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.

Inner Demons, Generous Angels

In addition to being a playwright and theatrical producer, I’m also a photographer. Reasonably serious–had a couple shows and some stuff published. Have my own darkroom and just recently made the shift to digital. (After a certain point, resistance really is futile.) Going digital has been very convenient as a theatre occasionally asks me to shoot PR photos for them or someone wants a portrait, and it’s a lot easier and cheaper to do a little sharpening and color correction, burn a CD, and be done with it.

Awhile back, I ran across an L.A. gallery’s call for submissions on the theme “Angels or Demons?” I didn’t have anything suitable for submission, but I thought: hell, what a fascinating theme. And a project took shape.

I’d been working on a lighting set up for portraits and thought I’d found the right combination to give me the look I wanted. What would happen if, knowing many actors, actresses, and other photophilic people, if I invited them to collaborate on the theme, shooting the pictures with a consistent lighting and backdrop scheme, with the variable being the look–costume, make-up, and attitude–the subjects brought to the project?

So far, I’ve shot five sessions, and the results have been simply wonderful. The images have all been remarkably individualistic, unique, and reflective of the subjects’ creativity. And the lighting is gorgeous. I have more shoots in the works, but we’re working on the ever-challenging matter of scheduling. With the holidays coming up and “Dead of Winter” going into production/rehearsals for next February, I figure I’ll be shooting well into next year. The ultimate goal will be a show, I suppose, ideally in a gallery, but right now it’s just fascinating to see what one can do with a simple backdrop, a couple of hot lights, and some creatively crazy collaborators.

Before sessions, I often sit on the porch and look through photographs to sort of “tune up” my eyes, the photographic equivalent of stretching before playing sports, but I find my attention wandering to: good Lord, what will my next subject bring to me and can I make a good photograph of it?

Happily, so far, the answers have been, respectively, “nothing I can predict” and “yes.” Making art dosn’t get much better than that.

(Note: if you live in Portland, have some Monday or Wednesday evenings free, and feel like getting in touch with your inner angel or demon, drop me a note. It addition to participating in a project that subjects seem to enjoy, sitters will receive a couple e-mail sized images, plus a CD and a couple finished prints.)