Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Uncooked Meat Prior to State Vector Collapse

Well, Philucifer wrote in his Confounded ‘Blog that he believes he’s lost his mind. All I can say is, “Well, duh.” Just kidding.

No I’m not.

But whatever. Like I’m one to talk.

I’m slowly and surely getting settled into my new home in the Garden of Kew, and am counting down the SECONDS before I go to Maine for the week. Stupidly though, I’m returning to the Rotten Apple just in time for the RNC.

Yeah, I know. Perfect timing.

Of course, that will also be the start of The UnConvention (http://www.theunconvention.org), which is taking place right across the street from the RNC. The UnConvention, for those of you who don’t know, is a theatre festival featuring six pieces of political theatre from six Dish theatre companies (The Kiva Company, The Management Co., One Year Lease, Stages 5150, Stone Soup Theatre Arts and The Subjective Theatre Company). I’m very curious to see the results.

I say “curious” and neither “excited” nor “apprehensive” for a few reasons. First of all, as anyone who knows me, I’m not particularly one for “political” theatre (as in, agit-prop). It’s not the type of theatre I write, and it’s not necessarily the theatre I go see. If I read a blurb in the Village Voice about a show “depicting the brutal struggle an Iraqi family undergoes to adapt to contemporary America,” I move on. Hell, despite my happiness that people are responding in a positive way to Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11” I was a bit schmeh on it.

Overtly political theatre (or art) is just not my thing. I kind of know what it’s going to tell me before the first line is spoken. I also believe that it’s very much in the “Preaching to the Choir” Department. And it can alienate potential audiences with opposing political viewpoints

On the other hand, I do very much agree with the politics of the UnConvention. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone now (with the exception of willfully ignorant rednecks*) that this is a very important election in November. This election will determine if this is the new way we run our government, or if this administration was just a weird fluke. I’m really hoping it’s the latter.

Also, these companies participating in the UnConvention are my (and Nosedive’s) peers. I wish them the best, and in many ways, I’m very excited to see (for example) Stages 5150’s play “KTP,” amongst others.

My curiosity about the UnConvention is similar to my apprehension and excitement about “Fahrenheit 9/11:” it doesn’t particularly interest me, since the film just reiterates what I already believe (and I often prefer artworks that challenge what I believe), but I was happy to hear a huge auditorium of moviegoers applaud at the end.

Will the UnConvention do anything to have an effect on the upcoming election? I don’t know. To be honest, I hope so, but I don’t think so. New York is pretty much a blue state, and I don’t think we’re going to reverse that this time ‘round. Plus, I don’t know how many die-hard Republicans will a.) be attending and b.) become converted. I could be wrong.


Maybe this will be a good time for us theatre (and real) people to get together and bond, to commiserate how shitty it is that the Republican National Convention is being held in our backyard.

Okay, fuck it. You got me. I’m coming back from Maine to the UnConvention so I can hook up with liberal theatre chicks.

After Marsha from Stone Soup,

James “Please Don’t Hit Me, Marsha” Comtois

August 17, 2004

*Yeah, it’s my site, and it’s safe to assume that willfully ignorant rednecks aren’t part of my readership, so I don’t care about being PC about this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

From the Vault: Awaited Visit

A while back, I had written a series of ‘blog-like essays called “Over-the-Counter Culture” for the now defunct site Allston02134.com. Pete found one of them which pertained to the origins of my play, “The Awaited Visit,” our FIRST OOBR Award-winning play. It kinda made me laugh, and reminisce on a method of playwriting I will never do again.

I’ve truncated parts, switched the tense, but at any rate, here’s one from the vault…


Basically, to describe “The Awaited Visit” (in those crucial sound-byte forms of information that people need nowadays to go to out to see something), it is a surreal, over-the-top one-act comedy about a Young Boy, a Pretty Nurse, a Big Guard, and The Smartest Man Alive.

Zany antics ensue.

There was profanity, nudity, smoking, strobe lights and violence.

Now then.

The origins of me writing this particular play, and producing it, are definitely of the fluke-like variety. One night, while living in a studio apartment in Allston, I wanted to write a sequel to another play I had written (“Monkeys,” my first produced play in New York). And, to sweeten the deal, I wanted to see what would happen if I would write it while drunk.


I bought a case of beer (Blue Moon Harvest, for those of you who are interested), sat down by my computer, kept on writing, and kept on drinking.

After about two hours, I couldn't see the screen anymore (it was spinning too much). I couldn't concentrate anymore. I was wrecked. So, I hit Control-S, ran to the bathroom, threw up, then collapsed on my futon.

The next morning was horrible.

Hung over and dehydrated as all hell, I noticed my computer was still on. I vaguely remembered trying some sort of writing exercise or experiment, but none of the details were coming to me (bear in mind that at this point in my life, this was nothing new. Going to bed after drinking heavily and doing something stupid was a nightly process, so I rarely knew or cared what I had done the night before, other than the fact that I could be pretty certain that it definitely involved alcohol and possibly marijuana).

After getting some food in me (and being able to keep it down), my head stopped pounding as much. So, I checked out what I had written.

All I could think was Dear Lord. What is this shit?

And the play (originally entitled “Dolphins,” to complement “Monkeys”) was put in the proverbial trunk for a long time. You know what I'm talking about; the trunk that most writers have where they store their horrible embarrassments created after long nights of drunken typing.

That's where “Dolphins” lay for a while.

Eventually, I showed the "play" (if it could be called that) to some of my close friends, showing them the horrible, horrible night I had had (which was even worse than that night in Our House West [my favorite bar in Allston] where I nearly got into a fistfight with some frat boy goon over my decision to smoke clove cigarettes or the night I put the moves on this woman in her late-40s; oh, no. This was a much, much worse night. An entire play was written as the result!).

Interestingly enough, those who read it liked what they saw. In fact, one person liked it so much that he wanted to produce and direct it.

"Yeah. Right," I believe was my reply.

"No, really, James. This is gonna be a lot of fun."

I studied his face. He wasn't joking.

So, I bit, and we decided to make this play our third production for our group, Nosedive Productions (it isn't just a clever name, folks!).

Honestly, from the time I originally wrote it (about three years ago) till about a week before auditions, I was very dubious about this project. I didn't think anybody would see it, like it, or get it.

But after the cast was finally assembled, and they read through the script for the first time, it clicked. My skepticism had eroded, and something that I had never felt for this piece emerged from me for the first time: enthusiasm.

For the first time since its creation, I wanted “The Awaited Visit” to go up. And I wanted people to see it.

I didn't care if they like it or not, but I at least wanted them to see it. The cast looked great (and I'm not just saying that; it's hard to believe that a group of strangers can translate the drunken chicken scratch of a would-be playwright), and the production was a lot of fun. And hell, we won a freakin’ award for it!

Although ultimately, “The Awaited Visit” went from dirty secret to pride and joy (for the moment, at least), this was the first (and only) time I have ever written a play while drunk.

And to all those would-be writers (like moi) out there reading this, lemme just tell you that I DON'T recommend doing something like this.

Okay, well give it a whirl. Just once. And see what happens.

In fact, let's try something. I honestly have no idea how many readers of this there are, but let's try it nonetheless. Not really a contest, since I don't expect many readers out there will go for it (and I don't have much of a prize), but a…thing.

For everyone out there reading this, send me your best drunken work; be it a play, screenplay, novella, poem or essay. Term papers don't count. If you don't have one, get out there, booze up and give it a whirl. I'd love to see the results.

And if I like it a lot (with your permission), I'll post it on the site. Don't worry, I won't take the copyright or anything like that.

Who knows? Maybe it'll progress from dirty secret to pride and joy like my play, “The Awaited Visit” (née “Dolphins”).

And I have to admit, there's something about having a group of people toil over the meaning, symbolism and subtext of the side-product of a private drinking binge that
amuses me to no end.

Passing out flyers to any
poor soul who comes near,

James "Shameless" Comtois

August 10, 2004

Friday, August 06, 2004

Fan-Boy's Top Five

I’ve been away from cyberland for a little while; sorry ‘bout that. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in getting ready to move, looking for jobs and crying like a sissy after riding the pussy-ass choo-choo train kiddie roller coaster at Six Flags.

In other words, my mind has been about as far away from theatre as it can get.

This isn’t really surprising, since I’m not really a “Theatre Person.” Pete is always perplexed as to why I write plays, since theatre isn’t my favorite medium. I mean, it’s in my Top Five favorite media, but it’s at the bottom of the list.

So, what is on my Top Five List of Favorite Media, you’re asking? Well, as it stands now, in descending order, it’s:

1. Music
2. Film
3. Comics
4. Prose Fiction (novels, short stories)
5. Theatre

Now, from time to time, the 2, 3 and 4 slots get rearranged, but slots 1 and 5 are always the same. I love writing plays, but I’d almost much rather read “From Hell” or listen to the Old 97’s (or, joy of joys, both) than go see a play on any given day.

I also realize that most of my inspiration for writing plays (besides my own life) comes from the top four media rather than other plays. It’s actually quite rare that I get ideas from other plays. Usually, any given script I write will be a kind of hodge-podge, Frankenstein’s monster: a Weezer song meets Henry James meets some weird shit that happened to me last year.

For anyone who knows me, this actually makes sense. There’s a wide rift between what (I think) I’m good at and what I enjoy. Perhaps that’s due to having a slightly masochistic side (in case you hadn’t noticed), but also I think it’s because if I’m too immersed in something, I can’t be objective about it. When I was in college, the classes I did best in (and the term papers I got the best grades for) were on subjects I was kind of “schmeh” on. I’m too much of a music fan to be able to write music that’s any good. I’m too much in awe of certain comic book authors (stop snickering, assholes!) to feel comfortable writing comic book scripts. I’m too busy being a fan.

I also don’t think this is rare. I do know some directors whose strengths and talents do not necessarily coincide with their favorite styles. Hell, even Gene Simmons doesn’t listen to rock music (he has an extensive classical music library).

Maybe we’re all just masochists.

Wait. There’s no “maybe” about it.

Why the fuck else would ANY of us be making theatre?

Bringing out the whips and chains,

James “Bring Back the Pain” Comtois

August 6, 2004

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