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Monday, October 5, 2009

First Post

I am a playwright. I also play the ukulele and some people know me more for that than for my plays and musicals. However, I walked away from the "ukulele scene" for a variety of reasons that don't warrant explication. The truth is, making music is a balm whatever the instrument. Writing for the theater is a struggle of immense proportions.

Several of my plays have been produced. In the 1980s I worked with a consortium of artists called Plexus and we created operas, happenings, Purgatorio shows, or co-operas -- depending on whom you spoke to among the hundreds of artists who participated in Manhattan, Rome, Sardinia, and Senegal. Being a man of the theater -- a self-description that might rile some for whatever reasons -- I prefer to describe the Plexus events as opera.

So, if I'm a playwright, why am I now a blogger? I have a subject for my next musical but the characters, plot and so forth are still gestating. It used to be that I wrote for magazines, newspapers and the like between bouts of writing for the theater. Those opportunities are tougher to come by and frankly I lost heart as far as writing for dead tree editors. However, pursuing the legal tender as a freelance or staff writer kept me writing every day. Blogging will serve the same purpose now -- writing every day, that is.

I've got three theatrical projects right now. One is a musical already produced to excellent reviews in 2008. It was staged as "Sex! Drugs! & Ukuleles!" but I changed the title to "Ukulele Land" for a variety of reasons. (Who knows? I may change it back by the time it hits the boards again.) This summer I wrote 2 new pieces. One is a musical for which I wrote the book, music and lyrics. (Terry Waldo wrote the music for Ukulele Land.)

The new musical is titled "Cafe Lysistrata". It has a cast of 5 women on one set. These details are included to alert producers to the feasibility. There are 14 new songs. It's bawdy, political, and provocative. Sometimes I wish I knew how to write sentimental pop culture fare. Why? Well, I wouldn't be broke, for one thing.

The other show I wrote this past summer is "Byron in Hell" -- a dramatic monologue for a young actor. It explores the (bi) sexuality of the great Romantic poet. In a very understated way, it examines the nature of censorship. Byron wrote a memoir shortly before his death. In it he is alleged to have chronicled the truth of his sexual exploits. (He lived in a time when homosexuality in Britain was a crime punished by hanging, and many of his heterosexual affairs were with married women.)

Byron's publisher convened a group of lesser literary men and they all perused the manuscript. Then they all agreed that the pages should be burned, and did so on the spot. Thus, the world was deprived of what was likely a great erotic adventure; and I was given an opportunity to write a sexually-charged one man show. (I'd love to see the actor Rupert Friend do this show on Broadway and the West End in a limited engagement deal. His brilliant performance in Cheri, Stephen Frears's adaptation of two Colette novellas, set me on fire writing this piece at a moment when my inspiration and enthusiasm were flagging. Plus, Friend bears a striking resemblance to the portraits of Byron painted during his lifetime.)

It will be great if this blog evolves into day to day coverage of productions of these three pieces for the stage. Great for me anyway. That means that audiences will see them. Writing for the stage today is like trying to start a cattle stampede with a quill pen.

Meanwhile, this will be the place where I cache my memories of productions past, rail and muse on the nature of art and the artist, and share those small successes and inspriations that keep me going. It will be the place where this playwright speaks.

PS. As I was about to hit the "publish post" button, my cell phone rang. It was the playwright Robert Heide calling. He told me about seeing "Superior Donuts" on Broadway (he liked it.) There are a couple of events at LaMama this coming weekend where we will connect. It's nice to hear from another toiler in the field of drama. It's reassuring somehow.

1 comment:

  1. "Byron in Hell" is now titled "Lord Byron's Coda" and out in paperback and ebook. "Cafe Lysistrata" comes out in paperback next month (april 2013).
    Uke Jackson