Friday, January 31, 2014

The Awesomeness of My Playwright Family!

In some programs you can feel like you're actually in competition with your peers. Someone gets an award or a showcase and you keep wondering, "why couldn't it be me?!?" I'll admit that in some ways I was like that when I was younger. But when I first started my grad coursework at Hollins I learned a valuable lesson about the kind of family that your colleagues can be! You don't feel jealous when they succeed you feel great and blessed that you are in the same department that made them! So without anymore ado I want to take the time to brag on some distinguished members of my Playwright's Lab Family who are doing great things this year.
This is my Playwright Family I found it all on my own. It's little...but still good. 

Robert Plowman is one of the people I constantly look up to as a fellow artist and a creator. He won this year's Charles M. Getchell Award from the South Eastern Theatre Conference for his play "The Missing Link" and let me tell you her deserves it! I call the man a genius because after you hear or read one of his plays you just want to sit down with him and ask "how did you come up with that?" I learn just as much from him as I do from my classes.

It so wonderful to see the list of the winners of  Kennedy Center Playwriting awards and see so many of my friends' names. I want to shout out Kevin Ferguson, Jeri Weiss, and Laura King for dominating the Region IV One Act awards and Kevin for getting alternate for the David L. Shelton Award! This is how you do it!

Yet another colleague is getting her play done in Roanoke. Wendy Marie Martin's play "Ben and Rita" is being directed by the great Cheryl Snodgrass and being produced at the Mill Mountain Theater by the Playwright's Lab. It goes up soon and having seen it at Festival it is sure to be great!

This isn't to say that all of my other friends aren't doing great things on their own. I'm just shouting out my colleagues that are making serious waves in the theatre world right now and getting the Hollins name out there! They inspire me to be better everyday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Write the Way you Think!

I remember a while back talking about putting yourself behind the eight ball writing one of your new plays if your heart wasn't in it. Well today let's talk about what happens when you try to write a play and your brain just isn't in it. 

Don't try to write a sushi style play when you're in a burger mood. 
I have problems writing very long-form traditional two act plays because sometimes they take a very linear and literal mind to focus on and sometimes my brain just isn't into it. Sometimes I'm trying to keep myself focused on a 15 minute scene between two characters and I really have this other scene just nagging in my head.  

So I tried something a while back with a play I was working on. I was feeling really ADD that day so limited myself to a play composed of just three page scenes. I could then be working on one scene  and by the time that my attention started to drift I was already starting on another scene with a whole different group of characters. I've had times where I've limited myself to one page monologues and scenes because that's all I had the interest for.  Did they always work for me? Not always but it made me feel accomplished to get a draft out there and sometimes that's half the battle. 

Some times you get so caught up in writing just the plays that you think are "standard" or the ones that you can start trying to force yourself into the style. Your style can be determined by so many things and it's those unique things that you do that can give you an edge in the world. So why not let your unique brain ad to it? Maybe your brain is suited more to monologues or short or long scenes or what not. Maybe you're more suited to stage directions and moving people through space. Always experiment and get yourself out there! It's your play so do it your way!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Richard Johnston: the guy I left out!

So when I was making my list of the best Cigar Box Guitar musicians on youtube I had one reader who  let it be known in the comments that I had left out one of the best. I watched the video and then I clicked on some more and I was immediately hooked!
He does play a three stringer a bit like mine. 

Of course I'm talking about Richard Johnston. He's a solo performer/one man band that mainly plays on Beale Street in Memphis. He's got a good raunchy sound and hits can go anywhere from some deep blues to some rocking rhythms. He plays a diddley bow and couple of guitars made from Johnny Lowebow. You can hear some of his music here!

I personally like him because he's got a laid back troubadour feel to his music and playing style. He has enough talent to work a drum with his feet and cover the rhythm and bass while he sings some amazing vocals. He can command a huge crowd on the streets and get passersby to stop not just to put money in the hat but to stay a while and listen and dance. He can also take some of the old blues standards and make them sound brand new. You should give him a listen. He's well worth it!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Are there plays you HAVE to read?

So I've been in a love hate relationship with play reading lists. When I was in undergrad we had a play reading list that was semi mandatory. It had everything from Albee to Mamet. And being the artistic rebel that I am I refused to read most of what was on the list because most of my professors and the snootiest people in my department were the people who would turn their nose up at you when you say you haven't read Albee and say "well you can't call yourself an theatre lover until you've read Albee".

And I've heard it all. You're not a theatre person unless you've read this. You're not a movie lover unless you've seen that... You can't call yourself a writer unless you've read this certain author. So I've always heard this enough times and gotten these questions so much I've decided to put my two cents in.
A Great Writer if there ever was one. 

Read What Educates You

To be good in your field that are certain things you should just know about. If you like theatre there should be just some iconic plays that anyone can rattle off the top of their head that you should at least know exist. You should also watch more about what fits into your genre/style. You may say you like it but you may not know everything about it until you've seen some of the seminal works of that genre.

You should read/watch some of the stuff in the canon something that gives you a good sense of history and material for reception conversation. Those are things that you might want to read for your own edification of yourself so you can keep up on your industry. It helps you hold your own when people say, "well I love ______," and then you can say, "Well I've never read that but I have read ________"

I personally think that you should know what you like to do and find people who are doing what you do. Then get everything you can about them and read those people. You should read things not because you feel like you have to but because you want to know everything about what fascinates you. It should come from questions like "how does that work onstage?" "How does all of this work?".

Read What Inspires You

And you should also devour anything that gives you that urge that you have to create something! What things do you love that after you watch/read/listen to them that always gets you in that studio and creating! Those are the things that you should cherish a lot. And I rarely get that from reading plays. But I do get a lot of things from watching plays and movies and reading books or even reading the news. Keep that spur of the moment feeling and use it to your best potential.

So enjoy your reading and get creating. Find what you like and read all about it! And if you have theatre snobs at receptions that get snooty on you drink some more wine and get going to the next convo. And be sure to have fun!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What if all My Arts Collided

So it hit me like a 2x4 to the head. Well it actually was a 2x4 to the head. I was looking over all of the scrap wood I had for a cigar box guitar that I have planned and all of sudden a piece of red oak fell from the wood rack and hit me on the head. I'm fine I swear but with the impact came an epiphany.

For several years I've been a jack of all trades when it came to the theater and arts. I know a little music,  dance, art, woodworking, and lots of theatre. And for a long time I've been treating all of those things like they were separate arts. Like there were a whole bunch of different Ricky artists in one person and if I wanted to follow those interests I have to have about four separate careers and four separate resumes. And then came that bump on the head and then I thought about two of my favorite artists, The  Bread and Puppet Theatre and  Carl Hancock Rux.

The Bread and Puppet Theatre combines Puppetry, dance, music, and mime into this amazing self-sustaining art tour-de-force. Carl Hancock Rux has not only impacted the world with his solo performance and plays but he's also released albums and written novels among many great projects. There's no set rule that you have to stick to just one art form and that you can't mix and match. What if my music, plays, acting, and design could come together to form a creative whole?  What if my true calling is in Applied Theatre and Interdisciplinary arts?

I believe that true artistic yearning is a breath that you can never breathe deeply enough. An itch that you can never completely scratch. For a while I thought I had to scratch all of my itched separately and resign myself to the fact that I may never get to satisfy them all. But if all of my artistic endeavors collided and I made my own styles and forms why couldn't I be able to shoehorn all of my interests into one?

And the more and more I think of it the more awesome it seems. Watch out everyone... this crash is about to happen!


Monday, January 20, 2014

7 Best Cigar Box Musicians on Youtube

So I talk a lot about cigar box guitars around here. Well just so you know that there are actually great musicians out there that bring home the bills usually only playing cigarbox guitars and diddley bows or at least featuring them heavily in their sets. So here are some of my favorite Cigar Box Guitar Musicians of Youtube. 
My First Cigar Box Guitar Build Ever!
  1. Bill Abel: One of the second people I found when I was searching for videos of Diddley Bows. He is notable to me for playing a broomstick diddley bow like me and a six string made from a piece of driftwood. I believe he's a Mississippi boy so you can hear that southern stomp in a lot of  his music. Check out one of my favorite vids of his here
  2. Shane Speal: The self-appointed "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" Shane was also the starter and the curator of the Cigar Box Guitar Museum. He was the first person I saw that had great videos that showed people how to play cigar box guitars and there are several videos of his own CBG builds. Go to his channel here for some great project inspiration!
  3. Seasick Steve: When I was first looking for videos about diddley bows and cigarbox guitars I first found a vid of Steve playing "Save Me" on a diddley bow made of a plank of wood and a broom wire. He has several home made and customized instruments that he plays all the time. It's that fuzzy and primal feeling of blues that I just really love!!! Check out his channel here!
  4. Scott Ainslie: Scott gets on this list mainly for his work trying to preserve the Delta Blues culture and compiling the history of the diddley bow and paying tribute to some of it's users. He can break down the reasons why these instruments started getting used and why people play them the way they do. He also does a lot of presentations for educators. See his channel here.
  5. One String Willie: Above all the Master of the Diddley Bow! He can play such rich tones and rhythms on just one string and get you dancing and jiving! Find his stuff here!
  6. Rev. KM Williams: If you ever want to hear a cigar box guitar player that can take you to church and back you'll love him! He sings some wonderful gospel and blues that gets your foot a stomping and your hands a clapping! You can see his youtube channel here!
  7. Johnny Lowebow: Notable for building his own style of CBG The Lowebow which is a one string bass and a three string together. He also has a great style and has inspired lots of great artists. You can find a great video about his music and his guitars here!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Walking to New Jersey and Back

Let me start this off with saying no I'm not that crazy and my girlfriend would kill me before I tried. But I did have a great idea to creatively map out one of my New Years resolutions. A lot of people make that blanket statement resolution to just be healthier or lose a certain number of pounds. But by the end of the day they don't have a real goal and by February they've got a tub of Ben and Jerry's in one hand and a hoagie in the other.

So this year I knew that I wanted to make a goal to be healthier and exercise more but I've crashed on diets before. So this year I wanted to make a goal that was both fun and measurable.

11 Miles down so far only a thousand or so more to go!

And that's when I got the idea to start walking enough miles every day that when I was through at the end of the year I could say that I walked the equivalent of going to New Jersey and back. I went on google maps and found out that a trip to NJ is about 800 miles which means a round trip evens out at 1600 miles. And factoring in the fact that I already walk everywhere I go I only had to walk about an extra three miles a day.

I like this plan because it's fun and challenging but doesn't put me on a rigorous schedule that eats a huge chunk out of my day (or better yet myself). And at the end of the day all of the walking combined with my attempt at keeping to a better diet will help me get to a healthier me in no time. Plus if I only just did half of my goal I'll have "only" done 800 miles and that's a pretty good feat right there.

So what do you think? Have any of the rest of you made healthy goals as part of your new years resolutions? Let hear all about them in the comments?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Absolute Favorite Play Submission Advice

So there are two extremes in the idea of play submission you have people like me on the left who think that you shouldn't send a million plays away in the mailbox/inbox waiting for just one theatre to notice you. Instead you should just focus on maintaining good relationships with people and making sure that they know who you are. And then there are the people who will mail/email their submissions off to as many people as possible and keep working on your scripts to change them to meet their entry requirements. 
All Playwrights are different with so many different varieties. 

I personally keep getting perplexed by this issue. Sometimes as a playwright I get that guilt that maybe if I just shotgunned all my plays out there and kept submitting I'd at least hit something!!! And then there are the times where I get that email from a friend who saw a recent reading of one of my plays and tells me that I have to send him a recent version so that he can try and produce it and I think to myself, "Well my way of doing it works!" So I guess there's a really good reason why people stick to both sides and there's nothing inherently wrong with one or the other. But could there be a happy medium somewhere?

Enter my venerable and ever wise program director Todd Ristau. He gave me and several other playwrights a short list of three criteria to go by when choosing places to submit your plays to. Here's the Ristau Trinity of Submission...

  • How much do you admire the theatre/organization? : How much do you like the theatre that this group is doing and love the people there?
  • How useful would a production be at the Venue?: Would getting a production of these people help your career or portfolio at all. 
  • What are you getting in return?: Are you getting a royalty? Are they flying you out to the venue? Or are you just getting paid with the "experience" of a production and getting a dvd mailed to you?
The biggest thing I guess we have to remember is that we have to know what we want out of the theatre and what is best for our plays. Figure out what you want from your career, research it, and keep submitting to the opportunities that help you out. What I found is that the two worlds of submissions aren't always about hedging your bets but making goals and going after them.

Lastly another thing Todd says is to keep writing...just keep writing what you like and don't take rejection as a commentary on you as an artist. Stick to your plans, your goals, and get out there and start woking on them. Get out there and start doing it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Frozen Speaks to Everybody #DisneyFrozen

So when DragynAlly first got back from the preview screening of Frozen last October and was raving about it. At first I was scared. She was throwing around phrases like, "changed the game" and "best since Little Mermaid".  And she was fangirling about it so hard that I was almost afraid that I might not like it.  It would have been horrible if we would have had to break up over that. So I spent two months  reading every review she wrote for it, all of her discussions about how Disney was changing the game, and listening to songs from the soundtrack about a million times.
Once you see it you'll never want to let it go!

But then I finally got to see it when I visited her over the holidays. I sat in front of the screen ready for just another random Disney movie...and I got a good movie...that and so much more! Disney totally changed the game of animated films forever and they succeeded in making a movie that someone, no matter what their background or struggle, could relate to!

Take the song "Let it Go". By the time we got to that song I was balling! I've heard that people have listened to it and said that it spoke to them about feminism or coming out and I love that many people can hear an incredible song and find that it relates to their own lives.

For me reminded me of my time struggling with Tourettes.  There were several times in my life that I was just trying to hold all of it in because if my tics ever reared their head in public I got teased and made fun of. So I would clench and hold it in and lock everyone away into the outside world.  It wasn't until much later with the help of the love of family, a great girlfriend, and true friends that I finally felt comfortable being myself in public.

So that's why Elsa's struggle in the movie got me to tear up from the very beginning. I knew that mantra, of "concealing not feeling". I knew of parents of other kids with TS who would have been just like Elsa and Anna's parents, dividing the kids and keeping their child away from the world. Trying to protect her. I was loving the story and being bowled over for how the story of a fairy tale queen hit me right where I lived!

That's what good stories do! No matter what they are they wield a certain kind of magic that meet people wherever they are.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why to Love Dr. Who

So hey guys it's Dr. Fronkensteen here teaming up again with DragynAlly and my Brother Igor on another list of geektastic goodness! Today we tackle all things Doctor Who and why you should love it. So without further ado...

The Absurdity: It’s a place where the most absurd things become reality. like statues that move when you’re not looking at them or this ridiculous little pepper pot looking thing is the most terrifying thing in the universe.

The Doctor: Or that this crazy guy in a blue box is the most smartest man in the room. I mean he’s obviously a lunatic but his lunacy is reality in this world.

The Tardis: It reminds me of the kid in the cardboard box where we used to pretend that anything can happen. Well in Dr. Who’s box anything can happen.

The heightened Drama: Who would think that something so absurd can have so much drama. Me, DragynAlly, my brother Igor watched The Day of the Doctor together and we could hardly speak to each other we were so attached to the screen. Can you say chills?

Easy to Understand: Even if you’re not a Whovian you can pick up an episode if you want and watch it. You don’t have to have a lot of background to understand it and get a lot of the jokes.

There is a lot of depth but it never really outsmarts it’s audience. Everything generally gets wrapped up in one episode. Since every episode is it’s own adventure if you miss episode 10 you won’t be left out on episode 11. You could totally love The Day of the Doctor without being that into it and totally get a good show.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Superheroes Movies We Want (DC Edition)

Hey guys it's Dr. Fronkensteen teaming up with DragynAlly and my Brother Igor to make a list of the Superhero movies that we want to see. Last time we did an all Marvel list but today is DC day! So here goes...

A better Batman movie: Sorry to everyone who thinks Christian Bale was the best Batman ever but I think we can do better. I would love to see a Batman series where Batman’s entire career lasts longer than a year or 2 (do the math people. It’s actually quite sad). I think Nolan did a good job but he rushed the ending and didn’t consider that Batman should be Batman for years to come.

Wonder Woman: Seriously! Why hasn’t this happened yet?! She is probably one of the most awesome superheroes EVER and she is one of the only stand alone female superheroes. Wonder Woman embodies female strength and appeals to everyone. So just make already!

Justice League: We know it’s going to happen someday but I really want to see it now!

Man of Steel 2: The first Superman movie was really awesome so it’s time that he get’s a sequel that that’s Batmanless! He was good enough to stand on his own!

A Flash Movie: I love the Flash! Love him. Ok so he only has the power to run really really fast but Flash is charismatic and fun and would make a cool movie. It would be fun to just see how they would take such a great character on. But no one has tried. what are they scared?

A John Stewart Green Lantern: He is a black superhero and awesome. He is also a more serious take on the Green Lantern saga and will be much better than the crap movie we got. And Jon was a Marine, the all American Hero! He’s kinda got that Captain America vibe but without being such a goodie goodie!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Superheroes Movies We Want (Marvel Edition)

So DragynAlly, my Brother Igor, and I wanted to team up on the New Year and make a bunch of geektastic lists! This time we wanted to talk about Superhero movies that we wanted to see.  This is the Marvel edition. Stay tuned for the DC edition! So here we go!

Black Panther: We need a good African American Superhero out there! Come on, Marvel make it so! He’s got such an epic origin story and everything!

Wasp: For the same reason that we need a Wonder Woman movie Marvel needs to kick in with a good strong female lead in her own movie.

Black Widow and Hawkeye Team up: These guys are a great team and they kick a lot of butt! It’s time that they got out of the passenger seat and starred in a movie of their own.

A true X-Men movie: No Wolverine stealing the show and no half made Pheonix story. They’re a great ensemble that was going in the right direction in First Class but why can’t we see the classic team going toe to toe with Sentinels? Is that too much to ask?

A Mark Ruffalo Hulk movie: Make it so. Listen, Joss Whedon finally fixed the Hulk problem with one line “I’m always angry”. I want to see the Hulk that can control his powers. I want to see the Hulk that isn’t the mindless monster but the controlled weapon.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Reasons to See Frozen #DisneyFrozen

Hello Guys and Dolls! DragynAlly once again taking over the Lounge... You know you love it! Today I decided to post a really pretty picture from my new favorite Disney movie Frozen. Dr. Fronkensteen hasn't seen this yet... Well as I write this now he hasn't. Hopefully I'll fix that by today.  See what happens when you write blog posts ahead of time? Anyway... Since I am here I wanted to give you 5 good reasons to try and see Frozen in theaters. Ready?
  1. The 3D is amazing! I don't usually like 3D. But if you are going to see a movie in 3D make it Frozen. See the snow and ice castle in the pic? It looks epic on the big screen and having it feel like you are surrounded by a blizzard.
  2. Get a Horse is a Mickey Mouse short before the movie. You need to see this in 3D. It is epic in 3D. Just trust me.
  3. Spoilers! I've seen Frozen twice and I still get frustrated when people post spoilers. This movie is such a game changer that you want to make sure you see it before someone ruins it for you.
  4. The Frozen soundtrack can't be fully appreciated until it is blasted in your head by theater speakers. The music is almost operatic. Now imagine you are surrounded by sound and huge screen images... OR you could just go see it!
  5. It's a great princess movie that feels grown up and accessible to all. No matter who you are you will be able to relate to the message of love of family and being true to yourself. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 New Years Resolution

.Hello guys and dolls! It's Dr. Fronkensteen here with my second annual New Years resolutions. Last year shaped up pretty well so let's see how next year works!

  • Build more guitars: I keep coming out with great ideas and have designs cluttering up my notebooks all the time. If I keep thinking them up and I continue to enjoy playing them I guess I'll keep playing them.
  • Promote more plays: I put up most of my plays online so that I can get people to read them. Now I just want more people to read them and hopefully produce them. My goal for next year is to get at least 20 productions or readings of 27 Days by the end of next year. These plays are just too good and can do so much good for other people for them not to be seen by everybody!
  • One Great production: As I promote all of the plays that I do and hope that they all get productions I want to get personally involved in at least that one production that I really want to do and one that will help launch my career. Instead of going for quantity I'm going for quantity.
  • Move to New Jersey: Yeah it's getting that time where I've learned that I've outgrown my city and my state and it's time to try my chances pursuing my degree up north. That's where most of the theatre is. Hopefully by next December I'll be writing to you from my new home!
  • Finish up my degree: One more year and a thesis away! So stoked!
  • Walk More: I already walk just about everywhere but with my health in mind I want to add 800-1600 more miles this next year to make sure that I keep my body in tip top shape. 
Well it's the start of 2014 and it's already going great. Happy New Year from me and DragynAlly! We hope you make it the best!