Saturday, August 16, 2008
Scriptwriters/Houston 18th Annual 10 by 10 aka Eric's 3rd Play Win
It is just after 11pm and I just got back from attending my cultural event of the month, the Scriptwriters/Houston 18th Annual 10 by 10 Showcase of Original Plays. Those of you who are not familiar with a 10 by 10 production, let me explain it to you. Ten plays are selected from submitted plays that are 10 minutes each, usually with an intermission at the halfway point. This is a really great event to see new work and new artists. Or sometimes to see ‘new interpretations’ of tired reworked themes. The good thing about this is, if you get a stinker, and there were quite a bit tonight, wait ten minutes and maybe the next play will be up your alley. The main reason I went was to support my best friend, Eric. This was his 3rd year in a row his play has been awarded a spot in the showcase. He is an amazing friend and even a better writer.
The 10 by 10’s were held at Lambert Hall, just 3 short blocks from my house, but Eric was gracious enough to pick me up on his way. I would have preferred sitting with Eric, B & E and Eric’s family (who I loved dearly AND came in from Wisconsin to see the their new granddaughter and Eric’s new baby, I mean play), but I could just not deal with the heat and the people. After I found a place to sit away from the crowds, got my anxiety in check and cooled off from the hot and humid Houston twilight, I alternated between counting down till the next play and really enjoying myself.
Before I go into the reviews, let me tell you briefly about my general experience with S/H and the pre-play announcements. Let’s start with the fact that most of the members of Scriptwiters/Houston are receiving social security checks so they have plenty o’ time to write. During announcements the fact was made clear when the board members were asked to stand up, I was quite surprised to see that hardly any assistance standing or breaking a hip. Also they recognized one of the member who just turned Ninety fucking Five!, and explained to us that he has more published plays than William Shakespeare! Don’t worry, I don’t even want to go there, this blog is going to long enough anyway. Are you getting a clearer picture of this group?
Secondly, there will be a play or two on each of the following subjects: rape/molestation/incest/sexual abuse, a political statement, a comedy, one piece so convoluted, pretentious, and so out there, that you try to slip your wrists with a paper cut from the program. Oh, and twists, don’t forget the twists, that ah ha! moment where you discover, they were raped/molested, insane, ect. or this was all happening in their head, SHOCKER!!
Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with the saying that nothing is new, so I fully expect these ‘themes’ to be used or come up. Last year my BFF wrote a play based on the fact that gay men are still not allowed to donate blood. I don’t think anyone has a problem with using these themes as a base, but do it well. And if you can’t do it well, can it at least be fresh, and coherent. Please no more pieces about rape just so we can see how controversial you can be, ooohhhhh! How about a plot, good character development, and a plausible ending? You should leave us wanting more or leave us thinking about the subject or outcome days later instead of counting down to the end of the act. Ok, putting the soapbox back, and onto tonight’s plays.
The first play was entitled, ‘Better Than This’. The play, the actors, the direction, ALL OF IT, should have been better than what it was. A woman is in prison talking to a priest. I have seen a junior high play with more believability and better actors than this horrible, trite piece. Within the first minute, I wanted to scream out loud, ‘Did Daddy use to poke you, and you killed him?’ But no, I sat through the whole ten minutes, even after she called her daddy a ‘drunkard’. Like people from this era really use that word in common conversation. The really, truly awful thing about the play is the writer HEADS the HHC Northwest Drama department! Poor, poor student (yes, I meant for that to be singular), I hope they can get a refund.
The next play was a hoot! It was called, ‘Lights Out’. It is about a wonderfully crotchety old man on his ‘last day’ talking with his caretaker. I always wonder what my last days will be like, and I saw a lot of my possible future self in his character. Although, he argues, flirts, and reminisces about his life and many wives, the overall impression is he is pretty content with were his life has taken him regardless of his choices. That I could feel as he does at the end of my days is a pleasant thought. It did floundered for a bit. I was worried about it taking a different path, but it left me smiling and hopeful for the future. They were great actors with very good chemistry.
I really liked the next play, ‘1+1’. I heard some say it was silly, but hell, it was funny. A man is tutoring a resistant calculus student. Her favorite form of procrastination is the same as mine, sex. She keeps initiating sex in order to receive breaks, but soon develops a desire to complete the tasks at hand, and maybe even learn calculus. While leaving the tutor wanting more and more sex. I don’t care what people say, I think was delightful.
‘Multiples’ was another play I counted down the minutes. Looney bin, 2 patients with multiple personalities, and a pill supplying nurse. I had spoken to a friend about this piece, and I agree with him, ‘isn’t it amazing that when one character’s personality alters the second patient’s personality not only alters, but the new personalities is SO compatible with the fellow patients?’ At one point, I started rewriting it in my head, because I really like the part were ‘The Protector’ (yes, actual name of the personality) ABANDONS surprise, twist, surprise the sexually abused female for surprise, twist, surprise the sexually abused male character. The play ends with the two patients embracing each other because the male crazy is now going to take care of the female crazy. OH, but get this, after the obligatory clapping, a women behind me is trying to compose herself from sniffling and crying. Dumb me, I look back to see if it was snickering instead, nope real crying. As I turned around I said, ‘Really?’ in disbelief. Although, I must have muttered it too load because the sniffling noises were replaced by affronted noises, oh well. I keep thinking, ‘Get out of the house people, experience real life.’ or am I just to jaded by my own drama filled life?
The last play of the first half, ‘The Tragedy of the Tragedy of King Lear’ I was not looking forward to. I don’t know the story, I felt like I was going to be lost throughout the piece. Boy, was I completely wrong, this was all told from my viewpoint, and had about as much cussing as I do in ten minutes. It is a play within a play, you find this out when in the middle of what must be a climactic moment in King Lear a cell phone goes of in the audience, and for a while. I was livid! Then before I am about to shout out turn off you phone, the male lead tells off on the audience, then all the real drama breaks out on stage when another cell phone rings and the female lead takes a phone call. Hilarity and sarcasm take center stage when she informs the male lead she is quitting the theater for a soap opera. We also find out she has stolen his boyfriend from the male lead. It was so funny, and refreshing after the last stinker. I have a feeling it will be receive the audience favorite award even though they use the word cocksucker.
Intermission comes none too soon, and I go downstairs to chat a bit. Again, I am the only one who liked ‘1=1’. Too soon the next half starts off with the requisite political piece, ‘A Mirror for Futility’. Someone watched ‘Rendition’ one too many times if you ask me. They simply lost me when in the first 2 minutes, the cable to the ‘electric chair’ separates from said chair, but he still get plenty o’ shock treatments. If you so reliant on 20 props, like most of them are, make sure it is really needed and properly used, otherwise it is a distraction. Believe it or not, the prisoner could simply sit in the chair and the operator could move his arm, and it would be enough. We are pretty smart; we did not need the chair, the cables (disconnected cables mind you), the controller box AND actually have him handcuffed to the chair. The actor who played the prisoner was amazing, we would have gotten the point: he is being shocked. He was the best thing about the piece. The worst was the last line, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, He takes away the sins of the world.’ Oh, Brother!
Next was my dear Eric’s play, ‘In the Morning.’ Months ago when I first read the play, I was going through my own, ‘Is there enough to stay and make this work?’ drama and arguing in my household for me to be objective. I am sincerely pleased to say I liked it much better in person. Basically, it is a decade long May/December relationship that is at the end of it’s course. To tell you a bit about my opinion of Eric’s writing, I feel his best and true talent is his voice, when the writing is very realistic and true to how people interact. His writing or rather the interaction between characters is much more subdued, and the emotions tend to be more controlled or restrained waiting for it’s release. This felt different to me when first reading the play. I have been the end of the relationship too many times to count, you are either releasing everything you have held back over the time together or you are just emotionally drained. You have not one more drop of emotional energy to talk about the same subject again. I was so very pleased to see more that type of energy, and vitality to piece in person. The reminiscing scene was very touching for me during the middle of the act. Overall, it felt much better to me. And I am very, very proud of him.
‘Ballad of the Lonely Gatekeeper’ followed Eric’s play, it is written by a retired co-worker of Eric’s father. So I can’t go there or touch on it, at all.
Moving on to ‘Concerto’, I was very taken with the beauty and poise of the lead actress. It is a shame it was our 3rd play dealing with sexual abuse. A brilliant pianist has her eyes opened upon her return to the stage when her past mentor/abuser returns to woo her. We also find that her agent/pimp and mother/fellow pimp knew she was being farmed out to bring in the cash. When she finally lets go of her fear and shuts these people out of her life, I think I fell in love with her a bit. This was her night, her triumphant return, confronting her abusers and ‘protector’. This was the abuse play I wanted to like, but I could past the trite cowardly ending, that they did not let her just have her night. Also the playwright made it clear he was a habitual abuser and was already looking to replace her, so the idea that he would still want to use her (I won’t use the word win her back) felt very false. Unfortunately, in real life he would be done with her and on to the next victim. But I am still pissed they would not have just left her strong on her own.
We come to the last play of the showcase, ‘Paperback Love’. This one had a major strike before it hit the stage. The playwright and her entourage were sitting next to me, and during intermission, her lead actor was in my personal space far too long. Now although I can appreciate a nice ass in white linen pants, I don’t want it in my face unless it is foreplay. There was a bit funny dialog, but not even the hilarious actor player her sister nor the best usage of the word narcolepsy could make it work,
All in all it was a pretty good night of entertainment. Although, a few suggestions to the Scriptwriters/Houston. Please limit the amount plays dealing with incest, sexual abuse, and multiple personalities or mental disorders in general. Also just because they are a member, don’t feel you have to give someone a spot if their play really goes nowhere, or if have to ask yourself, WTF?!?!? One final note, I know your ticket area and concession stand is operated by volunteers, but can’t you please get your act together. It is like the Special Olympics’ of money management. If you already know that the programs are going to have 2 inserts, THEN insert them ahead of time, not as the line is building behind Alma, who’s hearing aid is on the fritz, but is in charge of getting names from patrons to check off the reservation list. It is not rocket science; it is called organization.
Well, that is all for now kiddies, hope you make it out to see the 10 by 10’s this year, and if not keep your eye out for them.