Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Creating vs. Determination

An excerpt from Creating, by Robert Fritz.  This is from chapter 15, "Long-Term Creating," a chapter that deals specifically with goal-setting:
The one ingredient you don’t need is determination.  I am tired of hearing all the motivational speakers attempt to goose their audiences into the ranks of the determined.  If you must muster determination to create what you want, you are going about it all wrong.  Great musicians do not use determination to develop their skills, nor do great athletes, nor do great actors, nor do great inventors, nor do great scientists, nor do great furniture designers.  Determination is for people who are not very good at what they do.  Determination is a short-term motivational manipulation that is designed to overcome inertia, procrastination, and ineptitude.  The power of determination runs out awfully fast.  That’s why those who attempt to instill themselves with determination need to continually bombard themselves with motivational tapes and books.  You cannot build momentum based on determination or through other forms of willpower manipulation.
(Emphasis his.)

Etch that phrase into your shaving mirror so you see it every morning:  "Determination is for people who are not very good at what they do."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

2010 Year in Review: Torrid Affaire

[My year kicked off with the restaging of my play Torrid Affaire by Theatre Unleashed.  Below is my "Playwright's Statement" from the program of that run.]

Theatre Unleashed presents: Torrid Affaire

Funny story. Torrid Affaire grew out of frustration.

Back in 2005, I had this nutty idea to produce a play. I'd cast some of the wonderful people I had met over the previous year of "getting back into theatre," rent a small hall for a limited run, and see if I still knew what I was doing. After all, I am a college educated artist! (Insert impressed "oohs" and "aahs" here.) I had the play all picked out, a farcical work about five women in the midst of change, each harboring secrets. I cast the show, did a first read-through ... and got word that my request for rights had been declined.

After yelling at the walls and scaring the dogs for the better part of the afternoon, I announced to my very patient and understanding wife, "Fuck it! I'll write a play myself!" I sat down, and two weeks later the first draft of Torrid Affaire was finished. The cast was on board with the change (apparently, I'm very charismatic when I'm angry,) and rehearsals began immediately. I workshopped the play on the fly -- tweaking this line, rewriting those pages -- like a quarterback calling plays on the field. The play opened to a packed house, and closing night was sold out. Not bad for a two night run.

The first cast of Torrid Affaire (L to R):  Jacqueline Valmont, Cassandra Cousineau, Amy Ray, Carrie Spellman, Pamela Moore, and that tall drink of water in the back is Josh Green.

Torrid Affaire became the calling card that got me into a theatre company later that year, that proved my chops to new collaborators, and helped convince them I could write a play about the backstage antics at a 1940s burlesque hall when we broke off and started this company.

The lesson, at least for me, is as follows: When you get pissed-off, do something about it. When the threshhold guardians of life tell you "NO!" find a way to do it anyway. Trust your abilities, trust your friends, and follow the path you've committed to. The longterm pay-off cannot be estimated; positive action has untold repercussions that resonate in ways you may never appreciate.

Enough preaching. I hope you enjoy Torrid Affaire. Although born of frustration, it was crafted to delight.

The Theatre Unleashed cast of Torrid Affaire (clockwise from bottom left):  Taryn Chaifetz, Darci Dixon, Katie Sikkema, Annmarie Migini, Ana Therese Lopez and that slice of man meat in the middle is Josh Morrison.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Merry Filthy Christmas


Produced by Darren T. Mangler and Theatre Unleashed at Sidewalk Studio Theater in Burbank

[DISCLAIMER: I co-founded Theatre Unleashed in 2008 and served as president of the company until October of this year. I have also had the great fortune of working with Darren Mangler a number of times, and consider him a friend. I kind of know Josh Green, as well. :-) ]

Darren Mangler is an animal; a great comic beast who roams unbridled across the vast, untamed wild of Los Angeles comedy. He is incapable of not being funny. Actually, I take that back -- in The Unserious Chekhov earlier this year, I directed Darren in Chekhov's short play "On the Main Road," and he manages dramatic material with the same balls-out committment with which he approaches comedy.  But I digress.

Merry Filthy Christmas is billed as "L.A.'s Longest Running Holidy Sketch Show" -- it certainly predates Theatre Unleashed.  Our company was just a twinkle in our naive little eyes when I first heard of the show, at that time produced at Write/Act Repertory in Hollywood.

Is it offensive?  I suppose so.  To be honest, even the raunchiest jokes are presented with such good humor and purity (yes, purity) of spirit it's easy to laugh in spite of one's self.  There were a few groaners (what comedy show would be complete without them?) But overall the night was -- dare I say? -- good, clean fun.  Good clean fun with ample incest, anal-sex and scatalogical jokes. It is a strange line that Mangler and Co., walk, and they walk it well.

This past Friday night was your last chance to catch the 2010 edition of this show, but you should make plans to catch this naughty and nice show next year. I know I'll be back!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Pin-Up Girls Progress

Pin-Up Girls in process.

[NOTE: I'm cleaning out old drafts again. Here's a brief snippet from 7/16/08, shortly after I held auditions for Pin-Up Girls (and before the final draft was done, 'cause that's how I roll.)  I'm experiencing a similar problem with the new play, Lang.  It's good to remind myself in moments like this that I have been there before.  Pin-Up Girls became a box office and critical hit for Theatre Unleashed.  I had know idea what I was in store for when I wrote these words.]
HELEN
Trumpet players make good kissers. I know from experience.

ETHEL
How many experiences?

HELEN
You know, I don't like you any more.
I've been "working on" Pin-Up Girls for a few years now. It has taken on epic stature in my mind, and there was a point a couple of weeks back where I was seriously considering throwing in the towel on it. Because, you see, I was afraid that nothing I could write would be as good as what I had in mind.

There is a term for that kind of thinking. The term is "crazy." Nothing ever measures up to what you imagine, if only because imagination is not tethered to such real-life concerns as "story structure" and "good dialogue."

The trick is to capture the feeling I get when the imaginary Pin-Up Girls unspools before my "mind's eye," to hit the essential story beats, and to create something that measures up to the impossibly high standard I have set for this thing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

If You're Not a Part of the Solution ...

One of my boyhood idols, a Christian song evangelist named Jeff Steinberg posted the following quote on Facebook today:
"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
- Harry Truman
Jeff was one of the first entertainers--who made a living as an entertainer--that I met.  I was maybe three or four years-old at the time.  He has an incredible story, and a powerful voice.  If he isn't the picture of optimism as defined above, I don't know who is.

"Don't tell me why it can't be done; help me figure out how it can."  That was a mantra I held onto over the past few years.  Nothing frustrates me more than people saying "No, but ...."  If you're not in the solution business, you should maybe not be in the theatre business.

Which is it to be?  Making difficulties of your opportunities, or making opportunities of your difficulties?