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Perhaps human civilization is always on the edge…

Perhaps human civilization is always on the edge.  It certainly is now.

 

 

Games: Because sometimes reality is a little too much to bear

I like to play games. On my computer or on paper preferably.  I am an admirer of Myst and Alida. A friend turned me on to Witness.  It’s maze-based, but visually interesting enough to keep you trying despite being temporarily stuck.

Definitely beats thinking about the real world.

 

 

Anyone who isn’t terrified isn’t paying attention…

Terrorism fits so neatly with authoritarianism that they are a match made in hell. Violence breeds violence. How does peace spread? Or justice? Humanity?

 

Democracy at the crossroads

Perhaps it’s just always been true that democracy in a very fragile thing. All too easy to be turned into something very undemocratic, into oligarchy and autocracy.

I always remember what I read in college by a Frenchman (de Tocqueville) who visited in the early days of an independent United States. He worried about the American experiment in democracy: An electoral majority could trample everyone else’s lives if it chose. Democracy could an autocracy that could do what it wants, hampered only by fighting within itself, oblivious to the populace as a whole. This would be the diametric opposite of the democracy core principle: everyone has an equal say in what is to happen and it’s corollary: everyone’s needs and beliefs are equal.

I believe we are at this crossroads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so I became a messenger

Or, to use the correct word today, as I write back to you in the past, a messager.  You likely still send text messages, but that went away when cell phones stopped working. Landlines held up for quite awhile, but there were ultimately two many computers that kept them going, so after awhile there wasn’t such a thing as a telephone that worked.

Walkie-talkies, sure, but more people used a person to convey their message and that was my job.  People were used to saying a lot more to each other than you can write down on a piece of paper and wait for days for a reply. So they often wanted a lot more communicated than they wrote down on paper. So it was a pretty complicated job. But there were a lot of us, in those days, who sharp memories and a decent ability to get the point of the message. I wasn’t too bad at it.  And it was a living, which was saying a lot.

 

I was sitting at home, alone, when it happened

My wife was on the phone trying to buy something through her computer and eBay wouldn’t accept it. “Fraud Alert” it said.

The phones still worked then and she was used to interminable delays calling customer service.  Only this time interminable really meant interminable.

No one could understand what was happening and no one could do anything useful.

 

 

 

 

A little nightmare…

A message to the past

It happened more suddenly than anyone had dared imagine. Nothing worked any more.  Money, most obviously, was most immediately and devastatingly hit. Maybe you’d stopped to get cash at the ATM and the line looked to be long and not moving.  And as you went home, you passed many ATM’s each with longer and growing longer lines and no one moving forward, everywhere you looked.  And it was like that moment in a blackout where you wonder if it’s just your place that lost power. You look around and see the whole city in darkness.

Cell phones worked for a while. Then weird things started happening with them too and pretty soon they were useless. For a while things were just “unreliable.” Then they didn’t work at all.  Electricity, water, were still flowing ok, or else I don’t think anyone would have made it through alive.

Gas pumps had to be re-wired, mostly by part-time electricians and amateurs over-riding the complex electonics of the things.

The cash you happened to have on hand was about all that counted for anything.

What happened after that? Is that what you want me to tell you about?

For the Legalization of Marijuana

There is no reason why anyone should be considered a criminal for the simple fact of possession. Production and distribution should be made straightforward, without being made commercial, big business. This is the really challenging part.

Perhaps a compromise on one point might help: there’s nothing wrong with decreasing the blood alcohol level for a person who consumes marijuana.  The combination of booze and pot and driving, especially in a car full of people carousing, is not a pretty picture. Yes, wise to keep limits on that sort of thing.

The big question everyone asks but no one can truly answer is whether more teens will smoke pot, and smoke it to excess, if it is broadly legalized for adults.  The teen years are tumultuous enough that adding pot into the mix can wreck havoc. But putting people in threat of being arrested isn’t the solution. Prohibition of marijuana has not resolved this any better than the prohibition of alcohol helped a century ago.

It’s time for more reasonable approaches to emerge and legalization is the right direction.

A story told in audio: The Blue Tunnel – Installment 1

Thinking about a Dracula production for the fall…

Certain stories captivate for generations.The reasons why something like Dracula holds us are fairly obvious, but, nevertheless…

1.  Life and death, particularly the seeming inevitability of death, is about as basic a mystery to humanity as any. Why do I say “seeming inevitability”? Isn’t death the epitome of inevitability? It is, of course, yet, since we are alive, we know nothing of death.Life is what is,death is an abstraction. Certainly we know what it is for our bodies to fail. Every ache and pain reminds us of our fragility. Meanwhile, however, we are not dead.

So the undead is the ultimate of the uncanny. To have body that is dead but still conscious, worse still yearning, still wanting. Not a benign indifference filled, an abstracted state approaching non-existence, but a fully sensorially and sensually aware being.

1a. Blood.

2. Dracula allows free rein to lusts we “good” people repress. You don’t have to be a genius psychologist to know how frequently sexual lust and violence intertwine in human affairs.

3. Dracula’s existence is like thumbing one’s nose at “modern science.” He is a being who could not exist, but evidently does.

4. Dracula is also a moral tale. The promiscuous Mina succumbs and must be destroyed while the innocent Lucy, though tempted and nearly undead herself, is saved.

5. “Modern christianity” is mocked, but a superstitious, rite-ridden christianity prevails.

6. The “wise old man,” another archetype worthy of C.J. Jung, outwits the Satan.  (There are, of course, a million twists on this in which Dracula is more undead than dead despite Dr.

7. Dracula is not just a vampire, it is as though he were all vampires in one. Killing him kills The Vampire which means it kills all vampires.

8. There is a moral point in Dracula that has nothing to do with whether he can be killed. It is a human rather than a supernatural point. To live off the blood of others is a fundamental wrong. This is perfectly true allegorically. It is a malady we see all around us and we realize it may as yet destroy the human race and. in the meantime, is sure making a helluva lot of people terribly miserable. This is the classic problem of evil. We can accept anyone wanting anything, but we cannot accept one person sucking the life out of another person, yet we cannot seem to stop it.

There’s a theme that bears the test of time.

 

Published new short story — an odd little tale

This is an odd story I’ve been working at for some time. A couple initial chapters were published a month or so ago. Here is the first complete draft of the story. If you’re familiar with Haruki Murakami’s stories and novels, you’ll see the obvious connection to his work. I’ve had fun thinking it up.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Other Box

New chapter added to Other Box story

A brief Chapter 4 added.

To start at the beginning, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of “Small Theater”

One of the more exciting possibilities for small, local theater productions — often called “community theater” although the name is often inaccurate and somewhat demeaning — is to tackle themes that are particularly challenging. This includes many of the “canon” of significant works of drama.  “Well worn” as these may be, they became classics because of their enduring power. While reprised occasionally on Broadway, usually in limited runs with big name stars, they provide fertile territory for theatrical exploration in the more intimate context of regional theaters. Other fascinating, less familiar or entirely original, material is available to small theater performances.  Concept works and original stagings of more well-known material — all are fertile ground for small, local theater.

Much local theater, of course, does not attempt to take on challenging material. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment for entertainment’s sake, for filling houses with patrons enjoying an evening out, away from world and personal troubles and the din of television commercial monotony.   There’s nothin’ wrong either with a troupe of actors having a ball with a traditional song-and-dance or farcical silliness.  There’s no substitute for sheer unadulterated fun.  God knows we all need it in these trying times.

Many small local theaters are wonderful venues, though, for a different kind of theater:  theater that, in one way or another, challenges their audience.  In recent times, our area (southeastern Vermont) has been graced by some outstanding work that is, by no means, “easy” from either an actor/director or audience perspective. Whether it was the reprise of the achingly painful Death of a Salesman, the gender-bending interpretation of Jean Genet’s classic, The Maids, the family-from-hell tortuous drama, August, Osage County, or the complex, mind-twisting Copenhagen, among many other wonderfully-enacted serious and comedic works, local audiences were treated this past year alone to innumerable fascinating and demanding theatrical performances. Sometimes, these challenging works attracted full houses, sometimes only the few and the brave, but all gave their audiences something to think and feel about, something meaningful.

Sometimes I think “small theater” should be movement like “slow food.”  I wish we could get away from judging our artistic worth by the size of our audience.  Everything today is market-rated. I remember when I started writing the book that forms the main body of this website and began seeking a publisher. I realized my personal goals and any publishing house’s were completely out of sync.  I felt that if a hundred people took my work seriously enough to read it, that would be a significant accomplishment.  Publishers needed press runs in the thousands to even consider a work. The internet changes the game, but it’s still difficult not to look at website statistics as the ultimate measure of value. Certainly they do give some sense of the interest one’s work attracts.   And since audience size is also tied to whether a theater can be a going concern, it’s both natural and appropriate to be concerned with it. But equating the number of patrons with value reduces the artistic process to a commodity, an extremely deleterious consequence in the realm of creativity.

Small theater has the opportunity of inverting the equation and judging success by the quality of the work rather than the size of its audience. How many times have I heard people remember a performance from many years previous with the words “I was six feet away” from the performance?  In our local area, I think of how wonderful and memorable it is to hear music played in an intimate setting — jazz at Wendy’s house concerts, at the Vermont Jazz Center or the Open Music Collective; chamber music performances at Yellow Barn, Next Stage, or at our local little old schoolhouse — rank right up there with performances I’ve seen at Lincoln Center in New York.

There is a chance, in small theater, to try things that don’t appeal to everyone, that may disturb or unsettle, that may even leave some audience members wondering “what the heck was that?”   There is chance to experiment, to “stretch out” as an actor or director.  And it is a chance for an audience to experience something entirely different from what anything they’ve seen before.

 

 

 

 

 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Black Box Theater: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

NosferatuShadow

Nosferatu

(link to initial entry on this thread)

One of the most alluring possibilities in using a black box theater like the Hooker-Dunham is creating a production from the ground up.  It’s “minimalistic” set-up, a small stage framed by either thick black drapes or, if the drapes are open, stone slabs and bricks. As I write, we’re trying to do that, starting from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella (yes, the author of the Disney-ized, i.e. sanitized Treasure Island!.).

Josh Moyse is developing an entirely new rendition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I say “rendition” rather than “adaptation.” We are paying great heed to the iconic story of the doctor who took a potion that transformed him into all that was evil inside of him, all that was instinctual, and all that was vile, despicable.

Most people cannot think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde without conjuring up images of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, or Heckle and Jeckle. It is engrained in the cultural heritage of many cultures and is, perhaps, universal:  The divide that sometimes can feel so deeply embedded in our nature between the will to be good and beneficial to others and the will do whatever the heck on wants.  If that includes doing harm to others (and what else is that axe raised over your head in anticipation there for?) a line is crossed that no one can abide.

Theater has the wonderful ability, not unlike a really good roller-coaster ride or anything else that’s scary at first but you’re really glad you did it, to allow us to feel fear and see evil and, at the same moment, to feel safe. The homicidal maniac on the stage is not going to come and actually attack us in our seats.

So here is a simple space in which to build a world of claustrophobic nightmare. Because that’s what Jekyll and Hyde is, a nightmare, in which the truth is horrible to behold).  (Hyde complains:  “Why does it always have to be Jekyll and Hyde? Why can’t it be, at least some of the time, Hyde and Jekyll. I know, it sounds like a law firm, but it still would be more fair.”)  A nightmare.  Jekyll goes too far and terrible things happen. Man crosses a boundary he should not cross.

(It occurs to me that this is not unlike the central question of Copenhagen, that just finished a wonderful four-week run at ATP in West Chesterfield.  In our infinite quest to know but also in our fear of other humans and desire to be able to destroy them before they destroy us, we have delved inside the atom, and found a way to unlock its energy.)

Dr. Jekyll is toying with the laws of the universe. He is Edward Teller ( “father” of the hydrogen bomb). He is Faust Robert Johnson at the crossroads, making his pact with the devil.  Or Robespierre, chopping off the head of the king, and so, according to some psycho-historians, killing God and kill Father.  He is poor Oedipus — except that Oedipus had no idea what he was doing while Dr. Jekyll is trying to do what actually happens.

The point is that working with the novella means exploring some very interesting terrain.

Here are some ideas that have crossed my mind.  (Whether any of them will seep into our production remains to be seen.)

An theatrical analysis of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ( some practical, some psychological, some philosophical, and some nonsensical ideas)

The tragedy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

An imagining of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Another scenario of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Final imagining and alternatives

 

Summer of the Puppy

A summer of many things, many changes, but it has definitely been The Summer of the Puppy.

Ah. Mucca

Mucca