My First Show in Saudi Arabia

Last week brought a conclusion to my first show in Saudi Arabia. I was really proud of these kids as they pulled it off in ways I wasn’t sure possible. I have a very young new ensemble with minimal amount of experience and we were doing the type of black box genre that no one was familiar with. But it happened, it worked, I survived, and it was a great starting point for the program. Here are a few photos from our second show courtesy of a colleague.

The show was called “For All Generations” – a show I first produced in Penang in 2014. It’s a funny, yet poignant show that has a lot of tender moments. The feedback from the crowd was enthusiastic. The photos going clockwise are: “Jerome, the Malevolent God-King,” “Revenge of the Grandparents” (certainly a favorite), a reprise of the award-winning script “Words to Say at the End of the World,” “What Was It Like?” and my favorite, the kind-hearted  Beatrice who takes in a runaway slave on a cold winter night in 1852 – “If Love is a Crime.”

Up next: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Coming April 2018 in Jeddah.

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REVIEW: ANASTASIA on BROADWAY

VENUE: Broadhurst Theater, 42nd Street, Manhattan

Open Run, Tickets starting at $109 (certain shows cheaper)

BOTTOM LINE: The newly opened Anastasia on Broadway is a top-notch, classical style musical. Memorable music, soaring performances, and spectacular effects make this a must-see production. So don’t delay!

The Production: Anastasia makes innovative use of video to create a seamless and often times breath-taking effects. From the beautiful scrim which opened the play, to the majestic pillars which provided the visual structure of the various scenes, to the back LCD panels which created terrific visual effects, the production is tight, and moves the story along at a beautiful pacing.

The Story: I was curious how the plot-lines would incorporate both the Ingrid Bergman movie and the hit 1997 animation film, and I was pleasantly surprised that the plot moved away from the mystical elements of the animated film. No magical Rasputin putting a curse on anyone. The story played up the realistic drama of the Bolshevik Revolution and the aftermath of the new Russia. The villain, played by Max von Essen, was not a crazed lunatic set on revenge against the Romanovs but a loyal guard of the new Soviet order, who simply wanted to see the communist utopia come to fruition – and that meant that any Romanov sighting had to be dealt with brute force. As the young Anya, who has no memory of her past, is set to try to convince the Dowager Empress that she is indeed the lone surviving member of the Romanov monarchy, the loyal Soviet agent makes his way to Paris to put an end to the nonsense once and for all. With this high danger in the background of the story, the focus remains on Dmitry and his sidekick Vlad as they work to convince Anya that she is indeed Anastasia, so the two con men can receive a sizeable reward offered by the Dowager. But as Vlad remarks as Dmitry and Anya are prepping for the con, “they never should have danced” because that leads to the romantic undertones of the story, setting up a conflict between the con man Dmitry who is confronted with the choice of reward money or love.

The Performances: Christy Altomare and Derek Klena give spectacular performances as Anya and Dimitri, but it’s truly the most experienced actors on stage, John Bolton as Vlad and Caroline O’Connor as Countess Lily, who steal the show with comedic and unabashedly joyful performances that brought the house to its feet during curtain call. Mary Beth Peil also plays the Dowager Empress flawlessly. I always enjoyed her sense of command in her role as Jackie on the long-running TV show “The Good Wife,” and she brings the same solemn and solid form to the role of the Dowager. I must also add that another highlight was the short piece from Swan Lake performed as Anya and Dmitry try to get access to the Dowager while attending the theatre. The director rightfully treated the Swan Lake moments seriously, creating a beautiful interlude to the story as the audience was mesmerized by the talented ballet performers.

The only drawback that I noticed was a quick and somewhat forced ending. The theme of love was underplayed as was Dmitry’s conflict of refusing the reward and leaving when he thinks love is over.

Anastasia – a worthy Broadway addition. Go see it!

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Here’s what I was able to accomplish as a writer in 2017:

  • January Staged reading of “The Last Bastion” @ Penang Performing Arts Centre
  • Started a historical musical on a unique person in US history with a musician colleague of mine. This is a long-term project.
  • Finished editing and production aspects of the first book in my new trilogy: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far – published it in  December
  • Finished the draft of book two of my new trilogy: The African Connection
  • Rewrote 6 sketches into a one act play called “The Folly of Progress.” Produced it as part of my show in May.
  • Wrote my third Christmas show, this one entitled “Tales of Christmas.” It was produced and performed by The RLT Players in December.
  • My play “Safe Spaces” was performed at the Gallery Players’ Black Box Festival in Brooklyn in June.
  • I was awarded the Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency for 2018 for my play “The Last Bastion.”
  • I wrote an anti-bullying play entitled “Project B” for my new school.

I wrote my first baseball short story, “The Hundred Pitch At Bat” – more to come with this.

 

And 2018 writing goals …

  • Publish book two of my trilogy.
  • Write book three THE FORGOTTEN CHILD of my new trilogy.
  • Finish a play I started several years ago “EMBRACE”
  • Finish a play I started about Nat Turner.
  • Write a new show called “Crazy as Love” for my new drama group The Sun & Sand Players.
  • Write the book to my long-term musical.
  • Write more baseball stories which will eventually be an anthology of stories about a fictitious independent minor league baseball team.

This should get me started. I plan to do a lot of this during my winter writing residency in Ireland.

Happy New Year everyone. What are your writing goals?

 

 

Now Available on Kindle Unlimited: A MAN TOO OLD FOR A PLACE TOO FAR

Book one of The Forgotten Child Trilogy: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far  is now available through Kindle Unlimited. So if you’re a subscriber, you can read it for free.

Here’s the LINK

This unique story will take you to Cambodia, Romania, Scotland, the South Pacific – all from the starting point of mid-town Manhattan.  A bothersome being from the other side drops some pomegranate juice on grumpy businessman Francis Frick while he is sleeping. He is jolted awake into a new reality of time travel and unexplained beings as he is taken on a quest to find and save a child in history who truly didn’t matter.

Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!

Forgotten Child Trilogy Book1 FrontCoverFinal

It’s so cold. How do people live here?

Coldness. How do people live with it?

For the past week, I’ve had my first taste of winter in 12 years, and while there are perks such as enchanting Christmas morning snow, the recent arctic swoon has destroyed all good will I had for the white fluffy stuff. I now know why geese fly south. I know why northerners retire in droves to the Keys. Living in perpetual frigid air is MISERABLE.

There’s a reason for my misery. Out of the past 23 years, I spent only 2.5 of those years in a house where having a heater was required.

For the past 11 years, I was creating away on the tropical paradise known as Penang. In August, I moved to the burning hot desert knows as Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. And then I come home to celebrate Christmas and I’m greeted with this stuff!

I spend most hours of every day covered in blankets, wearing gloves in the house, and realizing that a knit cap is as essential as water for survival. My body’s core has a permanent breezy idling like a car in the winter without a heater. It lives, but just barely.

I’m starting to think fondly of the 105 degree heat which greeted me in Jeddah in August. I know that sounds insane, but it’s true. Because everywhere I go here is cold!

I went to John’s pizzeria in NYC yesterday, and we sat on the other side of the massive place away from the door, near the 800 degree oven, and still, the frigid air swept in and I had to sit the entire time with my winter coat on.

It didn’t help that we moved into a friend’s house where the heat wasn’t working right, and our last night there seeing the temperature dip to 54 degrees in the house.

And then waiting at the train station yesterday.

And stopping at an outlet mall, having to walk across the place to find the Nike store.

And then even at the theatre, watching Anastasia, cold air swept in and distracted me for the entire first half of the show.

What is wrong with this place? It’s freezing out and everywhere I go, even indoors, it’s cold! So cold! I can’t emphasize how cold it is!

But not for long, because I long for the desert, and I’ll soon get it.

Goodbye, America. See you in the summer months!

Merry Christmas: A Vigil for a Starry Night

On a night when the clouds cover the stars like an impenetrable mountain cliff, I wait for a sign. A small tinge up my spine. A desperate plea for the ancient ways to speak once again. I wait for the light, hoping it will come, hoping it will be enough. .

The stars, spread brightly out like colored snowflakes flickering across the onyx sky, reflect a distant constellation, and begin to re-enter the atmosphere, piercing through the fractured clouds, giving faint and distant light to the voidless black, the empty sea, the sandless desert, the vacant abyss that is deep within me. The light, hushed and dimmed by a millennium of travel, is all I have. Is all I ever had.

I wait for the reflection to reach me, hoping one refracted beam from a star long ago still exists, the same ancient light that awakened the shepherd’s eyes one cool and lonely night. Can the light that ushered in a new millennium, awaken a new epoch within me. If so, it might be enough for my heart to go on.

In the midst of tears, in the solitude of our inner being, we yearn to be on that impoverished hill, to understand the magnitude of that sight, a heavenly light illuminating a darkened heart, a heavenly chorus rising to a crescendo of glory.

Will I choose to believe its truth, not blindly though because I know what the light can do for one’s soul.  And though the unbearable pain releases not its grip, I have a question to answer. Does the light still exist for me?

Does the same sky, which God ripped open that night with his right hand, planting angelic heralds of peace on the clouds to rustle awake the shepherds, still exist for me? Can he reach into my clouded heart and announce the truth like a heavenly chorus? If it is so, all suffering and cause of angst still present throughout the world will be no match for the blessed announcement: “A Child is born.”

PERSON: This child is born.