Finishing the Draft!

It’s a difficult thing to balance two “careers” at once. For me, acting has always taken precedence because it’s my “bread-and-butter,” which I say while making a very ironic face.

But I love writing with the same passion as I love acting, so I can’t just do one and not the other. It just means I’ve had to accept that sometimes the writing is just gonna take longer. A looooot longer.
But this week I was able to finish the first draft of my musical Joe Shmoe Saves the World. Which thrills me to itty bitty little pieces.
Granted – it’s incomplete. That’s right. It’s an incomplete first draft. But it’s cohesive! And now that the first draft is written it means that the rewriting can begin. And so the cycle never ends.
Here’s a paragraph I’m particularly proud of. This comes from my own personal inspiration for writing this piece:
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Lincoln’s a Bitch

As dramatic and historic a time as the Civil War was, attempting to dramatize the “struggle” of Abraham Lincoln is damned near impossible.

If you saw the recent Spielberg movie, you know that Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the 16th President is sweet, subtle, and extremely endearing – all attributes that Lincoln was noted to have.  But the truth is, even 3-D glasses wouldn’t give this Lincoln any dimension.

Having written a play about Abraham Lincoln myself…
tumblr_m27hunmZoZ1qggv4ro1_500…I know a little bit about what Mr. Tony Kushner was dealing with. Continue reading Lincoln’s a Bitch

Draw Me to Life

My friend Kim blogged this post about Pixar director Mark Walsh, whose recent short Partysaurus Rex is playing before Finding Nemo in 3D.

Here’s a peek at Mark’s film.

I love animation.  Pixar in particular.  But something I miss – something I think a lot of my generation misses – are the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken animated movie musicals from the 90’s.  Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin.  I’m gonna throw Lion King in there as well, though that’s Elton John and Tim Rice, and was the beginning of a drift away from true “musical structure.”

Howard Ashman

If you’ve seen Waking Sleeping Beauty, you know that Peter Schneider was the man who spearheaded Disney Animation’s journey back from the brink.  (Anecdote: I had the pleasure to work with Peter Schneider recently.  The man responsible for my childhood happiness. It was like meeting Willy Wonka.)

  It was Peter’s idea to hire musical theatre writer Howard Ashman to create these animated films.  And what Ashman brought with him was an impeccable sense of musical structure – literally, story-structure specific to musicals.

To me, nothing kills a musical like bad structure.  An “I Want” song has to be there.  HAS TO.  It can be disguised, it can be non traditional.  But you need a song that defines the main character(s) want.

If you think of a musical like a house, then this is, oh I don’t know, Dance of the Vampires:

And this is Beauty and the Beast:

But I digress.

My point is how much I love animation.  I love it because of the endless possibilities – because you can go to a spaceship where human being are fat slobs; or the bottom of the ocean where an orchestra of fish accompanies a singing crab, or a rat can become a great chef in Paris.  Even TV shows like Family Guy and South Park (and Simpsons before them) have characters randomly break out into musical numbers, or have characters graphically murdered, or all sorts of nonsensical things occur.

And these days, nonsense is the only way to really take a look at what’s happening around us.  We live in such absurd times.  We might as well be animated.

Sorkinese Spoken Here

I would never refer to myself as a Hardcore Sorkin Fan, but it’s hard not to admire the guy for his style and prolificness.  I never fully caught The West Wing train, but I do (mostly) love what I’ve seen of The Newsroom.

But his ability, and courage really, to deal with difficult, complicated political issues while maintaining an emotionally dramatic arc and appealing to a fairly wide demographic is truly commendable.

Especially when this is what his writing can achieve:

Now that’s what I call the power of art!

Something about Twenty-Somethings

I recently made a comment on the Book Face that seemed like perhaps needed a bit further clarification.

I had come across an article about a new musical being produced by young (read: my age, which may or may not be young depending on whether or not you are a hater) musical theatre writers.  The summary of this musical hinged on a plot about 6 or 12 or 100 “twentysomethings” figuring something out about life before making their first steps in the real world.

And I wrote: “I think it’s time for younger musical theatre writers to remove the word “twentysomethings” from our vocabulary.”

Afterwards, all with good intention and good taste, some people took me to task for various things.  A few people took me to ask for seeming to include myself as a “younger” writer.  Others apparently thought I was griping about the lack of roles in my apparent age group, which is presumably not “twentysomething.”  Fine. Har, har. Whatever.

The larger point that is being missed is this: why do contemporary writers continue to turn to this archetype of a non-idea, the story of the Twentsomething? (Who started this trend, I wonder?  Jonathan Larson with RENT?)  I’ve written about this issue before and its one of the few things that continue to eat away at me every time I come across it.

To me, the word itself gives away its inherent flaw.  It’s vague It’s “sorta-kinda.”  It attempts to be universal, and in doing so utterly fails – as all non-specific things do.

I’m all for exploring post-adolescences.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a story about young people coming-of-age in the world.  However, when you start off with characters who are defined simply by their general age as a shorthand into their character…well, I find that nearly insulting.  What does being a twenty-something really, truly, SPECIFICALLY mean?  The truth: nothing.

Regardless of who started the trend, I say we vow to end it.   Let’s once and for all send this word to the chopping block where so many other vague words have gone before.

What do you think?  Does this bother you as much as me?  What do you hate to see writers write about?