Free story writing advice, some of it might be good.

Pen and handwriting on paper to indicate this post is about writing.
In every post about writing, there is always a photo of a fountain pen and a piece of paper with handwriting on it. However, I know very few people who use fountain pens and hand write frequently. But, nobody would know this was a post about writing if I didn’t use this image.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about what constitutes good storytelling, in playwriting and screenwriting, and what I’ve read has seemed to miss the point. I’ve also seen some really bad plays lately, and life is too freaking short for bad plays. There seems to be a lot of “make stuff happen” or vague metaphors trying to describe it, and nothing about simple, basic tools of storytelling.  I don’t know if this is because somebody wants to make money leading writing seminars while simultaneously pulling the ladder up behind themselves, or if they just can’t explain it well, or if I don’t understand them (and by now I should).  Anyway. Here are a couple of things which I have learned, which no one else has been able to explain to my satisfaction.

The best place to start is with your main character, what they want, and what’s in their way.  A really simple formula is this, which I learned in a writing class from Doug Wright:

Blank wants blank in order to blank, but is thwarted by blank and ends up blank.

I apologize right now for the phrase, “is thwarted by.” I know it sounds archaic and pompous. However, it’s hard to come up with a phrase that means exactly that.

To try to illustrate, let’s make a simple image. People in general get really excited about sports, because sports offers the simplest possible version of this narrative.

Football players, tackling on a snowy field.   Football player #88 wants to get the ball and run down the field to make a touchdown, but is thwarted by the other team’s player #66, who body-slams him to the ground ten yards from the goal line, and ends up injured.

To expand this somewhat, you can also say, Football player #88 wants to get the ball and run down the field to make a touchdown, in order to win the game and get the endorsement with a major soda company which will pay off the mortgage he has on the fabulous mansion he can’t afford, so that he can squash his memories of his tortured childhood growing up in a roach-infested apartment, but is thwarted by the other team’s player #66, who body-slams him to the ground ten yards from the goal line, and ends up with a broken collarbone.

But, when you’re starting, you want to keep things really simple. It’s easy to think a lot about the larger goal, because that gives us the why, and backstory is always a fun place to dawdle around in storytelling. But, when you’re getting started, especially when you’re writing a screenplay or a script, because they take place in the here and now.

So, you should take a blank piece of paper, and your favorite color magic marker, and hand-write in big letters,

_____ wants _____ (in order to _____) but is thwarted by _____ and ends up ____.

Put this on the wall over wherever it is that you write.

If you want to get academic about this exercise, Romeo wants to marry Juliet in order to experience perfect physical and emotional bliss, but is thwarted by the hatred between their respective families, and ends up dead.

Broad strokes. Keep it easy. Here’s a simpler one:

Phaedra wants to have sex with her stepson Hippolytus in order to experience perfect physical and emotional love, but is thwarted by Hippolytus’ disgust for her and ends up committing suicide.

Now, Hippolytus has his own set of issues, goals and obstacles, as do The Capulets and Monatgues, and as does Football Player #66, if your story is even close to interesting. Eventually, you will want to write out this formula for all of your characters.

Now, I know that we all love stories with huge ensemble casts of characters, and there is a lot to be said for ensemble stories. However, if you look at the story closely, you’ll see that the most successful ones center around one protagonist, and although the other characters have goals and obstacles and stories of their own, the story really follows this one character.

An example of a novel which translated reasonably well to film is Wonder Boys. It has a fantastic ensemble of characters, and their interplay is what mades the story so rich and exciting. So, one could argue that this story depends on ensemble and less on a protagonist.

To which I would say, bullshit. There are points throughout the story where Grady Tripp could have just walked out, gone home, and, as Michael Chabon said, “lie on the couch, watch reruns of the Rockford Files, roll numbers, and wait for the girl in the black kimono to take me away.” However, the journey of all the other characters would wind down and burn out as a result, if Grady didn’t stop moving forward toward his goal, which is to restore order to the chaos his life as become. Grady’s self-hatred would be consistent with him going home, smoking weed and watching tv until he died as a means to bring order to chaos, but no one else would be put in the places they need to be as a result. He needs to cause all the things which make the other characters get where they belong.

So, Grady needs to return missing things to their proper places so that he can get himself into the right family, but comes up against the chaos of a writer’s life and distractions.

Now, my favorite character in that story is Terry Crabtree. He is my spirit animal. However, he’s not the protagonist of this story. You can’t have it without him as an agent of chaos, but if Grady had handed him a finished manuscript on day one, and said, “Go tell your bosses at Bartizan I fulfilled their contract,” Terry would have said, “Awesome, thanks,” and gotten on the next plane back to New York. Your other characters have simpler goals and obstacles, and their goals and obstacles have to depend on the protagonist. Terry has to go to Wordfest because he needs a novel, at least one novel, which will save his career at Bartizan. If he falls in love along the way, that’s icing on the cake. The drinking and partying and so on is just an activity in which he engages. He doesn’t know this, but he needs Grady to bring him not only to James Leer, but also to what’s his face whose name I can’t remember who wrote the book about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. and all the other stuff.

This brings us to causality. This is harder than it looks.

A cartoon of Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin.  If you go to YouTube and search for video of Rube Goldberg devices, you’ll see a lot of videos of machines in which, as a lot of screenwriters say, “cool stuff happens.” It’s true that in stories, cool stuff happens, but those cool things are caused by other things. There are two kinds of “happenings” in story, action and activity.

Although all verbs are actions, for storytelling purposes, some verbs you do are actions and some are activities. Your audience wants actions. Actions cause other actions, activities are just stuff you do. If I fill a glass with water, that’s an activity. If I fill a glass with water and throw it in someone’s face, causing them to punch me, that’s an action (the throwing, not the filling).

Here is a reductively simple example. Bear with me.

In the OKGo video for the song, “This Too Shall Pass,” at 1:14, a teapot swings into a wooden plank, causing it to move, releasing a lego car to drive across a mini-landscape, hitting a gate, which pops open, releasing a rope, which releases a blue electric guitar to spin on a carousel. The blue guitar dangles metal spoons over glasses filled with different amounts of water, causing them to play a simplified version of the song’s refrain. One of the spoons hits an object which falls causing a soccer ball to roll along a track. And the whole thing continues.

So, let’s look at the actions and activities in this segment.

Teapot swinging into the plank: Action.
Plank releasing the car: Action.
Car driving across the landscape while a band member lip-syncs in the background: Activity.
Car hitting the gate and releasing the rope: Action.
Rope releasing guitar causing it to spin: Action.
Spoons hitting glasses in a cool little tune: Activity. Spoon hitting thing which releases soccer ball: action.

This is why we love those stupid “fail” videos. Somebody wants to do something they think will be incredibly cool, they take a risk, they misunderstand the obstacle, they land on their ass. King Lear wants to divide up his kingdom between his daughters to ensure their perpetual loyalty, two of them take the kingdom and power and cast him out, he ends up naked in the rain talking to himself.

So, take another one of your favorite Magic Markers, and a piece of paper, and hand write on it in big letters:
Action is when a character does something which causes another character to do something else. Activity is just stuff you do.

Put that on the wall over wherever it is you write, too. 

Let me pick this up a notch for you. One of this things I’ve noticed, from working with undergraduate playwriting and screenwriting students, is that action, activity and image get thrown in under the same umbrella as “cool stuff happens,” and the reality is that they are not all the same thing.

Let me grab another youtube video for you.

Most people would say that in Pulp Fiction, a cool thing that happens is that Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace go dancing.
Is the dancing action? No. It’s an activity.
But, this scene is important to the plot of the movie, because it has actions in it. I would argue that this scene is important because Vincent and Mia seduce each other, while also building trust.

Let me break the scene down into beats for you.
Mia is in a very public place with Vincent, they are both high, and he knows that if he gets too close to her, her husband will kill him, but if he doesn’t please her, her husband will kill him. And, she’s the bored wife of a crime lord. So, pleasing Mia is a very high priority for Vincent, but he has to be very careful how he does it.

The master of ceremonies announces the twist contest. Mia announces their intent to participate as a couple. (Action: makes the master of ceremonies put them in the contest.)
Vincent refuses. (Action: makes Mia press him harder to participate .)
Mia reminds him of her husband’s power over him. (Action; gives Vincent a very good reason to get off his ass and onto the dance floor)
Vincent and Mia get on the dance floor and Mia announces their names. (Activity: whatever, we know who these people are. It’s a cool little piece of character business that Mia takes the reins and announces their names, it shows how she’s the boss on this date, but it’s not anything that causes anyone else to do anything)
Vincent and Mia take off their shoes, the music plays, and they start dancing. There are a lot of visual cues to show a breakdown of formality in the pair, but let’s just stick to action and activity right now.

Mia starts with a traditional twist dance move(activity), but her proximity to Vincent pushes him to move away from her, allowing her to take up more of the spotlight. Her increasing flourishes on the dance moves make him bolder with his. Finally, she pushes him back across the dance floor, and he backs up, she stops, and backs up, leading him back across the dance floor, and he follows.

So, in terms of activities: the moves with their fingers over their faces in closeup, the swimming arm moves, Mia’s hands on her abdomen; they’re all seductive and look cool. but they’re activities. okay, you could argue that Mia’s hands on her abdomen make Vincent want to touch her, but we don’t see the action he wants on screen.

In terms of action: she moves toward him seductively, he backs off, letting her have more of the stage focus (consistent with, “please Mia in order to please her husband”). She does some fancy non-threatening pretty dance moves, he feels more free, does some fancy non-threatening pretty dance moves. She moves toward him, he moves back; she moves back, he moves toward her. We see them becoming more harmonious as a couple, which is creepy, because we know what kind of risks and rewards are involved with that for Vincent.

So, to sum up:

Know what your main character wants and what their obstacles are in the simplest possible terms.

Action causes another character to do something else, activity is just gravy.

Go forth and simplify your story.

I might do this kind of post again, I might not. I have to go read and write more about Walter Lowenfels and Georgia O’Keeffe, and it’s noon, and daylight’s a-burning. But, if this kind of thing is helpful for you, give this a like, leave a comment, repost, whatever floats your boat, and I’ll do another one in the future.

as beautiful as comet bugs in jars

Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman, 1979
This is not Sparks Nevada, but don’t let that stop you from dressing like this.

Need some hot fresh dance music for your Saturday night? Vince has spent the last snowy nasty cold wet afternoon weaving some hot guitar licks and classic beats for your booty-shakin’ pleasure.

One of the things which has been keeping me from going completely bonkers from seasonal affective disorder this winter has been The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  It’s a classy, funny, smart, strange show, in the style of “old-time” radio drama and comedy, performed in front of a live audience, with a live band and Foley. Mainly, I listen to Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars and Beyond Belief, because they’re bizarre and hilarious, and Paget Brewster’s voice is like being wrapped in a silk and cashmere cocoon, filled with vodka and dipped in chocolate.

Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster in The Thrilling Adventure Hour segment, "Beyond Belief."
Also, Paul F. Tompkins totally wants to be best friends with us, and that’s okay too.

So, I was cleaning my writing room.  The Wreck Of The Alberta and Who Is Cattle Kate? are finished (for now) and  the current pair of plays I have to write this semester (pairs. why do they always come in pairs?)are still unformed, and singing along with the Sparks Nevada theme song was keeping me from feeling like this was an exercise in futility.

Within a few minutes, I heard a strumming in the next room. Vince, in his savant-like fashion, listened to the theme song (written by Eban Schletter), figured it out and taught it to himself.

So, while we’ve been trying to keep winter gloom from making us want to peel off our skin and run screaming through the icy dark streets of Philadelphia, Vince re-interpreted and re-arranged The Theme From Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars, in the style of The Shadows.

And, WordPress isn’t going to let me embed the link from Soundcloud, so, you’ll have to click here to go to the Soundcloud page for the song.

Damn, he’s good.  Click, share, like, enjoy.  

Cinema studies in a snow storm

Because I’m awesome, I agreed to take the early shift at work on the last day of the semester, so no one else had to. Whoa Nellie, it is off the hook here. I’ve seen a grand total of six human beings in the library today. It is so quiet that it’s creepy. It’s Act 2 of The Shining creepy. It’s also supposed to snow today, but I’m the only flake in evidence. Ba-dump-bump, kissh. Thank you.

Paley Library Media Services Bear  Thankfully, I have my able boon companion, Media Services Bear, to assist me, in case some raving lunatic student  comes in demanding to watch a DVD of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and view microfilm of relevant primary resource newspaper articles so they can finish their paper that’s due today by 5pm. Now that I’ve said that, you know I’ll get someone writing a doctoral dissertation on the early films of Robert Wiene who’s all tweaked out on 5-Hour Energy and decided the only way they can get real inspiration for their paper is to dress as Cesare.

I shelved what needed to be shelved and I cut out new little pieces of scrap paper to go with the miniature golf course pencils so people have no excuse for not writing down the title and call number of the movie they want. Media Services Bear wanted to re-enact the chariot race from Ben-Hur with the rolling chairs around the viewing carrels, but I told him that was unprofessional and we might scare the one lady who’s here watching a movie.

I decided that the Paley Library Media Services collection needed some augmentation, so I decided to request a movie.  There’s an optional section of the library’s form, “Reason For Request,” which I think should be mandatory. Here’s what I wrote.

FN 2011Fright Night has long been considered a coming of age film. However the 2011 remake is a excellent metaphor for white middle class anxiety concerning not only gender and sexuality, but also economic class and immigration issues. Not only would this allow Paley Library to work toward completing their collection of the films of director Craig Gillespie (Lars and The Real Girl, United States of Tara), but also it would allow another opportunity to showcase the cinematography of Javier Aguirresarobe (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Road). Also, it would seem that this is the only vampire movie Paley Library does not have. Furthermore, Media Services Bear is a devoted fan of the great actors of United Kingdom nations other than England, and missing the opportunity to see David Tennant and Colin Farrell in the same film is making him very depressed. He’s a huge Toni Colette fan too, and this would help him complete his thesis on “Toni Colette as ‘Sad Mom’; Reinventing  or Revisiting The Archetype?” 
I’m sure they’ll recognize that this film has tremendous academic and artistic merit and add it to the collection. Then I’ll write an analysis on the movie, and then I’ll adapt the analysis into a chamber rock musical. It’ll be like Hedwig and The Angry Inch meets Carrie, but more intellectual. Then someone will want to buy the film rights to the musical, and the minute that check clears, pop will have officially eaten itself.
Buckle up.

Here’s my punishment.

I realize that there is a long tradition of writers with cat companions.  Ernest Hemmingway and the fifty-five or so who lived at his house in Key West, Rita Mae Brown and her claim that cats will only lie on good finished pages, Neil Gaiman and his furry wandering minstrels, make up only a few. I named our most recent rescue Mo Magee, her surname being after the street on which we found her eating trash she’d extracted from a pizza place’s dumpster, and her first name after what Google claims is the Chinese word for ink.

Mo Magee and writing

I’ve got about nine hours to finish the screenplay before I have to hit “send” on the e-mail to my prof.  She was originally determined to make sure my hands can only be used for petting, and that my laptop can only be used for lying. I’ve offered her a comfy chair, which suits the other cats just fine, and even a heating pad; she’s rejected both.

However, we seem to have reached a compromise. If I type fast enough, she will take that as a good thing, and just watch my hands and be aware of them. If I stop typing, she head-butts me, as if she’s telling me, “while you’re wasting time, human, you could make with the pettings.”

Okay. Back to work. Daddy isn’t going to shoot himself in the eye.

Twins. I’m having twins.

woman-typist-at-typewriter  No, I haven’t been posting lately, although I have been writing.  To say I’ve had a lot on my mind would be an understatement.

Last night I was sitting in an armchair in a hallway at school, waiting for Screenwriting class to start. I was tired and cranky, looking over my script pages and cleaning up some formatting. I saw Bob Hedley, and I said, “Hey, Bob!” he said, “Hey, how’s your semester going?”
I said, “Great, I’m having twins!”
The look on his face was of total shock and amazement.
I realized that because I was sitting down, wearing a heavy baggy sweater, with my coat tucked around me and my laptop on my lap, I probably looked about 18 months pregnant with quadruplet quarterbacks, so I said, “With scripts. I have two scripts to write this semester.”
Relief washed over his face, and mine as well. Sheesh, you can’t kid around with that pregnancy shit.

This semester, I’m working on two scripts, and it is a lot like being pregnant. Before I get a ton of shit from all the mommy bloggers out there, let me give you some examples.

–The mind-body connection is FIERCE.  Can I eat that bowl of pasta, or will it make me too sleepy to pound out more than a couple of pages?

–When I get to be able to sleep, it is Very Important. I have to organize my sleep schedule around what the work wants.

–I only want to wear the baggiest clothes I can find.  More layers means less availability to others, as if I’m trying to insulate my own thoughts. I keep a pile of black sweaters and favorite jeans in a basket next to the bed, so I can grab something to wear as soon as I wake up. One day a week, I wear sweats, and wash my black sweaters and favorite jeans, and hang them on the line to dry. It looks like disembodied hipster ghosts swaying in my back yard.

–I have to plan my day based on how much walking I have to do, and how much I need to carry. If Vince needs the car on a day when I need to carry my laptop and my books in my backpack, I know I need to pack ibuprofen for the extra back and thigh aches later, and snacks.

–I carry these ideas with me like a 40-pound weight all the time. They always want a little bit more.  Does the next scene want more puppets, or more cake? Or I’ll see or hear something which makes me think of something and then I have to write it down, RIGHTNOW.

–Hyper-sensitivity and mood swings.  Oh God, the leaves are so beautiful! Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick, do you believe he said that? The world is ending, I can’t find my earbuds! And so on.

–Stopping what I’m doing to use the toilet feels like an invasion on my time and energy.  Sure, biologically pregnant women feel like they have to pee all the time, because they do. I feel like I have to pee “all the time,” because I’M BUSY.  The bladder does not conform to the schedule I’d prefer to impose.

–I have a due date, at which point, either the scripts will be finished, or from my womb untimely ripp’d. *

Of course, I don’t have the benefits of biological pregnancy that women do. Nobody’s given me a shower and brought me prezzies, no one’s told me I’m beautiful or glowing.  I just hope that when these scripts are finished, plenty of people will want to play with them.

Here’s what’s going on.

I have one play about mental illness, The Wreck of The Alberta, and I’m not ready to describe it much more than that. Okay, it has puppets and cake. This makes me want to a) make puppets, b) bake cake.  The cake is, specifically, a diet soda cake.  I have made this before, and it’s delicious. However, I would cheat the recipe with an egg white to bind it up a bit, because it’s also a messy cake. I’m working with Ed Sobel on this, and it’s made him laugh a few times, so I can confidently say that so far the play doesn’t suck.  His bar for quality is very high, however, and I can confidently say that he is not letting me get away with average work.  One day he said to me, “This scene is clever, and it’s kind of funny. But it sounds like a Lindsay scene. It has all the things you usually do. I know you can do better than this. Go rewrite it.” and I limped away, grateful.  and I rewrote.

When I get this work finished, I am so going to make puppets and bake cake.  I am going to sew and bake like nobody’s business.  I will frigging have a puppet and cake PARTY.

The other script on which I’m working is a screenplay for a Western. This breaks a lot of new ground for me, because I have never written a screenplay before, and I have never written a Western before.  It’s tentatively titled The Legend of Hot Shot Annie, and it’s an origin story intended to have future episodes, about a young woman who goes from being the pampered and well-educated daughter of a Wyoming cattle baron to being an outlaw in the Johnson County War.

To prepare for this, I’ve done a lot of reading. Recommended to me by actress and muse Jennifer Summerfield (aka Trillian Stars), was the book Letters of A Woman Homesteader, by Elinor Pruitt Stewart.  Her story takes place a good 15 to 20 years after the one I’m writing, but it’s rich with detail and compelling. Not only do you get a visual sense of the beauty of Wyoming, but also a diary of this woman’s daily activities. She hunted wild game, kept house, mowed fields, arranged marriages and filed homestead claims in a bureaucratic shark tank. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an escape and a reality check.  I also read The Wyoming Lynching of Cattle Kate, which has been very helpful in showing not only what women in late-19th-century Wyoming had to deal with in terms of obstacles, but also the political and social landscape of the Johnson County War.

To get a sense of language and pacing, I watched The Quick and the Dead, which I enjoyed more than I expected to, and a lot of Deadwood.  The latter is vastly entertaining, but I’m learning more about how cable dramas are structured than about the Old West. It’s no wonder that the biggest response to this show has been “OMG THE PROFANITY,” because the writers use it to the point that it loses all its power and makes you stop listening. The former was also vastly entertaining, and more feminist than I would expect a Hollywood movie with big-budget stars to be. In terms of gaze theory, especially, it really works: Ellen/The Lady is constantly under the visual scrutiny of the female townspeople, and the way they squint into the camera puts the viewer on edge as much as Ellen feels responsible for their potential future.**

In all this work, I’m breaking new ground personally, because it’s making me push past my normal tolerance for writing. Normally, I love to write, but these pieces have gone to the point where I stopped caring, hated them, but had to keep going, and finally found new reasons to like them. They haven’t quite earned my love yet, but I’ll finish them. I probably won’t love them until I hear them read by actors. Rose Fox  sent me the most wonderful novel writing progress chart, by Maureen McHugh, which I have saved on my phone, and I see it every morning on my way to school and work, and it keeps me sane.

Chili-EXCELLENCE-Bar_main_450x_438092  That, and Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate.  I read an interview with Joss Whedon about How To Be Prolific where he said, “I have a reward system. I am the monkey with the pellet and it’s so bad that I write almost everything in restaurants or cafes [so] that when I have an idea, I go and get chocolate.” I thought, okay, if it works for him. So, I keep bars of Lindt 70% Cacao or Chili Dark Chocolate around and give myself squares of them after every few pages or so.  Writing goes much better with chocolate. I can write without it, but I don’t write as well and I get really grouchy. What’s a bad idea, though, is Ghiradelli Dark and Sea Salt Caramel chocolate squares. Those things are an orgasm in a snack. After one of those, I need a nap.

So, anyway, that’s where I am and what I’ve been up to. and hopefully I’ll have some results soon. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

*Much like Macduff, but I seem to recall that he did pretty well for himself. Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 8.

** It’s a good thing I work in a library. Librarians are awesome. They are the warrior-poet-guardians of our society.

The fat lady has sung.

Traveling Light closed last night, and finally I can post the photos that would contain the most devious spoilers.  As always, all photos by Kyle Cassidy. Kyra Baker as W.P.C. Foster, Terence Gleeson as Officer MacDonald, Doug Greene as Joe Orton and Bob Stineman as Brian Epstein. Click on the images to view them full size.

recognition

smooch

"what's gotten into you, Foster?"

big reveal

Sad to see this opportunity go, but I’m deeply grateful for the good audiences who joined us, and the hard work, love, talent and skill of the entire cast and production team.  Now, on to the next project: I’ve got two feature-length scripts to write this semester, and the writing elves are threatening a strike.

Oh, one more thing:

Liam's photogenic

Not only is Liam Castellan a warrior prince and a scholar, but he’s the most casually photogenic person I know.

grave matter

I listen for your footsteps, coming up the drive

This production of Traveling Light has a really special set. I haven’t mentioned the crunchiest part yet, but Jessica Foley does in her review for Phindie.

” I could report to you an intoxicating intimacy between Epstien and Orton built around a silk shirt and a deliberate tug at a belt buckle, or you can run up to the very top of the Adrienne and see it for yourself. To quote Joe (Orton): “Print is less effective than the spoken word because the blast is greater.”

L-R: Officer MacDonald (Terence Gleeson) drills WPC Foster (Kyra Baker) on police procedure, as Joe (Doug Greene) and Brian (Bob Stineman, not pictured) keep out of sight, but are they out of earshot? Set design by Kevin Jordan, lighting by Andrew Cowles, photo by Kyle Cassidy.
L-R: Officer MacDonald (Terence Gleeson) drills WPC Foster (Kyra Baker) on police procedure, as Joe (Doug Greene) and Brian (Bob Stineman, not pictured) keep out of sight, but are they out of earshot? Set design by Kevin Jordan, lighting by Andrew Cowles, photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Director and producer Liam Castellan assembled a team of crack shot designers who connected deeply with this piece. Set designer Kevin Jordan spent many years in the military and in England, and knows the science of sneaking up on people. Costume designer John Hodges loves period costuming and clever details, he brought form, function, fashion and fun together for maximum effect. Lighting designer Andrew Cowles knows “too late to be night and too early to be morning,” and the subtle changes that time period has.

Come join us.  You have six more chances to see this show. Click here for information about dates and times.

Mark Cofta’s CityPaper review

Mark Cofta followed up his CityPaper feature piece with a review that makes my heart grow three sizes.

An incisive script builds on an intriguing what-if. 

WE THINK:  Friel’s incisive script builds on an intriguing what-if: not-so-closeted bad boy Orton (Doug Greene) and very closeted Epstein (Bob Stineman) certainly met when Orton wrote his never-produced Beatles movie, so were they friends, maybe even lovers? Were their tragic deaths somehow related? In Traveling Light, they clash in a moonlit cemetery (set by Kevin Jordan, lighting by Andrew Cowles), and the adversaries — Epstein had just rejected Orton’s lurid work as “unsuitable” for “my boys” — soon realize they have much in common.

Friel and director Liam Castellan turn the play’s farcical absurdities, including the intrusions by two cops (Kyra Baker, Terence Gleeson) and the boys’ trading clothes (Epstein’s tailored Italian suit for Orton’s leather jacket and jeans), into affecting moments of discovery. As in Orton’s plays, the silly events are meaningful, and vice-versa.

Baker’s sincere performance reveals the challenges of women invading the man’s world of police work, an effective parallel for the struggles of closeted gay men. The world was changing fast in 1967 for women and homosexuals, and establishment men (as represented by Gleeson’s hilarious yet brutal dictionary-quoting constable), feeling threatened, lashed out. These relationships may never have happened, but Traveling Light makes them feel real.”

You have eight more changes to see this show, so don’t let it get away.

almost caught

almost like being in love

Kyle’s photos have so much depth and detail that I can’t put them up full size; you’ll have to click on them for a full view.  There are a lot of beautiful pictures which I’m hesitant to post, because even though they’re so good, they’ll spoil the story. So, if you’re thinking about coming to see it, and you look at these pictures and you’re still on the fence (I know what it’s like), know that everything you see here is EVEN BETTER when it’s live, 3D and streaming in real time in your face. Much more than this is going to happen, so come join us.

All photos below: Bob Stineman as Brian Epstein, Doug Greene as Joe Orton, Kyra Baker as  W.P.C. Foster, Terence Gleeson as Officer MacDonald.

it's been a rough couple of weeks

have you somewhere to go

how will you get out

 

wait five minutes

almost caught

vigilant

caught?

you say you're brothers?

last night as I lay on my pillow

I can tie a double windsor blindfolded

why should I let her be joe

3 way recognize

Mary

Joe caught

What happened? What’s the transformation? Will Brian and Joe survive the night? Join us and find out! 

I read the news today, oh boy.

You want to come see Traveling Light.  I haven’t been writing much lately, but other people have been, and the hard work of the production team and actors is coming to fruition in a delicate and multifaceted setting.  Fortunately, so far our coins in the wishing well are echoing and rippling rather nicely.  Playwrights work in planned obsolescence; you write and hope that your work will be handed off to others who will include enough of themselves that the piece can live on its own. So far, this theory holds up beautifully.

City Paper’s annual Fringe roundup includes a feature piece about Traveling Light by Mark Cofta. There are a lot of shows mentioned in this article worth your attention, but trust me, the Traveling Light article is there.  Keep scrolling!

The Philadelphia Daily News featured Traveling Light in their feature article by Chuck Darrow. 

Liam Castellan was interviewed by Phindie, and the box office has been notified that Vladimir Putin is absolutely not permitted to attend our show. Sorry, Pooty-Poot, you’re banned.

RepRadio came to rehearsal so we could talk about things. if you like to listen to conversations about theatre, RepRadio should be on your short list of podcasts.  Darnelle Radford is really good at bringing out what’s best about theatre in this area.

Last night, Kyle Cassidy came and took photos of the final dress rehearsal. Having a photographer present seemed to give the actors a strong sense of how they relate to space and each other and remind them of physicality. Kyle has an excellent ability to use light to create texture and palpability in his photos. It also felt like having Obi-Wan Kenobi with us, at the beginning and at the final dress, to bookend the creative process.

I’m going to put photos in a separate post, because they’re big and beautiful and speak for themselves, but for now, here’s a taste:

Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Officer MacDonald (Terence Gleeson) on the hunt for sexual deviants, as Joe (Doug Greene) and Brian (Bob Stineman) try to blend in. Photo by Kyle Freaking Cassidy.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Tickets available here, if two is not enough dimensions for you.  And it should not be.

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