You have to come to Sandbox Radio Live's "Swing Time" if only just to see the gloriously goofy way that the amazing SBRL sound fX crew creates the sound of a tennis match for Tina Rowley's memoir essay "There but for the Grace of God Goes Jimmy Connors."
I took off work today. Nothing sneaky like calling in sick. Nope, I bit the bullet and burned a pre-arranged vacation day, so that I could be at ACT all day in advance of Sandbox Radio’s “Swing Time” going up tonight at 8 pm. As an actor, I’m not called until noon (as a writer, I’m not called at all), and since I’m only in Act I. I’m not really needed until much later that that, but I volunteered to help with the load-in. It’s something that all genuine theatre artists do, at least every so often. Here’s why…
All good and true theatre is subversive in some way. Always. It might be subversive in content, but that’s really just a surface aspect. Theatre’s true subversion comes from just existing, when all rights and logic, it shouldn’t. (If this sounds vaguely philosophical, then let me put some practical actuality around it. Václav Havel, the first president of a free Czech Republic, was a playwright before his political success. He made theatre that threatened the Soviet –backed status quo. The powers-that-were would have gladly silenced him, and sometimes did, but the subversive nature of theatre made it impossible for the totalitarian regime to shut up Havel, and other subversive theatre artists, for long.
Shows like Sandbox Radio Live! “Swing Time” aren’t supposed to happen. They don’t fit any preconceived notion of what theatre is or should be. In fact, Sandbox Radio Live!, like all good and true theatre, explodes those notions. Theatre at its best provides a venue for ideas and visions that don’t fit into the money-making machine of corporate story-telling (i.e. Hollywood, Broadway, etc.)
And in order for such wonderful subversion to take place, sometimes the artists need to make it happen with sweat equity and sheer force of will, doing jobs they were never trained for, working hours no one ever warned them about.
And thus the result is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Guaranteed.
I’m watching the first act of Sandbox Radio LIVE!: "Swing Time", which we will be performing live tomorrow at ACT in downtown Seattle, but will also be broadcasting via podcast as soon as we sweeten the sound.
I can relax a little for the moment because my two bits aren’t until act two. As per usual, I’m Sam in episode 12 of Markheim, but I also got drafted as a concessions vendor in our staging of the classic baseball balladry, “Casey at the Bat”.
There’s an intense ambient confusion to late process rehearsals—cue-to-cues and dress runs, etc.—that I find deeply unnerving, even though as a playwright I usually had absolutely zero responsibilities. Amidst the tumult, I am grateful for directors in a way I usually don’t admit to. I recall, at these times, my deep admiration for anyone who can handle chaos—indeed choreograph it— with expertise and élan. Two names leap to mind, Leslie Law, the director and producer of Sandbox Radio, and John Langs, who directed the Seattle premiere of my play Louis Slotin Sonata and the world premiere of The Sequence, my staging of the real-life race to decode the human genome. I offer you this memory of John, utterly out of context to protect the innocent and guilty alike, after having sat through 10 hours of tech as cool as a cucumber, then suddenly shouting: “Would someone please muzzle that fucking dog!” The show’s mascot Jack Russell Terrier had apparently rubbed John’s last nerve raw.
For now, I get to sit and blog to you, gentle reader, about how much I love Juliette Pruzan’s particular whimsy, which you’ll be able to witness yourself in her original piece, “Swing Time Swing Set” written especially for this show, and performed with delight by Seanjohn Walsh, Kathryn Van Meter, Amy Bush and others. I pride myself on knowing where the laughs will come in a new work. I’m not always right, but I can assure you there are plenty in this one. Probably some you’ll surprise us with when you come see tomorrow.
I was tagged by Lola Lindle as next in line to share thoughts about writing for the #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour. This turned out to be fortuitous, since I was already noodling on an essay about writing and Lola’s kind nod served to light a fire under my ass to finish it. So hearty thanks to Lola Lindle, and all the writers who have participated in the tour so far.
Link-surfing back through the tour I found these four questions to which I assume I should address my remarks:
I wrote the first episode of Markheim on a lark. It was several years ago, late in December, that time in corporate America when honestly nothing gets done, but you’re still expected to haunt your cubicle, like the living ghost of Bob Cratchit. I wanted to write a Christmas script, but something also hip and nasty, like we put on at AHA! Theatre for the variety show JunkXmas, way back in the mid-1990’s. It was really only a sketch of a play, tossed off and forgotten. The idea being to mash-up the nearly unnavigable moralities of LeCarre’s brilliant thrillers with the blunt choppy dialogue of Hammett’s incomparable detective stories, with maybe a little Miltonian angelology thrown in for texture. Even when I didn’t know exactly who was talking, the dialogue seemed to flow of its own volition.
BEZ: How long you think they’ll let you just wonder around over here unchaperoned?
MARKHEIM: Why should they care? They always get what they want.
BEZ: Maybe. But they ain’t crazy about... the unexpected.
I recently mentioned this play in my last essay “The Misuses of Art” and then realized I had not posted it anywhere for those who might want to read it.
I had great fun watching my son open and close this piece at last year’s SOAPFest, as well as witness the exquisite work of his fellow cast members Tracy Hyland, Michael Patten and Heather Hawkins, so masterfully directed by Annie Lareau. Such a great staging. I’ll never forget it.
An essay called “The Uses of Art” has generated a lot of traffic here at Just Wrought in the three and a half years since I posted it.1 I’m not sure why it’s so popular, maybe because it’s short and quick and has the kind of easily scannable list that’s very attractive on the internet these days. I’m still quite proud of the piece, even though I should probably admit now that I just sort of tossed it off from accumulated old notes. Recently, however, my thoughts have gone in a converse direction, towards those employments we generally assume art can be put to that it really can’t, or at least not very well: the misuses of art. A few months ago I began brain-brewing a list (by no means complete):
Persuade through rationality
Manage its own knee-jerk radicalism
Recognize its own inborn conservatism
Successfully proselytize for any particular religion or political party
The Starting Gate. That’s the name of the book I’m working on. It’s sort of a memoir, but more of a rumination. It’s about drinking. It’s about working. It’s about trying to get right what I should be doing, now that I’ve retired from what kept me from going crazy for the last 25 years.
You’re asleep. Dead unconscious. So in a way you aren’t anything.
There is a blast, or a flash. In any case a vast shock of everything. Now you are cold. Freezing. Parts of you are burning. The wind rips through you. You see darkness. Mostly. Falling fire punctuates it. And you are falling.
Ah right: you were in an airplane. But now you are being torn by the torrent of your downward spiraling. Dead soon.