Archives for posts with tag: playwrights

door diamond window

Waiting for Chekov
by MK Sturdevant

 *TRIGORIN: Anyone could walk in here. (helps her up).

It isn’t closed exactly, if through the diamond window the light can shoot through most afternoons. What to do. There is nothing to do. Standing up might be something. Looking through the diamond not at it, something more. The prairies are coming back in some places. I could tell my mom, my sister, but no one can come. I seem content here, in the light, playing off the wall in this tiny foyer. I seem content in it, in life, housed in a life, we seem. Doors seem. They say, come in! This is where you come in! But if they can’t prevent you, if they can’t lock you out, they’re broken. A door says come it says stop. I say nothing, illuminated finally not by an answer but an impasse. I’m in a camera with a diamond pinhole. I am the subject. I am not open, exactly. This girl, glowing, in here, me, herself, is not as tall as the door, not as closed, but I too give you all merely a window. You see the trunk of a man, maybe you think I want you. You smell the milk of me, you recoil. I was once given a man made of flesh and keys. I stayed shut. Is there a view of the lake? It’s too hot. None of you make any sense! I know it’s snowing! A vodka—and hurry.

*TREPLEV: No one’s going to come in.

I know that, child. What year is this? It’s not surrealism. This is just nothing coming nothing going. Words float. If there is no one here to hear them assembled, is there any order at all? Air! Give me air. I am not some desperate object. Air!

*Anton Chekov, The Seagull. Trns. Curt Columbus. Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. Chicago: 2005.

NOTE FROM  THE AUTHOR: The feeling of time passing so slowly while stuck inside with family members and waiting for news, just has a Russian-play feel to it. It also is increasingly unclear to me (during quarantine) whether things people say are comedy or tragedy. In this way, a door, being open and shut, an invitation and denial, and the same thing every day yet full of possibility, seemed like a perfect way to tap into some Chekov, and see if I could find some company.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MK Sturdevant’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Orion, Flyway, Newfound, Kestrel, Alluvian, the Lily Poetry Review, Tiny Seed Journal, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2019 Montana Prize in Fiction, and is a reader for The Maine Review. She teaches philosophy in the Chicago area. Follow her on twitter @mksturdevant.

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Congratulations to Eddie Woods — a poet and contributing editor for several Silver Birch Press anthologies — on the publication of his memoir Tennessee Williams in Bangkok.

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON: A playwright, a journalist, and a stunningly beautiful drag-queen prostitute. In this fascinating memoir, Eddie Woods brings all three together. And along the way graces us with countless insights into the heart and mind of one of America’s greatest dramatists. Even while paying homage to his beloved Kim, the most unique of his many lovers. As well as regaling us with numerous other tales of his more than two years in the City of Angels. Wherever he is, Tennessee Williams is smiling at this book. Now you can smile with him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eddie Woods (born 1940 in New York City) is a well-traveled poet and prose writer who variously worked as a short-order cook, computer programmer, encyclopedia salesman, restaurant manager, and journalist. In the early 1960s he did a four-year stint in the US Air Force, and since 1978 has mainly resided in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where together with Jane Harvey he launched Ins & Outs magazine and founded Ins & Outs Press. Of all the many writers and artists he has known, Tennessee Williams remains the most memorable.

Find Tennessee Williams in Bangkok at Amazon.com.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Act One (Excerpt)
by Oscar Wilde

JACK [Nervously]:  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN:  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK:  You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN:  Passionately!

JACK:  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

GWENDOLEN:  My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN:  But your name is Ernest.

JACK:  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

GWENDOLEN  [Glibly]:  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN:  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

JACK:  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

JACK:  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.

###

Read this hilarious classic in its entirety at Project Gutenberg.

Image“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)

October 16, 2013 marks the 159th anniversary of the birth of Irish author and legendary wit Oscar Wilde —  playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, and children’s book author.

Today, Wilde is most often cited for his pithy remarks, including:

  • There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. 
  • Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  • I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
  • Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.
  • A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me.
  • The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.
  • Only the shallow know themselves. 



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I just learned about STARCROSSERS CUT, a new play written and directed by Joseph Tepperman — and, from what I’ve read, the story offers the social satire and absurdist humor that I live for. Can’t wait to see this production, which premieres on Thursday, June 6, 2013, and runs for six performances.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Inspired by astronaut Lisa Nowaks 2007 arrest for the attempted murder of a romantic rival, Starcrosserʼs Cut is a cassette symphony in the tradition of Krapp’s Last Tape. Loosely based on the real-life transcript of Nowak’s police interview after her arrest, a character known only as “Lisa” listens to the playback, reenacts her interview with the detective, and attempts to rerecord it all. Through a labyrinth of tape edits and revisions within revisions, the play looks at the “crimes that can’t keep uncommitted”  — those beyond guilt. From jail cell to Space Shuttle, the mystery that emerges is not whether Lisa did it — it’s whether a crime can cease to be a crime, or can just cease to be.

Running time: 90 minutes
Written and directed by Joseph Tepperman
Music by David Dominique
Featuring Shawn Lockie & Tom Colitt
With musicians Leah Harmon, Sammi Lee,
Heather Lockie, and Alexander Noice

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, June 6 @ 8pm
Saturday, June 8 @ 8pm
Sunday, June 9 @ 4pm
Thursday, June 13 @ 8pm
Saturday, June 15 @ 8pm
Sunday, June 16 @ 4pm

TICKETS:
$18, general admission; $12, students/seniors

PURCHASE TICKETS: sonofsemele.com

LOCATION:
Son of Semele Theater
3301 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004
213-351-3507

Break a leg, to cast and crew!

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The ever-vigilant, erudite ace journalist Eddie Woods pointed out a significant error in our post yesterday that marked the birthday of Tennessee Williams. I incorrectly stated that Williams — born in Mississippi and raised in Missouri — had “no connection to Tennessee.” As Eddie pointed out in his email, “…his [Williams’] father attended the University of Tennessee…and was directly descended from Tennessee’s first senator, John Williams.”

Eddie also forwarded a page from TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: MEMOIRS, where Williams states, “The question I’m asked with most tedious frequency by interviewers and talk-show hosts is ‘How did you get the name Tennessee when you were born in Mississippi?’ So that’s the justification for my professional monicker — and I’ve also just indulged myself in the Southern weakness for climbing a family tree.” Find the book at Amazon.com.

Thank you, Eddie Woods, journalist and researcher extraordinaire!

Photo: Tennessee Williams, New York City, 1948

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Today we celebrate the 1911 birth of Tennessee Williams — who remains, at least in my estimation, the greatest American playwright for his lyricism, characters, originality, honesty, insight, and compassion. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams had no connection to Tennessee — other than the word starting with the same letter as his given name (Thomas). He decided not to call himself “Mississippi” Williams or “Missouri” Williams because he wasn’t fond of the abbreviated version (i.e., Miss Williams).

It’s been 30 years since Williams’ 1983 passing (at age 71), but he will live forever in his unforgettable creations — Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire), Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Laura and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie), and scores of others.

Here is some playwriting advice from the master:

“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do — then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a pheonix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, as found in his 856-page Notebooks (Yale University Press, 2007) available at Amazon.com.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

Act One (Excerpt)

by Oscar Wilde

JACK [Nervously]:  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN:  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK:  You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN:  Passionately!

JACK:  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

GWENDOLEN:  My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN:  But your name is Ernest.

JACK:  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

GWENDOLEN  [Glibly]:  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN:  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

JACK:  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

JACK:  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.

###

Read this hilarious classic in its entirety at Project Gutenberg.

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THE BLUE HOUR:

CITY SKETCHES (Excerpt)

Monologue by David Mamet

MAN: In great American cities at l’heure bleue, airborne dust particles cause buildings to appear lightly outlined in black. The people hurry home. They take a taxi or they walk or crush into the elevated trains or subways; or they go into the library where it is open and sit down and read a magazine and wait a bit so that the crush of travelers will dissipate.

This is the Blue Hour.

The sky is blue and people feel blue.

When they look up they will see a light or “powder” blue is in the Western sky where, meanwhile, in the East the sky is midnight blue; and this shade creeps up to the zenith and beyond, and changes powder blue to midnight and, eventually, to black, whereat the buildings lose their outlines and become as stageflats in the glow of incandescent lamps. This is the Blue Hour—the American twilight as it falls today in the cities.

Painting:New York Street with Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1925)

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I am a huge Sam Shepard fan, but am I the only one who thinks it odd that his photo appears so prominently on the poster for his new play? (Wouldn’t his name over the title have been enough — and infinitely more tasteful)? Did Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill ever appear on a poster? (Granted, they were not as handsome as Sam Shepard.)

Shepard’s new play Heartless opens August 27, 2012, at the Signature Theatre Company in New York City. The official website describes the play this way: Sally lives with her mysterious family in a cavernous home overlooking Los Angeles. When a visitor arrives, Sally’s dark secrets —  and the secrets of those around her —  threaten to come into the light. 

Back in the day, I attended the first preview of  Shepard’s comic masterpiece True West — produced by the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago — which starred John Malkovich, Jeff Perry, Laurie Metcalf, and Francis Guinan. It remains the most engaging, stunning, engrossing, dramatic, hilarious play I’ve ever seen. I wish I were in New York — my very favorite city — right now with tickets to Heartless in my hands.