Monday, November 21, 2011

Hamlet (solo) returns to Toronto for two performances only!!

   And I'll be there with it, come by and say hi.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A great review for Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters in the New York Times

Check it out at The Flea!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dar & Matey teaser trailer.

From the pages of the Dramatist

Here is my editor's note from the September 2010 issue.  Reprinted by permission of The Dramatist, Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America.  


Every Canadian schoolchild, and I was one many years ago, learns the story of Grey Owl.  He was an Anishinaabe Ojibwe and fur trapper, who became well known as a conservationist, author, and public speaker.  In the 1930s he toured Canada and England, where he attracted large audiences.  His books, such as Pilgrims of the Wild and The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People were popular bestsellers.  On one tour he was invited to court and made a presentation to George VI and the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. 
Shortly after his death an interesting fact about Grey Owl came to light in the press.  It turns out he was an English bloke from Hastings named Archibald Belaney.  And in Hastings (on the coast of East Sussex in England) he’d been raised by his kindly maiden aunts, attended the Hastings Grammar School, and grew up playing in nearby St. Helen’s Wood.  He was, in short, about as Ojibwe as Tsar Nicholas II.  That is to say, not very Ojibwe at all. 
In 1999 Richard Attenborough made a film about Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, which in the end turned out to not be such a hot movie.  But, there is one scene in particular that struck me.  In it, Grey Owl is being honored at a First Nations ceremony.  And dear old Archie seems to be a bit nervous that some one is going to yell “Fraud” at any moment.  At one point, if memory serves, the chief leading the proceedings looks at him knowingly and says, “We become what we dream.”  And you’re like “He knows, but he accepts him, and believes in what he’s done, and that’s like totally awesome,” or something to that effect.  I always thought it said something fascinating about identity.  Who we are by circumstance versus who we choose to be, and how powerful those choices are. 
As for Grey Owl, after being outed in the press he was posthumously shunned.  He books were withdrawn from publication.  Conservation causes saw their donations dwindle.  It is only since the 1970s that he has been rehabilitated from the “famous fraud” category and returned to “noted naturalist.”   But for many years who he “was,” was so deeply tied to what he said, that when his identity proved to be questionable it was felt his ideas and message were too.  (It brings to mind James Frey and other recent fiction/memoir scandals.)
This issue of The Dramatist we explore questions of identity; “how we see ourselves” versus “how others see us.”  Perhaps most importantly for dramatists, “how we see others,” because that point of view is very publicly on display in the range of characters we give life to. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Night at the Opera - from the pages of The Dramatist

Here is my editor's note from the January 2010 issue.  Reprinted by permission of The Dramatist, Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America.

The other night I went to see an opera. In it, a gentleman named Faust struck up a bargain with an unsavory fellow who unfortunately turned out to be the devil. Faust got some good stuff out of the deal in the short term, but ultimately things ended on a bad note for him. Eternal hell fire, eyeballs roasted on the fingers of demons, you know the drill. Well, the whole experience got me thinking, just what would I sell my immortal soul to get?  What do I so strongly desire that I would put myself in a - let's say uncomfortable at best - future situation in order for short term gain.  There are all the boring answers that 99% of us in the world would give.  Some combination of money and sex and power.  Or the money to buy sex and power.  Or perhaps the money to help those whose lives are being destroyed by sex and power.  But this is the Dramatist, and I’m more interested in what a dramatist would sell their soul for.  If Faust was a struggling lyricist, and struck up a deal with the prince of darkness, what would he try and get?  
To over simplify: massive success.  A convenient byproduct of that is usually money.  He probably has no real interest in fame but one must begrudgingly admit it comes with the territory.  So success, wealth, renown, but let’s break that down.  When his attorney (he’d be fool not to have one) is in final negotiations with hell’s legal team, what should be in that contract?  I don’t work in the business affairs department, but this is what I’d advise anyone in the situation to ask for. 
Top of the list: genius, it’s always a good place to start.  Why bother with the usual self doubt, “What if I’m no good?”  None of that.  Faust will know he’s a freaking genius ‘cause he signed a contract with the devil to make him one.  In addition to that, discipline is essential.  There are plenty of brilliant, creative folks who never write a word or note.  Faust needs to be an obsessive work-a-holic whose genius comes pouring out of him on a reliable schedule.   And as lonely as the life of a dramatist can seem, theatre is ultimately a team sport.  Particularly for our lyricist-Faust, a crackerjack team of collaborators is essential.  They are also work-a-holic geniuses, and good listeners. 
At this point you have a brilliant work written by a gifted (hell-assisted) team.  Now it needs to get off the hard drive and into a theatre.  That’s why I advise demanding an unfairly large helping of luck.  Faust’s roommate’s aunt should be friends with that guy who once dated someone who played on the same softball team as the chiropractor of the literary manager of SuperMegaBig not-for-profit Theatre.  They happened to run into each other at a bake sale, and the literary manager decided to come to the reading Faust et al put up in their back yard.  This leads to another reading, developmental workshop, and finally main stage production, all streamlined by hell’s minions.
So far, so good.  But Faust hasn’t really got his soul’s worth yet.  He’s been successful, but not SUCCE$$FUL.    Massive Broadway hit is a deal-breaker, ladies.  If hell won’t guarantee it, walk away.  They need to promise a brilliant, wise, experienced, connected producer who falls in love with Faust’s show and falls hard.  From there the contract writes itself: critical and popular mega-hit, awards sweep (Tony, and hold out for the Pulitzer) record breaking run, leading to film version, Oscars etc, etc, etc.  Then repeat as desired, skipping the “nobody knows who we are” phase. 
Now, I don’t really feel qualified to advise Faust as to weather or not massive success as a dramatist is a good trade for whatever component of the self may be eternal.  And it should be pointed out that even if he hires the toughest attorney in town, it’s likely that Satan works with a larger firm.  I’m just saying Faust, if you’re gonna sell, sell high. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Adventures of Wee Dickey Drudge, Whoreson

This is a dime story (3 minute stories) I read tonight at the monthly Dime Stories at BarbĂ© in Park Slope.  Thanks for a great event!

 The birds were dead.‭ ‬Every last one of the damn birds was as dead as last week's custard and Wee Dicky Drudge knew it was his fault.‭ ‬He vaguely remembered Oswald the Mystifying giving him specific instructions,‭ ‬something about lighting the small gas heater in the theatre's storage room after yesterday's evening performance.‭ ‬Something about this being a colder winter than anyone in Boston could remember.‭ ‬Something about doves not being penguins.‭ ‬It was all rather hazy in light of his current predicament.‭  ‬Every single god damn bird was frozen solid like a summer icy treat,‭ ‬Oswald the Mystifying was waiting in the wings for his doves,‭ ‬and several hundred already seated patrons had paid up to ten cents apiece to see  doves disappear,‭ ‬reappear,‭ ‬burst into flames and then reappear again.‭ ‬Young Dicky had to think fast,‭ ‬and that was never really something you could have called him good at.‭ ‬His first instinct was to lie,‭ ‬but he wasn't particularly good at that either,‭ ‬and Oswald could always tell and would box his ears.‭ ‬He considered burning the theatre down,‭ ‬but quickly realized that this was probably more than the situation required.‭ ‬As he stood there contemplating arson,‭ ‬his eyes fell on the half‭ ‬open window just behind the cages‭  ‬In that moment his path became clear.‭ ‬You see there was one thing that Wee Dickey excelled at,‭ ‬one talent that he used to compensate for his apparent lacking of all others.‭ ‬Dickey knew how to run away.‭ ‬It had served him well thus far,‭ ‬and it was about to serve him again.‭ ‬He squeezed his small body through the slim window opening and quietly dropped into the alley behind the theatre.‭ ‬And then,‭ ‬he ran.‭ ‬As fast as he could.‭ ‬He ran and ran and never once looked back.‭ ‬He stopped to throw up his breakfast at one point,‭ ‬but that was for just a brief moment,‭ ‬and then he went back to running.‭  ‬He never again came back to Boston.‭ ‬And he never again worked as a magician's assistant,‭ ‬at least not until that time in Bombay after the war.‭ ‬.‭ ‬.‭  ‬But that my friends,‭ ‬is a story for a different time.‭ �

Friday, February 5, 2010

Re-branding - from the pages of The Dramatist

Here is my editor's note from the November 2009 issue.  Reprinted by permission of The Dramatist, Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America.

As I crossed Times Square, on the way to work today, I encountered a giant laptop.  Open, the thing was about two stories high  Perhaps there comes a point when the term ‘laptop’ is no longer appropriate, at least in the absence of a giant lap.  Nevertheless, there it was and it was huge.  It was the kick off to Radio Shack’s rebranding campaign.  From now on, it’s just “The Shack.”  Seriously.  It’s always hard to take this kind of corporate, focus group-driven stuff with a straight face.  It may have tested well with seniors, single moms, and windsurfing paleontologists, but we’re not suddenly going to find ourselves saying, “I’m just swinging by The Shack to pick up some power convertors."    It will never stick. Their multi-million dollar campaign will fail.  You can’t tell us what to call you, and that’s all there is to it. 

But, of course, we know that’s not true. People will use the new handle, perhaps ironically at first. But, as ludicrous as it seems now, in a few years a news anchor will remark that, "most of the components found in Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin are available at your local The Shack."  And we won’t think anything of it.  Bewildered children will ask you, “What’s Radio Shack?” as if you had handed them an eight-track. 

Well if The Shack can do it, why can’t I?   I want to rebrand myself too.  Isn’t that our prerogative, as artists, to re-invent ourselves every so often?  Robert Ross Parker just seems so, what, yesterday?  I want something fresh, hip, something that bespeaks artistic and editorial prowess, wisdom, and a hint of ‘I don’t really have to try it’s just the way I am’ sexy.  Well, the name has to go, too long for one.  Twitter has a 140 character limit for gosh sake.  We’ve got to trim that sucker down, eliminate all those superfluous vowels.  How about RossPar, BertKer, RoRo or just Ro? 

You have to admire how The Shack flaunts its definite article.  It lifts it above the competition, proves it has no peer.  It’s not just any shack you fool, it’s The Shack.  I’ll steal that, but give it a sophisticated spin.  I’ll use the French “le” for a continental je ne sais quoi.  Perhaps, “Le Park.”  Yes, I like it.  Who is Le Park?  He could be the dashing editor of a sophisticated arts publication, or perhaps an international jewel thief.  It’s hard to say.  Perhaps he’s both.  Does anyone really know Le Park?