So I'm posting about all my shows that are on Indie Theater Now- how they came about, their first production, and all that jazz. My last two blogs were about Last Call, which is part of the 9/11 collection, and was my first full length play. On the docket, Muse of Fire, which had a long, winding road from initial concept to first production spanning over ten years. Here goes.
Muse of Fire came about because of a touchy feely exercise I did as part of a play writing class at San Jose State University long ago and far away in the Kingdom of My Youth. For those who weren't theatre majors, let me explain. In the world of drama, there are many, many exercises you are forced to participate in as part of a class, or play you are cast in- usually it involves laying down, closing your eyes, and listening to some teacher, director, or actor lead you through a sort of meditation, picturing your favorite place, a lover's embrace, butterflies- something like that. These experiments can take ten, twenty, even thirty minutes. They are all about getting in touch with the inner-self. Yummy. So in this class I was taking, which was taught by the great David Kahn, we had a guest artist for a few weeks, the playwright Sheldon Rosen. Sheldon is a really cool guy, but he did have a penchant for taking us through some routines that could be described as "new age", "spiritual", or "weird". Being twenty something at the time, I of course thought of them as weird. I did them anyway. Why not? Maybe, just maybe, something would come of it. So there I was in class, relaxing, listening to my inner voice, when all of a sudden, I saw as clear as day, two guys having a conversation. One guy was really angry, they other guy was really kind. The kind one was talking about how he met Van Gogh one day. How he had been looking at a self portrait that old Vincent had done, and the painting started talking to him. The mean one said that was a bunch of crap.
I thought that was kind of cool, so I took the initial scenario found in my head, and started making a scene out of it. Quickly, the scene became about two muses, arguing about the meaning and purpose of art. I read it out loud in class, and the response was immediate and quite positive, so I kept on trucking. One of our final assignments for the class was to write at least one act of a play- so I gave the scene the title "Errant Muses", and tried to make up a full length play. It took a lot of work, and I wrote a good chunk of that first act the night before it was due. In hindsight, I was an idiot for most of my college career. But such is life. At least I got it done. Also, at the end of the semester, the play writing class teamed up with a directing class and an acting class, and did presentations of new scenes written, directed, and performed by students. Two different groups wanted to present my scene with the muses. I said sure. Why the Hell not? On the day of the presentation, something extraordinary happened. People laughed. A lot. They really liked the scene. It felt pretty friggin' sweet, believe me.
Then I graduated, moved to New York City, and had many adventures being an idiot. It was something I did quite well. (note photo: I'm the one with the funky glasses) At the end of my first foray to the big city, I was broke, lonely, and hadn't gotten one paying acting job- so I came home to California to regroup and try and figure out what to do with my life.
A few years later, I was working at the Western Stage in Salinas, CA, when I got a message from the girl who had directed one of the scenes from my play for the final presentation. Her husband, an actor, was graduating from CalArts, and wanted to do some scenes from Errant Muses for their showcase. A showcase is a review of scenes, usually put on by a graduating class for people in the theatre/film industry (agents, casting directors, etc.), done with the hopes that said industry people will like what they see and offer everyone big contracts to come to Hollywood or Broadway or wherever. Ed Harris was going to emcee the show, and the whole thing sounded pretty cool to me, so of course I said yes. I tinkered with the scenes a bit, went down to help out during rehearsal, and felt pretty good about where everything was.
Then, I left town before the actual show. Remember, at this point in my life I was still busy being an idiot. I mean, why stay and be present at a show where tons of people who could help me find work in my chosen field were going to see something I had written? That made too much sense. So I headed back to Salinas. I put Errant Muses into a binder, and didn't really think about it for almost ten years.
Then, as noted in the previous two posts, I got my act together, wrote Last Call, and realized that what made me more happy than anything else was writing plays. It was the fall of 2002. Last Call was being published by NYTE, and then featured in a Best Stage Scenes of 2002, published by Smith & Kraus, and being shopped around to some theatres in Germany by a someone who saw the play and really liked it. On top of that, I had just been named Graduate of the Last Decade for the School of Humanities by San Jose State University. I'm fairly certain the success of Last Call had a lot to do with that.
I decided to write a new play, and enter it for FringeNYC 2003. And the source material would be Errant Muses.
To be continued...