Friday, October 30, 2009

More videos!

Frienemies Through Thick and Thin:

The Anniversary Special (end is cut off):

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Perfect Life

Uploaded the video of my play to YouTube! Gabriel's and Nora's still to come!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One week later....

Still mildly traumatized. Kidding of course. This was my 5th WWSS as a writer (I'm still emotionally scarred from acting in the first one and have closed that door... kidding....kind of... not really at all). I managed to scribble this one out between 11pm-3am with a few 8am touch ups. Afterwards went to Hooters. Came home and watched baseball and football. Sauntered over to the show. That's the life for me.

That being said, this was truly one of the stand outs in the WWSS world to date.

Irony of ironies - I got the subject of birth. Now, I could go one of a few ways. 1.) The kitchen sink adorable way. 2.) Offensive humor. Hooray for offensive humor!

I was blessed from the get go with a talented cast - I knew Aimee from past theater endeavors but this was my first time seeing her act. I had it on good reference that she was a strong comedic actor and ran with that. The accent/trailer trash was her add on which I thought was perfectly chosen. I'd seen Doua act once before and liking and knowing his talents - figured he'd be a strong choice for my frantic male double daddy (which he was). I wasn't acquainted yet with Melisa, but went on her resume and had her become my ready to pop, unknowing straight lady - to which she did with great fun and vision.

And Tom. Ah Tom. We have a bit of local history - he'd just acted in a one act with me (directed by Christine) and then acted in my play cycle 'Quiet Bed', and incidentally the morning after the shorts we were the last two men called back for a supporting role in an upcoming play (congratulations by the way - ass hat. Kidding. Sort of. Not really.) Regardless, I knew his comedic timing was excellent and he became my uber perverted doctor.

I couldn't have had a luckier pick of the hat then to get Gretchen Ferris. We've been working together since she AD'd Bludgeon the Lime and her vision, organization, and imagination are a-one. I knew we'd have something fun when, after her initial read, I asked if it was too bawdy. When she said 'no'. I knew we were on. With some fortunate ideas for staging and having it a face off between the two women, she brought to life the funnier actions through out it all - i.e. the ice fight and dual sedation. She also had the great idea of bringing 'Martha' (previously just a creepy fade out chant by the doctor) into a sock puppet and utilizing the mystery prop (pom pom) to great effect. That aside, the pacing, lines, and energy was exactly what I'd hoped for.

Major kudos to writers/directors new and old - this series of work was incredible across the board and really set a new benchmark for years to come (thanks for that guys....jerks....kidding... no I'm not.)

Congrats to all!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Duncan's Wrap up

So I had a lot of fun this time around- after doing the WWSS two times before, I was relatively relaxed. I got my subject "Reunion", which immediately brought to mind thoughts of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, and got three female headshots (and one hot guy), so ditto.
Got home and wrote for three hours, discovering things about the characters as I went along- I'd write for about 4 pages, not knowing where I was going, and then get to that point and suddenly see where the next section was. Anne LaMott mentions, in Bird by Bird, that writing can sometimes be like driving at night with your headlights on- you can't see the whole way, but you can see a little bit in front of you, and you can make the whole journey that way- I've never felt that more than in writing this piece.

Finished a first draft at 3am, and went to bed for a few hours- woke up and pored over the draft, cutting unnecessary things and moving things around, adding some foreshadowing, etc...
Stopped off at Staples to print it (the one by my apartment in Queens this time, not the one on 9th avenue that fucked me over last time), then dropped it off. Met my director, Chris Simon (our mutual friend Nick had suggested that Christine not go random and just shove us together- she didn't, but we picked each other randomly anyway). He read the script, we chatted a bit about it. Jeffery, the guy from my play, showed up early so I met him, too- he and another actor were discussing what they might be wearing- not knowing what they'd be playing, they'd each brought some nice clothes and some slobby clothes. I didn't have the heart to tell Jeffery he'd be in his underwear (but glad I made that choice- even hotter in person).

I headed out to my sister-in-law's Noon UCB class show, where my friend Jason mentioned the classic improv book Something Wonderful Right Away, which of course made me think of the WWSS series- I think my improv training from years ago really helps with it.

Did get to sleep some, after all, then headed to the theater. Saw Erin and Jeffery in the hallway outside- Erin said the play was like Chekhov, a sad comedy- I took it as high praise. My show was second, which was exciting- the last two times I've been randomly first- nice to have a warm-up act.

When I wrote the play, I wrote with some of the performers in mind from what I knew from their headshots, and Chris had cast the women differently and perfectly.
The show was great, especially the second time when they got more of the lines I wrote out of their mouths. :)

I actually voted for Nora's piece as Best Script. Jeffery agreed with me, saying it had a It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia vibe. ...but sweeter.

I won Best Use of Event- Ironically, since Christine had intended that it be a family reunion, but I didn't realize that, and did a high school reunion instead.

Monday, October 19, 2009

After Show Comments

Needless to say I was nervous the moment after my teacher, Marc Palmieri, recommended me for the event. Christine contacted me and added me as a writer. Not only was this my first time participating in the WWSS event, but it was the first time any script of mine was performed. Ever.

After receiving my casts’ headshots and resumes (2F/2M), theme (Graduation), and the lines I’ll never forget, I hopped on the 1-train and the M86 back to my cave. I hadn’t eaten dinner, but was too anxious to eat.

I read the resumes and paid close attention to special skills section. Marian Brock’s “International Folk Dancing (16 years experience)” was the first thing I circled. Folk dancing? “Like Hobbit-shit and shit?” And there was the first line to end up in the script. After 5 minutes of research on what exactly folk dancing is, I decided to make her a vegan, hummus wrap eating, cat loving, aspiring poet, dancing in the park for money hipster whose biggest fear in life is getting worms and/or E-Coli from tainted meat. I wrote and wrote and wrote from 12 to 5:30. The script was too short, I knew it right away. But, I did not want to run over time. I woke up at 8:00, proofed the script, rewrote “the line” so that the folk dancer sings it—best decision I made through the entire process.

I decided to stick in a hooker. Why not? Laura Yost, thank you for dressing, very convincingly, as “The Coppertone Baby of street walkers.” She told me the cast rehearsed in Starbucks and were subject to glares from concerned patrons. Thank you all for offending Starbucks costumers. Much obliged.

Needed an Ewok reference, of course.

And since it would be far too crazy to incorporate actual turkey slapping, I made it the title and a character name. For all those who went home (or whipped out those iPhones and Blackberrys) and looked up the phrase, I hope you added it to your lexicon.

Through the day and until it was over, I was fidgety. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep.

And I thank everyone who voted for me as the “Best Use of The Line” and to Marian for going all Madonna on it and splitting her jeans in the process.

The night was a success, especially the second performance. Ashley did a great job with cuts and changes. I thank you, Ashley. Although you didn’t get to see the final product, I wish you had.

It’s incredibly rare; a person having an experience and knowing right away, without any retrospect or reflection, that it was important and life-changing. This was one for me.

I enjoyed all the shorts, and I look forward to doing the event again. Maybe next time I can incorporate actual turkey slapping! What do you think, Christine…?

What the What?!

Seriously, I'm still a bit surprised that my script and show won this time around. Not that I didn't think they were deserving, but because the last two times I've participated in the festival the results were not even remotely close to this! So I was mentally prepped to just chalk it up to another chance to write and then.... Well, to quote Hannibal from the A-Team - "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Much like Oliver wrote in his blog, when I reflected on my past scripts in prep for participating this time I looked at what I did as a writer that may have resulted in a jumbled final product. I also thought about what worked in other people's scripts.

I decided that my goal was to write with broad strokes, giving the actors/director room to play. I also wanted to be minimal with dialogue as I felt like maybe memorizing lines I wrote in the past may have been a tripping point for some of the actors...maybe?

So after getting my theme, "Anniversary", actors (2 men, 2 women), line and other instructions I headed off and just let the thoughts marinate as I started texting Christine with my first random thoughts (Anniversary in a Chain Restaurant?) and then read a book about a former Cornhusker turned drug addict on the ride home. When I got home and turned on my computer I realized I had started watching 30 Rock and thought well, I HAVE to finish it. So I watched that and then decided I needed to see Grey's Anatomy from 2 weeks ago - so while Papa Grey was in need of a liver I started googling random info about "Anniversaries" - like what gift went w/ how many years - and scribbling out script ideas feeling like I'd probably been putting off the actual "writing" part long enough! ;)

Cut to 4am when my plan to write minimal dialogue didn't seem to be working and I thought maybe I should take a nap. Oliver texted me to see if I was still awake. "Yes". The phone rang. He asked how it was going. I expressed frustration with my dialogue. He thought he had probably offended Christine with his updates. Just another night of writing for WWSS!

Of course, at 4am things probably look a lot bleaker than they really are and after taking a nap and attacking the script again, I felt a little better by the time I called it "done" at 6am. I set my alarm for 730am - enough time to look it over again, adjust if necessary, print, shower (I wasn't sure if I'd be staying in the city after I turned in my script so I thought I'd better make myself presentable!) and allow plenty of time for potentially crazy subway issues...

After a quick stop @ Cosi for breakfast. (I couldn't wait to go to Vnyl - I was hungry!) It was time to gather with the other writers and and discuss how much, if any, sleep everyone got!

The director draw came and I was matched up w/ first time director (but not a first time participant in WWSS), Graeme Humphrey. I had him read the script. I pointed out writing a handstand in based on an actor's resume but said that was negotiable, I also mentioned "Charles" needing a weird/distinctive voice. Graeme asked how I felt if my script was altered. I told him it was okay within reason. We both agreed that if any major changes were being discussed he'd give me a call.

I never got a call... I guess that's good?! I hoped for the best.

When I saw Graeme before the show I asked how it went- specifically with the weird voice. Graeme said - "He's deaf."

In my lack of sleep stupor I was confused for a beat. "The actor?"

"No - the character."


I still wasn't quite sure what to expect but was thankful that my show was third so I didn't wait long to find out!

The show was performed and I was extremely happy with the results! Although, members of the cast acknowledged they had a great script to work with they definitely contributed to fleshing the play out. (Example - "eyeing" was changed to "eye-banging/humping".) It further proved to me how important every single element of a play production is whether it is produced in 21 hrs or over the course of way more hours than that!

Although it seemed people enjoyed "The Anniversary Special" I wasn't totally sold that we were going to win it - even though others thought so. When we did - Wheeeee! :) It was definitely a collaborative effort and I applaud the cast (Chris Cusano, Ben Klier, Kristen Kay Miller and Jenny Zerke) and Graeme for making the most of my script!

That being said, I know I haven't been to all of the WWSS shows but out of the ones I have been to, I think this has been the most solid show yet!

Congrats to all and now it's time for a nap.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Festival...

This round of the shorts was an interesting one for me in a number of ways. Where as in the past the festival itself has been primarily a way to have fun hanging out with friends while doing something I love, this time around it became a strange and unintentional learning experience for me.

I'm re-reading my script as I write this and still find myself laughing at it on every page. Upon completing it and handing it off to my director, the very talented Chris Bell whose enthusiasm for the script mirrored my own, I went home eagerly anticipating seeing the story and characters come to life on stage that evening.

When it finally came time for "Mindy" to go up, second to last show of the night, the bar had already been raised so high by the preceding shows I couldn't help but become nervous (as I always do), fearing that somehow my own work wouldn't stand up to everyone else's and look amateurish in comparison. This is where things became interesting because, in short, it did. As it played out, jokes which I thought would work extremely well fell flat. Situations the characters found themselves in didn't carry with them the impact I originally envisioned, and lines which were written with good intent the night before came across as immature and vulgar.

The failure for that of course lies solely with myself and the writing. The comedy in the script, the style of humor and the subject matter, is such that if it's not delivered in the proper manner will fall apart and become detrimental for the show as a whole. The tone here becomes so important that if it's not presented exactly the way the writer (in this case myself) envisioned, it becomes blatantly offensive (this can be common in my writing, as anyone who has read my play "Adam of the Apes" will attest to. It's also easily apparent in an upcoming short I've written which is being produced this winter). This is a shortcoming and a failure of the script's and of myself as a writer, being unable to communicate the intent of the work properly and make the piece accessible not only to those viewing it, but also those interpreting it.

Now those who know me well know that I am not easily upset or offended by anything, especially my own writing, but watching my show that night there were lines and moments that even I found to be alarmingly crude. I am reminded of a recent quote by David Letterman regarding a joke he made which did not come across as intended:

“I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception... It doesn’t make any difference what my intent was, it’s the perception... and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception... It’s not your fault that it was misunderstood, it’s my fault that it was misunderstood.”

That to me seems to relate to my show quite succinctly and sums up my thoughts better than I would be able to express myself. I don't apologize for myself very often but it seems in this case to not do so would be a larger grievance than what I may have already caused, so I do need to at this time apologize to all those involved in the festival, and especially to my wonderful and talented director and actresses who threw themselves into the project with more determination and commitment than it perhaps deserved. The fact that they did so is a testament to their professionalism, ethic, character and talent.

The rest of the evening and the shows were a blast. There wasn't a single one that failed to keep me laughing throughout and it was a pleasure to see the wonderful work done by all the new writers, directors and actors on board this time around as well as the continued high level of quality I've come to expect from those I've worked with in the past. You all continually give me something to strive towards.