Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cats and The Life

Joe, the wee beastie, is now ready to leap onto the plane with me and go to Oregon for Christmas. Early this morning, we made it out to a 7:40am vet appointment to get his health certificate. We fly out on Saturday. We can't wait. We are very tired.

I have many more things to do before I leave. Slowly, but surely, I'm getting them taken care of. Hopefully most of them will be finished by Saturday! It would help if I was sleeping better. I think I'm still wound up from the play.

I have multiple plays on the go, and am actually feeling pretty chipper about several of them. I need to drop by the USC libraries (yes, plural) before I leave and check out a few that would be fun to use for research over the holidays.

Oh, packing... Yes, I've got some packing to do. Well, that's what Saturday morning is probably going to be for...

Tonight, though, I'm going to see a play! As an Ovation voter, I'm seeing something called "The Life" over at the Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood with my friend Peter (a most fabulous actor person). I think it's about singing prostitutes...

My friend Monica Bauer (the dancing playwright) is in town now, for a Monday reading of one of her plays over at the Blank Theater, in their Living Room Series. I am not sure it's going to work out for me to see her before I leave, I'm afraid. We were going to try for tonight, but... she's in Sherman Oaks, I'm at USC, and it's tough to get from there to here and here to there, especially during rush hour! I hope the reading is lots of fun for her, though. Los Angeles is not putting on a very good showing, though, as it hasn't stopped pouring all day and lacks any cohesive sort of public transportation...

My friend Lisa the Great comes back from Boston this week, where she's Post-Doccing. I get to see her on Friday, and can't wait!!! Missed her so much these last few months. But I think she's taking Brandeis by storm.

That's all the news that's fit to print, so I'm signing off now.


Or, as they say in Spanish,


Monday, December 15, 2008

more extinction

Michael, Lori, Will, Tristan

Trey, Darrell, Jackie

Aileen, Shannon, Vance and Sophea.

Everything goes...

Khim and Lily in the boat, with butterflies. Glimmer glimmer.


Hola! Como esta?

Bien. Y usted?

Uh... perdido? Lost?

He calls it the Song of Extinction.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Just a few more days...


One more weekend -- five more performances -- of Song of Extinction. How did we get here? How does a six-week run go so fast? I'm beginning to grieve it already. (Why do I always do this? Everything is temporary. Everything goes...) Luckily, this week is so busy, I won't have much time to be emotional.

Wednesday: 7-10pm at Moving Arts (Hyperion) is the readings of four new plays in progress from Lee Wochner's playwriting workshop that I'm producing -- new work by Terence Anthony, Ross Tedford Kendall, Ian McDonald and Bill Young.

Thursday: Registrar's Office Holiday Party at noon.
8-11pm -- Song of Extinction and the Song "Girls' Night" Party at [Inside] the Ford

Friday: SIS Holiday Party at noon.
Go home after work and prep for saturday workshop.

Saturday: 10am to 4pm -- Teach a Writing Workshop at [Inside] the Ford
5pm -- Gloog Party (Mill and Charles) in Topanga Canyon (don't think I can make this happen)
8pm -- Death & the Maiden at Sidewalk Studios in Burbank (ovation)
8pm -- Jennie Webb's Christmas Party in Eagle Rock (don't think I can make this happen, either)

Sunday: 3pm -- Song of Extinction
5pm -- panel discussion -- I've got all the panelists set for this!
7pm -- final performance of Song of Extinction
After... begin to take down set


I'm going to be really, really ready for Christmas break...

The Cambodian Experience: Stories of Strength and Survival
Sunday, December 14th at 5pm

The central character in "Song of Extinction" is a man named Khim Phan, who survived the Cambodian genocide when he was a boy, came to the United States and made a life for himself here. Join us on Sunday, December 14th at 5pm at [Inside] the Ford for our final panel
discussion, with people who can talk about what that journey is really
like. Greg Mellen, a reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram whose beat includes Cambodia Town, will moderate. Panelists include survivors Gen Lee, Kreng Krich, Phansy Peang and Prach Ly, a young man Newsweek called "the first Cambodian rap star," whose work focuses on the Cambodian genocide and life in the Cambodian community. Also on the panel will be Jack Ong, director of the Dr. Haing S. Ngor Foundation, which develops programs fostering diversity and multicultural understanding through education, activism and the arts, and works to preserve the legacy of Dr. Haing S. Ngor and his human rights work in Cambodia and America, as well as the history of those who survived the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979). (

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thinking about Manifest Destiny

The last four plays I've seen have got me thinking about the concept of Manifest Destiny. Remember that? You might have learned about it in grade school, or high school history classes.
Or just from... you know... watching America at work, in general.

From the US History Encyclopedia:

In 1845 John L. O'Sullivan coined the term "manifest destiny" in reference to a growing conviction that the United States was preordained by God to expand throughout North America and exercise hegemony over its neighbors. In the United States Magazine and Democratic Review (July–August 1845, p. 5) he argued for "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." Around the time of O'Sullivan's writing, the United States saw an extraordinary territorial growth of 1.2 million square miles, an enlargement of more than 60 percent. Most of this growth occurred at the expense of the newly independent Mexico and the Native American nations. The expansion happened at such an accelerated pace that people like O'Sullivan thought that even larger expansions were inevitable, necessary, and desirable—hence the origin of the concept of manifest destiny.

Manifest destiny was obviously a defense of what is now called Imperialism. It was a complex set of beliefs that incorporated a variety of ideas about race, religion, culture, and economic necessity. Some people, like the land speculators that settled in Florida, Texas, and Native American lands, wanted more land to get rich. Some fled poverty in Europe and eastern metropolitan centers. Some assumed that without spreading out to fresh lands the nation would languish. Some sought to perpetuate the institution of slavery by expanding it to new territories. Some believed that expansion into "uncivilized" regions would spread progress and democracy. It was convenient for all to think that they had the divine right to acquire and dominate because they had the proper economic system and the most developed culture and belonged to the most advanced race.

So... I saw a reading of my friend Stephanie Alison Walker's wonderful new play-in-progress about the current economic crisis as it pertains to home ownership. Then I saw Vince Melocchi's play Lions over at Pacific Resident Theater in Venice, which is about working class folks losing their jobs (and everything) in Detroit. Then I saw the sixth annual presentation of A Mulholland Christmas Carol at Sacred Fools (which puts water baron William Mulholland in the play of Scrooge in the old story). Then I went over to my own play, Song of Extinction, where we were holding a Mini Green Expo to accentuate the ecological concerns in my play. The War Plays Project that I began earlier this year seems to fit in as well.

All of us, every one, seemed to be grappling with the consequences of the doctrine and practice of Manifest Destiny -- ecological and economic. Acting as if we own the world and everything in it has caused us to become destroyers of that world, as opposed to the caretakers of it. We have been all about desire and a sense of entitlement, as opposed to stepping carefully through this garden-like world of ours, with the understanding that it's the only one we've got.

If we don't do better, we won't have anything left at all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Books and Music

Last night was lovely, in part thanks to my friend Kyle T. Wilson, who allowed me to join him at the Colburn Conservatory of Music downtown for a recital by the Calder Quartet. Thank you, Kyle!

It's been a while since I've seen a live music event. Or a movie, for that matter. (I'm determined to see Milk before it's out of theaters.) Theater is rather all-consuming for me right now. This was a perfect music event to attend. Ben Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook played violins, Jonathan Moerschel played the viola and Eric Byers played the cello. We had great seats in Zipper Hall -- a lovely mid-sized concert hall with a great, tall ceiling. The first piece they played was Mozart's String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 ("Dissonance," 1785). It was a fabulous contrast for the second piece that they played (with pianist Gloria Cheng), Thomas Ades' Piano Quintet (2000).

Kyle is a fan of Thomas Ades, a young composer (if one can call someone who is exactly the same age as me, 37, "young") who has been in residence at the LA Philharmonic this year.
A small digression. I *do* think that Thomas Ades is a young composer. It seems to me that any classical composer who is alive and working today is a young composer, in a way. What a strange perception of time! If you are not dead (like Mozart and Beethoven and even Rachmaninoff), you are young to me, according to the strange clock in my head. Interesting. I should set my clock that way for playwrights. But maybe then I'd be giving myself too much time, and might waste it...
Ades' piece was violent and funny and existential and surprising, and I must e-mail Geoffrey Pope about him. I really liked it!

I know I appreciated the piece more after having the experience of working with Geoffrey and the music he composed for Song of Extinction -- an original piece for the viola that he calls "Disembarking." He composed the first draft several years ago, while he was studying composition at USC, as an undergrad. It was lyrical and lovely -- he's a very talented young man. The notes I gave him had to do with making the piece a bit more violent and angry, to help track the journey of young Max through the play, as he struggles mightily with his mother's impending death. His new version, written in Rochester, New York, where he's now doing graduate work at Eastman, is all that in spades. I loved it.

Geoffrey and Mr. Ades were doing some similar things in their pieces of music. They're both more existential than comforting, more rough than lyrical. Things come apart more before they're put back together. They push the instruments to do more things. Plunking (my word for something that's really called pizzicata, where you pluck the strings), strange high sounds in the farthest registers of the instrument... Ades did some intriguing following/falling kinds of sounds in his piece, where the musicians played not in tandem, but just *off* tandem. Which made it all the more powerful when they played together.

I'm going to go buy the Calder Quartet's "Maurice Ravel-Thomas Ad├Ęs-W.A. Mozart" album on I-Tunes now. Apparently I'm a fan now, too.

That was a lot on music. Here's a little on books. Bought copies of Lanford Wilson's "Burn This" and Helene Hanff's "84, Charing Cross Road" at the used bookstore that's inside Santa Monica Library for 50 cents each. Love Lanford. And the other book is just delightful. Will share it with Mom at Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2008

One more thing... SoE on KPCC

An interview with me (playwright) and Geoffrey Pope, who composed original music for Song of Extinction, will be aired on KPCC this weekend. Check it out!

Saturday, Dec. 6, from 12pm-1pm
Sunday, Dec. 7 8pm - 9pm (re-broadcast)

On 89.3 FM in Los Angeles, California. It will also be streamed and archived at

Another good (busy) week.

This Sunday, Moving Arts is hosting a Green Mini-Expo from 1-7:00 pm at [Inside] the Ford -- inspired by the ecological themes of my play "Song of Extinction." I hope you'll come! Food is for sale, offered by Large Marge. Parking is FREE, in the large lot below the theater! You can hang out in beautiful Edison Plaza -- chairs, tables, running water, trees and the occasion deer -- and enjoy the natural world! Stop at the booths. Listen to the panel discussion. And see a little theater on the side.

There will be a free panel discussion with a diverse group of local, green professionals. Among the panel participants will be Ian Garrett from The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Jessica Aldridge, Zero Waste Event Coordinator/Consultant and Natalie Freidberg of All Shades of Green.

For tickets to Song of Extinction, go to the Ford Theatres website, or call 323-461-3673. For the Green Expo, just drop on by!

The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts
All Shades of Green
Jenneration Fix

Earth Resource Foundation
Large Marge Sustainables
Smart Car

1pm-7pm Expo Open to Public
3pm-4:30pm Matinee Performance of Song of Extinction
5pm Moving Green - Panel Discussion on How to Live a Greener Life (45 minutes)
7pm Song of Extinction Pay-What-You-Can-Performance

What else? Met with the always fabulous and talented Jeremy Gabriel yesterday to talk about the screenplay for Infinite Black Suitcase that we're working on together. Afterwards, I went over to the DVD release party for my super-talented playwright/animator Terence Anthony, whose "Orlando's Joint" just came out. So funny! Such good writing!

I've been busy with preparations for our workshop readings, which are on Wednesday, December 10th. Four readings, four playwrights, four directors -- yikes! But the work is great, and so are the people, so it's a labor of love.

Also, I've been working on preparations for the final Song Sunday Talk-Back on the 14th, which I'm coordinating. It's going to be on the Cambodian Experience, and I've already booked two panelists (a survivor of the genocide and a young rapper who talks about the genocide and life in Cambodia Town/Long Beach in his work) and a moderator, Greg Mellen, who writes for the Long Beach Press Telegram. I'm excited about this one! Should be good.

Tonight, I'm off to hear some music with (and thanks to) my friend and fellow playwright Kyle T. Wilson at the Colburn School downtown. Then it's off to the theater to hang out with the Moving Arts board members, who are seeing Song of Extinction tonight. Hope they like the show! (Hope they have gin martinis for sale...) (Well, perhaps I should wait until I get home.) (Damn LA, that you have to drive everywhere.) (Which reminds me that I must purchase another bottle of Bombay Sapphire...)

Looking at my calendar, I see that I'm attending Lions at Pacific Resident Theater on Saturday with my playwright pal Ross Kendall, seeing A Mulholland Christmas Carol at Sacred Fools on Sunday (which I've wanted to see for several years now and finally am going to). I'll probably pop in at Song on Sunday, too. This is our next to last weekend. Hard to believe... time goes so fast and so slow at the same time. Impossible to hold on to the moments which are so dear. Which, I guess, is what makes them so dear.

At any rate, tomorrow I am SLEEPING IN.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Baseball is Good. A Reading of "Catch" at the Blank

On Monday, November 24th, I had a reading of my "baseball" play, Catch over at the Blank, in their Living Room Series. It went really well. Surprisingly well! I was pleased.

The reason why baseball gets quotes, above, is because the play both is and isn't about baseball. It also is and isn't about child molestation. And swallows. (The bird, I mean.)

I finished writing a draft of this play a couple years ago. On my personal timeline, it was in progress around the same time as Heads. I think of it as my odd little play. It's short (for a full-length), and blows out all sense of space and time, as we follow an accountant named John through his present and past, after a breakdown that follows his testimony, as an adult, about having been molested as a child by a stranger. It's a memory play. It's got magical elements. And the large cast is never supposed to leave the stage. I started Catch in Trey Nichols' playwriting workshop, got some good help on it in Aaron Henne's playwriting workshop, then workshopped it myself at Moving Arts with a great group of actors, trying to figure out what this story wanted to be. It's the first play that I literally cut and pasted -- trying to re-create the fragmentation of PTSD.

The folks over at the Blank have been great about letting me come and play in their playground -- which they call The Living Room Series -- a developmental staged reading series that happens every single Monday night through the school year. Heads had a stage reading there (and was subsequently produced at the Blank -- yay!). They've also done readings of Song of Extinction and Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. It's nice to have a chance like this to not just hear the play, but also stage it out a little and see if the action of it works on a stage. See how it moves. See *if* it moves!

When the folks at the Blank said they'd like to include Catch in the LRS, they asked if I had any directors in mind. I have several "usual suspects" that I love to work with. But readings are always a good way to feel out a director who you haven't worked with before, to see how they cast, how they work, what kind of feedback they can give you, how they pull together a reading and whether or not you enjoy working with them. And, of course, they're doing the same sort of assessments on you. Is this playwright crazy or sane? Good or bad? Willing to work on her play, or not? Fun or boring?

I met Emilie Beck about a year ago, when Song of Extinction was a finalist for the Center Theater Group's Los Angeles-based Sherwood Awards. We corresponded, we met for coffee, and we've been trying to find a way to work together (or see if we'd like to try to work together). This seemed like a great opportunity to do so.

I was nervous about the play. The content is difficult in a different way than my usual fare. The structure is strange. There are magical characters and monologues.

Emilie pulled things together very, very nicely, though. She cast an incredible group of actors. She also asked Caitie Hannon to help out as her Assistant Director.
John: Matt McCray
Ann: Lanai Chapman
George: Jade Dornfeld
Pete: Tom Kiesche
Zach: Hugo Armstrong
Syd: Dinah Lenney
Ben: Jim Ortlieb
Sal: LeShay Tomlinson
Dale: Maia Danziger
Voice: Warren Davis

We had three rehearsals, and she managed to move my big cast around that small stage in a way that gave people a sense of the play without them running into each other. She was great with the actors and very helpful with the text (which she *got*).

I felt like the audience went with us. The actors certainly gave their all. I have a lot more faith in the play now than I did before the reading, and it was wonderful to get a director's eye on it. I was ready for that next step.

I hope I get to work with Emilie and these actors again some time!

(PS: The picture above is not from the reading. We had lots of actors on the stage, but no trained cats. That's Joe, with the softball and mitt that I bought when I was working on the play. Baseball is good.)