This blog will go through somewhat of a transformation for the next couple months. Lately I’ve been extremely slow in posting updates. Mainly because a lot of what’s going on with me professionally, are issues, good and bad, that I’d rather not air publicly. What I need to be writing about here, is the work. Not the politics, or me whining about not having the accessibility into the places I think my work should go. With a full slate of work to do in the next couple months I thought it would be helpful to myself, and other creative types who may or may not read this blog, if I chronicled my process. With that in mind here we go.
So I have three major projects, all popping off at the same time. What a blessing. And a curse.
1st of all, Julius X opens in Detroit at Plowshares Theatre in May. This is a huge break for me. I love the director of the piece Gary Anderson, he’s a smart man with a lot of heart, and vision. In the past, the play has been performed, but due to budgetary concerns, and lack of unified vision, the play has not been performed the way I envisioned it. I think I can be honest and say the opening production of the play was a disappointment to me. The director, totally ignored what I as a playwright was looking for. He didn’t understand my work, and therefore, went completely opposite of what I wanted to see. In the past, I’ve been nice about the work he did, but lately, I’ve been feeling like if I can’t be honest about it, then I shouldn’t talk about it at all. I need to talk about it, so I need to tell the truth. While there were some good performances, and fine actors on a whole I felt like the text was not explored and left wanting.
The second performance of Julius was in Cleveland. Technically, I was impressed. It was apart of the Technology and Arts festival, and the set was incredible. There were some really good actors, and I really liked the director of the piece, but they didn’t really get the poetry. I don’t blame them, I think this play is a new form of theatre that most actors and directors are not familiar with. So it makes doing the piece difficult if you haven’t seen that type of poetry. I believe they will actually include the piece in the season next year, and I’ll be brought in to help with the production. I think with all the talent they have in Cleveland, we’ll be able to make something special of the production.
With this new production in Detriot, in order to truly see the vision on the piece, I will be necessary for me to work on the music of the play. This has been an enigma. Primarily because the musicians, I want to work with have been extremely busy. They are a talented bunch, but this talent makes them in heavy demand. I’ve got a couple months to get it together, or else I believe I will have squandered an opportunity to see the play on stage, the way I have envisioned it my head.
The 761st Men of War.
This piece is about the 761st armored division in WWII. They were the black tank battalion labeled “Patton’s Panthers” despite racism, and lack of respect, these soldiers fought hard during the Allied campaign in the European Theater of Operations. They didn’t receive their props until the 70’s. With America’s nostalgia for the Greatest Generation, and WWII, it seems to me, that people have forget about these soldiers and the battles they fought for their country and the battles they fought in their country. I want to remember them. I want to honor them. This play, stylistically, is different then anything I’ve done before. I want to fuse Drama, Poetry, and Hip-hop in a way I haven’t seen it done before. I’m planning on working with Poemcees out of Washington DC, they will be handling the Hip-Hop, and Griot 3 will handle the poetry and text. This play opens June 30th. Right now, I’m in the research aspect. Which is all encompassing. There is so much information out there, I’m finding my biggest challenge is narrowing it all down and keep the piece dramatic. There is so much there, it would be easy to get distracted from the bigger picture. A friend recently told me, when you are writing about WWII, you are not really writing about WWII, you writing about something else, don’t find what it is you are writing about, and make that the focus. He’s right.
So right now, all I’ve got is a really basic outline. I’ll have a treatment done by the end of next week along with character sketches.
New American Gods
This is my last big project of the year. If you read this blog you’ll know I’m teaching at a small school in Jacksonville. Every year the school does a musical and as the drama teacher it’s my job to make it happen. This year, I decided that I would do an orginal piece. NAG is about, how we in America idolize, celebrity, and how it affects our opinions about people and ourselves. I love to work on relevant topics for kids, so the piece is also wrapped around things that are happening in the schools as far as violence, and standardized testing. It’s a big piece, and different then anything I’ve done yet, this is a full scale musical. The due date for the script is in April.
Am I crazy? Yes. Working on 3 pieces at the same time is nuts. I’ve done it before though, and I’m confident I can do it again. It’s a matter of discipline, and planning. I actually think I get more done when I’m working on more then one piece, because they writing in each tends to inspire the writing in the opposite. Plus, the Julius X piece is pretty much done, it’s more me just supervising. I have plenty of time to write, I just need to get in the discipline of writing at times that are different then what I’m use to. Over the years, I’ve been able to sit myself down and work, I’ve created a time and space in which to do it. Because I have a 9 to 5 now, that has to change. I have to find a new time, and I need to learn to use the time I have more efficiently. At the same time, I have to balance all this work, along with a family.
Writing is always a process of discovery for me. I’m always sitting down, going, how in the hell do I do that? It’s never the same every time it happens differently. The one thing that is similar is the beginning. I research, and create an outline that I will ignore later, and then I get to work. I’m in the process of doing that now. It’s an exciting and scary time for me professionally. I get to this point and think, I don’t know if I can do this. But the only way I get over all of that, is by attacking it. If I just run from it, then I’ve been beaten. I’m too competitive to even contemplate losing.
I plan to write about the process of the writing, as well as the ups and downs on the business side.
So, buckle up. Cause here we go.