Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gonzo Non-Journalism

As I stated below, last weekend I flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul (mostly St. Paul, lowertown St. Paul to be precise) where the lovely Gonzo Group Theater kicked off their workshop series by doing a staged reading of my play about fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. The play is called The Most Incredible Thing (it's the title of one of his fairy tales, okay? I'm not that conceited. Although the play is rather, come to think of it, am I...huh. Interesting.) 

One of the participants in the workshop, Tyler Olsen, blogged about it here. As he writes, the experience went like this: I met with the actors that Jen Harrington and Luke Weber, my friends -- er, professional acquaintances -- who run Gonzo, had selected and cast. The actors were all pretty amazing -- some were newer to the scene and some were kinda crazy qualified and experienced (in a "oh, I run my own theater group" kinda of a way) but they all did an excellent job and had been cast very well for their roles. The actors and Gonzo folk gave me lots of feedback, which is like manna to my raging ego, and I went home and made revisions. Tyler gives me a lot of credit in the blog entry above for being open to suggestions, but I'm basically just happy when people are paying attention to me and the initial draft was criminally long -- cutting it was easy as cutting a really easy pie. 

We did another reading/suggestion session and I made some MORE changes, and then angelic Jen Harrington printed out the changed pages and brought them to the space and then the angelic actors did not punch me in the face when I gave them new pages twenty minutes before the reading and was like "Okay, so pages 1-9 and are now new. Begin on old page 10 and continue halfway till old page number 34, which will then repeat to new pages 34-36 and being again halfway through old page 38..." They went with it and barely missed a beat in performance. 

The evening reading was the in Gonzo's new space, The Baroque Room, which is a beautiful room full of harpsichords (hence the name, I s'pose). I got to see some old friends at the reading, including this Food Junta lady, Claire, which was lovely. Then there was a reading the next morning at Golden's Deli (downstairs from the Baroque room), where I took some pictures! 

It's a very particular kind of thrilling to hear your work read out loud by well-suited actors. Especially so when you get to hear the changes you've made take effect so soon (in my fiction writing and most of the process of writing the play, I've been left to the echo chamber of my own mind, which is not nearly as fun).

Here's a tiny video clip! Gerda, one of the characters from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" is asking advice of a Crow for how to find her lost friend, Kai (the play is a mix of fairy tales and autobiographical scenes): 

In my new gig as a theater reviewer for the Tucson Weekly, I've been seeing lots of theater, but I haven't been involved in the process; I've simply been observing and commenting on the product. This is rewarding and fun and challenging in its own right, but I'd forgotten about how the actors and the play change in front of an audience, how something kind of...grows right there in front of you. It's crazy and creepy and weird and awesome and makes you remember why you started dorking out about theater in the first place. 

Anyway, I'll be sticking to my role as a theater reviewer here in Tucson, so I was particularly grateful that this St. Paul group gave me a chance to wear the playwright hat for a weekend. I'm back home and putting on my teacher hat and reviewer hat and fiction writer hat again, was nice to wear a different hat....? And this hat metaphor is terrible, so I'll drop it. 

Speaking of hats, Minneapolis/St. Paul was the perfect temperature -- sunny, not too cold, not hot. I kept having to remind myself of winter as the sun beautifully illuminated all the downtown buildings and changing fall leaves. Ice and snow, I kept saying to myself. De-icing your car. Snow emergencies. I think when you visit a place, the weather conspires to be beautiful and make you think the city always looks this perfect; every time I've been to Portland, for instance, it's been sunny and beautiful, and I have to tell myself Rain rain rain rain it usually rains, so I don't sell all my possessions and move there on the spot. 

I had been very excited to wear a coat -- since moving away to a desert, I never have the opportunity to wear coats anymore. And for some reason, now I don't actually need them to keep warm, I'm irresistibly drawn to coats in stores and keep buying them because they're so purty. I've bought a beautiful black raincoat and a leather jacket and several thick wraps and beautiful new boots and all this winter shit sits in my closet and mocks me and reminds me that when I actually lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul I wore the same all crappy coat every day till all the buttons fell off. 

My flight out to Minneapolis was at 5:00 am, so I laid out a coat and wrap the night before, so I'd remember to wear them on the journey. Bleary and mostly dead, I was halfway to the airport when I sent up a wail of "COOOOOOOAAAAAAAT! NoOOOooooo!" and looked down with chagrin at my bare arms. I'd forgotten to wear a goddamn coat. My beautiful new raincoat sat pristinely unused on my bed all weekend. 

I had to buy a coat in the Denver airport and spent the weekend in a static-y fleece that said "Aspen" on it. 

At least I got to wear my boots. 

Not something I wear often in Tucson

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