Masked Man: I saw the devil this morning. Walking through the azaleas, dangling his long fingers, as casual as a green grocer. The small bushes grew along the sidewalk, and bowed towards his feet as he passed. He was wearing corduroy and dark glasses.
He wasn’t in a hurry. I thought to myself, shouldn’t he be in a hurry? The times I’ve thought of him in the past, I always pictured him moving as swiftly as a peregrine falcon — swooping down on empty heads with his talons spread wide. He looked tired, like he’d been out too late and was slumping his way home. He pinched his nose with two long fingers and sighed waiting for the light to turn.
There he was. The devil in the crosswalk.
I should have let him pass, but he seemed tame. So I cleared my throat and inclined my head.
He looked at me. He gave me his full attention.
He stood stock still in the center of the crosswalk. Lines of cars in both directions, not one dared to beep. Tons of metal and plastic holding their breath.
He stood and he stared, The Beast himself looking at me.
He pushed his sunglasses down with one long finger. His eyes were green.
“What.” he said.
I had nothing to say. I shook like a leaf. I realized that I was not speaking to the physical object in front of me, but to something beyond — something that reached through the short gray hair and the green eyes, something beyond. I could almost see the strings.
“I…I just wanted to say ‘hey’.”
“Hey.” he said and pushed his glasses back up. Dark windows walked past, and the horns began to blare.
The devil walked on by. He was in no hurry, but it was not my time to waste.
[What? You don’t have friends that ask you to write dramatic monologues for puppets? How unfortunate. I’m going to write a series of these, to be potentially used in a live show later this year with actual puppets. Ain’t life grand?]
Takes a long sip from his martini. Methusio has a terrible French accent. The more absurd the better.
My name is Methusio and I am glad to see you all here. Here in this quiet corner of the cosmos, this Twilight Kingdom. Things are strange here, but sometimes there is a comfort in the strange.
It is the real world that I find so distressing.
Putting gas in your cars, watching the numbers float up. Getting into your car, and pushing the gas. You do it so many times. You drive to work, and you get out of the car and you lock the door, with your clicker. Click-click! And then you walk into work and you sit in the chair, and you turn on the computer, and you realize that you have to urinate, and you walk to the bathroom and you relieve yourself and you look in the mirror, but you don’t see yourself do you?
And then you walk back to the computer and you type the emails, and you look at the numbers float up, the little clock at the corner of the screen, and you stretch and the phone rings and you watch the numbers float up. And then you eat a square plastic meal and you stare at the empty plate and don’t remember eating.
And then you go back to your car. Again. And you open the door and you push the gas, again. And you drive back home and you sleep and you dream. You look in the dream, but you don’t see yourself.
Oh, no. I have distressed you. My apologies.
I know it is a very roundabout, European way to go about it — but I am trying to make a simple point.
In the blur of reality, how real are you?
Are you as real as I am? More? Less?
At the very least, I will say these words only once. Breathe only once. Die only once.
I have the certainty of brevity.
You have the doubt of repetition.
How much of this week do you truly remember? Honestly? How many blank moments in your car, or at your places of work did you truly experience?
So, please try to remember this strange little moment in my Twilight Kingdom. And I will remember you. That is all we can do, eh? That and drink. That is all we can do. I will see you in my dream, and you can see me in yours. That is all we can do.
1. It’s fun. Looking at it just makes me smile. It’s unapologetically goofy and cartoony. Most fantasy art takes itself so freaking seriously.
2. It’s different. This doesn’t look like 98% of the fantasy novel illustrations I’ve ever seen before. Not on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, not on Amazon.com or anywhere else.
3. It’s clean. All of the negative space just pleases me aesthetically. A traditionally published novel would want to cram more information and more verbiage on there. I’ll probably have my name on their, somewhere very small, but that’s it. I also think it’ll really stand out when seen online as a tiny thumbnail on someone’s Kindle.
4. It makes me think of Chrono Trigger. My book sits very comfortably in the mental space occupied by Dungeons & Dragons, JRPGs, and manga. I adore that this would not look terribly out of place on the cover of any of those three.
5. It will make people vaguely embarrassed to be seen reading it. Not so much with the Kindle version, but people who have the paper copy. Anyone reading this will be broadcasting to the world that they are a Huge Nerd.
Huge props to Poopbird on the illustration, you should follow the link from here or the image itself and check out his entire portfolio and buy stuff from him.
I hope this gets you marginally excited about reading the book. I know it gets me far more than marginally excited about finishing it.
[This is what I do when I see a cow out the car window. Just replace ‘blog’ with ‘cow’ and it’s the same dialogue. It is incredibly endearing, and never annoys anyone else in the car.]
So, yeah — let’s shake some cobwebs off. My production of Pippin is finished, so now I can reroute those system resources back to all of the other plates I have spinning in the ether. Let’s list them! YAY, LISTS.
1. Spell/Sword Zeta Draft. This would be an amazing name for an anime. This is the big project, my main focus. Incorporating all the feedback from my Beta Readers, and working my way to the penultimate draft. I’m planning to add about 5000 words to the draft, so I’ll need to get one last set of eyes on the manuscript before I move forward to Self Publishing Ragnarok.
2. Self Publishing Ragnarok. Also an amazing anime title. My goal is to get the book into a buy-able format, through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon. I’m researching all of the technical knowledge needed for doing that, so when I am ready to move forward it won’t be a giant learning curve clusterfuck.
3. Cover Art. I’ve seen some early sketches from Mike/Poopbird, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Got to make sure I have all the specs for pixel limits, image size, etc. to make it easy and painless for him once the design is complete.
4. Titan’s Wake. My occasional Pathfinder campaign. Time to kick it in the shins and get the PC’s moving toward something approaching the plot. Scheduling has been an issue, leading to some signal loss — gotta get the players on some sort of regular game night schedule, or the campaign is just going to fizzle.
5. The Ocean of Not. New and shiny Legend of the Five Rings campaign! Meeting with the players in early January to make characters, and hopefully kick off the game shortly thereafter. I’m planning on having a forum component for this one, and most of the players are Lodestar alumni —very excited to get back in the trenches.
7. A Few Good Men. I have a small part in the next Mainstage production at the theatre. I get to play an actual person, which is not my strong suit.
8. Regular Blogging. I need to get back on a regular update schedule, 3-5 times per week. Maybe I’ll bring back Story on Demand to prime the pump, but I’m hoping now that working on the book is moving back to my main creative focus, I’ll have more time and writerly thoughts to expound upon.
Lot of stuff. Lot of cows. I love the feeling of energy and mind-space coming online – really looking forward to all of these projects!
We work so hard to build this little world. A better world, a world of lights and shadows. The world we all want to live in. Our Twilight Kingdom.
And it is fleeting. From its birth, it begins to decay. To fall through the sand-glass. We pour energy into it, it shines. We dance, we sing, we appear. We wear the clothes of our better selves, or the masks of our hidden villains.
But then it ends. Fade, extinguish,explode. One way or another. We leave the Kingdom with nothing.
So be it.
Come and burn with me.
Come and fly.
But only for a little while.
If you’ve been wondering why the blog has been so quiet — here’s your answer. I’ve been directing a production of this musical at our Friendly Neighborhood Theater, the Town & Gown Players.
Here’s the part — were I a normal human being — where I would gush about the show. Partly from genuine excitement and pride; partly in a cynical, manipulative attempt to convince you to come see the show.
But as this blog provides ample evidence, I am not a normal human being. I have a complicated relationship with positivity. Most evident in creative projects where I am invested. I have a, shall we say, extreme reluctance to speak without restraint, to truly commit to the excitement. How about a list of your neuroses related to this, I hear you all shouting with animation and curiosity at your computer screens. Okay!
1. Pure superstition. If I say that the show is good, amazing, colossal, etc. etc. I’m calling down the attention of the gods. I live in Athens and hubris-smiting is most definitely on the menu. A musical is a super-complicated, involved creative endeavor with thousands of moving parts. Everything has to gel – the music, the movement, the acting, the vocals. Layered on top of that is the spiritual mumbo-jumbo of any community – you want every person’s chi to align just so. I do not need Hermes to start
feeling capricious or mercurial[HAR HAR HAR] and throw a wrench up in my show, just for giggle-shits.
2. Cynical Directing Style. I’m not quite sure where I picked this up — but I truly believe that if I tell an actor that what they are doing is good, they will immediately get worse. As an actor myself, fear is the best motivator. If you believe that you are doing a good job, you will stop working to get better – you will relax, get comfortable. It’s a short trip to Craptown. Every rehearsal, every performance you should be striving to exceed your previous attempt. Add to that the weird parental aspect of being a director — actor-children work much harder when they are unsure of Daddy’s approval. It’s cynical, but it works. Most of us performers have some sort of approval-need or bone-deep insecurity, as a director you might as well plug in to that and use it to get them to do sharper pirouettes. I’ve actually made a point to get better about this one, giving GRUDGING positive notes. Baby steps!
3. First Impressions. The beginning of a play is a holy moment. The moment when the lights go down — it’s pure, unbridled potential. Anything could happen — a whole new world is being born right in front of you. I treasure that moment, and I hate to pollute it. Especially with generic ‘Rah-Rah Show’s SO AWESOME’ posturing. So, if I started rambling on about how great the show is, or how much I like X scene, or Y song — then I’ve put things in your head. Expectations, judgement, etc. The less said the better. Come to the temple with your eyes unclouded.
So, what can I say about the show – through the net of my psychosis?
The set looks amazing. My designers really outdid themselves – I can comfortably say that it is unlike anything we’ve put on that stage in the past 10 years, easy.
The light design is also excellent. My bacon was Epic Level saved by the last minute addition of our Light Designer.
The choreography is excellent, thanks to my crack Choreography Squadron.
The band is crisp, and the musical director’s re-scoring of several key moments is inspired.
The cast? Solid. I know that sounds like faint praise — but I’ll double-down. This cast is Solid Snake.
I won’t say anything more, due to neuroses listed above. But when the curtain opens Friday night, that’s where you want to be. I want you to see what the cast has accomplished, has earned through months of hard work. I believe you are going to see something exceptional.
If you are anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Athens, GA – you should make a point of attending.
Click on the image up top to buy tickets. You can pick your seat and everything, through the magic of the internet.
[I know it’s been quiet here for the past few weeks. I’m hip-deep in a production of Pippin that I’m directing, plus holiday work volume, plus BLAH BLAH BLAH WRITE US A STORY ABOUT A GRYPHON. I should have some quiet time over Thanksgiving, I’ll try to be a better blog-content producer over the next few days. In the meantime, here’s my Director’s Note for the program of the show.]
This show is strange.
It’s one of my favorites, and every time I watch it I find another odd little quirk, or strange sequence of lines, or incongruous thematic element. This is the second time I’ve directed this show — and once again I’m left with a vague feeling of unease. Do I really know what this show is about? So many pieces that don’t fit, arcane and vivid.
I think this show is about magic.
The magic of youth. The magic of theatre.
The magic of choice. The magic of love.
And — bereft of descriptor — magic itself.
Who am I to parse the strange symbols and gestures of this incantation? Magic cannot be understood, that is its base element. A resistance to definition, to codification, and to the jaded understanding of maturity. Only the eyes of a child can glimpse the Leading Player’s riddle.
So, take your ease Ladies and Gentlemen. Become children with us tonight, and let us tell you a tale. The spell begins again.
All three terms are synonymous, but mainly people that call themselves actors. That identify as actors. The people who leave their day job, drive across town, and work for free for 3-4 extra hours a night. We’re desperate, we’re fiending — we need to get on stage. We need to do that thing. That thing, that art, our art.
Oh, context. I’m directing Pippin for the second time, one of my favorite shows, at Town & Gown. Musings henceforth.
This is a show about drug-fiends. Art-fiends. They hate it, but they need it. Broken pieces, broken things, broken beings.
“We’re actors–we’re the opposite of people!”
-Tom Stoppard / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
But they can’t do it alone. They need an audience. And they need a main character. The player chosen to fill the role of Pippin is always referred to as the ‘newest member’ of the troupe, a recent addition. Later in the show, Catherine remarks that ‘He touched my hand. They’ve never done that before.” How many Pippins has this troupe chewed up?
They lead him and the audience to the central question of the show. A life dedicated purely to art, seeking the ever-elusive unicorn called Perfection? Or a life dedicated to someone else, to something forever Imperfect?
Will you Serve, or will you Destroy? There it is again! [Sorry, literary sidebar. I’ve been noticing this binary in a lot of my storytelling — interesting that it’s here too, in one of my favorite shows.]
I’m most intrigued by the ‘new’ ending of the show.
In the original Broadway edition the show ends with Pippin refusing the temptation of the Leading Player, and remaining alone on stage with Catherine and Theo. The show ends anticlimactically with the famous line ‘Trapped, but happy. What did you expect for the end of a musical comedy? Ta da!’
The audience is left feeling weird and confused, which I like — but the show clearly leaves us with the belief that Pippin made the right choice, and will find true satisfaction in a less extraordinary life.
But in the newer edition, an alternate ending has appeared. Pippin still refuses the temptation, but as the players slink off into the ether, the young boy Theo calls them back, echoing Pippin’s Corner of the Sky.
So, what is the audience supposed to feel now? Other than vaguely more pleased, because the show ends with a song? Is the show trying to validate both choices? Or are they simply suggesting that Pippin makes the mature choice, and that there will always be stupid kids coming along to chase the dream for you?
Ha. Or am I just projecting way more meaning into this piece then it can truly support? It wouldn’t be the first time? Pippin is definitely a ‘problem show’. It doesn’t quite work, the pieces don’t really line up the proper way to be a perfect allegory. Strange artifacts of its many revisions linger, laden with potential meaning but ultimately dropping the whole thing in your lap at the end.
So, to return in limping fashion to the initial question. What is Pippin about? Well…things? A lot of things?
Haskeer stepped through the steel door, and onto cracked linoleum. Red blaze of neon filtered through glass windows onto a crowded diner. The booths were crammed with humans laughing and talking. A long glass display case bisected the room, filled to the brim with faded toys and garish errata – twin rows of wide black booths down either side, with a long counter in the very back of the diner. A tall stool with a red-leather seat at the counter seemed to beckon, and the paladin moved towards it.
The humans seated at the booths were dressed strangely, somehow too simple and too elaborate — as if they were dressed both for work in the fields, and a journey across the tundra of the Northlands.. They paid little attention to his passing, or his gleaming silver armor.
A blonde man with a square jaw, sat with a baby in his lap – their eyes both wide and blue. A blonde woman at his side wiped the child’s face with a damp napkin and a certain elan. On the opposite side another couple, a man with a preposterous mustache fork-deep into a plate of fried potatoes and a dark-haired woman with a beautiful smile. The dark-haired woman was pregnant, and the man and his mustache nearly vibrated with concern and pride, each motion of his hands a prayer.
Two young men sat hip to hip in a booth, poring over a stack of brightly colored pages. They argued bitterly jabbing the page with pointed fingers, and gesticulating wildly as their argument crested into a familiar plateau. Across from them a woman rolled her eyes with exasperation, spreading cream cheese on a grilled bagel.
In the corner of the diner was a jukebox, glowing green and yellow. A man with glasses and a ponytail leaned against it, making a selection – his head bobbing unconsciously to the song already spooling through the air.
Are you sorry we drifted apart? Does your memory stray to a brighter summer day When I kissed you and called you sweetheart? Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare? Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there? Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
A tall, gangly man stumbled through the door behind Haskeer, and moved to the jukebox — hands already spread in mute apology.
In a back booth, three men sat hunched close together. A pile of tiny figures were arrayed on the table before them – small soldiers, goblins, knights, even a fierce looking black dragon. The tallest and shortest examined each figure with animated fixation, while the third stared at something glowing in his hand with boredom. A large man with a fierce tattoo of a squid-demon stumped over and flopped down a large sketchbook. Haskeer caught a glimpse of men and women holding swords of fire.
There were others in the diner, every seat was full. A curly-haired man stuffing lemon after lemon into his water, a thin man with his hands steepled, a balding man laughing and pointing across the restaurant. The faces began to run together as the paladin moved forward, his steel boots clanking on the floor.
Haskeer sat down at the counter, his back to the rest of the diner patrons. A warm fog of steam billowed out of the kitchen, accompanied by the wonderful smells of fried potato and seared meat. A man approached, pulling a well-worn jotter out of his pocket and the nub of a pencil. He wore thick spectacles, and a thick mop of hair pushed up into a white paper cap.
The man greeted the paladin, barely looking up from his notepad.