Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Video Game

Saturday was a great day. I spent it at Meadowbrook Theater at Oakland University near Detroit. My short play "The Video Game" was performed twice.

Ron stayed with me all afternoon and we watched about a dozen plays. The writing was excellent and the actors' performances just outstanding. There was a great play called "Writer's Block," about a guy who is terminally ill, just has one more night to live. Death is hovering around his apartment, drinking beer and doing pushups. Meanwhile, this guy wants to write one good poem before he dies. It was really funny. Really.

There was also a sweet play about a couple who meet at a pizza place. He goes there every day to buy lunch from her and they both try to be cool, but come off all kooky and weird.

I'm very pleased with how my play turned out. I was worried because I didn't agree with some of my director's choices. He comes from the directing school where they strike out all the stage directions and just work from dialogue. Which sounds just dumb to me.

But I kept my mouth shut, cuz hell, I'm not the director. I gave this guy the play, and now he gets to run off and interpret it. And I'm glad I did, because the director's changes actually worked out. He had a bomb exploding at the end, instead of Ed shooting Frank. I still like my way better, but his way did add some tension to the dialogue. I mean, the bomb's just there, ticking away in the medical bag.

***By the way, if you haven't read the play and are wondering what the hell I'm talking about, email me and I'll send you a copy. The play is a conversation between two characters in a video game loosely based on Metal Gear. They sit around while the gamer is fixing a snack and chat about their careers.

Anyway, the first performance was a little stilted and the sound booth messed up the bomb explosion. But the second performance just rocked. The audience seemed to enjoy it, laughing and everything.

I made the display poster for the play, which features chocolate-chip military camouflage and a big paper cookie. The camo pattern was easy to find at the local arts and crafts store. I don't know what these moms are putting in their scrapbooks these days.

So that's done, which is kind of a relief. I've been a little nervous. Time to work on my submission to next year's festival.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Christine the Hermit Crab

I'm getting fairly determined about this writing thing. I managed to write in Chicago during Memorial Day weekend, tapping away in the Swissotel lobby after Ron and Benny went to bed in the room. This past weekend, while Ron was in Tahoe and I stayed with Benny, I wrote every day but Saturday.

The main challenge is finding a suitable place. I start bouncing off walls if I'm home all day, so I've been researching cafes and libraries. Last week I tried the Saline District Library, tucking myself away in the tiny
Local History room.

Saline is a cute little town just south of Ann Arbor. Benny attends the Saline Early Childhood Center two days a week -- it's a cheerful place, and cheaper than Ann Arbor daycares. So I'm scouting Saline locations so I can drop Benny off and then work nearby until it's time to pick him up.

Saline does have a wonderful cafe: a bright space with brick walls and free wireless access. I can buy a toasted bagel and coke for two bucks and spread my stuff out on one of their tables. But the cafe's a busy
place: people tend to plunk down one table over and hold loud conversations.

Monday morning it was a sunburned, middle-aged lady with frizzy hair who held a 20-minute monologue that (I swear) went like this:

"So I told her I was tired of the commute and she said "Move here." And I said, "I can't move there," and she said, "Sure you can," and I said, "No I can't," and she said, "Why not?" and I said, "It's too far," and she said, "It's not too far," and I said, "Yes it is..."

Last week was worse. On Friday a big crowd of Saline matrons took over the cafe, yakking loudly for TWO HOURS. Then came the moms and rowdy children.

The Saline library also offers free Internet access and seemed a viable alternative. I spread all my stuff out in the research area. But then Sandy at the research desk started holding long, involved conversations with everyone in the damn town. So I retreated to a back room, surrounded by dusty binders and a microfilm machine. A giant bust of a dour old man guarded the door. (I first thought it was Abe Lincoln, but it's actually Orange Risdon, Saline's founder.) Orange and I were happy until some old guy turned up, unfolded every map in the room, and rustled them for 40 minutes.

Maybe it's my attitude, I told myself as I drove back to Ann Arbor, a total of 20 words written that day. I vowed to explore one more place, the Ann Arbor Public Library, then give it up and buy good earplugs. And there I found my home. The third floor is as silent as a tomb. I actually worry that I'm disturbing people with my keyboard tapping. And if a cleaning lady does turn up and loudly poke her dust mop into all 100 bookshelves (it does happen), I can retreat into a tiny room custom-made for people-haters like myself.

Ah, heaven.

Signor Ugarte is Dead

I've had a good writing streak – four chapters in three days. Any day I get to write is a successful day, and here I've written three days in a row.

On Monday I wrote a tricky scene between two politicians who are former lovers: a man (Zodiac) and a woman (Percy). They've bickered through the whole book about how to apprehend a dangerous criminal.

So it'’s Chapter 25 and they'’re at it again, squabbling about security measures and killer assassin robots. Looks like the criminal might actually be dead this time, which would solve all of Zodiac'’s problems.

Then suddenly Zodiac asks Percy why she left him so long ago. Percy blames Zodiac, saying he turned ruthless and obsessed with power. Zodiac doesn'’t buy it -- he doesn'’t think you can turn feelings on and off like a faucet whenever it'’s convenient. He says she never loved him, that there was somebody else first. "Where is that man?" Zodiac asks. "Is he dead?"”

Percy won'’t talk, but Zodiac has puzzled it out: that other man is the wanted criminal, and Percy has been trying to protect him for the whole book. So now Percy is traveling to identify the body of the man she once knew. And Zodiac is now her enemy and can cause all kinds of trouble.

Meanwhile, Percy'’s sister is still trapped on the space station. And since Humphrey Bogart probably won'’t turn up with letters of transit, she'll have to think of a way out. Maybe she'’ll get arrested.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

sunflower pix

here is me and benny