Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rejuvenation

It’s been forever since I wrote on this blog. Why? I’ve been crazy busy. Working at the Foundation has been a huge blessing, but at the same time, it’s taken all of my time.

So what’s been going on since I last wrote. I started making movies. In December I wrote and directed a short “Sign Language”. I primarily created the short to compete in a reality show premiering on FOX. Sign Language did really well in the competition but I did not advance to the final round. I’d love to write more about the experience, but I’m under a gag order and can’t talk about it. My site is being revamped but in the near future, you will be able to see the movie on my site.

This summer I’ll be doing some more movie stuff with my partner Zach Flugum. We’ve formed our own company called 99 Pictures. We’ve got a bunch of stuff on the table that we are looking at working on this summer. I can’t really talk about those until we are further along in the process. Hopefully, I’ll be blogging about those experiences.

Julius X. Julius X opened at Plowshares Theatre Company this Saturday (April 21, 2007) WOW. What an experience. In the past, I’ve been politically correct about the two previous incarnations of the piece. The initial workshop at the Baltimore Theatre Project got good reviews, but on a whole I thought it was terrible. Loved the actors, but the director and I saw the piece very differently. That’s not to say the director isn’t a good one, just that this project didn’t synch with the two of us. I saw it the right way, he didn’t. Cleveland was… interesting… I really loved the performance of several of the actors, and really liked the director. But the piece was being done as a part of Festival and the piece ran for two nights. I didn’t get to work with the director, and I don’t think he was familiar with performance poetry, so it was an okay production, but definitely didn’t do what I was looking for from the piece.

Last year, I was blessed to meet Gary Anderson, the most unlikely of ways. I submitted a script to him. What is unlikely about this is that I’ve been submitting scripts for years now, to different theatres. The plays get put in a slush pile and never read, I get sent a form letter saying they are going to look at it, and then politely never hear from the theatre again. This is typical. I don’t have the connections necessary to “get in” I don’t know enough people, so my work continually gets pushed into the “who cares pile”. Not at Plowshares, Gary does something revolutionary, he reads scripts! I queried him about Julius X and he asked to read it. Days later, he called and we started working on putting the piece up.

There are times in my life and career when I meet someone and I know, this is what I was looking for. It happened that way with Barbara, Larry and David, and for sure I felt that way with Gary. For the last year or so, he’s been schooling me on the business, and the art of playwriting. I’m really happy with the current draft of Julius X, and a lot of that has to do with Gary’s guidance. So when I traveled to Detroit this weekend, I wasn’t really worried about the play. I was anxious to see it. Gary had been pretty silent about the progress of the play since he started rehearsals. Mostly because he was busy as hell, but secondly, he wanted me to form my own opinion about the piece. So I went into the Theatre without really knowing what I was going to see. (Keep in mind I’ve seen two productions of the piece that I absolutely hated).

From the start of the play a smile settled on my face that has yet to be removed. My baby is finally born, and he’s beautiful. The actors where cast perfectly, each one of them brought something to the stage that breathed life into the characters I’ve been living with in my head for the last two years. That was the easy part though, I’ve seen the other cast with great actors, but what this cast got through Gary’s direction was the poetry. Shakespeare’s work is filled with poetry. Julius X is not only filled with poetry, it’s essential to the style of the piece. Previous productions completely lost the poetry. This one is spot on. Due to budgetary concerns we could not put up the play like I see it in my head, (that involves dancers, African drummers, and a small orchestra) But, what is on stage in Detroit is so faithful to what I’ve been dreaming of, I didn’t even care the other parts weren’t there. Next time. Gary and I will be looking to do this piece with a bigger budget, in other venues. I feel indebt to Gary and the cast. Such a great gift to see something you worked on for so long to be seen on stage, and know that everyone is on the same page.

In saying all of that, I should explain a little more about where my head has been lately. I love Julius X. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on anything in my life. I stretched so much artistically, I knew it would be a stretch when I started. But that’s what made me want to do it. I don’t want to keep doing the safe work. I want to challenge myself, and the audience. If it’s not a challenge, something I have to really work for, then why do it? If that’s the case I should have continued being a slam poet. No disrespect to anyone in the slam at all, none of us can walk the same path, but for me, the slam was a step towards something bigger, if I’d stayed there, I would not have been challenged. That being said, in watching the earlier incarnations of the play I was extremely discouraged. I’d pretty much decided to give up playwriting. I love it, but it hurts to watch something you’ve worked on so long turn out so wrong. I finished the first draft of Julius in January of 06’. I haven’t written another play since then. I’ve played with some ideas, scribbled some things down, but on a whole, I’ve been scared of it.

On a whole artistically I think I’ve been a little lost. I’ve applied for some huge grants that I didn’t get. I’ve been working my butt off on all of the other shows I’ve written, and still don’t feel like I’ve gone as far as I’d like to go. I was not at the point of giving up, I can’t don’t know how, but I have been rethinking what I want to and where I want to go. Last night watching my play on stage being performed by excellent actors and a brilliant director, I feel in love with theatre again. The same way I did in 10th grade close to 20 years ago, when we read Julius Caesar in English class. I’ve had a piece I wanted to write for the last year, and I’m finally getting ready to dive into it this summer. I need to do it. I’m going to look back on all those ideas and start breathing life to them. In my most productive period, the pieces were working the way they were suppose to, that propelled me to the next project. With the success of this production I remember why I write for the theatre, because I love it.

3 comments:

Detroit Girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Detroit Girl said...

Julius X is a great piece! I am happy to read that you are rekindling your love for theater after some theatrical upsets. I hope that this "rejuvenation" inspires another play. You have a new fan...I look forward to your future work and I hope that the next play is sooner than later.

Regards
Sam White

Anonymous said...

Not to worry, Fans of Al, there is no way he could ever stop doing what he is doing, that I can tell you for a fact. The ideas come so fast, his head would explode if he didn't get them out. It's not really a choice.

When am I going to see you again in Baltimore (the town that is good for what "ales" you)?

The Duchess of MV