Posts filed under Story

My First Mario Maker Level

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:

94M-QR7-FDG

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The Journey of GOLD: 8 years in the making

L to R: King Midas (Matt Standley), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), and Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston) on their annual stargazing picnic.  Photo by Alessandra Mello.

L to R: King Midas (Matt Standley), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), and Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston) on their annual stargazing picnic. Photo by Alessandra Mello.

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.

L to R: Nysus (Andrew Mondello), Hilarion (Christian Arteaga), King Midas (Matt Standley), Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), Hestia (Sheila Townsend).  Photo by Alessanda Mello.

L to R: Nysus (Andrew Mondello), Hilarion (Christian Arteaga), King Midas (Matt Standley), Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), Hestia (Sheila Townsend). Photo by Alessanda Mello.

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!

The Boring Days

Social media feeds can curate our lives in a way that we are really only seeing the most lively, eventful moments in other people’s day-to-day. When people see me in person, they tend to comment on how busy I am. And while it’s true that this has been a very full year, the truth is there are lulls and moments where there isn’t anything Insta-worthy. Here’s what you’re not seeing.

  • the days when, no matter what I try, I can’t quite seem to churn much writing out

  • the days filled with responding to emails and admin work

  • the days of grantwriting

  • the days I’m sick

  • the days of self-doubt and wondering again whether I have what it takes (even though I’ve gone through this rigamarole time and time again)

  • the days when I feel like I have nothing to say, post, contribute

  • the days I feel overwhelmed by the sadness and horrors in the world

  • the days when I’m just tempted to play video games instead

I guess I put this here to remind myself that social media is a version of storytelling, where we really only get the highlights. But these normal, tough, boring, less attractive days are as much a part of my writing journey as the successes and triumphs. Keep on keeping on, I guess?

Posted on November 28, 2018 and filed under Career, Creative, Thought, Writing, Story.