grandiose, egomaniacal, yet also somewhat endearing, and his logorrhea is a magnificent bit of writing. At the performance I saw, Blum seemed to struggle to find the performance, but once he did, he was mesmerizing, giving John a vocal and physical presence that dominated and dazzled Kevin enough that we could understand why Kevin would give in to the somewhat bizarre propositions John makes about the movie. It's the sort of stuff ambitious actors might want to excerpt for audition monologues in the years to come...

The next few scenes develop Kevin's participation in the process of making the film and show his relationship with his girlfriend, Jen, played by Liz Stauber. This was actually the dullest element of the play for me, but without having read the script I don't know if my problem lies with the conception of the character or the performance. Stauber's performance is easily the weakest in the play (or was, at least, on the day I saw it) -- stiff, unsub

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17. Book recommendations (or, spending time with Judi Dench vs. cleaning my office)

Why does everything take so long? Um . . . maybe because I put it off forever?

But today my choices were clean off my desk (never) or finally update my Book Store (okay, yes). So what you’ll find there are not just some random selection of novels, biographies, science books, food books, etc., but an actual thought-out list of recommendations for some great reading in a bunch of different categories.

What have I read most recently that I absolutely loved? Why, Judi Dench’s memoir, of course. If you’re a fan of Dame Judi–and really, how can you not be?–then you’ll enjoy her book AND FURTHERMORE, even though those of us who aren’t British may not be as familiar with all the names she drops from her days in the Royal Shakespeare Company and all that. But I’ll tell you what, thanks to her memoir (which I’m now re-reading a week after I finished it, because I just want to), I’m on a Judi Dench movie kick lately. This weekend it was CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE, because even though Dame Judi was fabulous as Queen Elizabeth in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, really there’s nothing better than watching her as M in the James Bond flicks.

And thanks to one of her scenes in QUANTUM OF SOLACE, I really want to start answering the phone, “What is it?” That’s right, Judi, make them get right to the point.

The other book I’m absolutely rabid about right now is Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAR II STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE, AND REDEMPTION. That book will amaze, horrify, and most likely change you. I’ll tell you one thing, it certainly makes you want to stop complaining about every little thing in your life. I listened to the audio book on a long car drive recently, and it not only made the miles fly by, it also made it a little dangerous at one point because I was crying so hard I probably should have pulled over. Sorry, Safety Monitors. But that book was so inspiring I’m probably going to read the print version next, because I really need to experience it again.

Both the Judi Dench memoir and the Laura Hillenbrand biography can be found in my book store under the category “Burly Adventurers Who Inspire Me.” Because you don’t have to be a mountain climber to make it into that group–you just have to lead a remarkably bold and fearless life.

My final current recommendation, listed under “Favorite Books on Writing,” is James A. Owen’s DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS: A MEDITATION ON ART, DESTINY, AND THE POWER OF CHOICE. Owen is the bestselling author and illustrator of the CHRONICLES OF THE IMAGINARIUM GEOGRAPHICA series, starting with HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS. His new book grew out of the inspirational talks he gives to middle school and high school students, encouraging them to pursue their dream of being writers and artists. I’m already pursuing that dream, but dang if I wasn’t re-inspired. It’s like one of my other favorites, Stephen King’s ON WRITING, but without the drugs.

So there! Another item I can mark off my to-do list! Now what else can I do instead of cleaning my office?

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18. Dystopia on Stage: Caryl Churchill's Far Away


The good people at Tor.com asked me to contribute a post about the playwright Caryl Churchill for Dystopia Week, and I was thrilled to be able to oblige them with "Dystopia on Stage: Caryl Churchill's Far Away".

Here's a taste:
Most people don’t often think of playwrights as science fiction and fantasy writers, and SF doesn’t really exist as a genre in the theatre world in the same way it does in the world of print and cinema. Yet from its earliest incarnations, theatre has reveled in the fantastic, and many of the greatest plays of all time have eschewed pure realism. Something about the relationship between performers and audiences lends itself to fantasy.

The British playwright Caryl Churchill has written a great number of extraordinary plays, many of them enlivened by impossible events. Churchill is a staunchly political writer, a writer who seeks to challenge audiences’ complacencies about the real life of the real world, but flights of imagination give resonance to her unblinking view of reality’s horrors, using the unreal to probe the deep grammar of reality.
Continue reading...

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19.


THE PLAY IS NOT THE THING


It's been a while since I submitted one of my two full length plays...anywhere, actually. One of the reasons is somehow I misplaced/deleted/filed-in-unknown-folder, the list of theatres who were fortunate enough to be the recipient of, but didn't realize it, plays. Being organized is not one of my strong points.

So this is leading me once again as it has on numerous occasions in the past, to search my soul as to whether the plays are stage-worthy. In reading them over to evaluate whether they need a gazillionth re-write, they still entertain me and make me laugh. This, at least to me, is a good sign. The problem is that nobody else seems to feel the same way or at least feel they would be embraced by theatre-goers. It took me years to get the words down on paper and then more years to get the right "feel" and flow - the two big 'F"s - before allowing them to leave home.

It's not that I don't enjoy writing plays or at least 'short-short'-10 minute plays these days, but there comes a point where one has to evaluate whether the effort is worth the search given the end result. Perhaps and although I'm loathe to admit it, they aren't stage-worthy. Even writing this sentence is like an arrow piercing my heart. So where does this leave me? Should I give up the ghost so to speak and leave them in my will as part of my legacy to future generations in the hope that they will see merit it them, and carry on the search? Or, should I continue to check out potential theatres and competitions and submit my plays in the hope that they were never the recipients of my literary gems?

Meanwhile, if a theatre producer reading this is interested in taking a chance on an unknown-but-talented playwright with two very entertaining comedy plays waiting for their chance to be exposed to the world, you know where to reach me. Maybe not depending if I remembered to add my contact information. Go know!

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20. Bell, Buzz, Bang!

I have finally learned how to be in two places at once. YES!

Wait. Let me back up for a moment and explain this properly.

I don't post much about my personal/professional life here, so even if you follow my blog regularly, you may not know that I'm an actress, a singer, and a dancer. I am pursuing a career in theatre, film, and TV while holding down a full-time job at the bookstore and doing freelance journalism and webdesign.

I am an actress, and I am a storyteller. Musical theatre, straight plays, sitcoms, hour-long dramas, films - I love all of those fields and pathways, and I dream of finding success in all of them. I want to be known and respected for my work as a performer, a writer, and a director. I will tackle any role that I find compelling. I will tell stories that need to be told.

For the past month, I have been juggling three plays in addition to my day job. I recently portrayed Tinker Bell in a new musical adaptation of Peter Pan. I was quite excited to bring one of my favorite literary characters to life with faith, trust, and pixie dust.

My two current productions are both new stage plays. The first is a dark comedy set on the night of the big homecoming dance. The show begins with a bang: a gunshot is heard before the lights come up to reveal a girl in a prom dress (me) with a gun in her hand, standing over the body of her dead boyfriend in a hotel room. Her two best friends burst into the room, and then -- well, you'll have to see it to find out. The play, which runs straight through in real time, examines the depth of the girls' friendship, testing their loyalties and utilizing both quiet truths and laugh-out-loud moments.

My character's name is Daisy. (I've decided her last name is Fitzgerald. Do you know why?) I love playing this role. It's a very challenging role, and I welcome a good challenge. She's vulnerable and fragile. She exemplifies innocence at the breaking point, and the difficulty one faces when attempting to put something back together after it's been broken.

The show opens tonight. I'm so proud of the work we've done, the energy and honesty we've brought to this piece, and the comraderie between the four of us - the three actresses and the director. I value and appreciate the input and kind feedback we've received from the writer, who attended some of our rehearsals. I can't wait to share this story with an audience.

The other play tells the story of five kids - a pair of twins and their three friends - and how they become deeply marked by the actions of their parents and of each other. My character's parents have the best of intentions, but they truly and royally botch up something which destroys their family dynamic. The first act, which features the younger characters at age 9, ends with a life-altering event. The second act begins seven years later, when the kids are 16 years old. I portray the female half of the brother and sister twinship and have enjoyed infusing her with equal parts bossiness (think Lucy Van Pelt) and sincerity. I'm also very proud of my friend, who will be making her theatrical debut in this show.

Three short films in which I have small roles are currently taking the film festival circuit by storm. One of these films, Mastermind, will be screening at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival on Thursday, July 22nd @ 9:45 PM. If you dig comic books, arch villains, and anti-heroes, then you will dig Mastermind. Think of it as a non-musical version of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, if you will. I have a blink-and-you'll-miss-me cameo in the film, and I've thanked the director many times for including me, as I know this project means a lot to her, and to the writer, and to the two lead actors.

Still wondering how I'm going to be in two p

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21. Poetry Friday: The daisy follows soft the sun by Emily Dickinson

The daisy follows soft the sun,
And when his golden walk is done,
Sits shyly at his feet.
He, waking, finds the flower near.
"Wherefore, marauder, art thou here?"
"Because, sir, love is sweet!"

We are the flower, Thou the sun!
Forgive us, if as days decline,
We nearer steal to Thee,-
Enamoured of the parting west,
The peace, the flight, the amethyst,
Night's possibility!

- by Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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22.

DOES MY PLAY SOUND FAMILIAR TO YOU?


For whatever reason - lack of a proper filing system springs to mind - there are problems when it comes to submitting my plays to various theatres or competitions. This point was brought home recently upon reading the guidelines to a 10-minute competition that could be a fit for my short plays. This is a yearly competition and as I recall it was the lucky (IMHO) recipient of one of my literary offerings last year but the problem is...which one.

In the past I opened a file to keep track of which plays were sent to whom but along the way, I stopped making notes. Now I'm forced to play a guessing game in order to hide my ineffectual (read: non-existent) filing system. Should I own up to this fact in a covering letter? Something to the effect:

"Dear blah-blah,

Please find my short play, blah-blah, for your 10-minute competition. Perhaps it might look familiar and could have been one of last year's entries but then again, maybe not. If it doesn't strike a familiar chord, then consider it my official submission."

Be that as it may, I'm going to check through my "sent" file and see what turns up, if anything. If not - it's another guessing game. Did I mention that my play wasn't among those selected to be performed. Then again maybe I meant to send it but never got around to doing it. Go know!

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23. The Oxford Comment: Episode 3 – DRAMA!


This time around, Lauren and Michelle deal with drama! They talk with the Toy Box Theatre Company, learn about politics in musical theater, and go behind-the-scenes on the set of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. ALSO: You have a chance to win* free tickets to Woyzeck or a copy of Danton’s Death, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck by Georg Büchner!

Subscribe and review this podcast on iTunes!

*To enter to win free tickets or a copy of Georg Büchner’s theatrical works, send an email to blog@oup.com with the subject line “Toy Box” by 5pm ET on October 26. Two tickets will be awarded at random to the October 31, 3pm showing of Woyzeck (at the Choicirciati Cultural Center in New York City). Admission includes a champagne toast and talkback with the cast and crew. A second lucky entrant will win a copy of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Danton’s Death, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck.

Featured in this Podcast:

TOY BOX THEATRE COMPANY

(About this Production of Woyzeck)

Thanks to Jonathan Barsness, Ryan Colwell, David Michael Holmes, Sarah Hankins, Elisabeth Motley, James Sparber, and Colonna Sonora


Norm Hirschy, Associate Editor for Theater & Music

James Lovensheimer

Assistant Professor in Music, History and Literature at Vanterbilt University

Author of South Pacific, Paradise Rewritten


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24. the railway children, waterloo

I think I can call 2010 my Year of the Railways. Not only did I illustrate a book about a train adventure (When Titus Took the Train) and get mistaken more than once for being a trainspotter while making preparatory sketches, but I travelled a lot by rail for events. Even my last blog post involved reading Stop the Train! by Geraldine McCaughrean, which was about a pioneer settlement with an existence completely dependent on the railway. So to top it off, last night we went to see our young friend Molly Jones perform in The Railway Children, a play in the former Eurostar terminal of Waterloo Station. We'd had the tickets for ages, and had really been looking forward to seeing how they'd use a real steam train in the play.



We knew Molly only had one line, and we thought we'd only see her occasionally appear, but she must have been playing her part as the station master's daughter on stage for at least a third of the play. Well done, Molly!



Stuart and I were hugely impressed by the way they used the existing platform as a stage, with extra bits of stage floor on wheels, scooting along the rails. When the steam engine pulled in, spewing smoke, I actually got a bit choked up, it was so lovely.



The Yorkshire tourism board was out in full force in the lobby (the old Eurostar waiting lounge). There was even a huge map puzzle on the floor that we could walk on.



Look, we're in Yorkshire! (Third time in two weeks!) Great play, thanks for inviting us, Molly! Here's a lovely comic her sister Maisie made this year about a visit to our studio.

We were very sorry to miss Neill Cameron's Mo-Bot High party in Oxford last night. I'm sure it was a blast, can't wait to hear all about it!

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25. FOA Valentine's Show

We're finally on the downside of banana-season. It's been a bumper crop this year! Tangerines are now ripe.
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Friday and Saturday at Charley's PIC. 7 PM Cost is $15/adult and $10 student. (FOA membership discount for adult tickets only.)

Valentine's Day (Monday), same place. 7:30 PM show time. Cost is $33/adult and $28 student. (FOA membership discount for adult tickets only.) The Valentine's Day show starts later and is more expensive than the regular shows because it includes the fabulous Magellan buffet. It also includes a chance in the raffle for a room/night at PIC.

The show is a comedy/musical on the theme of love and relationships. Light-hearted, romantic comedy--perfect for the season!

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