Monthly Archives: February 2008

What It’s LIke

It’s like slow-motion, the rest of the world passing ’round you, oblivious, in blurred color, you in black and white.

It’s a piece of a music like a razor, flashing out of nowhere, and you can’t stop bleeding memories.

It’s not being able to come down.

It’s not all right.

It’s aching with all your heart for a soft, warm summer night, sitting outside and drinking good wine with old friends, and all you see is snow on frozen ground. It’s slowly watching your friends lose interest.

It’s yearning for things that will never come again.

It’s not being sure, at any given time, whether or not you can really keep it together.

It’s everyone wanting things you can’t give.

It’s knowing things others never will and which you can never truly explain.

It’s like nothing anyone can really do or say, despite their best intentions.

It’s like silence.

It’s like this.


They Walk Among Us

Oh dear…now I’ve done it.

We’ve recently had a dust-up with some local censors putting the screws to a middle school play about–of all ironies–bullies. The upshot, some parents whined, the school administrators caved, the play gets cancelled. Typical fascism.

Anyway, Bob Hicks, former lead theatre critic for The Oregonian, wrote a perfectly well reasoned piece on the subject:

arts-scatter

Which was fine, except I, in full-puffed gills, Keith Richards waving a ratchetknife, take-no-prisoners mode, took exception with Bob’s statement that “censors have the best intentions.”

Expect heavy rain.

Here’s my response, along with the illustration I would have posted had art-scatter had that option:

I know you’re a gracious, polite guy, Bob. I can be too. But sometimes I’m not, and this is one of those times: censors do not have the best intentions.

What they have is a jones for power. They crush those who disagree the slightest with their orthodoxy because nothing must interfere with the fragile little snowglobes in which they make their fragile nests. Here’s what the pecksniffs, hypermoralists, and others bloated with a delusional sense of importance teach kids: pretend to be creative and we’ll praise you and make you feel all cuddly inside, and everything will be mondo groovy, and we’ll give you a brown felt unicorn and a cup of cocoa. Color outside the lines, and we’ll make you you wish you’d never been born, you snotty little clot of rancid waste.

Censors are agents of the thought police.


Whatever Happened to Huckabee Hound?

Not much has been heard from mutant Christian candidate Mike Huckabee of late, mostly because John McCain’s beating his ass like a brass gong, but the Huck resurfaced today in one of the most pathetic press conferences on record. The following is presented purely for scientific purposes…don’t try this at home.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Huckabee said his campaign has been asking the McCain campaign to debate them and suggested questions surrounding McCain’s adherence to campaign finance laws raises doubts about his viability.

Speaking at a press conference that drew no reporters other than the six who travel with the candidate — despite the national press corps in town for the Democratic debate — the candidate said he wants to debate McCain.

“There’s a race going on, and I wish Sen. McCain was debating me this weekend,” Huckabee said. “I wish we were gonna be in Cleveland tonight on stage or in Dallas or in Houston or San Antonio or Austin or somewhere between now and Tuesday having a debate.”

He said Republicans deserve a debate and that he was “disappointed” a forum between the remaining candidates hadn’t been planned.

“We’ve made it very clear that we would love to have,” he said, “whether it’s a debate or a forum or Q and A, where both of us are there. I think any type of format would be acceptable to us and any location would be acceptable to us.”

Huckabee said the race remained open while the McCain questions about his spending were in the air. “What can John McCain actually spend?” Huckabee asked. “And he seems to be almost being bitten by his own campaign finance reform act, and there are a lot of issues to be settled with what happens in his spending limits.”

Huckabee added that McCain may have to “go completely dark between virtually now and the nomination convention.”

Huckabee did not hold a public event in Cleveland, but did receive a private tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, before traveling to Columbus and Mason for rallies as well as a fundraiser in Dayton.


Open Thread:Where Y’at?

It’s always kind of a kick to pull up my blog’s site meter and see how many of you are reading my demented scribbing and where you’re from. Of late, I’ve noticed a lot more folks checking in from outside the United States: England, France, Portugal, China, even the exotic, far-off, mythical kindom of Canada. So I thought I’d offer this post to give readers a chance to say hello, introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from, and why on earth you chose to read the blog of a goofy U.S. playwright and terminal political junkie.

So, if you’re so moved, give us a shout out. Hello, Finland!

Steve


Winding the Shroud

It’s our final weekend of “Dead of Winter,” which looks like it’ll sellout anyway, but we did get a nice little last minute review from the Portland Tribune:

Dead of Winter
Lurking behind this evening of ghost stories is local playwright Steve Patterson, whose collaboration with actor Chris Harder led to a Drammy-winning one-man show in 2006.

Here, he presents three well-crafted tales that produce some genuinely chilling moments, helped by solid performances from Ben Plont and Trisha Egan and some simple but effective stage trickery. This is the final weekend.

— EB

8 p.m. FRIDAY and SATURDAY, Feb. 22-23, Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave., 503-777-2771, http://www.theblustockings.com, $10-$12

An odd run regarding the press. There were scads of shows opening this February, which is good, I suppose, in that it indicates the vibrancy of Portland theatre: for a mid-sized city, there’s just a hell of a lot of production going on here. We started off with a ‘top five’ pick from the Oregonian, and then they completely forgot about us until today (closing weekend, alas), when they gave us a listing but no review. Followspot, a Portland theatre blog, gave us a spot-on perfect review for the show. We did an interview on KBOO radio–thank you, Dmae Roberts–got listed in the Tribune in a favorable way, popped up with listings in a lot of small papers, and got a fun review from Lewis & Clark College’s student paper, The Pioneer Log. Got a lousy review from the Willamette Week (though sometimes that plays in your favor), and the Mercury ignored us except for a listing on their website and a brief mention in their blog. I can usually squeak out a little more press coverage than that, but I think there was just too much stuff going on; everyone was competing for ink.

We did do a lot of Internet marketing with the this piece (including a very popular short online video clip), and that and some pretty good word of mouth (which is always the most effective promotion channel) lead to a solid run with a couple sold-out nights and only one small house.
All in all, good times.


Lunacy

Two political posts in one day…I don’t know, might be a sign of a dangerous addiction. It’s just been, well…there’s a big shadow crossing the moon this evening, and the city has fallen silent except for all these dogs inexplicably howling. Plus Mercury’s in retrograde of some such shit, and Mayans say time ends in four years.

Four years?

So the president, who’s romping around Africa, being entertained by lovely native dancers wearing his face on their asses (not making that up), has hit the all-time lowest approval rating in history. To put 19% in perspective, mental health professionals estimate as much as 17% of the population suffers from psychiatric disorders, so Bush is 2 points ahead of crazy. (Still better than Cheney.)

Meanwhile, Shiite militia leader al-Sadr said he’ll decide Saturday whether the cease fire he instituted will continue. If he say yes, the truce continues. If he doesn’t say anything…game on. And there goes that much vaunted improvement the troop surge was supposedly responsible for, because the next thing you know, the Shiites and Sunnis are going to be drawing down on each other again. Maybe why all that talk about bringing guys home has…just…kind of…tapered away….

Meanwhile, the Clinton camp is walking around like someone’s just struck them all in the head with baseball bats and they’re trying to catch their equilibrium, which they do now and then to wave their arms and yell “He’s not presidential! He just talks good!” Uh huh. Even Mr. Bill and James “Serpenthead” Carville are saying Clinton’s got to win either Ohio, Texas, or maybe both, and number wizards are saying she has to win them decisively. Like by, uh, 20 points. Meanwhile, the newest polls in those states show Obama continuing to close the gap. People were a little worried about Michelle Obama’s remark that for the first time in her adult life, she was proud of America–ruh roh–until Bill O’Reilly, actually trying to defend her from some right-wing caller, said, “Look, I’m not going to round up a lynching party until I learn the facts.”

Oops. Either he knew what he was doing and was stupid, or his unconscious took over and revealed who he really was. Either way, the heat’s off Michelle.

And then…oh God. You really can’t…you just really make this stuff up much less hope it’ll happen, but New Yorkers, when they sip their coffee and blearily snap open the Times tomorrow are going to be confronted with a big headline that John McCain was making nicey-nice back in 2000–when he was 63, kids–with a 40-year-old female lobbyist who just happened to have business with several of McCain’s committees, and whose clients contributed to John “unimpeachable ethics” McCain’s campaign. Which really comes as no surprise for those of us who remember that dingbat when he was one of the Keating Five, but it’s coming as a rude awakening for the GOP establishment to be dealing with their own “bimbo eruption.” Pat Buchanan reportedly had a public meltdown on MSNBC earlier this evening.

Ah irony. Irony is a sweet, sharp liquor that goes down ice cold then kicks your brain right out its skull. Irony’s a keeper.

This one day after David Letterman said of McCain, “Doesn’t he remind you of a greeter at Wal-Mart? He reminds you a mall wanderer. He reminds you of that guy who gets confused by the automatic door at the supermarket.”


Yay!

New poll has Bush at a 19% approval rating! Lower than Grant! Lower than Harding! Lower than Nixon when he quit! We knew you could do it!

So proud….


And the living become the dead….

This Saturday, “Dead of Winter” fades into the ether, with a tinge of brimstone and an echoing laugh. Tickets are going fast for the closer, so, if you want to see the show, I suggest you get your reservations in sooner than later as the house is small, and there’s a good chance we’ll sell out. Some press follows below. “Dead of Winter” has also received a “critic’s choice” note on Oregonlive.com. Call 503-777-2771 for reservations: tickets are $12 at the door, $10 for seniors and students. Or you can buy advance tickets for $10 at blustockings.com

Thanks everyone for your support (and for a wonderful cast and crew). After a couple of years of having my plays produced out of town, from Canada to New Zealand, it’s been great fun to come home again.

——————–

Followspot:
Three ghost-story style plays use familiar themes of séance, morgue, and clairvoyance. Still, tales presented from a different, often humorous, angle, making them intriguing and creepy. Sparse, specific design elements parallel style of show, leaving much to the imagination. Unusual location adds to haunting atmosphere. A fun and chilling evening.

An auience member:
Last night, I saw Dead of Winter, a collection of three short plays, ghost stories, really. It was like attending Le Grand Guignol in February. Each of the vignettes were short on gore and special effects, but still managed to be creepy as all hell and present a couple of good “jump” moments. I’d love to see this same crew put together something in a similar vein for Halloween. I’m a sucker for small-scale theater like this. I really enjoy seeing what can be done in a modest space, without a lot of flash to spend, with local playwrights and actors.

Oregonian:
“Dead of Winter” The Bluestockings (fresh off their invigorating “Spirits to Enforce”) team up with Pavement Productions to mount this trio of ghost stories by Portland playwright Steve Patterson. Opens 8 p.m. Friday, continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through Feb. 23, Performance Works Northwest, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave.; $10-$12; http://www.theblustockings.com, 503-777-2771.

Portland Tribune:
Lurking behind this evening of ghost stories is local playwright Steve
Patterson, whose 2006 collaboration with actor Chris Harder led to a
Drammy-winning one-man show.

Dead of Winter delivers deliciously lo-fi spooks
by Caitlin McCarthy // arts editor, Pioneer Log, on 02/08 at 07:45 PM

Ghost story plays should most certainly be staged at SE Foster and 67th Ave. Foster Road (the closer it gets to 82nd Avenue, the smuttier) is a haven for warehouses, laundromats and pawnshops, so prepare to be spooked when you finally stumble upon Performance Works Northwest, nuzzled between a Russian bakery and a Sav-a-Lot. The three different worlds presented in the theatre’s current production, collectively titled Dead of Winter, will transport you from the dreary, rain-soaked, and all-too-realistic land of Foster Road straight into the fantastic and beyond.

What do Jack the Ripper, séances and the talking dead all have in common? Besides all being rather bone chilling, each is the topic of Dead of Winter’s trio of ghostly plays. The production is a conjoined effort by two Portland theatre companies, Pavement Productions and The Bluestockings. Co-founder of Pavement Productions, Steve Patterson is the playwright; co-Artistic Director of the same company, Lisa Abbott, directs.

Audience members are made to practically walk through the small set to get to their seats in Performance Works NW’s converted garage—or is it a hangar?—of a stage. Fold-up chairs and old pews, replete with cushions for optimum comfort, are crammed onto one side, making it quite the intimate experience. Potential theatre-goers should not be scared away—this is lo-fi theatre at its best, and the stifling setting makes the psychological twinge of terror in the air that much more palpable.

All of these ghost stories work just as well as whodunit tales of mystery. It’s up to the audience to figure out whether the characters’ perceptions are reality or an intense, but purely psychological, mystical experience. In Whitechapel, we meet Camellia Johnson, an American transplant living in London’s Whitechapel district; one-time stomping grounds of Jack the Ripper. A pompous English boyfriend, a blind medium and a few very stubborn spirits pepper this ghost hunt for Mr. Ripper himself.

Rowdy ghosts feature in the second play, Wet Paint. Set in “A House in a Small Northwest Town,” it tells the story of Bev, trying but not succeeding to renovate the second storey of her old, supernaturally drafty house. A séance turns from a half-joking suggestion to a production of very real results. The last scene is the strongest, but only can it be seen to be believed.

The Body, more than the other two, straddles the line between what is real and what are merely the twisted inner workings of an exhausted coroner. His newest corpse looks a little too much like his recently dead wife, but everyone knows the dead tell no tales…

Dead of Winter revels in its lo-fi production, making impressively minimal use of light and sound to scare us silly. Less emphasis is put on fancy props while more is given to dialogue and expressions—this coupled with the intimate setting made it reminiscent of old radio programming.” This atmosphere was perhaps also helped by the general age range in the room: this play’s so good, only adults go to it! So, go ahead, grow up with the ghost stories of Dead of Winter.

Dead of Winter is showing through February 23, Thurs-Sat, 8:00 p.m. at Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Ave. $10 advance, $12 door, $10 student/senior; call 503-777-2771.


bad moon rising

Kosovo, a province in Serbia, declared independence yesterday.

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin.
I see bad times today.

This is the district that in 1999 gave rise to NATO bombing, as Serbs attemped to hold on to part of their ancestral homeland. The problem being, of course, the native Albanians in the province predate the Serbs, going all the way back to the Ilrians. Don’t try to figure it out. Let’s just say a grudge in the Balkans less than 500 years old is a tiff.

dont go around tonight,
Well, its bound to take your life,
Theres a bad moon on the rise.

So the question is whether Serbia will bow to the inevitable and allow Kosovo’s independence, or whether they’ll fight. Since the announcement of Kosovo’s independence was greeted with hand grenades tossed at the U.S. embassy and U.N.’s mission, I have my suspicions.

I hear hurricanes a-blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

On the other hand, Slobodan Milosovic is out of the picture, so the pols in Belgrade may decide it’s the better part of valour to accept the motion of history. They still must deal with nationalistic factions that have never seen justice after the Bosnian War, and the Russians are backing the Serbs, fearing the situation in Kosovo could lead to uprisings in their own restive republics.

Dont go around tonight,
Well, its bound to take your life,
Theres a bad moon on the rise.
All right!

I wrote about this evil, crazy shit in a play called “Liberation” (recently published by Original Works Publishing), born of my fury regarding NATO’s inaction as Sarajevo, a great city, died a shabby death. I’m afraid I have even less faith in the current administration’s will to do right. I fear for the future. Ironically, “Liberation” opened the week NATO began bombing the Serbs in the Kosovo conflict. It was eerie. In 2003, another production coincided with our invasion of Iraq.

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like were in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

Any play honest about war is an anti-war play. Any play honest about what modern weapons do to people has to oppose those weapons. It’s inherent in looking at conflict unflinchingly. My heroes are Robert Capa, Ernie Pyle, Tim Page, James Natchwey–reporters who risked their life to bring back pictures you don’t want to see. In my writing about war, I’ve tried to live up to their example. I don’t know if I’ve managed, but that’s been the intention.

Dont go around tonight,
Well, its bound to take your life,
Theres a bad moon on the rise.

So I’m hoping, with all my soul, that cool heads prevail in Kosovo. But I have my doubts.

Dont go around tonight,
Well, its bound to take your life,
Theres a bad moon on the rise.


I "Heart" Wonkette…or…Don’t Make Any Long-Term Plans

So, like, there’s this huge sattelite, see, that we put up last year, but, like everything this administration does, it doesn’t work for shit, and it turns out it’s going to, like, enter the atmosphere or something, and, like, the fuel tank’s full of this really toxic crap because, well, it makes sense to use really toxic crap when you’re putting up something that rotates around the world and burns up into zillion pieces if it re-enters the atmosphere because we screwed it up or something, and so the really, really simplest way to deal with it is the way Americans have always dealt with shit that goes wrong: we’re going to blow it up into a zillion million pieces on March 6th so all those pieces can re-enter the atmosphere like everywhere. This is called supply-side aeronautics (and that’s an economics joke, so nevermind).

Which normally would kind of upset me–the idea that burning hunks of space junk are going to be falling from the sky and we don’t know where–but the Wonkette and her readers are so absolutely cynical and funny about the whole thing that it somehow makes me feel better: kind of like the surgeons in the film version of M*A*S*H who could crack jokes while arteries are spurting.

The Lovely Wonkette

It just goes to show, snark will get you through burning hydrazine every time.