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!

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My Play in Short & Sweet Kuala Lumpur: This Week!

A brand new short play of mine will be one of the featured plays this week at the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival Kuala Lumpur.

It’s a gritty piece called “Alone in a Bar,” about a desperate man in a bar, who comes in each day and drinks himself into oblivion. He never speaks a word, and he’s always distraught. On this particular day, another man and woman comes into the bar, and there seems to be some sort of abusive relationship going on, which brings some interaction with the silent man in the bar. It’s high tension and drama time!

Director, Vinna Law, decided to go a little different route with the piece and made it into a type of experimental theatre, with the voices pre-recorded, and a sound-scape to set the mood for the choreographed actions. I haven’t seen it yet. You can get a sneak-peek glimpse at a rehearsal video on the Facebook link below.

I’m flying down Friday to be there for evening show, and I can’t wait. It’s the third fifth time one of my plays or musicals have been in Short and Sweet KL, and I’m looking forward to it. Pictures and comments to follow this weekend.

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What a pretentious paragraph of copyright gobbledygook

A while back, I attended a high school drama performance, and the following statement was printed in the program:

“The videotaping or making of electronic or other audio and/or visual recordings of this production or distributing recordings on any medium, including the internet, is strictly prohibited, a violation of the author’s rights, and actionable under United States copyright law. For more information, please visit: http://www.samuelfrench.com/whitepaper.”

Really? Come on now. Stop being ridiculous.

So if someone gets out their iPhone and captures a short clip of their daughter entering onto stage during the show then they have broken copyright?

I’m a creative writer. I understand why copyright is so important, but sometimes the language of law makes no sense – especially when taking into the account the venue and circumstance.

That a parent can’t video their child in a low-key (even non-paying) production then there’s a problem with copyright overkill.

When a school can’t videotape their productions to show off their talent or use in a drama class, then there’s a copyright overkill.

Such occurrences might even raise awareness of an author’s work. Let schools use it! Let parents use it!

I love recording the plays I produce, and so do the kids and parents. Loosen up a little, Samuel French.

An Overview of My Dramatic Productions

As I finished my first re-staging of one of my own dramatic works over the weekend, it made me a little nostalgic for all the full-length productions I’ve produced, written, or co-written over the past eight years. I’ll list them in chronological order with the show’s venue as well. Lots of good times here.

2008 “What I Wouldn’t Give for a Monkey Love Potion” (comedy – staged at Dalat Chapel) (unpublished)

2009 “A Tad of Trouble” (comedy-drama-musical – staged at Wawasan Open University) (unpublished)

2010 “Take Two” (comedy-musical – staged at Wawasan Open University) (available in paperback)

2011 “Spy Blue” (thriller – staged at Wawasan Open University) (available in paperback)

2011 “Romans on the Couch” (comedy – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre) (available in paperback)

2011 “The Road Less Traveled by the RLT PLayers” – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2012 “Life with Stewart” (drama – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre”

2012 “The RLT Players Present: Drive All Night (Back into Your Arms)” (variety – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 “Grandparents’ War” (comedy – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 “The RLT Players’ Present: Captured in Time & Space” (variety – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 “Boardwalk Melody: A Musical” (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 “RLT Players Present: For All Generations” (variety – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2015 “A Tad of Trouble: A Musical” Penang Performing Arts Centre

Future Works

December 2015  RLT Players Christmas

May 2016 “The Magic Pool”

 

Wow! That’s a lot. I absolutely love writing and producing my own work. What a privilege. There’s nothing like doing original drama for the first time ever. Lots more to come. Stay tuned.

The Calm Before the Drama Storm

After nine hours of intense rehearsal yesterday for my latest musical, I’m taking a “calm” day at my chosen seasside resort and letting my mind do a little creative writing before the big show starts this week.

Tomorrow we’ll do our bump-in at Penang’s performing arts centre, and then try to accomplish all that needs to happen before our dress rehearsal tomorrow evening.

But in the meantime, I’m more about this:

2014-09-16 14.25.20

 

Nothing like some cold drinks next to the ocean to let your mind get away from the busyness of life. And here is where I get to create.

Here’s what I’m working on. I started a play a month or so ago which I’m planning on producing in the spring of 2016. It’s a play I call “Censored” because I don’t want to give away the title yet, but I was inspired to write it after watching the film “Into the Woods.” That should give you some stylistic ideas at least.

It is a fable-type story – possibly even an allegory – still working  on it! But  it has some interesting characters – a father trying to marry off his naughty daughters, a blind beggar who seems to be the soul of the village, a princess and her suitor, of course – need to have a romantic aspect. A poor mother who bakes bread, and a witch and driveling villain.

But I still haven’t talked about the main character whom I will at this time keep anonymous.

As you may know, I write and produce drama for the school where I teach. I’ve been doing it for 8 years. These lasts two years were musicals which I love, but they are SO much work. After two massive musicals in a row, I made a conscious decision to back off a little and do a type of drama which I haven’t done before. That’s what I working on. It’s going to be funny and poignant because that’s how I roll!

So on this relaxing, super warm and wonderfully breezy afternoon, I’m delighted to have this time to get creative before all the work of our musical production starts in the morning.

I love living here!

 

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!

 

RLT – The Little Group Near to My Heart

I’ve teaching, directing, and writing drama for a number of years now. I guess it’s been seven and a half years. I’ve learned so much – mostly that I don’t know much about acting or directing. (On the writing part I think I’m okay.) I get to work with young high school actors – some with no experience -some with a lot of experience. It’s really rewarding. But none of our productions have been as rewarding as my group called The RLT Players. (RLT = Road Less Traveled)

A few years back our school had that saying as a theme for the year. A couple weeks into the first semester, a couple actors who didn’t get a part in the semester’s drama, asked me if there was something else drama-wise that we could do.  I had just been to a performance of the Footstool Players – a wonderful Malaysian drama group which do short skits in the form of dramatic storytelling. I thought that perhaps we could try.

As they say, the stars aligned. The Penang Performing Arts Centre was just opening and offering usage of their facilities for free. We booked a show in their black-box theatre for December 1, 2011 – two shows. I recruited up to 9 actors to join the group we called The RLT Players. We ordered purple shirts with our logo on it. I wrote seven short sketches, lasting an hour and fifteen minutes. We rehearsed and waited for people to show up, not really knowing what was going to happen.

The comments and gracious words we received from the audience were amazing. We had done it! Pulled off a great show, in little time, not really knowing what we were doing.

We came back the next year with a brand new show or original material I wrote called “The RLT Players present: Drive All Night.”  Last year was: “Captured in Time & Space.” And this year, in a few short weeks, we will have our fourth original performance – 4 shows over three days entitled “For All Generations.” I’m really excited about it. It includes one 10 minute musical, several comedic pieces, and several dramatic sketches all centered around how our past has shaped us into what we are today.

I love writing for RLT. 10-minute plays are a treat when they are written well, when they are well centered and direct stories. They can hit home in powerful ways. I’ve had people walk away from our performances amazed at what the kids have done. I’ve been amazed to. It’s such a privilege to watch them grow and see it all click in front of an audience when the lights come up.

I can’t wait for Nov 20 because of that reason.

Here’s our entire cast and crew for this year: 11 actors, 4 technicians, 1 director, 1 choreographer.

matt_brandon_rlt.10.27.14-15.15.28 FINAL 2014 RLT LOGO