Write on Wednesday – Short Attention Span Theatre – July 11, 2018

Last Sunday I attended (with Laura Ambler and my husband) the Short Attention Span Theatre in Chestertown, Maryland. Performed in the Garfield Center for the Arts,  on Chestertown’s main street, the space used to be a movie theater. Laura spent summers with her grandmother who lived in Chestertown and remembered seeing movies here — sometimes with bats flying in the high ceiling. I saw no bats on Sunday.

Brent - short attention span theatre 7-8-18

A group of playwrights meets monthly at the Garfield to read each others works and critique them. Here’s a link to more information in case you’re interested in the group. Once a year nine or ten ten-minute plays are selected for production. This is the 14th year for these Short Attention Span Theatre productions. Why did we never get to one before?

During the intermission we smelled popcorn. Laura loves popcorn and went to the concession stand to get some. You could get a beer or a glass of wine but they didn’t have any popcorn. She came back disappointed. We wondered if we were having a folie à deux, the psychiatric term for a shared delusion.  The first ten-minute play after the  intermission had a bowl of popcorn as a prop. Turns out we aren’t as crazy as sometimes we think we are.

We love theater because we always get ideas, and these ten minute plays must be a challenge to write. No time for multiple plot lines. The story is set up right away and moves quickly to the denoument when the threads of the plot are pulled together. Several of the plays relied heavily on physical comedy which also gave us some ideas as what Laura and I write often turns comedic.

We really went to see the show because our writer friend, Brent Lewis, was on the bill. (It was piece of Brent’s writing that I shared on last week’s Wednesday blog post.) His play,  All Over But The Shouting, has only two characters, cranky elderly brothers in a nursing home who think an incoming missile is going to obliterate them in ten minutes. This gives them just a little time to try to resolve every damn argument and misunderstanding before they are blown to bits.

Below are Brent, me, my husband Roger and Laura. Laura’s husband would have been with us but he was flying.

Brent, Mala, Roger, Laura - 7-8-18

But I’m really glad we went. Brent’s play was awesome and I know from experience how important it is to have people you know see your work — and like it. Somehow Chestertown, Maryland seems further than going to Baltimore, but it’s not. We need to try harder to see local theater and support all the playwrights, even the ones we don’t know.

Write on Wednesday – July 4, 2018 – Finding a Voice

If you write fiction, finding your voice can be an ongoing search. My talented writing friend, Brent Lewis, has a unique voice that comes from growing up and hanging out with Eastern Shore folk. He eloquently writes about the Eastern Shore on his blog EasternShoreBrent.com and graciously gave me permission to repost Summer Marsh. It seemed appropriate for these hot summer days and the Fourth of July. Thank you, Brent.

Brent eastern shore landscape

 

SUMMER MARSH

by easternshorebrent

Muggy drops of humidity hang suspended midair and almost visible.

The pungency of the marsh is pervasive, strong. It sticks to the skin. Rich with the cycles of life and death, the marsh is a sensory reminder of the changes wrought by time’s tides.

A blue heron flies low and with grace across a dish-calm creek.

Something else drifts by on the slow, saturated breeze. Something wistful. Something that smells like bulkhead creosote, tastes like warm beer from 10 oz. cans, and looks like cutoff denim shorts and bright cotton tank tops that provide free advertising to bars, beverages, and billionaire rock bands.

Feels like a dock splinter, like nostalgia.

Sounds like a summer squall. Electricity cracks the sky. The downriver horizon darkens with much more threat than warning. Regret storms in through unbattened hatches. A few minutes of intense natural fury and the tempest blows north, up the Chesapeake Bay.

Local tomatoes: heirloom red and sweetheart firm. Pale yellow sweet corn, cooked in the husk, swathed in butter. Blue crabs caught on trotlines, steamed and spiced to perfection, giving the best of themselves only to those who know their secrets.

Soft crabs fried. Served on white bread or Saltines as God intended.

Watermelon.

Carnivals, county fairs, and the ghost-march of long extinguished firemen’s parades.

Lightning bugs announce the dusk.

Grand explosions of red, and white, and blue, and gold, and silver thunder in the night sky while the marsh lies silent below the blasts of rockets, solid looking in the dark distance and surrounded by shallow, murky waterways and paved-over wetlands.

From the intended solemnity of Memorial Day, through the patriotic celebration of the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, when we honor those who work to make this country work, there’s nothing like summer to remind an Eastern Shoreman how the marsh permeates his soul.

Follow Brent at https://easternshorebrent.com/author/easternshorebrent/

Brent’s first novel, Bloody Point, is a page turner with a quirky cast of characters involved in  a mystery set on the the Eastern Shore in 1976. Available on Amazon.

This is Brent and me at his book launch signing party. Where else but at a crab house on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

The fantastic cover of Brent’s book was designed by my multi-talented writing partner, Laura Ambler. Brent is also a long-time member of our Working Writers Forum which meets monthy.

 

 

 

Bloody Point 1976

Another author in our Working Writers Forum, Brent Lewis, has just published his first novel, Bloody Point 1976. Wednesday night he had a signing at The Crab Deck on Kent Island. Brent told me he was a bartender here twenty-five years ago. This is the place to go for crabs on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

I got there early as I was on my way back from Baltimore. Brent told me he didn’t know why he looked so distressed in this photo, but he wondered if he was concerned nobody would show up. Book signings can be awful, but Brent’s peeps showed up and he sold 125 books in two hours. That’s frigging awesome!

Here’s the back cover blurb: Fourth of July, 1976. Tooey Walter, a young Chesapeake Bay waterman on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, is hired to retrieve big shot Harris Bradnox’s rebellious daughter Dee from The Block, Baltimore city’s grimy and notoriously dangerous red-light district. Thrown into a menacing world of vice and violence, with hometown goon Clacker Herbertson on his tail, Tooey collides into a lineup of mind-blowing strangers, including: Salt Wade, Dee’s murderous “manager” and his mysterious case; Dr. Merriman, the fallen from grace, drug-addled “Block-doc,” and Amy Ruari, the red-headed waitress with a carbonated personality who might know more than she lets on. A coming-of-age crime adventure mixed with an epic quest and garnished with a funky slice of Bicentennial Americana; told with fishhook-sharp dialogue and a boatload of twists, Bloody Point 1976 is a rowdy and racy tale of unforgettable characters born of voice, humor and truth, trying to navigate their survival in a changing time and place.

And talented Laura Ambler did the cover!

bloody point cover bigger

Laura and I were mentioned in the acknowledgements because Brent Lewis is in our Working Writers Forum critique group. That’s twice this month we’ve been mentioned in new books. Forum has been reading chapters of Bloody Point for two years and we couldn’t wait to find out what happened at the end.

Brent’s writing has a wonderful Eastern Shore voice and he is a master storyteller. Put this book on your reading list. It’s a page turner.