Friday, January 30, 2009

Okay, so eight playwrights walk into a city...

...and what happens?

Actually what happens is Open City, a project dreamed up by PlayGroup, Portland Center Stage's ongoing playwriting workshop. In short, we all nominated eight locations in Portland, wrote them on paper, tossed the paper into a hat (or a mayonnaise jar...I can't remember), drew our locations, then drew our number of players. And wrote. And it's freakin' cool. (Except my piece.)

The playwrights are: Althea Hukari, Shelly Lipkin, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson (I just wandered in from the street, looking for beer), Andrea Stolowitz, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski. Matt's directing. The cast is: Deirdre Atkinson, Ben Buckley, Timothy M. Hill, and Lara Kobrin.

It's Monday, February 2, 2009, at 7:30pm at The Gerding Theater, Portland Center Stage at The Armory (that's the big stage, folks). Admission is free. Plus it's the cherry on top of the fabulous Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Works, which means there's a party afterwards. With beer. So wander in.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Expect Moonwalking

Mill Mountain Theatre hangs it up....

Theatre de la Jeune Lune already has. Lack of sufficient funding.

Madison Repertory Theatre says so long...

But don't worry! Broadway plans to do a musical adaptation of Michael Jackson's "Thriller."


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Updike Dead at 76

John Updike died today at age 76. He wasn't one of my favorite authors, but I had tremendous respect for him and his accomplishments. He came from a generation of authors that now seems a little larger than life, even though his specialty was observing the small gestures and hanging moments that comprise our lives.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why do we stay?

My friend and colleague, Ami Sallee Corley (a superb actress who's played the leads in my plays "Waiting on Sean Flynn" and "Delusion of Darkness" at Tampa's Jobsite Theater), has been invited to begin blogging on the arts for Tampa's Website "Creative Loafing." Her first column asks a question that I think artists in Portland...and in Minneapolis, Seattle, Austin, etc., can identify with, which is: when it's so tough to make a living from your art in your community, why stay?

Why do we stay?

(Possible Answer: It's Tampa. The cigars, of course.)

Next weekend, representatives from the Dramatists Guild are coming to Portland to hold a Playwrights/Theatre Town Hall Meeting, and this may well be a pertinent question to ask, given that they have members in communities across the country and are privy to this dilemma and the many ways artists have found to address it.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Disappearing Act

This one's for my friends at Portland Center Stage....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dig this...

Obama's at the parade today...a Hawaiian marching band goes by...and what does our new Hawaiian Shark God do?Mahalo, baby. Even Bill Clinton couldn't pull that one off.

We have met the president, and he is Lono.

Welcome... the 2st Century.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Farewell, Princeling!

Tomorrow, a new chapter in American history begins.


Tomorrow, we also say so long to the Man for No Seasons. The Little Engine that Couldn't. The Savant in Chief. So here's one more brief tumble down the rabbit hole. Hoo-ray. We survived. (Uh, most of us, that is.)

Premios Dardo

Well, it seems there's an award for blogs--there's an award for everything--and Mr. Robert Hicks over at Art Scatter has been so kind to recognize splattworks for...well...because he likes us. Which is very gracious indeed and greatly appreciated those of us toiling endlessly in the splattworks quarry. I shall allow our extensive staff to take a five-minute champagne break before I put them back to work dragging boulders to the top of the hill only to watch them roll back again.

Seriously, it's nice enough that you folks read splattworks from time to time. It's even nicer that Bob likes the blog enough to recognize it.

There are, however, a few rules involved in accepting the award. To wit:

1) Accept the award and post it on your blog together with the name of the person that granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award on to another 15 blogs you feel should receive said recognition.

3) Contact the awardees to let them know they too are among the order of Premios Dardo.

Not sure what happens if you break the chain, but I'm certainly not going to risk the consequences (or lose the chance to recognize blogs I appreciate). My Premios Dardo nominees follow below.) Congratulations to all of them.


Adam Szymkowicz
Blogsite Theater
Fight To Survive
Mr. Excitement News
On Theatre and Politics - Matthew Freeman
Owl Farm Blog
Paper Fort
the constant creator
The Gospel According to Marc
Trish and Harold's Weblog
Visible Soul

Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009

Andrew Wyeth, aged 91, died in his sleep this morning. Which I think is as much as any of us can ask for. Here's a link to the story:

Andrew Wyeth, American Painter, Dies At 91

There's kind of a remarkable quote from Wyeth hiding in the middle of the story. It goes:

Much of Wyeth's work had a melancholy feel _ aging people and brown, dead plants _ but he chose to describe his work as "thoughtful."

"I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future _ the timelessness of the rocks and the hills _ all the people who have existed there," he once said. "I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape _ the loneliness of it _ the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show.

"I think anything like that _ which is contemplative, silent, shows a person alone _ people always feel is sad. Is it because we've lost the art of being alone?"

Hopper and Wyeth, in my mind, seem interconnected...both painters of empty spaces, time, and solitude, one of the city, the other of the country. Now, in the mind's eye, one sees "Christina's World"...but there's no figure in the foreground. Just the hill, the house in the distance, and a space where the grass has been flattened.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Separated at Birth?

My friend Mead Hunter recently had a traumatic experience with one of those which-celeb-do-you-look like sites; so he came upon the brilliant idea of putting forth his own doppelganger (which worked pretty good).

To wit, here's my contribution to the Separated at Birth concept.


P.S.: A friend recently sent me two refrigerator magnets, one of the Dali Lama and one of Hunter S. Thompson, and the resemblance is eerie.

P.S.S.: To correct the perceptions of at least one wag, the figure pictured on the left is not Charles Manson; it's Warren Beatty in "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"

Friday, January 9, 2009

Let's Get Plowed

Warning: serious fun ahead.

Portland is about to launch an inaugration of its own: the Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Work. From January 23rd to February 1st, theatres all over Portland have committed to staging new plays, from full productions to concert readings. It's kind of like a South-by-Southwest music festival but for theatre, where you can buy a pass and theatre-hop for a couple weeks. Or you can by a button and get into shows at a discount. (You can also just buy tickets regularly, of course.) It's a grand experiment, and the Portland theatre community, especially playwrights, hope it's a smashing success that becomes an ongoing, annual event. No matter how it turns out, it's great to see theatre companies take a chance on something new. For more info, go to Fertile Ground. Special thanks to Tricia Pancio (there's imp herself, above right) for being the little-engine-that-could get this thing going. She's worked her ass off, and Portland theatre community (and the whole city) owe her a big round of applause.

And...yes: I'll have something in the festival. PlayGroup, the writers group I belong to at Portland Center Stage will present....

Open City by Althea Hukari, Shelly Lipkin, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski
Portland Center Stage Playgroup

Festival Dates: Feb 2 at 7:30 pm

For this group show created by PlayGroup (whose previous escapades include The Clearing, Frenching the Bones and Ten Tiny Playlets) and directed by Matt Zrebski, each playwright pulled a Portland location and a cast size out of hat, then went to work on a short play inspired by those circumstances. The result, presented in rehearsed concert form, is a kaleidoscopic vision of the Rose City that adds up to a town we all recognize.

Venue: Main Stage, Gerding Theater at the Armory (128 NW 11th Ave)

And the fabulous Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs for the Dramatists Guild, will be visiting our fair city on Saturday 31, 2008, speaking at at Portland Center Stage's Ellen Bye Studio Theater from 1:30-3:00 PM about all things playwright, followed by a town hall discussion about playwriting in Portland and Oregon in general.

More to come on that as well, but it's a sign that (a) the Fertile Ground Festival is going to be one hell of a special event; and (b) Portland's playwriting community is beginning to be recognized beyond the borders of Multnomah County.

As Hunter Thompson would say: good craziness.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's just so...Sam

So Sam Shepard...our Sam himself busted for DUI the other night (you would think playwrights should be afforded special dispensation...Dramatists Guild, let's get cracking); but the details of the story are...well....

It's like this.

So Sam, see, he was headed back home to Kentucky. Leaving Minnesota. Minneapolis. And, you know, that's a drive. So he stops off in Bloomington. There's this bar there he knows, Fat Jack's, and maybe, who knows, he runs into somebody who knows horses or something. Anyway, it's around 2:00 AM, so we can pretty much assume he rode 'er out to closing. And he's driving along, some place called Normal, Illinois. No really. And it's like a 30 mph zone, big deal, 2:00 in the morning, and they pop him for going 46. I mean, shit. Who wouldn't be pushing it a little to get the hell out of Normal?

So they do the Breathalyzer, the whole thing, and it says double the legal. But we're talking Sam Shepard here, so, you know, the legal's kind of under the baseline, if you know what I'm sayin'. What the hell. He says he's sorry, posts bond, and disappears into the wilds of Kentucky. Thank you very much.

It's not good. No, it's not good at all. But still. You know...fuck Normal.

See what happens...

...when you bounce one of my plays? I'm just sayin'. And I still got a case full of black candles and a mayonnaise jar full of goofer dust sitting on the shelf. So, you know...think about it.

Maybe that's why Dr. John calls it "trajic majic."

Seriously: good theatre, bad times.



Magic Theatre Must Raise $110,000 By Friday:
Please Help Magic Reach Its $350,000 Goal
Please donate now to save this treasure of American Theatre

San Francisco's nationally acclaimed new plays theatre, MAGIC THEATRE, has raised $240,000 since its initial appeal seven days ago. With the funds raised, we began rehearsals for our next production—Tough Titty by Oni Faida Lampley—slated for previews beginning January 24th. Our staff, furloughed for two weeks, is back at work with pay. In order to continue the 43rd season beyond Tough Titty and stay open, MAGIC must raise a total of $350,000 by January 9, 2009. The funds will allow us to retain staff, continue the season, and remain responsible to our creditors.

In a world where more and more theaters are eliminating the challenging and risky work of mounting new plays altogether, please help us fulfill our commitment to new work. We're $110,000 short of our goal. You can make a difference. Please donate now.

Our core value of risk over commercial gain makes MAGIC a challenging endeavor in any economy, and going forward, MAGIC is committed to a new model of financial stability for a new world—without compromising our mission. Today however, MAGIC's accumulated debt of $600,000, combined with sharp declines in earned and contributed revenue due to the global economy, place us in imminent peril of shutting our doors in March.

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel explains the importance of Magic's mission in this letter of support. Please click here to read A Message from Paula Vogel.

For 42 years, San Francisco 's MAGIC THEATRE has been central to the cultural life of the Bay Area and beyond, giving life to some of the most important, diverse, and powerful voices of contemporary American artists, including four Pulitzer Prize winners. From its humble beginnings in a Berkeley bar, MAGIC has emerged as one of the crown jewels of American Theatre. For those of you who have sent us money, large amounts and small, we are grateful. If you have waited, please donate now.

In an attempt to close the gap between MAGIC's expenses and revenue lost as a result of the recession, the Board, in concert with the staff, raised additional funds and cut the $2 million budget by over $300,000. The closing of MAGIC THEATRE would be a great loss for artists and audiences here and across the country. The second largest theatre in San Francisco , MAGIC employs 200 artists annually and touches the lives of tens of thousands of people. We need to keep our artists and our work on the stage!

Artistically, MAGIC is thriving, building upon its rich legacy under the artistic direction of Loretta Greco, who joined the theatre last spring. The critical success of the first two productions of this season demonstrate the rigor to which MAGIC adheres in each aspect of new play production—and the hoped for excitement, awe, and wonder that come from watching great art play out for audiences.

Save the Magic video

We need your help to raise $110,000 by January 9, 2009. Please help us keep our doors open by making a donation today of $15.00 or more. Please give whatever you can to save MAGIC THEATRE. No amount is too small or too large. Each of you can make a difference.

Please share this message widely with your friends and colleagues.



Development Department
Building D, Fort Mason Center
San Francisco , CA 94123

Thank you for your support. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible as allowed by law. Magic Theatre's Federal Tax ID number is 94-1733420.

Oh Noes!

Some New York dude no one outside of New York has ever heard of has dubbed snark "wrong." Uh oh. I guess it's time to take down the tent pole. And Patrick, you are so over. (And at such a tender age.)

It's a sad day. But who knew?


Friday, January 2, 2009

More Obama/Arts Tea Leaves

Here's an intriguing idea on the arts, from an guest editorial in the New York Times. Arts Czar, anyone? (Maybe in some kind of pseudo-uniform like C. Everett Coop used to wear as Surgeon General...a splattered painter's smock with epaulets, folk art yarn sash, Kaiser Wilhelm spiked helmet decorated in day-glo swirls and rhinestones with a silvery papier mache bird's nest riding the spike. One hand thrusting a dripping paintbrush forward above Ralph Steadman spattered lettering of: I WANT YOU.)


Published: December 26, 2008
Chapel Hill, N.C.

IN 1935, as part of the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Farm Security Administration, which reached out to rural families as they struggled during the Depression. Roy Stryker, who oversaw the agency’s photo documentary program, captured the strength of American culture in the depths of the country’s despair. The photographs of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks showed us both the pain of America and the resilience of its people.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson drew on his Texas roots when he created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, organizations that share America’s arts and humanities with the American people.

Both Roosevelt and Johnson demonstrated their forceful commitment to the preservation and celebration of American culture — and they did so in challenging times.

So what will President-elect Barack Obama do? Well, here’s a suggestion.

Over the years, America has developed an impressive array of federal cultural programs — in addition to the endowments for the arts and the humanities. These include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, NPR, PBS and the Smithsonian Institution.

Each of these organizations has helped preserve our nation’s rich folklore — its music, stories and traditional arts — as a uniquely powerful voice for our culture.

But as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997 to 2001, I learned firsthand that these institutions, though united by a shared goal, can sometimes run into conflict with one another. There were bureaucratic tangles, overlaps and missteps that, with foresight, could have been avoided.

Which is why I believe the president should create a cabinet-level position — a secretary of culture — to provide more cohesive leadership for these impressive programs and to assure that they receive the recognition and financing they deserve.

The president should initiate another change, too. The leaders of our cultural institutions should all have renewable 10-year appointments. (Some now serve only four-year terms.) Such a change would help to provide continuity and insulate the organizations from the tumult of political change. This move would allow each agency to develop long-term agendas in coordination with the secretary of culture in each administration.

Mr. Obama has an opportunity to revitalize our national spirit by strengthening our cultural programs at every level. It’s hard to imagine what could be a more important — and enduring — legacy.

William R. Ferris is the senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In 2009, I want to....

--write at least one new full-length play.

--finish the Angels+Demons photo project and arrange a show.

--write a handful of 10-minute plays.

--work with some new, creative folks on a show in a town where I've never been produced before.

--work with some old friends on new plays.

--get together with friends and BS, have some laughs, make some music, and/or do some art.

Okay. Your turn....