Thursday, June 28, 2007

4 a.m. blogging

Yeah. So, I can't seem to get to sleep. It's one of those nights when the voices inside the head won't stop.

Very annoying.

To understate.

Actually, I think it's a sandwich I ate at Starbucks that won't stop. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Like so many ideas, I guess.

So, it's been over 2 (count 'em) months since I last posted and I decide to post in a sleep deprived state. Another idea that seems good right now. We shall see.

The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays by Christopher E. Ellis WILL be published this summer. It's so so very very close close. This publishing thing is, as I often say, done with on the job training. I've learned a lot about publishing plays with this book. I'd like to stop learning, now, please, thank you. But it's very nearly ready to burn to a cd and send off to the printer.

It's good stuff. Christopher has a way of revealing the best and worst of humanity in very short plays, often in one character. His play Dirt, for example, reveals in about 10 minutes how faith in God can lead to both self-sacrifice and self-delusion. With only two characters, he tells us what frail creatures we all are, even when we invest ourselves in something bigger than ourselves. It's an amazing, tight, little piece of theater.

The Broken Museum, which I referred to earlier as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on a Streetcar Named Desire, remains my personal favorite of the collection. Christopher tells me that he gets polar opposite reactions to that play---very little lukewarm, all either love or hate. I obviously fall in the love category. I think this play should be picked up by every short play festival in the country. Because good theater will evoke strong emotions. This is good theater.

Phil Donlon, the film director who supplies the foreword to the book, calls the titular play a poker game with the characters holding their cards very close to their chest. This is an apt description. Celeste, a would-be runaway, asks nice guy Karl for a favor on her way out of town. He wants to help but doesn't think running away is a good idea. Here begins a series of deceptions and manipulations by both characters as their hidden agendas come to light. This is the longest play in the collection. It's a tour de force for a pair of young actors. College theaters should be all over this play.

Zero Wun Niner Tango Copy is just heart breaking. With overlapping dialog, we see two characters, husband and wife, communicate to the audience what they can't communicate to each other. What is genius about this play is that Christopher gives us no good guy and no bad guy ("guy" used in a midwestern, genderless way here). Both characters are self-centered and ignorant of the other's needs, even as we see that their own needs are real. You want to call the man a jerk until he reveals his own hurt. You want to call the woman a needy whiner except you can't help but see she has a point. The play is set against a Viet Nam war backdrop, but for all that, it's really a story about communication and just how hard it is.

The final play in the book is a ten-minute monolog called My Dear America. This is contemporary, political commentary and it's pretty sharp. This play is all about the current state of these United States and how it's easy for your average citizen to feel a bit beat up by the country s/he loves. Written to be played by either a man or a woman, this piece should be performed at political rallies as well as at theater festivals. It's funny and sad and painful.

Really, this collection will be ready soon. Email neo at for pre-publication ordering info.

Me? I keep busy besides this publishing thing. I'll be leading a creative writing workshop here in Houston for six weeks, mid-July to late August. Cheap, too. Sixty bucks for six weeks. Use the same email for more info if you're in Houston.

Also, I've placed a prose poem (I think that's what it is---the editor called it a short story) in a journal called NANO fiction. It's a new journal published out of the English department at the U. of Houston. I'm told it'll be in the fall issue, whatever that means. The piece is called "Trailing" and I think it's about feeling lost. It might be about something else to someone else. I can't control these things.

The little bitty clock in the lower right hand corner of my screen says its now 5 a.m. Tomorrow is going to be a long hard day. Or I guess that's today is going to be a long hard day. At any rate, I hope I haven't embarrassed myself or, more importantly, Christopher with my sleepless typing.

I'm going to go try for a nap before the alarm goes off.


Blogger coordinators said...

hello, Neil!

thought about you the other day, as we had Michael and Sheila Parker from West Edge Books and News for 4th of July lunch and visit. the collection of plays sounds wonderful. i'll buy one, but have no idea how they might come to light in S'port.


5:39 PM  

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