We Move West

And here I am, hey blog. HEY, HEY BLOG.

BLOG. HEY. HEY BLOG.

[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.]

I know you can HEAR ME COW.
I know you can HEAR ME COW.

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.

IS THE JPEG OF YOUR COVER ART BELOW THE MAXIMUM PIXEL LIMIT???
IS THE JPEG OF YOUR COVER ART BELOW THE MAXIMUM PIXEL LIMIT???

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.

6. Shadeaux Bros. Christmas Album. Got to jump on this one with both feet, as it does have a built in deadline. Unfamiliar with our previous work? Take a listen and be forever changed.

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.

Broad physical comedy is what I do.
Broad physical comedy is what I do.

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!

 

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Fleeting

image

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.

White-Hot Greasefire of Entertainment

Pippin-Anxiety
Josh Darnell as Pippin, with The Players

Pippin opens on Friday.

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

This doesn't happen in the show. Only in my heart.
This doesn’t happen in the show. Only in my heart.

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.

Pictured: The Cast of Pippin
Pictured: The Cast of Pippin

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.

 

Director’s Note

[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.]

The Players

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.

G. Derek Adams
Director

What’s Pippin about?

Well, it’s about us.

People. Humans. Actors.

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?

Can I get back to you on that?

 

The Fourth Wall Diner

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.

“Sup, Big Green. What’ll you have?”

Nerd/Aesthete convergence.

I’m in a production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, and a friend came to see the show last night. Here is the wonderfully arcane series of texts we traded. Warning: These jokes require a clear memory of the game Bioshock, as well as serious familiarity with the Bard’s text. In other words, this will be funny to no one.

Josh: I’m seeing a definite Bioshock influence in the Comedy of Errors set .Deliberate or unintentional.

Me: Sadly unintended.

Me: No gods or kings!

Josh: Is Antipholus not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?

Me: Antipholus chooses, but Dromio obeys.

Josh: Haha. Well played, sir.

Yes, we are freakish nerds. We also made jokes about sandwiches made by Determinism.  Envy us.