Thanks for the, uh, help, sir…

So for today’s great moment from the McCain campaign, Johnnie did a photo-op at a grocery store, helped a shopper grab some applesauce off the shelf, and, as he shuffled (yes) over to put it in her cart, a whole rack of applesauce jars crashed to the ground. Along with his press secretary’s heart.

No. I’m not making that up. At least he didn’t scream “Incoming!” and drop to the floor.

Later in the day, in an interview with CNN, he said Obama’s timetable for getting the troops out of Iraq–16 months–was utterly unacceptable, but Iraq president Maliki’s timetable sounded pretty good.

Maliki’s timetable is 16 months.

Only four more months to go!

That Obscure Object of Desire

First off, I survived “Commission! Commission!” relatively intact. The JAW people are extraordinarily kind to their authors, and we were squired about with gentle care. The whole experience, if a little edgy, was actually pretty fun, and my commissioner gave me a good solid theme to run with. My playwrangler, of course, got a run for her money, but handled my nonsense with aplomb. To wit, seconds before I was to be introduced to my commissioner, I turned to her and deadpanned, “Is this a good time to begin demanding coke?” To which she replied, in equal deadpan, “Which flavor?”

For a write-up on JAW, see: JAW festival gives theater world new plays to chew on

The rest of the summer…will largely be devoted to enjoying the stunning Oregon summer weather (the last phrase dooming us to a month of overcast), weeding and watering the garden as waves of bloom flow through it, working on at least two new plays, one under way and going well, and the other one bumping around inside my skull but feeling promising…and learning to play the red object above right, which has such a weird, seductive pull, that I want to be home with it right now. I taught myself a 12-bar blues this weekend, which, having loved guitar (and blues) from afar lo these many years, I found immensely satisfying. I have no desire to play for anyone but myself, but I’m happy to report that my left wrist aches like a bastard and it’s hard to type with the blisters on me fingers.

Good times.

Watch Me Pull a Drama Out of This Hat

Due to the ever persuasively urbane Mead Hunter, once again I’m stepping up on the auction block to offer my services for Commission! Commission! at Portland Center Stage’s JAW. The deal is, Portland Center Stage’s audience buys a swanky dinner and has a chance to bid on the services of the playwright of their choice. Once they, uh, buy you (“let me check yore teeths, son”), you interview them briefly on the subject they want you to write about (“I’d like something about nuclear winter that has…kittens in it”), and then you have about 20 minutes to bang out a play, which the actors have about 20 minutes to put together, and then the playlets are performed post-dinner. It’s definitely dangerous fun, like riding a BSA Lightning on freshly wet pavement at top speeds. In the dark. With your headlight out. The kicker this year is they’re opening the event, which is usually performed only for those who buy a dinner, up to the public, which means I have an opportunity to choke and embarass myself in front of even more people.

If you’d like to check out this combination art event/parlour trick, you can see the line-up of fine playwrights at: Commission! Commission! It’s nice company to be sweating bullets with. I don’t know what hell I’m doing there, but you ought to come to check out the other folk.


From the Basement

Reid Miles was a photographer and graphic designer who did a bunch of album covers for Blue Note Records. However, I’m specifically interested in the cover he shot for Bob Dylan and The Band’s “The Basement Tapes.” If there’s anybody out there who knows a bit about how this shoot came about and went down or can put me in touch with friends or family of Miles, I’d sure appreciate it (Miles passed away in 1993). My interest stems from a play idea knock-knock-knocking around in my head.

Many thanks,


Wild Horses

When I finish writing this, I’m going out, watering the flower pots on the patio, then taking a stroll around the garden to see who’s blooming. And I’ll have another cup of coffee. Not because I need the energy to survive another crushing, mad day, but just because I like coffee.

We put Pavement Productions, my theatre company, to bed last night. Sold out house, had to turn people away or risk a fire code violation. Good party afterwards. Loaded up the chairs and music stands into the big red pickup truck I inherited. Just as we got home, it began to sprinkle lightly. It was warm, a soft rain, and it was very, very quiet. Later, I went out on the back porch with the headphones and the Stones. I was going to smoke a celebratory cigar, but it just seemed too much, so I had a single pipe instead. Listened to “Wild Horses,” which I remembered playing over and over after the heartbreak of producing “Altered States of America,” a show the cast, crew, and I were very proud of and loved very much…as audiences seemed to as well…those that saw it. But there were too few of them, despite good reivews, and we took a bath, and, on Pavement’s profit-sharing model, for the first time in my producing career, I wasn’t able to pay my people. It was the most exquisite agony, like a protracted death, and I’d hear those lines:

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away

And I would cry. Sometimes. I’d play it until I was finally so exhausted I could sleep. But as I listened to it last night, it was like the soundtrack of a free-form film playing in my mind’s eye, images from shows past, friends faces–really wonderful irreplaceable friends, laughs at mistakes and the surreal moments that pepper life in the theatre, and the raptures of lights turning to magic, the perfect sound cue opening new levels of meaning, and actors, in the moment, finding their souls.

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

The song sounded so perfect, so beautiful, that it washed away its past connotations, and a cord, taut and twisted, loosened. When the song ended, I shut off the CD player and just sat, listening to little but a light breeze, a barely audible rain, my own breath, distant traffic.

Everything was all right. I went to bed. Slept deeply. Woke up to a gentle overcast. Sat up. Took a deep breath. The world had kept turning, both the same and altogether new.

Can U Ubu?

Saturday, the monster arrives…

The last show of the End of the Pavement Micro New Works Festival at Portland’s Back Door Theatre: Eight wonderful playwrights from across the country (including three Portlanders) inspired by Alfred Jarry’s monstrous, awful, disgusting, horrible, and absolutely delightful Ubu Roi, the play that some credit with starting Dada, surrealism, and, when it opened in Paris, a riot.

Probably no riot of July 5th, but we do think Ubu Lives! will do justice to Jarry’s spirit and will celebrate Independence Weekend in sly, subversive style. The eight plays will be helmed by four fine Portland directors and will feature an avalanche of actors, including a couple New York actors who’ll be in town for the weekend. The plays are:

The Bathhouse: Written by Annette Lee/Directed by Sharon Sassone
Ubu in the Air: Written by Francesca Sanders/Directed by Tamara Carroll
Queen Bee Syndrome: Written by Tom Sime/Directed by Sharon Sassone
Dumbsday: Written by Nick Zagone/Directed by Jonah Weston
A Sugar Coated Pill: Written by Jim Reyland/Directed by Tamara Carroll
Roi C Noggin: Written by Brian Sands/Directed by Adrienne Flagg
The Thing About the Neighborhood: Written by Lia Romeo/Directed by Adrienne Flagg
ubu’s last crapp: Written by james moore/Directed by Jonah Weston

The show starts at 8:00 PM, doors open at 7:40, and admission is pay-what-you-will. Please make reservations in advance, folks, because there’s only one performance, the Back Door is a small theatre, there’s a big cast, and this really will be the final Pavement Production. To make a reservation, call 503-312-6665 or e-mail