Write on Wednesday – Recent Center Stage Baltimore Productions – February 13, 2019

I’ve seen two terrific plays at Center Stage Baltimore recently.

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A Wonder in My Soul

In late December I saw A Wonder in My Soul. I came out of the theater thinking this was one of the best plays I had ever seen at Center Stage. Written by Marcus Gardley and directed by Daniel Bryant, the play is about two black women who open a beauty shop in their neighborhood. Many years later the neighborhood has changed, and Pen Lucy and Swann Park are behind in their rent; the building where their salon is will be sold.

The playbook talks about the importance of beauty parlors in black communities. I remember when I was in school getting my Master of Social Work degree, we often talked about the fact that beauticians provide therapy for many of their clients.

This production was in the Pearlstone Theater at Center Stage. This is a proscenium theater although it doesn’t have a curtain. I’m always looking at staging. In this play the salon had two styling chairs, a loveseat in the reception area of the stage, a door which led to outside and a slightly lower apron area on which some “flashback” scenes were performed. The door was clearly the entrance to the salon and when people left the stage, they opened the door and walked through. It defined an action more clearly than just going off stage.

All the actors were wonderful, but Kalilah Black and Harriett D. Foy were exceptional.

Our tickets always seem to be the last performance in the runs. I need to try to change that. I would have gone to see this show twice – or more.

Fun Home

Then last Sunday I saw Fun Home, a musical memoir based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The book and lyrics were by Lisa Kron and the music was by Jeanine Tesori.

Billed as a play about a dysfunctional family, I wondered if I even wanted to see it. I get enough dysfunction these days watching the news.

It was another stellar show. A closeted gay father raising three children with his increasingly angry wife. One of the daughters is gay but only understands that when she goes to college. Oh, and the father teaches literature at a local college, but runs a funeral home on the side. Hence the title of the play, Fun Home.

In this show the gay daughter is depicted as a ten-year-old, a college student and a woman in her forties. It was the actress who played the ten-year-old who caught my eye. Molly Lyons is her name and she’s nine. Someday I’m going to see her on Broadway.

Fun Home was performed in the Head Theater which is a thrust theatre—a stage surrounded by audience on three sides. The fourth side serves as the background. Hydraulic lifts in the floor raised and lowered part of the sets. If only the community theaters that produce the play I wrote with Laura Ambler (The Santa Diaries) had those kinds of options. Another staging tool that could be translated to community theaters was a slightly raised platform with furniture that was rolled onto the stage when the scene took place in the living room. Faster than having stage hands carry furniture on and off stage. A similar platform on the other side of the stage was a kitchen area that rolled on and off. Of course this only works if you have off stage areas that will accomodate the platforms. Many community theaters don’t.

Watching live theater is enjoyable (I go with some girlfriends) and educational. I always come away with some ideas about improving the plays Laura Ambler and I write.

Write on Wednesday – Lyrics In Books: Your Questions Answered – November 12, 2018

A couple of years ago Laura Ambler and I wrote a movie script about Adam Lambert and his time on American Idol in 2009. It was Season 8 and Adam was the runner-up that year.

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The script was about some Glamberts who were determined to attend the final show in the competition and meet Adam. As we researched the songs he sang on Idol we were stunned at how the lyrics spoke to the personal issues in our characters lives. So we put some of them in the script.

Later we realized we couldn’t shop the script unless we had permission to use the song lyrics. And we never could quite figure out the rules. Until this weekend when there was a blog post on BookBaby that tells you exactly what you can and cannot do in your writing.   Kudos to Scott McCormick  for pulling it all together and making it clear.  I printed out the post and put it in my file with the script which will probably stay in the drawer. (I’ve published a number of our scripts on Kindle, but not that one. We’d get sued.)

P.S. While I was trying to find a photo of Adam Lambert I could use (this one came from his FaceBook page) I discovered that Adam has been touring with Queen for the past six years as the band’s frontman. I guess if I was a Glambert I would have know that.

Laura and I had just seen the movie Rhapsody this week. It was amazing! Adam is a great singer but no one will ever be as good as  Freddie Mercury.

Adam played a cameo in the movie. The blink-and-you-miss-it moment happened during a scene where Mercury (played by Oscar deserving Rami Malek) is at a truck stop on Queen’s first-ever North American tour. He calls fiance Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton) from a pay phone for a quick check-in while a suitor (Lambert) is waiting for a public restroom hookup in the background.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – March 21, 2018

How to Get to the End – a New Writing Tool

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One of the workshops I attended at Bay to Ocean Writers Conference (sponsored by Eastern Shore Writers Association) was presented by Jeanne Adams. The session was about plotting. I thought I was one of those people who didn’t always know the end of the book I was writing. Jeanne put that notion to rest.

I write Romantic Suspense with a paranormal twist. If you write Romance the ending has the couple getting together. Enough of the impediments to the relationship (that create conflict in the story) are ironed out so the couple has a future. I realized as Jeanne was talking that because I write a specific genre I already had the end of my book, I just didn’t know how to get there when I began plotting. Phew!

Seriously. A big Phew. When I started writing this third novel I knew that Yvie and Marc would get together. I just didn’t know how. But I equated the plot points with the ending. I could have saved myself alot of angst.

This is where the W Plot schematic comes in. It’s based on Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure.  Originally used for scripts, the W works for ficiton as well. I’ve used Dara Mark’s plot arc as a tool in the past, but there was something about it that didn’t quite make sense. The W plot clicked for me. Because my novel has twins who each have a love interest I need to use two W plot devices and see how they intersect. My novel is so close to being finished, but I’m going to put the plot points on the W and see how I did. I keep feeling that there are a couple of small scenes missing. This might tell me what they need to be and where they should go.

For me, writing is primarily an intuitive process. And I love that about it. Having characters show up or go off in some weird direction is part of the fun. But having something concrete to hang things on will help me get over some rough patches.

Tip: You probably already know about PrintFriendly, but if you don’t…. Pull up PrintFriendly on your browser. Copy the URL from the Michael Hauge’s link and insert it in PrintFriendly to create a printable document. I like having that piece of paper in front of me.