How to Build a Dictator 2.0

Two years ago I debuted an experimental theatre piece of mine entitled “How to Build a Dictator.” It was directed by my talented former student and theatre wizard Ysabel Loh and it was part of the Penang Performing Arts Centre Black Box Experiments series. It was tremendously fun to put on. We had a great audience and they reacted wonderfully to this unique audience-interactive show.

Now, I’m introducing “How to Build a Dictator 2.0” I start production on it this weekend with a completely revamped script I just finished writing. It’s 25% longer with even more insane stuff happening which will completely confuse (and hopefully amuse) the audience. I held auditions for it last Sunday and I have a dozen great actors ready to roll on this, though they have NO idea what they are actually getting themselves into. And that’s the beauty of it.

I haven’t had a show since April, so it feels good to get working on one. I’ll be sure to post many updates as we go along and get closer to the show dates of early December. But for now, I’ll leave with our mock-up poster – courtesy of Ysabel Loh who designed this for the first dictator show. I feel like the design is set in stone. This is the branding for this show. So here we go. Let the fun begin. dictatorPOSTER.jpg

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Would the Bard Approve?

In my drama class this week, I emphasized one of the most basic points related to the dramatic arts – plays are meant to be performed.

You may think I’m stating the obvious. But the obvious sometimes gets lost in the well-meaning jungle of academic minutia.

Ask yourself, how many plays did you have to read in an English class at some point in your life?

In college, I had the Riverside Shakespeare – the massive volume of all the bard’s plays and poetic works wrapped with hundreds of pages of commentary. It was overwhelming on both the brain and my muscles. And I went to college in the days before backpacks. At least I don’t remember backpacks. I remember carrying books under my arms with my knuckles dragging on the ground from the weight of Lady Macbeth’s scheming. All of those plays I read by myself in my dorm room. Is it any wonder I had trouble paying attention to them.

This is what I have concluded: Plays. Stage. Perfection.

Plays. Classroom. Less than perfection.

How much better is Shakespeare when seeing it live? How about a bizzilion times!

Case in point. This summer I had the opportunity to see “As You Like It” in a small outdoor park venue. The lively performance used the hillside and trees as part of the  stage – a terrific natural setting which added to the imagination of the piece. The actions and language brought the play to life in vivid ways, and hundreds of people sprawling out on lawn chairs and lounging on the natural green grass amphitheater enjoyed a terrific evening of entertainment away from the television or sports or cell phones.

The pages were alive, as they should be.

I’m sure the bard would have approved of the spectacle in Allen Park, though I have to wonder what he would have thought to see his works studied like ancient manuscripts in a static classroom.

Plays are meant to be brought to life.  They are meant to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. The voice, the emphasis, the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of the varied pitches, the laughter, the growls, the crying, the joy, the humanness.

Lets get the plays out of the classrooms and onto the stage.

But if they must be in the classroom, I hope an impromptu stage emerges with students reading and acting out the words on the page which were never meant to stay there.

 

THE BIRTH OF TECHNICOLOR in Brooklyn

I had the privilege of watching the world premiere of my play THE BIRTH OF TECHNICOLOR at the Gallery Players’ Theatre Black Box New Play Festival 2018.

Here I am, excited standing outside the theater.

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The play was adeptly directed by David Thomas Cronin and beautifully acted by two talented actors: Elizabeth Pickering Hopland (who played the character Black & White) and Danielle Ferretti (who played Technicolor). Here we are basking in the aftermath of opening night.

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You’ll notice Elizabeth was too quick with taking off her make-up since she didn’t know the nosy writer would be there requesting a photo after curtain call.  So I grabbed a promotional photo from dress rehearsal so you can see what she looked like.

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Yes, fabulous. Both of them. And they shined on-stage with terrific chemistry and point-on timing. It is always such a treat for a playwright to see a new work come to life. This is a quirky and funny play which honors the throwback golden era of cinema with loads of references to many of the great black and white films of all time.

This was the very first time I have ever gotten to see one of my plays in America. I’ve spent so much time overseas and produced many different shows in some unique venues, but it was special to finally be able to be there in the Big Apple at Brooklyn’s “premiere off-Broadway theater” to see a great show.

I tip my hat to all involved including Sue and Dominic who produced the show.

Hopefully, there will be many shows to come.

In Brooklyn This Week: “The Birth of Technicolor” @ Gallery Players’ Theater

If you are in the NYC area this weekend, don’t miss the world premiere of my play “The Birth of Technicolor” at the Gallery Players’ Black Box New Play Festival. It is one of four plays which will be performed Thursday June 14 through Sunday June 17. (Thurs-Sat @ 7:30 & Sunday @ 3:00)  I will be on hand Thursday and Friday evenings. Hope to see you there!

The play itself is a cute little thing. Black & White Film and Technicolor Film show up to give an audition to famed movie director DW Griffith. Each of them want the starring role in his next film. It doesn’t take long for Black & White to feel threatened by Technicolor’s brash and colorful personality. Eventually they each perform a death scene for the director, but the outcome is not what either of them expects.

Play: The Birth of Technicolor   Written by Mark W Sasse

Directed by David  Thomas Cronin

The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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For the Glory of Stagecraft: Broadway Flats

Stagecraft. It’s an art form without limits in many ways because the artistry of stage craft can achieve stupendous monumental artistic heights. Most theatre productions, however, are not quite so grandiose in reach – including my own productions. My artistic abilities certainly have their limitations. I depend greatly upon actual artist to draw and paint and create much of the visual magic which takes place on stage.

I am, however, interested in stage craft, and I’ve been learning the different methods of creating backdrops and visual textures on stage. One indispensable part of building a set, in my opinion, is the Broadway flat. Essentially, Broadway flats are wooden frames with taut muslin fabric stretched across them. Here, let’s look:

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This is the backstage view of the flats we made for our show “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I decided I wanted a static background which represents the entire show. So we built the frames, stretched the muslin over it, and treated the fabric with diluted white glue which helped to tighten it so would be good for painting. You’ll notice that Broadway flats (ours were 8 ft  x 4 ft) need wooden jacks which support the flats. The jacks were attached to the flats with metal l-brackets and then attached to the stage floor with small screws. Weights or sandbags would also work if you aren’t allowed to screw into the flooring.

Here’s what the front looked like:

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These cloth flats have the illusion of being solid wood. Even my tech person didn’t know they were made out of cloth. What’s great about them is that they are very light to move in case you need to strike the set during the show, and very cost effective because when the show is finished, you can paint over them for the next show.

I also love to use them for colored textured on stage. When painted white, they can be splashed with color or the pattern from a gobos to create great visual backdrops for drama, dance, or music.

Creating Broadway flats was one of the first things I wanted to do at my new school since they didn’t have any. In my opinion, they are an essential element of theatre production, and a really enjoyable project to make with students.

This particular backdrop added a lot of color and life to our production.

So, do you love Broadway flats as much as I do?

My New Show: “Crazy Love”

This afternoon, I was thinking ahead a little bit about my new show coming up at the end of the year. It will be my first, all-original production since December 2016’s “Tales of Wonder II.” Not that I haven’t produced anything since then.

May 2017 – RLT “Our Best” did include some original content though it was mainly a best-of show.

May 2017 – RLT Musical also was a re-hash of old musical numbers except for one new piece.

January 2018 – “For All Generations” was a re-designed show based on my 2014 RLT Players’ show.

April 2018 – “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – the Broadway Musical.

So finally, it’s coming, the new show:  “Crazy Love.” This is a MOSTLY original show. It does include two of my award-winning scripts from previous shows, but it is mainly new. Six new dramatic sketches and one mini-musical. This 9 piece production will be about one and a half hours long and it will be performed in our brand new campus’ brand new theatre! I can’t wait. Lots more to come on this later. But here’s the lineup.

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Crazy Love – The New Show

One of my tasks for my residency at Greywood Arts in Ireland was to complete my new show entitled “Crazy Love.” The world premiere of this show will be performed by my drama group The Sun & Sand Players in December 2018 in Jeddah.

In addition to the two full-length plays I completed this week, I’m thrilled to see “Crazy Love” come together. It’s a collection of 8 dramatic sketches and one mini-musical all themed around crazy love.  The show will consist of 7 brand new pieces plus two of my award-winning sketches from other years which fit perfectly in this collection.

Yesterday, I wrote the entire script called “Bridge Watchers” which completed the show. I also finished the script “Young Love” and did some final editing on some of the other scripts as well.

Here’s the way the show is looking:

  • A Pinch of Fate, A Shot of Destiny – Best Script Award Winner – the death angel comes for Rebecca but wasn’t expecting fate to get in the way
  • The Talk – New – snippets of parents talking to their kids for the first time about the birds and bees
  • Bridge Watchers – New – seven bystanders watch a tragedy unfold from  on top of a bridge. Who will get involved?
  • Fruit Punch – New – Banana tries to setup Olive on a date with an actual Date. (yeah, it’s crazy)
  • Shame on the Moon – New – a reworking of Romeo and Juliet, every time Romero and Julia look at the moon, they fall in love
  • Young Love – New – snippets of love from the perspective of kids
  • No in Spite of Itself – Best Script Award Winner – a young man stands on a cliff having a conversation to himself, lamenting the fact that the girl he loves doesn’t love him
  • Love is Not a Straight Arrow – New – a fictionalized version of a true story about my grandmother in 1924, when she came to Pennsylvania to marry Otto Sasse
  • Crazy Love: The Musical – New – a mini-musical about a family falling apart, and a child who thinks she is to blame

I think it will be a great show! Because love is always funny and dramatic. Who can resist it?