I guess it's spring. I've been on one of those "sorting, throwing out, wondering what this thing is and why I have it" fire sales. Partly it's because I want to get back on the play submission routine, which usually consists of setting unrealistic expectations, then getting depressed when I can't live up to them and/or the rejections roll in. (And, yes, beginning writers: I've been at this for years and still get bounced all the time. There's no escape.)
Things have been on this sort of mad tilt-o-whirl ever since the beginning of the year, so this is just one of those, sweep it up and get it over with posts. "Everything's a dollar/In this box."
Fertile Ground...Portland's big new works theatre festival...came in like some kind of overwhelming force, flattening everything in front of it. At the same time, I was helping Playwrights West get up and rolling, which meant not only having a play read, but sending out press on the event, hurriedly getting a Web site up and rolling, producing programs, posters, photographs, etc. Concurrently, "The Rewrite Man" had a reading at Pulp Diction, so I found myself with two plays/events going up in the same week. It sounds exciting--and I guess it was--but it was also thoroughly exhausting. The Playwrights West gig went extremely well: we sold out, raised our profile nicely in the Portland theatre community, and had a solid, professional production that people seemed to enjoy. Now the heavy lifting begins: fundraising, business matters, and other such challenging fare. Stay tuned.
"The Rewrite Man"...well, it was pretty decently attended, given that it was 10:30 on a Tuesday night. The Pulp Diction people were terrific, and the cast and crew did a spirited production of the play. As to the work itself, ironically enough, it needs a rewrite, and I found myself getting kind of unwound by it. Nothing to do with the production: it's just that a lot of work went into plotting and figuring out angles--the play is almost entirely a series of bank shots that attempt to top each other. Somewhere in there, I kind of feel like I lost the heart: I began to feel like I was watching some kind of game instead of a play. Plus there was a bunch of stuff that needs to be cut, simply places where I repeated myself and where the gambits didn't live up to what I was shooting for. I love bending the audience's collective mind, but I think my talent for that lies more in surrealism. Anyway, vaguely unsatisfied by the whole thing, and I think "The Rewrite Man" goes into a drawer for awhile. Thinking about it reminds me of a still lake under overcast skies.
Rushed to finished a rewrite of "Farmhouse," which is another mindbender that I've found altogether more satisfying. Right now is kind of one of those waiting periods, where you know there's stuff out there being considered, and you know theatres are soon announcing their seasons, and that means you will, mostly likely, be disappointed. It's the way the game goes. Sometimes you're surprised, which is more or less why we keep at this stuff.
Everybody I know is hellishly busy, and it's hard to get together with friends. The whole politics/economy/employment/staying alive/keeping projects in the air scene seems to be draining folks. I've found myself missing friends of late and trying not to take their silence personal. (And, if it is personal, honestly, there's not much I can do about it.) The zeitgeist seems to be churning, a little chaotic, with flashes of hope mixed in with the change blenderizer. I think we're all ready for winter to end.
The Day Job: busy. Very.
The guitar continues to be huge fun, partly because it doesn't mean anything. When you've been a professional artist for most of your adult life, it's really, really nice to have an art that you can just plain suck at and have a kick with. Last night, I spent the evening cranking the distortion and volume to insane levels and absurdly working over the Strat's tremelo arm and wah-wah pedal into psychdelic blather. Awful, awful, awful. And just fun as hell. Attempting to resist the pulls of effects pedals: at this point, I can pretty much make any guitar sound I can imagine, and a lot I don't want to imagine, but they still have this...weird...hypnotic...power. What would happen if I bought this and plugged it into...this?
And, if I do decide to write about guitar, I don't feel like it'll take away from the forget-the-world freedom it brings: playing guitar has become a fine kind of meditation.
I have to finish some monologues I promised for a friend, and then I have to get the ball rolling for a workshop production of a play and the rewrite that'll require. Other than that and researching the book, I'm kind of blissfully free from writing at the moment. Having written three full-length plays in two years, I feel like I'm due a breather. And then some other stupid idea will come along, and off we go.
So that's what I've been doing. Well. That's wasn't too bad. Time to be domestic, throw the laundry in, and maybe go futz around in the garden, because the plants are waiting for me. The fruit trees are blooming. The daphne is in full flower and spreading its incredible scent across the patio, and new leaves are unfurling among the oriental poppies, sedums, and so many more. I attempted to sit down with a gardening magazine the other day, but it's still too early. But, soon enough, Portland Nursery will be calling my name, and I'll find the car driving itself there. And there won't a thing I can do to stop it.
And just because I can, a shout out to my friends: I love you crazy bastards. Here's to better days.
In doing research for my super secret special guitar writing project, which I may or may not get around to talking about at some point (depending how it goes), I’ve been reading Crosstown Traffic, Charles Shaar Murray’s rather good book on Jimi Hendrix. Writing about guitar without spending time with Jimi makes as much sense as writing about the blues without listening to Robert Johnson.
And, of course, it’s impossible to even think about Hendrix without a certain overhanging grief, tortured by what-might-have-beens. It’s like imagining what would have happened if Dylan really had died in his post-Blonde on Blonde motorcycle accident (to some people, he did). Sure, we’d have been spared Down in the Groove or Empire Burlesque, but we’d also never have had Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, his fantastic resurgence since Time Out of Mind, or, for that matter, John Wesley Hardin and, consequently, Jimi, All Along the Watchtower.
On the other hand, we were spared watching hard living wreck Hendrix or seeing him end up playing Purple Haze at state fairs, but, assuming he’d kept it together, one can’t wonder where Hendrix would have taken us with today’s technology. Jimi Hendrix recording with a Parker Dragonfly, a Mesa Boogie Mark V, Pro Tools, and a still inquisitive mind.
Look far enough west, and you come up 'round the east again.
“Maybe creativity will become fashionable again.” --Adrian Belew--
Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian.