Friday, July 28, 2017

The Country Wife, and Black Bean Burritos

Random thoughts on William Wycherly's The Country Wife...

Really? there we go. It's funny and depressing at the same time. So really? This is a "you can't make this shit up unless it's really going on around you" kind of play. Basic premise is Mr. Horner pretends to be impotent so he can gain access to married women. The women pretend to be pure and prudish so they can gain access to Mr. Horner. Hilarity ensures, and a lot more sex than you think would happen in a play from 1675. seems to me with a bit of tweaking, this could just as soon be set yesterday.

Plus, I'm noticing a lot of domestic violence, between this, Wuthering Heights, and The Way We Life Now, women get clobbered and threatened pretty often. It doesn't seem like the authors look kindly on this but the way it's reported, it's definitely a matter or course for all these folks involved, say 1675, 1800-ish, and 1873.

There's lots of funny stuff in Wife, as one can imagine, and at the end... well nothing comes out the way you'd think. Trolloppe ends The Way We Live Now with most folks finding happiness that has been denied them for the past 800 pages, or the villains get theirs. The actual wife of the title falls in love with Horner (who as you can see is very busy) so while you root for her to get what she wants, what would she get? I'm curious what people thought of it back then as well as women playing those kinds of roles.

On another note, I'm trying to rethink how I write plays. Like totally and completely. I don't know exactly how to do this, but after to many it would be kind of dull to keep up the same model. Maybe dull isn't the word, but... I remember reading a bunch if Ibsen and thinking "here we go again," and I'd like to not be that person, should anyone read a whole bunch of my plays in rapid succession. What I'd like, to be honest, is a little less plot and a little more "happening."

I have a few reasonably plotless plays. "Black Bean Burritos," "Livin' Life on De Fly" are more random scenes with a bunch of songs. "Woof the Road Show" is kind of like that as well. You can do a lot if you junk the plot. You need a story, but do you need a whole bunch of too-familiar tropes of storyline? Probably so if you're going to get produced. I don't know how to even go about with BBB. The songs we do in the band, Grave Injustices, Letter from Liberia, and Over the Trumpet, are from BBB. It's about race, about politics, and it's kind of a "Groundhog Day" experience with a guy ordering burritos. There's a scene of Obama trying to buy a car, with cash, and the dealership not trusting where the money came from. And a scene that makes fun of late night TV fundraisers. And an actual story around it, of street musicians and homelessness.

I had to cancel it because the cast couldn't rehearse. So there it lay, throughout the entire Obama administration, hoping to see the light of day. Maybe sometime.

There's a boatload of plays from England, so I could read them forever. It's got quite a theatrical history which is pretty cool. Was just thinking London is kind of like classical Athens, in the accomplishments of so many in a small population, and the arrogance of empire that came with it. but that's a long treatise for another day.

Still, if your play from 1675 is still trotting the boards, you must have done something remarkable.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rolla, and then Maplewood

The band's show in Rolla was fun, but HOT. Like 104 degrees outside hot. We played at the Public Brew House, and those folks are really awesome. Plus their beer is getting around more, if you're into microbrewery, try it. I don't drink beer but people who do like what they've got!

Thanks to Ellen Saracini joining the band we've been able to revive a few songs for female vocalist, so it was the first performances of Good Times Comin' Round and Letter From Liberia in quite awhile. LFL seems like it's hard for some folks to sing, I had a few former band members that didn't love singing it but Ellen's got it nailed. It's kind of a gospel/South African sound mixed together. I'd hang at the PBH a lot, I think, if it was closer.

Next for me is a Stone Spiral show, and I'm trying to bring out some "nemesis rags," i.e. rags that are challenging and refuse to be learned. One is "Buzzer" by May Aufderheide, and I have it pretty buzzed up for now. "Don't Jazz Me - I'm Music" by James Scott is one from the end of his career, and you can sort of hear a "farewell to ragtime" in it, I think. I really like it and I've performed it a few times, so out it comes. It jumps octaves a lot, and has a cool drawn-out syncopation that I've not come across in any other rag.And finally "Fontella Rag" by Ethyl Smith; she lived in St. Louis and she's got two rags to her credit. There's a passage in it that just eludes me but it's finally coming together. Plus she does a nice job of brining elements from one strain into another, which you don't see that often. So then you get to where you can play all this, and it's like "why was that so hard?" It just takes more practice than you think.

As a play director - and that's where this is suddenly going - I wondered at actors who didn't know a line or ten for a show and then... didn't know it the next, and at the end of the run had boffed it up all six times. Who does that? Not any performer who cares for their craft. So anyway I've learned that basically if you don't know it, you need more practice and that's about what it needs. But some pieces are beyond your capability at a certain time, perhaps. I don't need to dive into Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerti tomorrow.

We have one guy in Rolla named Dave who's a super fan... he was so excited to see us! It's cool to have folks that really love what you do. Yep I know some bands have millions of those, but you have what you have, and you need to appreciate everyone. So Dave, we appreciate you. And Josh and Josh and Layne and Jason and Dirk and Colin and everyone else at PBH, thanks for having us & bein' cool.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Women In Literature

My literature, anyway...

one thing a writer tries to do (or not, in some cases) is to write well-rounded characters. But that means sometimes they don't sit well with other folks reading that character. The question is this: is the character "badly written" or just that you're unhappy with the portrayal? Do you think this is a portrayal of ALL women, when it's meant to be a portrayal of just one?

Many men have a problem with writing women, and vice versa. I've been on both ends of this, I've been praised and burned for my female characters. I wrote a play called Cowboy Logic which went on in 2001, and many of the women in the audience said the female characters were masterfully written. I didn't ask, they just said as much. A review of my book The Prophecy says the two women in the book are NOT well written because they're petty and whiny and all kinds of things, plus one character's love for a man is questioned... (there are four major female characters, did she miss the other two?...)

Seeking Asylum has been lambasted for Renee, who constantly fights against having to play a support character in a male dominated script (but she's not always the nicest, either). I would say Renee is lonely and acts out of that, and in order to fight that loneliness she sometimes hurts other people.

It's kind of this, I think, to the portrayal wrong (stereotypical), or just something you don't like... the women in The Prophecy have the power in the book; the queen rules an empire the point of the book is she has to stamp out a new religion to save her country according to... a prophecy! So in order to keep that power and stave off annihilation, they do some stuff that's cruel, and as a result of that power, they do some stuff that's selfish. Like men do. Some folks loved Queen Jayde for her sarcastic sense of humor as the world crashed around her (largely her responsibility), some didn't.

One of my favorite things to study in history is women in power, because it was so rare, and because they either had, it seems, all the power as Queen, or none of it, or very little, as someone's wife. I wonder why some Queens didn't appoint women to other state offices, but probably it wasn't allowed, and they had enough trouble keeping the throne as it was.

Arielle is Star Bryan's sister in my book conveniently named Star Bryan, and she's often the most popular character there, or close to it. She doesn't take no shit, more or less... and has an interesting way of dealing with things.

I did write a novel at age 19 and upon reflection, the women are horribly portrayed. I do wonder looking back if it's because my male characters were "in the closet" and should have been "out," so the female characters were stuck with a bunch of closeted men. I dunno. Maybe I just needed to grow. I want to just toss the book, but I don't have the heart. I might anyway.

The editor at Brooklyn Publishers said I can really "get into the mind of a teenage girl" and I don't know if that's good or not! But when you write plays for schools, you need to put in a lot of girls, and they tell you not to just make them all secondary characters. So I have written some strong female characters, Naomi in Z-Town, Sadie in For a Pair of Prom Shoes, for example.

I think though too many people make the mistake of thinking that if a writer writes a woman a particular way he is saying Cosi Fan Tutte, so at they all... or any other minority, ethnicity, etc. If you're going to expect to be portrayed realistically, sometimes that means you won't come out on top. For what it's worth Xena seems to be a great example if strong women in literature (or whatever you call Xena, if not that)

In a lot of literature the men DO and the women REACT, so having some more powerful female characters, whether they are "good" or "bad" can't hurt.

Band update!

So what's going on these days!

The band took about 6 months off and then we went 0 to 60 pretty quick! It's been an exciting summer, plus we have, as mentioned before... new songs for YOU (and us too, I've seen bands disintegrate because they never learn new material.) On July 22 we're playing at the Public Brew House in Rolla, MO. They're having Blues and BBQ. We'll supply the blues and eat some of the BBQ. We play at 3, and another band starts at 7, so it's a whole day of BBQ and BLOOZ! come and enjoy!

We've been playing at Public House since its first year, I think, and it's been cool watching this company grow into two locations and state wide (at least) distribution. If I drank beer I'd recommend giving them a try, but I know folks who do enjoy their brew, so... give 'em a try!

In August we're playing at a private pool party, which we've done for two years now. This is a fun time, easy going, plus again FOOD for ALL. well, you gotta eat.

Back to Price Chopper Stage at Kauffman Stadium on Sept 9 where we'll open for a Royals game. We've learned Kansas City Blues by Euday Bowman. I'll have to say everyone in the group was not into this when we started, but now it's become one of our favorites. For one, we don't swing it (you can't, it just doesn't work) and for two, it's a bit unusual in how it's constructed. So it didn't sound so good until we got it right. It took me awhile to figure it out as well, but I was determined to see it through... I picked the sax part from a trombone part that's on a really old recording of the song, and that adds a lot. There's a certain wild and wooly-ness to very early jazz and blues that we seem to have lost, or decided against.

You can't... well you can but you shouldn't... OK well I've seen people try out a piece of music, hit approixmiatel 50% of the notes, and say the music stinks. Well how do you know, you haven't heard it?

anyway that's the scoop for the band... oh and we've added Ellen Saracini on vocals, and she's helping us revive some tunes we haven't been able to do for awhile... look for Letter from Liberia and Good Times Comin' Round, cuz they're BACK!