Would the Bard Approve?

In my drama class this week, I emphasized one of the most basic points related to the dramatic arts – plays are meant to be performed.

You may think I’m stating the obvious. But the obvious sometimes gets lost in the well-meaning jungle of academic minutia.

Ask yourself, how many plays did you have to read in an English class at some point in your life?

In college, I had the Riverside Shakespeare – the massive volume of all the bard’s plays and poetic works wrapped with hundreds of pages of commentary. It was overwhelming on both the brain and my muscles. And I went to college in the days before backpacks. At least I don’t remember backpacks. I remember carrying books under my arms with my knuckles dragging on the ground from the weight of Lady Macbeth’s scheming. All of those plays I read by myself in my dorm room. Is it any wonder I had trouble paying attention to them.

This is what I have concluded: Plays. Stage. Perfection.

Plays. Classroom. Less than perfection.

How much better is Shakespeare when seeing it live? How about a bizzilion times!

Case in point. This summer I had the opportunity to see “As You Like It” in a small outdoor park venue. The lively performance used the hillside and trees as part of the  stage – a terrific natural setting which added to the imagination of the piece. The actions and language brought the play to life in vivid ways, and hundreds of people sprawling out on lawn chairs and lounging on the natural green grass amphitheater enjoyed a terrific evening of entertainment away from the television or sports or cell phones.

The pages were alive, as they should be.

I’m sure the bard would have approved of the spectacle in Allen Park, though I have to wonder what he would have thought to see his works studied like ancient manuscripts in a static classroom.

Plays are meant to be brought to life.  They are meant to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. The voice, the emphasis, the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of the varied pitches, the laughter, the growls, the crying, the joy, the humanness.

Lets get the plays out of the classrooms and onto the stage.

But if they must be in the classroom, I hope an impromptu stage emerges with students reading and acting out the words on the page which were never meant to stay there.

 

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Happy Valentines Day from Prince Casimir

Happy Valentines Day! Here’s the ever romantic Prince Casimir from one of my favorite plays – “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” – with some prodding from Majji, telling the Princess how he feels about her. I miss this cast and crew so much. It was so much fun. Here’s hoping Casimir gets you in the mood for the day!

CASIMIR

              You really are a foolish girl.

PRINCESS

As is often said, foolish girls are chased by foolish boys.

CASIMIR

Then I am a fool. The most complete fool for love who has ever existed.

(He takes her hand. She turns away from him in embarrassment.)

PRINCESS

I heard you were leaving.

CASIMIR

Perhaps. If I do have to leave, will you miss me?

PRINCESS

                (coyly)

Oh, I suppose, a little.

CASIMIR

Literally a little? Like a grain of sand? Or a little like an understatement, like the summer would miss warm evening air or like the sea would miss the cadence of the tide? Which is it?

PRINCESS

If you must go…

CASIMIR

I must. And I know exactly how much I shall miss you. I shall miss the complexion of your skin, a gentle pale hue, the envy of every heavenly sky. I shall miss your ruby lips, as soft and moist as a droplet of morning dew on the petal of a ruby-red rose.I shall miss the sound of your voice – how it echoes my heart’s yearning. How I long to hear just one phrase roll sweetly off your tongue into my ears. It’s all my heart desires.

PRINCESS

                (getting flustered)

What phrase is that?

CASIMIR

The same phrase I’ve been trying to tell you for a long time.

PRINCESS

And what phrase is that?

CASIMIR

The same phrase that Antony said to Cleopatra.

(Majji is sneaking back in and eavesdropping.)

PRINCESS

And what phrase is that?

CASIMIR

The same phrase that—

MAJJI

                (Majji quickly stands up and yells.)

I love you!

(pauses awkwardly for a moment)

Would you two just say it?

jstef-apr2016-2703

“The Secrets of the Magic Pool”

A new, full-length play.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00034]

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.

2015: A Writing Year in Review

January – April

  • My script “A Pinch of Fate, A Shot of Destiny” was performed in Sydney, Australia as part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival.
  • Finalized script and casting for my musical “A Tad of Trouble.”
  • Put the finishing touches on my fourth novel. Sent to editor.
  • Wrote a major portion of my fifth novel.

May – August

  • Produced three performances of “A Tad of Trouble” at the Penang Performing Arts Centre
  • Released my 4th novel  “A Love Story for a Nation.”
  • Wrote ten pieces of short drama and musicals for my Christmas show “Tales of Wonder: A RLT Players’ Christmas.”
  • Won five awards at the Short & Sweet Festival Penang for my piece “Words to Say at the End of the World”

Sept – October

  • Finished and published my first full-length play in four years: “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”
  • Finished my fifth novel “Which Half David.” Readying the revisions.
  • More than 12,000 words into my sixth novel.
  • Started writing a new collaborative play with four of my students.
  • Wrote a short experimental theatre piece called “How to Build a Dictator.” Waiting to see about 2016 production.
  • Started writing many other short dramatic pieces which I’ll finish in the new year.
  • Editing my first collection of dramatic duets, set to release early 2016

RE-CAPPING RELEASES

Novel: “A Love Story for a Nation” (June 2015)

Play: “Secrets of the Magic Pool” (December 2015)

Collection: “Theatrical Duets for Stage, Competition, or Classroom” (January 2016)

Novel: “Which Half David” (Summer 2016)

It’s been a productive year. Lots more on my plate for 2016!

 

Now Available: “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” – My first full-length play in four years.

I’m happy to announce the publication of my play:

“The Secrets of the Magic Pool: A Play of Good, Evil, and the Water of Life.”

Available on Amazon HERE!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00034]

If you know any directors, drama teachers, or theatre lovers, please share this with them!

Here’s what it is about:

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.

Does liking serious content make you more vulnerable?

My new show coming up in two weeks is a combination of comedy and serious drama. Invariably, when I ask the actors (or even audience members) what was their favorite part of one of my shows, the answer is typically one of the comedies.

There’s certainly  nothing wrong with that. I enjoy a well-crafted comedy as much as the next person. The problem that I encounter when I’m either watching theatre or TV is that I rarely think I come across a well-crafted comedy. For me, theatre pieces tend to be too overtly crass and TV comedy tends to have  no depth to it at all. One of our sketches we’ll be performing is entitled “The Spies & Mrs. Claus” and it’s a rather simple piece about two elves trying to con Mrs. Claus into telling them what she got Mr. Claus for Christmas. Talk about simple. But the actors absolutely love the piece and most of them say that it’s their favorite. I have to admit that the two elves are absolutely hilarious in their characterizations. Mrs. Claus has to use all the concentration within her to just try to keep a straight face. I totally understand why everyone likes this, and the audience will totally eat it up.

But at the same time, I would never say that it is my favorite piece of the night. Far from it. I would always choose a more well-done, more serious piece of drama over a comedy any day. I like a piece that makes me think – that haunts me for the next few days and that forces me to make some decisions about certain issues. That, to me, is good writing and good acting.

We have several pieces in our show which qualify under that description. So it just made me think, why do most people prefer comedy?

Is comedy easy to like because it’s enjoyable and simply rolls off of you when it’s done? Does serious content make people think of issues and past events which they would prefer not thinking about?

When I think of the cinema, I cannot think of the last true comedy that I actually liked. It’s been years. Many years. I am at a complete loss right now trying to think of one. I can, however, think of many different dramatic movies which I have liked, even within the last year.

When it comes to theatre, I’m even more picky. (perhaps because I write it) It’s been ages since I’ve seen a comedy that I didn’t produce which I thought was quality. (Actually, I take that back. There was one earlier this year which was all right.)

So why do people shy away from the serious? Any thoughts?

A Cover for My New Play

I’m very close to publishing my new play, “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.” As I’m whittling down the script, whipping it into shape for my script workshop this weekend, I realized I needed to start putting together a cover for the play. mm

Play covers tend to be simple, and I didn’t want to go all out with this one, so I decided to go ahead and design it myself. I first thought of a blank cover. I’ve seen plenty of plays which have standard boring covers. But I wanted to have some sort of image on the cover. As I was walking to my classroom today, I saw this tree, which I pass daily, and I decided to take a photo of it with my phone.

2015-10-12 14.28.28

Then I plopped it in photoshop and it came out as this.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00034]

 

 

Not bad. Simple, just the way I like it.  I played around with it some more and I put a design underneath which actually looks better when seeing the full front and back layout.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00034]

But I got a cover, I have a script, and it will soon be workshop tested. Based on what comes out of that, I’ll be publishing my first, full-length play in about 4 years.