It’s been a crazy, hazy (and HOT) summer…but not a lazy one. The first order of business, in June, was to begin the new job I had accepted in May. As I don’t deal well with stress or change, that alone took its toll. Family health concerns continue to plague me and mine, yet even in the midst of all the worry and uncertainty, the creative work endures…and helps me to endure, too.
I have spent the past four months working diligently on The Pack, my project for Readflicks. I must confess right here and now that it has not been a happy experience. Coupled with the stress of aforementioned reality factors, I was dismayed to find, when I really plunged into the thicket, that this work would no doubt prove the longest (and most time-consuming) I had yet produced. As it is, essentially, a graphic novel (or comic book, for those not familiar with the term), I was prepared for a lot of painstaking hours with sketch tools, digital camera, and computer. Still, whether because I am at the end of a long, long trail of similar creative projects, spanning more than five years, or because of life in general, or because this past summer proved exceptionally, miserably hot, or because I am simply getting older, I am sorry to say that I haven’t enjoyed the process a tenth as much as I did when creating Dot’s Journey, Oz After Midnight, or even Echo Forest. All the same, my fierce discipline and work ethic have prevailed, and the work is finally drawing to a (I feel) triumphant close. The story of John Hathaway, a Depression-era musician who is struggling through a majorly depressing episode of his own, having resigned against his will from the conservatory where he taught, has held eerie parallels with my life. This is not uncommon, and the saying “Art imitates life” is evidence of it. His struggle to re-establish himself amid less-than-desirable surroundings and people is a further artistic echo. Many of John’s obstacles and setbacks have proven uncomfortably familiar, and that is, no doubt, another reason why I haven’t cared much for this project, while simultaneously pushing myself to do work of quality surpassing anything else I’ve ever put out. The Pack is, of course, my first professional gig, as it were, and it deserves no less.
I broke the work down into four segments-Act One, Act Two-A, Act Two-B, and Act Three. This was per the suggestion of Michael Hague’s excellent book, How to Write Screenplays that Sell. Yes, I really did my homework on this one. I outlined the characters and action exhaustively, as though I were writing an actual screenplay which, in fact, I have been. The artwork serves as the “film” produced from it. I did not write the script in its entirety before I started on the artwork-I have been doing so segment by segment. So the process has been one of write…rewrite (type)…create the artwork (sketches and two-dimensional dioramas augmented by stock photography)…photograph the artwork…edit the photos…insert photos into the continuity of the piece. I am now ready to begin Part Three, which will, according to my concept, be composed mostly of stock photography and snippets of artwork from the first two segments. Part One and Two focused on a lot of distant, God’s-eye shots and dioramas, respectively. The idea was to draw in the reader slowly until, by the end, the characters and situations had, literally, become real on the page.
Elsewhere on the creative front, I managed to produce and direct, successfully, the stage adaptation of Dot’s Journey under the banner of the Thinking Man’s Theatre. The month of August was devoted to this, and it provided a welcome respite from the dreary drudgery of The Pack. As I stated in the preface of the program (and on my blog page devoted to it here), the whole concept of TMT is to perform plays “in concert”, without the trappings of technical enhancement. So, essentially, what the audience gets is not unlike an old-time radio show, with the actors seated onstage throughout the evening, and the blocking consisting mainly of standing up (onstage) and sitting down (offstage). It didn’t start out like that. My original idea was to block the play-minimally-but with bona-fide action, even though the actors were holding their scripts. With more time, it might have worked. As we only had two nights of rehearsal left by the time I realized it wasn’t, I eliminated all blocking, most musical and sound effects (except what could be done electronically from the tech booth), and lighting cues, except for the top and end of the acts. The finished result, then, turned out to be exactly what it was meant to be-a staged dramatic reading. Audiences seemed to love it on both (well-attended) nights. I served snacks after the performances and welcomed comments, of which there were many-all positive-with the possible exception, from a friend and fellow director in the area, to the effect that I must have eaten too many pepperoni pizzas before dreaming this one up. I guess I could understand his sentiment-making Dorothy of Oz a prostitute and setting the whole story in 1930s San Francisco is a stretch-but that is mainly because the MGM film of The Wizard of Oz is THE definitive version of that story, which few dare to touch. To my knowledge, no one has done what I did with it…while no one blinks at yet another retelling of, say, Cinderella, set in a high school and featuring a prom instead of a ball. This same person did also tell me, at the end of the performance, that he wouldn’t touch a thing-that he would leave Dot’s Journey in the staged reading format without ever opening it up into a full-scale play. I took that as a compliment…but we shall see what we shall see. Another Ohio community theatre, in Sandusky, saw the advertisement for the show on the Northeast Ohio Performing Arts List and requested the script to peruse for possible inclusion in their next season. Also, Scott Cummings, of the Baum Bugle, the international Wizard of Oz club magazine, came-completely unexpectedly-from Mt. Vernon to see the play and had this to say in a Facebook message to me:
I greatly enjoyed the play and performance. Very creative and captivating. I’m sorry that I did not get a chance to say hello after the show, but I had to hit the road to make it back home…Very best wishes on developing the show, and I do hope you’ll be able to stage (or film?) it fully in the near future.
Thank you, Scott!
Next on my agenda, after finishing The Pack, I plan to take a stab at selling a few of my multimedia dioramas that I made years ago, as launching pads for other writing projects that didn’t ever quite see the light of day, through the website http://www.etsy.com. I also would like to do at least one more new art project to sell along with them. AND, I have a very good idea for not one, but two games I would like to someday design and sell through thegamecrafter.com…a sort of lulu.com for original games. Mine will be based on the process of shooting and editing a film, and all the chaos and drama that goes with it.
Of course it will…right?