Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker


Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Which MISS PALMER Gets a Nibble.

So I get this phone call, see. It's from a Chicago actress, Carmen Roman. (She can be seen as Dr. Gabriella Reyes in BOSS with Kelsey Grammer on Starz Network.) I didn't know her. A friend had passed along my play, and in her words, "I want this for myself." She says she knows a backer or two, and wants to produce a workshop or (gasp) production in New York.

Bells ring, clouds part, heavenly light fills my universe.

"Sure," I choked out. "Whatever you want."

The play she's talking about is MISS PALMER'S SCHOOL OF PENMANSHIP AND CIVIL BEHAVIOR. It's the one I've been working on for months. I gave it to my friend, Tim Monsion, and asked him to pass it along if he liked it. He gave it to Carmen, who is arranging a reading in NYC.

Here's the thing. I've been mass-submitting my plays since August. In September alone, I submitted my work to 50 various venues. I got a few nibbles, but no hits. I've been shopping FULL PLATE COLLECTION for two years. It found one production at the North Street Playhouse in Onancock, VA (June 2012) and semi-finaled a couple times, but it's rough out there. There are 100 playwrights for every legitimate theatre, and each of those playwrights are probably submitting more than one work. It takes an original voice, theatrical execution, and a resonant story to float to the top. Heck, you're lucky if you even get your plays read, much less vetted. Even then, few theaters are going to take a chance working with a playwright they don't know. That's where your network comes in.

If Tim hadn't handed this play to Carmen, she never would have read it. And even if nothing happens, I've made a new friend. She said she'd be happy to read anything I write. That's a major score in my book.

I have hope but no expectations about this project. I've been in this business long enough to know how quickly a nibble can be spat out. And that's okay. Because these are my people. And I like it here.

Thanks, Tim, for passing along my play. And thanks, Carmen, for filling my universe with heavenly light.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Which I Concuss Myself While On Stage


If you're an actor, you know the moment.It comes soon after your lines are embedded, and that heady impulse to 'play' squashes all reason. Instead of walking the line,  you trip the light fantastic. Instead of being in the moment, you create one. One leap into the unknown, and you either fly, or crash and burn.

I crashed and burned.

It was near the top of Act II of KIMBERLY AKIMBO (playing through Nov. 5 at the Little Theatre inside Theatre IV.) I was sitting on a bed. In a moment of sudden exuberance, I threw myself forward and face-down, and cracked my forehead on the foot board.

I mean CRACKED. I saw stars. The audience groaned. I managed to turn upstage to my fellow actors and stage-whisper, "I'm all right." I sat back up, the fourth wall still intact. And for the next ten minutes, I heard audience members whispering to each other about the angry, plum-sized knot that was growing, right before their eyes, on my forehead. Talk about being pulled out of a scene. My little stunt almost pulled them out of the theatre.

It's been a few days and all is well. I don't see double and I know that the President of the United States is Abraham Lincoln. (Ha ha. Just kidding. It's Osama Bin Laden.) I'm trying to figure out what the teachable moment is. I've come up with these possibilities:

1. Just because you're feeling loose, that doesn't mean you should try new things. Recall the lesson of Icarus.

2. Consider your fellow actors. You're not up there by yourself. Unless you are. Even then, you might not want to fly too close to the sun.

3. Remember that time in 1999 when you fell on stage and the whole theatre shook? Yeah. That time. Disasters come in threes. Just sayin.

4. You're not 30 anymore. You're slower, and your instincts are duller. When you throw balls in the air, they come down harder and faster. Be prepared to duck.

On the other hand, the theatre is a playground. And they don't call them "plays" for nuthin. There comes a time in every performance when you leave the ground, whether you want to or not. Instead of concentrating on your lines, you start to listen. Instead of waiting to speak, you hear what other people are saying. You stop moving because you're supposed to. You move because you have to. And yes. Once in a while, you soar. And there is nothing like it. NOTHING.

Which is why there will be another fall, another head crack, another run-in with the fourth wall. But as long as I walk away with a beating heart, I'll strap on another pair wings, and hope I don't molt and slip on my own feathers.

Please come see KIMBERLY AKIMBO. Tkts 804.282.2640. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Which The Mister Loses the Squirrel Wars

As far as tragedies go, this one isn't going to inspire an epic poem, but I know a certain husband who feels like he's lost a war. He planted this tree himself, and each year, watched with loving eyes as the tree grew, blossomed and gave fruit. He made plum jam and gave jars of the dark, rich spread to family and friends. He nurtured this tree, and now look at it.

He blames himself. "I must have pruned it wrong," he said, shaking his head. But I have a different theory.

Squirrels.

The Mister and squirrels have a history, and it isn't pretty. Each July, when the plums come under squirrel siege, The Mister bursts from his husband suit and becomes GRAHAM ASTON, SQUIRREL KILLER.

Don't worry, he hasn't killed any, but not for lack of trying.

Last year, he spooned blood from a rump roast into baggies, and hung them from the branches of the plum tree. His theory was that the squirrels would get freaked out by the animal blood, and stay away from the tree. It worked for me. But it turns out the squirrels aren't afraid of rump roast blood.

Then he gathered a few round, tinfoil pie plates, passed string through a hole at the top, and hung the pie plates on the branches. His theory was that the squirrels would get freaked out by the reflective flashes when jostled by a breeze. They just waited until the sun went down to chow down. As for a breeze, do you remember last July? If you felt a breeze, you called NBC12 About Town.

Then Graham and I went to Wal-Mart, ostensibly to buy refills for the electric toothbrush, but really to buy a gun. That's when I realized how far the situation had escalated. My peace-loving husband had blood lust.

"You're not really going to spend $120 on that BB gun, are you?" sez I.
"Uh," sez he.
"Please put it back."
He put it back. Then he picked up a another gun. "But I'm really going to spend $30 on this one."

Once home, he removed the screen from the balcony window, aimed the business end of the gun at the tree, and waited.

"Would you like your meals out here?" I asked.
"Sure."

I heard a lot of "pfft" from the gun and a lot of "damn!" from the Mister. Apparently the sight "was off." Then he picked up an antique gun we had sitting around and fired it. Or tried to. The cartridge casing blew up in the barrel and backfired. The wad grazed his face, but didn't take out any flesh or optic tissue.

"That was close," he said.

And now the tree is split down the middle, all its green plums littering the ground. Graham is sad.

The squirrels are not.

Me, I just live here.
Postscript: Last night, we saw an owl the size of bookcase carry off a squirrel. Mother Nature: 1. Graham: 0.