Spring Break in Ireland

I’m officially three-quarters finished with my first year of teaching drama in Saudi Arabia. Spring break has arrived. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s been a challenging year in many respects – a good year – complete with unique challenges I had not expected. The show that I’m currently producing and directing – You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – has proved to have more downs than ups with a revolving cast and a myriad of obstacles. It’s been exhausting. I’ve never had a production like this. The show is April 18-20, so what better time than now to take a break from it and go to Ireland? The time away will do me a world of good.

I’ve never been to Ireland, so the promise of overcast, chilly temperatures coupled with the famous Irish green will be a delightful change from Jeddah’s taupe and arid make-up.

What led me to Ireland? I always wanted to have a writing residency. It sounded so idyllic – a time set aside on my own for one singular purpose – creativity. Last fall, I started searching worldwide opportunities since my job here affords me the flexibility to travel where I want at certain times of the year. Perhaps I could find something in an interesting place?

I did. I found a call for submissions from a small arts center in Killeagh, Ireland called Greywood Arts. They were selecting three individuals for their Winter Writing Residencies for poetry, play-writing, and visual arts. My submission was my full-length, yet-to-be-produced play “The Last Bastion.” One delightful November day, I received an email from Greywood that they had chosen that play to be the recipient of their residency program. That was a glorious day. When I proposed to them that I use my spring break for the purpose, it fit their schedule perfectly, so here I come!

Killeagh is a tiny village east of Cork in southwest Ireland.  It has a population of 500. It has a Catholic church, a famous thatched roof pub, a couple other pubs, a river, a convenience store, a Chinese restaurant (!?), and Greywood Arts.

Greywood hosts artists and writers throughout the year, promoting the arts in various creative ways. I’m thrilled to be a part of what they are doing.

But what will I be doing? Writing, mainly. I have tasked myself to finish two full-length plays which have been languishing for a while – one more than the other.  Several years back, I wrote an unfinished play themed on the tensions arising over the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. It’s an interesting two character play which explores evangelical Christianity’s struggle to come to terms with the SC’s decision. I’m convinced that there’s something there in this play. It has some interesting angles, and has been difficult to write in many ways because it’s raw. Grittier than I usually like to go. But it felt needed. Until I abandoned it. But now, it’s time to resurrect it. And finish it.

The next play which I started about a year ago and haven’t got back to is a historical piece related to Nat Turner’s slave uprising in 1831.  I have quite a ways to go on this one, but hope to finish it.

I’m also working on my next ensemble show which consists of a series of similarly themed short plays which I will produce for my show in December. I am mostly finished with this show, but I’d like to spend the week editing what I have and writing any pieces which the show lacks.

Also, I want one more. I want one more brand new idea for a full-length play that I can start during my week in Ireland. I’m waiting on the idea to hit me. Perhaps my new setting will be exactly what I need.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Killeagh, Ireland on April 5, I have an event!

READING @ Greywood Arts by playwright Mark W Sasse

Hope to see you there!

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Excerpt for Reading: A Love Story for a Nation

I’m doing an author reading tomorrow at Penangpac’s 4th Anniversary Open Day. Below is a portion of the passage I’ll be dramatically performing. After horrible tragedy strikes the former writer Gerald Sanpatri’s life, he joins the mass protests happening in front of the presidential palace. But he comes to realize that this cannot possible be the way.

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“Fire!”

The word echoed over the loudspeaker, and a deafening round shot into the crowd. Screams of anguish rang out in all directions. The crowd panicked and ran backwards, trampling hundreds under the feet of the frenzied masses. Bodies fell to the ground, both dead and wounded.

A second round of shots. A third volley.

A young woman standing next to Gerald grabbed his arm as she buckled over. A bullet ripped through her abdomen and blood erupted in all directions. Gerald tried to pull her up, but she fell, twisted and torn, trampled by feet trying to flee the gate. Bodies—alive, dead, and wounded—bounded into Gerald from all sides. He contorted himself in several directions at once, surrounded by an escapade of chaotic sight and sound. The girl who had grabbed him fell quickly out of his mind as he, too, thought of nothing but survival. He tripped over someone but luckily balanced himself on a gentleman who had fallen down. The shots continued to ring loudly, until they were drowned out by the firing of the tank. Its piercing ordinance soared over the crowd, magnifying the screams of the frantic exodus. The large traffic circle at the back of the square had been closed off by another military unit, forcing people through the park on the right, or up the side of the boulevard which led to Reoux. The military nabbed dozens of runners, whipping them to the ground to be handcuffed and taken away. Gerald navigated the square about as well as anyone else. He tried to make it to the trail near the boulevard which led down to the river and over towards his home. When he finally made it to the side of the bank overlooking the square, he looked back and saw the tumultuous scene, a grand epic from Hollywood’s golden era; it was like the Egyptians had caught the Israelites on the wrong side of the Red Sea. Bodies lay like flies over the square. Screams and pleas sounded over the firing of the menacing rifles. He stood watching history unfold in front of him; a tale being played out with pawns, kings, and willing participants who would never see another day.
Gerald stared at it all out of obligation. He watched it through his tears and felt sick to his stomach, knowing intimately that life would never be the same again for both himself and his nation.

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Practice Reading for Author Event

I’m excited to be doing a reading from my newest book, A Love Story for a Nation, at the Penang Performing Arts Centre’s 4th Anniversary Open Day this coming Sunday afternoon. There will be a myriad of free performances ranging from drama, to poetry, to music, and book readings. I picked out the passage I want to read, a poignant and exciting passage from rather early in the book. Last evening I rehearsed for the first time, but it  was over the 10 minute limit.

Today, in my speech and forensics class, I asked my students if they would indulge me a little and allow me to do my dramatic reading for them. They eagerly agreed and were willing to give me feedback.

This actually fits in well with where we are heading in the class. We will soon be starting oral interpretations, where each person will have to choose a novel and dramatically read a portion of it only using their voice, without any other body movements. That is the requirement for oral interpretation. They don’t want it to turn into drama.

I, however, am not bound by any forensics rules, so I will certainly take advantage of my drama background and try to make my passage as gripping and alive as I possibly can. I will be using all kinds of movements and motions to better tell the story in hopes that some people may want to purchase it afterwards.

So I performed for my students and they enjoyed it a lot. They also gave me some tangible feedback which will help the audience better understand the passage that I am reading. Tomorrow I’ll share the passage on my blog so you can tell me what you think of it. Also, I’ll be sharing some pictures and experiences from Open Day later next week.

I look forward to it!

The Curse of Reading One’s Own Writing

Will there ever come a day when I can just sit down and read my own writing? Period.

What I mean is, will there ever come a day when I can sit down and read my own writing without wanting to tweak the text?

Now I’m planning on re-reading The Recluse Storyteller just for effect. Maybe even out loud, just to hear it and enjoy it.

But I have a feeling it won’t work out that way.

I suppose it is nearly impossible for an author to approximate the experience that a reader would have upon first read.

Because when I re-read my writings, it usually goes something like this?

“Oh, why did I say it that way?”

“Does that really make sense? Let me re-word.”

“Does that detail totally match what I said earlier?”

“Comma. Yes or no?”

“Does anyone really care about split-infinitives?”

“Oh, an extra space.”

“This author doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

But, alas, what’s a writer to do? Never content.

With only one goal: striving for perfection, settling for excellence.

 

Thoughts on my First Reading

I had a wonderful time last evening as the Dalat Library hosted me for a reading of “Beauty Rising.”  I gave it my best oral interpretation as I read several passages from parts I and III of the book – without giving away any spoilers.

The response was gracious and encouraging.  I used a variety of different voices for the characters which hopefully brought them to life.  Then after some Q & A, I sold a bunch of books of which I had the privilege of signing.

It was a humbling, but fun experience.

I have since realized that a passionate reading of select passages is quite the marketing tool. I was able to emphasis the words which were important to me as I wrote them and I was able to create an audio likeness of the visions I had for the novel as a writer.

I must now try to create a theatrical recording for Part I, Chapter 2 “A Father to Me” for marketing purposes. Hopefully, one listen will bring people into the story.  I’ll give it a shot!