April 12, 2006
As We Were Saying…

It’s starting to appear that the main purpose of this weblog is to keep us humble. However dedicated and professional we seem to be, it stands here, chronically out of date, as the new century moves forward. We can rationalize, apologize, or euthanize ourselves, but the fact is that we just don’t have our act together.
Still, in dim minds, there’s always hope. So, what’s happening?

Delving back: When we last visited our heroes, back nearly a year ago, they’d just finished a lovely residency at Foothill Theatre in Nevada City, producing a new play Long Shadow, and were about to go into rehearsal for Drake’s Drum at Sonoma County Repertory. Indeed, that happened, with a great cast and great response. Both scripts are now making the rounds among other theatres to be considered for production, but that’s always a crapshoot. Hope the plays have legs, but in today’s money-conscious atmosphere, it’s very difficult for a theatre to take a chance on a new play that doesn’t have high-test New York reviews. We’ll see.

Meantime, work has gone forward on many fronts, starting with a sad closure. After three and a half years, 94 episodes in all, we’ve had to put our radio series Hitchhiking off the Map out to pasture. With minimal financial support and the obligation to get pregnant and have a baby once a month, the series was just draining us physically, even while feeding us spiritually. We finished it off in December, with a fascinating feature, Car Crashes–the chronicle of thirty souls’ experience with this venerable American tradition. All those features, of course, are archived on this site for free listening.

We’ll continue doing audio work, but only as stand-alone features, unless we can find a way to bring back Hitchhiking in a more endurable structure. Just finished a re-mix of one of our favorite features, Nativity, for which we got a small grant from Public Radio Exchange, and now redistributing it to public stations.

The winter here has been very very wet, and also very very busy. The first project was a new solo piece with Elizabeth, previewing in February. Dream House pits Elizabeth (in her red-nose clown persona) against her seven sisters, all named Elizabeth, in creating–what else?–a dream house. Its two showings at Sonoma County Rep were true rock’n’roll evenings, and now we intend to give it periodic showings during the summer and then a fall run somewhere in the Bay Area before taking it on the road.

And work moving forward on three–count’em, three–projects. Ragnarok: The Doom of the Gods for Shotgun Players, a wonderful, vital theatre in Berkeley, has been workshopping for about six months and goes into rehearsal the beginning of June for a late summer run. This is similar to our experience in Nevada City: working with an ensemble, doing periodic improvisational workshops leading to a script, which I’ll direct, Elizabeth doing the music score and also a role in the show. It’s based on Norse myth, seen through the lens of American foreign policy–though, unlike the latter, with a comic dimension and a bit of hope at the end.
Right now, we’re halfway through the run of The Hobbit. Hobbit? Well, nothing I’d ever remotely planned to direct, but I’ll do just about anything if invited. In this case, the invitation came from a theatre we love, Cinnabar Theatre in Petaluma, and with the special challenge of doing it with 19 kids, aged 10 to 16. About two weeks before the phone call came, I had read The Hobbit for the first time ever, stemming from a chance conversation at a party about Tolkien and his literary circle, and feeling that at this late date I should really catch up to my friends on this holy writ.

It was a huge challenge. It’s complicated to stage, and I’d never worked with this age group before, so there was a lot to learn–for me and for them. The result, in a word, has been splendid. Some extraordinarily talented people, and the process of seeing and mid-wifing their discoveries has been as energizing as it’s been arduous. Not sure I’d have said that two weeks ago, but now that we’ve finished the first week of the run, the proof is in the pudding. Not unlike Bilbo’s own evaluation of his adventure with the Dwarves.

Interesting that in Cinnabar’s Youth Rep shows about four-fifths of the audience is adult. I’m always surprised that as a former theatre-history prof new things are illuminated to me through present-day production experience. Why, in Shakespeare’s time, did the professional theatre companies in London face real competition from companies of child actors playing for adults? It’s true, and major playwrights wrote for them. It’s clear to me from this experience that it’s not the Aren’t they cute? syndrome. It’s a special kind of energy and theatricality that comes from seeing people play roles that they’re not typecast for, that they must make a very long reach to achieve.

And now, for the first time in my life, doing a set design for a director that’s not me. I’ve designed many sets for my own shows, but never for another designer. I guess the people at Sonoma County Rep liked my design for Drake’s Drum, so they asked me to design Pinter’s ”Betrayal”. The director in this case is Sharon Winegar, who played a major role in Foothill’s Long Shadow, and is a joy to work with. So in May, it’s my virgin debut as a set designer, with huge framed abstractions from details of erotic photos.

On the personal front, our son Eli has just published a new mini-comic book from his An Inside Job series of surreal (and sometimes very funny) dream comics. Visit his website at graphesthesia.com errorbar.net. And he’s just found a new–hopefully somewhat more sane–nursing job at a clinic for the homeless in San Francisco. Johanna is still living in Italy, now working full-time as a translator and loving it.

And we’re in good health, as is our little 40mpg heavily-used Honda. Not driving our huge Dodge van much now, but it’s starting to huff & puff, straining to get back on the road full of scenery and us, and it will.
Peace & joy–