The World Crashing Down: AKA – “My Show is This Week”

I’m a writer. I love writing.

I’m a director. I really enjoying directing.

I’m a producer. I like producing.

Yes, there’s a distinct step-down there. Writing and directing unleashes the creative demon inside me in very different ways. Producing, well, that’s where the stress comes from.

And this week, four and a half months  of preparation comes to fruition, which really feels like the world crashing down around me. Actually, I’m sitting by the ocean as I type and each of those waves reminds me of something else I must get done before the show date.

Here’s a last minute list:

seating arrrangment – in a black box modular setting and we are still working on configuration.

Promotion – yes, must sell those remaining seats. But  luckily, tickets are going quickly.

FOH – Front of House – oh, this reminds me that I need to arrange front of house staff for each shows. Oops! Forgot this one.

Wednesday is bump-in day. All props, set pieces need to be transported. Then the massive task of rigging and focusing following our lighting plan. Then mic set-up and sound check. Then cues! NO! CUES!!!! It takes so long. Then adjust lights because the director wasn’t thinking ahead and got a new idea once he saw the lights.

Arrange food for the team. This is important.

Transport too!

And then technical rehearsal, and then our ONE CHANCE on-site dress rehearsal. Yes, we only get to perform in the venue once before the show date. It’s a massive challenge.

This, and more, is what I’m staring at this week, thus world-crashing-in felt appropriate.

Producing drama is the most work I’ve ever in any one task. But don’t get me wrong. It’s also the most rewarding. I love it all.

It’s going to be a great week!

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It’s not the words. It’s the emotion behind the words.

I was working with one of my actors on a pivotal scene in our upcoming play. She gives a short speech which spurs on some tremendous societal changes. Yes, it’s a few lines of dialogue which changes the story dramatically. It’s the crucial point in the play.

The actor had not been getting it. The speech she has been giving in rehearsal has been flat and unemotional. Today, I pulled her aside to correct it, and I started by saying: “It’s not the words. Don’t worry about what you are going to say. Work on how you prepare to say the words.”

First off, as a playwright, I was horrified at myself. Don’t worry about the words??? Am I crazy? But as a director, I needed to shift her away from the words because the words were hollow to her. I told her, if she can put herself in the right emotional state, then the words will flow appropriately and I won’t even have to tell her how to say the words. She will say them authentically.

So we put down the script, and we walked through the scene. We focused on the action, the moment, the setting, the character’s emotional connection to what had just happened. Then we designed a set of actions, a slow plodding walk, a purposeful turn, hands coming to her face. We dug deep into the feelings she had, the sadness she felt about what had happened. She forced herself to block our her surroundings and focus on the feeling in her chest.

She walked slowly into position, she raised her hands over her face, she put her head down, then lifted her eyes into the auditorium and started to speak. Her voice crackled, slight tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and she raised her voice strong and spoke the words – words which at the last rehearsal were flat and ineffective. Now they were purposeful, emotional, powerful, and perfect.

Young actors focus so much on the words, wondering how to say the lines. But a little exploration of the scene and some purposeful movement and trigger mechanisms can make the words flow naturally from the emotion and action of the actor. This is when the magic happens.

So, playwright, at times you have to take a back seat because the meaning of the words will only reach peak impact if they are said with the emotion and attitude of the actor.

Well done, young actor. And that was just one short rehearsal. I can’t wait to see the final result.

Good Friday: Dead is Dead

Good Friday is the penultimate day for Christians around the world. It’s a reminder that the first day of the week is coming, the day that brings hope, the day that brings faith. But I’m sure the first Good Friday didn’t feel like it was a penultimate day, waiting for another reveal. Not, it would have had an air of finality about it. After all, dead is dead. Or is it?

To commemorate this Good Friday, I’d like to share with you a short play I wrote for a Good Friday service last year, simply entitled “Dead is Dead”.


 

Characters

Jabez, husband of Naarah, follower of Jesus

Naarah, wife of Jabez, follower of Jesus

Daughter, of Jabez and Naarah

Roman Soldier

Setting: At their home in Jerusalem the day after the crucifixion of Jesus.

 

Jabez is sitting eating some bread, giving it to her child. Child runs off to the side of the stage and is playing in the dirt. The Jabez is standing in a contemplative pose.

 

NAARAH: Do you want something to eat? (He shrugs it off.) I remember the first time I saw him. He had a single loaf of bread in his hand. (in thought) On the hillside. The crowd was massive, and I pushed my way in. I was just curious, nothing else.

JABEZ: Curiosity is better left alone unless you want a dagger in your heart.

NAARAH: I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ: It doesn’t matter what you believe when yesterday is still seared into our memory. We saw it with our own eyes, and that’s the end of it.

(The girl runs up from behind and tugs on the arm of her papa.)

GIRL: Papa, papa. Come here. Come here.

NAARAH: But it doesn’t make any sense. How can it be finished? There’s more to it than just yesterday. Our eyes have seen things, and you know it. It’s not like the first unbelievable thing we saw was yesterday.

GIRL: Papa, papa.

JABEZ: (gruffly to girl) Not now. Can’t you see your mother and I are in a conversation? (The girls runs off and starts digging and playing in the dirt off the side of the stage.) Why did I let you drag me into this?

NAARAH: Don’t blame your lack of faith on me.

JABEZ: Faith is now the last thing we need. We have given everything for him. And now what are we going to do? We’ll be outcasts. That bread in your hand might be some of the last you’ll ever have.

NAARAH: Stop it.

JABEZ: How could we have been so foolish?

NAARAH: I came to you and told you what I saw. That’s all. The rest was your decision.

JABEZ: And what exactly did you see? Perhaps your heart was a little too emotionally involved to see things objectively.

NAARAH: I’m not going to let your bitterness cloud my vision. I was on that hillside, and he took that loaf of bread and a small fish and fed thousands with them. Emotion doesn’t fill an ox cart full of bread. Tears have never multiplied fish. It happened, and you know it happened. Because you saw what he did for the blind beggar. (He turns away disgusted.) Don’t turn away from me. You know what I’m talking about. How many times did you pass him in the streets as he sat near the well in his ragged clothes? And you saw the rabbi heal him. I know it. I saw the faith in your eyes when you came home that day.

JABEZ (emotion) Where is faith now? Nailed to a bloody, wooden cross.

(The daughter comes back over to him.)

GIRL: (pulling on his arm) Papa! Come over here and look.

JABEZ: Not now!

(Daughter walks away again.)

NAARAH: It may not all make sense, but I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ: Yes, I saw with these very eyes what he did to the blind beggar, and I can’t explain it. But those same eyes witnessed something very different yesterday. Stop blinding yourself with reckless faith. Stop seeing what you only want to see. He’s gone.

NAARAH: But perhaps …

JABEZ: Dead is dead. It’s no different if he had fallen into a well or been bit by a viper or the Roman Legion sliced off his head. Either way, dead is dead, and we’d both be much better off if we can admit that fact. Jesus of Nazareth is dead. And life doesn’t come from death.

GIRL: Papa …

JABEZ: Not now!

GIRL:  Someone’s coming.

(He looks and sees a Roman soldier coming at him quickly.)

ROMAN:  Jabez!

(Jabez tries to run, but knocks into his daughter who falls to the ground. He stops to pick her up and Naarah comes to get the girl as the soldier punches Jabez to the ground.)

I should slice you here, and I would if it were up to me.

(Standing over him with a sword to his throat.)

JABEZ: What have I done?

ROMAN: Your neighbors have let it be known that your household was part of the rebellious movement of Jesus of Nazareth.

JABEZ: Please don’t hurt my family.

ROMAN: I am here to make one thing perfectly clear, and let the pointed edge of my sword re-enforce it. The governor of Judaea will crush anyone who perpetuates rumors or prophecies about the Nazarene. He is dead, and all thoughts of rebellion are buried in his corpse, or the likes of you will be buried alongside him. Do I make myself understood?

JABEZ: Yes.

ROMAN: Stand to your feet. (Jabez slowly stands) I just need to make sure you understand.

(He smacks him twice and Jabez staggers to the other side of the stage and falls on his face near the place the girl had been playing. Naarah and the girl are crying, and they go to his side.)

ROMAN: I think we understand each other now.

(The soldier exits.)

NAARAH: Jabez. Are you all right? Oh, God our father help us. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Jabez. He’s gone. It’s okay. He’s gone. Are you all right?

JABEZ: No matter what happened yesterday, I’m not going to let Roman tyranny rip the faith out of me.

NAARAH (smiling) No, I suppose you wouldn’t.

GIRL: Papa, I want you to see something. Look! (She points out to a place in front of them.) The olive seeds we planted. Remember, you said they were no good. But look, they are sprouting, papa!

(He looks out on the plants and reaches for them.)

JABEZ: That’s impossible. I stopped watering those a month ago.

NAARAH: Look at them!

(Jabez starts laughing.)

JABEZ: A miracle in the desert. Life indeed coming from death.

(Holding on to each other.)

Maybe we should wait and see what tomorrow will bring.

 

Coming Soon

Coming soon:

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Here’s a little graphic I put together about my upcoming show. It’s a collection of comedic and dramatic sketches I’ve written over the past seven years. My good friend Doug is directing Act I while I have the helm for Act II.

It’s going to be a bittersweet look back of what we have accomplished from an ensemble standpoint. Typically, RLT maxes out at 12 members, but we extended the casting for this very special show, and it’s worked out great. I have some directing insight I want to share on a later post. I’m finally figuring out what kind of director I am.

Oh, and look: Could that be our sometimes movie review guest columnist Inha Kim in the middle of that photo? Could be.

I can’t wait for this show: May 12-13 @ penangpac.

A Short Narration #1

A Short Narration #1

RLT  Musical Revue is a special show of musical theatre (May 20th) which highlights the songs and short musicals which I’ve written or co-written over the past eight years. It includes 21 pieces of varying lengths, including 3 short musicals of 10 minutes or less. To tie the show together, I’ve written a few narrative pieces which introduce certain segments of the performance. Here’s a short one entitled Sacrifices & Hope. It introduces one of my favorite pieces, the short musical “A Woman at War” which tells the story of Sarah, who fights World War II in her own way on the home front.

Sacrifices and Hope. Hope is a platitude which means nothing without sacrifice. Hope doesn’t bloom alone in a barren and frozen winter soil. Hope requires sacrifice. For who would trust in a man who isn’t willing to lay does his life for his love? Who would trust in a God who wouldn’t firsthand understand the pain and sorrow holding back the spring’s green growth? Hope grows in the soil of sacrifice, on the distant battlefront, on the lonely home front, in the dead cold mud of the first day of March. As sacrifice is planted, hope grows.

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Readers’ Theatre: Anne of Green Gables

The main, yearly project for my Intro to Theatre Arts class is our Readers’ Theatre. It’s a performance where the actors keep the scripts in their hands, and they act it out as best as possible with as many props and set pieces as possible. For this project, I make it completely student driven. Inha directed the show this year. Caitlin produced. Each student was assigned to committees such as promotion, props, staging, etc… Caitlin had to learn how to pay royalties. Inha worked daily with the actors on the scenes and their acting skills.

This year we chose to produce “Anne of Green Gables.” I knew this would draw in the female audience of our school. Little girls, eager in anticipation, lined up to watch Anne Shirley walk the ridge pole or coyly brush away Gilbert Blythe. It’s a challenging script for one reason: not much happens in it. It’s really up to the actors to bring the story to life.

And they did it. Just got back from the show and it was a great success. The audience was engaged and receptive and the kids rose to the occasion, and then some. Great performances.

A Readers’ Theatre is a great class project I definitely recommend. Here’s a few photos from dress rehearsal yesterday.

Twenty Shows: A Ten Year Lookback

Go back eleven years and drama wasn’t even in my radar. It may not have been in my galaxy, and if it was, it certainly wasn’t connected with original drama.

Now, in 2017, looking backward I see that I have written (or co-written) and produced 19 original, full-length dramatic productions in the past ten years. Here’s my wall to (kind of) prove it:

dramaboxes

I painted 21 squares on my wall and randomly colored them with whatever colors of paint I had. Now I’m going back and printing out a poster from all of my productions and inviting all my students to sign in any square in which they participated in. It’s a way of recalling what we have accomplished as I head out of Penang for good this coming June.

It’s been a wild and crazy ride. Moments of joy, laughter, tears, and euphoria — some of it even on stage! It’s been so fun to see young actors develop their confidence and soar through a production to impact the audience in unexpected ways. It’s also been rewarding to develop my skills as a playwright. I’m not finished developing, not by a long shot, and in fact I know I will never be finished  growing and experimenting in my craft. I’m in it for the long haul because I thrive on creative ideas and the challenge of bringing them to life. So as I work on completing my drama wall in my classroom, let me list off the original productions I’ve had the privilege of writing and producing at my school. An asterisk* denotes a script I co-wrote with student writers.

2008 What I Wouldn’t Give for a Monkey Love Potion*

2009 A Tad of Trouble*

2010 Take Two*

2011 Spy Blue*

2011 Romans on the Couch

2011 RLT Players present The Road Less Traveled*

2012 Life with Stewart*

2012 RLT Players present Drive All Night (Back into your Arms)

2013 Grandparents’ War*

2013 RLT Players present Captured in Time & Space

2014 Boardwalk Melody: A Musical*

2014 RLT Players present For All Generations

2015 A Tad of Trouble: A Musical (updated and re-written)

2015 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder

2016 Secrets of the Magic Pool

2016 How to Build a Dictator: A Black Box Experimental Piece

2016 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder II

2017 RLT Players: A Collection of Our Best

2017 RLT Musical: A Journey Down the Road Less Traveled

2017 RLT Musical: Tales of Christmas