World Premiere of “Clutter: Or The Moving Walkway Will Soon Be Coming to an End.” (The back story)

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So how do these things happen?

In this case, two characters–Bobby and Eddy–started talking to each other in an office of a business that was about to go out of business. They rambled, these two, and created pages and pages of conversation.

I asked a pair of actors to read some of that rambling and they graciously agreed. I heard something in there–and I heard a lot that shouldn’t be there.

I also heard another character that wanted to be heard. Barb, who worked as a receptionist in the aforementioned office, was mentioned in the long Bobby/Eddy scene but not seen.

So she started a conversation with her friend Barb. And it turns out that that conversation was taking place three years later than the Bobby/Eddy scene. Barb had just lost her, well, she’s lost  count of how many jobs she’s lost. And pal Bev was considering leaving her husband. Both missed days when they could have fun seemingly without responsibility. At the end of the scene, Barb recognized someone at the bar.

Well, I knew the four of them would have to get together for a third scene. And it seemed right to set it three years later. Relationships had changed. Power had shifted. And a fictional self-help movement suddenly became part of their reality. “Cluttering” became a verb. And I had something resembling a play.

 

Rewriting.

A Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis allowed me to visit CT, where the New Haven Theatre Company and my pal Chris Arnott pull together a reading, giving me the valuable opportunity to hear the play with actors I didn’t know and an audience full of strangers. The experience was eye-opening.

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Rewriting.

A talented quartet of actors agree to read the play–complete with new ending. I proudly say it was the first play that was read at Indy Reads Books but really the only achievement was that I was the first to ask. That was 2012.

The actors–one of who is now in LA, one who is now in NYC, one who is now in Chicago and one who is here continuing to do strong work in Indy–did an outstanding job not only of delivering the play but in helping me see what was working and what wasn’t. I always recommend that playwrights gather the best actors they can for readings so they can only blame themselves for a show’s flaws.

Rewriting.

More readings in Indianapolis. Then Lori Raffel, the forward-thinking head honcho at Theatre on the Square, asked if she could produce it. Ultimately she also signed on as director.

After our conversations about the play–and inspired by her passion for it–I tinkered further, including adding the subtitle and its counterpart dialogue in the play itself. We brainstormed talent for it, she held auditions, and pulled together a terrific cast. She graciously allowed me in to rehearsals where I tend to keep quiet. A play may belong to a playwright but I believe a production belongs to the director, designers, and actors. As long as they stay within the parameters of my intent for the piece, I want them to have license to explore and create. I gave them the blueprints. They build the building.

I’m looking forward to seeing the play come to life this opening weekend. Bobby and Barb and Eddy and Bev have waiting quite a while to get on their feet. It’s been fun watching them grow (even when they aren’t growing).

And, no, I can’t really say if it’s a comedy or a drama. One doesn’t really know until there’s an audience.

I do know that it runs Jan. 13-22 as does Andrew Black’s new play, “Puppet Man.”

I hope you get to see either or both.

I am a lucky man.

 

 

 

 

Films, Indy arts, and games in review for 2016

As 2016 winds down, here are some wrap up pieces:

Favorite Indy-area arts of 2016. 

Favorite films of 2016. 

Most played games of 2016:

(They didn’t all come out in 2016, but rather than a best of the year list, here are the games that found their way to the table most often in this year)

1 Trains (AEG)– a new addition but having a lot of fun with this one. Already converted a few people to it (And on sale at Half-Price Books)

2. Royals (Dice Tower Essentials)–My most-played find from Gen Con.

3. Costa Rica (Mayfair)–Great easy set-up game and easy concept to grasp. Fun and just vicious enough.

4. Fuse (Renegade)–The heart-pounder of the year, introduced to me by Kevin Cole

5. Libertalia (Marabunta)–Another Kevin Cole introduction. I bit of a set up required and frustrating for some but still digging it.

6. Splendor (Space Cowboys)–Clay Mabbitt hooked Jonah and me on this one. Kind of multi-player solitaire-ish–I usually prefer more interaction–but happy whenever it hits the table.

7. Colt Express (Ludonaute)–I get enormous pleasure from this train robbery game and love seeing how the actions play out in unexpected ways.

8. Fight for Olympus (Mayfair)–The best two-player game I’ve found this year.

9. Spike (R&R)–Jonah is big on train games and this is a really good one. 20th Century Limited is another. We always pull one of these out rather than Ticket to Ride (which is still a good game).

10. Ninja Camp (Action Phase)–A quick card game from a local Indy game creator.

Some of them are included in my annual Best Games of Gen Con story.

 

November update

Here’s what’s going on in my writing life:

–I’m at the tail end of finishing another work-for-hire book and there’s another in the pipeline. That means two–possibly three–out next year, although I have no idea whether or not they will have my name on them. Wait, maybe it’s four.

–My play, “Clutter,” now has a longer title. It’s “Clutter, or The Moving Walkway Will Soon Be Coming to and End.” Like it? Hope so. It also now has a cast and director for its world premiere at Theatre on the Square in Indianapolis Jan. 13-22.

Barbara……….MARY FISCHER
Bev…………….KELSEY VAN VOORST
Eddy………….NICK BARNES
Bobby……….BENJAMIN FRALEY

Director: Lori Raffel

Looking forward to digging in to this one with these fine folks.

–My next Wildwood play, tentatively titled “W. Wildwood Ave” is taking shape. Looking forward to sharing it (ideally somewhere at the Jersey shore).

–And, of course, there is the ongoing writing at http://www.ibj.com/arts, including a rundown of off-Broadway shows. Deeply proud to be on the team there.

Thanks for checking in.

 

Fall Equinox

Fall Equinox
(after NoExit’s “Bad Wolf”)

We look desperately for signs of balance
Because the illusion of perfection
Lies there

Imbalance, though, is where perfection hides
Waves and winds make every moment now
Never again

Today, a small tribe of children
defeated a big bad wolf puppet
With fairy dust

But the magic was in the kid
Who shouted “Hey birdy” from the swings
To a costumed actor
Between shows

And in the moment when the bird
Took a seat on the next swing
And the two creatures flew
Briefly
Perfectly
Together

–LH

Far too long

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated the blog here. Sorry about that.

I have, however, been active on Twitter (IBJARTS and LOUHARRY). And still blogging on the arts at http://www.ibj.com/arts.

But still.

Here’s an update:

My play “Clutter” will be staged in January at Theatre on the Square. I’m looking forward to announcing the production team and cast. This one has been a while in the making and I’m thrilled that it will be coming to life. If you are part of the National New Play Exchange, you can read it on my page there.

I’m working on putting together another New York reading in October. Stay tuned for info. This one will probably be of my new play, “Only You…and You…and You.” This one, like “Midwestern Hemisphere,” is based on an unpublished novel co-written with Eric R. Pfeffinger.

I’ve got another humor book contracted. Can’t give you details but having fun chipping away at that one. Will hit the stacks in late 2017.

The first season of Site Lines Indy led us to really, really, really want to do another seasons. We finished the season with a reading of “Opus” by Michael Hollinger at the HIlbert Circle Theatre featuring an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra string quartet. It was quite an evening. We are looking for partner organizations that have a constituency with a strong interest area. We then find a terrific play, cast and rehearse it, and bring it to that group’s turf for a one-night-only event.

You can always find my Indiana A&E stories and dining reviews at http://www.ibj.com/arts. Ticket giveaways there, too.

Going…Going…Gone is still going strong, with monthly shows at Theatre on the Square and pop-up shows at other locations. If you are interested in hosting one, drop me a note. We do a fun holiday party.

Indy Actors’ Playground is still happening the 3rd Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books. Terrific actors reading their bucket list plays. Stop in at 7 p.m. Better yet, come early to either donate or buy books. Either way, you help Indy Reads.

I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.

Oh, well.

 

One life for theater characters

Sometimes, I am slowed down in my play writing because I don’t want to let go of alternate scenarios that cannot coexist in a single play.

Since I usually start from character and place and never use an outline, my early thoughts and drafts go through a wide range of what-ifs and I find myself resisting doing actual scene work because I want these characters to be able to do this AND that rather than this OR that.

Eventually, though, I accept that these paper people become more human when I accept that they can only live, like us, second to second, minute to minute, and day to day, eventually forging one path through life.

That’s when I start to seal off those alternate routes in an effort to cover up any evidence that those dead-end tunnels once existed.

But I’m not there yet. For now, Donna and her daughter Connie and Mark and his brother Joey are living lives in multiple universes at the same time. Eventually, they’ll tell me the story–the one story–that they want written about them.

 

 

February update

The fun continues.

–I just posted four of my plays onto NNPN’s New Play Exchange.  One never knows who will be reading: https://newplayexchange.org/user

–After a two-month winter break, “Going…Going…Gone: The Live Auction Comedy” will be back in business March 6 with performances the first Sunday of each month. This time out, GGG vet Claire Wilcher will be joined by Comedy Sportz Indy co-founder Mia Lee Roberts and the wildly talented wildcard Courtney McClure. Tickets only $10 at www.tots.org. I’m also excited that a high-school production of GGG is in the works, details to come. More on “Going…Going…Gone” here: https://www.facebook.com/liveauctioncomedy/

–The next SiteLines play reading will take place March 23 at the Indiana Landmarks Center. A very talented team of actors will be reading Richard Nelson’s “Frank’s Home,” a terrific play about Frank Lloyd Wright and family. More on SiteLines here: https://www.facebook.com/Sitelinesindy/

–Indy Actors Playground, the actor-selected play reading series, continues the third Monday of every month. On March 21, Constance Macy and Jen Johansen make the selection. The 7:00 reading is free (although we never say what the play will be until you are there). https://www.facebook.com/IndyActorsPlayground/

–I’ll be providing the intro for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra’s live accompaniment to the Harold Lloyd classic “Speedy,” March 4 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, hosting a Pub Trivia game at Who’s Yer Con on April 1, and tweeting the Oscars tonight @ibjarts and/or @louharry.

Thanks for checking in.

The morning of the first read

It’s that time again. The morning of the first reading of a new play.

I’m not talking about the first reading after a theater has agreed to produce a play. I’m talking about the first time I’ve gathered actors to give this creature a voice–my first opportunity to hear what I’ve gotten myself into.

As the architect of a play rather than its builder, a playwright has to eventually put the play into the hands of others, knowing that, barring a publishing deal, that’s the form by which its audience will see it.

I like to do that early in the process (early, of course, is a relative term–I’ve been working on today’s play for years. It began life as a novel, in collaboration with Eric Pfeffinger that never found a publishing home).

This first-read can be a deeply awkward time. The first time I gathered actors in my living room to read what became “Midwestern Hemisphere,” it proved an empowering–if way, way too long–evening packed with guideposts for developing the play. On the other hand, the first time I did the same with what became “Popular Monsters,” it was a cringe-packed afternoon that made me avoid for weeks the trio of talented actors who forged through the mess I had gall to call a play. (At the time, it was narrated by a werewolf and was only about an hour long.)

Note: I always find the best actors I can for these readings. That way, I can only blame myself.

There are some who believe that it’s shirking a writer’s responsibility to show a work to anyone until the writer has taken a work as far as he or she can. I’ve never been that kind of writer. One of the blessings of my time editing Indy Men’s Magazine was that I had a reciprocal relationship with Todd Tobias where we were each comfortable tossing a draft to the other and discussing a piece while in process. Rather than agonize over that last 10% of polish, we trusted that the other could pinpoint some places that would take the piece close enough to the finish line for publication. It worked.

A first reading of a play is similar, for me, except I am handing off the play not to another writer but to a set of people with very different talents. I’m not looking to them to give a post-read analysis of the piece and tell me where to go (although sometimes that happens and sometimes it’s very helpful).

More important is hearing the play as it happens, getting my first sense of the overall rhythm of the piece, finding the places where my voice gets in the way of its voice, and hearing if I’ve left room for the actor.

Sometimes, as with today, I’m trying to find if there’s a play in there somewhere. And I’m blessed to have actors in my universe willing–for a pizza lunch–to dive in for a few hours and show me what’s really inside this world I’ve tried to create.

 

SiteLines presents…

Thrilled to announce the launch of another long-in-the-making project.credeaux script

A series of play readings held in locations that resonate with each play’s subject matter, SiteLines finds established, not-yet-performed-in-Indy plays packed with life — plot- and character-driven stories that make you lean in to find out what happens next. And we present them in places that enhance the subject matter and, in the process, connect theater to new, interested audiences.

SiteLines events are one-night-only pairings of interest groups with discussion-sparking play readings featuring top-notch plays and (paid) actors.

For our first reading, on Dec. 10, we’re partnering with Gallery 924 and the Arts Council of Indianapolis for a free reading of Keith Bunin’s “The Credeaux Canvas” at Gallery 924. A discussion with gallery director Shannon Linker will follow. For more info and to RSVP, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sitelines-presents-a-reading-of-the-credeaux-canvas-by-keith-bunin-tickets-19788571149

If you are part of an organization interested in partnering on a SiteLines project, by all means get in touch with John Thomas and I at louharrywriter@gmail.com

SiteLines has been funded in part by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

Hope to see you there.