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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Even Writers Need a Day Off

I have a three day weekend from my day job. This typically means that I’m burning the midnight oil with all types of writing projects, trying to take advantage of the extra time to concentrate on plot twists and dialogue and all the other important things in life.

But today, no.

I don’t know why. It’s been the most non-productive writing day of my life.

I can’t even process what I actually did today. Now it’s 6:38 in the evening and what have I accomplished?

I took a walk this morning. Music attached to my ears. It was nice.

I ironed my shirts. Something I rarely do. What’s going on here?

I cooked some lunch.

I transferred music from the cloud onto my phone.

I spent too much time scrolling through my Facebook feed.

I took out the trash.

I didn’t have one writing thought today. No creativity whatsoever. It was just one plain old nothing.

And you know what? I think I needed it.

We all need down time, and perhaps, writers need it more than most. The brain that is typically swimming in a thousand directions doesn’t mind sitting as a toad staring mindless into a stream, focused more on the skimmer on the surface than the indigo blue overhead.

A little mindless me time might just be what I need to get back at it tomorrow.

So whatever you do in life, take a day, at some point, and do nothing.

Then be ready to get at it tomorrow.

(Now would you look at this. I just wrote a blog post about doing nothing on the day I did nothing. So does that mean I actually did something? Hmmm.)

The Library of Siena Cathedral

This summer I had my first ever trip to Italy – 14 incredible days of culture, history, and food. I thought I’d share a few highlights from time to time on the old blog.

On our tour of ancient capital of Siena, the magnificent cathedral impressed for architecture and art. What else is new? It’s Italy, after all. Here’s a few shots of what we experienced at the cathedral.

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The Cathedral – opened in early 13th century

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The unique striped design inside the main hall of the cathedral.

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Floor design in main cathedral

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Yes, a famous sculpture.

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Choir book. So cool!

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The vibrant ceiling of the library.

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These library frescoes are original. Never restored. The vibrant colors over seven hundred years old were amazing.

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The library! These ancient choir books were too amazing to pass up. Anyone up for singing?

EP Review: Needtobreathe’s “Forever on Your Side”

I’ve been meaning to post a 5-star, two-thumbs-up review of Needtobreathe’s “Forever on Your Side” EP. So here it is.

Get it! It’s tremendous.

The EP released last month in anticipation of their national “Forever on Your Side” Tour, which recently kicked off. The EP consists of four songs.

“Bridges Burn” – a song about forgetting the past, leaving your regrets behind, and burning the bridges that link us to those things we should leave behind. Here’s the chorus:

I wanna watch all my bridges burn
Stand in the rain ’til the page is turned
Dance in the light of a lesson learned, lesson learned
I wanna leave everything that hurts
Never go back to the way we were
Set it on fire, baby, watch it burn, watch it burn

“Darling” – This is a sweet and revealing glimpse of a musician who doesn’t want to be on the road anymore. He just wants to lie down with his “darling” and talk.  This is a beautiful song with a wonderful, stripped down production with gorgeous evocative saxophone.

“Bullets” – Oh my, I love this song. It’s got this funky-soul-rock groove going on that’s just infectious. The layers on instruments build on each other, starting with a soaring melodic guitar riff and Bear Rinehart’s soulful voice and crescendos with the entire band jamming. You’ll be tapping your toe or dancing. One or the other.

“Forever on Your Side” – This song ends the EP, a tremendous wave-your-cell-phone-in-the-air anthem that is inspirational and moving.  Here’s the chorus:

All these pieces they fall in line
Because I’m forever on your side
Take my hand when you can’t see the light
‘Cause I’m forever on your side
I will carry you every time
Because I’m forever on your side
Oh I’m forever on your side

The only thing wrong with this EP is that it’s an EP. If they would have added 6 more songs along the same vein, they would have themselves a truly terrific album.

Here’s my advice to them. Please, start the entire show with “Bullets.” This song builds expectations and would be an awesome way to get the show rocking. Then, as a second curtain call song, end everything with “Forever on Your Side.” Bookend the concert like that and it will be a great success. Needtobreathe’s a talented band, and they shine on this EP. Check it out!

Listen on Amazon

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Choose a Mindset: Growth or Stagnation

Half full. Half empty.

Pessimistic. Optimistic.

Toxic. Encouraging.

Complaining. Uplifting.

Wallow in pity. Wash, forget, and start anew.

Where do you fall of the scale of daily ups and downs in this life?

Whether a situation is best described as half full or half empty actually doesn’t change the situation in the slightest way. It is what it is. It’s what we choose to do about that half-empty or half-full cup which will determine if our life is on the trajectory of growth or stagnation.

Think of a trying situation in your life. Will you be toxic about it, spreading rumors and causing discord? Or will you be the encouraging voice in the room, spreading hope, constructive ideas, and solutions?

Will you wallow in self-pity because “this shouldn’t be like that” or “things should be done differently” or will you put aside the messy, dirty stains you picked up along the way today and wash, rinse, forget, and re-boot anew tomorrow?

We make choices every day which will not only affect our demeanor and the demeanor of those around us but will ultimately affect the trajectory of our life.

Whether it’s dealing with the ups and downs of being a writer, a situation with a difficult child, or a difficult work environment, we make our own stars in a lot of ways.

What’s your trying situation that you will need to navigate in the near future?

Mine revolves around a quickly approaching school year with a new campus that’s not quite ready, new teacher apartments that are not quite ready, piles of boxes and furniture in our old apartment ready to be moved but nowhere to move them to. Unanswered questions about where I will be teaching, how my dramas will be affected if our new theatre isn’t built on time, etc… It’s a stressful time for a lot of people around here, so how am I going to react and respond?

Here’s a few reminders to myself: The situation is as it is. There’s no changing the past. Complaining in the present isn’t going to better the situation. Participating in gossip or destructive conversations about “how things should have been done” also won’t change anything. Negativity accomplishes nothing, but it can hold back progress.

Our school has some unique challenges in the weeks ahead. But challenges are opportunities for growth. The important thing to remember about growth, however, is that it doesn’t come easy. Growth takes time, hard work, stubbornness, resiliency, and grit. A growth mindset builds into others. It seeks solutions to improve situations. It’s a learner’s mindset, because to grow we must change. Change our attitude. Change our talk. Change our behavior.

But if you don’t choose growth in whatever situation you are currently facing, what are you choosing?

One of the antonyms of growth is stagnation. Stagnation doesn’t take any time. It requires no hard work. It comes easy. There’s no need to bounce back from adversity and you’ll need to stick with nothing in order to achieve stagnation.

So what will it be? Growth or stagnation?

Book Update – Theatrical Duets: For Stage, Competition, or Classroom

I’ve just updated and expanded my collection of theatrical duets. These are unique, fun, meaningful, though-provoking, and stage-proven duets which can be used in a variety of situations. Most all of them have been stage-tested. Many of them have been used for high school forensics competitions – with four of these winning awards! I’ve been using many of these for years in my drama classroom.

I’ve just added two new duets to the book. One of them about bullying – semi-autobiographical I might add – and the other is called “Wishing Well,” a touching portrait of a father and daughter going through a difficult time. “Wishing Well” came to be as one of my former drama students contacted me and asked if I could write them a script for their HS forensic duet-acting competition. I’m not one to turn down a writing assignment requested by one of my students. So as I finished this short script, I decided it would be a good time to add it to my collection and update my book.

So I did.

It’s available in paperback for $10.99. If you know a drama teacher, drama enthusiast, or actor in your midst, please let them know. I think they will enjoy this collection.

Thanks!

Amazon: Theatrical Duets

Theatrical Duets from THE BOOK DEPOSITORY with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING

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I’ve Been Hiding in Italy on Vacation

My poor blog. It has lost the fight against ancient relics and priceless cuisine. I’ve been on the most amazing tour of Italy the last week plus that I forgot there was a world out there I used to know. Way to much to show and tell on this one little post, but I thought I’d drop a few photos to show what I did just yesterday. Lots more to come. Consider this the primo.

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Magic Square in Pisa. Okay. Too many people diss Pisa. I’ve heard them say there are so many other places to go. Skip Pisa. Well, no. Magic Square as they call it is rather magical. Of course the leaning tower gets all the glory, but the cathedral and baptistry (foreground) are stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. Well worth a trip from Florence.

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Look at this. Stunning, isn’t it? This is the library ceiling from the Siena Cathedral. This is just the ceiling. Original fresco never restored. You are looking at the colors as they were applied back in the 13th century. Stunning. My old church had a library, but I think it had a matte-white Sherwin-Williams finish. Not quite the same thing.

2018-08-02 12.35.06Tuscan country side. So beautiful. This is actually a view from a restaurant where we had lunch. If you look way in the distance, you can see San Gimignano – the so-called “Manhattan of the Middle Ages.” See below.

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Here’s the square in San Gimignano. There are many of these towers which are visible from far off – making a stunning medieval city on a hill. This town was one of my absolute favorites. A must see surrounded by the incredible Tuscan countryside – grapes, olive trees, lavender, etc…

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That’s what I’ve been up to. Oh, and tomorrow I go to Venice. Last week I was in Rome. Yes, I am spoiled beyond belief. I’ll get back to writing one of these days.  I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I’m enjoying mine.