Three New Play Volumes: Now Available!

Three New Play Volumes: Now Available!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally compiled and released three new volumes of plays.

“Dear High School” is a complete show – with bonus material – all about the trials and triumphs of high school.

“Tales of Wonder” is a collection of three complete Christmas shows and 29 plays, which can also be used as individual sketches for a variety of settings both secular and sacred.

“Tales of Redemption” is a collection of short plays about the Christian experience – perfect for a variety of settings.

The Short Play Collection:

Volume 1: Theatrical Duets for Stage, Competition, or Classroom

Volume 2: Tales of Wonder: Sacred & Secular Christmas Plays for Stage, School, & Church

Volume 3: Dear High School

Volume 4: Tales of Redemption: Christian Themed Drama for Stage, School, or Church

“What Was It Like?” – Beautiful!

One of my former students – a beautiful person and a beautiful dancer – passed away suddenly this past week. Please keep her grief-stricken family in your prayers.

Her father posted many moving dance video tributes to her amazing grace and talent. Here’s one from a rehearsal of my 2014 show RLT Players present “For All Generations.”  This video features the ever poised and beautiful Thizbe as she rehearses with her partner David Beak for the finale of the show. They are using my voice-over for rehearsal purposes. You can hear me reading the script I had written. In the final show, the actors recited the words live as Thizbe and David danced.

Thank you, Thizbe, for sharing your talent with our theatrical group. You added much! As you are right now in heaven, too.

 

Three New Play Volumes in the Works

Well, it’s about time. In 2016, I published a volume of plays entitled “Theatrical Duets.” I’ve updated it twice already with new scripts, but I have such a backlog of content to publish that I ended up not doing a follow-up volume to my 2016 release.

Well, no more. I have three new play volumes that I am currently working on for release, and, yes, I’m excited to get them out there. Again, all of them are short plays from very different genres and focused on completely different niches. Here’s what’s coming, though the titles may change.

  • Tales of Wonder: Secular & Sacred Christmas Plays for Stage, Schools, & Churches. (The Short Play Collection Vol. 2)
  • Dear High School (The Short Play Collection Vol. 3)
  • Christian Drama for Stage, Schools, & Churches (The Short Play Collection Vol. 4)

“Tales of Wonder” is the complete collection of the Christmas shows performed by the RLT Players at Penang Performing Arts Center in December 2015, 2016, & 2017. The first two of these shows were directed by myself. This is a delightful collection of funny, nostalgic, and dramatic pieces which, I hope, captures the true magic of Christmas. They are super fun to produce, and I hope a lot of people will enjoy them. I can’t wait until I can produce them again at some point.

“Dear High School” is a collection of high-school themed drama which focuses on the crazy and up and down years of being a high school student. This is a fun volume and I have a couple ideas of sketches to add to it before release time.

“Christian Drama” is an extensive collection of short plays focusing on a variety of topics related to the Christian experience.

The goal, if all goes right, is to release them all at once this summer, right around the time of the release of my ninth novel.

Lots coming together that I’m excited about.

Frodo Is Becoming Obsolete

I started teaching drama and acting right about the time that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy was finishing up. Nearly everyone had seen it, and almost universally raved about it. The characterizations of the film provided the perfect example for me when I attempted to illustrate for my young actors what it means for their character to have a scene objective and a super objective.

Let me break it down for a second. Every character in every play has a scene objective in each scene. It is explained by the reason for them being in the scene and the goal or objective they are trying to accomplish in the scene. I often would have actors who were on stage without lines ask what they were supposed to be doing. My first question for them would be why did the playwright put you there? What does your character want to accomplish? This will tell you what you should be doing.

What about the term super objective, sometimes referred to as a character’s spine?  The super objective is a character’s overarching objective—the one thing he or she wants more than anything else in the world. Aren’t objectives and super objectives the same thing? Don’t ones scene objectives always align themselves with their spine? Not at all.

Enter Frodo. His characterization is so clearly defined as to provide an excellent example of both. Frodo’s scene objectives vary but revolve around the ring and his obsession in making the journey to Mordor to destroy it. His obstacles change from scene to scene and even from book to book, but they all feed into the idea of journey and accomplishing his mission and destroying the nasty ring.

Hey, wait! Isn’t destroying the ring also his super objective? Absolutely not. What does Frodo want more than anything else? And why is he going through all the pain that the ring is causing him? He wants to be home in the Shire. That’s it. He fights creatures and inner demons so he can be rid of the ring once and for all and go home to his beloved shire.

But sadly, this example is becoming obsolete. Ten years ago, all of my students knew the story. Today, most don’t. Usually a few of them do. “I kind of remember it.” “Yeah, I didn’t like it very much.” “It’s such an old movie.”  “I heard of it.”

Sigh. I thought Ben-Hur was an old movie.

So now which movie series can I use? That’s the problem. I don’t watch many movies these days, and please don’t say Marvel Universe. I’m pretty sure all of their super objectives revolve around making money.

Who would have thought that Frodo wouldn’t have staying power?

It makes me realize one other thing: someday a new director will come along to remake the LOTR Trilogy because the entire series has become obsolete.

They did that with Ben-Hur, remember? And look what a disaster that was.

My Play This Weekend in Penang: Grade Semantics

My play “Grade Semantics” hits the stage this weekend as part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in Penang, Malaysia.

grade semanticsPenang

 

This is a play that I’ve produced twice myself, and it’s a hit — especially with students and teachers. I’ve even had a HS counselor tell me after watching it that the farcical aspects of the play very much played out as true in those fun one-on-one chats with students.

Here an excerpt from the play. Enjoy!
STUDENT: That’s it. I’m going to tell the principal.
MR. S.: What are you going to tell the principal?
STUDENT: I’m going to inform the principal about your discriminatory grading practices.
MR. S.: I do not have discriminatory grading practices!
STUDENT: So, you are saying that everyone in your classes get the same grade?
MR. S.: No, of course not.
STUDENT: Just as I suspected. You look over the tests, and you discriminate. You say ‘that test goes into the good pile’ and ‘that test goes into the bad grade pile’ where all of mine always end up.
MR. S. Because—
STUDENT: You always have reasons, don’t you? Because. Because. Because. Because you don’t like words that start with the letter B.
MR. S.: That’s ridiculous.
STUDENT: This is anything but ridiculous. Let me ask you a question, Mr. S. Do you think bad grades will affect my future?
MR. S.: Yes, I absolutely think that’s true.
STUDENT: Ah, ha! Caught you! You are purposefully affecting my future.
MR. S.: That’s not what I said.
STUDENT: My bad grades might misrepresent who I am to the Ivy League schools. I might not get into Harvard because of your discrimination. Employers are going to look down upon me because of my bad grades. My future earnings are in jeopardy because of your grade discrimination. We are living in an age when grades just separate people into the achievers and the non-achievers. The passing and the failing. I thought we as a society were beyond this type of blatant discrimination, holding people back because of word that starts with B. But apparently, in some corners of education, there are still the vestiges of entrenched systemic discrimination. I thought you were better than that, Mr. S. I thought you were woke to the realities of the modern world. I’m ashamed to be your student and I do not under any circumstance acknowledge the authority of your grades over my life. I am, from this moment on, grade-free.

 

The Awesomeness of Show Week

Again. I’m privileged. I write, and I’m in a situation where I can produce it for the stage. And it’s awesome!

Show week is coming up. It was obvious last evening as I put in six hours on set and light design. It’s not a finished product yet, but here’s what I have so far.

No. “ORIE” doesn’t have any meaning. It will actually eventually say “Stories Vol. 2” – just not there yet.  I’ve had so much over the past couple of years learning lighting design and I still have SOOO much more to learn, but it’s a pretty cool thing to work through your own script and plot out the lighting cues and imagine what the final product will look like.

This is a black-box theater type of show. I don’t have a black box theater at my disposal, so I’m making one. I’m putting the audience on-stage on platforms overlooking the small rectangular stage I created by using four ellipsoidal lights. You can see it in the picture on the left. That area is the stage for this show. It’s tiny. But that’s the way I like it. The audience will be crammed all around that area. Even the lighting console has been moved to stage right. Intimate in the extreme. In my mind, there’s nothing like intimate theater.

When I told people that the audience is going to be sitting on the stage, they look at me and shake their heads. “What is wrong with this guy?” They look out over the 650 seat auditorium and ask, “What about those seats?” They will be empty, is my reply. But they’ll understand when they see it. When they experience it. When the actors are so close you can see the veins popping out of their necks. When they see the intensity, and feel the emotion up close. Then they’ll know why I did what I did. Or at least I hope.

It’s show week. I only get about three of these a year, so I’m going to enjoy the stress, the last minute to-do list, the horrible dress rehearsal, the myriad details, the dropped lines, the dead crowds, the scared look on the faces of the young actors backstage … I’m going to enjoy it all, because it’s awesome.

 

Play Submissions Much Easier after a Few Years of Writing

I am consistently sending my plays out to festivals and theaters with the hope of getting produced. Sometimes I’m successful. Many times not. The competition is fierce, to say the least.

But now that I’ve been writing consistently for the past 7 or 8 years, I have a volume of plays (especially short plays) at my disposal to send to festivals. One minute play festival? No problem. Got it. A play based on the lives of senior citizens? You bet. Just sent one of my favorites, REVENGE OF THE GRANDPARENTS, to just such a festival. Short play with a strong female lead? You betcha. A unique take on Shakespeare? Got it covered.  Typically, in no time, I can have my submission off into the pool of potential. Then I cross my fingers.

Full-length plays are much more difficult. I’ve been pitching my play The Last Bastion the last two years. I’ve received some good feedback, even a recommendation from another festival, but still no bites. Must keep at it. Recently, I’ve started pitching my new full-length play For the Glory of Nat Turner as well. Only time will tell.

I’m fortunate enough that I’m a theatre professional in a school setting so I get to produce a lot of my own plays which is really cool. I love seeing my work come to life. But it’s even cooler when a festival or theatre decides to produce my shows out of their own free will. I hope that will continue in the future. I currently have two of my plays set to be produced around the world.

GRADE SEMANTICS will be part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in Penang, Malaysia in November.

SAFE SPACES will be part of the Conservative Theater Festival in Columbus, Oh in January.

Besides that, I’m producing two of my own shows in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few months.  STORIES VOL. 2 will be on October 30 and the world premier of CRAZY LOVE will be in April.

So now you’re up to date. Hope there will be much more on the horizon.

Songs in Your Head: The Unintended Consequence of Producing a Musical

It sounded like a great idea in the abstract. A musical, I said. How fun will that be! A blast!

Let me choose one. Hmmm, I want one which would have cross-divisional appeal at our school. One in which, for example, if I didn’t get a lot of high schoolers auditioning, then I could still cast the roles using younger kids.

Okay, what about Seussical – the Broadway smash from 2000 with catchy tunes and colorful Dr. Seuss characters? Perfect. Let’s do it!

I finished casting the show two weeks ago and last week was our first week of full rehearsals. They’ve gone great, actually. Lots of fun, good excitement among the 20 student actors, and real progress. I have been pleased.

All’s good, right?

Well, I have run into one problem, the unintended, yet very real consequences of producing a musical, and that is this: I CAN’T GET THE BLASTED SONGS OUT OF HEAD! EVER! THEY HAVE TAKEN UP PERMANENT RESIDENCE.

I’m standing in line at the grocery store: “On the fifteen of May in the jungle of Nool …” I’m sorry, say that again. How much do I owe you?

My wife is talking to me about hanging the curtains in the house. “… when Horton the Elephant heard a small noise …”   I’m sorry, dear. How high do you want those hung?

These composer have created a hypnotic group of songs. No matter what I’m doing, where I go, or whom I am talking to, the voice of the Cat in the Hat is not far behind.

And here is the harshest of all harsh realizations: the show isn’t finished until December 13. I have two and half more months.

Now I have a question for you? “Who is the biggest blame fool in the jungle of Nool?”

I am. That would be me.

 

Play Feedback: Drive-By

Play Feedback: Drive-By

I regularly submit my plays to theatres and festivals around the world. Some are chosen for production. Most are not. The competition is fierce. I love receiving feedback which is why I always submit to the Pittsburgh New Works Theatre. They have a fantastic process in which two unnamed judges give detailed feedback about all the pieces submitted.

I recently received feedback about my piece entitled “Drive-by” – a poignant short play about about a young teen losing her sister to a drive-by shooting.  Ultimately, the play wasn’t chosen by the festival. Why? I’m not sure since the feedback was great. It was rewarding to hear that my play resonated with the judges. I’ve put their comments below.

Now I just have one question: Who wants to produce my play?

Judge #5 – score  93/100

A very timely topic, gun violence. The plot development is very interesting. The idea that as the action moves forward on finding out who the person was that shot the little girl, everyone around fines what they need except the sister. Although not new thematically, a strong take on the subject. What is most interesting is the staging possibilities. Having the story being told in past tense, flash backs provides a challenging and most interesting staging possibilities. This play needs to be seen. I am sure a staged read was powerful but an all out performance with strong production qualities would/will make this play shine.

Judge #6 –  score  90/100

Wow…this one hits you right in the solar plexus!
Very concise and well written dialogue…I could feel the emotion pouring from all characters. A real challenge for the director and actors, but one that could, ultimately, produce a very nice piece of theatre!  Easily produced because of the simple set (lighting is crucial though).  Good job!