Brain Dump

I guess it’s spring. I’ve been on one of those “sorting, throwing out, wondering what this thing is and why I have it” fire sales. Partly it’s because I want to get back on the play submission routine, which usually consists of setting unrealistic expectations, then getting depressed when I can’t live up to them and/or the rejections roll in. (And, yes, beginning writers: I’ve been at this for years and still get bounced all the time. There’s no escape.)

Things have been on this sort of mad tilt-o-whirl ever since the beginning of the year, so this is just one of those, sweep it up and get it over with posts. “Everything’s a dollar/In this box.”

Fertile Ground…Portland’s big new works theatre festival…came in like some kind of overwhelming force, flattening everything in front of it. At the same time, I was helping Playwrights West get up and rolling, which meant not only having a play read, but sending out press on the event, hurriedly getting a Web site up and rolling, producing programs, posters, photographs, etc. Concurrently, “The Rewrite Man” had a reading at Pulp Diction, so I found myself with two plays/events going up in the same week. It sounds exciting–and I guess it was–but it was also thoroughly exhausting. The Playwrights West gig went extremely well: we sold out, raised our profile nicely in the Portland theatre community, and had a solid, professional production that people seemed to enjoy. Now the heavy lifting begins: fundraising, business matters, and other such challenging fare. Stay tuned.

“The Rewrite Man”…well, it was pretty decently attended, given that it was 10:30 on a Tuesday night. The Pulp Diction people were terrific, and the cast and crew did a spirited production of the play. As to the work itself, ironically enough, it needs a rewrite, and I found myself getting kind of unwound by it. Nothing to do with the production: it’s just that a lot of work went into plotting and figuring out angles–the play is almost entirely a series of bank shots that attempt to top each other. Somewhere in there, I kind of feel like I lost the heart: I began to feel like I was watching some kind of game instead of a play. Plus there was a bunch of stuff that needs to be cut, simply places where I repeated myself and where the gambits didn’t live up to what I was shooting for. I love bending the audience’s collective mind, but I think my talent for that lies more in surrealism. Anyway, vaguely unsatisfied by the whole thing, and I think “The Rewrite Man” goes into a drawer for awhile. Thinking about it reminds me of a still lake under overcast skies.

Rushed to finished a rewrite of “Farmhouse,” which is another mindbender that I’ve found altogether more satisfying. Right now is kind of one of those waiting periods, where you know there’s stuff out there being considered, and you know theatres are soon announcing their seasons, and that means you will, mostly likely, be disappointed. It’s the way the game goes. Sometimes you’re surprised, which is more or less why we keep at this stuff.

Everybody I know is hellishly busy, and it’s hard to get together with friends. The whole politics/economy/employment/staying alive/keeping projects in the air scene seems to be draining folks. I’ve found myself missing friends of late and trying not to take their silence personal. (And, if it is personal, honestly, there’s not much I can do about it.) The zeitgeist seems to be churning, a little chaotic, with flashes of hope mixed in with the change blenderizer. I think we’re all ready for winter to end.

The Day Job: busy. Very.

The guitar continues to be huge fun, partly because it doesn’t mean anything. When you’ve been a professional artist for most of your adult life, it’s really, really nice to have an art that you can just plain suck at and have a kick with. Last night, I spent the evening cranking the distortion and volume to insane levels and absurdly working over the Strat’s tremelo arm and wah-wah pedal into psychdelic blather. Awful, awful, awful. And just fun as hell. Attempting to resist the pulls of effects pedals: at this point, I can pretty much make any guitar sound I can imagine, and a lot I don’t want to imagine, but they still have this…weird…hypnotic…power. What would happen if I bought this and plugged it into…this?

And, if I do decide to write about guitar, I don’t feel like it’ll take away from the forget-the-world freedom it brings: playing guitar has become a fine kind of meditation.

I have to finish some monologues I promised for a friend, and then I have to get the ball rolling for a workshop production of a play and the rewrite that’ll require. Other than that and researching the book, I’m kind of blissfully free from writing at the moment. Having written three full-length plays in two years, I feel like I’m due a breather. And then some other stupid idea will come along, and off we go.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Well. That’s wasn’t too bad. Time to be domestic, throw the laundry in, and maybe go futz around in the garden, because the plants are waiting for me. The fruit trees are blooming. The daphne is in full flower and spreading its incredible scent across the patio, and new leaves are unfurling among the oriental poppies, sedums, and so many more. I attempted to sit down with a gardening magazine the other day, but it’s still too early. But, soon enough, Portland Nursery will be calling my name, and I’ll find the car driving itself there. And there won’t a thing I can do to stop it.

And just because I can, a shout out to my friends: I love you crazy bastards. Here’s to better days.

Garden Report

A couple warm days of rain, including a spectacular thunder and lightning storm, and the garden’s essentially gone loco. Some plants have practically doubled in size in a couple days. Especially blown away by the black bamboo, which went from waist-height to over my head in three days. Had a few casualties from the storm–the big white peonies fell over, despite being staked, but they’re scenting the living room now with blooms six or seven inches across (with just a faint tracing of pink on the edges of the petals). I’ve had tremendous luck this year finding plants I was looking for, including the fantastic Verbena bonaresis (might have the spelling wrong there), which grows to four or five feet and then blooms with delicate, gauzy purple flowerheads. Purple haze, baby. Haven’t been able to find it the last couple years, and now it seems to be everywhere.

Also pleasantly surprised to find a couple plants that I thought I’d lost have not only come back but come back in strength, especially the Geranium psilostemon, which is another supposedly common variety that I havent been able to find for a bit. Snagged one last year and thought I’d lost it in summer’s heat. It forms a mound three or four feet high, and in summer it’s smothered with one to two inch magenta flowers with a black center. A couple Eryngiums I also thought I’d lost came back, which pleases me to no end because I kind of collect the weird little buggers, with their spiky, steel-blue flowers.

It’s going to be an amazing June. I expect to be taking a lot of pictures, especially since I’ve finally figured out the macro function on the G10. As with the rest of the camera, it’s brilliant. The shot above is Lady’s Mantle, which has a web of fine hairs on the leaves that cause rain to puddle up like sequins. A superb, simple plant with clusters of acid yellow flowers in summer.


Toiling Furiously in the Lab

So where you been, Patterson?

Don’t ask.

The simple answer is: frightfully busy. I realized that, following last year’s ridiculous burst of productivity, I’ve have at least three plays still languishing in notebooks waiting to be typed up. (I write first drafts in longhand. There’s a couple reasons for this, one being I like to write in cafes far from phones, dishes, or other interruptions, other than fending off people asking for change or trying to sell hot goods. I also type about 75 wpm, which is great for office work, but it means I go too damned fast. The pen slows me down, gives me time to think.)

So I’ve been typing up plays. I’ve also been working on my angels+demons photo project. I started it last year with the idea that it seemed an amusing premise–have some theatre colleagues channel their inner demigods and shoot the various resulting angels and demons with the same lighting plot and background to give the series continuity. What’s happened has been a startling success: the shots are turning out great, and when I put a new call for models, I was deluged and became totally booked through mid-May, when I have to put it aside to do what looks to be my last show as a producer (though never say never). More on that when we get closer.

Ironically enough, I seem totally bereft of new writing ideas. I was feeling the itch the other day and thought, oh, I’ll just start and see what happens, if I get any voices and follow where they take me. It’s worked before–I’ve gotten a couple of interesting plays out of the process; it’s also sometimes led to false starts and abandoned projects. This time, an hour’s worth of “work” produced: “Lights rise on a bare stage.”

So I think I just have to leave it alone, which means I’ll probably have a new idea tomorrow. The ironic part is you have to keep working at it, even if it gets you nowhere, to find something, but finding something sometimes means looking away from it enough for the unconscious to let it bubble up into the light. Tricky process, creativity.

So I’m also putting submission packages together, doing the necessary work to get plays in front of theatres, and I have a bunch of plays floating around out there now, doing whatever it is they’ll do (mostly get bounced). But it’s important to feel like you’re in the game. And, once in awhile, some absolutely crazy shit happens, like a theatre writes or calls you and says: we want to do your fetid little play…we haven’t lost enough money lately. Working to get a new batch together to send Monday–might as well wait until the postage comes up so the SASEs will make their way back sans postage-due.

Plus I’ve been enjoying spring–May and June are the months when my garden bursts into its hammiest glory, and it’s just a pleasure to get home from work and see what’s transpired over the day, it sometimes happens so fast. The clematis jackmanii is already up to the roof. The ants are crawling on the peony buds. The bluebells are belling blue in azure swaths. Lots of annual poppies are coming up from seed, as are the blue nigella and adobe-flowered yarrow. Put in some new ornamental grasses this year, and took out a new swath of lawn out front, planting miscanthus, spirea, salvias, and cistus. The cistus planted last year have spread monstrously and are studded with buds, and, speaking of studs, this one oriental poppy out front, which blooms brilliant orange with a black throat and purple-black anthers, must have ten thumb-sized buds on. I predict spectacle.

And that’s the news from planet Splatterson.