The Five: One Crazy Busy Summer

Anthony R. Miller Checks in with a million different things to do.

Hey you guys, I don’t know about you, but I’m having one crazy summer and I’m not talking about the 1986 classic starring John Cusack. I’m talk about how crazy busy I have been the last few months. The crazy part is that they have been some of the best in a long time. Best Summer Ever? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But I do a have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you, predictably, there are five.

Everyone Should Be Using “Slack”

TERROR-RAMA 2: Prom Night has opened shop. The first Public Reading / Fundraiser is this October, Pre-Production and Dramaturgy Meetings are happening and I’m pretty excited. One of the big changes were making this time is that all communication for the show runs through one place now, a delightful little app called “Slack”. It’s basically a social network for your project and the people working on it. Instead of long email chains, group messages on Facebook, and back and forth texting, all communication happens through the app. You can share files, do direct messaging and tag certain members for specific messages. It makes communication so much simpler, and in theatre, bad communication can kill a show, seriously try it. I’m a believer.

Oh Wow, This Might Be Kind of Good

The crazy adventure of my Olympians play begins with writing bits and pieces of whatever scene I think of and then go back linking them all together. I never write like this, and now I know why. It’s so friggin inefficient, I mean how can you really be sure how someone is going o talk in scene six when you haven’t written scene 3 yet? I’ve been finding myself re-working previously written scenes so that they all serve one narrative. The fun has been finding the story in all my goofy ideas. Usually, I start with an outline and then build my script from there, I always write chronologically, except for this play. It’s been pretty fun seeing how scenes and characters change as you start shaping scenes and characters. Seeing the story come out kind of organically has been fun thus far, but again super inefficient. The crazy part is what started as a goofy idea is becoming actually kind of good and maybe even actually about something. And by god, it’ll be under 45 minutes.

Sentence by Sentence

I took a new freelance job recently that involves me taking congressional records for the early 1800’s and formatting them into a script. It’s a whole new level of tedious. I’m basically taking one person’s record of what people did and said and having to change the tenses and make it dialog. Because I am such a nerd, this is actually really fun for me. It’s basically dialog boot camp. I’ve had to break up speeches that go on for PAGES (these guys could talk) sentence by sentence. I have never examined a sentence so closely. To have to obsess over every word and intention has been a really fascinating learning experience and also payback for all the English classes I duly ignored.

Disposable Art

Another freelance gig I took this summer was creating content for a nifty new social media app that didn’t last too long. For three months I made all sorts of neat stuff and got paid to basically screw around on my phone. I wrote a ton about music, made web-comics about my cat talking to Taylor Swift, and created different ways to say “Go Fuck Yourself”. Some of it was actually pretty good, and now it’s gone forever. The app has shut down and all this content, or dare I say, art, created by people is just gone. I often joke about “Disposable Art”, which I call art that is enjoyable at the time, but doesn’t stay with you forever, just long enough for the next one. But this was truly and literally disposable art, art that once existed and is now gone, much like all of my poetry from High School. (Which is probably a good thing.)

Whoa Did I Just Direct the School Play?

Over the last few years, I’ve been teaching more and more. I find myself a little shocked at how much I enjoy it and how I seem to be pretty decent at it. This summer gave me my busiest teaching schedule yet. The summer began with the big performance for an after school drama program I had been teaching. Since it was first year working there, I kept expectations low and promised very little. We had spent a few months working on scenes from Alice in Wonderland and I figured it’d be good to have a few kids there, maybe some parents. “Nothing major, maybe just 20 people” I said, but on the day of the performance, the whole school was there, along with parents. Before the show began I took a minute to look out at the crowd and I thought to myself “Whoa, did I just direct the school play?” It seems, however inadvertently, that I had. An odd sense of accomplishment swept over me, and sure all the things that are supposed to happen in a junior high play, happened. One kid was better than everyone, I had to stall in between scenes, and one girl forgot her lines and ran off crying. I also saw the odd phenomenon of my most difficult students who almost never listened to me, be suddenly struck by the reality of 100 people watching them, and become incredibly dependent on me, hanging on my every instruction. The best part was that I handled it, pep talks were given, mothers thanked me and the kids seemed genuinely happy. It was the first time I myself as a legit educator, so that’s something.

So that’s been my summer so far, and it’s been fulfilling as hell. I’ve been working, being creative and doing stuff that I’m happy with. It’s amazing how many way there are to create art for a living. Till next time.

Anthony R. Miller does many things; learn all about them at www.awesometheatre.org.

Working Title: It’s Old! It’s New Like You’ve Never Seen!

This week Will Leschber looks back over the closing summer season so we can all then look forward to the fall.

I find myself at that much maligned crossroad. The crossroad of the job hunt. What is it about the dawn of fall that thrusts us into another phase of life whether we want to or not? Is it that we’ve been conditioned to see this time of year this way? Maybe it’s all the back to school shopping we did growing up. Or maybe it’s the habitual feeling that wraps around summer’s end and edges the nervous excitement surrounding something new: New School year, new season to see, new jobs to hunt. Summer is closing and playtime is up.

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The thing about summer is that it’s comfortable. The weather is warm, weddings are in season and vacation is on the horizon. Sure, adult living in the Bay Area may look a little different with heightened workloads and rampant cold fronts, but you get my drift. Also we are fed a wave of comfort food in the form of summer entertainment: remounting of old classics, new installments of franchise favorites, new additions to old genres. I know, I know, so much of this recycled dreck is a fraction of the quality we’d like to see. For every Dark Knight there are twice as many Transformer entries or Amazing Spiderman 2 misfires. That being said, I’d rather focus on the surprise successes. This summer we’ve seen familiar ground retread to spectacular ends. That’s my point, There is comfort in the familiar and also hope that these retellings or new genre entries will aspire to be better than their predecessors.

Along the indie film lines we were treated to familiar genres turned on their heads. My favorites were: a stylistic and ever-cool reclaiming of the vampire genre in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive; The romantic comedy as you’ve never seen it before with Jenny Slate’s turn as comic misanthrope, peter-pan-adult facing abortion in Obvious Child; And Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel which takes stories within stories to package nostalgia in a superb pseudo-coming of age tale. All of these remind me how good familiar stories can be when told by a superior storyteller. Blockbuster-fare impressed as well. Here are the highlights: The spectacular sequel to an unlikely reboot in The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a rock-em-sock-em adrenaline punch in the under seen sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow, and the new addition to the Marvel Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy. On paper each of these films appear unlikely to succeed with characters ranging from aliens to talking apes to gun-toting raccoons to walking trees to Tom Cruise! But the filmmakers succeed threefold: they have a clear vision of the kind of movie they are, the filmmakers balance tone and pace perfectly and lastly, in the end the final product plays to our familiar taste while providing something new an exciting in the process. Hell, even my favorite theatre experience of the last few months was a classic remounted. Custom Made Theatre’s production of The Crucible reminded me how fresh and powerful an old classic can be.

The best somehow finds a way to merge the new and the familiar. We need both to move forward. It’s enriching. Contrasting ideas can enrich our general point of view. Old ideas slammed against new ones, that’s summer! The old is new again. Now that we’ve taken stock and peered back over the closing summer season, we can prepare to look ahead to fall and all that lies forward. Tune in next time for a fall preview!

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And as a post script shout out, I’d like to hail fellow Tpub Blogger Anthony R Miller. In his last blog entry. Anthony said, “I find conversations about the new Planet of the Apes film are just as important and stimulating to me as conversations about the role of regional theatre in America today. I need both dammit.” I agree. Keep talking theatre, keep talking Apes, keep talking my friend. I like what you have to say.