Tuesday, January 20, 2009

With a Spirit of Optimism – Inauguration Day and a renewed American promise

So here we are, somehow already in the future so many generations before thought we’d never reach.

Wow is really all I can say.

This is a well-deserved moment of celebration. Yes. Jubilee! Sing Praises. Give thanks! All of that and more!!!

Time moves us forward, and we’ve come to this threshold in history to build a better future.

Today, watching the inauguration on a big screen at work, I felt the immense promise in the air. The energy was electrifying. It wasn’t simply the sight of the first black president, it was this genuine spirit of hope I shared with people everywhere.

For those who have come before, for ourselves, and for future generations, we are coming together to seek our best destiny.

There are challenges on this bright, renewed path, I’m sure. But we are going to meet them and overcome, together.

Congratulations President Obama. Congratulations to all of us.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2008 Review: What I Wrote – NightQueen

I was supposed to figure out how musical elements would help ground my fantasy work, NightQueen this year. NightQueen, in a nutshell, contemplates an alternative reality, grounded in environmental principles and structured as a matriarchy. It’s a fantasy piece, writ large, and since 2000 or so I’ve been on again off again with versions for the screen and stage.

The last time I worked on the project, I got stuck as I wanted to present it as a live performance, but the world is so intricate and stuff that it got overbearing. So I resolved to do something musical instead.
And I didn’t do it.

I wrote, yet another version of NightQueen. This time, I began in an Urban Wilderness, and followed a young woman as she gradually discovered this alternative fantasy realm, and her role in it.

I’ll have to do better. NightQueen has a lot of potential, but I have to dedicate my full attention to it to do it right. This on again, off again, isn’t cutting it.

And since I mentioned music, I was supposed to collaborate on a full-fledged musical in 2008 too. That didn’t even get out of the concept stage, I’m afraid.

Now for the record, I’ve got chops as a pianist, and my musical talents have been rather latent since I got to New York. With good reason, I might add. But excuses can’t carry the day.

So poor marks for me with NightQueen and my musical forays. Bad form and all that.

That’s all I have. Next post…What’s on the horizon for 2009…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 Review: What I Wrote – The Apocalyptists

The end of the world.
Like so many, I am somewhat fascinated by the inherent drama and the various possibilities in world-changing and world-ending events. This fascination is coalescing into a fictional group I will call the Apocalyptists.

In my imagination, the Apocalyptists are a group borne out of ideas of human fatalism, Freud’s death drive, and a few other ideological positions. There are many variations of Apocalyptists over human history, and, in the worlds I’m writing about, the Apocalyptists organize formally to seek out the end of humanity (as the ultimate, most desirable, and most just conclusion for the human race).

Some Apocalyptists are disenchanted secular humanists, some are religious fanatics, some are extreme environmentalists. There are many flavors, and over the decades they’ve been the source of lots of good schemes to bring about Armageddon.

I had a great time researching this stuff. Freud's death drive came up. I re-examined Samuel Delany and his masterpiece, Dhalgren. I looked at the Book of Revelation. The singularity. A little bit on pralay in Hinduism. I also threw in some suicide cults for good measure...

And even though I didn’t get Teena Keeper quite right in 2008, I’ve got a very good footing for these Apocalyptist folk. So much so, that in 2009, I’m going to pursue an Apocalyptist Episode called Bring the Beat Back.

Teena’s not going to be in this one (we’re taking a break from each other), but Bring the Beat Back is going to help set the stage for a more compelling exploration of Teena’s world.

And sometimes, that’s how these things have to go.

Apocalypse (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις -translit. apoca'lipsis, meaning literally: the lifting of the veil), is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to mean "End of planet Earth", which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age".

Eschatology (from the Greek ἔσχατος, Eschatos meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of") is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 Review: What I Wrote – The Lattice Crashes

Even as Teena and I fell out, I was getting geared up for another ambitious project, grounded by a modern-day hate crime. This project was to have homophobia, racial tension, and class conflict galore, and really give me a platform to share some of my own social and cultural hang-ups.

I took a leap with the subject matter, setting it in the distant future, which gave me lots of room to play. I was trying to look at today from a removed vantage point, trying to take every conflicting position at face value, and I didn’t want to villainize anyone.

My historical characters – the hate crime victim, the accused assailant, and their parents grapple with the horrific events that bind them together, but they also struggle to understand themselves as relics, as far removed from a clear and present reality. They emerge, future-shocked in a world they don’t understand, and a world that doesn’t really understand them either. After a few rewrites, I think I’ve finally gotten it about right.

2008 was a “development year,” for the Lattice Crashes.

-I hashed the first draft of the scrip in my playwriting fellowship with Edward Pomerantz (one of the lead teachers in the Harlem Arts Alliance/Columbia University/New Federal Theater Dramatic Writing Fellowship)

-I got some scene excerpts performed with Freedomtrain Productions.

-I did a full reading with the River View Players.

Any dramatic writer will tell you these experiences are invaluable in the birth of a new play. Performers, directors, readers, and audiences have provided great feedback for various elements of the work in progress.

The outcome is a stronger tighter version of the Lattice Crashes that I cannot wait to bring to the stage in 2009. More on that a bit later, but for now, it’s time for some thank you’s:

Andre Carrington
DuEwa Frazier
Bryan Glover
Patricia Golden
Rhonney Greene
Tanya Hartwell
Elizabeth Herron
Laurence Holder
Aymar Jean
Aaron Joy
Andre Lancaster
Teresa Michelle Lasley
Clinton Lowe
Meredith Pierce
Edward Pomerantz
Shanae Sharon
Kelvin Summerhill
Emmitt Thrower
Mona Washington
Bridgette Wimberly
Darius Wilkins
And everybody I forgot...

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 Review: What I Wrote – Teena Keeper

I create a list of annual objectives every 12 months, helping to focus and ground my artistic and professional decisions throughout the year.

2008 was no different. I set out to build upon my successes (and failures) in 2008 to advance my efforts as a creative writer. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting reflections on my progress. Starting today with:

Teena Keeper

I have a complicated relationship with this character, so please forgive me if I speak about her like a real person.

She's a favorite in my character roster. I find her resonant in so many ways, and what little I’ve written about her over the years has been received rather well.

From the very first short story I wrote about Teena (in an undergrad creative writing class), she has been a young woman in torment. Essentially, Teena suffers from a turbulent childhood. As an adult “voices in her head” that just might be real disrupt every stab she takes at a normal life.

This past year, I set out to examine Teena Keeper’s resistance.

*She resists her paranormal abilities.
*She resists her role in the unraveling of our world,
*She resists the relationships that may help her be healthy.

She’s a mess, and I wanted to explore that with a new work on the stage.

Result: I fleshed this character out. I’ve gotten details of her early childhood down. I know who/what torments her now. I know the overall narrative arc of her rather extraordinary life. I tried to get at some of this with a new play. I focused on Teena and a special Voice in her head that is particularly troublesome, a presence I call the Remnant.

Their antagonistic relationship, when executed properly, should yield emotional and narrative pyrotechnics that would delight any audience. However, what I wrote early last year didn’t even delight me. In short, it sorta sucked. I knew it, and so did Teena. So we aren’t on speaking terms right now.

This is not to say this was a waste of time. Teena Keeper and I are meant to work together, and I’m sure we’ll be speaking again soon. I’m going to get Miss Thing’s story right, but I’m not rushing her. It has to be right. And all that work did help me flesh out her world, especially this Remnant adversary of hers. So I’m not upset a bit about it. (Teena’s upset though, and so are some of her friends. Ms. Keeper hasn’t gotten a fair shot since 2001!)

Also, because I started the year off with this rather meaty character, it got the creative juices going. Most directly, I realize that Teena’s story can be part of a multi-pronged SAGA that has tinges of sci-fi, but dabbles in “real people” fiction, and will have all sorts of iterations. The connecting element for all of this stuff? The Apocalyptists, which is the subject of another post coming up.