Saturday, July 30, 2011


This year I spent a good deal of time working on an adaptation of a play originally written in 1878. It was a challenging and rewarding experience. The show is now up and running, and audiences seem to be enjoying the heck out of it. At least, they tell me they enjoy it. Who knows?

Anyway, here are a few scattered thoughts on the writing process:

  • One of the hardest things I find with doing these adaptations is finding the author’s voice. It’s one thing to write a work of your own, but it’s an entirely different situation having to assume the voice of someone else. I’d say 50% of the dialogue in the show is original to the script, and the other 50% has been altered to some degree, or in many instances written entirely from scratch. The trick is making these different sections blend seamlessly into each other. Word choice, tempo, the style of imagery, the flow of the dialogue – it’s imperative that they match up. And if they don’t, it sticks out like a sore thumb. When I’m working on original pieces, I have free reign over my words. I want to put my stamp on the work. I can build worlds and create my own characters and move them in whatever ways I like. But with this, I have to leave myself at the door. 
  • The nice thing about an adaptation is that you can sometimes get away with shoving a square peg into a round hole. For example: We are running two shows together in rotating repertory. For the first show, we required actors of certain types and vocal parts. For the second show (the adaptation) the actors did not match up exactly with the roles we needed to fill. So, I changed a character here, deleted others, telescoped two roles into one, and viola! The same cast now works for both shows.  Which brings me to another point:
  • Producability. Spellcheck is telling me that’s not a word, but believe me, IT IS. Plays have to actually be PERFORMED. It’s one thing to write a play, another thing entirely to get it up on its feet and make it work. A play with shipwrecks and earthquakes and dwarves and horses and epic scope may read well, but will be impossible to produce. Well, not impossible, but difficult. My ideal criteria for production is this: 12 or less actors, 3 or less sets, runs under 2 hours, and family friendly.  Of course, this is just an ideal. It’s not uncommon for us to do longer shows with a ton of sets, but the practical and economic realities of running a theater make it difficult.  Which brings me back to the adaptation – If something doesn’t work, I can just write it out. If we don’t have room for a whole new setting, I can just re-write a scene into a different location. It’s wonderful.

Anyway, those are just a few thoughts. I’m sure there’s plenty of room to expand on any of those points, but maybe I’ll save that for another post.

Below, a few shots from the show. I snuck a monkey into one of them for my dad. He misses the monkey pictures.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad Blogger…BAD!

That’s me. Yes, I’ve been remiss in my duties as a blogger, and I apologize. It’s been a hectic eight weeks, but MUCH HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED!

On the writing front: Coming in at 93,000 words, the book is DONE. Well, not “DONE,” but damn close. First draft is “DONE,” but there are still several rounds of editing left.  So maybe I should put the “DONE” stamp away for a few weeks.

The next step (I guess – I’ve never really finished anything before, so who am I to say?) is to send it out to a few trusted readers. Unfortunately, that will be difficult as I tend to not trust the people around me (If you knew them, you’d understand. Not a decent one among ‘em.) So, sweepstakes-style, I’ll just be sending the manuscript off to people and businesses I find in the phone book, and then we’ll see what kind of feedback I get. I have my fingers crossed.

In case you’re wondering, I still don’t really know what the book is about. I defy Genre! Although, it’s probably more appropriate to say “I misunderstand Genre.” I guess the book could be YA. There’s adventure. Some Steampunk. A little western. A touch of fantasy. Very little sex, because as they say, “write what you know.” And then some crap gets blown up at the end, so that’s a plus. And there's a traveling Commedia troupe.

Now aren’t you getting excited?!?!?

On the theater front: On two consecutive weekends (June 24 and July 1) we opened the two summer shows.

NOW PLAYING: The musical “Calamity Jane,” and the classic Victorian Melodrama, “Hazel Kirke.”

The shows were a bear to mount this year, due mostly to the large technical requirements of “Calamity Jane.” For those of you who don’t know, TATC is a small professional production company. Did I mention it’s small? Well, it is. And as such, I not only serve as Artistic Director, but most of the time I also end up being the Technical Director/builder/everything-else-guy. Now that the shows are open, I spend most of my time sweeping up the auditorium after performances. Ah, the glories of Showbusiness!

And now some pictures of the monster build. These just sort of detail what went into one half of a single wagon (There are 5 in “Calamity Jane” alone, nevermind the sets for "Hazel.") 

***Scenic design, scenic painting and lighting design by Nancy Hankin of Five Star D├ęcor (Colorado Springs, CO)
Framing out the wagon. Final dimensions will be 14' wide by 8' deep. It spins. Yay.
More framing. The front half of the wagon will become the bar of the Golden Garter Saloon. When the wagon spins, the back half displays a dressing room for another scene.

Everything is framed in now.
Base coat applied.
Final production shot of the Golden Garter Saloon.   
This is a shot of the Golden Garter exterior, and the full-sized carriage that travels along the apron of the stage.
Bonus shot: This one is from the other show we just opened: "Hazel Kirke." I like this shot because Mel looks so sad, and Rebecca looks so...cold.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Update...

Well, there’s a Stage 2 Burn Ban throughout Teller County this week, so it looks like the Fire of Disappointment has been cancelled tonight. I cannot think of a more fitting end to the tradition. Ah well. It’s just so hanged appropriate.

Work is progressing on all fronts. We’ve been rehearsing and building like mad men (and women) here at the theater, and have two shows opening in the next two weeks. It’s been a trying and entirely stressful process, but as JFK says “We do these things because they’re hard, not because they’re easy.” At least I think he said something like that...

The book is coming along. I’m sitting at 90K words right now, and this thing should end up below 94, so if only I could find a good chunk of six hours somewhere, I might be able to actually finish it off. The problem, of course, is finding six hours. At least until these shows are up and running, I’m pretty much stuck at the theater 14 hours a day. It’s frustrating, this whole “time management” thing, but I’ll get it down eventually.

Anyway, I hope to wrap it up and get in a good edit by mid month, so beta readers-be on the lookout. I’ve gotten a good deal of quality feedback from the folks in my writing group, and I’m excited to get it out.
And that’s what I’ve been up to. I know I should have some sage words on my birthday, “Things I’ve Learned this Year,” or some sort of retrospective, but alas, I’m just too tired for that kind of nonsense now. The Fire of Disappointment has been cancelled, so I consider this past year to be a total loss.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fire of Disappointment

Well, it’s that time of year again – my birthday is slowly creeping on, and you know what that means: It’s time for the great Fire of Disappointment!

This is a tradition that began long ago in the year of 2010 AD. I’m not sure if doing something once qualifies it as a “tradition,” but I enjoyed it a good deal, and plan on doing it again, so there ya go.

It started out as nothing more than an ordinary fire, built in a ceramic and metal pit on the back porch. It was my birthday, and several of us gathered to celebrate and reflect. And then someone had an idea: We should all write down something we’re afraid of, and then throw it into the fire, as a way of symbolically ridding ourselves of fears.

It sounded okay at the time.

We began writing.

And then a voice said “How do you spell ‘ostrich?'”

I looked at my friend who spoke. He was serious. He was really afraid of ostriches, and didn’t know how to spell it. I don’t think he understood the exercise.

Then I began looking around the circle of friends and loved ones. What a disappointment. For my friends and/or loved ones that are reading this: Yeah, I’m talking about you. And you should know – there’s a thin line between tolerance and disappointment.

Anyway, after that, I started writing down all the ways I have disappointed myself over the past thirty-something years.  I threw down names of people I’d wronged, past misdeeds, things I have never gotten around to doing, lost ambition and broken dreams.


And when I was done, I threw the list in the fire and watched as it blackened, crackled and twisted until there was nothing left but a few ashes that drifted and spiraled heavenward.

It didn’t make me feel any better, but I did quite enjoy watching it burn, because, let’s face it – I’m a big dumb animal, and I like watching things burn.

But you know what did make me feel better? When that was done, I set in on my friends, writing down all the ways in which they have disappointed me over the years. I didn’t burn this list. You should know, dear reader, that I kept it. Specifically, I kept it in case I ever get into an argument with one of them. This way, I have a real quick reference of all the reasons I have to despise and resent someone, and now I can more effectively use past disappointments to emphasize my point when discussing a current wrong.

Is this petty? Yes. If you’ve got a problem with it, then start your own list, and you can put my list at the top of yours. See how this works?

Long story short – My birthday is coming up in just over a week, and I’ve started making lists. And from the way this year has gone so far, you can count on one damn big Fire of Disappointment next week.

It’s just so cleansing and healthy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Carpentry & Blood Loss

It’s that time of year again, where I spend several weeks locked away building sets and props for the upcoming season. It’s actually one of my favorite times of the year. There is just something relaxing about working with wood. You see the immediate result of your labor. You see a stack of plain lumber transformed into a table, or chair, or a wall.

I enjoy the math. Construction just MAKES SENSE. There are rules.
An angle is either 90 degrees, or it’s wrong.
Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey.
Eight feet is always 96 inches, and I know that’s true because I have a tape measure that says so. I wish I had a tape measure for life.

Anyway – I found out something new this week...

Here’s the thing about jigsaws: Apparently they can be dangerous, even when not turned on.

Long story short – if your jigsaw is falling off the workbench, JUST LET IT FALL. Don’t be a hero. Don’t try to catch it. Because it has a blade on it that kinda sticks out, and if you’re not wearing your chain-mail gloves, there’s a good chance you might slice your hand open. And then you might scream and curse, and your friend will kind of laughs for a few seconds before he realizes that you are bleeding all over the other tools and the floor and it's dripping down your arm. And then you have to find the paper towels.

If you’re really fortunate, then your workshop is only two doors down from the paramedics and fire station, and you’re friends with most of those guys (because let’s face it, this isn’t the first incident you’ve had,)  so they fix you up pretty good and send you on your way.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to this week, and why this post is a bit late. Typing with one hand is a real pain in the ass. 

I’m trying to chronicle this build, so hopefully once the show goes up, I’ll be able to put up a series of photos of the set, from preliminary designs to finished product.

Oh yeah, and I’m fine now, by the way. A little Neosporin and a lot of gaff tape goes a long way.
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