Friday, January 29, 2010

Now THIS...

...this is a political attack ad. Mind, it's Louisiana politics--particularly New Orleans--and the rest of the country's still toddling around in diapers compared to these folks.

behold...and tremble.

And Then There's Crazy

Play readings are very seldom reviewed--they usually only happen once, so there's no "consumer reporting" to be had ("go," "don't go," "I don't care if you go 'cause I had a few drinks before I saw this and I can't remember what happens"). Which is good because you're generally presenting a reading to test what works and what doesn't. But "The Rewrite Man"-- presented by Pulp Diction on Tuesday as part of the Portland Fertile Ground New Works Festival--actually snagged a mini-review by the Willamette Week. They dubbed it "occasionally mystifying"--which, given that it's meant to be occasionally mystifying, I'll keep...whether they meant it the way I intended or not.

And if I haven't said it already, many thanks to Matt Haynes, Brian Allard, the splendid cast, and all the crew at the Pulp Diction. You guys did a great job.

Pulp Diction Presents: The Rewrite Man
Everyone has something to hide in this occasionally mystifying reading of a new spy thriller, written by Oregon Book Award winner Steve Patterson and delivered with a splash of neo-noir. “There’s cloak and dagger, and then there’s crazy,” announces WWII vet Frank Anderson (Brian Allard, director) to the intelligence officer tailing him (played by Andrew Bray), accurately summarizing the essence of this piece, in which Anderson attempts to grapple with his loss of wartime memory and wariness of all fellow characters. The trusty bartender Leo (Beau Brousseau) suddenly seems not so trustworthy, therapist Dr. Miles (Megan Murphy Ruckman) appears to have some shady advice, and mystery woman Wanda (Erin Shannon) couldn’t possibly be up to any good in a drama that ends with a flustered Frank accusing each character of ulterior motives in a doubt-filled, gun-pointing frenzy. Before and after the reading, alluring drag queen Phaedra Knight graced the stage, delivering witty quips and lip-synching Ani Difranco’s “Overlap”. This was one of a handful of unique particulars, the intimate nature of the Brody Theater (and the fact that it has a bar) being another, that serve as additional incentive to return for the subsequent showings of this week’s Pulp Diction late night series. Matt Haynes’ “The Night I Died,” an adventurous piece directed by Paul Angelo, will be showing Wednesday. “The Go-Girls,” written by Anna Sahlstrom and directed by Micki Selvitella, will be performed in anticipated hilarity on Thursday. The Brody Theater, 16 NW Broadway., 224-2227. 10:30 pm Wednesday-Thursday, Jan. 27-28. $15.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Night, Don

You probably didn't know him. But you should have. And I did. He was my boss back in New York days, maybe the best I've ever had. He was a gentleman of fine Scotch and cigars, and better stories than anybody. He loved writers and the difficult business of writing. He was an original's original. And I let him down, to my everlasting regret.

Travel well, sir. And thank you.

Don Congdon, Longtime Literary Agent for Ray Bradbury, Dies at 91

December 4, 2009

Don Congdon, a literary agent who spotted the talent of Ray Bradbury early in both their careers and whose long list of celebrated authors also included William Styron, Jack Finney, Evan S. Connell, William L. Shirer and David Sedaris, died on Monday at his home in Brooklyn Heights. He was 91. The death was confirmed by his son, Michael.

Mr. Congdon, who started out as a messenger at a small New York agency, developed an enviable reputation as a skilled editor, tough negotiator and shrewd judge of talent. While still a young editor at Simon & Schuster, he tuned in to the early stories of Ray Bradbury, who became one of his first clients after he set up as a full-time literary agent in 1947.

In 1966 he caused a stir in the publishing world, and precipitated a celebrated lawsuit by Jacqueline Kennedy, when, after spirited bargaining, he sold Look magazine the serial rights to “The Death of a President,” William Manchester’s study of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, for more than $600,000.

The sum, staggering for the time, added to Mrs. Kennedy’s fears that the book would bring unwanted publicity to her family and delve too deeply into personal matters. She filed suit against Mr. Manchester, Look and Harper & Row, the book’s publisher, for breach of contract and sought an injunction to halt publication. After negotiating with Look and Harper & Row for changes in the magazine excerpts and the book, Mrs. Kennedy dropped her suit.

Donald Keith Congdon was born on Jan. 7, 1918, in Crawford, Pa. His father was a railroad worker and his mother ran the family’s boardinghouse, which the bank seized during the Depression.

With $8 in his pocket, Mr. Congdon moved to New York in 1935, when he was just out of high school, and found work with the Lurton Blassingame Literary Agency, where he delivered manuscripts to publishers in Midtown, picking up the rejects on return trips. By 1940 he was secretary to Mr. Blassingame, and had begun building his own list of authors.

In 1944 an editor at Collier’s, impressed by the editing Mr. Congdon had done on several stories the magazine had bought, hired him as an associate fiction editor. A year and a half later he was hired by Simon & Schuster as an editor for its Venture Press, recently established to introduce new writers and published writers whose work had been neglected.

In 1947 Mr. Congdon joined the Harold Matson agency, where he got off to a flying start by signing Mr. Bradbury. He went on to represent Mr. Bradbury for more than a half-century.

“I married Don Congdon the same month I married my wife,” Mr. Bradbury said in a speech to the National Book Foundation in 2000. “So I had 53 years of being spoiled by my wife and by Don Congdon. We’ve never had a fight or an argument during that time because he’s always been out on the road ahead of me clearing away the dragons and the monsters and the fakes.” Mr. Bradbury dedicated his novel “Fahrenheit 451” to Mr. Congdon.

In 1983 Mr. Congdon started his own agency, Don Congdon Associates, which is now run by his son, Michael.

In addition to Michael, who lives in Brooklyn, he is survived by a sister, Dorothy Glenn of Erie, Pa.; a daughter, Wendy Stanton of Greenwich, Conn.; and six grandchildren.

Besides representing his clients, Mr. Congdon edited many serious paperback anthologies of mystery and horror stories, tales of romance and war reporting. These included “The Wild Sweet Wine: Superb Stories of Sensual Love” (1958), “Stories for the Dead of Night” (1957) and “Combat: Pacific Theater, World War II” (1959).

Paging Franny and Zooey...please meet your party at the gate....

J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Rewrite Man

written by Steve Patterson
directed by Brian Allard

Frank Anderson is a rewrite editor for a wire service in 1953 San Francisco. A former WWII vet who worked as an armorer, he has nearly a two-year gap in his memory that haunts him. A trail of intrigue, spying, and the difficulty of discerning the real from the imagined, all churned together in 1950s paranoia, is set in motion when a femme fatale enlists Frank's help finding her cousin, and an "army buddy" of Frank's shows up---of whom Frank has no recollection. Is anyone, including Frank's bartender or his shrink, who they say they are? Is Frank who he thinks he is? When people start get tailed and guns start showing up, who can Frank trust? Ian Fleming meets Phillip K. Dick in this thriller that is sure to leave you checking over your shoulder on the way home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flashback: 2007

So what does it feel like to sell the place you grew up?

Where you woke up morning after morning, wondering what the day held? Where you fell asleep to Christmas lights flashing outside your window? Where you sat in the red pickup truck, rain spattering the windshield, until "Witchita Lineman" faded from the radio? Where you wandered beneath a summer Milky Way so close you could reach and touch it? Where your father shouted "Come right here! Watch this!" and you rushed in to watch helicopters fall from the decks of U.S. aircraft carriers off of Saigon? Where you and your mother laughed about politics on early mornings as the coffee kicked in? Where you whacked tennis balls for your favorite dog to chase? Where he and your other pets are buried? Where you sat outside on a cold night, alone and in total silence, smoking a cigar and feeling the ghosts whisper past?

A place that now only exists in photographs?

Something like this. Times ten. On acid.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giving to Haiti

There are a number of avenues available to donate aid to Haiti; the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are two of the best. But you can also go to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a bipartisan effort brokered by President Obama and administered by former presidents Clinton and Bush. Here's info on the fund:

The earthquake that rocked the coast of Haiti killed or injured a devastating number of people. Even more were left in need of aid, making this is one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. In the aftermath of the disaster, President Barack Obama asked President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to raise funds for immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts to help those who are most in need of food, water, shelter, medical care, and support. In response, the two Presidents established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) to identify and fulfill unmet needs in the region, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life of those affected over the long term, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and country. Presidents Clinton and Bush oversee the CBHF through their respective nonprofit organizations, the William J. Clinton Foundation and Communities Foundation of Texas. One hundred percent of the donations made to the Clinton Foundation go directly to relief efforts. Ninety-nine percent of the donations made to the Communities Foundation of Texas go directly to relief efforts.

And you can go to their page here:

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund


Thursday, January 14, 2010

At the risk of whining...

...these are the kinds of attitudes playwrights are up against:

'Outrageous Fortune': Playwright book full of whine and din

Please say this with me, in your best Neil Young impression: "All we want is to be paid enough to able to write at least part-time. We don't even care about health insurance or retirement."

I know. It's disgusting of us to say such things. I hereby apologize for all playwrights everywhere and for all time.

P.S.: No insult intended to Mr. Young, whose work I very much enjoy.

P.P.S: No insult intended, either, to all critics, some of whose work I very much enjoy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slings, Arrows, etc.

Ah. Aflutter goes the theatre universe, especially its playwrights, now that "Outrageous Fortune: the Life and Times of the New American Play" has finally been published. This is an in-depth study on the state of American playwrights, theatres, and the issues between the two, and it's pretty much required reading for playwrights, artistic directors, literary managers, and other theatre artists interested in new work who want to get a feel for what it's really like out there these days (spoiler: it blows).

Some preliminary findings were presented at the TGC conference last summer, but the whole study is now available from the Theatre Development Fund. However, if you haven't snagged a copy or can't afford it, a number of theatre bloggers are dissecting the thing, particularly a dedicated group over at Parabasis.

If you know a playwright, talk her or him off the ledge and give this book as a belated holiday present. Then nail shut the window.


Bill O'Reilly Interviews Sarah Palin

Courtesy of the lovely Wonkette....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moments of Surrender

Last night, I arrived home late and tired from a Playwrights West meeting; so I had a difficult awakening. Running late and taking a later bus. Predictably, it filled up. I took one of the benches toward the rear. Across from me, an older man with white hair and eyebrows, huge glasses, umbrella with a flashlight in the handle. Beside him, a sleeping man maybe ten years younger than his bus companion, leather jacket over dress slacks. Next to me, a woman in her thirties, impeccably groomed, reading magical realism by a Latino writer, and, standing in front of me, a very young woman with wet hair and wearing a puffy white and brown blouson jacket, stumbling as she attempted to text. (Who was receiving at this early hour?)

And me, listening to U2's "No Line on the Horizon"--sliding in and out of consciousness as though on a morphine drip. As the song "Moment of Surrender" neared its climax, we crossed the Ross Island Bridge, and the lights of the city spread into view, their lights reflecting on a blue-black Willamette River as Bono sang:

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pain would stop
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

And so we crossed our river, arriving at our individual days: the man with a flashlight in his umbrella, the businessman not entirely comfortable in his uniform, the woman carrying Latino magical images beneath her professionalism, the girl furiously texting to someone waiting to receive. And me, here now, bearing a memory of reflected lights.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's the real deal, folks....

Playwrights West...a new Portland theatre company....
Eight professional Portland playwrights, recognized for the high quality of their writing, have formed Playwrights West, a new professional theatre company focused on presenting top-level productions of its members' work and supporting development of original work in Portland.

Member playwrights include: William S. Gregory, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Eugenia Woods, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski.

In additional to Playwrights West's inaugural reading in January, the collective's first year will be dedicated to introducing members' work to Portland audiences, establishing professional business operations, and developing selected work through workshops and public readings to full production. Eventually, Playwrights West may include workshops for non-member playwrights, playwriting seminars, internships for beginning playwrights, or other forms of outreach to foster play development

Friday, January 1, 2010

Starting off right...

Brother Ray blasting out the stereo: a big heart wrapped in blues but still beating. Definitely a good way to kick off the New Year/Decade....

...just an old sweet song....