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Does a Play Exist Without Performance?

There’s an old saying in some theatrical circles that a play does not exist unless and until is has been performed on a live stage in front of an audience.  You can imagine the heartache that creates for the amateur, but vigilant, Playwright who writes page after page only to have the work discounted in the end analysis by some because there is no final proof of production to validate the effort.  Is that a right and fair way to deal with a written Art in Performance?  Does the actor exist without being staged?  Does the director have a role without filling an empty space?

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From Page to Stage: Newark in Black and Blue in 2004

In the Fall of 2004, I was teaching a course at Rutgers University in Newark called “From Page to Stage” where the idea — as I was teaching the course — was to take original scripts written in class and present them in live performance to learn how the process of active creation worked.

The final project was a series of group presentations where students shared their lives as they were living it — and the alarming result of one racially diverse group was: “Newark in Black and Blue.”  That group’s bruising presentation was tough and blunt and dramatic and I decided we had to record that performance in audio so we could preserve the truth of the moment.

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On Yawning

Are you already yawning while reading this?

If you are speaking to someone — in a formal or informal setting — and they keep yawning in response, are you insulted that they are tired and not paying attention?  Or are you in some way complimented that someone is showing you the back of their throat?

For much of my life, I took a yawn from someone as an affront that I was somehow boring the point of my interest, and if a student dared to loudly yawn in class, that was of even more concern that I was losing the accrued interest of a topic I was divining to share.

Then I met a good, and ancient, friend, who happened to also be an excellent stage director — and professional theologian — who taught me my thinking was wrong.

A yawn is a compliment, he argued — a good thing — and you should work a room, and conversations, to get that open mouth staring back at you.

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Sing for Hope with 88 Pianos in New York City

Street theatrics are the ultimate form of an Urban Semiotic, and this Summer, in the five boroughs of New York City, you can place your hands on 88 pianos dotting the city core and open your throat in song to light up the neighborhood with your shared joy:  Sing for Hope!

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I Just Wanted to Be Sure of You

My grandparents are long gone, my mother died in 1963, daddy died in 1986, and my stepmother died in 2010. I guess that, technically, I am a 66 year old orphan — but I am lucky enough to have a big network of friends who have become my family.

I often take time to reflect on what a fortunate person I am. But no more than when I spend time with my friends. As Elbert Hubbard (who?) said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”

And I have gathered them from so many different parts of my life. Six of them gathered for a birthday dinner for me recently and we commented on that very thing. All six of us are linked by theater: five by Board membership at the Remy Bumppo Theatre Company and another friend who is a supporter of Remy Bumppo.

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The Nincompoop

Scene:  A blackened room.

Time: Yesterday.

(THE ACADEMIC is shining an interrogation light suspended from the ceiling into the eyes of THE PUBLISHER — who is blindfolded and tightly lashed to a steel chair with lengths of rusty chain.)

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The Written, Rising, Art: On Writing Writing Prompts

A great joy of teaching is when your students surprise you with something unexpected.  One good way to find out what students are thinking is to ask them to respond to a writing prompt.  My favorite writing prompt for Playwriting students is to ask them to write a dramatic scene that begins with this line: “I’m going to kill you!”  30% of students will immediately write, as a second line, “Just kidding!” — but for those students who believe in the threat first line, the rest of the story tears off.

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