Self-Assessment: How I Rank My Own Plays

I’ve written or co-written seven full length plays. All of them were a blast to produce and stage, but some of them, in my opinion, have staying power while others I would probably never want to revisit.

Why am I contemplating the quality of my plays? Well, my latest one, “Grandparents’ War” finished its limited run on Saturday night to rave reviews. I’ve heard comments like ‘How can you top that?’ to ‘That’s the funniest thing I saw in a longtime.’ That’s awesome to hear, of course. But where does “Grandparents’ War” rank in my own estimation?  Let’s do a countdown.

7. Monkey Love Potion (2007) – This was the first play I co-wrote with students back in the fall of 2007. We were flying by the seat of our pants. My goal was just to produce something, somewhat coherent. It ended up being a loose plot held together by a bunch of one-liners. Funny. Yes. Silly. Yes. Meaningful. Ahhhh – no. That’s why it’s on the bottom.

6. Take Two (2009) – Take Two is far better than Monkey Love Potion. It’s a romantic comedy that incorporates a lot of original music. It’s light, fun, and very enjoyable to produce. The reviews were good. But for me, the writing lacks staying power. I wouldn’t want to revisit it.

5. Romans on the Couch (2010) – I wrote this in, like, four days. It was meant to be a short fun play where the actors get to interact with the audience. We actually staged an interactive night where we just went crazy with the audience and it was a blast! I would definitely stage this again. I liked it a lot.

4 – 1.  Now, I have a hard time choosing. I think these four plays are a cut above the rest and I don’t know how to rank them, so I’ll go by chronological order.

2008 A Tad of Trouble – This is a hit. It is a musical about a guardian angel who gives her subject, a troubled mute boy, the gift of song if he promises to right the wrongs he’s done. It’s got an awesome villain in Obediah Clementine; it’s set in Midwest USA in 1903. I love this play and I AM going to re-stage it. Some of the writing needs to be crisper and I want to redo some of the songs, but it was wonderful, and it’s coming back to the stage. Unfortunately, it remains unpublished at this point.

2010 Spy Blue – This one stretched me – and everyone else to get really creative in trying to put on a serious spy drama that was not just a rip off of every other spy movie and book out there. We succeeded. Spy Blue has a wonderful plot-line with some great characters. I liked it so much that I re-wrote the play into novella format. I may just expand it into a full-fledged novel someday. The ending is anything but guessable. We wanted to hit people in the gut – and we succeeded. This is a great play.

2011 Life with Stewart – This play has some of my best drawn characters. It has depth and meaning and a very solid plot-line – punchy dialogue – plus a wonderful and creative “Black and White Sitcom Scene” where the play goes back in time and recreates Stewart’s famous groundbreaking sitcom. It was a lot of fun. It was part funny, and part serious. Probably more serious than funny. But very well written.

2012 Grandparents’ War – This is quality comedy. A lot of historical references and cultural items enrich the writing as two very different families come crashing into each other. Some absolutely hysterical dialogue and actions which had the audience rolling.

I guess I can’t rank these four because they are so different from each other. I believe any drama troupe would have a blast staging any of these plays.

If you know of a school or local theater who wants some quality, original drama. Please introduce them to my work.

Much appreciated.

PS: I’ve decided to write another musical this year. It’s been three years. It’s time. More info to follow.


A Writing Review of 2012

I’d just like to run-down the list of writing and drama projects I was able to accomplish during 2012. As I look back, it’s been a productive year. Here’s hoping for another productive one in 2013.

January 2012 – Finished editing and published the new play “Life with Stewart.”

May 2012 – “Life with Stewart” premiered at the Penang Performing Arts Centre.

June 2012 – Wrote the short story “Honor Requires No Eulogy: The Heroic Death of Ponchicilius” (unpublished)

June 2012 – Wrote my second novel, “The Recluse Storyteller” – currently in advanced reading stage.  Publish date?

July 2012 – Wrote 8 short plays/skits which became the material for The RLT Players’ performance “Drive All Night…Back into Your Arms”

August – December 2012 – Collaborated on the new comedy “Grandparents’ War” to be published and released in January 2013. It’s an absolutely hilarious cross-cultural comedy.

September 2012 – My short play entitled “Drive All Night” won the Audience Choice Award at the first ever Penang Short & Sweet Theater Festival.

September – December 2012 – Wrote my MA Thesis “NINETEEN FORTY-FIVE INDOCHINA BETWEEN RHETORIC AND REALITY:The Shifting Policies of the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations.”  Yes, it is kind of stuffy, but I enjoyed it.

November 2012 – RLT Players’ performed “Drive All Night…Back into Your Arms.” Oh what fun that was!

December 2012 – Published my first novel, “Beauty Rising.”  The reception has been very encouraging.

December 2012 – Started mapping out novel #3. I call it my last, great Vietnam novel.  lol

2013?  Another novel. More plays. More material for the RLT Players. What else? Who knows, but it should be fun.

Ten Months Gone in Four Days

That’s what will happen to me this week.

I started with 4 young aspiring drama writers back in August 2011.  We worked through some possible plot scenarios and came up with a general direction we wanted to go.  We fleshed out some details and started writing.  We meet weekly to compare notes, thoughts and ideas.  We disagreed sometimes, but we kept the story moving forward.  In December 2011, we spent a whole day together doing a complete read-through on our creation making last minute changes and edits.   The final script is something I’m very proud of:

The writing process was a blast.  But what makes my life even better, is that I have the privilege of then producing this play with a talented young cast.

I did casting in January 2012.

Rehearsals started the first week of February 2012.

We met weekly to work through the play, understand what it is trying to say and see how we can best represent the authors’ words on stage.

Now, this week it all comes to its culmination.

Tuesday, we have ‘bump-in’ at PenangPAC and our full dress rehearsal in the evening.

Wednesday is opening night.

We finish on Saturday with two performances.

It’s been an amazingly fun ride and I can’t wait to see the performances this week.

I realize I’m incredibly blessed to be able to see a script go from idea to published work to an on-stage production.

Ten months gone in four days.

Time to rest.

“Life with Stewart” Opens May 23

I’m real excited about the opening of my latest collaborative dramatic effort – “Life with Stewart.”   It’s a fun and unique story about Nick who loses his grandmother only to find out that his grandfather is the famous Hollywood legend Nicholas Stewart.  We created Stewart to have started out his career in a ground-breaking 1950s sitcom called “Life with Stewart” where he played Stewart Saunders and was married to his real life wife Rachel (yes, purposeful similarities with “I Love Lucy”).

We decided to build into our script an actual episode of his sitcom that we could do as a throwback “black and white” scene.  So our audience turns into the studio audience.  All actors are going pale faced, black and white costumes and a complete black and white set to recreate the episode which will also inform Nick some more about his family history that he never knew.

It’s a fun and clever way to move the story along (if we can pull it off!).  I hope everyone comes out to see it.  It’s going to be a blast.

May 23 & May 26 at PenangPAC –

Here’s a picture of our sitcom cast:

“Life with Stewart” – Our New Play NOW AVAILABLE!

“Life with Stewart” – Our New Play NOW AVAILABLE!

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest dramatic collaboration – LIFE WITH STEWART!

Life with Stewart takes a critical look at our media saturated, Hollywood driven pop-culture.  It asks big questions about fame, vanity, the pursuit of money, and the enduring power of forgiveness. Here is the synopsis:

Nick Baxter is a bachelor who lives with his grandmother – his only living relative.  On the day of his grandmother’s death, Nick discovers that his grandfather is none other than Nicholas Stewart – a Hollywood film legend.  This revelation coupled with a devious plot hatched by his famous grandfather and an ambitious, young TV journalist leads to a series of hilarious and poignant scenarios as Nick has to wrestle with the truth which has shattered his entire world.

Artwork by Jennifer Park

“Life with Stewart” goes into production

My latest collaborative play “Life with Stewart” heads into production next week with three performances scheduled at the Penang Performing Arts Centre in May.

This coming Monday, I have a 4 hour audition marathon and then Thursday we’ll start rehearsing right away.  I also have eleven talented individuals who make up my production crew in chart of set design and promotion.

Plot?  “Life with Stewart” has the following premise:  Nick Baxter is a bachelor who lives with his grandmother – his only living relative.  On the day of his grandmother’s death, Nick discovers that his grandfather is none other than Nicholas Stewart – a Hollywood film legend.  This revelation coupled with a devious plot hatched by his famous grandfather and  an ambitious, young TV journalist leads to a series of hilarious and poignant scenes as Nick has to wrestle the truth which has shattered his entire world.

“Life with Stewart” takes a critical look at our media saturated, Hollywood driven pop-culture.  It asks big questions about fame, vanity, the pursuit of money, and the enduring power of forgiveness.

From a production stand-point, “Life with Stewart” will certainly have its challenges – especially the sit-com, black and white scene.  I’ll describe this more later.

Set aside these dates on your calendar now:  May 23 – May 26.

The Monologue of Nicholas Stewart

In our new soon-to-be-released 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.  I’d appreciate your feedback.


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 gleamed 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?