Friday, September 29, 2006

Get Me The Eff Outta Here

UPDATE: I just bought my ticket for this Tuesday's performance of Neil LaBute's Wrecks, starring Ed Harris at the Public. I am indeed looking forward to it.

How long has this week been going on? Is it finally fucking over? Jesus Christ.


For some reason, this felt to be like one of the longest and slowest weeks in recent history, and it's technically not over yet (I still have another three hours before I can leave the land of the mortgage press and go frolic in the Rotten Apple).

I'm going to make this entry very quick, since I have to wrap up some things for work before I head off into the wild grey yonder. Now that the week is over, here are a few things related to the land of theatre that may be of some interest...

I've just purchased my ticket for tonight's performance of The Committee Theatre's production of Ken Urban's play I (Heart) Kant. Based on the reviews (and my enjoyment of the reading of Mr. Urban's play, Nibbler) I'm looking forward to it.

This Saturday at 2 p.m. at Elebash Recital Hall at the CUNY Graduate Center on 365 5th Avenue (at 34th Street), CUNY will host a panel of bloggers and theatre journalists as part of the Prelude '06 Festival to talk about the future of theatre journalism and how the theatre blogs may or may not affect said journalism. David Cote, theatre editor for Time Out New York will be moderating, and George Hunka, Garrett Eisler and Isaac Butler, among others, will be on the panel. It could be very enlightening.

On Saturday night, Tuckaberry Productions are holding a Prohibition-era speakeasy-style fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Great Room at A.R.T. NY on 189 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. Folks will be singing classic jazz standards, there will be some poker playing and of course food and libations will be served. Take the M, N, Q, R, W, 2, 3, 4 5 to Atlantic/Pacific, or the C to Lafayette, or the G to Fulton. Admission to the event is just $10.

Okay, that's it for me for the week; I'm off like a prom dress. Have a good weekend, mes chéris.

Inexplicably tired,

James "Lazy Bastard" Comtois

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Eye-Gouging, Throat-Slashing & Acid-Throwing

The first reading of The Blood Brothers Present: An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror took place last night, and this looks like it will be a fun night of gruesome and lurid theatre. The cast seemed reasonably amused/appalled with my four-minute pantomime script. You can buy tickets here.

Before the reading began, Patrick gave the cast a quick tutorial on the history of the Grand Guignol, which was a good thing, since it turned out only a few of them knew exactly what sort of show they had signed on for (fortunately, no one ran away screaming). After the brief history lesson, most of the cast members simply "got it," and understood the tone and style of how the plays were to be read.

Pete and Patrick have been doing their homework on this sort of theatre, having spent the bulk of the summer researching the theatre and movement., a Web site established by the San Fransisco-based theatre company Thrillpeddlers, provides an invaluable crash-course in Grand Guignol theatre (including - Oh, God, yes! - a video excerpt of a Grand Guignol play staged in the mid-60s).


"As used today, the term 'Grand Guignol'...refers to any dramatic entertainment that deals with macabre subject matter and features 'over-the-top' graphic violence. It is derived from Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, the name of the Parisian theatre that horrified audiences for over sixty years...A typical evening at the Grand Guignol Theatre might consist of five or six short plays, ranging from suspenseful crime dramas to bawdy sex farces. But the staple of the Grand Guignol repertoire was the horror play, which inevitably featured eye-gouging, throat-slashing, acid-throwing, or some other equally grisly climax."

Many of the old Guignol plays were based on stories "Ripped From the Headlines;" if there was a front-page news story about a grisly killing, it often wound up as a Grand Guignol play (the murders of Jack the Ripper were an oft-used subject, go figure). Occasionally, sex farces would be thrown into the play-lists, in part for their own sake, in part to keep audiences guessing whether they, too, would have gory endings. (Yeah, it's always fun to guess whether you're watching Noises Off or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)

Although seeing a decline in audiences in the 1940s (World War II taking some of the fun out of watching grisly deaths), the real death knell for Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol and its brand of theatre was cinema. After realizing that it could no longer compete with movies, Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol shut its doors in 1962. A few attempts have been made to reopen it since, but aside from a handful of short runs of shows, nothing has stuck.

The real question will be how well this turn-of-last-century style of theatre has aged. Plays featuring zombies have surged in popularity in New York of late (although many of these plays are laced with more than just a dash of irony), and shows such as Tracy Letts's Killer Joe and Bug and Martin Mcdonough's The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore have shown that attempting violence and horror for the stage is not the daunting task it once was in recent years. But how will modern New York audiences receive these older and more melodramatic plays (The Final Kiss being written in 1912 and The Kiss of Blood in 1929)? We shall find out in just a few weeks.

I actually suppose it will be determined by how good the effects are. From what I've seen, modern urban audiences aren't used to seeing eye-gouging and dismemberment on stage, so dated language aside, if done right - and I'm sure they will be - the shows won't come across as campy. Funny, maybe, but in the literal sense (i.e., "providing fun").

Always into family-friendly entertainment,

James "Happy Clown" Comtois

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Displaying Not Just My Physical State But Why I Will Most Likely Never Get A Date This Millennium...


By James Comtois

( A WOMAN sits on a couch watching TV. She's surrounded by discarded tissues. A MAN enters.)

WOMAN. How was your day?

MAN. I'm tired.

WOMAN. Do you want dinner?

MAN. Did you eat?

(He sits down next to her.)

WOMAN. No. Did you eat?

MAN. No.

WOMAN. Do you want dinner?

MAN. Do you want dinner?

WOMAN. I'm feeling sick.

MAN. I'm tired.

(Woman blows her nose into a tissue.)

MAN. You sound sick.

WOMAN. I'm feeling sick.

MAN. I'm tired.

WOMAN. Do you want dinner?

MAN. I'm so tired.

WOMAN. I'm so sick.

(Woman blows her nose again. Eats the tissue.)

WOMAN. Do you want dinner?

MAN. What's on TV?

WOMAN. You want to lie down?

MAN. I'm so tired.

(Woman blows her nose again. Man eats the tissue.)

WOMAN. You feeling sick?

MAN. I'm feeling tired.

(Takes a tissue, blows his nose, eats the tissue.)

WOMAN. You should lie down.

MAN. I'm hungry.

WOMAN. Do you want dinner?

MAN. Do you want dinner?

(Woman blows her nose. Man eats the tissue.)

WOMAN. You want to watch something else?

(Man blows his nose. Woman eats the tissue.)

MAN. What are you watching?

(Woman blows her nose, eats the tissue.)

WOMAN. You should lie down. You look tired.

MAN. You sound sick.

WOMAN. You wanna lie down?

MAN. I'm tired.

(The man and woman blow their noses repeatedly, eating the tissues, sometimes eating their own, sometimes eating the other person's.)


© 2006 James Comtois

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Ugh" and Artaud

Well, it's the time of the year (late-September/early-October) when I get sick for about a solid week due to the fluctuation of the weather. The congestion and headaches started to kick in on Thursday and although I'm feeling marginally better than I was this weekend, my nose is still a damn faucet (I'm sure you wanted to know that).



Man, do I not want to be at work right now.

Suffice it to say, I have very little to say at this moment, other than, "Ugh," so in the meantime, I suggest that you check out these three posts (by Allison Croggon, Goerge Hunka and Matt Johnston) about Antonin Artaud.

From Allison's post:

"What makes Artaud different from most mentally ill people is that, in what is almost a contradiction in terms, he was coldly conscious of his madness, and was capable of describing it with an almost savagely clinical intelligence. He never romanticised his sickness: he experienced it as horror and obliteration, and his experiments in theatre and mysticism were in part driven by a desire for transformation, for a resolution of the polarities that tormented him."

From George's:

"Blood and human organs and fluids were of course a part of the work of Antonin Artaud...though the Theatre of Cruelty invests the Guignol with a spiritual scream. Artaud is ever present in the theatre of Grotowski, Barker and Kane, but somehow Artaud straight up seems an impossibility."

From Matt's:

"...Artaud's ideas are absolutely essential to an understanding of the progression of 20th century theatre. The very impracticality of his work sets him apart from his contemporaries as one who lived so thoroughly in his imagination. And in a strangely paradoxical way his ideas, even if not realized, had the potential to inspire and create change. And they did in fact do just that from the Artaudian moment on."

Check them out.

I do remember a few years ago when Pete, Patrick and I were excited to see a production of Ataud's Spurt of Blood (staged by the [alas] now-defunct Stages 5150), since it was considered to be by many a completely unstagable play. Although relying a bit too much on the Ann Bogart "Viewpoints" exercises, it was still a fun and interesting experience seeing the group put on a full-length show based on a page-and-a-half script.

Anyway, when I feel a bit better, I'll actually write some of my own thoughts (on this or at least some sort of subject).

Reaching for the Kleenex,

James "HOOONNK! [Snff]" Comtois

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fall Preview

At the suggestion of Isaac Butler, some of the theatre bloggers have gotten together and decided to make today Fall Preview Day, where each blogger comes up with three plays coming up this fall that he or she would be interested in seeing.

As tempted as I was, I thought it would be unfair to mention Pete and Patrick's The Blood Brothers Present: An Evening of Grand Guignol Theatre, since technically it's a Nosedive show (true, I have very little to do with it and it's almost a spin-off side project, but still, having that be one of the three would be pretty lame of me).

So, here are three plays coming up that I'm thinking would be fun to see...

Wrecks. The general consensus in the theatre blogosphere is that it's blasphemy to admit to liking Neil LaBute's work. I'll recite my 10 Hail Marys some other time. In Neil LaBute's latest play, Ed Harris plays a recently widowed car salesman who may not be the innocent victim he portrays himself to be. Tickets are $50, which is a bit high for my price range, but not impossible. In previews Sept. 26, it officially opens October 10 at the Public Theatre on 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets can be bought here.

The Tooth of Crime. This is the very first play by Shepard I read, and I've never seen it. George Ferencz directs the play (based on La MaMa's 1983 production) about two rock stars — one stuck in the past, one willing to change with the times — facing off. (Okay, there's more to it than that, but really, you try to give an accurate plot description of a play by Sam Shepard and see how far you go.) I'm really curious to see this one on its feet. Tickets are $40. Opens October 3 at La MaMa on 74A East 4th Street. Tickets can be bought here.

In Public. No, this is not any sort of favoritism or political maneuvering to "get in good" with the other theatre bloggers. Isaac Butler directs George Hunka's play about two married couples over a long weekend in which desires may or may not be fulfilled. Played out in public spaces, the characters have to keep their public faces on, so the audience isn't drawn into their private spheres. Tickets are $18. Opens October 18 at the ManhattanTheatreSource on 177 MacDougal Street. Tickets can be bought here.

* * *

I've already purchased by ticket for In Public, so I guess now I have to see if I can scam Isaac into getting me free tickets to these other shows (a la Pig Farm). Ah? Isaac? Buddy?

Cheap but enthusiastic,

James "Cultural Hobo" Comtois

Ps. To read the other Fall Previews from my fellow bloggers, click on their names below.

Mark Armstrong

Isaac Butler

Matthew Freeman

George Hunka

Joshua James

Matt Johnston

Adam Szymkowicz

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Two Productions and a Treatise

I saw the opening of The Estrogenius Festival last night, which featured Mr. George Hunka's short and fascinating play, Bridal Suite. (You can read the text of the play here.) I do recommend going to the ManhattanTheatreSource and checking it out: this first batch of plays runs until tomorrow.

(Also, it was nice to finally meet you, Mr. Cote!)

Congratulations to George and everyone involved in the show(s). Best of luck on the rest of the festival. I'm now very much looking forward to seeing George's full-length endeavor, In Public, which opens October 18.

* * *

Over at Nosedive Central, Pete and Patrick are getting ready to stage their send-up to early-20th Century Grand Guignol horror theatre with a Nosedive side-project, The Blood Brothers Present, which will feature two older one-act horror plays from the Guignol tradition and three original vignettes, one of them written by yours truly. It'll be going up for two weekends in October at the 78th Street Theatre Lab. The two of them have wanted to do something like this for years now and finally the time has come (I think doing The Adventures of Nervous Boy had sufficiently whetted their appetite for violent, bloody, horrific theatre).

Seriously, folks. You really won't want to miss this.

* * *

Tom Loughlin writes in his A Poor Player blog about the problems of New York Centrism in the theatre blogosphere in an entry entitled, well, "NewYorkCentrism."

Mr. Loughlin writes:

"As an educator and also as a theatre artist, I have fought for years against this NewYorkCentrism, the notion that all good things in theatre happen only in New York, and therefore one must go to New York City to become successful and do theatre well."

He continues:

"I've invited a number of people to come to Buffalo, for example, if they really want to work and create good art. Why? Because it can easily be done. There are at least six "open" theatres in the city which rent out or are otherwise available for productions, and that doesn't count the odd church basements. There is a burgeoning new neighborhood up on Hertel Ave. with several abandoned storefronts."

There are some interesting and valid points he makes, although when push comes to shove all I can really say is, "Feh." I think this is simply because:

a.) I like living in New York and really don't want to live anywhere else right now (funny that I'm finding myself having to justify this idea more often to more people nowadays),

b.) In terms of theatre blogs, I just took inventory of the theatre blogs on my blogroll and did a tally of how many were New York- versus non-New York-based: 26 blogs, 16 of them are from New York-based bloggers, 4 of them from semi-nomadic, semi-New York-based (i.e., are known to move in and out of the city, depending on where they find work) and 6 of them patently non-New York-based. Obviously a majority of them are New York-based, but there's still a decent cross-section of theatre blogs I read and recommend that discuss what's happening around the country (and in Allison's case, Australia), and

c.) I had moved from a place where I would not have been able to stage plays with relative ease and affordability (Boston) to a place where I have been able to (New York), so in many ways, the "hype" about staging theatre in New York is not totally without merit. (In other words, theatre-wise, this city has done me good for several years now.)

(I am reminded of Matt Johnston's departure from New York to Boston and finding no work of any kind — paid or volunteer — in Beantown, then returning back to the Rotten Apple only to get a directing offer damn near within hours upon coming back.)

Is there good theatre happening in Buffalo? I'm sure of it. Why wouldn't there be? There's good theatre happening in New Hampshire (or at least, there was when I was growing up there). But obviously in the medium of theatre you can really only comment on what you've seen and can see. Since I live in New York City, I can only comment on theatre in said city.

And also, I'm not moving to Buffalo.

Seriously, fuck that.

Still, there is some merit in trying to convince college students about to graduate and wanting to pursue a career in theatre that New York is not the only option available to them. It does take a certain disposition to live in this city that not everyone has. I also think that if you move to New York solely to do theatre, you will be very unhappy (seriously, this city ain't for everyone). The idea of trying to convince a young theatre person to go somewhere other than New York is a good one.

Although there's definitely a lot of "tilting at windmills" in Mr. Loughlin's entry (to be fair, something not uncommon in the land of blogging), it's still worth a read.

Tired of these damn
kids coming to my town,

James "Cranky Local" Comtois

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

That Thing I Had Mentioned A While Back...

The Blood Brothers Present…

In association with Nosedive Productions

An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror

Conceived & Directed by Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer

The 78th Street Theatre Lab

236 West 78th St. at Broadway

October 19-21, 26-28 Thursday through Saturday

"We've done all we can – and so has nature, I'm afraid."

"Just to see my blood flowing, doctor, you have no idea what it's like."

In the depths of a sanitarium, a horribly disfigured man totters between forgiveness and revenge. In a small hospital operating room, a stranger asks the surgeon for a bloody favor. In a small New York theatre, two eerie siblings lead their captive audience through a funhouse of madness, chills and blood.

"The Blood Brothers," a new horror-centered division of Nosedive Productions, presents an evening of Grand Guignol Horror. Through two one-act plays and three original vignettes, The Blood Brothers present a rare peek into a style of theater that proliferated in the early-1900's and was eventually assimilated in the late-1970's and 1980's into the "splatter" genre of horror films. Blending suspense, stage magic, eroticism and farce, Grand Guignol was a powerful theatrical entertainment drawing an audience from every echelon of Parisian society – anyone in search of a sexy, scary thrill.

The Blood Brothers Present: An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror features graphic violence and strong sexual situations and is recommended for adults only.

The Blood Brothers Present will be performed at the 78th Street Theatre Lab (236 West 78th St. at Broadway) October 19-21, 26-28 (Thursday through Saturday). All shows are at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. Subway: 1 to 79th Street; A to 81st Street; or 1 2 or 3 to 72nd Street. For tickets call 212-352-3101 or visit

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It's Not All Just Writin' 'Bout Superheroes

Since I'm holding off in writing about the script I'm working on until further notice, I figured I'd fill you in on some odds and ends in my semi-theatre-related schedule...

This was a fun little thing to notice in the Boston University alum newsletter. Granted, the writer is more than a little biased (he's one of the performers), but it was still nice to find. The original Slow Children at Play gang has been talking about getting together again (sooner than 10 years), possibly to film some of our silly-ass sketches. One of the members, Mike "Freak" Coleman, has been making some noise about having our next show be in Vegas. Hey, why not?

* * *

Abby Marcus from the Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company called me recently to ask me back to participate in their second annual Revamped show, which I found quite flattering (I guess they liked my contribution from last year).

Oddly enough, she told me the theme of this year's show, which turned out to be the central theme of a short play I wrote earlier this year. I know: what are the freakin' odds?

I'll most likely present them with a 10-minute excerpt of this 40-minute play, so I'm hoping she and Qui dig it.

* * *

On Saturday, I met with Martin Denton to go over the details of The Adventures of Nervous Boy's inclusion of Plays and Playwrights 2007, which was nice because it gave me the sense that this is actually going to happen. He gave me all the details about the project and everything seems very straightforward (I mean, let's face it. Anyone who's ever met Martin or read his site knows he's not a guy out to scam anyone; quite the opposite, in fact). It looks as though the book will be coming out sooner than I had previously thought (I was thinking sometime in June of 2007, but the target date is February of 2007), which was also a nice thing to learn.

In addition to all the details about the upcoming book at the meeting, Mr. Denton also gave me a copy of the 2006 edition to peruse. In the back of the anthology is a fairly comprehensive list of the shows that went up in New York from late-2004 to mid-2005 and whadda ya know? Both A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol and Dying Goldfish are in there! I do realize that this may be the lamest reason to be excited, but hey; in the land of self-produced Off-off Broadway playwriting, you absolutely take whatever perks you can get.

I sent Mr. Denton my most recent draft of the script as well as the permissions agreement yesterday. The editing process is slated to begin in October, so I'll no doubt blather on about more details of this process as they unfold.

After my meeting with Mr. Denton, I joined Nosedive Central in celebrating Mr. Pete Boisvert's 30th birthday, which was a super-fun time, as virtually everyone in attendance got decidedly pie-faced.

Wow. For such a lazy guy, I sure do sound busy!

Having his secretary hold all his calls,

James "Those Creditors Can Wait!" Comtois

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kinda Like...Though, Not Really

Okay, as previously promised (as well as previously reneged on), I'll talk a little bit about the premise for this anomalous script I've been working on.

Now that I've written enough pages and plotted the scenes that need to be written, I can talk a little more frankly about the new play. True, there's still no working title, but that usually comes in very late in the game.


How do I best describe this play without giving you an inherently false and distorted idea of what it's going to be?

I'll give it a try. Here goes.

The play is a very, very, VERY loose adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen.

I will say right here and now that I'm not kidding about the excessive use of the word 'very.' Whereas Sheila Callaghan referred to her play Dead City as more of a "riff" on James Joyce's novel Ulysses than an "adaptation," I would attest that Sheila's play is far more faithful to its source material than mine is to its.

Ultimately, it's about how the discovery of a man in the late '80s who can inexplicably deflect bullets and is impervious to pain affects the political and cultural landscape of the world (I'll give you a hint: quite dramatically). The bulk of the play takes place in 2005: the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are still standing, electric cars have phased out gas-powered autos and an arms race between the U.S. and China has escalated.

Anyone coming to see this show expecting to see a giant blue naked guy or Rorschach cramming a midget down a prison toilet will be horribly disappointed. Likewise with anybody coming to see this show expecting very stylized, comic-bookish action a la Vampire Cowboys.

At any rate, that's the best way I can describe it right now, and still I'm way off the mark in actually describing it. It's kind of like Watchmen, though, not really.

My suspicion (based on prior experience) is that the next few steps will now go very slowly. I'm far enough along to know I'm going to finish it (after I learn to ignore the little voice that says, "This is stupid and clichéd, James," my OCD kicks into high gear, which forces me to finish what I've got regardless of how shitty I think it may be), but I have no idea when.

(I'm approaching that stage where I'm no longer "writing," in the sense that I'm not making any more things up for the play, but have to just suck it up and ostensibly "transcribe" the exchanges between Characters A and B in a few scenes and Y and Z in a few others. It's the least fun element of the process and the most like "work," since I have to do it fast before the characters become less like three-dimensional characters and more like vague two-dimensional character outlines, yet drag my feet because I already know what they're going to say, have known what they're going to say for weeks now, yet have to make what they say still sound fresh. Yeah, it sucks, but it is very much one of those crucial "Rules of the Game.")

This will be the last entry for a while on this particular project. I may announce when I've finished a readable rough draft (next month? Two months from now? Next year?), but other than that, it's time for me to ramble on to you about other things while giving myself enough space and privacy to finish this script.

And to come up with a decent title.

Closing the door to my office again,

James "Hermetic" Comtois

Friday, September 15, 2006

Okay I Lied

Just a small white lie.

I said in my last entry that I in my next post (i.e., this one) that I would talk about what the play I'm working on is about. I decided to hold off and continue a little bit more about the process in a vague/general way before getting into the real nuts and bolts of this script in particular.

Please forgive me.

I promise, the next entry will give some specifics about the script in question. Seriously. I've already written it so it will be posted.

* * *

The trick is to write out what you have envisioned as soon as possible before it gets locked up inside your head.

In Lost in La Mancha, the heartbreaking documentary about Terry Gilliam's failed attempt at making a filmed adaptation of Don Quixote, Gilliam admits that he has played his movie in his head so many times over the course of ten years that he didn't think he could make the movie for real anymore now that they were pulling the plug on the production. I know exactly what he means. (And I'm of course assuming anyone who's written — or wanted to write — knows what he means.)

This is what happens when you play out your idea for a script over and over in your head and don't put pen to paper. When you write out your idea for that scene that looks brilliant in your own mind, it comes out too distant and too detached from how you envisioned it. You're thinking about the beginning, middle and end all at once and are unable to sit still long enough to write the small, intimate scene between Characters A and B in the first act that's necessary for establishing the primary action in the second act.

How many times have you heard someone say that they have an idea for a screenplay that they say is "All in here," as they point to their cranium? Likewise with those who say, "I want to write but I have sooooo many ideas?" All part-in-parcel with the same tightrope dilemma. One it's "all in there," (i.e., your head), that's often where it stays. And once you decide to write what's "all in there," you don't know where to begin, because there are sooooo many ideas. Or, as Alan Ball calls it, "clusterfuck."

I'll admit right now that there's a bit of a race against time as I try to write down these scenes before they get too entrenched in my brain and come out as "Cliff's Notes" versions of what I'm imagining.

But then again, this poses another dilemma: rushing the process and forcing things to come out when they're not there.

Sheesh. You just can't win.

Again, I promise the next time 'round I'll actually get into some specifics about the script I'm working on. It is quite different from what I've written before, and a different approach to how I usually write, so I'm still fairly curious as to how this will all pan out.

Of course, if this thing gets finished, and if this thing is any good, it will most likely be another year at the very least before it sees the light of stage, so the odds of getting to do a post-mortem on the entire process anytime soon is twofold: slim and nil.

Okay, that's it for me for the week. I'm off like a prom dress. Have a good weekend, folks.

Walking the tightrope,

James "Clusterfucker" Comtois

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We've Got Ribs

Okay, I've written about 20 pages of the new script I've been working on and plotted out the remaining 45 or 55 pages that still need to be written, which means it now exists in skeletal form. It still doesn't have a working title and I'm still not ready to show it to Pete, Patrick and the rest of the Nosedive gang. (Yes, the folks at Nosedive Central get first crack at the rough drafts. I know, I know, you're bitterly envious, aren't you?) I'm nowhere near finishing a readable draft (like I said, I'm only about a third or a quarter of the way there), but the story has been put in place and the main characters have been established.

I got the characters. I got their voices. I know their world.

True, I know the world a little more than all the characters, but they're catching up very, very quickly.

So, for all intents and purposes, I have a decent enough sense of what the play is and what it's going to end up looking like.

Skeletal form.

I'm happy to report that my brain isn't letting this one go. Ideas are...well, percolating isn't right. Rattling around my brain every waking moment is more like it. I'm not being hyperbolic around that.

Mac Rogers once pointed out to me that a playwright's job is never finished, since even if you've finished a new script or are producing a play based on a script, you always think that you should be home working on something new, regardless of what sort of schedule or down-time you have (very much a "got time to lean, got time to clean" mentality). Right now I now exactly what he meant. I need to write this down so I can at least stop thinking about these characters and what they're doing.

Whenever I write something new, I get to the "high endorphin" stage of the project early on, just after I get out of my own way and start writing the damn thing and again just before I come to the end and realize I can send my friends a readable draft by the end of the week.

I finished the stories I need to write for work today, so my hope is to write another 10 or so pages today before my enthusiasm wanes. Very soon, the high endorphin stage will be coming to an end, which means I need to work at getting to page 40 before that happens: 10 pages today and 10 tomorrow.

(Once I've written 40 pages of something, i.e., more than half, I realize I can't just "walk away" from it and will have to finish it for good or for bad to stave off going batshit as a result of my obsessive-compulsive behavior.)

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all a kinda sorta update as to what I'm working on. Again, we'll see if I can finish this damn thing anytime soon (although there's no real rush; Nosedive's already slated to stage Suburban Peepshow in February or March of 2007 and I've written a handful of one-acts as a "backout clause" if I have nothing to show Pete or Patrick by then, so in the worst-case scenario, Nosedive isn't in any danger of being behind schedule unless I can't come up with anything by the fall of 2007).

I think/hope that I'll be ready to actually say what the script is kinda sorta about for my next entry, which will either be tomorrow or Monday. Again, this all depends on how much progress I make on it today and tomorrow.

Getting back to work,

James "Compulsive" Comtois

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Worlds and Voices

I suppose this entry will be either of great interest to you or no interest at all, depending on your level of curiosity as to how someone who calls himself a writer writes.

As I mentioned two entries ago, I started work on a new play while up in Maine. Whether I'll actually finish it or not and whether it'll be any good or not is all still up in the air. But so far, I'm still working on it and haven't yet decided to give up on it. As of this entry, it does not have a title, nor is it in its true skeletal form (I'm still developing some of the muscles and meat, to continue this bizarre anatomy analogy). And it turns out that I'm writing this one a little differently than my previous efforts.

I didn't realize that I was working on this primarily backwards from my usual method until I had a few drinks with my friend Maggie last night. Maggie has helped out with some of the previous Nosedive shows, and has seen and read a number of my plays. Well, at the bar, I was telling her the kinda sorta concept for the new play and what I had written so far. I also told her the problems I was seeing with it (i.e., red flags further down the road that are making me not envy myself a month or so from now).

After I told her the basic premise of the play and what I had done with it so far, she said: "This sounds different than your other plays. I mean, with your other shows, you know your characters inside and out, and the world of the play comes second. With this one, it sounds like the other way around. You've constructed the world, and are now trying to figure out who the characters are."

She was absolutely right.

Usually, when I write a play, the main thing that I need in order to get going and (more importantly) finish a script is to be able to hear the character's "voices." I don't work on the characters' backgrounds; I'm not interested in what town the character was raised in, what their favorite movie was when they were eight or what their 7th grade math grades were like. But when I know a character's voice, I can figure out how the scenes are going to come out, what they'll most likely do in a certain situation and even extrapolate some of that never-used "background" based on how they talk (if it's ever needed; hey, some actors need that sort of information).

Now when I say "voices," I don't mean, "This guy sounds like Sylvester Stallone with a head cold," or, "She has a high, squeaky voice." I mean method of speaking, conversational style, vocabulary, whether they spit out snide quips or stammer awkwardly, how they respond to someone else talking to them.

Once the voices are down, everything else usually falls into place with relative ease (emphasis on the words usually and relative).

This is most definitely the case with my last show, The Adventures of Nervous Boy. Once I knew exactly how Nervous Boy would respond and react to situations and other characters, the scenes came quickly. Once I figured out that Emily wasn't exactly the manic, self-absorbed phony that Nervous Boy believed her to be, their successive scenes were pretty easy to write.

(Now, obviously this isn't always the case and I'm bending the truth just a little bit here to illustrate a point. In other words, I'm being a tad liberal with the relative use of the terms "quickly" and "easy." Despite this, I still hope you understand what I mean.)

When I write, the voices come first, the worlds in which the characters live follow.

Not so with this script.

With this script, I have my premise, source material and basic outline for a story drawn and mapped out (well, mostly mapped out). But mainly, I have created the world in which the play resides. I do have characters, and have picked which characters I want to be the main characters, but I don't know them very well. I don't know their voices. Also, that I've picked which of the characters I've created to be the main ones after the fact should say something. I have one character fleshed out with some pretty good detail (not only do I know his "voice," but oddly enough I also know where he was raised and what his 7th grade math grades were like), but he's not the main character (he's more a catalyst for events that my main characters will have to deal with throughout the play).

I've never done this before.

It will be interesting to see whether writing this play in this way ends up screwing me over or if it will clear a roadblock or two for me. It will also be interesting to see how different the end result ends up being from my previous endeavors (if, of course, I'm able to finish it). It's far too early to say right now. I'm fortunate enough (so far) to still have enough energy and enthusiasm to continue working on it.

Let's just hope I don't do something stupid like get super self-conscious about this and freeze up.

As soon as I can start to put the skeleton in place, I'll be able to offer more specifics about this project.

In the meantime, I've got to quit stalling by yammering away on this site and write another five or six pages on it today.

Ass backwards as always,

James "Semaj Siotmoc" Comtois

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ah, Home Sick Home

I'm back.

Although I do miss staring out at the ocean and doing nothing, it is nice to be back home where I can stare out at the computer monitor and do nothing.

I returned on Saturday, and I had a few drinks in Park Slope on Saturday night with fellow theatre bloggers Matt Freeman and Matt Johnston as well as the "adorable" Marsha Martinez (to celebrate Mr. Johnston's birthday).

A nice way to get back into the swing of things, if I do say so myself.

Despite have nothing to say on the subject (on this space right now, anyway), I do have to point out the excruciatingly obvious that today is the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Really, I have nothing to write about on the subject. I could have watched the ABC "Television Event" The Path To 9-11 last night and used the experience to rant/rave about it here, but it ran concurrently with the season premieres of The Simpsons and Family Guy, so FOX won my attention.

(Waaaaay back when my friend Adam Schrader [fellow BU alum and original member of Slow Children at Play] had his own Web site, the now defunct, I had written something - a lot of somethings, actually - on Sept. 11 and where I was when the attacks happened and what went on with me. It's not really interesting enough of a story to bear repeating. So I'm not doing it again. Maybe if I can find the original essay [which is doubtful] I'll re-post it. But don't hold your breath or anything, folks.)

So I'm aware that you can't post a blog entry on Sept. 11 without at least acknowledging the day of infamy (or should it be Day of Infamy?). However, I really have little to nothing left to say on the subject that hasn't been said by many people (myself included) many, many times before.

As Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that."


On a completely unrelated note, I would like to welcome Time Out New York theatre editor David Cote to the land of theatre blogging. You'll note his name on the blogroll to your right.

Your daily dose of inanity,

James "Drivelsmith" Comtois

Friday, September 08, 2006

On My Way Back

I'm almost back to civilization.

(Well, New Hampshire actually, so not really.)

I'll be returning to the Glorious Rotten Apple on Saturday, where I plan to drink the case of blueberry beer I've smuggled over state lines.

Vacation in Maine was great, although I have next-to-nothing to report. I did damn near nothing, aside from eat like a pig, drink like a fish, and mix metaphors like a metaphor-mixing animal.

Okay, that's a bit disingenuous. I did see two movies (Little Miss Sunshine and Woody Allen's latest, Scoop. I liked them both, although it should surprise no one that I found the former to be much more impressive than the latter), blinked at the news that Steve "Croc Hunter" Irwin died and started work on a new play.

I don't want to give away too many details on the new play yet, as it's very much in its germ state right now. I'm just hoping I can finish the fucker (as Joshua James would say) before I psyche myself out (something I am known for doing).

As soon as it's in a more skeletal form, I'll feel more comfortable blathering away about it.

I will say that I'm kinda happy with what I've written so far. That could of course all change after writing the next page.

Very soon (i.e., probably this upcoming week), I'll be making an announcement of a new side-project that Nosedive (and I) is (am) tangentially related to. As soon as I get a few more nuts n' bolts details from Pete, I'll let you know what all the fuss is about, dear reader.

Okay. I need to head over to the UHaul center in Derry, NH to pick up a truck (my sister wants to transport a desk and dresser back to New York). I'll natter more on Monday.

At any rate, I figured I'd check in a bit earlier than scheduled and say hello. Also, congratulations, Dan Trujillo and happy (early) birthday, Matt Johnston!

Still drunk on blueberry beer,

James "Tastes Like Freakin'
Blueberries, People!" Comtois

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