Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Evilutionary Biologist discusses vaccination

One of the blogs I follow is that of the Evilutionary Biologist. Here, he talks about the importance of vaccinating your kids -- and how the media has been undercutting the public good in a really bad way on this issue by falsely tying vaccination to autism. (Why am I not surprised? Good journalism is something you have to go hunting for nowadays, it's certainly not the norm.)
Autism's False Prophet's author Paul Offit blames "the media for keeping the myth alive by following the journalistic mantra of ‘balance,’ perpetually presenting two sides of an issue even when only one side is supported by the science. And shows like “Larry King Live” have been “just awful on this issue,” he adds, placing ratings and controversy above public health by repeatedly giving McCarthy and other “true believers” a platform to peddle fear and misinformation."
He ends the article talking about whether or not scientists should try to use the power of story-telling to help them get their important messages across. Playwrights (including me) have been writing more and more about science lately, it seems. Perhaps the scientists are going to start writing plays... More power to 'em.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tough people navigating tough times at LITTOF

Who are we when all the stuff that we think of as "ourselves" gets stripped away? Jobs and houses and cars and... all the psychological sense of well-being that comes from having those things in our material world?

Unfortunately, my dear friends Stephanie and Bob have been deeply impacted by the current financial crisis (recession? depression?). They're losing their house -- but they're finding strength in themselves that I'm sure they never knew they had in them. Tune in to Steph's blog, entitled Love in the Time of Foreclosure, to see how this couple is coping with these challenging times. The blog is full of grace and humor and anger and hope... and well worth a read.

Referenced today on NPR's Planet Money!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Rockin' Good Time at the EcoDrama Festival!

I've just returned from Eugene, Oregon, where I was attending the "Earth Matters on Stage" EcoDrama Festival. What a wonderful trip! Here are a few pictures.

The poster.

The wonderful Farmer's Market in Eugene -- I listened to music, walked around all the booths, had lunch, saw a woman with a tame skunk, and bought fresh-picked straw- berries to carry with me on my bike ride.

Canadian geese (and goslings).

The Willamette River. I rented a bike and rode on Saturday and Sunday. The path takes you down one side of the river and back the other.

Una Chaudhari (NYU teacher and scholar), C. Denby Swanson (playwright: Atomic Farmgirl) and John Schmor (U of O Theater Department Head).

Una Chaudhari with Rachel Rosenthal, who talked about (and showed clips from) her theatrical activism.

University of Oregon's motto, written on their front gate: Mens agitat molem. The mind moves the masses.

Me in the hot seat, with playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez moderating, at the talk-back after the first performance of "Song of Extinction" at the EcoDrama Festival.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Off to EcoDrama

Good lord, I've got a lot to do. I'm taking off for the EcoDrama Festival in Eugene, Oregon tomorrow morning (yay!). Today I have:
  1. Discussed my Friday night talk-back on the phone (at 9am) with Jose Cruz Gonzalez, who will be moderating (and seems really nice).
  2. Returned a couple dozen e-mails.
  3. Checked on the ticket situation for my Mom again. Called her, and e-mailed her, to reassure her that there will be tickets and all will be well.
  4. Looked up and e-mailed parking information, directions and a map to U of O to my folks (who will be coming with an entourage of relatives and friends to Friday night's performance).
  5. Passed keys and cat care information to my awesome friend Stephanie, who has agreed to take care of Joe.
  6. Highlighted important events on the EcoDrama schedule. Lots of fun stuff to do! And hopefully some time to walk by the river and write and hang out, too.
I still have to pack (washed clothes last night, though), wash dishes, wash car, put registration stickers on car, talk with YPF mentee, talk to a man about a reading, load final draft onto laptop, find sleeve of final draft disk so I can load software, and probably seven other things. I watered the plants last night. What am I forgetting? I love being other places... but the "getting out the door" part makes me a little crazy.

Soon! I'll be there soon! I can't wait to spend the whole long weekend BEING A PLAYWRIGHT. It's not that I'm not a playwright the rest of the time. Now, finally, I do think of myself that way, even if I AM a playwright with a day job. But... the gift of time and immersion into one's passion, alongside other passionate, immersed people, is tremendous. Thank you, EcoDrama people! I can't wait to meet you, and work with you, and be part of what you're making happen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hubble Telescope gets fixed up

From NASA: "Astronaut Andrew Feustel works on the Hubble Space Telescope in this image from NASA TV May 18, 2009. Shuttle Atlantis astronauts returned to the Hubble Space Telescope on Monday for a final spacewalk to install fresh batteries, thermal shields and a sensor to pinpoint celestial targets for research. Lead spacewalker John Grunsfeld and Feustel left the shuttle's air lock at about 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), almost an hour ahead of schedule."

Pictures from the Hubble telescope, through the years. Aren't they pretty?

...from May Sarton

I've begun reading May Sarton's "Journal of a Solitude." I liked this passage:
"In the mail a letter from a twelve-year-old child, enclosing poems, her mother having pushed her to ask my opinion. This child does really look at things, and I can write something helpful, I think. But it is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or a craft. Instant success is the order of the day; "I want it now!" I wonder whether this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn't start at the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking (though there are TV dinners!), knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Will Rogers Trail Hike

16 May 2009
Will Rogers Trail to Inspiration Point
Will Rogers State Park

Saw:  A polo game, several beetles, some nice wildflowers.  Birds.  Fog rolling in over the green hills.

2 miles round trip with a 300-foot elevation gain.


Joe Lewis, and experiments with the uploading of video...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lotsa lotsa lotsa theater...

Shows I've seen since January:
  1. Courting Vampires at Boston Court
  2. A Number at the Odyssey
  3. Looking for Normal at Malibu Stage
  4. The Seafarer at the Geffen
  5. The Prodigal Father at the Celebration
  6. Home Siege Home (all three parts) by Ghost Road at [Inside] the Ford
  7. Land of the Tigers at Sacred Fools
  8. American Home (reading)
  9. Restoration of Sight (reading) at the Blank's Living Room Series
  10. Fiddler on the Roof at the Rubicon
  11. Photograph 51 at the Fountain
  12. Lydia at the Taper
  13. Mauritius at the Pasadena Playhouse
  14. Alvin Ailey Ballet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (dance)
  15. A Skull in Connemara at Theater Tribe
  16. Babs the Dodo (reading) at the Blank's Living Room Series
  17. Double Indemnity at Theater 40
  18. The Art of Disappearing (reading) at the Blank's Living Room Series
  19. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Rubicon
  20. The Jazz Age at the Blank
  21. Man of La Mancha at Reprise/UCLA's Freud Playhouse
  22. Battle Hymn by Circle X at [Inside] the Ford
  23. Three Sisters at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  24. Fata Morgana at Pacific Resident Theater
  25. Pippin at the Taper
  26. The Laramie Project at Westchester Playhouse
  27. Hunters Gatherers at Furious

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our Town

The monthly "Our Town" paper -- which covers events and activities from the area in rural Oregon where I'm from -- did a little feature article about me. Home town girl makes good.

It felt very nice to have an article in my hometown paper. My folks have been fielding neighbors' reactions ("So that's where she went!" and "Good on her!" and that sort of thing.)

Growing up in rural Oregon, on a small farm, was really wonderful. We didn't have a lot... but then again, we did. Trees to climb. Space to run around in. A creek to wade in, shrieking when we saw crawdaddies. Berries to pick. Chickens to feed. Grandparents just down the road. Cats to carry around. Books from the local library. A small school where everyone (in all nine grades) knew your name, or at least who your folks were.

I miss it sometimes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Theater Magic Comes in Many Forms...

Nice article here about a bit of theater magic -- a set transformation that happens during the intermission that speaks volumes about the story. A stage picture is worth a thousand words, or something like that.

My brother told me, once, about a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that he saw back east, where in each act the set was more broken and spare than the last, so the end of the play was done on practically a bare stage -- an idea that knocks me out just to think about.

I remember a pivotal production of Bent that I saw in Portland when I was in college (pivotal for me as a writer and a human being)... I'd hardly been to a play before, not really. Not if the ones I was in myself in high school don't count. It was a small theater. During the time when the hateful Measure 9 was being hotly debated everywhere. And the small theater had been transformed into pre-War Germany -- flags on the walls around us, tinny German music, as if over a phonograph, and two Nazi soldiers positioned behind the audience for the duration of the play, as if we were held prisoner in the story ourselves.

What's your favorite use of set or space to tell a story for the stage?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heads has first read-through in Chicago

First read through of Heads, which is going to be part of Halcyon Theater's Alcyone Festival in Chicago in June/July 2009. From left to right, director Jessica Hutchinson and her cast: Kerry Cahill, Miguel Nunez, Arch Harmon, Pat King.

It's exciting seeing actors tackling one of my plays, in a reading and even more so in a production. How flexible is the text? What do the voices in my head sound like when they're in someone else's body? I look forward to meeting these nice folks during their run, although I haven't figured out the exact date yet when I'm going to Chicago.

It's kind of strange to see my plays moving farther afield. I've been in contact with these folks, of course. With Tony (artistic director of Halcyon Theater) and with Jessica (director of my play) through e-mail. E-mail is wonderful. We can go back and forth, Qing and Aing. But I'm not there.

It didn't bother me -- I hardly gave it any thought -- with my short plays. I have a LOT of ten-minute plays and a few one-acts, and I blithely send them out into the world. I'm happy to hear reports back, and I love to get pictures. What fun to see what a play looks like when it's done in San Diego with two men versus in Shanghai and Los Angeles with a man and a woman versus in Canada, set in an actual book store (like Lend Me a Mentor). It's fun. I'm happy to hear reports back.

Full length plays, though... It's a little harder to let go of them. Writing a full-length play is like taking pieces of yourself and smooshing them, red and bloody, on the page. (Perhaps you discern, here, if you don't know me well, that I don't tend toward comedy-writing. ) The writing of a full-length play (the research, the writing, the readings, the rewriting) often takes a year or more to complete. No matter how fictional a full-length play is, I don't know how it *couldn't* contain a lot of the writer in it. The "giving birth" metaphor is apt. And I'm delighted, really delighted, to see my plays moving outside of myself, and going places where I've never been, and doing things beyond me. Delighted!! Just... separation anxiety, I guess. I want the best for them, you know?

Live long and prosper, little play! May these nice people in Chicago take good care of you, and have a real good time making you shine on their stage.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spark of genius?

Interesting article here about Stephen M. Johnson, who is adept at thinking outside the box. I love his inventions! I seriously want someone in LA to investigate the possibility of a PedalTrain between Santa Monica and downtown...

When writing plays, I find myself using my walls more and more. I need that larger canvas to free associate on, taping up pictures and bits of research and pieces of dialogue, and moving them about as the play forms itself in my mind. Rubbing things against each other, and seeing where sparks fly.

Such a fun business, this messing about!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mr. Talese talks about marriage

Interesting article here about non-fiction writer Gay Talese, who is writing a book about his marriage to editor Nan A. Talese in this, their 50th year of marriage.
"After the massage parlors, after the affair, after the scandalous book that
nearly broke up his family, Gay Talese is writing a new opus—about his
relationship with his wife."

I took a couple classes from Mr. Talese, when he came to guest lecture at USC's Master of Professional Writing Program. I found him to be very smart, absolutely direct and a bit intimidating. People who are willing to lay themselves bare for their art can be a little scary to talk with. Capable of anything. I had a similar feeling when I met playwright Romulus Linney; I wonder if they ever met...

The article intrigues me. After writing books about everything from the sexual revolution to his own Italian heritage, he is now focusing on his relationship with his wife. She says he knows very little about marriage (after fifty years). They've both stuck it out for a long time, and through lots of public opinions about their very public "private" life. He has written about everything he's done, and they've stuck with each other despite all.

People will have opinions. But no one knows how a marriage works outside that marriage.

It will be interesting to see if he'll be able to tell it. Because I think you can be pretty blind from the inside, too.

Hobbit houses

I always wanted to live in either a tree house or a hobbit house.

They've built hobbit houses, now, in New Zealand, where you can try them and see if they're for you. According to the LA Times:

Who knows how J.R.R. Tolkien would have designed a motel but the Hobbit Motel in New Zealand seems to have real fantasy appeal.The strange little building with porthole-style windows is built into the side of a hill in Waitomo, a region on the North Island known for its caves and waterfalls. (Woodlyn Park)