Tag Archives: Camp Gethsemane

And We’re Back

Hello, all. I’m back.

So. It’s been a little while since I’ve written here, huh. Last time I wrote was March 12… and my last “real” post was Feb. 10. Almost an entire year…

…so it’s probably safe to say the “a post a day” experiment kinda fell through.

Still. Not too shabby. I made it an entire year and nearly a half with at least one post per day… that’s a lot of writing. If I had kept it up last year, I would have had SO MANY VIEWS. Even with basically 11 months of no writing, I somehow managed 13,948 views last year. Compare that to the year before’s 15,185. It makes me feel almost popular. Or, well, makes me feel like the lyrics to “Beauty and the Beat” are popular. But enough of that.

2013 was an interesting year. I got my first ever lead role, the opportunity to play Coriolanus in a staged reading of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus.” Less than a month later, I was cast in a TCF television pilot “Toss-Up,” again cast as the leading role. That opened up several other venues for me, such as a decently-sized part in a TCF short film produced by “Seinfeld” director Tom Cherones and a recurring role in the webseries “Alabama Ghostbusters.” Finally, in October, I was blessed/lucky/really really really super lucky enough to somehow manage to be cast as Jean Valjean in a local production of “Les Miserables,” my favorite musical and a dream role of mine for years.

I started out 2013 not talking to my best friend. Not because I was mad at her or something. No, rather because I’m the kind of person that can come to the conclusion (unfortunately often) that people are better off without me in their lives…  Around late February, I started dating a girl (my fourth girlfriend… possibly I only decided to date her beyond my attraction to her because I knew it would end when she went to grad school) that played my fiance in the TV pilot… and had we not dated, I wouldn’t have been asked to go to a wedding that my best friend was the maid-of-honor for, and I may still not be talking to her (as painful as that would be for me).

I haven’t managed to get “Camp Gethsemane” produced yet, sadly… I’m going to make a really big effort this year. It’s in the midst of yet another edit, a big edit that changes a few second act things and hopefully makes it all for the better… but a production would be amazing. I also haven’t managed to find a better job yet… though I did start hosting trivia at bars and restaurants around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, and the extra income is pretty nice. Also, I seem to be decent at it. People like me well enough. (P.S. If you know any bars/restaurants that might like to host trivia, let me know!)

It’s been a year of changes, for sure. A year of opportunities… not my worst year… and hopefully, not my best to come, but a pretty decent one all-in-all.

Which brings me to 2014. The new year. And new years tend to bring new resolutions. Something that, usually, I duck out on because come on. Those are made with the intent of being broken, most of the time.

Still. I feel I should resolve a few things. So I’mma try.

First, I am going to lose weight. I wanted to for Les Mis, but Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas were right there and it is pretty much impossible to lose weight during those holidays. I plan to shed at LEAST 40 pounds and KEEP it off throughout the year. Maybe even work out and get some toning and muscle, not this semi-sentient fat I have at the moment.

Second, I’m going to get something I’ve written produced. Hopefully “Camp Gethsemane.” I will do it, damn it. I have screenplays and plays at the ready. Some need work, yes. But that can be done. I just want something to show for my work.

Third, I am going to write at least five more of the projects in my head. It’s a tall order. I may need help with some to keep me honest. I still have to edit and polish some of the things I’ve already written. But I also need to get new things done, too. I need to write, need to produce. I have two one-act mythology plays and two screenplays that need finishing. The fifth, I have many many ideas that could be the fifth… And the desire to write new things may help me finish my old things. If you’re a writer and want to help keep me honest, please let me know. No joke.

Fourth, I am resurrecting this blog. But it won’t be a once-a-day blog anymore. That just doesn’t seem feasible. With trivia taking up several of my nights, and all the acting I did last year, writing once per day became basically impossible. Les Mis is one reason “Camp Gethsemane” has been mid-edit since October. Still, I hope to write in this blog semi-regularly… and maybe add a new segment where I try new things in the kitchen, things I’ve never done before, like new techniques (like frying things) or foods (like fish). Which brings me to…

Fifth, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve been getting there. Hosting trivia has REALLY helped me become a more social and sociable person. As has finally being on stage in a visible way. I’m going to audition for more things in town, of course… but beyond that, I want to just do things I don’t normally do. Talk to people more. Hang out with people more. Being a hermit really gets lonely, and I really hate the feeling sometimes. And maybe, just maybe, if I step out of my comfort zone, I can be more comfortable with who I am. It seems oxymoronic, but trust me. I’m not intensely comfortable even in my comfort zone.

All in all, I hope to move forward with life in 2014. Professionally, romantically, creatively… I need to stop being stagnant. I need to stop being jealous of other people’s romantic and professional successes and start making others jealous of mine. I’ll let you know how that goes as it moves along.

Oh, and expect more of my randomness on this blog, because there’s a lot I wanted to say last year that I never got to… If 2014 is as ridiculous as 2013 was, I’m sure I’ll have a bunch to gab on about.

It’s good to be back.

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A Quick Update

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. I was already strongly considering dropping the “daily” feature of the blog due to life getting in the way and the blog taking up a decent chunk of time… It should be pretty obvious at this point that I’m not really doing this as a daily blog anymore.

Still, I do want to write more often than I have been. There are still many things to talk about. Movies, plays and restaurants to review, politics to discuss, subjects to ponder about… all sorts of things. And I plan to do so, just in a slightly irregular fashion.

To update about life, though: I finished the most recent version of my play “Camp Gethsemane” and have started in on three other plays now. After a few more people read this version of CG, I’ll go back to spruce it up again and then I may be at the place I need to be for a production.

I was also cast as the lead role in a TV pilot from the UA TCF department, which has designs to be shown at a festival in New York City. The show is called “Toss-Up,” and you can help out by donating some money to the IndieGoGo we have set up here. It’s a comedy about a high school history teacher/tennis coach basically forced by his boss into being the Quizbowl coach, despite knowing nothing about it. It doesn’t help that their team is pretty crappy. You can watch the brief teaser-trailer here to get a very tiny taste of the show.

I’m also no longer single… We’ll see how long she tolerates me. And I spent about a week and change being super deathly ill, like to the point where I couldn’t even eat or drink for a couple days without severe pain. It sucked and I still don’t know what I had, though I’ve got a good idea.

Also, for those curious, I got a record 50 percent of my Oscar guesses right, though I would’ve had more if I’d actually slowed down and paid attention to what some of the technicals are and what they mean. All I can say is that “Life of Pi” ruined me a bit.

Anyway, I do have an old review of “Othello” to put up, as well as a review of “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” which wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it might be, though I still found it lacking in certain areas. I’ll have a full review up sometime this week, I’m sure.

For now, my apologies on my lengthy silence. You’ll hear a bit from me from time to time. Just keep a lookout.

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From The Inkwell – Camp Gethsemane Character Development

M’k. So, I’m still plugging away at the second edition of my taking-way-too-long-daggum-it full length play, the one that tackles religion (Christianity), how I interpret faith, relationships and sexuality in a pretty big and perhaps somewhat provocative way.

While I’m way behind schedule, in that I wanted this done last month at the latest, it is at least still moving bit by bit. I’ve really been trying to take the many criticisms and critiques to heart, though I know this will still be nowhere near the perfection a better writer could make it move toward. It’s admittedly quite frustrating, reading and watching the works of far superior writers, knowing you’ll never match their level.

Anyway, one of the critiques I had was with the antagonistic character Craig. Craig Thompson is the man who runs Camp Gethsemane, supported by his church. Still, the camp is his child, so to speak, and he is extremely zealous in his desire to protect it and its mission, or the mission as he sees it. The problems most that read the first draft had with Craig were pretty communally shared, the biggest one and most agreed upon one being that Craig seemed too villainous and too caricatured. No one really understood why he snaps and gets physical. Nor did people understand why he even allows Gary, who is now Evan Carter, to teach at his camp when their views are so different.

Basically, I focused so much on everyone else in the story, including the character Emily (who is no longer in the play as an on-stage character, sadly), I kind of painted a picture of Craig in my mind and left it as a picture. But for a story to work, we need to understand him, at least a little. The difference between Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and Count Frollo of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is that, with Frollo, we’re given a glimpse into his psyche, his reasoning for being so vile. Phelps is just a putrid sack of crap that exists to rile everyone up and generally be a hateful dude. No one understands why he’s such a tool, so he’ll never be as captivating and memorably evil as Frollo.

So, I ended up going back and writing a few new scenes, partly to flesh out Craig’s character and partly to give a more solid backing to the strong relationship Craig and Frank, one of the counselors, have. And also to explain why Gary (now Evan) is at the camp. All were lacking detail. And, as I’m trying to encourage myself to finish writing the last fraggin’ scene of the play, I’ve decided to let people read the first of two or three new (and therefore completely non-peer reviewed) scenes I wrote in this vein. And somehow, even with new scenes, the play has ended up about 15 to 30 minutes shorter (hopefully closer to 30). Anyway… please enjoy. Or don’t. I wouldn’t mind hearing feedback, though. I know at the very least the language could use some polishing, but I figure that’ll be focused on in the next (potentially final?) edit. (Note: We’ve already seen Craig onstage at this point, so his description isn’t included.)

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Inside CRAIG’s office. CRAIG sits behind his large, neatly organized desk. There is a landline phone on the desk and a chair in front of it. CRAIG pores through his Bible when a young man enters. FRANK SINGER, a young man in his mid-twenties, is also dressed in a counselor’s outfit. CRAIG doesn’t look up when FRANK enters.

FRANK: You wanted to see me, sir?

CRAIG looks up from his Bible.

CRAIG: Ah, yes. Come in, Mr. Singer. Have a seat.

FRANK enters the room and sits down in the chair across from CRAIG.

CRAIG: I just wanted to let you know, we’re going to be having two different Bible Study classes this year. The leaders at the Church of the Mount have… requested that I allow the new youth pastor to participate in this year’s camp. Have you met him?

FRANK: Evan? I was introduced to him during the business meetings about getting a new youth pastor, but I haven’t sat down and gotten to know him yet.

CRAIG: Hm… I’ve not talked to him very much myself, either. But I suspect that the church is perhaps grooming him to eventually take my place running the camp.

FRANK: What? No. The church would never do that. This is your camp, you brought it into existence.

CRAIG: (Smiling, wistful.) I hope you’re right, and I appreciate your loyalty to me, Mr. Singer. It is, as always, a comfort. I suppose my worries could be misplaced. (Looks down at his Bible, running his fingers over the pages.) And if my eventual retirement and replacement is God’s will, then so be it. …we must all follow God’s plans. Whatever they may be… (Begins subconsciously playing with his wedding band, falls into a reverie.)

FRANK: …Mr. Thompson? Are you okay?

CRAIG: (Snaps out of his wandering thoughts. Looks down at his ring finger, pulls his hand away.) Sorry, I was lost in thought there for a moment. You can go.

FRANK nods and stands up. As he turns to go, CRAIG remembers something.

CRAIG: One last thing, Mr. Singer.

FRANK: (Turning back.) Yes sir?

CRAIG: Take some time to get to know Mr. Carter, would you? And let me know if you discover anything… well, anything you think I should know. For the smooth running of the camp. Something just seems… off to me about him.

FRANK: Yes, sir.

FRANK again turns and exits. CRAIG looks down at his Bible again, but seeing his hands, he puts his left hand in front of his face. He removes the wedding ring from his finger and looks at it, a somber look on his face. He grips it in his fist, closing his eyes tightly, before placing it back on his hand and returning to his Bible, turning the page and reading.

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Breaking The Leg – “Julius Caesar” By Improbable Fictions

As I explained yesterday in my post, today is a staged reading of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

Tonight at 7:30 in Room 205 of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library on the University of Alabama campus, Improbable Fictions is presenting a staged reading of “Julius Caesar.” You can read more about it here on the Facebook event. I’m in it, playing Cinna, Second Citizen and a soldier of Octavian.

This is my second time performing with Improbable Fictions, my fifth time working with the core group that has made up Improbable Fictions and The Rude Mechanicals for the past couple of years. It’s definitely a group worth supporting. It helps expand classic theatre to the public that has let the classics fall behind. It’s a good group with talented people, a group that allows for many to act that would otherwise never do so, or even direct when that’s not a typically available option. In theory, IF would potentially also do staged readings of original works. At least, I assume a staged reading by IF is what Nic Helms was referring to when he told me he’d be willing to set up a staged reading of “Camp Gethsemane” when I finish it. Hopefully, I’ll be done in two weeks with the second draft. Which, hopefully, is far better than the first draft.

All I have left is the final scene… having written out one of the characters that featured heavily in the final scene, I don’t know exactly how to handle it. What I do know is that it will be a far shorter scene, with the final cut being around 7.5 to 9 thousand words. Hopefully, that’s enough to put it around an hour and a half of run time. I seriously want this show performed. If it gets good enough reviews, maybe I can self-publish and take it to other cities.

Maybe. Who knows? At times, I feel my dreams are far too big, far bigger than my talents, at least. But, y’know… maybe, just maybe, I can move forward with my writing. After this one’s done, I’ve only got… Oh, like, 15 more projects to write. Fun times.

…Sorry, distracted from my point. Come see “Julius Caesar” tonight. If you don’t know about the plot… well, it’s about the murder of Julius Caesar, how it happened and what the fallout was.

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The Writing Process

I write a lot.

Surprise!

I mean, I’ve written at least once a day on this blog for almost a year now, with maybe two or three exceptions (that I made up by writing twice the next day). During that time, I’ve written the finished first draft of a, I am now finding, very rough play, the first draft of a less-rough play (I think), the first draft of a 15-minute screenplay, six pages of backstory for one of my D&D characters, many several articles for the magazine I work at, comments on political websites, tweets, random Facebook things…

Great or small, I’ve written quite a bit over the past year. Perhaps more than I’ve ever written in my life.

I’ve tried out tons of new styles, new topics, new ideas in these writings. I think, slowly, I am perhaps becoming a better writer.

But I am SO not there yet.

Reading some of the notes I got from my wonderful actors doing the cold read of “Camp Gethsemane,” I found that the three year process definitely took some away from the details. I didn’t write out character notes or story notes (beyond the notes I wrote about a year, year and a half into the process and the notes I wrote at the very beginning), so things got lost or left behind. Some details I didn’t even realize were details I had to think of. Life got in the way sometimes.

It’s strange that I was so lacking in detail and meticulousness with this project. Well, not that strange, really. I’ve never been that way before. I don’t tend to often write outlines and such down. I keep it in my head. I let it sit, germinate, write itself. Then I write it. Sometimes, the results are good. Occasionally, excellent. Sometimes, there are some flaws. And in a five act play, there’s plenty of room for those to sneak in. But one of my favorite shows is “Castle,” a show starring Nathan Fillion as a crime novelist. Sometimes, they show his fancy gadgets he uses for story writing, ones that allow him to keep large maps and details of relationships and background and the like.

So, really, details are something I know I need to keep up with. I’ve just never actually done it.

After this play reading I just had, though, thoughts have been flying at 100 miles an hour constantly. Seriously, nonstop. I took the day off work, tried to distract myself by organizing my Harry Potter Trading Cards (which I haven’t touched in, like, three years or so) and playing “Bioshock 2,” but still the thoughts fly about. It’s exhausting.

I did eventually sit down and write out a few specific notes. I’m trying to resolve some of the more basic troubles that were generally agreed upon by the group of critics that have read my work. But it’s hard, you know? I have other things to do, to write, to think about. I have to remember to pay bills, buy groceries, go to work, go to rehearsal, do laundry, take out trash… daily tedium.

Last night, I was discussing with a friend why I would like to earn money with my writing. Which I would. I would love to make my writing and acting an actual legitimate career. But I’m not looking for millions of dollars. I don’t think I’d say no, but I’m really just hoping for enough to get by.

Because, wouldn’t it be great if I could do like the greats did. Like William Faulkner or Henry David Thoreau. Or Colin Firth’s character in “Love Actually.” If I could just escape the tedium of life, the clutter of the mindscape… go out into the woods and be able to focus entirely on my writing… Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I wouldn’t, of course. Focus, I mean. Not completely. One has to be able to take a step back and breath every so often. Take a break. Tedium and monotony are dangerous, even if it’s tedium and monotony from the writing. If you’re writing for the sake of writing, that can be detrimental to your story.

Still. I would just love to go to a cabin in the woods, by a lake, where the weather is a cool 69 to 72 all the time… Take my typewriter and a few corkboards, maybe my computer… and just write. Just settle in and write it all down. All these ideas, all these possibilities… pound them out. Get the work done. As it is, I’m going to be starting with “Camp Gethsemane” from the basics and work my way through from the beginning again. I’m not scrapping my previous work. I’ll keep scenes, lines, et cetera. But I have to start over with some things. The ending may end up being completely, entirely different. Hell, definitely will be. I’ll be writing three different ones, too, to determine what outcome fits better.

It’s a long process. A painful process, filled with doubt and fear. What I wouldn’t give to throw myself into it completely.

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Funny Video – Troy Shaves His Face

Okay. So, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee. I could have a lot to say about this… and I bet I do. But not today. For today was the first reading and workshop of my play, “Camp Gethsemane.” Despite merely being there to listen and discuss, it took a lot out of me. I was pretty much nervous as hell for some reason, not that I noticed until afterward. I have a lot to consider, a lot to work on. The play ran at 2:15 pretty much on the dot. That’s two hours and 15 minutes.

A bit to cut out indeed. Definitely some things to think about.

Hopefully, I’ll have a shortened version by November. A version more closely able to be produced. It’d be great to have that happen. November is the first month a former professor of mine will be able to read it, so I plan to have it done then.

Anyway… it took a lot out of me. And my newest roommate moved in today. And we all started talking about “Marble Hornets” and the Slender-man character.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Slender-man. I don’t exactly know what that’s all about. Or, well, didn’t. My roommates have been trying to explain it to me. Apparently it’s creepy stuff. Fun thing is, I’m actually friends with the director/editor of Marble Hornets, Troy Wagner. He was an acting partner of mine in my Stage Movement class at the University of Alabama. And I always just assumed Marble Hornets was a comedy group.

See, Troy posted a video to his wall on Facebook. And it’s hilarious. Apparently, Marble Hornets is not usually humorous. It’s apparently scary. Slender-man is apparently scary as heck. We’re watching the Slender-man things now. It’s… interesting, for sure. I’m sure in the right environment, with the right attention paid, I’d be pooping my pants.

But! To the hilarious movie! It’s called “Troy Shaves His Face.” It’s all about the laughs. Laughs are necessary sometimes.

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Sing, Sang, Sung – “Tornado” By Jónsi

I’m not doing so hot on the legit post front lately, huh. I could give you a few excuses, but they’re pretty bad. I cooked some delicious spicy spaghetti earlier, which was not bad, but it’s a bit rank as an excuse.

But delicious, I promise.

Anyway, today I actually did put some thought into this post. A friend of mine, a cinematographer and director, has made a first cut of his sample reel to show off his rather amazing talents. I hate that I’m finding out so late about the talents of so many of my friends. I could’ve exploited/borrowed these long ago. But, seriously, as a writer that would love to have his stuff produced and happens to be terrible at filming, these are things I like discovering.

Speaking of, anyone in Tuscaloosa that wants to be part of the groundwork to some original art that I hope will find the ability to be produced in less than a year if the Mayans are nice and let us live, tomorrow at noon in room 204 of Rowand-Johnson Hall on the University of Alabama campus, I’m holding my reading/workshop for “Camp Gethsemane.” I’ll time it and figure out how many pages have to go (likely quite a few, as it’s currently 75 pages long), but I hope to have the second, more production-worthy edit done by November and the final(ish) edit done by December for consideration to be produced in spring 2013. Fingers crossed.

…Oh, wait, right. My original point.

So, my friend Connor Simpson made this reel of footage. It’s pretty freaking gorgeous. Seriously, look at it. And it isn’t just the visuals that are beautiful. The music was very appropriate and  gorgeous. Like, man. I really want to watch this movie. And I’m not even certain it’s all from one movie. But I want to watch it, even if it’s just 60 more minutes of random shots of random beautiful things and people yelling at one another. (Oh, hey look, it’s a link to a video that likely contains a lot of the shots from the reel! Apparently, it’s called “Through the Valley” and it won Best Cinematography at the University of Alabama Campus Movie Festival. And got screen time at Cannes. I hear that’s a big deal. You can see his other film clips at the top of the site when you go there. So go there.)

So I asked him what the song was. He told me. It’s, wait for it… “Tornado” by Jónsi. Surprise!

…ahem.

Anyway, I went and listened to the full song. It’s wonderful. I kind of want more. Listen. And watch those films/clips. They’re great.

“Tornado” – Jónsi

You grow, you roar
Although disguised
I know you

You’ll learn to know

You grow, you grow like tornado
You grow from the inside
Destroy everything through
Destroy from the inside
Erupt like volcano
You flow through the inside
You kill everything through
You kill from the inside

You’ll…
You’ll learn to know

I wonder if I’m allowed ever to see
I wonder if I’m allowed to ever be free

You sound so blue
You now are gloom

You sound so blue
You now are gloom

I wonder if I’m allowed just ever to be

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From The Inkwell – “Tormenting Tantalus” And Adapting “Macbeth”

So, I’ve been working on assignments as my friend David Bolus gives them to me. It helps encourage me to actually, y’know, finish my projects. The last finished product is the one act play “Tormenting Tantalus.” Which may have a name change to just “Tantalus.” Or perhaps even “T.” I dunno.

Anyway, I talked about the play at least once before, but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it since its completion. Part of a planned mythology trilogy, “Tantalus” is the first play, one that delves into what could drive people to a level of madness that leads to infanticide and cannibalism.

…yeah, if you don’t know the story of the mythological figure Tantalus, this play will seem WAY out of left field.

I have finally figured out which figures will be covered in the trilogy, though, which is exciting. Tantalus, Prometheus and Orpheus. All rather tragic stories. Some tragedies far more violent and abhorrent than others, of course, but each has a story to tell. A story that was, perhaps, left to the listener to discern. That’s how it feels to me, at least. And these plays, when complete, will hopefully tell my version of that story.

I really like religion in all its forms. If you can’t tell. My first two completed works of theatre deal with Christianity and Greek mythology. And my next original work will hopefully be “God’s Playlist” before I head back to hit “Prometheus.” After that, then I take a break from the religious overtones and write my screenplay for “The Tribe.”

…that one has more of a cult feel than a religion feel.

…yeah, one day I’ll write about something else.

Anyway, currently, I’m adapting William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”  (because there are so many others) into a 15-minute screenplay. Why? Because the short story format baffles me. My first short story was 36 pages long, and could have easily been much longer. The shortest thing I’ve ever even conceived is “God’s Playlist,” a 15-minute movie. Of course, filmmakers don’t see that as short at all. And after discovering it can take a week to film for a two-minute movie, I suppose I can see their point.

When I told David this, he gave me the assignment of writing a 15-minute screenplay. It could either be an original story about Emily from “Camp Gethsemane” or an adaptation of any other work. Then he said the word “Shakespeare.”

And, of course, being an idiot, I chose that one. The first act of “Macbeth” has been boiled down into three pages. The second act, the one where King Duncan gets murdered, is a single page.

I feel really weird doing this.

Still, I’m four and a half pages in now, nearly a third of the way through. With it due this Friday, I think I’m making good time. It should be an interesting final product.

But, back to ACTUAL final products… sort of. “Tantalus” is now in the peer review and edit phase. So far, only one peer has reviewed it, but others have it in their possession. And if the workshop/reading for “CG” goes well this weekend, there may be others interested in my work. Which is all pretty awesome.

…the point is, last time I wrote about “Tantalus,” I gave you the intro as it was written. There were some changes in description and such, but it remained largely untouched. Now, I give you the next scene. A scene of normalcy and happiness. …you just know that ain’t gonna last.

——————————————

The BOOKKEEPER watches impartially. This is his duty. The story must be told. As he watches the events unfold before him, the DENIZENS of this story come onstage, carrying the items to set the scene. They seem wracked with constant fears and pains. They are the ones moaning for their eternities, trapped in the hellish punishments, designed specifically for them. Dressed in rags of grey, they are hunched over, twitching and moving unnaturally. They look to be falling apart. The MAN does not notice them, but does move out of the way, going to the far corner to put on his tie. The DENIZENS do not moan now. They simply do as the BOOKKEEPER has instructed. They know their duty in this story. They bring out a small, square table, a kitchen chair, some mail, a briefcase. They set the table cattycornered in the corner, putting the chair near it. The briefcase and papers go on the table. The DENIZENS head back offstage, shuffling silently, as the MAN finishes tying his tie and heads to the kitchen table. After the DENIZENS leave, the lights come up, normal, bright, cheery. The BOOKKEEPER remains at his post. The MAN sits down at the table, looking through the mail. The WOMAN comes in, carrying a plate of toast, bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee.

WOMAN: Morning, sweetie.

She sets the plate and cup on the table, avoiding the mail.

MAN: Good morning, love.

The two share a kiss. The MAN reaches for the coffee as he reads the letter he is currently holding. The WOMAN sits at the table next to him as he takes a drink.

WOMAN: Today’s the day they’re giving out that promotion, right? Are you worried?

The MAN sets down the letter, turning and smiling at the WOMAN.

MAN: Maria. Dear. There’s no reason to worry about these sorts of things. Either I’ll get it, or I won’t. Besides, you know it’ll either be me or Kenneth that gets it, and we both promised that, whoever gets the position, we’ll put in a good word for the other. So no worries.

The MAN kisses MARIA, then returns to his breakfast, piling his eggs and bacon onto his toast and eating. MARIA rolls her eyes and stands, standing behind the MAN and sliding her arms around him slowly. The MAN sets his breakfast toast pile back on the plate, caressing MARIA’s arms.

MARIA: You know, Jacob… it would hurt to get a little worried about things once in a while.

JACOB smirks, looking back at her.

JACOB: You want me to stress out and be more worried?

MARIA: Well, sure. It’s healthy sometimes. Shows that you care what happens. That you have some passion for what you do.

JACOB raises an eyebrow.

JACOB: I’ll show you passion, missy.

JACOB spins MARIA into his lap, growling in a playful, sexy manner, closing in for a slow, deep kiss as MARIA giggles and moans softly in pleasure. Such playful moments have an end to them, however. The BOY comes rushing in.

BOY: Daddy, daddy, daddy!

JACOB breaks the kiss with MARIA and smiles at her. She smiles back, leaving his lap and straightening her outfit out. She heads off to get PETER some juice. JACOB reaches down to pick up the BOY and put him in his lap.

JACOB: Heeeeey, Peter! Hungry for some breakfast?

PETER smiles and hugs his dad around the neck. JACOB smiles and kisses the top of PETER’s head before turning him around and lifting him again.

JACOB: Let’s get you sitting in the chair… there you go.

JACOB slides out from under PETER and lets PETER sit in his chair. PETER starts devouring the breakfast left over from JACOB’s brief affair with the meal. MARIA returns, holding a sippy cup with some juice inside. She puts the cup on the table near the plate, and PETER grabs at it eagerly, drinking from the cup as though he had been dying of thirst. JACOB takes the suit jacket off the back of the chair and slips it on. MARIA goes to his front to straighten his tie. Everything is perfect, happy, wonderful.

MARIA: I hope I’ll get to see that passion later, stud.

JACOB: You know you will.

They kiss. True love. Clearly, they care for one another. JACOB grabs his briefcase and quickly pecks MARIA again.

JACOB: Love you.

MARIA: Love you, too.

JACOB ruffles PETER’s head. PETER waves at his dad, still ravenously devouring the last bits of the breakfast left for him.

JACOB: See you later, kiddo.

PETER attempts to say goodbye, but his mouth is filled with buttery, crisp bread, fluffy egg and salty bacon, which proceeds to spray forth back onto the plate in small amounts. MARIA squats down and wipes at PETER’s mouth with a napkin.

MARIA: Swallow then speak, Peter. And have a good day at work, sweetie!

JACOB: See you tonight!

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Death Of An Artist – Nora Ephron

First, my obligatory plug (which I missed doing yesterday… argh!): Tomorrow is the opening night of The Rude Mechanicals’ “Twelfth Night.” One of the three Facebook events can be found here. We will be performing at the Park at Manderson Landing on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with pre-show music starting at 7 and the show starting at 7:30. As always, the show is free, but donations are nice. On Thursday, the show will be at Wintzell’s Oyster House in Northport/Tuscaloosa. It will have a $15 cash pay-at-the-door with proceeds going to the West Alabama Aids Outreach program. Inside, there will be a free buffet and a cash bar. That one is RSVP, however, and may have been filled… if it’s not, though, I’ll let you know as soon as I know!

Now that that’s done… As many of you know, I am a writer.

Gasp! Shocking to find such statements on a blog. Especially one that dedicates itself to being nothing but words (and occasionally links to things that are more than words).

Anyway, I’m a writer. I write for pretty much any medium. I’m not necessarily that great at writing in any of them, but I’ll write poetry, journalistic articles, prose, plays, columns, screenplays… whatever. As of late, plays and screenplays have been the more focused points of my interest, partly because I am an actor and want to be on stage and screen, and partly because I feel that may be where I can make the most impact with my writing. And, y’know, money, if I do well enough. Also, I like the idea of possibly pulling a Matt Damon and writing myself a role to find fame (even if he wasn’t nearly as off the list as I am).

So, today, after rehearsal, when I heard that fellow writer Nora Ephron had died, I was a little saddened.

See, in acting, we are told to steal from the best and learn from the worst. Personally, I think that’s also true of writing. Both writers and actors should constantly be reading new material. William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, William Inge, Sam Shepard… on and on and on. And, outside of the stage, there have been some great writers for film and television that you can read and learn from. Understand what they see in life, in character. How do they interpret love? How do they take on religion? How do they tackle language and casual conversation? Sure, taking everything you read or see at its word isn’t the best idea. Research is important. But finding inspiration and ideas, solutions to your writing problems, inside the works of others is something every writer should do.

My play “Camp Gethsemane” was influenced by George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” as well as some Shakespeare and musical style choices. My current play, “Tormenting Tantalus,” I find is clearly, though unintentionally, influenced by Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” and Edward Albee’s “Everything in the Garden.” “Fat Pig” is a play I stage managed for and “Everything in the Garden” is perhaps my favorite play, one I’ve read over and again. I draw from the themes and ideas I read and came up with during those readings or viewings.

Ephron, as many may know, was a famous screenwriter. She received three Oscar nominations for her screenplays for “Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” She also wrote the screenplay for “Julie and Julia” and “You’ve Got Mail.”

Now, to be honest, I’ve only seen “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Julie and Julia.” And part of “Bewitched.” That one wasn’t her best, certainly. And some may recall that back in January, I had some things to say about “When Harry Met Sally…” that weren’t precisely glowing… But I did enjoy the movie. It was well written. I just thought the core concept was flawed. But many agree with it, so who am I to tell them they’re all ridiculous? I will anyway, but hey.

Ephron was a talented writer. One that I could stand to learn a lot from, especially when writing female characters and romances. Those are two of my weaker areas. But, beyond that, Ephron created entertainment that brought joy and good feelings to many.

One day, I hope to be at her level, able to truly give to people a glimpse of art in my words. Rest in peace.

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From The Inkwell – “Tormenting Tantalus”: An Introduction

So, I changed it from my theatre standard “Breaking the Leg” to my creative writing standard, “From the Inkwell.” Why? Because I want to.

Anyway, today has been one of those days filled with lots of work and not much rest… I’m running on about three hours of sleep, which certainly doesn’t help matters… Being as such, I’m not in much of a mood to think too keenly or critically on things. So, instead, I ask my readers to do so for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing yet another play. This one isn’t about me trying to make a statement… it’s not one I plan to ever see performed, either. I’m sure, if I become famous enough and it gets published, that it could be… but it’s definitely not in the same bailiwick as “Camp Gethsemane.” “Tormenting Tantalus” could be considered a horror/thriller type play, if one desired to call it such…

…or so I’m hoping. I’m trying to create a certain vibe… my style of writing has completely shifted for this play and resembles almost nothing of “Camp Gethsemane.” But I’m worried that I might be being too vivid in my mind and not enough on the page. So I’ve decided to ask my readers to read the introductory part to the story and tell me what vibe they get from it. Tell me your reactions and criticisms please. Meanwhile, I’m off to pretend to try to sleep.

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The stage is dark, silent, empty but for one lonely podium tucked away in the back corner. In the background, behind the podium, stands the tall, resolute, grotesque and twisted gateway to Hell. Its doors are open wide, and why should they not be? There are always so many entering this dark land, and so few ever able to leave. As dim, white swirling lights rise upon the scene, so do soft, muted moans of pain and torture. These are not fresh moans of a new pain. These are cries of anguish and acceptance, of a lengthened torture. The BOOKKEEPER comes onto the stage, walking in from the open gates, clasping a large, aged book to himself, heading directly for the podium. He is a proper man, if man he is, old and wizened, but he stands strong and tall. Well dressed, presentable, cut clean. A man of decorum who knows his purpose. He places the book and opens it to a passage in the middle, but immediately looks up. He knows the words. He is the BOOKKEEPER. He has memorized the texts of these pages long ago.

BOOKKEEPER: Tartarus. A place of eternal torment and punishment. In the ancient religion of the Greeks, upon death, the souls of the dead were judged. Those found to be especially vile, especially corrupt, found their path into Tartarus. There, they were bound to a hellish torment, twisted, strange.

The moans increase in volume at this moment. The BOOKKEEPER ignores them. He is accustomed to their languishing presence. Even the strongest presences eventually succumb and whither.

BOOKKEEPER: These are creatures that would dare spit in the faces of gods. Pitiful. Pathetic. What could have driven them to such disrespect? Such foul action? They knew of the afterlife. They knew the possibilities. To spit in the face of gods yet ignore their potential retaliation in eternity seems but madness.

The BOOKKEEPER looks back down to his tome. He turns the pages once more. He has a sense of decorum about these things. This is the proper way. He again looks up.

BOOKKEEPER: But what is it that drives men to madness? They are not born mad. Madness is created. Created by man, by mortality, by experiencing life. Those who fall to madness in life must continue in death.

A pause. Contemplative.

BOOKKEEPER: Perhaps, by example, madness can be avoided.

A MAN walks onto the stage. As he walks onto the stage, the moans slowly diminish into nothingness. He is dressed in a suit, as though dressed to go to work, but lacks a tie. He is happy, smiling, youthful and full of life. A WOMAN and a YOUNG BOY, maybe five years old, come onto the stage, too. The WOMAN goes to one side of the man, smiling, kissing him on the cheek. The BOY comes to the MAN’s other side, grabbing onto his hand. Laughing, the MAN bends down and lifts the young boy, holding him with one arm against his body, grabbing the WOMAN around the waist with his other arm. They all look happy, joyous, young, vibrant. The BOOKKEEPER watches on, impartial. He makes no judgment. He knows their future, as he knows all things in the book. It is not his place to react, only to tell the tales.

BOOKKEEPER: Beware, you who observe, and know this: Happiness is the birth of madness. Kindness is the beginning of evil. From love springs eternal the source of hate.

The MAN sets the BOY down, and the WOMAN takes the BOY with her as they retreat back offstage, still smiling. The MAN stands there alone, still happy, vibrant.

BOOKKEEPER: Observe and know.

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