Checking in from Ireland

I’ve been in Killeagh, Ireland at Greywood Arts for a little more than two days now so I wanted to check in with everyone concerning how’s everything going. Well, in a word, great!

Greywood is a terrific venue for the arts. A renovated (and still being renovated) 18th century Georgian house specifically for promoting the arts. Here’s my amazing writing room.

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It overlooks the Dissour River, more of a stream in my mind, but has a beautiful view of  a small cascade right from the desk. I even saw a river otter! It is bright, cheery, and quiet. A perfect combination for creativity. How’s it been working? Amazingly well. On day one, I completed a play called “Embrace” which I started nearly five years ago and wondered if I would ever finish it. Well, I did. Seven hours of hard labor on that script completely revitalized it and I’m very happy with it. Unlike anything I have ever written.

Today, day two,  was spent working on a play called “For the Glory of Nat Turner.” I had started it last year with a mere 2000+ words and I hammered out the entire first act, clocking the whole thing in at around 7000 words now. Tomorrow, I’d love to finish this one too! Amazing productivity.

The village of Killeagh is small and quaint. No more than 500 souls live here. Here are a few shots.

The weather today turned toward the nasty. Really cold and rainy. No walks and very little out and about. The forecast isn’t great, but I hope it clears a little tomorrow cause I was going to take the bus over to the seaside town of Youghal only 10 minutes away. We shall see how it looks in the morning.

I’m also hoping to take a trip into Cork for a day and check out the city. That will likely be the extent of my touring since my main focus is on writing, writing, and writing.

This is such a terrific opportunity. So relaxing and rewarding and I can’t think Greywood enough for their hospitality.

Let’s get back at it!

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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!

Gearing Up for Greywood Arts Residency in Ireland

I’ve found myself virtually walking main street of Killeagh, Ireland using Google Maps Street View, trying to imagine what it will be like to stroll down it in person. I won’t have to wait too long. That makes me so excited!

Through a submission of my play “The Last Bastion,” Greywood Arts – an arts residency house in Killeagh – awarded me with the Greywood Arts Winter Residency 2018 for playwriting. My reward is a one-week stint at their place to do one thing – write. Yes, it’s kind of like a dream come true. I’ll have my own room plus a writing room overlooking the Dissour River.  Right across the river is the Old Thatch Pub – a family establishment for 300 years – one of the oldest in Ireland, and I’m getting the feeling I’m going to be surrounded by Irish quaintness.

The strangest thing I’ll have to adjust to is my reasoning for being there – writing. I’ve never had a week, let a lone a day, when my only responsibility was writing. I have no other pressures, distractions, or responsibilities. Simply writing. Doesn’t that sound like bliss?

Oh, and I have a reading. Here. Look:

greywoodartsreadingannouncement

I’ll get to present excerpts of what I’ve worked on that week with the local arts community. I’ve been told there may even be some local actors willing to help me out with the reading. How cool would that be?

What will I be working on? I have a lot.  I have two full-length plays I’ve started but have not finished. I’d love to knock them out this week. One is a historical play related to the Nat Turner slave uprising in 1831. The other is a social commentary piece highlighting the conflict between the conservative Christian church in America and the issue of gay marriage.  Third, I am mostly finished with my brand new ensemble show “Crazy Love,” so I’d like to polish off those 8 short plays which comprise it. Other ideas include an embellished play of my childhood which walks through small town America in different time periods of the 20th century.  Oh, and knowing me, a new idea will pop in my brain and perhaps supersede all of these. Who’s to say?

Anyways, I head out for Greywood Arts on March 30.  I will certainly be posting photos and highlights of this week. Stay tuned.

Where will the ideas come from?

Writing is such a mind game. The creative process toys with the writer to such an extent that I sometimes wonder who’s in control – do I control the creative process or does the creative process control me?

Ok, I’m already confused. But this I know: I have 10 dramatic sketches to write in the next two months for my new show coming later in the year. Where will the inspiration come from? What procedures, ideas, words, will I engage with to get this writing done?

If I’m still being confusing, this is actually what I’m saying: on August 1, I know I will have written 10 more short plays. But on June 6, today, I just don’t know the process which will actually accomplish that.

Creativity is so strange. The other day, I sat down to write one of these 10 and the creative process came so intuitively that I couldn’t have even described it to someone if I tried.

Writing happens by writing. That’s as best as I can explain it. One chain of ideas linked together, all starting with a simple thought, and expounded on by a few words. Those words give new life to new words and soon I’m following the rabbit down the trail or I’m plowing a footpath through the jagger bushes (sorry, jagger bush is a colloquial western PA term!)  A writer might get jabbed and pricked along the way. It could be bloody and painful, but soon enough, a clearing will appear and the most beautiful scene will present itself to make the process worth it.

And then, of course, the writing will take on new life as the author re-writes and re-edits and re-writes again until the remaining work is sleek and ready to be performed.

In the end, that’s the best part of all.

In December, there will be a show. I just can’t tell you definitively what it will look like. I need a few more jagger bushes to slap me in the face before I will know that.

What’s next on the Writing Agenda?

This weekend kind of became one of those dividing lines in what a writer is working on. That happens every time a novel is sent off to the editor, and that’s what I did. Novel number 5 entitled “Which Half David” is now out of my sights. It was a sixteen month journey to get that one done, my longest one ever, and a rather difficult novel to write for several reasons. Well, it’s done and gone. (at least for now)

As a reward, I treated myself to a play writing session yesterday. On Friday, I heard about a play writing contest which finished on Sunday. I heard about it a little late, and the stipulation was to enter a brand new short play never before thought of until this contest came up. So, I finally wrote a play idea I’ve had for a while called “Safe Spaces.” It’s a 10 minute satire on university life in the era of micro-aggressions and safe spaces. I must admit. I think it’s pretty funny. So I had a lot of fun writing that one yesterday, editing it this morning, and sending it off to the contest.

This afternoon, I dabbled in the play I’m writing with four of my students. It’s a type of murder mystery – sort of. We are in the last half of that work. It’s been fun.

So now I have the question. What’s next?

That’s easy, actually. Novel #6.  I started it over Christmas and got about 40,000 words in. It is, perhaps, the most fun I’ve ever had in writing a novel because I’m breaking all of my rules about keeping it real and grounded in real life. I’ve added all kinds of crazy stuff and characters which is really fun. So now I’m ready to get back to it. It already has a title: “A Man Too Old, for a Place Too Far.” This is one of those novels where I thought of the title first and then wrote the story to fit it. I like to do that for some reason. Especially with my short plays. This is a fun novel and I can’t wait to get back to it. Set in New York City, Cambodia, Romania, Scotland, and a deserted South Pacific Island. I love it. A great combination.

So that’s what I’m up to. I hope to get this one finished this summer for, dare I say, a Christmas 2016 release?  That would be two novels released in one year. Sounds cool to me!

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself, but that’s what I do.

 

“The Secrets of the Magic Pool”

A new, full-length play.

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I’m already waste deep in the production of this show. I’m working with the actors on character development right now, and I must say that I’m very pleased with how the characters need to be formed. There’s a lot of substance here for interpretation and a lot of underlying themes and motivations to think about for both an actor and director.

The initial reactions from the actors is extremely positive. They are really excited to see how all of this is going to be put together, and so am I. It really is a privilege to be able to write and produce one’s own work. I know I won’t always have an avenue for such creative freedom, but I’m cherishing it now.  Below is the play’s blurb. If you know anyone who produces plays at any level, please ask them to check it out. Thanks!

Amazon HERE!

In Malaysia HERE!

A witch who covets the pool. A crazed woman who controls it. A princess who wants to marry her prince. A cobbler who wants to marry off his daughters. A baker who keeps a deep secret. A blind beggar who sees better than most.

Set off on a magical journey to discover the secrets of the magic pool. A witch tempts the king’s exiled brother, Cane, with a drop of the magic water in order to use him to break the curse of the caretaker of the pool. Cane’s plot to capture the water puts him at odds with the prince of the Northern Kingdom, the princess he intends to marry, and the unlikely residents of the village of Kidron. But when the witch comes calling, there’s more than just Cane to worry about.

With a wonderful cast of thirteen unforgettable characters, “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” will delight audiences of all ages with its witty dialogue, intense dramatic scenes, and emotional impact while exploring universal themes of family, courage, temptation, love, and sacrifice.

Insight into Writing my New Show (2 of 3)

Here’s part two which highlights the writing behind a few of the dramatic sketches which go live for the first time ever next week at the opening of “For All Generations.”

sketch fact sheets last princess“The Last Princess” is one of those comedy sketches which suddenly turn dramatic. I like those. I purposefully started it light, with a spoiled princess who lives within a utopia, Xanadu, constructed by her repressive father, King Antoine. The princess gets upset when she thinks her pink fluffy boa is not as soft as it was the day before. She insists that her attendant throws it away, which she does. But the next day in Xanadu, when one of her subjects asks her where the boa is, the princess demands it back. Ultimately she decides to go down the chute to find her boa only to discover that there is a cruel and oppressed world out there that she never knew about. This play actually touches on a common theme in many of my writings – overbearing and authoritarian governments who shackle the people. The hilarious beginning is turned on its head when the princess has to decide what to do with her new found knowledge. There is sure to be a confrontation with her father. It’s a fun script that holds a lot of underlying meaning.

sketch fact sheet minute problem

This is one of those mostly meaningless fun scripts which are full of bad puns and lots of cheap laughs. In many ways, it almost strays into kids’ theatre with crazy gestures, yelling, running around, and lots of confusion. The premise is simple. A grandpa sets a trap for his granddaughter simply to drive her crazy. I thought of this when I was checking out at a superstore one day, staring at a clock shop. Bad pun after bad pun related to time kept flowing through my brain, so I decided to make a crazy little play about it. Our actors are hilarious in this one.

the will

“The Will” is just wild and crazy – like my actors. For the first time ever, I specifically crafted a role for each of my actors – they even play themselves in this skit, using their own names. The script is centered around the death of a billionaire patriarch who gathers everyone for the reading of the will. Here are the characters: the executor, crazy son Joseph who thinks he’s a butterfly, gold-digger 9th wife, vain movie star, corporate CEO, airhead blogger, bipolar sister, the butler, half-Indian senator and adopted son, a disgruntled employee, and the forgotten son who is always overlooked. This is the longest piece of the night because everyone has a substantial role. But I’ve got the running down down to 15 minutes which is do-able. It’s a fun script, and all the actors are great.

I’m lucky to have such a great group of young actors to work with.

Part three soon!