Rejected! But excellent feedback.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been entering plays in one of regional one-act play festivals which happen in the United States. For this particular festival, my works haven’t been selected yet. But what I like about this festival is that each entry (and there were 350 of them this year) is read by judges who give some excellent feedback about the script and end by either recommending or not recommending the piece to be produced.

Last year, both judges recommended my piece “A Writer’s Satire” – giving it high marks – though it still wasn’t chosen for production. That shows you how difficult it is to get in.

This year, my piece also was not chosen, but I still received some excellent feedback from the judges, one who recommended the piece and the other who did not. Both of the comments were positive and constructive. I especially liked the comments from the judge who did not recommend the piece because I agreed with him and his criticism. The judge said that the overall framework of the piece was good, there needed to be more development on the characters. The judge was exactly right. I agree 100%.

So why didn’t I develop the characters further in this play? Simple, I wrote it as a 10-minute play, but this festival accepts plays up to 45 minutes long. I didn’t write this play for this festival, but for another 10-minute festival, but I decided to enter it here just to see what they would say.

I was right. It’s a good 10-minute play. Of that I’m quite confident, especially after one of the judges agreed with me. It would be an even better 20-30 minute play because there would be time to delve deeper into motivations and create a more heightened experience. I simply didn’t have time to re-write it.

Maybe I will re-write it for next year.

Getting feedback on one’s writing is great. It’s not always satisfying, but it is always helpful. It reinforced the idea that I’m on the right track in my play-writing. Just have to keep plugging away.

Two New Sketches

I want to highlight some of the new sketches which will be part of our first Christmas show. First up: “Christmas in the Trenches, 1914.”

This sketch is based on a real event during WWI when, on Christmas Eve, a spontaneous truce broke out between the Germans and British as a Christmas carol wafted in the air. What I’ve tried to do is to make three British soldiers (their stories fictitious) frail and human, trying to survive in the freezing trench when they hear a song from the other side.

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This next one, “The Spies & Mrs. Claus” couldn’t be more different. This is a pure piece of comedic delight, with clever lines, and a sneaky double meaning. The spies were hired by Santa to find out what Mrs. Claus got her for Christmas, but Mrs. Claus has her own ambitions. It’s a lot of fun. That’s two of 10. I’ll highlight the others at another time. It’s going to be a really fun show.

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My Short & Sweet Play through Photos

Courtesy of Ivan Photography, they beautifully captured the immense talent of my two young actors, Lexi and Yzzy. I’m incredibly proud of both of them. They just have the gift, and they brought my script to life in an amazingly emotional way. Check out this intensity.

Tonight is the last of four performances. It’s been a pleasure to watch them every night.

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Lexi questioning how someone could drop a nuclear bomb in their back yard on the day she’s sending her child off to college.

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“It’s just not fair. I’ve prepared her for this day her entire life.”

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Yzzy running around like a crazed two-year old.

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Yzzy at 16, trying to get some freedom from her controling mom.

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“You will not go out with that boy. He can’t be trusted!”

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“I don’t care if everyone else is taking Taekwondo. You will go to math lessons.”

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“Did you just tell me to chill? I won’t chill.”

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Yzzy practicing her Taekwondo.

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Yzzy in one of her amazing stage moves.

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“Like this. It’s fun!”

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“Focus!”

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“Kick its butt!”

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“You silly girl! You are not taking Taekwondo lessons.”

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“I don’t want to go to extra math classes.”

Opening Night a Big Success

I had a lot of fun taking in the opening night of Short & Sweet Malaysia, which kicked off with a week of theatre in Penang. After that it will be heading to KL for nine weeks of Short & Sweet creativity.

Here was the running order for opening night:

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My play was 6th out of 9th in the running order. Here’s my play info:

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And a couple photos of photos from dress rehearsal.

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In the first photo, Lexi, the mom, is trying to figure out how an atomic bomb was dropped in their backyard. Yzzy, the daughter, is frozen as mom does her monologue.

In the second photo, mom is remembering how cute her little girl was as a newborn.

The girls both gave amazing performances last night. Energetic and engaging. And very tender. Lots of tears in the audience. I’ve seen it so many times and I never fail to choke up when they start reflecting upon what’s important in life.

Three more performances this week!

The rest of the Short & Sweet show was a mixed bag of various diverse genres. I’m pretty sure everyone will find some play that they will like. And that’s the genius of short and sweet, if you don’t like one, it will be over in less than 10 minutes. You just need a little patience.

 

Looking Ahead: Short & Sweet Theatre Penang Next Week

Next week kicks off the 4th annual Short & Sweet Theatre festival in Penang. I’ve enjoyed being involved in it since its inception back in 2012.

The Short & Sweet Theatre concept comes out of Sydney, Australia which has been holding this open, theatrical competition for many years. The concept has spread worldwide and can be found in diverse places such as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. What makes Short & Sweet enticing is the format: 10 minute plays where professionals and amateurs can work collaborate, experiment, and have fun in a low-keyed setting. It also is a competition with a variety of awards given for best acting, best script, best overall production and so on.

This is the fourth year that one of my scripts has been included in the show. This year, I requested that I would like to direct my own piece for a change, and so I am. I’m directing a script called “Words to Say at the End of the World” – about a mother and daughter who have to figure out what’s really important once “someone drops a nuclear bomb in their backyard.”  Yes, they have 10 minutes to react after the bomb explodes. It makes sense, don’t worry.

I really like this piece and I’m working with two very talented young actors who are just delightful to watch. We’ve been meeting daily to put it together, and we’ll spend a nice chunk of time this weekend perfecting it. Next Monday is the technical rehearsal where we’ll see my lighting scheme for the first time. (I hope it looks good. I doubt it. That’s not my forte.) And then dress rehearsal Tuesday night.

The show runs from Wed Aug 26 – Sat Aug 29 at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. It should be a lot of fun. If you’re in town. Put it on your calendar.

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Finished Drama: “Tales of Wonder”

I’ve been writing for my drama group The RLT Players since 2011, so we are approaching our fifth original show. That in itself seems amazing. It’s been an awesome ride as we’ve performed before hundreds if not thousands of individuals, bringing our unique brand of drama to the stage. We perform short dramatic sketches, centered around a theme, usually with some sort of morale. It’s drama with a purpose, and in the middle of so much modern drama which seems to have no purpose whatsoever, the response to what we produce has been overwhelming. We focus on all kinds of topics from family, to social issues, to economic theory, to religion, to good-old-fashioned wholesome fun. It’s really been the most rewarding experience I’ve had in connection with the theatre.

Well, the new show if finally finished. I’ve been writing it over the past couple of months. It’s our first and perhaps last Christmas show ever entitled “Tales of Wonder.” I approached the writing of this show trying to capture the essence of wonder that I felt about Christmas as a child. I want the audience to walk away in the Christmas spirit, with a smile on their face and charity in their soul. It’s a mix of the secular and the sacred, as any good Christmas show should be. This coming Monday we’ll have our first read-through with the actors, but before I do that, I wanted to highlight the 9 different dramatic sketches which will be part of the show. (in random order)

  1. National Toy Day – this is a fun satire about Congress declaring December 25 as National Toy Day.
  2. Jolly Old St. Hick – a comedy about a sophisticated urban couple whose car breaks down in the deep countryside  on Christmas Eve. A country bumpkin teaches them the true meaning of Christmas
  3. The Last Shepherd: A Musical – this is a short musical about the last living shepherd who witnessed the birth of Jesus.
  4. The Christmas Banquet – about a man who is supposed to invite every person in the world to the Christmas Banquet, but has problems inviting those who are different than him
  5. The Family Homecoming – a comedy about a rich person’s butler, who schemes to bring his employer’s family back  home at Christmas
  6. Tree Talk – a group of Christmas ornaments are all in an uproar when Candy Can realizes that she is going to be eaten at Christmas
  7. Christmas in the Trenches 1914 – Based on the true story of the British and German troops who  set aside their differences and came together to enjoy Christmas in the midst of war
  8. Season’s Greetings – a grandmother is expecting her family to visit her this year at Christmas only to receive a Christmas Card instead
  9. Tales of Wonder: A Drama Medley – this one, which gives the entire show its name, is a collection of three skits which attempt to illustrate the wonder and awe that Christmas gives to Children. All of the skits are wrapped around a beautiful medly called “Arise and Touch the Dawn.” Skit 1: Snow Fort – about boys and girls ready to attack each other with snow balls Skit 2: Santa Daddy – about a father who is caught by his daughter putting gifts under the tree. Skit 3: You Gotta Get Up – about two kids who wake up their parents early on Christmas morning

These were really fun to write. I hope I did Christmas justice. I can’t wait to start working on them. They’ll be performed at the Penang Performing Arts Centre on December 3-5.

A Short & Sweet Technical Meeting

I can’t delay it anymore. I’ll be directing a short play in the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in late August here in Penang. It’s actually a piece that I have written called, “Words to Say at the End of the World.” I’ve directed before for Short & Sweet, but I specifically asked to direct my own this year, so I could take the complete and utter blame if it’s bad. Typically, in Short & Sweet, a playwright’s play is directed by someone else, as one of the organizers says, “so you can have someone else mess up your play.”

Honestly, I’m always a little cautious to allow others to direct my plays. I guess it’s because I have gotten used to directing, also, and as I write I usually have a visual sense of what I’d like to see done to produce the play. I’m sure my vision for my play isn’t always the best, but at least it’s mine, and I will satisfied with it if I produce it.

So I’ll be meeting this afternoon with the technical team for Short & Sweet, talking through my lighting plan and other technical issues such as:

  • special lighting needs
  • props
  • sound effects

It’s a short play and a bare-bones set, but I’m excited because I love the script and I love the actors. The two actors are actually part of my drama group, The RLT Players. They are extremely talented and experienced. They performed this play before for a Forensics competition and brought home the top prize for their performances. Now I’m excited to give it a proper theatrical treatment as part of this festival.

The basic story is this: A mother is helping her daughter pack for college when a nuclear explosion goes off a short distance away. They re-live the memories of their lives in the fraction of a second after the explosion, finally coming to the realization of what words should be said at the end of the world. It’s funny. It’s believable. And it’s incredibly touching – if we do it right. Goal is simple: tears in audience.

I’ll have lots more coverage of the festival and my piece once it gets closer.

But now it’s time to get excited.