Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's plain to see some kind of harmony is on the rise.

Downloaded and have been listening to the soundtrack to Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. I recently, in conversation, cited Chicago as a great movie musical because they used the movie effect of placing all the songs as Roxy's fantasy version of events.

DHSaLB, on the other hand, and which is a pretty perfect movie musical, doesn't do that- aside from the Bad Horse epistles, all the songs are rooted in the "reality" of the story; BUT, I never noticed till listening to the songs divorced from the story, almost none of the songs actually END. All except "My Eyes" (or, as I thought it was titled, "On the Rise") are interrupted by a plot event, and ALL the songs move the story forward in some way. Which makes sense, since DHSaLB was actually written FOR film, there is no live audience to applaud, there's no need for a button at the end of songs, and so we can just proceed with the plot.

Ties in to something I noticed about In The Heights (a pretty fantastic stage musical)- despite the "radio edits", there is very little from the show that's actually excerptable, because so much of it is plot-based. Even Vanessa's I Want Song gets interrupted by Usnavi and Sonny and I need some packing tape coño!

Things to bear in mind while writing the musical I'm working on now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Such [insistence on traditional interpretation of Gilbert and Sullivan] would have mattered little had not the D'Oyly Carte enjoyed exclusivity within Britain. After all, "historical" productions of Shakespeare contribute to our appreciation of his plays, as "original instruments" performances of Bach do for his works - but in large part because other performance traditions exist side by side.

This is something people have often questioned me on, as a playwright. I consider it ideal for original plays to be performed as the writer intended, without a radically different interpretation by a director. I always think of that episode of Dream On, where Martin's play, a romantic two-hander about his ex-wife, gets made into an experimental musical without his knowledge (with a greek chorus wearing boxing gloves: ♫ This Marriage is Doomed! It's Dead in the Water! This Marriage is Doooomed! Stick around for the Slaughter! ♫).

But I DO enjoy and entertain new interpretations of Shakespeare or Chekhov because everyone knows (or should know) the original text/story that's being riffed on. Some other writers have achieved such notoriety that I think their work could safely be re-interpreted without damaging the reputation of the artists, though their estates won't allow it- notably Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams. The Beckett estate is notorious for only allowing strict interpretations, and the Williams estate recently challenged a production called Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer named Desire, claiming that the one-man show which used Blanche DuBois as a character devalued their property.
Stephen Sondheim in the 80s vetoed a production of Company in which one of the couples was made into a male/male couple without permission, but then in the late 90s granted permission to a college that wanted to cast Marta as a male (so Bobby would have two girlfriends and one boyfriend).

It's a controversial topic; I have frequently directed the original productions of my own plays, just so that I'd be sure of getting my own undiluted vision across to audiences. I can only hope one day I'll be famous enough that people will want to give new interpretations of my plays.

If you want to see your plays performed the way you wrote them, become President.
- Václav Havel - Address to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London quoted in The Independent, London (24 March 1990)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Every twenty years or so, America remembers it has a theater. There's a surge of interest and youthful talent to the form, like a rush of blood to the head. Then there's a battle royal: The new talents struggle to overthrow the old conventions, and old figureheads, that have made the theater boring; the old ways fight back. (...) What this cyclical pattern means, essentially, is that the American theater, as an institution, never grows up, never evolves a native tradition, never accrues the sense of perspective that comes with maturity.

- Michael Feingold, from the introduction to Grove New American Theater

An interesting idea. It seems to be true that a lot of my contemporaries don't have much perspective on theatrical history. I've been working lately on synthesizing modern writing with more old-fashioned techniques (writing 5-act plays in verse, or 4-act plays), and I'm met with amazed bewilderment. There's a reason old plays work, they have the mechanism to do so, it's just a matter of blowing the dust off, and discarding what is no longer relevant.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thyme and Thyme again

We're almost through with the production of The Thyme of the Season. It has been a long hard road getting to what has turned out to be a really fantastic production. I cast it months before we opened, only to lose three actors to slipped discs, poverty, and being hit by cars. We battled with very few people coming to our benefit (which meant a lot less money to work with), bouts of sickness and pink eye, mis-scheduling, electricity issues, and still my awesome cast is kicking ass. Thank goodness this show is as low-tech as it is, and the cast is as great as they are.
One final show on Wednesday, and I'm pretty sure we're going to sell out. I'm glad we have 8 performances in this festival; my cast is only now fully settling into their roles.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gender Parity in theatre

Got this invite on Facebook.

Gender parity in the theatre has recently gained public momentum as an extremely important issue of theatre in the 21st century; some might argue that it is the single, largest issue to present itself in the last fifty years. Through Emily Sand’s well publicized study, Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender: An Integrated Economic Analysis of Discrimination in the American Theatre, and Julia Jordan’s public presentations of that study, we know through indepth research and statistics that there is an alarming, troublesome disparity between the total number of plays written by men produced in our theatres and the number of plays written by women.

Simply put, but not so simply understood, female playwrights can’t seem to get traction of any kind in our community. With all the major theatre awards having now been announced in New York (The Tony Awards, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortell, Theatre World, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, etc.), one outrageous fact emerged: in all the awards combined, only one woman writer was nominated (Sarah Ruhl) in a season that showcased 51 new plays written by women.

To acknowledge the extraordinary work by women in this year’s season (and by doing so, educate the community on many levels), a group of passionate artists and producers (myself, Marsha Norman, Theresa Rebeck, Julia Jordan, Tina Howe, Julie Crosby, John Eisner, G Tim
Sanford and Susan Rose) quickly assembled to create an evening of celebration. Equal parts party and awards ceremony, the event will be held at Playwrights Horizons and the West Bank Café, emceed by Christopher Durang, with an invocation by Gloria Stein, entertainment by Kristin Chenoweth and a host of awards to women in the theatre.
Each year, this event will grow and become inclusive to writers all over the country. Because the event will – by its nature – highlight the issues of gender parity in the theatre, as well educate playwrights and the theater community at large, we’re hoping to generate support and buzz anywhere we can. Voice your support at the FB page:
Be strong, write well.
Gary (Garrison)
Executive Director, Dramatists Guild

I'm amused how no one's mentioning the possibility that these unprecedented numbers of shows by women were maybe not good enough to have been nominated; that it's assumed they were not nominated entirely because they were penned by women.

And the main conclusion of Emily Sand's study was that it is women themselves as playreaders and decision makers who are essentially holding back other women's work.

And among those nominated this season were Sherie Rene Scott, who co-wrote Everyday Rapture (For the Tony, and Lucille Lortel).
Anna Devere Smith and Lynn Redgrave were both nominated for Lucille Lortel Awards for solo shows they wrote and performed, and Smith was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle, as was Carrie Fisher for Wishful Drinking.
Enron, by Lucy Prebble, was nominated for the Drama League Award (Lucy's also nominated for the Tony for lyrics for Enron, which she also wrote).
Aftermath, co-written by by Jessica Blank, also nominated for the Drama League Award.
Annie Baker's The Aliens and Circle Mirror Transformation shared the Obie award for best new American play. Actually fucking won, for TWO plays. CMT also got a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Play and Baker got a Drama Critics Circle Emerging Artist Special Citation.
Theatre World Awards are only presented to performers, not writers.

So, fuck them, then?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Duncan!

I hate it when other bloggers don't post for a while and then bemoan their lack of posting. And now I'm doing it. I feel my blogger shame.

So much exciting stuff coming up:
First off, my short play Pocket Universe will be in the Fresh Fruit Playhouse Short Play Competition on May 25th, starring Jeff Martin, Joe Sevier, and Shaun B. Wilson!

Then in June, the long-awaited full production of my play The Thyme of the Season, as part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
(Which is up for a Pepsi Refresh Grant... For the next 5 days, every time you vote for Planet Connections Theatre Festivity on the Pepsi Refresh website, "Share" the fact that you voted to Twitter or Facebook along with the hashtag #PCTFGrant. You must include the hashtag in order to win an All-Festivity Pass, as that is how we will be tracking the entrants.)

And the Midtown International Theatre Festival shows have been announced, and I'm mentioned in the headline of the first article about it!
My play The Starship Astrov, will be produced in the festival by Oberon Theatre Ensemble. Tickets are already available.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


So I had three readings of pieces/plays of mine this weekend. It's so incredibly helpful to hear a play out loud- I know there's things I miss when it's only on the page. And feedback is always great, whether it's positive or negative- if negative, I try to see what caused that effect and change that- most often, I've found, it's not what the audience thinks should be changed.
My favorite is feedback from the actors who read it. There's something wonderful about the perspective from inside the piece, sometimes you can get an entirely different take on things from the characters' points of view, which is especially valuable.

"Good actors force me to write as honestly as I can. I say 'force' because if you have fudged the truth in a script (and sometimes I want to take a short-cut to the end of a scene or act, a short-cut that the action of the play doesn't justify) a good actor's honesty will shine a very bright light on that moment of chicanery and you will have to fix it or go down in flames. Good actors are merciless that way. They can't help it. It's one of the reasons they're good actors. Mediocre actors let playwrights get away with murder."

- Terrence McNally, preface, 15 Short Plays

Monday, March 8, 2010

Work in Progress

So Oracle Theatre, Inc. will be doing a reading of the first scene of my play-in-progress Roman à Clay this Friday. It's a piece I've been working on for a couple of years- I wrote it and put it away and then brought it out again and re-wrote and then put it away... recently brought it out again for a whole new rewrite... I still don't have much aside from the opening scene.
One of the actors doing the reading said he was riveted to find out what happens next, and was disappointed to find out that I don't exactly know yet. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gay Theatre

It's a sad thing to say that a lot of theatre about homosexual experience is pretty bad. The thing is, it doesn't need to be good. Queers are so starved for entertainment that reflects our lives, we'll buy tickets to any piece of trash that has gay characters in it. Especially if there's a hot guy on the poster and it's implied that he'll get naked.

I once was handing out postcards for a Gay play of mine, and a guy asked if there was nudity- I shook my head, and he handed the card back.

Which is not to say that there isn't good Gay theatre out there, it's just hard to know when the plays are good or just well-marketed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Support: A Manifesto

After a post some time ago on Isaac Butler's blog, I've been thinking a lot about "support" and how that word is used in NYC Theatre circles- we're always saying "Come support our show" or "thanks for your support". I don't want people to come to my shows just to support me- I want them to come in the expectation of a good show. I'm doing fantastic work, and people should want to come see it. And many people do.

And I understand when people can't. I really, honestly do. Most of my friends are doing the same thing I'm doing- creating theatre. Most of it happens at the same times, which makes scheduling difficult. Most of us have 9-5 jobs on top of doing theatre in the evenings, and we get busy.
Most of my friends who are doing theatre are as broke as I am, all of our money going to our true vocation: theatre.
So I know that people are sometimes busy or choose to spend their money on food instead of theatre. The same thing happens to me.

People say, "I'm sorry I missed your show", and I agree with them. I'm sorry they missed it too, because it was awesome.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Playwrights of Color, check it out!

I got this e-mail through my website:

I found your site through the theatre blogosphere (Flux Ensemble Theatre and Tarhearted). I'm working on a project you might find interesting. This is it: The vision of the group is nearly identical to 13P (, but with the emphasis on producing works by new writers of color. The idea is to use our shared passion for theater and our status as Othered to empower us when it comes to gathering resources and reaching out to potential audiences and creative partners. We're committed to giving people theatre by and about us that challenges what people assume we stand for and/or are interested in. This will not be just another reading group. We want performances of our work. Rather than sitting around submitting our plays to all these places and waiting for other people to decide our work is worth doing, we're going to do it ourselves. We will definitely read each other's work. However, our feedback process is geared less towards reviewing our pieces and more towards uncovering the performance possibilities of the scripts and giving the writers a better understanding of how their works . . . work. In other words, instead of trying to rewrite the plays, the group is there to help writers figure out what their plays are capable of and finding the way to make sure that happens. I'm taking a lot of inspiration from the Liz Lerman method of critical response: Since we're geared toward development and production, we really can't do the typical writers' group thing of reading a snippet of a play out loud during a meeting then giving 15 to 30 minutes of instant feedback. Rushing through reading and feedback is a disservice to the writer. If that works for a particular writer, fine. But I want to make it clear that we're going to put our stuff on stage. It's up to the group to decide when and how that's going to happen, but I'm firm about setting up performances of our work. I'm leaning toward deciding on an activity (for example: a night of 10-minute plays and/or selections from larger works), picking a date, and going for it. Without that commitment, it's just an idea. So far there are about 5 writers (with scripts!) and a director interested. Right now we are reaching out to venues, organizations, and individuals who would be interested in being a part of our project. If you know of directors, actors, designers, producers, or even marketing/PR people who would be interested in micro-productions of new works by new playwrights of color, please feel free to send them our way. We'd love to work with them! Thanks for taking the time to learn more about us.

Sounds fascinating- if I were a Playwright of Color (and not the honkiest honky who ever honked), I would certainly apply to be a part of it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Classic Txts

Last night I went to go see a play and the man in the audience in front of me was texting on his brightly lit Blackberry periodically during the show. I've seen that a lot recently- apparently these idiots don't realize that they're incredibly distracting to audience members behind them (or possibly they just don't care).

Last night after the 4th or 5th time of him doing it, I leaned forward in my seat so I could read, as well (he didn't even notice me hovering behind him), and then I realized that he wasn't just texting during the show, he was sexting during the show. Awkward.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Just read this very interesting article on Scott Walter's blog about story creation...

He quotes Joseph Campbell:
"The folk aspect, which simply has to do with people and things in stories and time and space is called desi, which means local, popular. On the other hand the elementary ideas, when the diety is represented, are called marga, the path.

I've always been under the impression that to make a story "universal" (which is what everyone seems to want), it's always a mistake to concentrate on the mythic (i.e. "generic") at the expense of the details. The more personal and detailed a story is- even as the plot gets farther from the actual experience of the audience- the more the audience can project themselves into the story and see themselves in it.

Perhaps it's part of my perspective as a Gay man, being perforce subjected to heterosexuality and its tropes as the predominant vision in media growing up (I always say Lamar Latrell from Revenge of the Nerds was my first real role model- the pickin's were slim in the 1980s), I'd had to project into stories alien to my own experience. But I do think that's a capacity of all human beings, to be able to understand and empathise with any story and glean something that they can take back with them.

Now I'm considering it's the marga we can all feel, despite any desi which might be alien to our experience.

99Seats, in response to Scott Walter's post, says:
A Great Play lives in that place between the big, universal truths and the specific language of a specific time and place. The language of Hamlet is specific to Shakespeare's world and times, but the story soars above it. The same holds for Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Or Death of A Saleman. We need them. We need great masterworks that elevate the heart and soul, that capture the human spirit in amber and hold it up to the light.

I think the play(s) that best exemplifies that idea of A Great Play is Angels In America. The marga is there, of course, but it's the desi that really made it so real and vital for its time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are we writing for art? And is art a springboard for fame?

A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.

- From The Economist

Man, this applies to theatre in a big way. The big Broadway blockbusters like Mamma Mia, Rock of Ages, even Phantom of the Opera... they pull in the tourists looking for a Real Broadway experience, and they get flashy fluff. Certainly fluff can be fun, but really in any media, art rarely sells.

In other news, (re:)Directions Theatre Company is planning the Anybody but Shakespeare Classics Festival for this Summer. A pretty interesting idea:
The Anybody but Shakespeare Classics Festival, hosted by (re:) Directions Theatre Company at the 14th Street Theater from May 17-June 6, 2010, is designed to celebrate the work of playwrights who have been overshadowed by the immortal bard; left in the dust by his rapier sharp wit and general put out to pasture in favor of the 2,189th revival of Hamlet. Any text from any country that was first written or performed between 1500 and 1700 will be considered. We are primarily seeking reinventions, original adaptations and translations that preserve both the spirit and the majority of the original text.

If I wasn't already pretty booked up for this Summer, I'd consider busting out some Lope de Vega or Middleton.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Serving hell in theatre

So, I'm desperately hoping this is some kind of hoax: Tucker Max Headed for B’way? Christopher Carter Sanderson Says Yes. None of it makes any sense.

Gorilla Rep is known for doing insightful outdoor adaptations of Shakespeare and other classics.

Tucker Max is

Sure, some of Tucker Max's stories are amusing gross-out fratire*. But still, the only reason I can see for even contemplating this would be to get more D-Bags to come to the theatre, so the theater can have their money. But really, nobody wants more D-Bags going to the theatre. When they do come, they're drunk and late, and they're always texting through the play anyway.
And the Tucker Max movie was apparently a huge flop (I wasn't even aware it actually existed until I started poking around on his site-it apparently premiered a couple of months ago); so why would putting his fratiric stories on stage be any better?

This just reeks of terrible idea.

* frat + satire = "fratire". I didn't make it up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Inspiration comes in the strangest of places sometimes. I am a big fan of Dinosaur Comics, and a recent comic about computer simulations led to my first play of 2010, a 10-minute piece called Pocket Universe. Very pleased with it. Sometimes it feels as though ideas just gather in my head like a puzzle, and then all of a sudden they all fit together, and I know what the play IS. That's happened to me a few times, where the Full Play just sprung out of my head full-blown, like Athena. Which is not to say it was perfect on the first draft, but it's almost like taking dictation.

Most of the time it's harder to write, but I find the more I DO write, the more often these flashes of play just come to me.