Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Poster

Describing this play to someone else has been almost impossible.  Hopefully, now I can just say, "Look at the poster."

We'll be doing the reading with the students on Wednesday, and then a reading with adults on Sat, June 20, 7pm at Bristol Yoga in lovely little Bristol,  VT.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Mask-Making

The Team and I have been in the shop this week making masks and puppets.  Thought I'd share a few images:

White Buffalo Woman and a flock of birds.

The Chronopage (time-eating grasshopper).

Antikythera Mechanism in a suitcase, a manatee, and Samantha's freaky bird mask.

Coyote goes through a big transformation in the show.  Mostly, he wears the mangy-looking mask on the left.  But when he heals, he wears the fur hat on the right.  I'll also be making him a fur bow tie.  Very Noel Coward.

Kristen's amazing tiger mask.

Fiona making her bunny mask - which ended up being covered in millet.

The whole crew.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Long Live Philip Baruth

I just spent the weekend teaching at the New England Young Writer's Conference, and it was a remarkable experience.  I'll expound in several segements, but for now, I want to share a bit from the keynote address delivered by Vermont author and pundit political, Philip Baruth:

"At the beginning of every great fantasy story, there’s a moment when the young hero is told something in great confidence, a secret, something utterly unpredictable and yet something that suddenly makes sense of a thousand senseless details in his otherwise mundane life:  the hero is told that he or she is actually a person of great power, and that without that power the world will come to an end.

It’s true of Bilbo Baggins.  Why does Gandalf mark Bilbo’s door of all the little round doors in the Shire, and in fact why mark the door of a hobbit at all, when there are stronger and braver and sharper warriors ready to hand?  It turns out the answer is much deeper than it seems:  it’s not just that hobbits are light of foot, or that Bilbo is destined to find the Ring of Power hidden away beneath a mountain.  It’s that only a hobbit, and only Bilbo Baggins of all hobbits, could carry that particular ring as long and as far as it must be carried without turning into something grasping and evil.

The same is true of Harry Potter.  In some sense, Hagrid doesn’t tell Harry anything he doesn’t already know, when the half-giant busts down the door to explain the difference between Wizards and Muggles, when he explains that Harry himself is not merely a wizard, but a wizard of great power, a crucial element in an ancient, ongoing struggle. 

So what Bilbo Baggins and Harry Potter learn at the beginning of their adventures allows them to understand things about themselves of which they have always been dimly aware — things they’d rather not know, actually, because along with the knowledge of their dormant power comes a crushing responsibility. 

And these are only two of the most famous examples, but there’s also Meg Murray and Thomas Covenant, and the brothers and sisters who discover the lion, the witch and the wardrobe.  And almost any one of you could think of fifty more.  Because you’ve read these stories avidly, compulsively, for almost as long as you’ve been able to read.  They spoke directly to something inside of you, something of which you’ve always been only dimly aware.

I said I knew the reason why you read these books, and this is it:  you read them because this wondrous moment I’ve been describing, when the heroes learn who and what they really are, when they learn that their hidden power is power of a higher order altogether — that moment is never going to happen to you.  Ever. 

In fact, society has adopted the term “fantasy” to describe this genre specifically to drive home the message that this is never going to happen to you.  Ever.

Except tonight.  Except in this legendary place, here and now.  Welcome to the Breadloaf Campus, my friends.  It’s long past time you knew who and what you really are."

I could have sworn he was talking about me!

To read Philip's whole, marvelous address, click here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mask-Making, Part 2

I love getting to do the hands-on stuff!  Part of me could easily give up the writing and performing and become a props person.

A gorgeous early spring day, and Fiona, Kristen, Noah, and the long-lost Samantha have come over to make more masks and read the latest draft of the script (or the first few scenes thereof).

Kristen and Fiona have decorated WBW a little, and we've decided to also give her horns using the talons from an owl skeleton I found in my raspberry patch.  I'm also going to make her a necklace from the wishbone and some vertebrae.

Noah, who will be playing Coyote, has volunteered his face for today's smear-and-wrap.  The challenge is that Coyote is part human, part animal, and we're not quite sure how to pull off the snout.

We decide to build the face out first using an old toilet paper roll, and then once the mask is dry, add more plaster to make it look more streamlined and dog-like.

Noah is a good sport about all of this, and plus, did I mention it's a gorgeous day for lying in the sun?

The other big issue to solve is how to make a manatee.  I've got chicken wire, fiberglass window screening, floral wire, and more plaster, but manatees are so lumpy and shapeless, it doesn't seem like we're headed in the right direction.  

I think maybe I could stuff an old sleeping bag and paint it.  Still doesn't seem quite right.

Then Fiona suggests we move down a dimension and rather than try making a 3-D manatee, she could just project an image of one on her art room wall, trace it, and back it with cardboard.  Then we can paint it, and make it look however we want.

Given that we're just doing a reading, this makes a lot of sense, and also seems like a great idea for the Grasshopper Of The Apocalypse.  More on that later.

Mask-Making, Part 1

Now we're getting to the good part!

After months of discussion and research, we're finally at the point in our work on Long Now that we can stop talking, and start doing things.  We've got a basic storyline down, so I'm cranking on the script, and when the students come over, we're making masks, puppets, chocolate cake, and a huge mess.

Each time they come over, we do a reading of my latest writing, and I get to hear what sounds good, what sounds clunky, and what should never again see the light of day.  It always astonishes me how something that came out brilliant reads like dried-out old dodo doo.

Fortunately, I've been reading Bird By Bird - one of my favorite books on writing by the marvelous (as I call her) St. Anne of LaMott.  And she reminds me that the whole point of a first draft is to mess all over the place, so that you can weed and winnow and cull and mull, and eventually find the key to the story which can be cultivated and re-written.  The first draft is for nobody but your own dang self, and is not to be read by anyone - except perhaps by a wonderful group of very forgiving high school students.

We're also making masks using the old-fashioned vaseline-and-plaster method, which is fun, because having someone smear vaseline all over your face can be both exceedingly pleasurable, and utterly gross.

Note the plastic Fiona has added to protect Kristen's hair in lieu of smearing vaseline all over it.  We discovered that's the only spot where the wet plaster doesn't dry quickly.

Fortunately, they'd just returned from several days of camping, nobody was in danger of ruining any carefully constructed hairdos, and the vaseline was, proportionately, far less disgusting than it might have been had they taken a shower in the last couple days.

The plan is for Fiona and Kristen to take the mask to their high school's art room, and turn it into the face of White Buffalo Woman, a Native American Creator God who has ended up as a character in the show.

WBW will ultimately become a large puppet, along with Coyote, a bunch of bird spirits, a manatee and a giant, time-eating grasshopper.

We still haven't found the 2-minute Elevator Pitch for the show, but we know it's a mythic story about preventing the world from ending so that humanity a little more time to fix its mistakes.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Thanks to FailBlog for making my day:

fail owned pwned pictures

And it's not like the EcoSmarters did this by accident...