Recently, choreographer Natalie Greene and I discussed how we tackled Brecht in Cal Shakes’ current production of THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN. Take a listen to the podcast episode below! But SPOILER ALERT: Listening is only recommended once you’ve seen the show!
This isn’t readily apparent in this blog, but I am a huge Nintendo fan. For a while, I’ve been considering how I might bring my love of video games into the conversation around writing and dramaturgy. In my mind, there’s a lot of connection between video games and storytelling. How a video game unfolds may require unique parameters, but it’s not so different from how a play or musical unfolds. What the audience experiences in real time is key for both artforms - and yes, I definitely consider video games an artform.
Enter Super Mario Maker 2. With its predecessor on the Wii U, I was fine simply playing the levels that people from around the world have created. But last night, I ventured to create my first level. This brought me back to younger days when I would make mazes for friends to solve. I loved making a puzzle and challenging others. So, naturally, my Mario level is a puzzle, a maze. I’m not sure how many more levels I’ll feel inclined to create, but it was fun considering once again how I would both hinder and help a player as they solve the puzzle I made. Some will find it tricky. Some will find it too easy. But, here’s my first Mario Maker level code, for those Switch owners who might want to try it:
It’s been a busy week down here in Charleston, SC, working on KINDA HOME. Good news is - as of today, we’ve got a full-length draft of the work complete! This was one of our goals, and it feels great to know we’ve met it! Of course, the show is far from done. There will inevitably be things to tweak, change, rewrite as we continue to move forward. But for right now, we’re just excited to be able to share a reading of the first full-length draft tomorrow at PURE Theatre!
Here’s the really short vlog I was able to squeeze out this week:
For a couple years now, I’ve been trying to think how I could be using YouTube, but any idea I came up with just seemed so time-intensive. Tutorials? Interviews? Analysis of plays and musicals? It all took research or extra prep that I just did not have time for. Well, I’ve finally landed on vlogging. A simple look-at-the-camera vlog. I’ve had younger and/or newer playwrights tell me that just hearing about my journey and work as a playwright/composer has helped them somehow. So, I’m starting a vlog and maybe someone will stumble upon it and find it meaningful for them. Who knows. I’ll not make much of a hullabaloo because I’m also learning how to vlog as I… well, I explain all this in the video, so just watch if you like.
GOLD: The Midas Musical opens tomorrow at Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and while it is my 9th world premiere, it actually has a past that begins all the way back in 2011. Nina Meehan, Executive Artistic Director of BACT, approached me with a commission to adapt the Midas myth into a musical for young audiences - particularly targeting those in upper elementary and above. I loved the idea of expanding this classic myth for contemporary theatregoers, and with a proposed opening of 2012, I set to work on it right away - writing sketches of about four songs and crafting a script that focused on the relationship between Midas and his daughter. But then, the direction changed.
Nina thought a stronger new work would be one that addressed Greek mythology broadly, rather than the one myth. Of course, she was right. I was just starting out as a writer, and BACT was just starting its programming for older kids. A show about several Greek myths would be more readily appealing to kids (Percy Jackson was just kicking into high gear), and had more potential for educational value for teachers. And so, Midas went into my figurative drawer, and Tales of Olympus was born. After its world premiere, Tales went on to a Bay Area school tour, a touring production in Chicago, a young actors adaptation, and will once again be produced at the Children’s Museum Indianapolis this summer. So yeah, good call on the Greek myths thing!
But I always knew I wanted to re-visit Midas. In 2016, I opened the file and started to work on it again. It was strange. In those five years, I had changed as a writer. The jokes and lyrics felt like a younger me, and I had to think hard about what of the original sketches could be retained if I were to actually finish it. I completed the piece enough to do an informal table reading at Playwrights Foundation, to which Nina Meehan was invited. After the reading, she expressed interest in seeing how it developed further. And so, I continued to work on it, keeping her up-to-date on latest script drafts. Then, she included in BACT’s 2018-2019 season.
It’s very apparent to me that had I finished GOLD in 2012, it would have been a completely different show. In the eight years from conception to production, I have transformed into a much more competent, self-aware, and experienced writer. I believe I was able to bring an emotional depth to GOLD that might not have been there if I completed it on its original due date. Of course, there are still remnants of the original draft - three of those original song sketches have stayed in the show in some form, and I don’t know that I’ll ever lose my childish humor that others like to call “Min jokes.” So, GOLD feels like a sort of commemorative piece for me. A marker to show how much I’ve progressed in career and creativity. I’m proud it’s getting to see the light of day, and I hope you’ll be able to see it before it closes!