In Winter, Longing for Summer

Where the cars go by,
All the day and night,
Why don’t you say,
What’s so wrong tonight?
Pray for me,
Praying for the light,
Baby baby,
Let’s go out tonight.

Where the lights all shine,
Like I knew they would,
Be mine all mine,
Baby I’ll be good.
Pray for me,
Praying for the light,
Baby baby,
Let’s go out tonight.

I know a place,
Where everything’s alright,
Let’s go out tonight.
Where the cars go by,
All the day and night,
Why don’t you say,
What’s so wrong tonight.

I pray for love,
Coming out alright, yeah,
Oh baby baby,
Let’s go out tonight, yeah.
Baby baby,
Let’s go out tonight,
Let’s go out tonight.

Let’s go out tonight,
Where the cars go by,
Where the lights won’t shine,

An Affection for Vertigo

Lights go down
It’s dark, the jungle is
Your head can’t rule your heart
A feeling is so much stronger
than a thought
Your eyes are wide
And though your soul
It can’t be bought
Your mind can wander

Hello, hello!
I’m at a place called Vertigo
¿Dónde está?
It’s everything I wish I didn’t know
Except you give me something
I can feel….

Having been at this theatre game for awhile, I’ve seen companies come and go. There were a bunch of us working off our asses in the great Portland theatre expansion of middle 1990s, breaking heads and taking down numbers, and generally thinking we were hot shit. Maybe we were. At least for awhile, it seemed like the center of the city’s edgy set split between Stark Raving Theatre and Theatre Vertigo. I was in the Stark camp (quite proudly), one of several more or less resident playwrights. Stark was all about new plays. Vertigo was doing newish plays (not always but often Portland premieres) mixed with reinventions of established works. They took (and take) no prisoners. Weirdly enough, because the Vertigoites are probably too hip too admit to digging U2, but it’s almost like the song “Vertigo” was tailored for them (which is why I’m sprinkling around the lyrics).

Your love is teaching me
Your love is teaching me
How to kneel!

Somewhere in there, Sowelu split from Stark and added a new flavor of ensemble-driven work. It was a pretty heady time. My company, Pavement Productions, kind of floated through their orbits, like some wayward, jerry-rigged spaceship. I had the pleasure of working with Vertigo on their 24-hour play extravaganzas, and had a small hand in working on A Bright Room Called Day. Generally, we all went to each others’ plays, and actors, directors, and designers floated from company to company. And we spent a good amount of time hanging out in bars and exchanging ideas.

Now I look around, and Vertigo’s kind of the last one standing. The actors, directors, and designers who cut their teeth there are working our flagship theatres, such as Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, and Miracle Theatre Company. But Vertigo’s still at it. A substantial accomplishment. So I just wanted to take a minute to tip my hat: no matter what Vertigo’s doing, you can pretty much count on it poking your brain with a sharp stick. Their current show, Romance, I probably won’t see since as I’ve kind of developed an aversion of Mamet’s bullshit (though I heartily recommend his book of essays Writing in Restaurants for writers of any discipline, and I’ve heard Romance is ruthless and funnier than hell; it certainly has a killer cast). I am really looking forward to Freakshow later in the season, directed by Tom Moorman, who has a head full of ideas that are clearly driving him insane–in a good way.

I’m just glad they’re still out there, stirring things up. There are plenty of other Portland theatres doing good work, but I have a strange little soft spot for the weird spinning beast that started in a bizarre, chilly space on N. Russell with impossible seating, and the many fine artists and friends who have and continue to work under the Vertigo umbrealla. Portland theatre is better because of them.

All of this
All of this can be yours
All of this
All of this can be yours
All of this
All of this can be yours
Just give me what I want
And no one gets hurt

NEA – Quick Note

Jesus…it’s taken a bit of sleuthing, but I thought I’d let people know that the $50million in stimulus money set aside for the NEA by the House survived the House/Senate conference intact. It takes some looking, but you can see a summary of funding here.

So…it’s a miracle. Whew. Now just pass the fucker, let Obama sign it, and let’s get on with our lives already.


Dear John…

John McCain gets down to the rock’n’roll these kids are talking about….

There’s a group on Facebook sending letters to good old (old) John McCain (R-PTSD) about what artists do as he recently said: “$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs?”

This is an important matter. It is also an irresistable opportunity for snark. Consequently, here’s my “Dear John” letter. The whole thing wouldn’t fit on the Facebook page, but this is the entire message I sent to him. I can’t wait to hear back!


Dear John– I understand you are not aware of how funding for the arts creates jobs. So, I’d like to tell you what I do for a living.

I am a playwright. I write plays for theatres to produce. When a theatre agrees to produce one of my plays, they pay me a fee, which I use to pay my mortgage. When I pay my mortgage, that’s one less home going into default and one less bad loan that has to be covered by the government to prevent the financial system from collapsing.

Also when a theatre produces one of my plays, they hire a director, actors, set designers, light designers, property designers, sound designers, stage managers, box office managers, public relations professionals (who disperse money for advertising), and other theatre professionals, many of whom have advanced degrees from universities who have received their tuition.

When a patron chooses to come see my play, they buy a ticket or tickets. They and their friends may also choose to have dinner before the play, which means they go to restaurants, order food, tip waiters and waitresses, and so on. If they drive, they purchase gas to operate their automobiles and often they pay for parking. Many times, if my play has entertained them or provoked discussion, they will go for a drink afterwards, which usually means they spend a few bucks. You like to have a drink now and then, right? And they often make plans to see their friends again, which means they’ll get together and do something at a later date, which usually entails spending more money. To get home, they’ll either drive, or maybe they’ll pay for a taxi. Or, even if they’ve had one or two drinks too many, are tired, or are visiting from out of town, they’ll stay a hotel that night.

People even sometimes fly in from out of town to see one of my shows, which not only involves staying in hotels but requires purchasing airline tickets. So that’s how a silly little bit of “entertainment” affects the economy. Clearly, I should charge more for my plays.

But then, I think you know all that, and you’re just playing politics with the whole
arts issue because a good many of your supporters feel that the arts industry is dominated by liberals, and, as they’re conservatives, singling out the arts is a way to “stick” it to the opposition while pretending to be a great defender of the budget. But we’ll just leave that little inconvenient wrinkle between the two of us, uh?

Thank you so much for asking what I do. One of the traits that helps playwrights do our work is staying informed as to how the world, including politics, works. So I do. It comes in handy when I’m writing. Especially about politics.


Steve Patterson
Portland, Oregon

Thoughts on the Stimulus Bill

Well, they’ve come to some kind of agreement, and, ironically, it’s in the general ballpark of what Obama originally asked for. Which has to be some kind of miracle.

A couple thumbnail observations….

If this pisses off people on the far right and far left, they probably got it where it’ll do the most good.

Parts of it will suck.

$789 billion (the number being bandied about) is better than $0 being spent on a stimulus, and the one thing we do know from history is that government spending (sorry, conservatives) promotes growth. (It promotes inflation, too, but I think that’s the last of our worries right now.)

Unless this sucker falls apart between now and Monday, when Obama’s planning to sign it, Barack Obama has already been a devastatingly effective president. (Whether it saves the economy or not remains to be seen.)

It seriously blows to be a Limbaugh conservative right now. Heh.

We should all strap it and put on our helmets. This is going to be “interesting”….


The Sky is What Color?

So, it’s like this with writing. You can’t find your way through to a new piece unless you work at it. But you can’t make it work until it’s ready. Which means that you spend a lot of time wandering around glassy-eyed, stumbling into posts, getting honked at by cars, or unnerving people on the bus who think you’re staring at them, while all the time, the editor in your head runs images, snippets of dialogue, soundtracks, in an unending, meaningless collage. And you generally are kind of a dick to be around because you only care about this chaotic state you’re in, and you assume everyone else is as crazy as you are.

Then suddenly, usually without warning, you lay your limp, weary pen once more against your rumpled, exhausted notebook, and–BAM!–you’re off. And you’re like, uh…what the hell is going on? What’s going on is you’re writing, and suddenly life seems simpler. And more sunny.

Which is to say that I’ve been living with the pre-writing bends for almost a year on a particular project, and this weekend it jumped up and danced for me and got all weird. And now I’m hanging on and going…wherever we go. Which is a lot better than drifting through life with “No Surprises” playing on an endless, interior loop and generally feeling just a little more miserable than Thom Yorke.

The really perverse part? Every single, goddamn time, you have to get to a point where you forget this is how it works; so that when you actually pass into the writing state, you kick yourself for forgetting, knowing full well that, when it’s over, you’ll just go and forget again.

Want to be a writer? Nothing says glamour like a 1,000-yard stare.

No surprises. Heh.