Theatrical Thursday

Theatre poster of the week, Lettice and Lovage.

LetticeAndLovageFinal

No Shame Theatre post of the week.

Home Truths

(lights up full)

A picture is not worth a thousand words – it’s really worth a good two thousand minimum. It doesn’t have to be some Impressionist treasure, or a Pre-Raphaelite allegory either. It could be an old black and white photograph – hinting at a film noir menace in its inky shadows. However sunny the world was when the picture was snapped, the shadows lengthen over time as the photo cracks and flakes. Pictures capture something vital, not necessarily your soul – though in the case of some of you here, it would explain a great deal – but truth.

Picture This: A small child, barely a toddler, is taking his first steps. He’s beginning to fall backwards, arms held out for support that may not come. A baby deer caught in headlights. His fluffy, fleecy, too-large, footie pajamas are also caught in the blinding flash and glow as white as phosphorus. He looks like a baby David Byrne in that big white suit from Stop Making Sense. You may say to yourself “this is not my beautiful house”.

You may say to yourself “these are not my beautiful jammies”. You’ll have guessed by now that the child in the photograph is me.

And it’s a funny picture, but not as funny as it should be. Something’s wrong with it – something as subtle as it is important. If you didn’t know my family, you’d never guess. You’d never notice; and if you did, you’d explain it away as a trick of the light.

In the background, behind the falling child I was, my mother is seen sitting in a chair. You can’t see her face, or her arms or much else really, but it’s definitely her. All you can really see is her leg. That’s enough to tell you that it’s my mom. She had fine legs – really lovely legs. She was gorgeous. But in the picture, the white-hot flash seems to somehow – reflect – off her leg.

That’s the problem. Below her knee, revealed by the camera’s flash, is a shiny smooth fitted prosthesis. A new leg to designed to match the beautiful leg she’d so recently lost. And in shape, there is no discernible difference. In reflection though, the difference is laid bare.

I grew up with a mom who was smart and funny and sarcastic and wouldn’t dance.

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the story of her missing leg or how many times I’ve heard it since. I ask her about it time and again- On my last visit with her and all the visits I can remember. It’s not that I like to hear about it, I don’t even like to think about it.

It’s the truth of it that I wonder about. I still doubt the story that I’ve heard so often. The truth seems so out of reach and the story… Well. Here’s the story:

My dad was a pioneer boy. Born and raised in Rifle, Colorado. Learned to swim when his brothers threw him off a bridge into the roaring, ice-cold Colorado River. Trapped beaver and muskrat and put the furs on the train to Chicago. Hunted deer & elk on the high winter mountains, for meat- not sport. Never excelled in school because there too much farm work to do.

One day he met a beautiful blonde- a worldly city girl from L.A. A teacher. He courted her and won her hand in marriage. They left the homestead and went to Laramie, Wyoming. They lived in the basement of house owned by the most wonderful people… and they were so, so happy there…

One day, their landlords went out of town, on vacation. My parents were left to look after the place…Of course they could watch the house, anyone could do that… But how could they show the same kind of care and consideration that their landlords had shown to them? What unique skills did they have that might go that extra step? Well, my Dad could clean their guns… Sound FX: (Loud Gunshot!)

My father would never keep a loaded gun in the house, and assumed no one else would either. That’s the story… and try as I may, I just I can’t believe it’s true. My father is the most competent and logical craftsman you’ll ever hope to meet. He’s been a miner, a lumberjack, a carpenter, a builder, a fire fighter, a teacher, an administrator and a hunter. Despite his upbringing – or maybe because of it – he’s a very smart man. That’s why the story about the landlord’s loaded gun seems so wrong, so out of place in a life like his. But right or wrong, it’s their story and they’re sticking to it. And if not that, then what? Are there better answers? None that I have ever thought of…

I’ve wondered about the truth of it for years. I knew that the doctors had taken the skin from her heal and stitched it to shattered leg that was left, but to picture the detached leg… The sudden firing. The smell of gunpowder. The shock of the blast. My mother’s leg. Blown… off. The spattered blood, the shattered bone. The pain, the cries, and the frantic emergency calls. The guilt. Can you imagine the guilt?

(long pause)

I think that was the defining moment of their relationship. Whatever else had come before, this was the moment of truth. I can never know what really happened that day, what’s really reflected in the picture of a flailing toddler and his mother’s false leg… I can never know the truth because I was not there. But I do know that my parents love each other still, and are growing old together with love. That’s the only truth I know.

(blackout)

 

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Theatrical Thursday

Theatre poster of the week, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.

SophisticatedLadies

No Shame Theatre post of the week.

Principles

Cast

Ali – A smart and thoughtful young woman principled and straightforward.

Johnson – A slightly sputtery authority figure.

Eric – A cool young man.

(lights up full)

Ali: You wanted to see me?

Johnson: Yes, Alison, I did. Have you reconsidered my offer?

Ali: (stern) Yes, Sir, I have.

(pause)

Johnson: And?

Ali: And I’m afraid I still can’t accept.

Johnson: (surprised) …because?

(slightly longer pause)

Ali: Because it’s Fascism, Sir, plain and simple. I refuse to be involved with anything so morally bankrupt.

Johnson: (in total disbelief)Morally bankrupt? …Fascism?  I’m not sure I—

Ali: (interrupting) Don’t patronize me, Sir. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. (begins to rant). Fascism is extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates conformity to a mythical standard of “normalcy”. It cuts through all other notions of what is right or natural. It attempts to lull us into a false sense that there is no death or decay, just your perfect – and perfectly artificial – status quo. Any natural tendencies toward variety or individualism threaten your perfect organic community and must be crushed beneath your jack-booted feet.

Johnson: (getting a word in) Now look here, I don’t even wear boots and you know—

Ali: (cuts him off, continues ranting) Your sort of Fascism promotes the idea of (counting them off on her fingers) class superiority, hybrid inferiority, persecution, territorialism, expansion, and – of course – (her sixth finger raised is a forefinger that she points accusatorily at Johnson) genocide. Oh, it wears the face of a socially acceptable, politically correct movement. Of course it claims a noble pedigree, but please! It’s a Procrustean hotbed of senseless conformity that flies in the face of science and nature. It’s a violent and elitist tradition that has traditionally be the province of pampered young men. You feel that I’m lucky to even be offered this job, because I’m a girl – a woman, but the truth is no one is lucky to have this job. This job – this working for the man, for the Fascist pig dog – this job sucks! I pity you, Sir. I really do. Good day.

(Ali turns and walks to the door. Eric enters as Ali exits. She gives him a dirty look as she passes.)

Johnson: (turns to Eric and sighs) Well… your sister still won’t mow the lawn. I guess I’ll need to raise the price after all.

Eric: A cool 20, minimum.(pause) Ya big Fascist.

(quick fade to black.)

Theatrical Thursday

Theatre poster of the week, Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson.

WonderfulWorldDissocia

No Shame Theatre post of the week.

Legacy

Cast  

Angela – A beautiful and ambitious chat show hostess.

Nigel – Famous rock star, aging but still vital. Very comfortable with his fame.

Cue Card Holder – A man doing a job.

(lights up full)

Angela: To those of you just tuning in, welcome. You’ll recognize our guest – He’s headlining a solo tour while the rest of the boys in the band are in rehab!

I am delighted to welcome the one, the only – Nigel!

(A few bars of Classic Rock are played as Nigel enters. Cue Card Holder stands and shows the “Applause” card briefly and sits back down. Nigel enters to audience applause. Angela gets up to greet him. They both sit down.)

Angela: Welcome. Welcome. Make yourself at home.

Nigel: Hey Angela. Always nice to see you too, love.

Angela: That was an amazing show you put on last night at the Omni. All the old hits… well, not all the old hits of course –There wouldn’t be time for all of them in a 3 hour show. But listening to you sing all those classics got me thinking… You’re sixty years old, is that right?

Nigel: Yeah love, sixty. What’s it to you?

Angela: (a little taken aback) Well… um. I wondered how you had the energy to be whooping it up on stage night after—

Nigel: (interrupting) You should see me after I leave the stage, love.

Angela: …night – energy when most of your contemporaries are resting comfortably in their Florida retirement homes. What keep you going, Nigel?

Nigel: Legacy, Angela. Legacy.

Angela: And what do you feel your legacy is, Nigel? I mean, you’ve been a Rock & Roll God for four decades now, so when you say “legacy” Nigel, just what do you mean?

Nigel: I mean – the reason I got into this game in the first place.

Angela: And why was that, Nigel?

Nigel: (quickly) Crumpet.

Angela: (cluelessly) Crumpet?

Nigel: You know… Cun–   (Stops mid-word. Smiles slyly, looks around.)

What we wanted then – it’s the same thing we want now. It’s just that with age, we look at it a bit, y’know – differently. With more perspective. You know when we was young, we looked at the great Blues guys, cause they got all the chicks. And they were just poor Negroes. I mean we didn’t look too bad by way of contrast. So we thought – well! Yeah!

Angela: Sex?!? That’s it? That’s your legacy?

Nigel: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, love. (Chuckles and pauses for audience laughter) But seriously, legacy is what you leave the world, am I right? So I asked myself – “Nigel” I says, “what will people remember in a thousand years time? What’s gonna last? What’s gonna go the distance?” (looks pensive) And the answer isn’t my money, not my fame. My music… (looks to the audience and archly raises a brow) … well, I suppose there might be an outside chance at that. But the real answer is genes, Angela — Children.

Angela: (back on track) And you’ve just had your 9th child named… (finds it in notes) Ruby – with the voluptuous young South African… um, (tries to think of nice way to say porn star) “model” Alexandra van Houten. Is that right?

Nigel: Ruby – Yeah. Cute little thing she is too. Mark my words, she’ll be a heartbreaker like her mom. (smiles) But that’s not really my point, Angela.

Angela: No?

Nigel: You ever hear of a chap called Screamin’ Jay Hawkins?

Angela: (stumped, she looks into the audience hopefully) um…

Cue Card Holder: (audible whisper) “I Put a Spell on You!”

Angela: (relieved) Ah – “I Put A Spell On You”. (expectant smile) That guy?

Nigel: (bemused) Yeah, that guy – I caught his act once in California – what a showman! And amazingly successful, genetically speaking.

Angela: What do you mean – ‘genetically successful’?

Nigel : (nodding) Screamin’ Jay Hawkins has 95 kids confirmed and only married once. No telling how many others there are out there… he probably has 300 grandkids by now…

That’s what it’s all about, love. It’s about unlimited numbers of very fertile and very willing young girls; enough money to buy them trinkets and treat the clap; enough prestige so the mothers of your children around the world think they’re doing the world a favor while remaining at a discreet distance; and above all – Above all it’s about the genes. That’s a legacy, love.

Angela: So you’re implying that you have more than 9 children?

Nigel: (disbelieving her naivety) Implyin’? Please… Here’s Screamin’ Jay with a cool hundred kids, and you never even heard of him. Well, you’ve jolly well heard of me! So just imagine how many little Nigels there are out in the world today, love.

Angela: (incredulous) That’s a lot of single mothers, Nigel. Surely someone would notice.

Nigel: Someone in the press you mean? Someone I haven’t done in the press? Someone who don’t want to be me in the press? People see what they want to see. ‘Specially when it comes to sex…

Do you know what the word Cuckold means, love? It’s like the cuckoo bird leavin’ eggs in someone else’s nest. If I told you how many married women I’d had, you wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes the man gets a whiff that the baby isn’t his, and sometimes he knows for a solid fact. But that don’t stop anything. Never has and it never will. Sometimes I find a gold digger like Alexandra, or she finds me. But truth is, she was worth it. Got out of that marriage, got another lovely little girl, and got another great piece of ass into the bargain. And, believe it or not, I’d never done it in the Voortrekker Monument before…

Angela: But surely, you don’t plan on keeping up this… “lifestyle” forever? Not when you’re …85?

Nigel: That’s what you think, love.

It’s the muscle memory that matters, love, not the skin. I figure with clean living and science on my side, I should be good for a 100 – or maybe more – before my time expires. And these days, it’s only beauties for me, love. You get better kids that way. And they’re more fun to look at from the backside too, even if the young one’s need some schoolin’.

Angela: Ahem…(looks at watch) well that about wraps it up for us here on the Angela Darling show. A big thanks to our guest for a very revealing interview!

(Cue Card Holder stands and shows the “Applause” card briefly and sits back down.)

Nigel: (leans in) So beautiful, you wanna shag?

Angela: (coyly) Sure… (she smiles wide and leans in for a kiss) …Dad.

(blackout)

 

Theatrical Thursday

Theatre poster of the week,  Godspell.

Godspell5

No Shame Theatre post of the week.

A Republican Reverie 

A piece for two voices        Voice 1: Bold Text        Voice 2: Italic Text

(lights up full)

 

All the presidents menus

Caviar without caveat.

Caveat emptor

 

The Emperor’s New Clotheshorse

Wayne Newton joins the Dick Armey

How the Newt Gingrich stole Christmas

How Do Ron Ron?

 

Ex-con, Exxon

Enron, L. Ron

Don Regan, Ron Reagan.

Nancy boys and Hardy Boys

The religious right, the religious right now.

 

Diabetics for Dianetics.

Rehnquist and shout.

Gone a-courting

 

Currying favor, carrying furor

Vested interests, interesting vests.

Caesar Dressing, undressing at the palace.

Julius and Sid. Milton Burlesque,

A John Milton Omar Bradley Game.

Fun for the whole family values.

 

Look on my works ye mighty.

And disappear.

 

(blackout)

 

Theatrical Thursday

Welcome to… Theatrical Thursday!

I design and illustrate theatre posters – a lot of theatre posters – for clients in New York, Atlanta, DC, and my hometown Portland, Oregon. It has been my good fortune to create posters for world premieres (from Stephen King & John Mellencamp, Craig Wright, and Stephen Sondheim), Opera (Aida, la Traviata, Madame Butterfly) and classics alike (1776, Blithe Spirit, Mame, the Mousetrap).

GhostBros2

I also wrote (and occasionally performed) short pieces for No Shame Theatre – it was a lifeline, an outlet, and a chance for me to learn with professional writers and directors Todd Ristau and Clinton Johnston. Many of these pieces were topical and timely, a few seem to hold up, and one or two still get performed.

A Painful Death

Cast

Arthur Halliday – A rumpled unshaven man with bloodshot eyes and messy hair.

Joan – A patient, composed and erudite Librarian

(Arthur is seated stage left – under a spotlight – at a table that has unopened bills, a pack of cigarettes, an ashtray and miscellaneous office supplies. He stubs out a cigarette, avoids opening any more of the mail on the table and nervously fiddles with some paperclips as Joan speaks.)

Joan: (speaking from offstage) This is Arthur Halliday. He lost his job as Worldcom’s CFO on December 10th. His girlfriend Jennifer broke up with him on the 11th. His wife Erica left him on the 12th and took his Lexus. His accountant Dave was arrested on the 13th. His lawyer Gordy committed suicide on the 14th.

Arthur is under investigation for embezzlement and insider trading. He is more than three hundred thousand dollars debt. He owes more than two thousand dollars in unpaid parking tickets alone…

Yesterday, the big men came and took all his worldly goods. All they left was this table and and a few kitchen appliances.

The SubZero Freezer (spotlight), the DeLonghi Espresso machine (spotlight), and the Garland Gas Stove (spotlight). Arthur knows that tomorrow, they’ll cut the gas off too…

After considering his options, Arthur has finally made up his mind.

(Arthur gets up, deliberately goes over to the stove. He turns on the gas, opens the door, kneels down and puts his head inside. After a long beat, Joan steps onto the stage.)

Joan: Arthur. Please take your head out of the oven.

(Arthur starts violently and bashes his head on the roof of the oven, before swearing, standing up, rubbing his aching head, and looking incredulously at Joan.)

Arthur: Who… Who… Who are you lady? How’d you get in here?

Joan: Please, sit down. It’s important that you listen to me closely Arthur – literally a matter of life and death.

Arthur:  But I… Who are you?

Joan: My name is Joan, I’m a librarian. You obviously need help, and I’m here to help you.

Arthur: (sitting down a little woozily) Help?

Joan: Yes, Arthur. Help. You were trying to end your pain and suffering by putting your head in the oven. It’s important that you understand that’s not the right thing to do.

While it’s true that more than one million people will try to end their own lives this year,

(on a roll now, she turns toward the audience in a statistical reverie)

Most will not succeed, and some will live on – in even greater agony than before.

While the US has suicide rates far below those in Asia, those rates invariably grow in bad economic times. The loss of a loved one, employment, or honor.

Arthur: (still holding his aching head, as he cuts her off) Lady! Why are you wasting my time with all these statistics? I just don’t care! I’m over it.

Joan: (patiently) You’d like to be “over it” Arthur. But until you hear me out, your chances aren’t good. A lot of people try to end their lives each year – More than you’d think. But so many of them, like you, forget the importance of pain.

Arthur: Pain?

Joan: Yes, pain.

Arthur: I’m not forgetting pain lady. I’ve got enough pain for a family of four.

Joan: And your mental anguish only increases your likelihood of making a critical mistake.  I refer to physical pain, Arthur, physical pain. It’s crucial at moments of transition – In matters of life and death. You knew that when you were a newborn, you’ve just forgotten over time.

My sisters (admiring) who swerve into oncoming traffic , or throw themselves off cliffs, they understand.  But we souls who fear the pain– (self conscious) we who research obscure toxins, venoms and  asphyxia – we who take “the coward’s way out” – never truly get out Arthur. We have to stay where we were, where we are– forever. With the shame and horror of our shattered lives always around us. Without sufficient pain, we never transcend. We never move on. I don’t want that to happen to you Arthur. I’ve watched over this household far too long to watch you make that mistake.

Arthur: Jesus… You’re serious about this? You mean you’re a…

(Joan nods self-consciously)

Arthur: (panicky) Jesus…   oh, Jesus! I gotta think this through. (Arthur pulls out a cigarette.)   Got a match?

(Joan smiles wryly, pulling out a match. As she reaches out to light his cigarette there’s an immediate blackout and an earthshaking ka-boom)

The Wm. S. Burroughs Puppet Show

This site will come to contain multitudes – curious artefacts in pictures, prose, parody, pastiche and things man was not meant to know. We begin with a drawing from 1997 which led to stage piece I wrote 3+ years later.

I’m always curious to hear your thoughts and impressions.

THE WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS PUPPET SHOW

(lights up full)

3 weeks ago, the spirit of noted Beat Author William S. Burroughs came to me as I sat working at my desk. I was as surprised as anyone.

He told me he’d come back from the Western Lands to commission a worthy vessel for his spirit- a “Homonculus”.  Who was I to disagree? I’d never had a visitation before. And besides, I was pleased he liked my sculpture. Most people don’t even know I sculpt…

So I set to work- Needles, thread, cloth, felt, wax and a little human hair. I was building Burroughs a magical avatar which he would animate when I’d gotten the form just right. It was easier than it sounds. And he promised me two grand and some dirt on Ken Kesey. I actually believed him…. Even dead I figured, he has more connections than I do, and his books are still selling.

So… it was after 2 in the morning and I had finished the figure at last.
I was walking upstairs to sleep when I heard the basement door creak… open… slowly.

I ran back downstairs and found that the figure gone. All that was left on my work table was THIS- a single sheet of typewriter paper with a few hastily typed words…

So if you see an emaciated wax figure about 3 feet high, bald, dressed in a black suit and a dark felt fedora, tell him I’m looking for him. Bastard owes me money…

(Lights out. Spotlight up on Wm. S. Burroughs puppet stage left)

MY TRIP BACK FROM THE WESTERN LANDS

A tale in 3 parts by H. Bugjuice Lee.

Part 1: Cats.
Those crazy mewling puking cats. They showed me the way. Not at first. Later. After the entrails were finished and they were wiping their paws on what remained of my pantleg. Fuckers.

Part 2: The Dead Hand of Parody
His head came up just like a big bald son of a bitch.
I stood, reached into it, and squeezed its pustulent grey mass of congealed gravyboat pulp. It knew me then — The recognition of the killer returning to the scene of his crime — But before it could act — Gulp, I pulled it apart. I stretched a brittle grasping hand inside the glistening petals of viscous pancreas flesh, the gout and seep reminding me of Joan. The only trouble to shooting my wife through the head was that I could only do it once.

Ask anyone who was there. It was a hell of a shot- the dear sweet natural Junk to steady my aim. You should have been there, and after there, in the bug room. I saw things there — Little things — Specks of foam – Spittle – Gristle — Vile orange grit — Dirt shed from the crossroads — And caught in the gaping maw of memory were acts and encores that beggar description except for the fact that they were all true — Every Godforsaken one of them.

The plain of Mexico and the place of dead roads stretched out in varicose nostalgia from the Western Lands. The words- the God damned nuzzle of the virus. I should have stayed in Vienna with Benway. He knew the big stout fix. Why did I wait so long?

Part 3: This Word did not Exist.
The scorpion’s arm is waving — Waving in errant salute — Hello — Razorblade — Swop — Heat Engine — Goodbye — Our time on this ball of dung is past — So a salute to the rest of our twitching juicy body parts as the bug’s arm moves in spasm and swoon across the rough wooden floor — Other pieces shimmy and jerk, like the mirage of a shotgun shack — Like the fetal earthquake inside Joan’s decaying womb — Like the St. Vitus dance of wounded toys — Winding down forever.
Nothing is true.
Everything is remitted.

(blackout)