Here are the rest of my talented actors and what they have to say about themselves and our new play.
World Premiere: May 13-14 @ the Penang Performing Arts Centre.
Here’s the second monologue added to the PAGES on the right of my site.
In my play “Life with Stewart”, Nicholas Stewart, an aged Hollywood movie star, is asked to deliver again his famous speech as the unforgettable protagonist Wellesly Green from the movie “Surrender has no Tomorrow”. (Of course, all of this is fictional.) So imagine a staggering figure, clad in battle gear, trying to rally his comrades to continue fighting against insurmountable odds in order to stave off certain death. Here is the monologue in its entirety.
Character. That is what stands between us and our destiny. Each of us has sacrificed much to arrive at this point; the battered souls we are would give up the fight if it was merely up to us. If we were only flesh and blood, only here and now, only eyes and ears, surely we would not insist on pushing forward. For our eyes witness odds that our hearts cannot derive courage from. Our ears hear not any reassurance to continue fighting, but only weakness and bickering, coming from our tired, cowardly jaws – the ones we earned by witnessing too much death and experiencing too much despair. Yes, our eyes and ears reveal how human we have become, how cold our flesh feels, and how much colder our blood may soon be. But history reminds us that we are not only flesh and blood. We are not only here and now. We are not only eyes and ears. We are made of more, much more. Time has poured its tired hands into our being, strengthening us with wisdom gleaned from a thousand souls who came before us. Those who knew us and loved us. Those we never knew but influenced the mechanisms of support that we have come to live by. Our character has been built by the sacrifices of these and others who lived their lives and suffered their deaths for our survival. If we extinguish the flickering flame of hope that the winds of fear are ferociously trying to snuff out, then we are not worthy to be called the sons or daughters of the ones that came before us. As the poet Asophie said, “When a pebble dropped in a vast sea splashes beyond its capacity, crashing barriers that were never meant to be crossed, all that one is left with is the realization that the pebble was no small stone and the causality is no one’s fault but your own.” If we die, then we shall be at fault. If we live, then we too shall be the cause of that. As for me, I choose life. What choose you?
I’m finally getting around to posting some monologues that people (especially drama folk) can use for a variety of purposes. You’ll find these on the right of the website under “Monologues.”
This first one is actually from my new novel, not even fully edited yet, but set to release later this summer. It’s entitled “Which Half David.”
Here’s the scene where Tobin is defending in court some tribal members from government oppression. Here’s his long speech. Let me know what you think!
The last thing I want to do today is come here as the all-knowing, eloquent-speaking foreigner and tell you all how democracy and justice are supposed to work. I’m not here to preach, instruct, belittle, or go on indefinitely about this great American justice system the Republic of Sulu inherited from the Filipinos. I’ve lived here long enough to know that you, as a nation, have nothing to learn but much to teach. You already know what democracy is. I’ve seen it in the villages were I work. I’ve seen it in the cities where I have lived. We’ve all heard it in the sporadic demonstrations. You all know clearly what democracy and justice is. The only question you must ask yourself as a nation is whether you have the will to make it a priority. My defense attorney has already stated more aptly than I ever could the minutia of the law which, I believe, proves our case. We all heard what your constitution states about religious freedom. We all heard the testimony of the abuse of power, which was prevalent in Minao Province. And we heard the testimony of exactly what happened that terrible, terrible night. But here is the fine matter that I want to emphasize. When I first arrived in the Sulu Republic eight years ago, I met this remarkable man, Gani, and, honestly, I thought I came here to save him, to spread Christianity, and to teach him how to live a better life. But in turn, I have been profoundly changed by this amazing man. He would never tell you anything about himself. He’s too humble for that. But you need to know the type of man who made the decision that night to ‘take a stand’. He has taken on himself to make sure that every child in the village is properly fed and cared for. Now you might think that is kind of strange, and if strange means out of the ordinary, that would describe him beautifully. On Monday and Tuesday nights, he holds a literacy class where all thirty-seven children in the village show up for a three-hour lesson. And on top of that, he schedules a thirty-minute, once-a-week session with each of the children to make sure they are learning their lessons. Can you imagine that—at least twenty-four hours a week devoted to the children of the village? On Wednesday is his animal husbandry lectures he gives to the women of the village. My group introduced some basic techniques to better help the animal population of the village, but Gani, once he saw the benefit of it, didn’t stop there. He spent eight weekends in the capital at the National Library learning much more about the subject than I learned in any of my training. And he learned it all through a translator because he can’t read Sulunese. Mr. Toggi, can you hold up that notebook? This is what he created. A comprehensive animal husbandry course, adapted for the jungle and this environment, and within two years of implementing his program, the disease rate of animals in the village has decreased by 200%. So much so that when the surrounding villages heard of its success, they came and begged him to teach them the methods as well. Of course, he couldn’t refuse. So he spends four days a month traveling long distances into remote valleys just to improve the lives of the villagers. His wife died three years ago. He lost his oldest son last year. And he continues to have the widest smile, the most sincere greeting, and the warmest heart out of any person I have ever met. You see, it’s very simple, actually. Gani is a leader who truly leads. He does what he says he’s going to do. He backs away when confrontation is not beneficial. He is gracious, honest, and … and here’s truly the fine point of everything: he’s a Christian. For that fact, and for that fact alone, he has been imprisoned, threatened, bullied, and beaten by the local authorities. And yet, do you know what he did the day after Christmas this past year? I’m sure you don’t. He brought a basket of food and gifts from the village to Commander Tulok in Minao City as a goodwill gesture. Look at his face. He didn’t even know that I knew. Here’s another thing he never mentioned. Commander Tulok accused Gani of offering him a bribe and threw him in prison overnight. Of course, the commander enjoyed the generous gifts and foods that he brought. When Gani came home to the village the next day, he didn’t even tell us what had happened. We didn’t even know he was in prison until I was told about it the next time I passed through Minao City. This is the leader who is on trial today. What happens to me and everyone else is not important because we all follow Gani. He has proved himself over and over again, only to be pushed down and trampled on by the local authorities. But no more. No more. What happened in that village the night of the attack was horrific. We will never forget it, and we will always regret the outcome. But the outcome was not dependent on the brave, courageous man who is in charge of our village—Gani. He did not bring anything on anyone. And so if you are required to find a villain to pin these murders on, you will not find one sitting there. It’s your right and duty to decide all of our fate. That is the beauty of the jury system, but I guarantee one thing. If it was you that night, staring down the barrel of a gun. You would have done more than Gani. You would have reached down into your being for the courage to fight and defend what you have every right to defend.
Typically, when I’m directing a play, we will meet to do (hopefully) the whole play once a week. Then in the last month before the show, we ramp up the number of hours significantly and we’ll be ready.
This time was strange. In the past four weeks, there are certain scenes we haven’t practiced at all. At all! That’s not good!
What is the issue? Well, just the crazy school life we all live. We had Spring Break which took out a week. We had a photoshoot that took out another week. The other week we didn’t get through the whole thing. So today, I found my cast in the position of doing some scenes for the first time in 4 weeks! YIKES!
How’d we do? Not bad, considering. Lines are still memorized, except for an occasional needed prompt. The blocking needed work, but overall I’m pleased with the progress we had during out time of lack of progress.
Everything changes this Saturday as we’ll be having our first of three, all day Saturday practices leading up to the show.
The first Saturday must accomplish the following:
If we can accomplish all of this on Saturday, we’ll be in good shape.
Have I told you how excited I am about this script? “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”
Three shows, May 13-14 @ the Penang Performing Arts Center.
Tuesday evening, we had our annual Readers’ Theatre – this year a re-incarnation of the Pink Panther. We had the audience rolling in laughter. A Readers’ Theatre is just like any other show except the actors read the lines instead of memorizing them. It leads to very amusing situations when Jacques Clouseau says things like, “Wait, I can’t find my line” or when Javis, dancing the tango with Clouseau, can’t read the script because Clouseau is pushing his arm up and down.
A Readers’ Theatre is a great experience and a lot of fun. Here’s a glimpse of what ours looked like. (All photos courtesy of Jonathan Steffan.)
One of the major units of my Intro to Theatre Arts class is a readers’ theatre which the entire class has to produce. The script doesn’t need to be memorized, but the story needs to “pop” on stage as if it is memorized. A staged reading might be a synonym for what we do. We use the stage. We have motion, action, fight-scenes, you name it! It’s a real theatrical show with everything you would expect – except for the lines aren’t memorized.
We’re producing The Pink Panther this year. As you know, I do mostly original dramas at our school, but during the readers’ theatre, I like to do well known scripts to mix it up a little. Here’s what we did the past few years:
2013 “Pillow Talk”
2014 “Arsenic & Old Lace”
2016 “The Pink Panther”
Another thing I insist on in our readers’ theatre is that the students are responsible for every aspect of the production. Student directed and student produced. I serve in advisory role as Executive Producer, collecting the big bucks but not doing any of the work.
Here’s our fearless cast:
You might think that drama practice is all about working lines, practicing blocking of scenes, digging in deep into the themes of the piece, and pushing the script further than you had it a week ago.
Well, that’s not really true. Here’s what really goes on.
Yes. Drawing caricatures of the director and actors on the white board. That’s me on the right. I have a really round face but a square head. I was not aware of that. That one in the middle is supposed to be me too, even though I don’t wear glasses or I don’t wear a bow tie. What are these actors smoking?
That’s JP on the left. He’s from Korea and he’s playing the captain of the guard when not posing for whiteboard caricatures. The lady beside him is Yzzy, probably the instigator of all of these drama shenanigans. She’s heading to university next year as a theatre major. Perhaps she should switch to art.
This is the craziness behind the scenes which bring about (eventually) theatre excellence.
Two months more until the world premiere of “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.” Can’t wait!
Here’s the video link for my favorite young actors bringing home the silver medal at the SEA Forensics Competition using my new script, “Me, Myself, & the Bridge of Sighs.” I know I’m not biased, but I would have given them gold! Anyways, they were fabulous as usual. Enjoy this poignant performance by two bright shining talents.
All photos by Jonathan Steffan.