Actor / Writer / Idealist
I believe a good story has the power to change the way people feel, think, and act. I’m a storyteller with a passion for changing the world and leaving it better than I found it.
Every now and then I get the opportunity to play piano for the Wicked auditions in Los Angeles. I haven’t done it too often, but it struck me this week as I played 16 bars for nearly 200 singers, that the last time I did was a year ago.
A year ago. Election week 2016.
I remember it vividly. I played two days that week. Monday and Wednesday.
When I left on Monday, the mood was exuberant. “See you after we elect our first female president!” I probably said leaving the room, skipping. Everything was possible. I skipped everywhere back in those days.
Sure Hillary wasn’t always a Popular candidate. People feared and mistrusted her simply because of who she was. Some even called her a witch. But though she was guarded, wonkish, and at times inaccessible, one thing she definitely was not is green. She had a lifetime of experience. When it came to running the country, I knew Hillary would be a Wizard and I was so excited to vote for her.
Anytime you are writing about your writing, you always want to think in terms of actions. Both the action of the plot, and more critically the action of your characters. To do this well, you must harness the power of Emotionally Charged Action Verbs.
Most dramatic writers are obsessed with dialogue. Dialogue is important, obviously, but it’s best to think of dialogue as the vehicle in which your scenes move. The engine is the actions. Doesn’t matter how slick your Porsche looks from the outside, it ain’t gonna go anywhere if it’s running on a Ford 4.2 V8 (and yes, I had to google that in order to make this metaphor work.)
Emotionally Charged Action Verbs are particularly useful when crafting a Logline because of the need for brevity. But let’s pretend the following is an excerpt from a synopsis, treatment, or outline. (More on those in another post).
Few parts of the job of a composer are as boring or tedious as music preparation, also known as copy work. And yet, when it comes to communicating your ideas to the other people who must execute them, no job is more important.
Copy work can be described as the visual presentation of music on the page. The people who do this work professionally are called copyists. In musical theatre, copyists are typically the LAST people to touch the sheet music. After the music has been composed, arranged, and orchestrated, the copyist will craft the individual charts that each musician will play from.
Unfortunately, it’s rare to be on a production where you can work with a copyist. Most of the time the task falls to the composer, the music director, or sometimes the musicians themselves.
The problems arise when these people have little to no experience in writing good charts. They may know how to write a vocal lead sheet, or a piano part, but what happens when they have to write a string part? A drum part? A GUITAR PART?? (Seriously you guys, guitar parts are the worst. Unless you play guitar yourself, give up. It’s a hopeless enterprise.)
A logline is a one to three sentence summary of the main elements of your story told in an emotionally engaging way. Think of it as your ultimate elevator pitch. The term logline is mostly used in the Film/TV industry, but I find it useful for any type of dramatic, narrative storytelling.
Loglines are incredibly useful when you’re trying to market a show, pitch an idea, or apply for grants and awards. The better you can succinctly communicate your story, the easier it is for people to jump on board.
But Loglines can also be useful for you, the writer, to help shape and heighten the arc of your characters and story. Let’s dive in. Continue reading WAYW: Loglines
One of the most important skills for a writer is being able to write ABOUT your writing. Ironically, this is often one of the hardest types of writing for writers to do, and many – if not most – do it badly.
When writers don’t know how to write about their writing it suggests a very damning truth: She hasn’t done the work to craft a strong, compelling, or emotional story. This isn’t just happenstance. Being a good writer and being able to write about your writing are tightly connected. In other words: good writers have an awareness of how their writing works. Bad writers either don’t know, or don’t care. Continue reading Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)
Earlier this month, Indiana University presented four workshop performances of Joe Schmoe Saves the World. The piece was provocative, empowering, and very well-received by a diverse audience of different ages and backgrounds.
Anonymity is a powerful strength. You often see it used to terrible effect by trolls on social media and comment boards. But it can be used for good by famous writers who take on a pseudonym in order to write outside their “accepted” genre. It’s also the reason that masks are so intriguing. We don’t know who it is behind the facade.
Another way this can be used, but often isn’t, is in casting. Producers, directors, and writers are often celebrity-obsessed. Celebrity being in many ways the antithesis of anonymity. Celebrities, of course, allows any project to more easily attract funding. But it can sometimes get in the way of allowing the audience to really see and believe the character.
This week’s Hollywood Reporter cover story is about the remarkable year SNL has had making fun of Donald Trump and our current political swamp. When you step back to look at how they’ve successfully navigated a particularly divisive cultural moment and walked away with a ratings bump of 11 million viewers, it’s truly amazing.
It’s particularly impressive given that so much of what’s happened in the news is either really serious and scary to many people, or is so absurd that it in-and-of-itself goes beyond parody. What I appreciate about their approach in these instances is that they often simply repeat what actually happened, giving us all a second to laugh out loud at it. It turns pain into catharsis, and makes SNL a type of antidote that people have to tune in to get.
In the interview, Leslie Jones quotes Lorne Michaels commenting on the numerous celebrity self-pitches to play other administration officials – most notably Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon. What he says, I think, is actually incredible advice for how artists must approach despicable characters who do unsavory things, whether real or invented. Continue reading What Lorne Michaels Can Teach You About Compassion
Last Monday I hosted Musi-CAL, a bimonthly concert celebrating new works of Musical Theatre in Los Angeles. I premiered a new song from my musical-in-development Passing Through. It turned out to be perfect timing, as it was announced last week in the New York Times that my book writer Eric Ulloa and I were accepted to the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat to continue working on the piece this summer.
The song is sung by a 73-year-old ranch hand, Dennis, in New Mexico. Our main character, Andrew, is taken in by him for the night and begins to open up with Dennis about his conflict with his dad. In a very fatherly way, the old ranch hand shares his experience with Andrew, offering him a little perspective.
For nine consecutive weeks beginning July 2, each writing team will have a weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, to write their new musical.
Writers pay nothing to participate in Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which takes no percentage of future royalties, and donors cover all the writers’ costs. Each writing team lives in a private home and is provided transportation, food, and a $500 stipend.