Hit by a Bus Rules: A Poe Excuse for a Blog

Alandra Hileman honors a very special day. 

Theatre Rule of the Month: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Today, January 19th, would be Edgar Allan Poe’s 207th birthday. His happens to be one of the few famous birthdays I remember without prompting, thanks to two years in high school I spent working on a massive research project (which, as a matter of fact, I was never actually required to finish and turn in). I also probably have more poems and passages from Poe’s work rattling around in my memory than any other single writer, not that I would trust myself to do a proper recitation anytime soon. Delightfully, I’m finally getting the opportunity to put all this info to use in one of the far-to-many plays I’m currently in the process of drafting up, which means Poe has been on my mind a lot of late.

hark a vagrant 213 copy

Interesting fact about Poe: he was a fairly obsessive reviser. Many of his poems and stories exist in multiple versions, with revisions running the gamut from simple spelling corrections or a change of title all the way to entirely new stanzas or endings. His output of fiction, poetry, and essays was fairly prolific, so when you begin to comb through the various publications to look for the revisions and variations, it adds up to quite a lot of text to compare.

Yes, publications. There aren’t many original drafts belonging to Poe that survived his turbulent and impoverished life, so most of the revisions we know about come from fair copies that were in the possession of magazine editors to whom they had been submitted, or the actual published texts, of which there were often several variations. Which brings me around to this month’s rule.

One of the first things you learn (or should learn) in both carpentry and sewing is the rule of “measure twice, cut once.” This rule gets brought up often in the theatrical world because, honestly, there’s usually not enough money in the budget to do something over if it doesn’t measure up the first time. So if you’re building a set, first you measure everything: the doors, the floors, the 2x4s. Then you draw your sketch to scale, measure your space and materials again, (for extra credit measure your scale drawing again), and then, and only then, do you start cutting and screwing. Apply the same to sewing, but with bodies and fabric.

It’s a solid rule. And it’s totally the opposite of what many writers seem to be taught. I’ve done readings for plays where I see draft after draft after draft presented, each one different, often each presented exactly as flowed from the writer’s pen (or laptop). Outlines are perfectly respectable, but not required. And sometimes, you keep making changes and revisions even after you’ve, I don’t know, won a Pulitzer prize for your play and had it produced and published all over the world. (coughBuriedChildcough) But then, words are a lot cheaper than lumber, so you can usually afford to screw up or change your mind more easily.

This isn’t intended as any sort of perfect metaphor, and all rules are probably made to be broken. But it is interesting to look at these two sides of how things are made. One is a very precise, planned system meant to deliver exact results the first time it comes together. The other may be a perpetual work-in-progress, or an experiment in throwing something half-baked in front of people and then adjusting after you see what it is. And since re-researching Poe brought it to my attention, I’m curious to pay more attention to where these two methods come to the fore as I plug away on measuring and (eventually) cutting my own writing about Poe.

So, happy birthday to the inventor of the modern detective story, formative contributor to the science fiction genre, first American writier to try to live on writing alone, and all-around wow-you-make-me-feel-better-about-my-life-choices guy, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. Thanks for the work.

If you’re more interested in Poe’s alcoholism and weird relationship with his 13-year old cousin than his revision habits, you can come see Alandra Hileman’s upcoming play Cyprus, Sin, and Care this Spring in the BoxCutters readings series at The Breadbox. Quoth the Raven, “See You There!”

Theater Around The Bay: Jessica Chisum On Morrissey and Returning To TP As A Writer

Jessica Chisum’s contribution to the Morrissey Plays is a little unusual in that we broke her piece into three installments to give a narrative arc to the evening. In light of that, we thought we’d have her do a special, extended interview about the singer she loves and the theater company she’s returning to- all the way from Seattle! 

So, despite no longer being local, you’ve been involved with Theater Pub in the past, yes? Did having that insider knowledge help you create your piece for this show?

Jessica: My first foray into the land of SF Theater Pub was as an actor. I was cast in Pint-Sized Plays IV after auditioning for another play directed by Jonathan Carpenter. It’s always nice to get a call from a director: “We can’t use you in the play you auditioned for, but there’s this other play IN A BAR!” I was in “Multitasking” by Christian Simonsen with Andrew Chung and Lara Gold, which was tons of fun. When I was writing “There Is A Light…” I was definitely channeling the mischief of Pint-Sized Plays, imagining myself back in that atmosphere- the sensation of eavesdropping on fellow bar patrons, and doing the things you always wanted to do in a bar but were afraid to do because you didn’t want to get kicked out.

Speaking of inspiration and guides, you also had a baby relatively recently… correct? Anything you’re trying to tell us with this play?

Jessica: Yes, I had a baby last summer and as an artist my refrain during pregnancy was “This IS my creative project!” After my daughter was born I was surprised by all the brain chemistry manipulations and honestly wondered if I could still write. (For those of you without tiny infants, your thought patterns completely change upon giving birth… so that you can be a good parent? I’m sure there is a technical term for it.) By writing this play while my three month-old napped I was trying to say “Hey guys! Moms can make art too!” Also Moms Love Morrissey.

How did you first discover Morrissey?

Jessica: I found Morrissey after hearing “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” on the radio my senior year of high school. I was listening to Parker Thompson’s show on KSUA, the college radio station at the University of Alaska. The song sent shivers down my spine and I stared at my clock radio wishing I could play it again and again. I ran down to Hoitt’s Music, the only music store in Fairbanks, and implored the staff to help me find it. “It’s about a double-decker bus,” I blurted breathlessly, an image in my mind of the funny red rectangles on wheels I had glimpsed as a very young child living in the UK. The song was found on The Smiths album “Best…II,” only one cassette left in the shop. I felt weird about buying “Best…II” without “Best…I,” but unfortunately “Best…I” was sold out. Thus began the summer of “Best…II.” As luck would have it, I was already a big Johnny Marr fan, having memorized his jangly guitar riffs from The The’s album “Mindbomb,” so the transition to Smiths’ Superfan was a smooth one.

What do you love about Morrissey?

Jessica: The man is ridiculously attractive, even now, in his fifties. But to be fair I never knew what Morrissey looked like until I saw him on the “120 Minutes” show on MTV. The man on the cover of The Smiths “Best…II” album was an actor from East of Eden, also ridiculously attractive, and I’m sure I knew then that this charming coverboy was not the singer I was getting blissed out on. Interesting that Morrissey would choose a gorgeous man for his cover with more than a passing resemblance to his own visage. As Narcissus gazes into the lake, and all that. But really I first fell in love with Morrissey’s lyrics, his poetry, and not his gorgeous eyebrows. Can we all agree that Morrissey is quite possibly Oscar Wilde reincarnate? Or at least has been given the power to summon the wit and humor of the floppy-haired Irishman? “If it’s not love, than it’s the bomb that will bring us together…” That’s up there with some of Wilde’s best aphorisms.

What do you hate about Morrissey?

Jessica: I can’t say I hate anything about Morrissey because even his smug pomposity is just an act put on by an insecure teenaged poet, about which I might know a few things. You’re so cute when you’re angry, Moz. Really I am just mad that he and Johnny Marr won’t kiss and make up and do one last reunion tour for like 50 billion dollars or however much producers have offered him. Seems so silly to hang on to a grudge for your whole life. Think of all the mediocre solo albums he could produce with that kind of cash! And maybe he would finally hire someone to come in and dust his grungy old mansion in the Hollywood Hills. At one point they will both be old enough and poor enough to let bygones be bygones and make an album together again. And it’s gonna be good! OK, OK, maybe not as good as The Smiths, but close. And the lyrics will be weird and brilliant and the guitar riffs will be crazy and sensual and transcendent and then I’ll be that weird mom at the concert embarrassing her kids by throwing her bra onstage.

Why is Morrissey important? 

Jessica: I feel like he basically invented indie rock. Of course, back then we called it “alternative,” which is problematic because what happens when alternative music becomes mainstream? Personally, he is a huge influence on all of the newer music I like today. Which fortunately keeps me somewhat relevant and not just an old broad listening to The Smiths and going on and on about the 90s and how cool they were and how attractive we all used to be. But really, we were gorgeous! Weren’t we? I find myself telling some story about being a “waver”* in the 90s and my poor millenial husband’s eyes just kind of gloss over and… oh never mind. *New Wave listener/style appropriater/opposite of poser

How is this play SO MORRISSEY?

Jessica: The characters in my play have strong feelings about Morrissey as a man and an artist and their relationship to each other is shaped by their shared experience of Morrissey. Together they speak the language of Morrissey. That’s like, SO MORRISSEY.

You didn’t envision the play as being split into three parts, and you’ve decided to wait and see where the divisions happen, when you’re watching the play. Any thoughts on this? Do you think it changes your script a lot? Some writers would definitely be worried about that. Why did you approve the idea?

Jessica: Stuart Bousel split my play into three little playlets and I have no idea what that’s going to be like in performance! I’m honored, excited and scared, mostly excited. There are a lot of beat changes, so I am dying with curiosity to know how that dramatic tension is going to play out. Will we still care about the characters when we see them again? Will we remember what in tarnation they were talking about? It definitely makes those beats a lot longer, which does change the energy of the play. DAMMIT I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT. Mostly I’m just thrilled that Stuart Bousel wants to mess around and do things with my play.

Total spoiler question here, but… what DID happen with Robert? 

Jessica: Ah yes, the elusive Robert, the unseen third character in my play (besides Morrissey)… To know more about him, I refer you to “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” the full-length play. Or webisode series! Only fitting that The Morrissey Plays would spawn a monster, yes?

Final question: What is your ultimate Morrissey Mixtape?

Jessica’s Ultimate Morrissey Mixtape!

Now for this mix I have to exclude “There Is A Light…” because…well that song just exists in a whole class by itself and deserves it’s own mixtape of itself over and over. Also don’t get mad because these are all The Smiths songs. I have supported Morrissey through all of his solo albums, I bought those CDs, I downloaded “World Peace Is None Of Your Business,” I did the hard, dark, introspective work of deciding that Morrissey + Johnny Marr = true genius so you don’t have to. So here it goes, sample lyrics included as “justifications for choice.”

5. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”
What she asked of me at the end of the day
Caligula would have blushed
“You’ve been in the house too long” she said
And I naturally fled

4. “Bigmouth Strikes Again”
And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
now I know how Joan of Arc felt
as the flames rose to her roman nose
and her Discman started to melt

3. “Ask”
Because if it’s not love
Then it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb
That will bring us together

2. “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before”
Nothing’s changed
I still love you, oh, I still love you
Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love

1. “How Soon Is Now”
There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

Jessica Chisum is an actor, playwright and the literary manager of Live Girls! Theater in Seattle. Live Girls has produced her plays DROWNED, SUPERGIRL, YELLOWED, INSERT QUARTER HERE, and MELEKELIKIMAKA COMRADE; SUPERGIRL was published by Rain City Projects. Jessica wrote HEAD FOR YOU TAIL FOR ME for Live Girls’ production of FEVER, plays inspired by the music of Peggy Lee. In San Francisco, she wrote PROMENADE produced by Three Wise Monkeys and PHOEBE PHOENIX SAVES THE WORLD, both of which were selected to be performed at the Last Frontier Theatre Festival in Valdez, Alaska. She was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.

You can see her play, and the rest of the Morrissey Plays, starting tonight at 8 PM, only at PianoFight! 

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: “I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.”

In which the author (Dave Sikula) bids his constant readers farewell.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m outta here. This is my last blog post around these parts for the foreseeable future. While I’m neither retiring from blogging nor the theatre (nor anything else, really), I am taking a break. Whether it’s a long one or a short one, I have no idea.

First of all, my thanks to the proprietor. Without his encouragement and support – and deadlines – I wouldn’t have resumed my long-form online writing. Everyone here at the Pub is wonderful and offers unique perspectives on what’s happening in the theatre in San Francisco – and beyond – and deserves your continued custom and patronage.

But now, moving on. Even though we’ve passed the traditional navel-gazing that accompanies the end of a year, it’s close enough that I feel like I can indulge myself.

There have been any number of topics I’d have liked to talk about over the past couple of weeks and years, but have restrained myself both for propriety’s sake – and out of common sense. I’ve talked (at length) about how there are certain things I just can’t/am not allowed to say.

It’s like how, on Facebook, there are a number of people I keep in my news feed for the sole purpose of having them annoy me. “This again?” I mutter as I hit the “Hide” button or roll my eyes at their obtuseness or forced witticisms. (And please be sure; I am under no illusions that there aren’t simply legions of my erstwhile friends who have hidden me or have a similar reaction when they see I’ve posted – or blogged – or done anything – yet again.)

(Ironically, I started writing something on this topic and found myself starting to say something I wanted to, but couldn’t, due to the possibility of being misinterpreted, in spite of it ultimately being self-deprecating.)

Regardless, this break couldn’t come at a better time. I suddenly find myself chockablock with theatre projects that will be eating up my life for the next few weeks. I’m about to go into rehearsal for Sam and Dede (or, My Dinner with Andre the Giant) at Custom Made Theatre Company (tickets here). It’s the story of the unlikely (and true!) friendship between Samuel Beckett (whom I play, despite my lack of cheekbones and general lack of grizzled aspect) and Andre the Giant.

Sam ...

Sam …

…and Dede

…and Dede

It’s a great script, but it’s a monster; about 140 pages of (basically) two- or three-word exchanges (which should take only about 90 minutes, but still … ). Because we have a limited rehearsal period, I’ve been working on my lines for a good three months now, and actually know many of them, Fortunately, Robert Shepard, who plays Andre, and I have been meeting to run lines and get a head start. Once we start rehearsing, it’ll be down and dirty and having to get a lot accomplished in a very short period of time. Once the show opens though, I think it’ll be a fun and interesting and entertaining evening.

I find myself of two minds about it, though. Brian Katz, Custom Made’s Artistic Director, was doing radio interviews last week and was plugging Sam and Dede (along with the rest of the season), and as he described the show, I suddenly realized that, other than Robert and I, no one knows what we’re doing with a very good script. While I’m more than anxious to share it with an audience (I think – knock wood – it’s going to go over very well), at the same time I like the idea that it belongs to Robert and me and no one else, though. It’s not dissimilar to the feelings I’ve had at final dresses of shows I’ve directed; that feeling that it no longer belongs to me.

Rehearsals will be so involved, though, that I’ll have to miss a good many (if not all) of the rehearsals for the production of my translation of Uncle Vanya at the Pear Avenue Theatre way down in Mountain View (tickets here). One of my goals with this production is that I want to tailor the language to the cast (which is a very good one), but I’ll be so involved with Sam and Dede that my contributions and consultations will mostly be limited to email.

"Bozhe moi. Sikula's translating my plays?"

“Bozhe moi. Sikula’s translating my plays?”

Somewhere in there, as well, I have to cobble together an audition for the TBA Generals.

So, all in all, I have a very jam-packed rest-of-winter, but, after that? Zilch. Nada. Nix. Zero Nothing. Hopefully, that will change, but right now? Nothin’. On the bright side, that means I’ll have plenty of time to work on my latest Chekhov translation (The Cherry Orchard, available – along with my translations of the other major plays – to producers who are interested) and another project (potentially a cash cow) that I’ve had in mind for a while. Not to mention a couple of other projects I’ve been wanting to pursue. (With lots of roles for actresses; be warned.) Unfortunately, that means I’ll have no excuse to not work on any or all of them.

So that’s it. I gotta run lines and tidy the place up for my replacement. I encourage you all to see Sam and Dede (it’s a really good script, even with me in it) and Uncle Vanya. All that’s left is for me to leave you with words to live by, my favorite curtain line; words that I’ve found are suitable to any occasion:

http://s1098.photobucket.com/user/allengu/media/ScreenShot2014-07-29at15615AM.jpg.html

“Son of a bitch stole my watch.”

I’m outta here, ya low-ridin’ punks!

In For a Penny: Life on Mars

Charles Lewis on Bowie.

Yes, he was on Soul Train.

Yes, he was on Soul Train.

“It’s only forever. Not long at all.”
– David Bowie, “Underground”

It was about this time last year that I wrote an entry about how much I don’t like my birthday. It isn’t for the sake of being dour, nor is it a day when I walk around full of self-pity (self-deprecation, maybe), I just don’t see the big deal of causing a fuss over my waking up another day. I’ll gladly celebrate the birthdays of others because I love when my friends are happy, but I never mention to them when mine comes up.

It’s only rarely that I let the day bog me down with thoughts of mortality – not even I am that morbid. But this past weekend, I found myself unable to escape those thoughts. It was this past weekend that someone with whom I share a birthday passed away. No, it wasn’t Sarah Polley, Stephen Hawking, or Elvis Presley (who I’m sure has been dead for quite some time), but the incomparable David Bowie. Even if I didn’t share a birth date with someone I admire – who died days later, no less – the fact that I turned 35 and he 69 caught my eye. I’m literally one year away from being half his age.

But again, rather than dwell on the tragedy of his passing, I became fascinated by the ways he chose to spend his final days. Apparently, he was composing the songs for a theatrical musical… about SpongeBob SquarePants. I didn’t see that coming. But what else should we have expected from a man whose life and career were defined by unabashed theatricality?

Bowie-Tesla-lighting copy

When someone I admire dies, I tend to feel a sense of shame that I didn’t know more about them before reading about it, but I’m glad when they put a lot of things into perspective. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that Bowie’s aforementioned theatricality is a direct result of his training in theatre. He actually began training as a mime under Lindsay Kemp and would later take the title role in a critically-acclaimed performance of The Elephant Man. I say this puts things into perspective, because the man was a capable actor. Usually a musician will take the leap into acting (and vice versa) just as way to expand their public profile. Bowie brought a confidence and self-awareness to the roles he played.

Like most people my age and younger, I was introduced to him as the spandex-wearing Goblin King of Jim Henson’s musical, Labyrinth. Yet, when I think of the role of his that truly left an impression on me as a young man, it was his single scene as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Most portrayals of Pilate that I’d seen – both before and after – often portray him as a moustache-twirling who takes a lot of pleasure in flogging this somehow-special Jew in public. Scorsese and Bowie took a different approach. Their Pilate is calculating and intelligent, but he recognizes that this Christ fellow (Willem Dafoe) is also intelligent, if not calculating. Pilate slowly takes steps towards him in an attempt to unravel the enigma of this man who oddly has the public up in arms. When he sits beside him, it’s a subtle way of showing equality between them, despite their official stations, but the scene ends with Pilate acknowledging that he wouldn’t want to be in Christ’s shoes.

For a man defined by grand flamboyance, it’s a wonderful showcase of nuanced characterization. As a budding teenaged actor who was in the middle of his own spiritual crisis, both the scene and the performance left their mark on me. And as that same teen began to ask more and more questions about his sexuality, there was something comforting about figures like Bowie and Prince who showed me that the well-worn tropes of masculinity and femininity were really just costumes in the theatrical production of life. In Theater Pub’s upcoming Morrissey Plays (opening this Monday at PianoFight), one of my characters – who, by all other indications, is hetero – proudly declares that he’d have sex with the eponymous singer because “Heteronormative gender rules don’t apply.” I learned that by watching Bowie.

As you read this, you’ve probably all come across the news that actor Alan Rickman just passed away. If you have any connection to Bay Area theatre, then you already know that Impact Theatre in Berkeley will be closing its doors later this year. We all know that nothing lasts forever, be it a cherished sanctuary or even life itself. As cliché as it may be, it really does come down to how your living days are spent, rather than constantly dwelling on when the end will come at last.

We might not all be able to be groundbreaking musicians, talented actors, parents of award-winning film-makers, and married to supermodels, but those things wouldn’t be unique if everyone could do them. You don’t have to worry about sharing a birthday with someone more accomplished than you, just celebrate you. A guy named David Jones taught me that.

Charles Lewis III takes solace in the fact that he still shares a birthday with Sarah Polley, an actor and director he’s always admired.

Everything Is Already Something: Farewell, Sweet Dick Joke

Allison Page, starting the new year with a note of goodbye.

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to some good sketches. Sketches which were not long for this world. Sketches as clean and sparkling as any others. Game-focused, precise sketches, escalating alongside the best of them, breaking their game at just the right moment. And yet, here we are. Grieving and sobbing for the sketches we have lost because they needed to be cut…for time.

Ah, time, a fickle master to whom we are all servants. There are but 60 minutes in an hour. We may try to stretch it, challenge it, flout it, but the truth remains. Tick tock, fart jokes, tick tock.

Yes, we must say goodbye even to these fart jokes. These gut busting gas passers. These guttural emissions. These children of the night. For they, yes, even they, cannot escape the wrath of the cuckoo clock. Father time has come for our fart jokes, and we must let them fly home on the wind which we have broken, to that great fart joke depository in the sky.

Heh heh, depository.

As we wave a farewell to our monologues about puberty and screwing inanimate objects, let us not forget what they’ve meant to us. We, the ragged, scratched up, bruised adults. The former horny pre-teens who longed for understanding and Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life, who longed to eat Oreos all day and both wanted to grow up and to stay young and weird. We salute you. We salute ourselves.

Mourning-Woman

Here, too, we mourn the loss of physical sketches which nearly killed us. Back-bending, cheer-leading, freak-dancing, climbing, jumping, cartwheeling sketches crafted for the enjoyment of 10s and 10s of people. Human pyramids and a kid doing the worm alike have been slaughtered. No sketch is ever really safe, is it?

You never think it will be yours, your bouncy baby dick joke. You think you’re immune to the cut of someone else’s jib. You are not. Sometimes you find yourself cutting your own sketches and retreating to a corner of the bar where you can sip your bourbon in silence while cursing the goddamn kids who wrote a better dick joke than you had ever dreamed possible, wiping your dick joke off the figurative map and literal set list.

Not only do we lose our childish, gross jokes, but we must also mourn our attempts at social commentary and blistering satire. Our chance to show the opposing political party that we mean business and are, always, right, sometimes passes away into the recycling bin, or the annals of time and Google Drive, where they wither and age like old digital fruit.

Not only do we say auf wiedersehen to these sketches today, we celebrate them. And we welcome to life those sketches which will make it to the final performance. Those great few. Those strong, hearty few. We hold and coddle them until they are ready to be put forth in front of half-drunk audiences of rabid joke-gobblers. And we hold no ill will for them, the champions. We raise them up and brush the long golden locks of their mullet wigs. We support them with our laughter and know that tomorrow is another day, another joke, another birth of fanciful mirth or jocular rage.

This is not a mourning, but a celebration of life.

*fart sound*

Thank you.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director and Co-Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster. She wrote this as a farewell to the sketches she cut this morning while preparing for KML’s performance at SF Sketchfest Jan 19th at The Eureka Theatre.

The Five: Cult Movie Musicals To Start Your Year

Anthony R. Miller checks in with five Movie Musicals you should drop everything to watch.

Hey you guys, Happy New Year. Like many of you, I had a little extra free time at the end of December and instead of y’know, writing or being a productive member of society, I watched a bunch of movies. And like any good theatre nerd, I watched a bunch of movie musicals, but my tastes are a little, ahem, different. So in order to turn all the time wasting into “research” I’ve compiled a list of weird-ass, off the beaten path movie musicals you need to watch right now to get your 2016 started proper.

Stage Fright (2014)
This Canadian gem features ridiculous songs, bloody death scenes, skewers theatre-kid tropes and stars MeatLoaf. A prestigious theatre camp produces a much maligned musical with a dark past, singing and killing ensues.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
Another Canadian treasure is this mega low budget, musical kung-fu movie that tells the story of Jesus Christ coming back (with some sweet piercings) to save a bunch of good hearted lesbians from a pack of vampires. What the film lacks in production quality, it makes up for with sheer “Hey guys let’s make a ridiculous movie together” joy.

The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
This Phantom of the Opera meets Faust tale is really one of the great cult musicals. With Music by and starring Paul Williams as Swan the evil record producer, a deep voiced Jessica Harper, and bizarre Brian DePalma weirdness. It’s easy to just call this a “Bad Movie”, but it’s more, it’s much more. It’s quotable, packed with strange musical numbers and drugged out 70’s goodness.

Shock Treatment (1981)
The not quite sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Brad and Janet star in a proto-reality show to save their marriage. This film aspires to be art, and was truly ahead of its time in its criticism of reality television. In many ways it’s a better musical than RHS, it’s more ambitious, subversive, and Richard O’ Brien’s score is legitimately great.

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
L.A. is one of my favorite theatre scenes in the world, I’ll never understand it. This film was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of Saw 2-27 fame and boasts a ridiculous cast of all-stars. Set in the future where body parts can be repossessed, and everyone is addicted to a pain killer that is extracted from dead bodies, this goth-industrial horror musical is one of my favorite things in the world. Starring Anthony Stewart Head, Bill Mosely, Orge Nivek (of Skinny Puppy), Paris Hilton and Sarah Friggin Brightman, the film tells a classic story of a love triangle, betrayal, hidden secrets, and a powerful and corrupt family. It also features a lot of dead bodies, a musical score you’d be more likely to hear at Deathguild than in a theater, and Paris Hilton’s face falls off, which is like the most symbolic thing ever.

Happy viewing!

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and generally weird guy, keep up with him at http://www.awesometheatre.org and see his short play “WE hate is when our friends become successful” as part of Theatre Pub’s “The Morrissey Plays”.

Theater Around The Bay: Writers Talking About Morrissey

With a somewhat heavy heart, we bring you some thoughts from the writers of the upcoming Morrissey Plays.

“David [Bowie] quietly tells me, ‘You know, I’ve had so much sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive,’ and I loudly tell him, ‘You know, I’ve had SO LITTLE sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive.” - Morrissey

“David [Bowie] quietly tells me, ‘You know, I’ve had so much sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive,’ and I loudly tell him, ‘You know, I’ve had SO LITTLE sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive.” – Morrissey

Who the heck are you, Morrissey Play writer?

I’m Libby Emmons. My plays include I Am Not an Allegory (iamnotanallegoryplay.com, upcoming Under Saint Marks, March 2016, NYC), How to Sell Your Gang Rape Baby for Parts (Festival of the Offensive, NYC 2014, winner “Most Offensive”), “Soft Little Song Like Doves,” (upcoming Best Short Plays, 2015, Smith & Krause), & many more. Co-founder of the Sticky short play series (stickyseries.live, upcoming Lovecraft Bar, April 2016, NYC), and blogs the story of her life at li88yinc.com. So many thank you’s to Stuart Bousel for including me in the show, & to Morrissey, for seeing me through my teenage years relatively unharmed.

I’m David Robson. I have a degree in theatre from the University of Virginia. I was a director, adapter, and actor, in The Twilight Zone series at the Dark Room Theatre (RIP), which also produced my plays The Night and Zola-X. This is actually my Theater Pub debut!

I’m Susan Petrone, author of the novels Throw Like a Woman (2015), A Body at Rest (2009), and the forthcoming The Super Ladies (2016 or 2017 depending on when I get the manuscript to the publisher). My short fiction has been published by Glimmer Train and Featherproof Books, among others. I also blog about my beloved Cleveland Indians at the ESPN-affiliated blog ItsPronouncedLajaway.com.

Pete Bratach: I’m a guy who has been around long enough to have experienced the Smiths as an angst-ridden, morose teen, long before that whole Emo schtick sucked in the latest generation of outcasts and the disaffected. But “Girlfriend in a Coma” was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Smiths; I know, I know, it was serious. Oh, I live in SF and write for a living.

Allie Costa: I’m an actress, writer, director, and singer. When I’m not in a theatre, I’m on a film or TV set. I’ve been writing stories and songs for as long as I can remember. My earliest audiences were my mom, my sister, and my cat. That audience has now expanded; it’s mind-blowing to realize my work as both an performer and as a writer has been seen in places I’ve never been, like Scotland and London. My play Femme Noir is currently running in New Jersey, while The Intervention Will Be Televised is having its world premiere production in Los Angeles.

Anthony Miller: I was born and raised in San Jose. I performed in the Rocky Horror Picture Show for several years, and then I ran a poetry slam, now I write weird cult plays. I am a man mired in sub-sub cultures. I currently live in Berkeley with my girlfriend and two cats that cant seem to stop eating.

I’m Alan Olejniczak, a San Francisco playwright, Theater Bay Area ISC Board Member, and a company member of We Players. Last spring, I started the fledgling At Last Theatre, with Rik Lopes, and premiered Present Tense at The ACT Costume Shop. Last autumn, City Lights Theater Company presented my short play if-then(-else) and San Francisco Olympians Festival VI premiered my ten-minute play Hylas. This spring, I’m producing my play Dominion and participating in the next San Francisco Olympian’s Festival VII with Lethe.

I’m Barry Eitel, an Oakland playwright and a recipient of the 2016 TITAN Award for playwrights from TBA. I was the Head Writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, leading a team of nine to create a breathing novel set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy. I was the Fall 2014 Artist-in-Residence at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, where I created an interactive play for young audiences. My short plays have been produced across the country and have been published by Smith & Kraus. My play The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident will be produced by FaultLine Theatre at PianoFight in August, 2016. My website is www.BarryEitel.com.

Kylie Murphy: I am a creative writing and filmmaking student from New Jersey. My first short play, World Peace, premiered in New York last summer. I apparently cannot write any play without the phrase “world peace” in the title, and am working closely with a professional to figure out why that is.

How/when did you first discover Morrissey?

Pete: I first discovered Morrissey through the Smiths back in high school when Hatful of Hollow was released.

Libby: In 9th grade no one understood me except the college radio station from the University of Rhode Island which only came in after much fidgeting with the location of the boom box in my room and one day after school they played “Reel Around the Fountain”, and they played “November Spawned a Monster”, and my heart was filled with the most joyous melancholy and I knew I was home.

Alan: I dated a guy briefly in college who introduced me to Meat is Murder. Tragically, my love was unrequited and my life became a glorious Smith’s single. I played the album over and over until my roommate, so worried about my spiraling depression, finally broke the cassette tape. Strangely, one of my fondest memories of Morrissey is seeing the Queen is Dead tour. I worked at the venue and after the sound check, the band casually sat on the edge of the stage. I bravely walked up to Morrissey, but could form no words. I stood there stupidly with my mouth open, until they all started laughing. I walked away, humiliated but delighted I got so close to my idol.

Kylie: I discovered Morrissey while reading the coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was fourteen. After the narrator famously placed “Asleep” by The Smiths twice on a mix tape, I listened to it endlessly and it was perfect. (What is my final cliché count?)

Anthony: I first saw the video for “Tomorrow” on 120 Minutes on MTV, followed by “Panic”, but it wasn’t until “The More You Ignore Me The Closer I get” that I was truly hooked. I promptly shoplifted a copy of “ Vauxhall and I” from my local tower records, thus began the love affair.

Susan: I lived at home during undergrad. My cousin Nora was studying at the Cleveland Institute of Art and lived with us. She (or one of her ultra-cool art school friends) had a homemade tape of Louder Than Bombs, which I “borrowed” and never returned.

Barry: I went through a time in high school obsessing over ’80s college rock, and there he was alongside Echo & The Bunnymen and Husker Du.

What do you love about Morrissey?

Alan: I love the man because he’s quirky, passionate, unafraid, and misunderstood. He’s unapologetic about his music and his views of the music industry, world politics, and religion.

Barry: His plainspoken poetry that would get destroyed at a writers’ workshop but works so terrifically set to music.

Libby: Back pocket daffodils, and the voice, and the emotion that is cold and emotionful at the same time, and the humour, how everthing is a joke on the world, but also on me, and how satisfying it is to be in the fray and be an observant bystander at the same time.

Kylie: I don’t know how to separate what I love from what I hate. Much like separating Morrissey the musician from Morrissey the man from Morrissey the demigod, it’s impossible. I love to hate him and hate to love him. He can be so wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, and yet I would like to rip that tongue out every once in a while.

Susan: He embodies the human paradox. We’re all of us wracked with self-doubt about our looks and abilities. At the same time, we’re all secretly convinced we’re smarter and better-looking than anyone we know. Morrissey lays that dichotomy right out in the open. Plus his lyrics are always clever and often hilarious.

Anthony: The overwhelming combo of melody and melancholy, it’s sad, introspective, and insecure but with a great beat you can dance. I find his music comforting under any circumstance. His music embraces aspects of our personalities that we are led to believe are bad or self-indulgent, but he shows us that these feelings are completely necessary.

Pete: He and Johnny Marr made a powerful songwriting team. That hair! That croon! That vow of celibacy!

What do you hate about Morrissey?

Barry: That posers sing Smiths songs at karaoke to get laid.

Alan: There is nothing I hate about the man.

Pete: His solo work pales in comparison to the Smiths. Sometimes his tremulous voice grates on me.

Kylie: When answering what I hate about Morrisey, I felt a little lost, so I turned to the internet. The top Google searches for “Morrisey is” are “a genius”, “vegan”, “dead”, “not vegan”, and “rude”. I think that says it better than anyone can. In the end, I believe that the only person who could be Morrissey is Morrissey, because he can afford it.

Susan: We all know that we shouldn’t invest too much emotional energy in what other people think of us. Morrissey is evidence of the dangers of completely not giving a shit what the rest of the world thinks.

Anthony: He is kind of a pompous old man now, he doesn’t wear self-confidence well.

Libby: I would say that I hated that time I saw him play and he bailed on the last few songs because he was having a drama freak out, or didn’t feel well, or whatever, but he also sang “Angel Angel Down We Go Together”, and I reached my arms out as far as they could go and felt loved for real, so I don’t even hate him for that, or for moving to LA.

Why do you think Morrissey is important?

Kylie: I’m not sure if I think Morrissey is important, because nothing is important. That’s an answer Morrissey would give. Just kidding, Morrissey would say Morrissey is important.

Alan: The Smiths were one of the most influential rock bands of the 80’s. They resisted being pigeonholed in this ever-evolving music scene. Punk rock turned hardcore, disco evolved into new wave, and rock detoured into heavy metal. Morrissey and Johnny Marr resisted all of these music trends with there own unique sound. The Smiths were never mainstream or found commercial success. They’ve always been underground. The Smiths were remarkable for never having a bad album or a bad song. Since the breakup, Morrissey continues to perform with a loyal following, despite uneven solo albums and infrequent tours. While an unremarkable vocalist, Morrissey has an amazing stage presence – both sexy and commanding. Morrissey’s greatest strength and continued legacy is his brilliant lyrics that range from droll and pithy to self-consciously maudlin. Morrissey is important because he is a rock legend, an icon, with a career that spans four decades.

Anthony: Hs songs create unity through alienation. As fans, we are able to be alone, together.

Susan: His lyrical and vocal style have influenced a wide range of bands and songwriters from Colin Meloy to Noel Gallagher to Sam Smith (who even ripped off the quiff). The meek shall inherit the earth. The misfits and weirdos get Morrissey.

Pete: He gave a voice to the legions of depressed and disaffected youth of the world.

Barry: He made sadness a fine thing to sing about–not “cool” sad, not “look at me I’m sad” sad, not “this world is so crazy” sad, but “I’m afraid I’m totally lame and no one actually likes me” sad.

Libby: I think he’s important as a discovery; for a person who needs to hear what he’s crooning, who feels all those things and has need to have those feelings in surround sound, simply to prevent exploding, Morrissey is essential.

Kylie: I think he is important so that each of us can identify with him at some point in our loneliness, and then find out he is just a guy who has said some bad things and move on with our lives.

David: I can really only talk about Morrissey with a timeline so…

1980s. Morrissey and The Smiths could be seen at school on t-shirts worn by all of the very, very serious kids who’d aligned themselves with alternative culture. I recognized that “How Soon is Now?” was held together by some terrific riffs, but there was something off-putting about the frontman’s…affectedness? Gloominess? The music from nearby Washington, DC’s punk scene seemed a more practical response to the problems faced by my generation, and the industrial/darkwave music out of Chicago was more fun to dance and fuck to. No Smiths or Morrissey for me, then.

1990s. The college’s weekly lively arts publication highlights the spectacularly insane contents of a press release announcing the coming of KILL UNCLE, Morrissey’s second solo album. Among the highlights: “Morrissey is clearly out to shock you with his new album. Just look at the title: KILL UNCLE. See? You’re shocked!” A few years later Morrissey’s VAUXHALL & I marks a pleasing new plateau for Morrissey, and meets with great critical and commercial success. The single “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” turns into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy as it’s played at least once an hour on every goddamn radio station I listen to.

2000s. A noticeably-older Morrissey holds a tommy gun so gracefully on the cover of YOU ARE THE QUARRY that he seems to have pirouetted off the set of a John Woo film. I don’t buy the album (though a friend assures me that “First of the Gang To Die” is one for the ages) but the cover sends me. There’s something tremendously reassuring about Morrissey brandishing a machine gun, especially halfway through the second Bush administration. I’m pleased he’s still around, though damned if I understand why.

2010s. SF Theatre Pub puts a call out for submissions to The Morrissey Plays. I get cranky that they’ve picked an artist with whom I have so little affinity, but simply shrug and say ah well. A week later ask myself where I would start, and call up a YouTube recording of “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” And all the doors between Moz and me just disappear. I can see that crappy seaside town, I exult in the greyness overhead, I feel like I’ve lived there, and yet I can see it so clearly thru the eyes of Morrissey’s narrator; his ennui sounds overblown thanks to a downright Wall-of-Sound production, but the sensuality that informs it is the real deal, and THAT is where Moz and I finally connect. And over a couple of short sessions I find a play set against that grey landscape, populated with Morrissey’s characters and mine, pursuing what I find in the song to what feels to me like a natural conclusion. I can’t pretend that I know Morrissey better than anyone, or even particularly well, but I’m glad, after all of these years, to have finally had such a thrilling introduction.

Allie: I was inspired to write How Soon is Now? after hearing a friend gush about Morrissey the day after she attended his concert with two of her friends, dear friends she’s known since high school. As she told me about her experience at the concert, she positively lit up, smiling so broadly, and I could easily see her as a teenager, moved by the music and bonding with these girls who would become her lifelong friends. I wrote the piece that evening and I shared it with her the next day. When this piece was selected for The Morrissey Plays, she was the first person I told.

Okay. Five MUST HAVE SONGS on the Ultimate Morrissey Mix.

Kylie:
1. “Asleep” Obviously.
2. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” I used this song in a school project where I created a musical companion to Crime and Punishment— you’d be surprised just how well Morrissey and Raskolnikov fit together.
3. “How Soon Is Now?” For the longest time, I thought that he was singing “I am human and I need to belong”. But who was I kidding, Morrissey doesn’t need to belong anywhere.
4. “Half A Person” Of course he says the YWCA and not the YMCA. Of course.
5. “Asleep” Twice, in honor of the book that brought Morrissey into my life.

Pete:
1. “Hand In Glove” Because the sun shines out of our behinds!
2. “How Soon Is Now?” Despite its relative ubiquity, Johnny Marr’s guitar on this song is amazing, and the lyrics were so fitting for an angsty, misfit teenager.
3. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” Again, Johnny Marr’s guitarwork, plus lyrics so over the top they’re funny.
4. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” Another anthem for an angsty drunken teenager in college.
5. “What Difference Does It Make?” Songs that are questions are cool.

Allie:
1. “How Soon is Now?” is my favorite song by The Smiths/Morrissey, probably because it was the first I heard, but also because of its surround-sound effect and fantastic groove.
2. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” Always reminds me of my friend Holly Cupala, whose novel used it as the working title. The book was later published under the title Tell Me a Secret.
3. “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” Always reminds me of Dream Academy’s instrumental cover as featured in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
4. “Reel Around the Fountain” Check out the acoustic cover version by Duncan Sheik, too.
5. “Girlfriend in a Coma” The juxtaposition of a poppy music line + creepy lyrics.

Alan:
1. “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” This song reminds me of the freewheeling melancholia of my youth – when the smallest problems loomed large and feeling sorry for your self was a badge worn with honor.
2. “Billy Budd” For me, this driving song is the painful remembrance of being young, closeted, and desperately in love.
3. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” What twenty old doesn’t occasionally wallow in anguish and regret, yet desperately clinging to the hope of eternal love?
4. “Headmaster Ritual” In the golden age of Manchester schools, not unlike a good parochial education, helped students build strong character through fear, violence and humiliation.
5. “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” This song is hilarious – besides who has not loved the wrong kind of guy?

Susan:
1. “Ask” I used to sing this to my daughter when I was giving her a bath because it’s just ridiculously catchy.
2. “All You Need Is Me” Because I love to sing along with the line “I was a small fat child in a welfare house, there was only one thing I ever dreamed about.”
3. “Throwing My Arms Around Paris” In the song “Lush Life” Billy Strayhorn wrote “A week in Paris would ease the bite of it,” and so it would.
4. “Sing Your Life” This is one of three songs I want played at my funeral (no joke).
5. “Now My Heart Is Full” Simply because it’s lovely.

Barry:
1. “Panic” How come people don’t still say “Hang the DJ”?
2. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” You aren’t too cool to appreciate the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.
3. “Shoplifters of the World Unite” A song from the viewpoint of the most pathetic security guard ever.
4. “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” There may have never been a truer thing ever said.
5. “This Charming Man” I wrote my play about this one so….

Libby:
1. “These Things Take Time” Because it’s the song we sang that one summer when we watched old movies in my bedroom, shunned the glorious singing bird sunshine, drank red wine, and lay the whole day in bed.
2. “Sheila Take a Bow” Because I saw the video for this on my local cable access channel when I was growing up, and some kids did a video show, and they played this and Morrissey does that bend forward thing and I knew I wasn’t alone.
3. “Driving Your Girlfriend Home” Because I’ve been the girlfriend.
4. “Last Night on Maudlin Street” Because it makes me feel like I’m leaving my child hood home forever all over again, and how life hurts, but is beautiful, and how even hurting is beautiful, and love is real, and really possible, even if it’s not always realized, and being alive itself is enough reason to stay that way.
5. “How Soon is Now” Because it’s the classic, and DJ Bobby Startup used to play it at Revival when I was a kid in Philly, and then when I got to know him years later and he dj’d Bar Noir where we did our first Sticky show he would play it just for us, even though otherwise he’d do the dance tunes, and we’d get up on the tables and sing at the top of our lungs and feel like the world was ours.

Anthony:
1. “This Charming Man” So many good memories associated with this song.
2. “November Spawned a Monster” I can sing this at the top of my lungs and just feel better, even if I didn’t feel that bad beforehand.
3. “The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get” This is the song that hooked me.
4. “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” Because it’s the story of my life. And that’s Ok.
5. “Still Ill (John Peel/Hatful of Hollow Version)” It’s very much a portrait of how I feel at this point in my life, I am not who I used to be and the world has changed, and it’s equal parts good and bad.

Don’t miss The Morrissey Plays, opening on Monday!