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RLT Players: First Three Dramatic Sketches

The new show I wrote and am directing for The RLT Players is entitled “Captured in Time & Space” with the by-line of “Defining Moments of Life.” This is an eclectic and really fun group of dramatic sketches, combining comedy, musical, dance, and drama in a poignant show which highlights life itself and those moments that none of us will every forget. I’ve created Sketch Fact Sheets which give you a glimpse of what each one is about. Below are the first three. Here are details on the show itself:

Venue: Penang Performing Arts Centre

November 22, 5PM & 8PM; November 23, 3PM & 8PM.   Adult 20RM/Student 15RM – Suitable for all ages.

Sketch #1: Black & White

This is a lyrical, rhythmic dance. Done a capella. Choreographed by Rachel Chand.

black and white

Sketch #2: The Loudest Child at Church

Jennifer gets crazy and wild in this one. Really funny and, eventually, meaningful.

loudest child

Sketch #3: No in Spite of Itself

This is the Short & Sweet award-winning sketch winning “Best Script” at Penang SS Festival in September this year. There are many different meanings of the word ‘no’.

No In Spite of Itself

Sketches 4-6 coming soon!

Thank you to Michael Deeb for his awesome photography!



Our Passion is Creativity

I’ve been putting together the program for my RLT PLAYERS performance coming up in two weeks, and I came across this paragraph which I wrote for a program two years ago. I can’t seem to get away from it and put it in every program that I write – simply because it’s still true. So here’s a little glimpse into what we put into our shows.

“Our Passion is Creativity. Even beyond the stage. We believe in creative writing and unique productions, which challenge the way we must approach our material. We could easily purchase many fine plays to produce, but there is something almost magical about a production that has never been staged.  It takes dedication, perseverance, and, yes, faith-building, sleepless nights to see a show through from conception to opening night.  After months of writing have faded into months of rehearsals, the actors take the stage, bathed in the glow of the spotlight, backed by the pulsating music, poised to create a work that has never before been seen. 

That’s what we do. Writers—Actors—Producers—Storytellers

Thank you for being part of this journey.  Enjoy the show.

Is starting the hardest part?

I’ve heard other authors say that starting is often the hardest part in the writing process.

I hope that’s true because if it is then I’m well on my way to novel #4.

I took advantage of a free afternoon to just lay down the framework of what’s to come for me. Recently, I realized that I don’t like not having a project to work on. I finished “The Reach of the Banyan Tree” in July, and then in August I’ve been working on the finishing touches of “The Recluse Storyteller” plus finishing up the dramatic sketches I was writing for the RLT Players. But within the last two weeks, I realized that I didn’t have an open writing project.

Well, that just won’t do. So I started novel #4 today and I got more than 2000 words into it. A good start. This one is a LONG way from publication, perhaps a year or more out, and that would be on the conservative range. But it’s fun to have an open project to jump into whenever I have the time.

This one is interesting. It’s set on the fictional island nation of Sulu, which is between the Philippines and East Malaysia.

There is no such place as Sulu, however, there used to be a kingdom called the Sulu Sultanate. That is actually my inspiration for the modern day fictional place.

So it should be fun discovering in the months ahead what this story is actually about.

And yes, I’ll keep you informed.

So, if you are a writer who hasn’t started your next project, do it! At least you better if you want to keep up with me!


Drama Time!

I love August because that starts the next season of drama in my life. This past week we auditioned a bunch of students for three different productions this semester. The one I’ll be heading up is my beloved drama troupe – The RLT Players. We are back for our third season and have a fantastic line-up of dramatic sketches ready to roll with a show entitled: “Captured in Time & Space.” We also expanded to 12 members.  We have four shows at the Penang Performing Arts Centre in November. It’s going to be a great show.

The sketches. I wrote eight original sketches, mainly centered around certain important moments in an average person’s life. So it is a moment that is being ‘Captured in Time & Space.’  I’ll share some snippets from different sketches as we move along, but here are a few hightlights:

“Skydiver” – a comedy about commitment. A woman tells her friend that if she hasn’t married Richard in 5 years then she has to make her do something drastic like jump out of an airplane. Well, 5 years have passed and guess what they are doing?

“Light a Candle” – a tear-jerker of a drama. A little girl, who just lost her father, asks her mother why they light a candle for him. The mother explains that it’s a way to talk to her father in heaven. The play shows the girl growing up and remembering her father throughout many of her important life events.

“Black & White” – a rhythmic song/dance done inside a series of black and white boxes.

“Jerome, the Malevolent God-King” – a grandfather tells his granddaughter the story of how a little boy defeated the evil line of god-kings who dominated their country for centuries.

That’s a few of them. I’ve been involved in a lot of different dramatic productions, but for sheer enjoyment, nothing beats the RLT Players. Can’t wait to get started!

Script chosen for Short & Sweet Theatre KL – “Almighty Might”

I’m thrilled to announce that my dramatic sketch “Almighty Might” has been selected for inclusion in this year’s Short & Sweet Theatre Festival KL. I’m super excited about it. I wrote “Almighty Might” a couple of years ago for my drama group The RLT Players, which I formed after being inspired by a Malaysian drama group: The Footstool Players, who perform short sketches and pieces of dramatic storytelling that are fun and uplifting.

Well, I was even more thrilled when I heard that Colin Kirton, founder and artistic director of the Footstool Players is directing my sketch for Short & Sweet. I’m so excited. Kirton is a well-known, Malaysian actor who I’ve seen in a variety of performances, including the recent re-staging of Broken Bridges at PenangPAC.  Here’s his Wikipedia page which gives his bio:

This is the first of my dramatic pieces to have an industry professional at the helm.

I must book my tickets to KL so I can see the performances.

Very excited!

I write musicals – yeah, right

I’m not a musician. I have very limited range on a guitar  – my only instrument –  but I’ve always loved creating songs. I remember back in high school when I mowed grass a lot, I would just create all kinds of tunes and songs in my head. Sometimes I’d remember them and write them down. Usually, they rattled in my brain until the mower stopped its rattling and then they’d be gone.

When I started writing plays a few years back, I wrote some songs for some of them and then turned them over to the real musicians to bring them to fruition.  A favorite of mine was the musical called “A Tad of Trouble” which really has some catchy tunes in it.

Two years ago, I co-founded a drama group called the RLT Players (Road Less Traveled).  We do skits and short plays of a variety of genres – all original – and each year I like to write a musical (10 minutes or less) to the mix just because musicals are fun. And yes, I am a man. But musicals are still awesome.

Anyways, two years ago I wrote “Walk” – a short musical about the different types of walks that people have in their lives. I prerecorded the melodies and then tapped someone who actually had musical talent to come alongside and record a track on Garage Band so our troupe could perform it.  It went over well, so I decided to try again last year.

I wrote Disconnect: The Musical about our crazy on-line connected world. It was a lot of fun, and one of our RLT Players – Shion Beak – who can play every instrument and who is amazing at Garage Band too – came up with some awesome acompainment tracks so that we could stage it.  It was a hit when it was performed last November at PenangPAC during our 4 performances.

SWe finished it in June. Submitted it before July 1, and today I received this email:

Dear S+S Musical Composer & Lyricist,

Congratulations!   Thanks for registering S+S Musical 2013. I am here to inform that your musical “Captured in Time and Space” has been selected for S+S Musical 2013.

Very cool!  So I’ll be flying to KL in September to watch our musical come to life.

Later this week, I’ll give a fuller explanation as to what “Captured in Time & Space” is all about.

But for now, I must admit, I actually do write musicals.

Finishing Touches on New 10-Minute Musical

I’ve had the privilege twice to work with musically talented Shion Beak on short musicals. Here’s how it works:

  • Me, extremely challenged in music, come up with a musical concept, lyrics, and basic melody.
  • I make a (very) rough recording of it.
  • I give it to Shion, and she does her magic, sending back a multi-layered, multi-instrument track which always makes my jaw drop.

She finished her part on the musical in early June. It’s entitled “Captured in Time and Space”, basically 4 songs rolled into one with a common chorus repeated 4x that gives it cohesiveness. The premise is quite simple. Three individuals who face different obstacles calling out to the heavens asking for help “Where you want me to go? What you want me to say? I can’t go alone.”

This weekend I just finished recording, with my daughter, a track with sample vocals to send to KL’s Short & Sweet Musical Festival later this month. We’ll see if it will be chosen to be put into production. Hopefully it will. Shion and I are sharing the composer credits, while I’m the sole lyricist.

Eventually, it will be part of Season 3 of the RLT Players – my amazingly fun drama troupe that performs short plays and musicals.

I’m really happy with how “Captured in Time & Space” turned out. Any choreographers out there who want to work with my RLT Players this fall?

Thought I’d ask.

Lyrics and sample music to follow at some point!

My Summer Writing Plans

I have three weeks of busyness ahead of me, and then writing time. Next week is drama week with the debut of my new play, “Grandparents’ War.” Then a few days of review with my students and then exam week. After that, freedom for the summer. And that means writing! Here’s what I currently have on tap:

Writing Task 1: Novel #3 – Can’t wait to pound out another 40,000+ words to finish this novel which remains untitled. It’s completely set in Vietnam during two different time periods – 1945 & 2000. Though I have a feeling the setting might also include Thailand and the USA. I’m about 13,000 words in right now and I’m very excited about it. So many ideas. Just need time! Releasing to the world in 2014.

Writing Task 2: Final edits on novel #2 – The Recluse Storyteller. I’m getting some excellent feedback from advanced readers who are currently helping me with this work. I can’t wait to delve back into this unique story and put the finishing touches on it. Where will this novel take you?  From a 19th century American prairie, to a confusing battle scene in Vietnam, to a terrorist bank robbery, to a touching story about a pair of twins, The Recluse Storyteller is a fun and gripping story about someone trying to reach her neighbors through her stories. I can’t wait to release it. Tentatively scheduled for an early fall 2013 release. Stay tuned.

Writing Task 3: I have 9 dramatic sketches I’m working on for my drama troupe The RLT Players. I have a mini-musical that’s written, but I’m working with a composer to finish some of the music so we can enter it in KL’s Short and Sweet Musical competition. I have another short comedy I wrote called “The Giant Squid that Ate Georgetown” – yes, it’s a little change of pace for me – that I’m planning on entering in Penang’s Short & Sweet Theatre Competition. I have another 7 sketches that I have started to one degree or another. Lot’s of interesting ideas. Will share more later.

I have about two months to complete all of this. I’m so excited about having some extended writing time. I can’t wait to share my new writing with the world.

Thanks for your support everyone. Much more to come. Soon!

Writing Excerpt: Traffic Jam on a Highway more Taken

This writing excerpt comes from a 10-minute play I wrote which was performed by my amazingly fun drama group – The RLT Players.  The hotshot reporter is interviewing renowned social critic Patricia Cantstandstill to get her take on the strange phenomenon taking place all over town with everyone just stopping their daily routines in order to just “be”.  Let’s listen in:

Hotrod:  Now, some critics have said that a society that goes nowhere leads only to unproductive lives and stagnation.  How would you counter their critique?

PC:  That’s typical, backward, last century kind of thinking.  That’s like saying that life has some grand purpose or design, and we need to work hard to achieve, try, produce, arrive.  That’s traveler mentality. But being mentality is just about being.   And so what you are seeing on Highway 1 is a massive outpouring of traveler indifference.  The government got it right.  It’s that beings no longer feel the need to arrive at destinations because destinations were only false illusions in the first place.  And so travelers or beings by the thousands have just stopped their cars, forgot about their cares, and are just being.

Hotrod:  But what about their responsibilities?  Their work, their school.

PC: That’s all traveler mentality.  It’s not important.  Just be.

Hotrod:  Fascinating stuff, Dr. Cantstandstill the author of “Traveling – the Art of Not Standing Stand – is Soon to be out of Fashion.”  So doctor, I suppose you need to just go be somewhere.

PC:  No, actually, I have a 4 o’clock appointment with my publicist, and then I have a book signing tonight from 6-9 downtown.  So all those who are going to go and meet me tonight, it might be a good idea to find an alternate route since Highway 1 is all blocked with beings.


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.