Saturday, February 28, 2009


1, About "Portrait"

First I thought this was a play just to hail the personality of Alice Neel. That would have been a quite boring experience, because this character would not change during the play. But the drawing of her son being beaten by the husband gave the straight direction of the play (as it seemed in the beginning, when I watched it) an interesting and also dark twist.

Like Julia wrote in her post, I think the idea of using blank canvasses instead of in any way painted ones added much to the play. I would even say, it was necessary to do that. Because a, everyone could project his/ her thoughts, how the portraits looked like on them b, noone was distracted from the plot staged right in front of them without interruption (in both times the play is set in.)

2, About the "Idiot"

I think, one problematic thing was the direct transfer of the political ideas like anarchy, socialism into the play. The audience is introduced into a net of intertwined characters. Thus, to me the detailed and unprepared hints at these philosophical, abstract ideas were just distanced to far from that. I missed a kind of connection.

I think the actors did a good job though, especially the Prince Mushkin and Nastassya Felipovna. I was impressed how the scenes with MANY people on stage did not seem to be stark and static. I am speaking of the scenes at the beginning when Nastassya comes into Ganya's house and meets his mother, sister and the Prince and later Ragoshyn appears or the party at the end, which results in an epileptic fit of the Prince.

3, About the flashcards

It was impressive, how easy it is to create a plot's outline with some thoroughly thought through ideas. It is also a way to enhance phantasy and flexibility of the mind of a playwright, because you can play with the ideas. By moving one of your flashcards one or two steps up or down the chronological ranks, you can create a whole new play sometimes, at least in my opinion.

Another important thing I learned from this task: It is often better to keep the thoughts on the flashcards short and rather general. If you specify too many facts, the flexibility aforementioned might vanish and it is not possible to develop different ideas and play with the red ribbons possible.

4, Cutting and editing

Having worked as a journalist, I know about one tendency all authors or writing people in general have. It is the thought of the written piece as an entity which shall not be violated. But the reality looks different, as we say in Germany. The thing you have to do generally is to shorten, shorten, shorten your text.

Therefore I found it helpful to trim Jenny's 2-page Joe and Amy play. I think we have to go away from the thought of having finished any written piece as we set the last full stop dot. As time goes on, as audiences or authors change, as circumstances change - the play itself has to change, if it shall be sincerely adapted and adequate for the special point in time and place it is staged on that special occasion, whenever, wherever that may be.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thoughts on “The Idiot”

It was an impressive play, and here are my impressions:

I felt the condensed plot has too many ellipses – how could they omit the time Myschkin and Nastasia spent together in the country? There were also too many stories narrated by the characters instead of dramatized, specially at the beginning, when playing them out would be even more important. As a result, some character developments became “bumpy”, like the sudden loyalty between Myschkin and Rogozhin after they exchange the crosses, and even the gestures of love/sacrifice between Mischkin, Nastasia and Aglaida. Lebedev the gossipmonger and Lebedev the theologian struck me as two different characters altogether.

Still it had a pretty good flow – the plot wasn’t difficult to follow, despite the many characters. Those brick-sized Russian novels are a pain to follow even in the paper, let alone in performance. It’s no small feat.

The set was too bare. It looked like an empty medieval monastery. A carpet would have breathed more life into it. Likewise, I found the costumes too plain and unimposing for Russian nobility, especially in San Petersburg, Russia’s center of French influence.

The expressionistic devices worked perfectly: the echoes were seamless, and the procession of people in Myschkin’s mind was his most dramatic moment, in my opinion.

Lizaveta’s performance was the most engaging aspect of the play: it made her character shine brighter than the protagonists. For the brief time he appeared, Afanasy also made a strong impression.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Missed a (Dietz) Post and I Hate My Life.

But now that that's out of my system....

First, I want to talk about Portrait.  I kind of went not knowing what to expect, and feeling sick, not wanting to be at a play (which is feeling pretty crappy, if you think about it... holding you back from wanting to experience all that is the theatre).

I was significantly less miserable the moment the show started.
I loved:
-The cast.  Iris and Mozart!  Yay! (Now if Bowman could just concentrate as hard on our scene for Truss's class...) And I'm a huge fan of Richard's, dating back to Summer People... for obvious reasons... and Alice was impeccable.  Playing younger characters is always fun, but (to me, at least) having to act an older character is TERRIFYING, especially one as ballsy as Alice.  I was really impressed.  (And Whoot!  I heart Avital Bisk, people.)
-The writing.  Andy wrote a whole post kissing the ground that Jenny walks upon, so I feel that I can state, without sounding like a kiss ass, that the show was beautifully written.  The humor was really clever, and while we credit that a lot of times to the actors and their interpretation and pacing, the good stuff has got to be written before anyone can perform it.  So yay.
-The blank canvases.  We talked about this in class, but the canvases being blank gave sooooooo much to the show.  It let the audience imagine Alice's art, her personality, for themselves, and kept them zoned in on the actions and relationships of the characters.  I was a fan.
-The design of the set.  Having the couch in that corner was perfect for hiding the male nuddie booty, and with the back to the audience, it made the room real.  One of my pet peeves is when a set is set up to so obviously play to the fourth wall.  Urg.  It's like "Come one, please be more original."  It was balanced well by having the heavily used liquor table on the other side, with 'doors' that also balanced out and a middle space that allowed for a dynamic range of spatial relationship variations.  It was all so feng shui.  My chi and aura were thoroughly centered throughout the entire performance because of this.
-I also loved the way clothes were hanging/lying all around the set.  It kind of gave more insight to the characters, and made me feel like they felt nothing was all that permanent.

(Keep in mind that these are VERY nit picky, but) I didn't like:
-Some of the acting choices.  I felt like, when in doubt, any given character poured drinks.  And there were moments when I felt like Nancy slipped into Iris mode, and instead of playing an innocent young woman in love, she played an innocent child, just plain...well, childlike.  But I adore her and her abilities, so please, no one take that the wrong way.
-The fact that the images of Richard being beaten as a child were left to the imagination.  I know that this is really third grade of me, but I wanted to see the pictures really bad.  I'm not saying that a big slide projector should display them when they become known to the audience or anything like that, but, if you think about it, it's kind of comparable to images of say, the Holocaust.  You know that they are horrible, and you'll probably cry and be completely shocked and horrified looking at them, but you still are enthralled, intrigued, wanting to take in this moment and be educated about this subject.  Maybe that's just me.  Plus, I don't think I've ever seen a drawing or someone being beaten- I've not encountered many action sketches.
-Other than that, I can't really think of anything all that negative to say.  I enjoyed it immensely.

Alright.  On vignettes.

Index cards are my new favorite thing.  Not only are they convenient in Acting and Vocal Rep where we write ENDLESS critique sheets for everyone in the entire world, but doing this vignette exercise really helped me focus on ACTION.  I get ideas, and kind of have them build into "Oh, okay, and then she'll do this, and he'll think this, so he'll do that," and RARELY are the actions of my outlines clear, concise, and (unfortunately) visibly achievable.  Ridding my events of fluffy feelings and focusing on the actual action made it SO much easier to just sit down and write.  It's kind of ridiculous how one change can have such a huge impact.

And, since I'm late and suck at life, I'll talk about today's class, too. 

Every single cutting rule that we learned today has been written on all of my previously handed in work.  I have a big problem with having my character state his or her feelings rather than showing them.  I'm too controlling.  I want everyone to clearly know my intent, and don't want to leave it to the actor to portray, because, you know, what if they don't?  It's the same with stage directions, writing a novel so that all the director has to do is get things together.  I guess we all just have to have some faith that others will take our work and do with it way they may with some respect.  It's something I've got to come to terms with.

Cutting out colloquial speech was getting me, too.  I thought, "But this is how the character talks, he talks just like the dude sitting next to me.  This is real."  Real can suck, though.  I'm learning this.

Anyway, everyone have an excellent weekend, and I hope we're totally inspired to write the best seven page scenes ever in the entire world and galaxies beyond and such and what not.

Julia :)

Dietz Post: Portrait & Lidless

Upon seeing Lidless, there was something about it that really irked me.  Several things, but it wasn't clarified until I saw Portrait.  It seemed to me that the characterization and dialogue in Portrait really lent itself to the actors, providing some really excellent acting and roles that I personally was drawn to as an actress.  I tend to particularly focus on the female characters (go figure) and none of the characters were cliches or one dimensional, not necessarily easy to peg.  

In Lidless there wasn't any character that I would want to play, male or female.  It didn't really didn't seem like a play written for actors as much as it was written for the playwright.  I thought the young girl character in Lidless was insufferable.  I got what she represented at different times, presenting an ideal next to her mother's gritty reality, but I hated her delivery that contained no real curiosity in her questions.  I felt such animosity towards the character that her death was somewhat of a relief to me.  Also, in the first scene with the young girl and the once prisoner, I figured that they were father and daughter and the fact that it seemed so obvious took me out of the mystery pretty quick.

I really like Frances' ideas, especially in 410 (Gone), and she can write some really beautiful, thought-provoking lines.  I wouldn't have felt so frustrated watching it if there weren't some really good things about it.  I just think it's her characters that fail to draw me in and get invested in the story.

I also thought about questions of gender in Lidless.  How would the play have been different if the interrogator/torturer was a man and the prisoner was a woman, whose child would later save her life in a strange twist of events?  How would that dynamic change the play?

flashcard homework

Truthfully, I'm thrilled to find that I was not the only one who found the flashcard assignment difficult. No matter what I did, as soon as I came up with a what-if question (and that's time-consuming enough when you're thoroughly brain-fried in the wee hours of the night) I would immediately find myself fitting the actions on the cards to my idea of what the story could be. The beauty of having everyone in the class make flashcards is that no one has the exact same play in mind, so the combination is more interesting and eclectic. With one person… it's a challenge. A good, useful challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. It's bit like, as Sherlock Holmes said, twisting facts to fit theories in a detective case, which he declared was "a capital mistake."

On a more positive note, I totally agree with everyone who liked the idea of plays being made up of vignettes. The image of those little moments on stage can really be the ones that stick in your head, and can be made to have the most psychological significance later on. And the questions that arise from the vignettes can open up the heart of the story.

Its hard to come up with stuff...

You know, thinking back on previous homeworks, I'm finding that brainstorming is a lot harder than actually writing. This is quite strange to me. The previous writing I had done was slam poetry, and here I found that writing it was far more difficult. I would have a million ideas, but no way to put it into words. With playwriting its find the ideas that is presenting a challenge. Once I have an idea, I just run with it and see where it takes me.
Why is that?
Well, here's one guess: with slam poetry I would struggle and write and rewrite to find the "perfect" sentence, so to speak. How could I express myself in the most creative way in the least amount of words? Where does one go when they "take their metaphors for a joyride?" It was always about looking for a better way to say something. And obviously I thought that there were better ways than what I had come up with, I just couldn't think of them. With playwriting I feel like there isn't that pressure to find the "perfect" way to say something. Maybe its the restrictions of slam poetry. One only has 3 minutes to present a whole idea or story where as here I have a whole play, however long that may be.
Also with slam poetry, its a competition. So not only does it have to be good, but it has to be better than the other guys'. Now obviously life, publishing, getting your work put on, etc, is a competition, but it doesn't feel that immediate. And I'm not really writing to please anyone except myself. I'm not writing for points. And although I don't necessarily do that in my poetry, its still in the back of my mind. I guess the trick would be to focus on the writing and whether I'm happy with it rather than whether it scores good.
The problem is when I read something that I wrote and I know I can write better, but I don't know how. I have a big problem with editing because, the way I see it, I wrote something one way because that was how I thought of it. How am I going to change what I thought? (I don't think that makes sense) I just find it difficult to see something in a different way than how I've already perceived it. What I feel I need is another set of eyes and brains. They will probably see something differently than me, suggest it, and that'll get my mind running on a different track.
Since we haven't really gotten into much editing in this class I guess we'll just have to wait and see how I respond to it.

Dietz Post

OK, so this homework, has proven to be more difficult than I would have imagined.

I like the idea of a play being made up of a million vignettes, and I think the asking questions is a GREAT tactic to opening possibilties. But here I am having a bit a problem, or maybe it's just part of the process? You tell me.

Here is the deal, making the flashcards myself has been a lot trickier of a task then I thought. Maybe it is just me, but I've had a really difficult time keeping my mind from trying to outline a story you know?

The randomness of fresh ideas is something hard to keep because it's hard for me to ignore the outlines that form in my head. Personally, I have found the best solution to be incrementing the process over time. Like last night I started at 8 with flashcards, but I discovered I had to take breaks and lose focus to rid myself of an outline of a story forming in my head, so I took the assignment in periods and ultimately, I didn't finish the whole thing till 11:30. This, at least to some extent made me lose my train of thought, which was good for creating more random vignettes.

My question from all of this is, am I alone? Is anyone else out there run into this sort of problem? And if so, any better tips than taking breaks to solve the issue of detaching one's self from the story ?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Team Beckett #3: Fun with Flashcards

Since class ended on Tuesday and I started working on our homework assignment, I have exhausted the rest of my notecards creating "flashcard moments" for each of my "What if?" questions. And I haven't even started to mess around with all of them (i.e. rearranging and adding and subtracting). So I may need another pack! While I didn't end up with nearly as many questions, since I was brainstorming by myself, I still found that asking questions opened up possibilities in the world of my play(s). I think Jenny mentioned in class how asking questions at first, instead of trying to answer them, helped to keep the options open and thoughts/ideas flowing.

[OK, so I started this blog earlier this afternoon. But life happened and I'm just now finishing it at 8:47 p.m.]

Anyway, I've found it difficult to keep each of my flashcard moments short and sweet. They're more like little paragraphs on each notecard, and I feel like I'm trying to write the entire play instead of just the outline. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing? As I'm typing out my "outlines," I'm wondering if they're too detailed. Any thoughts?

Thoughts on "Portrait"

Since our discussion of "Portrait" is not until Thursday's class, I thought I'd post my thoughts here. Because of my production lab assignment, I was not able to see "Portrait" over the weekend. Instead, I saw the first rehearsal in the Lab Theater last Tuesday.

I really enjoyed this production. It had the sort of conflict that really holds my interest: Family conflict, love, sex, indecency, suggestion. It had it all. And I especially enjoyed Erin Phillips' portrayal of Alice Neel.

I also jotted down a couple of notes on some of the things that caught my attention:

At the top of the show, when Nancy handed Alice a cup of tea or coffee, she stood there for a while holding it out to Alice. It was kind of awkward to watch, and I'm not sure if it was something that was worked out later. It may be that the timing was off because it was the first rehearsal in the performance space.

In Scene 2, when Hartley and Richard were talking after coming home from a night out, their conversation was unnatural. Not that the dialogue iteslf was unnatural, they just weren't flowing. It was pretty choppy.

Later, when Alice was painting David, she looked like she was faking it. I didn't think she looked at him enough to make me believe that she was painting him.

That was all I managed to write down, but after reading other peoples' accounts of "Portrait," I have to agree with some of what was said:

I too found it hard to believe that Hartley was the ladies' man. I don't think his character was developed enough to suggest that he was the one who got the ladies. He just didn't seem as strong a character as Richard, thus it was hard to simply believe what was said about him during one scene. I also felt like the "Marry me" was out of place.

About the clothes racks, I figured they were on stage because the performance I saw was a rehearsal. I didn't think they would stay on stage through the actual run.

And I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

"Who can understand a person? We're a nasty bunch."
"They belong to whoever looks at them. Don't you think?"
"Where do you think you came from, the back of a cabbage leaf?"

Monday, February 23, 2009


There were several components that made the play "Portrait" stand out differently from the plays I've seen so far. The plot flowed naturally, even though the time jumped forward several times. When it happened more than once throughout the play, then finally at the end, there wasn't any disruption.
Time was alot more discreet than the tension that seemed to build up to a satisfying climax. The more the intimate nude portraits were mentioned, I was forced to wonder what exactly was in the box and what Nancy could never forgive Alice for. The most amusing part of the tension was when Alice was finally confronted about the portraits of her beaten son. The culmination of the entire plot came down to the moment when the family's most disturbing secrets were revealed to everyone. For a moment there, I was afraid that the Richard's horrible past included nude pictures of more disturbing crimes such as molestation or anything greater than that. Afterwards, I realized that in this story, a mother's neglect of her child's beaten body and bruised soul was far worse than anything I imagined, and it made me understand why Richard was so cold towards the end.
Something that was more disturbing to me than the sketches of Richard was Alice's final words when she admits her only self portraits are the ones of her children, Nancy, and grand-children. It made me ultimately feel pity for Alice and where her heart was her whole life. This moment probably qualified the idea that a mother's life can be shown through her children. It fit so perfectly and only made the play more twisted in the sense that Alice's life no longer belonged to her. Because she no longer can "claim" her own life, I think that this plot heightened how truly cruel Alice was to herself and to those around her.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Impressions of “Portrait”

Still fresh, before I have time to rephrase them into a muffled suck-up to the teacher.

Loved the way tension was built between the characters, especially in the scene where David first strips for Alice (and the intimate sarcasm that develops from it makes me feel like watching a hundred other encounters between the two) and the scene where Alice meets Nancy, with Richard and Hartley trying to douse the flames around them.

The secret theme is also well developed. It's not always on the forefront, but comes back every now and then to haunt you. And that box? Always under the bed, like a monster in a child's bedroom? There couldn't be a better McGuffin for the secret subplot. Pandora would be proud.

I think we didn’t get to see enough of Hartley to credibly establish him as a
ladies’ man. Maybe because his exploits were too much “in the other room,” a la Sophocles. I think the character would become more concrete if his affairs were more present (e.g., phone calls, Alice and Richard complaining about girls calling all the time). As it were, a million-dollar line like that “marry me” sounded a bit out of place.

In terms of production, I’d like to say that Alice had a tangible charisma. She filled the stage. I’m positive much of it is the merit of the actress (despite the screw-ups with the text), but I think the fact that she was dressed as an old lady, but mostly moved around like a young woman (with no sign of age but her neck bending forward) worked as an expressionistic device: she’s never aged inside.

The bits where people speak at the same time didn’t sound very natural to me. It was easy to understand what both were saying, and it seemed too apparent that each actor was interrupting his own sentences. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this is something that only works in extremes: either the actors really talk at the same time, producing a cacophonic texture, or they talk in the typical fashion, upholding the illusion that people talk orderly in real life. I think it could also happen less often in the play.

Not sure how much the clothes racks at the sides of the stage contributed. They do make a good counterpart to the whiteness of the set, but they seemed more “fragmented” than the rest of the play in terms of language. Some hallway furniture, for instance, would have given the same benefits without the characters rubbing shoulders with clothes when they came to the front door.

Despite these issues, I think the play succeeds in drawing audiences in and keeping them interested until the end. I feel like seeing it again, and also like reading more about Alice Neel. I want to find out the stories that Jenny left out of the play.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The use of time and the display of biographies' decisive points in plays/ movies

I never quite understood, why Aristotle would so clearly and strictly define the length of the time displayed in a drama. If I remember it right, the "unity of time" rule says that this length should not exceed the length of one day. In "Lidless" - at first sight - this rule was obviously broken. The Guantánamo time was displayed and the next time period shown, about 15 years after that, was displayed as the "real time" of "Lidless". But it would also have been possible, even to shorten the (not very lengthy) play by describing the events 15 years prior to the "real time" by one of the actors, for example. The important thing I realized while watching the play was that you have to display the DECISIVE moments in the life of the people. I thought of US-American movies like "Pulp Fiction" by Quentin Tarantino, of "Short Cuts" by Robert Altman, especially of "magnolia" by Paul Thomas Anderson. The plot writers connect the lives of several people in one movie by showing their encounters at IMPORTANT stages or important points within their lives, peaks in a plot. By doing this, you don't need to tell much of the history of the used characters up to this point in time - you just have to decide which facts you need necessarily or to speak with our rule: which things must have happened before, which not. Then, a very short "real time" that is displayed (while the play/ movie is staged/ shot) is enough to show the whole life of the displayed persons. I learned, that the lives of the characters as well as our lives in the real world maybe don't possess so many decisive moments. But if you find out the TURNING POINT, an IMPORTANT point in time, then you can display a good play. It sort of comprises and concludes the whole life in the microcosm of the play. In my opinion, that was and is a helpful and important insight. 

Thoughts on Lidless

(I'm hoping maybe this could be a late Aristotle post?)

I've never seen a play with so few props, and I like the change. I feel like I could focus more on the characters and less on the scenery. Still, sometimes it took me awhile to figure out where and when we were in the sequence of events.

I got confused about Ali when he was in the hospital bed--at first I thought he died, then later he started talking, and still later I thought we were seeing his ghost, only it was Alistair. In the end I'm guessing Rhiannon gave her liver to him, but then we never see her in a hospital bed.

Also, did anyone understand why Alice was interrogating an empty chair in the beginning, and why Rhiannon is sitting to the side, going on about "just one breath, etc.?" Maybe it comes back to that line when someone says, "Rhiannon thought that the world would be a better place if we all just learned to breathe deeper."

I think there must be some significance of sickness in the play other than just "Ali has Hepatitis and needs a liver." Ali has it, Alice has it, and Rhiannon has asthma. The three of them make a family unit, so perhaps that is why they're all sick.

Also, I liked how Alice, Ali, and Alistair all have names that begin with 'Ali.' I don't know for certain what the significance of this is, but maybe it's because they are all very affected by Alice's past. Then again, Rhiannon is definitely affected as well (Alice attacks her), and she doesn't have a name that contains 'Ali.' I looked up "Rhiannon" in a baby names dictionary because of its uniqueness. Rhiannon means "Great Queen." She is also a Welsh mythological goddess. Or maybe Alice just like Fleetwood Mac.

I thought the metaphor of the icing on a burned cake was great. When it came up, I didn't yet understand that Alice had taken pills to "feel better," but when that came out, I thought the cake was very meaningful, and true for many people.

It felt very strange to see a mother acting so cruelly, I guess I generally think of people who don't have children as more likely to be that brand of crazy.

I think the play gave me a better understanding of what happened at Guantanamo and it was a reminder that we can't just forget our pasts, because they make us who we are.

Monday, February 16, 2009


When I saw Lidless, I was pretty intimidated by the intensity of this well crafted play. The thought and time in this play really played with the mind, and I enjoyed the hopping back and forth. It made me wonder what really happens to the play if it jumps around like this. It was as if it was just moving whenever it felt like it wanted to but having a satisfying finish. From what I remember of Death of a Salesman, the flashbacks and memories worked really well and started to place the play in a different category of its own. I enjoyed both plays for their authenticity and creative plots.
Time in a play can be manipulated in any way possible, and when it's actually done, it becomes more than just a simple plot that has one climax and an end. I really enjoy learning about time in a play because to me it is almost better when everything is mixed up and has a finish that connects everything for me. I love to watch flashbacks play out because then I get to learn more about the characters and plot than I originally knew. It honestly makes the whole play more interesting to watch and enjoy.
I'm not convinced that Lidless could've passed as a play if it only had it's violent and intense moments that followed in a straight line. In some cases, I think a play should take total advantage of the intensity of the plot and just carry it out all the way. I would like there to be more broken moments in the time of a play. It would feel like I'm watching a play that isn't only smart and astonishingly creative, but it satisfies its ultimate interest.

time in plays

I was definitely inspired by our discussion of time strategies in plays on Thursday. It's amazing what a difference an alternate time structure can make in a play... could you imagine "Death of a Salesman" performed in chronological order? (Granted, I've already displayed my complete confusion about that particular play for all to see in class, but since we broke down the actual actions I actually got it.) Or "An Ideal Husband" done backwards? It just wouldn't make sense, and the effect would be completely spoiled.

The beauty of playing with time in a play is that you make the audience feel, if only for a hour or so, that they're existing outside of time. You do sacrifice a little bit of the total belief in the reality of what's on the stage (that was a wordy phrase) but on the other hand you let the audience feel a little like Ebenezer Scrooge's Christmas ghosts... hopping around time with ease and at will.

More importantly, having certain moments happen at certain times makes sure that plot points have the impact they need to keep the play moving. And effective, for that matter.

Messing with Time

Mixing up time= happiness.

When I sat down to write after Thursday's class, I began to rework a scene (or rather, mini play) that I had written, and began to realize that one of the best things one can do for their work is mess with the chronological structure.  (Even if one ends up staying with a direct timeline, it offers a lot of insight to your work, revealing things that maybe you as the playwrite didn't know or consider too deeply before.)  Think about it- a lot of the most compelling works possess timelines that are all over the place.  Rarely does a narrative that simply goes down the line of its story capture my attention more effectively than a piece that takes risks (unless the story in the narrative is just a million times better than that of the show that takes risks, but that's another post entirely).

When I mapped out the events of my scene/play, I was at first completely excited, then, torn, because I had too many different ideas on how to rearrange the scene.  What's more is that all of the ideas yielded different results, emphasizing separate themes of the original text.  Well, how do you choose?  If two or three arrangements are really good, and they are each highlighting your purpose in writing the piece in the first place, what criteria is used to keep the best and trash the second best?  Or, even better, how can one fuse the two?  You know, reach a sort of compromise that brings the drafts together, making a sort of super-extra-awesome-scene/play-where-all-of-the-time-is-scattered-all-over-the place-but-holds-more-meaning-and-intrigue-than-the-original.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

You're Invited...

...To come see a run of my play this week, before preview if you'd like.

We'll be working transitions, lights, cues...if you'd like to come, send me an email, and I'll tell you when/where to show up.

I'll ask you to mostly sit quietly in the audience...neither my actors nor I will have time to chat, I expect. But I'll welcome your notes/thoughts on what you see, the day after you see it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thoughts on the "An Ideal Husband" and "Lidless" performances

I thought I might post my impressions of our two play assignments here on the blog.

An Ideal Husband
Lacked spectacle, in my opinion. The set was admirably simple, with the bare minimum to indicate the time and place, and doing so very effectively. But such a bare setting demanded that the space be filled with the performances, which I found rather tame. With the exception of Phipps (best actor in the play) and Caversham, everyone else spoke their insults and their greetings
with the same diction and intonation. From a playwriting point of view, I think that was the most problematic issue of this production: the non-verbal didn’t convey the meaning of the verbal.

Very tight, making the most of its resources. Powerful, too (the image of the inmate screaming with the bag on its head and handing out the flowers will haunt me for quite some time). The revelation of the inmate being the girl’s father could have been more concrete – because of the fragmented form, there is a lot of plot to absorb. Other than that revelation, the play seemed to be clear where it needed and fuzzy where it didn’t matter (or where it was best served by being fuzzy). I’m also not sure how the doctor and the torturer met after their discharge, and it’s sort of important, but it didn’t prevent me from understanding and enjoying the play.
Loved the sadomasochistic tension that developed between victim and aggressor -- it touches very deep, essential issues of human nature, and very concisely, I might add. Reminded me of the movies Black Snake Moan and Blue Velvet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Team Beckett #2

I just wanted to say that Tuesday's class was a very productive and even enlightening experience. When we used Michael's example to put on the board, it amazed me how quickly we were able to fill in the timeline. And I have a feeling this type of exercise will help with future bouts of writer's block. Starting with only several events, or a beginning/middle/end of a play, and then growing into a complete plan or idea is really cool. I think I've been going about writing all wrong. I usually just sit at a blank screen and try to start typing something that sort of makes sense. I like that this technique, this sort of "mapping" process, is something we can use as a guide for our creations. A direct and definite starting point, even if we haven't figured out the beginning yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Theatre cannot be replaced

[On behalf of Team Beckett]

Some will tell you that theatre is doomed and that film isn't just an art form, but the way of the future. To thee, I say NAY! Our class discussion of spectacle reminded me that there is so much value in the live theatre environment. Regardless of subject choices or artistic approaches, live theatre will always have a niche, because of that wonderful, wonderful weirdness irked by the ability to see something happen before your very eyes. There is that mystical quality to being able to witness a happenning - having been in the room - seeing something created before your very eyes - which recorded media simply will not capture. A sheer amount of in-your-face-ness.

This was a thought I'd had recently when I read an article published about the fall of the CD format due to online stores and sheer pirating. Recorded music is on the verge of becoming a hopeless cause to charge money for because of the utter ease of stealing it due to advances in technology. I realized that, though this is a tragedy, this is an easy wake-up call for bands and artists everywhere. Bands have to stop using tours as just lame venues with which to sell their CD's. Before the 80's, bands actually cared about their tours and made them all into thrilling experiences full of lights, costumes, jumps, swaying, glamour, theatrics, pyrotechnics, etc. Half of the different "movements" of rock and roll have been changes in costume anyway. Then, along came Thriller, and suddenly every album become a cheap ploy to make some dumbass in a corporate office a millionaire by finding hits and repeating the formula until a band was nothing but a puppet with a record executive's arm crammed up his ass.

Many of us in the Theatre Department will want to be screenwriters and screen actors and screen anything. It certainly pays a lot better, sometimes the budget is better too. But, no matter how pretty somebody looks in the beautiful and intricately polished magic of film, a film is something that can be ripped onto a disc and distributed to anyone with a computer at all in a matter of moments. If you're making a film, keep in mind that people in Taiwan probably are already pirating a bootlegged unfinished cut.

Theatre, however, is raw. Performance, regardless of whatever ridiculous thing you've done whether on a shoestring budget or with all the right investors, has value in one basic quality that makes it theatre - it's live. You can always charge people for something if it's live. Because things that are live have value. Everything is up in the air. It's the thrill. It's the life. It's the spectacle of theatre.

Dietz Blog Baybeh...

Ok so I'm going to engage in a little PDAK. (Public Display of Ass Kissing) But Jenny, last class was GREAT! I mean, for me it was a total breakthrough. There have been so many times when I sit down and start drawing these elaborate webs, plotting ideas, only to scratch it all out, throw it away and forget the whole idea because 1. There was too much confusion in trying to plan it 2. I felt the idea lacked originality.

Last class just showed me that all that mess is so unnecessarily complicated. I never really put some thought into the fact that even if you ran with the same idea of something prior, your plot could be entirely different. And it was funny because when I wrote down 3 movies I loved and put them into a sentence of summary, they were all practically the same story. And not to mention, how easy we made the time line. I mean a beginning, middle, end and go crazy with the space in between. That simple... GENIUS!!!

So, I'm not saying that I am going to be some unstoppable writing force that is wripping out the Academy Award winning scripts now. I am simply saying, I'm going to be able to write, I mean free of restraint, headache, and self degradation. And that alone is so exciting. So sincerely, thanks Jenny. Last class was great!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dietz: Class Blog Dos

I liked what Jenny had to say about literature. I thought it was interesting to reflect on the importance of the way we use our words. I like to remember that each word in a play is specifically chosen and crafted by the playwright to create a certain effect. When we use the manipulations of syntax and word choices, we begin to create the world of our play, and the literature has like-magical powers. A good playwright asks himself if the structure of his text is presented in the most effective way to support the message; he imagines possible future reactions to his text and uses literature to craft each reaction.

Dietz (Durang) Post II

  Today's class was very helpful to me.  I tend to get caught up on having to have inspired, completely original ideas when I write, which tends to leave me with a lot of blank paper.  I tried writing a musical when I was a freshman in high school and was crushed when I learned a satirical version of it was performed somewhere in Jersey.  Last year I workshopped a song for a musical version of But I'm a Cheerleader, and got some songs together, before a friend told me someone beat me to the idea in a recent New York playwriting festival.  That led me to jump to trying to be utterly original in my writing ideas. Although now that I'm writing this, that really sounds like an impossible feat, being that everything has already been written.

I liked what Jenny said about trying to write the story of Hamlet and that, even if you follow the basic plot points, you are not going to end up with Hamlet.  So originality can be found in the most recycled plot or story line, which is a bit of a relief, but examples of this can be seen everywhere I suppose.

Also, if I were to write out quick one sentence blurbs on the basic points of some of my favorites plays and screenplays I know they wouldn't all come out sounding interesting or like something I would necessarily want to watch.  I enjoyed What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but if I were to ask someone to sum up the plot points for me before having seen it I might have shrugged it off.  On the other hand, there have been shows and films that sounded like almighty epic masterpieces, or at least a little tittilating, when in blurb form, but the end product was nothing special.  

I remember reading References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot and loving it, but I can't write you an outline of events of the play to save my life.  Partly that's bad memory over some years, but that's mainly due to the fact that I was so absorbed in the beautiful language of the play and the imagery he used that that is what I remember.  I don't think it is always necessary to have an order of logical, sequential events to keep a story together or an audience captivated.  Not like Die Hard or anything.  

Monday, February 9, 2009

Violent Sir Robert

Sometimes, I just want to reach my hands around your neck and squeeze. I want to feel my fingers press into you, as though I am clawing my way to your very soul. I want to grab you, tear you, wrip you, crush you, and overpower you, just so I know you feel me, the way I feel you.

See, when I think of love, I think of you. But your love isn't sweet, kind, or gentle. It's a weight on my shoulders. You love me for my strengths, and so you test them. You put that love upon me, and there it sits growing heavier with each expectation of a person I can't always be. It presses down upon me, shoving my ribs torwards my hips, and my stomache inward till I find it hard to breathe.

But I love you for the latter. For all your cracks, dents, dings, scratches, and scruffs, you are all the more beautiful. Like an antique vase, you were molded into the most beautiful design of curves and shape, yet in an instant you can break, shatter into a million pieces, irreperable.

So I've held you, your shapely self, and your love upon my shoulders, felt the weight upon, me breaking my spine like the "snapping" of twig upon in the winter, made frail by the cold. But I am tired of snapping into pieces.

I want to bring you down from my shoulders, till we see eye to eye. I will bind you, break you, mold you, and burn you down in the furnace of love that rages inside me, until you feel the chaos inside me that is this love. And we will burn together, till, as one, we'll melt.

Repetitive Sir Robert

Sir Robert
I am a human being, why can't you see that I am a human being?  I am human, Gertrude!  I am not flawless. I am only a man.

Men love women for who they are, they don't need to put them on pedestals.  Why can't you love me for who I am?  Just a man.  Just love me- human and all- just love me as a man.

If you could only see me as I am, just accept me without making into a false idol.  Accept me as your husband, flaws and all, for better or worse, because this is reality.  We are not supposed to be golden gods.  We are supposed to see each other as mere, struggling mortals who come together out of a mutual need for love.  

I need your love, Gertrude.  

Gertrude, love me.

Love me as a man the way I love you as a woman.  Just love me.

Breaking Into Song

(First of all I just want to say I don't consider this my late Aristotle blog, I'm just posting because this video is hilarious.)

Last thursday my notecard said "I would love to see a character break into song during a play, not a musical, where people would expect that to happen."

So to whoever wrote that one, you might be interested in seeing this video:

Improv Everywhere

Chekhov Post

Non-verbal communication and the Chiltern monologue ("An Ideal Husband")

What struck me in the last lesson was the exercise about the Chiltern monologue (about women idealizing men in their relationship, while men tend to see their female partners more realistic and recognize their flaws). It is incredible, how many possibilities language offers to its users and thus, how many different "versions" of this monologue or scene we could produce. First I thought, I could not produce anything reasonable. But I managed to convey Chiltern's opinion only with stage directions. I had "no dialogue" and decided to do the monologue without any words. It showed me the power of gestures and why we continually communicate, even if we don't speak a word. It also reminded me of the psychologist Watzlawick who (I think) said "You cannot not communicate". Personally, I used a projector to show newspaper headlines (of Chiltern's dishonorable actions), or a liquor bottle and dollar bills to illustrate the vices of men. Thus, I came to the conclusion that language is really only ONE part of communication. The situation the person is in, his or her clothing, mimics, gestures, age, gender, ethnicity, religion/ culture, sexual orientation and the point in time are just some other important features of the communication going out from one person - even if the person itself may not be aware of it or maybe even wants to avoid that. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Monologue No punctuation

women expect too much from men they honestly do they think there is going to be this perfect glowing man whom they have fabricated in thier heads but the truth is that there is no man like that he does not exist and in fact he never will because no one is perfect no man woman or child even for that matter has lived even a day without sin it just seems backwards you know the difference between the love that a man gives and that of a woman a man will cherish his women for the whole person that she is and he will learn to love her faults but a woman will do just the opposite she will take his flaws and try to force them to become something more favorable she tries to make a man into something that he is not which to me goes completely against the overall premise of love it should be unconditional and it should never rely on a change love doesn't have impossible expectations love is understanding

Wait wait, now I'm confused.

I thought we were supposed to write a monologue using our given literary device, not a specific adaptation of another text as a monologue using our given literary device.

So now here comes SIMILES 2: ELECTRIC SIMILOO.

Have you really been so blind that my character appears as mighty as a god to you? Was I honestly so angelic in your eyes that the hat on my head is like a halo to you? Is this how distant we really are - that when you gaze upon me your eyes meet me like a pilgrim's upon that of an icon? Well I am like a God as a mouse is like a lion. I am like an angel as a thief is like a guard. I am like an icon as a foul duke is like his own embellished portrait. And this change that has come over you is like that of an adolescent who has just learned to be ashamed of its own father. You, in love with this foolish ideal, are like a ship's captain who loves the tip of an iceberg and steers closer for a closer glimpse. And to say this discovery of ignored imperfection is, to you, like the uncovering of conspiracy is as foolish as though that very ship's captain swore to his own sinking that the water had planned against him! A woman loves a man as though she gave her heart to a single toe.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chekhov post

Well this week has certainly been interesting for me. I never really thought about how changing something as simple as the wording of a sentence can change everything about the character your trying to create, even the setting. This bit of information made me look over things Ive previously written over the past few years. I actually spent quite a long while rewriting and revising different stories that I havent looked at in months. (this was of course cause I had no internet at home..what else is there to do?) I also found that leaving a story alone for a while, then coming back to it makes everything better. some things I thought WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!...other things I thought..ok...that was cool now let me make it awesome!! It was good night for creativity.

Robert Chiltern's Monologue - Run-On Sentences

God, what do you think of me as? Like some god or deity or hero with some clean cut image, an angel with no flaws or common link to other men who do what they want. How can my love for you or your love for me ever be the same when you continuously put me on a high pedestal that never allows me to do anything else but watch my moves and sit on my hidden lies, never allowing me to forget them or be free from them, like I'm a prisoner in my own mind, a prisoner in my heart, a common man who gives love to his wife but has none in return, only respect and honor in her mind's eye, for you now know I am not that man and you know I am not someone who can accept only that. Maybe if you opened your eyes just by a little you will still see the man you fell in love with, but you will never open your eyes the slightest because you will ultimately think I'm a fake and a hypocrite, a person not worthy of his noble stance and power, a man who is absolutely dishonest and washed cleaned of his responsibility, which he may never get once again when this story of lies and scheming flies out into the open, and I know you would would not love me anymore if you thought I were no longer chilarous or noble or honest or moral, but you must know however young and corrupt I was in the past, I am no longer that now, and you must take me as I am, flaws and all, but because I know a woman's love is disproportionately smaller for a man, than it is a man for a woman, you would die before allowing one single mistake infiltrate my soul!


What were you thinking?! Are you really going to go through with that stupid plan of yours? Oh God how is this going to work? It cant. It wont. Your not really going through with this are you? No. Are you going to tell them your not going through with that plan? Yes. Yes you are. If you dont Ill leave you. What do you think about that? Huh? Thats what I thought.

The never ending list of words

Hey guys. Sorry I didnt get this to you all sooner. My apartment complex turned off the internet to make it faster. (I dont see any difference but oh well)

Heightening, exaggeration, using monosyllabic words to show rapidity, really obvious names, interruption, lambic pentameter, ubiquitous languages - magical words, modern references, OCD v. current slang, rhetorical questions, stuttering, pun, one word sentences, contractions, pauses, monologues, asides, interviews, music, malapropisms, incomplete sentences, accents, alternative/consequential dialogs, vernacular, information that can only be read not performed, volume, dialect, profanity, corruption, conjections/subordinated periods, allegories/poetic text, directness, run on sentences, fragments, intellectual language,foreign languages, repetition, no dialogue, narration, wordiness, absence of punctuation, hesitation, hyperbole, euphemisms, hyphens, ellipses, misspelling, question marks, fonts, page breaks, pauses, animal voices, wit, tempo, alliteration, violence, synecdoche, vulgarity, phonetic spellings, personifications, quotes, text language, mixing languages, beat, colloquialisms, italics, stychomythia, embellishment, silence.

Language in the Theater - Our Voice Can Be Heard

The playwright has power over the words and the language on stage. This pleases and saddens me, because I now can have faith in the fact that my work will never be changed and morph into something that is unrecognizable. I would like to leave school with the idea that no one can change the most essential tool, I believe, that a play has to use. I think it can be seen in all the different readings that we've done so far, especially in those that of Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare. These two men have the beautiful tendency to add in as much detail as possible that may not be relevant at first but can transform a scene into so much more.
I liked the class discussion and activity. The way people can heighten a simple sentence and exaggerate the thoughts one can have in a scene is why I wanted to pursue playwriting. The ability to transform simple words into a huge profession of happiness or love or pain is a truly remarkable trait that writers should never deny.
It saddens me, however, that language can be the most a playwright is allowed to be involved with in the production of his or her play. I would want to contribute more to a play other than it's language.

Aristotle Blog Post- The Beauty of Language

I really enjoyed the discussion (not to say lecture) on the importance of language in playwriting. It's amazing the difference choices in language techniques can make in a play and the way the form illustrates the content. Shakespeare was a master of this-- a study of his use of blank verse in some places, verse (occasionally full sonnets) in others, and prose in yet others as indications of character and setting could fill several volumes. Oscar Wilde's delightful cynicism and constant use of epigrams make him one of our most quotable playwrights. On the other hand, Harold Pinter and his famous "Pinter pauses", together with his spare style, bring to mind an entirely different school of playwright, where the really important things are the unspoken things (I'm specifically thinking of "The Homecoming".) So much can be communicated just by the language we use, by what we don't say as much as by what we do, by the simple grammar or punctuation of a sentence; and that is power not to be taken lightly.

Ideal Husband Monologue– Txt language

OMG! Whats ur prob? dont u understand uve ruined my life? i was afraid 2 sho my weakness 2 u bc u always thot i was perfect & put me on a pedestal... i was afraid to cum down, i thought u wouldnt luv me n e mor. Men luv their women knowing their faults & luving them 4 it, but u just couldnt take the thot that i mite not b perfect! U think ur making us into n ideal but ur just worshiping us 4 somthin we r not. & if we r not ur ideal uve made, then we lose ur luv. i couldnt b reel w/ u- uve ruined my life!!! :( :(

Aristotle - Class and Thoughts

Tuesday when we talked in class about the playwright and his power I began to understand the difference between screenwriters and playwriting. This is most excellent considering it is one of the goals I wished to leave with. The playwright has complete control over the script as in where the screen writer does not. He is subject to higher forces if you will. There are the executive producers, producers, editors, directors etc. Another adaption for me having written mostly books and screen related works, is not being able to just jump all over my imagination and be in a new place each scene. In a book you eat some pill and then you're on the moon. On stage yes you do have the creative capacity to do this, but you would need to stay on the set of a moon much longer and not be on five other locations. Building sets on the stage limits you in this aspect but provides a worthy challenge. Another thing I appreciate about this class so far is most indubitably our class exercises. It inspires us to think outside the box. By writing under pressure I feel, If I can write something sorta good in five minutes I know when I have a more probable deadline I can right something worthwhile. Class has been really helpful so far and I look forward to learning more.

this post is packed with similes like reese's peanut butter puffs is packed with peanut butter and chocolate-y taste

The middle of the week is like a whirlpool that starts from the moment the alarm clock pierces my dreams at 8:00 am on Tuesday to the minutes my head finally rests somewhere during Friday morning.

Tuesday, especially, irks me like that first long, awkward dinner with your girlfriend's conservative family.

It begins first with the brief moments I switch clothes and pretend to have showered, where I feel as clean as I do during that first awkward, rushed greeting while I secretly ponder the sanctity of my utterly dirty intentions with this nice family's oldest daughter. I go to my first class, Acting, which, though exciting, comes a little too early in the day for my comfort, like that plate of expensive cheeses they have laid out just for me, obligating me to spoil my appetite so that I don't appear ungrateful.

This, of course, is but a preamble to the long, long bulk of time spent in the prop shop, which is as rigourous and consuming as my girlfriend's mother's pork chop recipe, passed from generation to generation to me, the only one whose sensitive teeth are too weak to chew the extra lean cuisine for less than an eon. By the time I leave it late in the afternoon, I find myself somewhere between trudging and running to my immediate next class, somewhat in the same way I sift the ladles and forks through the side dishes I neglected, but now must defend my affection for before my captors. All of this is capped off by my play rehearsals, an evening treat, which, like desert, would have the flavor of a blessing when the day was young but instead leaves me feeling like the Hindenberg after everything else has passed.

All of this is, of course, punctuated by the homework, the assignments, the outside projects, and my endless job hunts, like (if not constituting) the awkward dinner-talk that the whole excursion was actually for, leaving me wary of a father's if-you-knock-up-my-daughter-I-will-obliterate-your-balls-from-existance glares and a mother's I-sure-hope-this-boy-goes-to-some-nice-church smiles, as I wallow in double-standards and exhaustion.

Fridays are like when that girl's parents go out of town.

Bracelet in "An Ideal Husband" -- continuity mistake?

Did I miss something, or at the end of act 3 Mrs. Cheveley leaves Lord Goring's house without having the bracelet removed from her wrist? After Goring burns the letter, the bracelet is never mentioned again, is it?

Sir Robert Chiltern Monologue with Pop Culture References

My dear Gertrude, you have placed me high on a pedestal and have not allowed me to be myself, to be human, and to make mistakes. Take a look at the world. Even Brangelina, two of the most beautiful and successful people on the planet are still imperfect in their own ways. And I have found that it is the imperfect who are very much in need of love. Unconditional love. Even if I were to slip up, to cause you so much anxiety and grief, like that yellow lab Marley does to Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson in that one movie, you should still love me. As my wife, my lover, and my friend, you should still love me. But you don't anymore. You have taken your own idea of a man have have forced me to fit the mold. Like Miley Cyrus, you were given this beautiful Porsche. Sure, maybe it was used, with a few miles on it, but it was yours. A gift like our love. But what did you do? You traded it in! For a friggin' Toyota Prius! You traded me, who I really am, for an ideal. And now it has cost us our marriage.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Aristotle Post – thoughts on the class so far

The most striking feature I see in our classes so far are the collaborative exercises. They’re great seeds for ideas, as per Burkard’s post below, but I think they also contain invaluable (if fledgling) hints at a certain professional attitude of detachment. It’s important for all artists to avoid getting too emotionally attached to their ideas, as if they were jewels to be guarded and protected from the defiling hands of strangers. Because hands will touch them, and there’s nothing you can do about it: if it’s published, editors will introduce changes (sometimes even with your consent); if it’s produced, it will incorporate the contributions of a cast and crew of dozens of people, and deviate largely from elements only you can see on the page; even when a reader gets to read your manuscript as you finished it, before it got changed further down the line in the entertainment industry, he’ll make his own reading, and see things in his head that you did not. Speaking of collaboration, emotional detachment from your ideas is also necessary to make the most of a writing partnership, as happens so often with screenplays.

Other than that, I see great value in studying plot, action, motivation and conflict, and whatever else is in store for us concerning traditional drama language and structure. I think that kind of formulaic concern is hardly news for anyone with a remote interest in writing (who has never heard, for instance, of loglines – the “twenty words or less” summary of film ideas?), but it’s something worth learning in detail – and mastering to the point where you can use it comfortably and spontaneously, I daresay. Ionesco and Beckett are great, and no writer of any talent should discard a good idea upfront just because it clashes with any rules; but I find those traditional rules to be the most effective and practical help you can turn to when you don’t know what to write next.

I have no qualms about studying writing from a mechanic perspective, following recipes of success. I want to learn how to do that, as objectively and thoroughly as possible. I think that actually makes experimentation and innovation easier: when you’re familiar with what’s been done, you’ll know that whatever else you can think of is experimental and fresh. Revolution always comes more easily in the most inflexible regimes.

Swearin' Lord Chiltern

So what am I? Jesus fuckin’ Christ, the second coming? I don’t need this shit. I’m flesh ’n blood like you. No matter how much you think I get stuff right, or I’m perfect and all that shit, I still have to take a dump after I eat, y’know? Yes, I fucked up. Guys fuck up, too! Should everything go to hell because of one fuck-up? ’Cause my life’s over. I ain’t worth shit now. But what I don’t get is what makes you so damn special that you can screw up and get away with it. If I’m the better man, shouldn’t I get it easier? Put up with less crap, not more? It ain’t no blessing – it’s a downright butt-fuck, that’s for sure. Don’t envy me, ’cause I envy you. All you bitches who don’t have to put up with reputation and all that shit. You broads got it all wrong: strong sex, weak sex, bullshit! All for the birds! You hit a guy in here [taps the left side of his chest], it’s the same as hittin’ him here [holds his scrotum]. So take your admiration, your awe, and shove it up your ass! ’Cause I don’t want a fan, or a fuckin’ follower. I want a companion, cut from the same cloth as me. I want love, is all, and to hell with the rest.


I chose to rewrite the dialogue from "An Ideal Husband" without any words:

MAN (enters) shakes head ten times fiercely
WOMAN (enters)
MAN points at woman and points at himself
WOMAN looks askingly at him, as he repeats his gestures. She lifts her hands, palms up, shakes her head lightly, curls her lips.

MAN draws out a cardpaper heart (red)
WOMAN pulls out pedestal. Lets man jump on pedestal, kneels down before it, holds up cardpaper heart to him; produces praying gesture and look
MAN (annoyed) jumps from pedestal, shakes his head. Throws the pedestal away.

He shows the woman
1. a liquor bottle, drinks from it greedily
2. looks at porn magazines, he draws out of his pockets
3. laughs exaggeratedly and throws out dollar bills on small (children's) ferrari/ kettcar ferrari

WOMAN looks astonished; still asking look; lifts arms and shakes hands; she doesn't understand
MAN throws on projector. Shows pictures of newspaper articles. Headlines with his name in connection to dishonor, trial etc. Also: Pictures of him in handcuffs, looking guiltily at the floor

WOMAN looks scared at him. Crosses arms in front of her, waves hands. She didn't want that.
MAN While looking at pictures/ headlines: getting angrier. He turns toward the woman, takes her head in both hands. Points at it and shakes it and makes asking gestures.
WOMAN still doesn't seem to understand.

CHEKHOV BLOG - Writer's Block

Thoughts about the writer's block and what this class offers against it

I want to talk about the writer's block, because we treated that topic in class and I also saw posts containing thoughts about it. First I think, it is very helpful to learn things like the language devices we collected on the blackboard. It is astonishing, how many possibility language offers.

But to me, this is the same with the action or the plot. When we had to invent the short drama with 2 out of our 3 wants, set in a place mentioned by the others in class (also collected on blackboard) within 20 minutes, I thought, "I won't be able to finish that in 20 minutes".

While I was doing it, my tension vanished, though. I became aware of exactly the fact, I mentioned above. There are millions of revelations or solutions to all plot or language problems. Therefore, I think this exercise was helpful.

But another aspect of this lesson is important. Because, still, if we could pull one or several revelations for the plot out of the hat, it would not be a good piece of work in my opinion. I have written many texts of all kinds, scientific texts as a student, worked as a journalist for 6 different newspapers in my hometown and as I said in my introduction, I am publishing a small satire magazine together with one friend of mine. 

The written texts and the contents of my different written works thus varied a lot. But overall, it is important to say, that a text generally would always improve, if I would take a second, a third look at it. Also I think it is important for DRAMA purposes to imagine the person, better the person and the situation given or needed. If you do this, it can't be completely wrong.

And as we have seen, e.g. regarding the settings or the language devices on blackboards, you can relax. That is, because there are so many POSSIBLE solutions. The next important step should be for us, to learn how to IMPROVE the allegedly shitty first drafts.

Chiltern Monologue - Incomplete Sentences

You women! Our faults? Not at all! If you hold us up so high so that our fall is greater... If you set us up for failure... How could we possibly? If you only understood... We with our unconditional love... You with your terms, limits, and preposterous expectations... We that accept and love you more for your faults... We that are human, rational, consistent in our love... To live up to your ideal... To be something we are not... Constantly having to keep ourselves in check, above morality, your heroes... That woman, my past, her proposition... If we could have settled it through civility... No cost at all! But to do a small disgrace in exchange for life long security... To once and for all bury my shame... But no... You... Because of you... So that you... Everything in ruins... So that now I... Just stop... These falsehoods and expectations... Unrealistic! Broken.... Ruined... Your hand, not mine. Your fault, not mine.

Language Devices Monologue

Some peepole dernt understahnd luv. Tayke women fohr instahnce. They say they luv ah mahn bot do theay really? Women tayke ah mahn and create ah new identity. They ixpect sowr much frohm us. When ah mahn luvs ah woman, he does juhst thaht. He ahccepts her fahlts ahnd misfortoons. Women put min ohn ah pedastool ahnd that makes it dificolt to showr who we really ahr. If women would, juhst luv min for who they ahr then mahybe ouhr lives would not be ruined like you ruined mine.

it was supposed to be like a sottish dialect. I've never written in dialect before so I did my best. Thanks for attempting to read that.

Exaggeration - Man on Pedestal

Last month you wanted the sun on a rainy day! Good God, I tried, it's impossible. Come on, what did you expect?!

I gave you billions and adored your very belly button lint!

And where did that leave you? In Siberia! Starving and clawing for more! I can't take it, you're hell!

How is he any different? He'll perish, just like I did the moment you touched me.

And wait, you're not hell, my life is hell. Thanks for drowning me in you diarrhea.
Reading An Ideal Husband again gave me the chance to recall just how much I love Oscar Wilde. I love him. His wit is brilliant and his words are moving. So, I would like to talk for a moment about the brilliance of Oscar Wilde. He is poised and elegant, classy and scandalous, aloof and revealing, comic and serious, conniving and candid, honest and deceptive. I find it interesting that the adjectives above are equally applicable to Wilde's style as to his characters. They seem to epitomize everything that excites me about his writing.  Oscar Wilde does two things simultaneously (the simultaneousness being the most important and difficult achievement): he entertains - amuses - (mabel chiltern) and he reflects a human desire that is also a weakness (the "ideal" husband). These are the two aspects of his work that always make me laugh, allow me to connect, and keep me coming back for more. He is able to express great truths through wit, and wittily express absurdities like truth. Here are some of my favourite examples:

Philanthropy seems to me to have become simply the refuge of people who wish to annoy their fellow-creatures. 

Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometime are.

I love talking about nothing, father. It's the only thing I know anything about. 

My dear father, if we men married the women we deserve, we should have a very bad time of it. 

Lord Arthur Goring: My dear Mrs. Cheveley, I should make you a very bad husband. 
Laura: I don't mind bad husbands. I've had two. They amused me immensely. 

Mabel is perhaps the source of some of the funniest. She is that girl everyone knows ( or even if you don't know her personally you have an image in your mind so exact it's as if you did know her) who's life is so trivial and yet she is entirely content. You are jealous and yet not because the meaning isn't there, only the contentment. Wilde uses her as the most brilliant comic device. The things she says are just ridiculous, out of this world, and yet, we've all thought them, somehow, sometime and censured them. (take the philanthropy quote as an example). Oscar Wilde's writing, his creations, offer both an escape and a great many truths - entertainment and wisdom. He is brilliant. 

Language Devices Monologue

Screeching, jabbering, sobbing, yelping, moaning, banging, clanging, booming, blaring, bashing, squawking, stammering, squelching, crashing, clattering, gurgling, hissing, whooshing, bellowing, zinging, wailing, whizzing, ringing,  rattling, rustling, thudding.
That is what I heard. Those are the sounds of war. Jungle sounds, human sounds, inhuman sounds, sounds of metal exploding, trees splintering, men turned into animals by the animals in men. Noise noise noise. Boom, bang, zip. It bores into your brain, deafens you , maddens you. You long for silence. But when it finds you, it is the loudest and most frightening noise of all.

Dietz Group Post 1

The writing exercise we did last class led me to figure out a writing block of mine.  When we were given the three wants on paper, I didn't have any problem constructing characters and various stories from these clues.  The place where I got stuck was trying to decide on a setting.  Such a simple thing, and yet it stumped me.  It turned out that the setting helped dictate the story and the characters, and that's why it troubled me so much.

Then I remembered this idea for a story I had a few months back.  I checked out some books at the library on the subject of the piece, and I had a slew of ideas around my basic concept. However, I never wrote the story because I was plagued with indecision as to where to set it.  The setting would affect the entire feel of the play, and I felt I needed to pick the perfect location or else my story would fall apart.

Last night I returned to this idea of mine, and decided to just play around with it for a second.  I find that I only really get rolling on ideas right as I drift off to sleep, which is inconvenient but the most liminal time for my mind to wander.  I think also reading Oscar Wilde's comedy inspired me to write.  I made a little play in paragraph, divided into three acts.  It used my initial concept, but I was able to take my abstraction of a very grandiose topic and pin it down to a play, featuring 3-4 rooms in a single house.  Initially I thought I couldn't even write this as a play because I wanted so many locations and characters.

This may seem simple and insignificant, but I felt I overcame a problem I had as a writer in this discovery.  I had been acting solely as an editor and censor of my work, mainly as a censor, so that I ended up writing nothing.  I have been more forgiving of myself, so that if I do have a shitty first draft, at least I have something to springboard from.  I'm really happy I'm building up a notebook of mini-plays so that I will have these ideas to return to and flesh out if there's any potential there.

Best-selling Books from the FUTURE

(On behalf of Team Beckett)

The following is a brief excerpt from an early draft of my best-selling book on writing from the FUTURE, whose title will be revealed at a later date... in the FUTURE.


Though much is said of conflicts and the necessity of conflict for any basic work of storytelling, regardless of medium, to convey a plot or idea, it is necessary to remember that conflict does not give a story its intrigue or any merit as a story. The broadest conflicts can seem incredibly tedious and the smallest trials can be astoundingly interesting depending on the depth of the story itself.

Take the fate of an entire planet at the hands of a spacefaring empire for instance; though extraordinarily massive and serious in scope can be completely and utterly uncompelling. Take the writing of any given video game set in space: Star Fox Armada, amongst cries of disappointment as a lackluster game, was detested for having such extraordinarily overdramatic cutscenes for a plot that was so genuinely silly. To be honest, who really plays these games for the plots? In video games, the trick to a good plot is having one that gives you a better idea of what the gameplay means to you. Still, with a lot of outright crappy gameplay (Damn you, Landmaster tank!), attention turned to the fact that players basically don't give a bucket of spit whether the spacefaring "aparoid" hivemind species takes over an entire solar system, just as long as none of the interesting characters (i.e. the ones with the best designs) are killed off. Video games have yet to flourish as a truly fine storytelling medium, because most games try to pass off graphics and the fact that it's basically you beating the crap out of whatever they come up with as a story.

By contrast, the small agricultural dispute of Sherman's Planet in the Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles" retains a legendary status. Kirk doesn't fire a laser at anything, there are no characters die, and there certainly isn't a fucking Landmaster tank every other fucking level! No, the plot of "Tribbles" is a parable about ecological awareness and a brief and surprising episode in an agricultural conflict between two spacefaring empires in a civil disagreement. Yet still, Star Trek, in all its not-being-a-video-game-or-having-any-CGI-at-all gloriness continues to amaze while most copies of Armada collect dust. Why?

Levels! And I don't mean bonus levels (which Armada has none of, by the way) or levels where you play as the piece-of-shit Landmaster tank (which Armada has too much of, by the way); I mean levels and layers of conflict which give the story more depth than A vs. B. A good work of fiction (or even non-fiction), though it might be described in brief by focusing on one basic conflict, tends to be a plethora of basic conflicts between different parties who, depending on their own alliances, are perhaps involved in bigger fights or governing smaller potatoes than that which the protaganist(s) might even recognize.

The "Tribbles" episode is wonderful because there are interpersonal conflicts far and wide, most involving Kirk, as well as larger difficulties which greater parties are engaged in. The major conflict of the episode (and indeed the series) is between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, this time involving a relatively small conflict over the ownership of Sherman's planet, an agricultural haven, under the confines of a treaty. Kirk and his crew find themselves at odds with the Klingons, who they must, due to the treaty, act cordially amongst on the cooperative space-station they are defending. This friction means Kirk is at odds with the Klingons, an acknowledged danger, Nilz Baris, a captain in search of protection of a wealthy payload of grain, and Starfleet Command, which insists that Kirk remain at the station despite his own ego. Meanwhile, the character of Cyrano Jones introduces the quickly reproducing and payload-reducing Tribbles, creating a battle against unnatural insertion of a natural predator, while humiliating Kirk and initiating a search for the Klingon Spy.

"Tribbles" is dizzying in the amount of sheer stuff going on, produced for one of the most classically camp shows of all time, and yet it can still imbue the viewer with a sense of position on the relevant conflicts the show addresses, such as man's effect on the environment through unnatural insertion of species into different environments. Meanwhile, Star Fox Armada only ever introduces the concept of Space Furries versus Space Bugs, and maybe Good Furries versus Weirder Furries when Star Wolf is introduced. The only greater conflict the game really arouses is all its confused players versus the fucking Landmaster tank.

Perhaps if one totalled out all the cutscenes, dialog, and cinematic sequences in Star Fox Armada it would be relatively the same length, if not longer than the "Tribbles" thing. This can only prove that length of a work or scale of conflict addressed does not determine whether the story is good or not, nor should you be mislead by my evaluations so far to think that I value "denser" works more than others or that quantity of conflicts means quality. I would actually have prefered "Tribbles" to be a bit less wordy, a bit better acted, and perhaps make the characters not just a bunch of dudes with shallow quirks.

What I admire, however, is when a work gives me something that I find myself involved in, to where I continue sitting and watching or reading or playing because something about it is compelling and thought-provoking, not in any particular sense, just that I will have many, many thoughts when I consume it. And the thoughts will surprise me and I will find something new in them, even if it might be age old conflicts. Because Star Fox Armada relied simply on finding new ways to explore Star Fox versus Things Not Yet Exploding, the only new or surprising thoughts I have when playing Star Fox Armada are "How much longer will I have to play in the Landmaster tank?" or "Is there something I can do other than play as the Landmaster tank?" or "Why does the Landmaster tank suck donkey balls?"

The trick is not that one strive for any particular conflict, be it the most meaningful or unique or intense or broad or whatever. The point is that one explore it to such an extent that we find meanings beyond the most obvious and the directions that such a conflict could truly encompass. Where space adventures can be nothing more than a romp of gratification for a truly perserverant cadet, they can also be the exploration of conflicts interpersonal and interplanetary through the display of what the conquest of a planet has the potential to truly entail. For Fox, this entails wallowing around in the crappiest tank ever devised by furry or man alike. For Kirk it entails learning to both cooperate and remain true to one's ideals in a time of great deception.

A fine example I can give of such bizarre relationships between conflicts on different levels is the music video for the "Revolution 909" single by Daft Punk. In it, a woman flees a party which is being busted by local police, only to find herself mesmerized by a spot of tomato sauce on the pursuing officer's undershirt. From there, we see a massive sequence entailing the life cycle, cultivation, sale, and preparation of the very tomato that stained said shirt, a thought which appears to visibly mesmerize the woman. The officer, wondering what she is staring at, glances down at his shirt, only for the woman to make her escape.

The conflict is brief and lasted perhaps a few seconds: the girl and the officer square off, and the girl escapes. But the means by which she escaped create the true journey of the video, set on the backdrop of a completely contrasting inner-city conflict between cops and the unruly youth of the era. Such imaginative explorations are provocative and compelling, even despite the lack very much actually happenning, proving that the power doesn't lie in simply having a conflict, but discovering what that conflicts means for your story.

In conclusion, I really really really hate the Landmaster tank.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dietz Blog Post on CONFLICT

So reflecting on last class, I am really unsure as to how to elaborate. I mean, CONFLICT is the name of the game, and while we may have drawn a newly concious attention to it, we always knew it existed since we saw Bambi's mom get shot, Mufasa killed by his brother, or even Elmo try his hardest to cheer Oscar up.

But this weekend, I ran into a point that I hope translates in a way that we can reflect upon in this class, or maybe we already did and I was just zoned out daydreaming of what it would be like to be known as Andy "the grouch".

Friday, I went to opening night of the movie Taken. First of all, awesome action film. Totally go see it if you havn't yet! But then again, was it?

Personally, yes, it was. But according to all the critics its average rating was two stars, and not because the acting was poor, everyone thought Liam Neeson was excellent. Not because it failed to entertain. People were litterally jumping out of their seats. No, it was critically a flop because most reviewers thought it was just too unbelievable for someone's daughter to go abroad for a summer and be abducted by a gang that ultimately forced young women into prostitution.

Now, granted, this sort of conflict may not happen everyday, and one out of five of us may not even be able to name a person this has happened to, but without the girl being abducted the movie would have had no conflict. It would have been the story of a dad whose daughter was overseas. Not nearly as bad ass you know?

So here is the point. We need conflict, but what are its limitations? I mean, how can a movie receive bad reviews because of the conflict that makes the story. I mean, if movies of aliens are acceptable than we know that all characters and settings can work for movies but what about conflict?

Must it be both internal and external? Does one matter more? Does the conflict have to be original or must it reflect things that are traditionally conflicted in society? How much conflict can you have and is there ever too much? These are the things I wonder about. Because if conflict makes a story, then how could you ever do it wrong?

Team Beckett #1

Can I just say that I'm loving this class?! It's nice to be able to do some creative writing. I complain a lot about never having time to read what I want to read, to write what I want to write. And by 3:30 tomorrow (hopefully), we'll all have written two three-page scenes and one monologue. And while I'm not totally, completely, head-over-heels in love with anything I've written so far, it's not half bad.

I also have to admit that writing in-class, on the spot is new to me. It's a little nerve-wracking, but it's exciting as well. And once it's all over, and Jenny calls time, I look back on the last 8 or so minutes and I'm proud of myself for getting the words out. Even, like I mentioned before, if it's not amazing.

I wanted to comment on something Julia said at the beginning of Thursday's class. I too find that I focus more on writing stage directions than I do dialogue. In our first three-page scene that we submitted on Thursday, I think mine made it to three pages quicker than I thought because of my stage directions. I do think that it comes from my experience writing short stories and poetry, and even in writing short stories I find dialogue the most difficult part of a story to write. I guess that's a big part of why I'm here.

I really liked the last exercise we did, where we wrote our three wants on a sheet of paper, etc. Surprisingly, the paper I chose contained three wants similar to my own. It could have easily been my paper, my wants.

1. I want to be in complete control of my mind.
2. I want more quality time with my boyfriend.
3. The tangible thing I want is money.

Even though I have no idea whose wants these are, it's pretty cool to know that we may have more in common than we think.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I posted this in a comment a whie ago, but now that I can actually post on the board I will put it up.

The man in my picture just gone done working and is dirty. He holds a chainsaw in his hands. He looks tired, but his eyes look determened. He stands next to a huge tree.

Monologue for a Simple Man

It may not be the most glamorous job, and it isn’t, but it’s not that bad. I am a third generation lumberjack, and I am trying to stay afloat. The money never stretches as far as I need it to and things don’t turn out the way I want them to. I work intensely all day long, usually in the sun. The work is hard, heavy and back-breaking.I’d like to lose this dead end job one day and go somewhere and move up in the world like Jessica says. But… I don’t exactly know where I would go, or what I would do, something a little easier on the bones for sure. Some folks would call me crazy for saying something like that. It’s tough enough to get any job in these times, particularly me without a high school diploma. Hell I shouldn’t be complaining, a lumberjack is paid well by the hour because of the hard labor. I am thankful for what I have, but I am using all of my resources and making no forward motion.There is not a lot of opportunity these days; you take what you can get. Physical labor is my only outlet. Who knows, soon I may not have the luxury of a choice. Everyone is fearful of the next round of job cuts. My father told me something. He told me that in life I shouldn’t just wait for somebody to give me a piece of their pie, that instead I should make my own pie. It was just some stupid expression that he had heard somewhere or possibly he just made it up, but that is easier said than done. It seems as though the road that I must travel to make my pie leads me exactly to where I didn’t want to be in the first place.

Dietz: Class Blog

I am very excited to learn about playwriting because I feel like it could be another great rout of creative expression for me. Even though I have no experience in playwriting, I did take English in high school and I have always been excited about theatre and acting, so I figured that it wouldn’t be much of a problem for me to write a play. In fact I thought it might come easily for me.
However, it is difficult. It is hard to decide on what message I want to present, and how I want to make what I’m saying different than everything that has already been written. Also sometimes I find it difficult to write material that is do-able on stage that is new and isn’t just conversation.
To get started, I just try brainstorming for an idea. Brainstorming with other people is really fun, and I get excited about talking about writing a play and throwing ideas around. I could throw around ideas for hours maybe, but still when I get home and try to tap it out on the keyboard the actual writing always proves to be a challenge. I need to learn to decide where I’m going in my writing before I begin. I am always trying to think of that awesome idea, but it seems like I think up the same old stuff, and it isn’t good enough.
In the exercise where we used our classmate’s wants and the locations on the board to write a scene, I started off blindly with no idea where I was going (because I couldn’t think of anything good). Often I will start writing my scene even when I don’t have an exact idea of what I want to happen mapped out. I just start writing, follow my lead, and let it happen, hoping that a story will unfurl. However, I don’t feel like that is an adequate method to writing plays. When I look back on what I’ve written, I see that if I had done it a different way then it could have been more meaningful, or more interesting.
Basically what happens in my two person scene exercise is a mother and her son are in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, and the mother responds very well to her son’s bad behavior. When looking back, I could have made her unable to handle it. That might have given the story the ability to have a little more bulk.
What I would like to focus on is coming up with a very interesting theme that I want to express. The big idea, the why what happens in each scene in respect to the piece as a whole is what is important. What do I want to say, and how is it different from what other people have already said?