In For a Penny: Mid-Year Intermission

Charles Lewis III, keeping it together and taking stock.

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“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

So far this isn’t necessarily my favorite year, but it’s been busy nonetheless. Between a full-length show in which my character had the most dialogue, a stint in ShortLived, acting in two Theater Pub shows, and lots of on-camera work I can’t even remember, I should be relaxing. Instead I’m thinking about this evening’s rehearsal for a show that opens in just over a week. Besides, my way of decompressing at the start of summer is to just let my mind run in a million different directions at once. Like so:

Free Lunch

Over the weekend I took advantage of having some time off to see a great show before it closed. It was a last-minute decision and thankfully there were a few seats available. Unfortunately, their Square reader wasn’t working and I had no cash on me. Just as I was about to leave to find an ATM, the director showed up and insisted I be his comp for the evening.

I accepted, but I admit that I felt guilty about getting in free for an indie show. I have no problem taking advantage of comps or discounts from big houses, but I always feel a bit uneasy doing so for smaller venues and companies; I’m far too conscious of the fact that the money I’m saving is being denied to people in the production. Even using Goldstar or discount codes can make me feel like I’m shoplifting at a store struggling to pay property fees.

But I’m less adamant about this than I’ve been in years past. Back then, I thought taking advantage of a discount or comp from an indie theatre company was me giving the finger to said company; “Goldstar spite” I called it. (Some shows I only saw because I knew someone in production who’d comp me.) But I also don’t have endless money to throw around, so now I think of comps and discounts less a commentary on the theatre and more me not worrying about my account balance all the time.

Besides, I like that even before I began writing for this site I’ve been offered industry comps. It allows me to simultaneously take an active part in the local theatre scene AND make sure all of my bills are paid at the end of the month.

Field of Streams

If you read Playbill as often as I, then you probably saw the news that Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening, American Psycho) is creating a new musical that will be made available exclusively through a mobile app created by Verizon. The musical, Pulse, will feature a libretto by Kyle Jarrow and “[follow] a group of American expatriates living in Berlin who find themselves immersed in the city’s vibrant, kinetic dance scene. The series tracks one year of the characters’ lives telling the story as a lush and provocative EDM musical.”

Synopsis aside, the internet-first approach reminded me of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog, which debuted on the internet in 2008. It also reminded me Alyssa Rosenberg’s recent Washington Post piece about how the price of Hamilton has become so prohibitively expensive that perhaps a film adaptation is now in order.

Ah, the age-old question of how to get audiences to the theatre. We indie folk often have to drag them kicking and screaming, but shows like Hamilton and Spring Awakening have to turn people away at the door. The question for both is how to get the show to people who won’t be there. As I’ve mentioned before, technology can be our friend in times like this. Streaming apps – Periscope in particular – have grown in popularity over the past year and it’s brought the live performance to new audiences. Just last year, I was part of a PianoFight audience as they livestreamed a production of Don’t Be Evil over YouTube. I remain convinced that it’s a great way to share theatre work with those who can’t be there in person. Whereas “Tweet Seats” still strike me as distracting to live performance, livestreaming is integrative and the very type of incorporation more live venues and companies – indies in particular – should research.

Turd Blossom

Recently I agreed to direct the staged reading for another writer of this year’s Olympians Fest. I then went to look over the material I currently have for my own script. As it continues to both shrink and expand, I found one particular verse that I knew would be the first to go. I’d written a pretty off-color joke that was unnecessary to the story proper and would definitely be taken as offensive to audiences that heard it (hell, it offended me).

I immediately 86’d the joke for the latest draft, but I was left wondering what corner of my subconscious spawned it to begin with? I’m not fond of shock value and don’t think highly of those who rely on it too much, but I also wondered if I was needlessly self-censoring my own work so as to not offend an audience that exists only in my mind? Would it be so bad if I occasionally embraced the more “uncouth” areas of my psyche during the creative process? I remember attending Tourettes Without Regrets a year or two back and watching this brilliant routine about how the Game of Thrones franchise is really just George R.R. Martin doing an extended version of “The Aristocrats”.

I actually liked writing the joke originally – done more or less during a stream of consciousness writing session – but editing is just as important to creativity. The joke didn’t add anything to script, so it was excised. Sorry, Dead Baby Joke – maybe some other play.

A few other theatre-related thoughts crossed my mind, but I decided to silence them with a nice jog. As this is my 35th year (yes, midyear of my mid-30s), I find it healthy to take a little mental inventory. I recently got news that I might not even be living in the Bay Area this time next year, so I’ll try to make the most of it while I am here. First-half of the year was busy, second-half looks intriguing. Let’s see what’s in store.

Charles Lewis III would like to assure you all that he does NOT have a collection of discarded death jokes just lying around. He’s much more of a “Knock-Knock” guy.

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2 comments on “In For a Penny: Mid-Year Intermission

  1. carrpool says:

    If you were iffy about the joke, you are better off leaving it out. Chances are, you would kick yourself if you left it in. But as you say, maybe another time, another context. I’ll be happy to judge it for you. Please send me the joke. I promise not to circulate it on Facebook/Twitter or send it to Donald Trump. Trust me. And remember, “There once was a man from Nantucket….”

    Regards,

    Gary Carr

  2. Reblogged this on The Thinking Man's Idiot and commented:
    In which I use the mid-year month to ponder getting comped for shows, self-censorship, and bringing shows to those who can’t be in the audience.

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