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Hey New York folks: A free reading of my new play

Consider this your invitation to join my Nov. 10 at 7:30 for a reading of my play “Popular Monsters” at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre in New York City.

It’s 1978, “Halloween” is about to open, and Greg has landed his dream job at his favorite horror movie magazine. But what’s really scary isn’t what’s on screen or in print.

The event is free, although we’ll pass the hat for the wonderful group of actors who will be performing–including Eric Rolland (TV’s “The Men Who Built America”), Lorne Batman (“A Disappearing Number”), Max Cove (“A Modest Suggestion”), and Rachael Ma (“Living In A Musical” and “Nutcracker: Rated R”).

Kindly RSVP here if you plan to attend. Hope you can.

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Upcoming events

Just an update on what’s happening over the next few weeks:

Oct. 19: Hosting Indy Actors Playground at Indy Reads Books. In case you don’t know about IAP, the premise is simple: Each month, a selected professional actor picks a play that he or she has long wanted to be a part of. The actor picks the cast and the play is read. Folks are welcome to come and hear, but we never announce what the play will be. For more about IAP, check it out on Facebook at Indy Actors Playground . And, if you happen to have any unwanted books laying around, bring them for donation. The reading itself is free.

Oct. 28: Hosting Indy Reads’ annual spelling bee. I’m told this will be the last time under this format. It’s always a blast. And there’s a taco bar this time.

Nov. 1: The November edition of “Going…Going…Gone: The Live Auction Comedy” features improv vets Claire Wilcher and Bill Wilkison along with Dance Kaleidoscope’s Caitlin Negron. Expect, well, don’t expect anything but a one-of-a-kind good time. More info at www.liveauctioncomedy.com and tickets at Theatre on the Square

Nov. ???: I’m in the process of pulling together a reading of a new play of mine in New York City when I’m in town for the American Theatre Critics Association conference. Stay tuned…

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“The Mural” –a short story

On Sept. 20, I had the pleasure of attending Art Squared (home of the best neighborhood parade in Indianapolis) and participating in its Masterpiece in a Day competition.

For fiction writers, it works like this: Three elements are chosen in the morning of the event and writers have until 3 p.m. to submit a max. 1000 word short story. A panel then judges them without authorship information.

The elements chosen this year were Architecture, Post Office, and Mismatched Earrings.

Here’s what I came up with (It and other winners in fiction and poetry will appear in an upcoming issue of Punchnel’s Literary Magazine):

The Mural

by Lou Harry

“Turn here, Becky.”

I took a right at yet another blinking traffic light and drove down yet another small town street to yet another post office. Not much different than the last few. Two story brick building. Raised granite basement. Classical revival style. Tuscan columns of Indiana limestone.

Prior to meeting Carly, if I was on Jeopardy and the category was architecture, I would have just hit the buzzer, said “Who is Frank Lloyd Wright?” and hoped for the best.

But in my seven months with her—before and after she graduated—I picked up a few things. Picked up things like one of those prison guys by the side of the highway. Not particularly interested in what I was picking up. But doing what was required.

We looked up at the factory workers and the farmers. Carly went on and on about how Thomas Hart Benton traveled around Indiana and painted a series of panels for the Chicago World’s Fair, establishing the rulebook for these celebrations of the nobility of the American worker.

I tried to think if I knew an actual factory worker or an actual farmer.

Nope.

“Pretty cool that he painted all of these,” I said.

No, Carly corrected me. These weren’t painted by Benton. They were “inspired” by Benton. Carly said “inspired” like it was something she had told me many times without it sinking in.

The original Benton murals, she said, weren’t in post offices. Most of them were actually in IU Auditorium.

Almost four years of my life there and I didn’t notice.

Outside, Carly sensed something.

“What?” she asked. Or said. I wasn’t sure.

“I just don’t see…they aren’t needed any more, right? These post offices. Isn’t that the thing? Because if they were needed…”

“It’s not about what they were. Or what they are,” Carly said. “It’s about what they can become.” She and her firm were trying to figure out what these no-longer-needed post offices could be turned into.

Another small Indiana town. Another post office on the closure list.

At some point, Carly had told me that a mural is a painting applied directly to a wall. You can’t take it down and move it somewhere else. Well, in some cases you can. But it’s a delicate process. And ethically questionable. A mural, Carly said, is an essential part of the architecture of a building.

I told Carly I was going to pass on this one, watching her as she climbed the wide steps, rising into another nearly abandoned, pretty-much unnecessary postal temple. I guess you can be sad about something like that. The end of something. But I think it’s more important to deal with the reality. Assess the facts and make the necessary decisions.

After a few minutes, I scribbled a “Be right back” note on the back of an old receipt and tucked it under the windshield wiper. I could have texted, I suppose, but I didn’t.

In dollar stores, I always end up buying something, even though I’m not looking for anything. This time, I picked out a pair of flowered earrings.

“Will that be all?” asked the woman behind the counter.

“That’s it,” I said.

Outside, I took off one of my drop earrings—the ones that Carly gave me at Christmas right after we met—put it in my pocket, and replaced it with one of the flower ones I just bought. I left the other drop in my other ear and the other flower on the cardboard.

—–

Carly was standing by the car when I got back.

“So,” I asked as I got close. “What do you think?”

She looked at me. Looked right at me. Then at the post office.

“I know that there’s something that this can become,” she said.

“Maybe there isn’t,” I said.

–end–

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Science fiction, the Hugo Awards, and a fascinating political battle

I can’t remember when I last read science fiction and have no idea who won the Hugo Awards in the past couple of decades.

But this year’s fascinating battle is also about politics and opposing, passionate forces at odds so I found myself following the battle over the Hugo Awards this year and the power struggle that played out online last night.

Here’s how it went down. In short, anyone who joins the World Science Fiction Society gets to vote on nominees and winners for Best Novel, Short Story, etc.

Seems like a very democratic process, no?

Well, this year, a disgruntled group that believed the membership was leaning too far left and no longer focusing on old-school “hard” scifi organized a slate of candidates, pushed for a significant number of new members to join who would support that slate, and loaded the nominees with those favored by the slate-creators.

Fearing that voting for their actual favorites would split the vote and allow the slate to win, the rank and file exercised its option to vote No Award as the winner in many categories. That’s what happened last night.

No rules were broken and the ceremony (which ran online as well as at World Con) was handled with remarkable grace and humor by authors David Gerrold and Tannarive Due.

Now, slate-folks are saying it proved the whole thing was political to begin with. Others are saying the No Award push was necessary to prove it wasn’t political.

Like I said, fascinating. What do you do when you feel an organization has been corrupted? And what do you do when you feel your organization is being corrupted by people who believe they are uncorrupting it? And how do both sides–and the organization–survive such a battle?

You don’t have to make a giant leap to make this an analogy for today’s political world.

And, for the record, I didn’t care much for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which won the Hugo for Best Film.

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To my Catholic pals…

To my Catholic pals conflicted about the recent Supreme Court ruling–feeling the pride but also worrying about betraying their faith–I respectfully ask you to consider:

1. It wasn’t long ago that hellfire awaited those who ate meat on Friday. The Catholic Church changed.

2. For a long time, the church mandated Latin for services. The Catholic Church changed.

3. The whole mandatory celibacy thing for priests is drifting into the history books. The Catholic Church will have changed and survived.

4. Paul and Peter had a knock down/drag out over whether or not circumcision was the way to go (Still waiting for the movie version of “Incident at Antioch” Come on Hollywood, get on it.). Okay, the Catholic Church may not have actually changed on this one, but it indicated that its leaders could disagree fiercely about something and still survive.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m no theologian, but I do know that no religion that has survived hundreds of years practices its faith–and holds to the exact same beliefs–as it did when it was founded.

Peace.

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Father’s Day, 2015

I became a father when I caught my first sight of Emily, the pioneer kid in the Harry quartet. I won’t pretend to try to describe that feeling. Her arrival in my life changed the way the stars looked.

butterfly search

with Jonah

And, boy, did she make me smile. Still does.

Then came Katie. Maggie. Jonah. Magnificent creations all, and all grew in love and chaos, teaching me that the heart, an amazing metaphorical muscle expands and expands and expands.

But the world, well…

I lost my father when I was young. I lost my daughter, Maggie, when she was young. So Father’s Day, it’s a roller coaster for me.

Because the brain, a stubborn mound of stuff, can hang on tighter to the times you think you failed as a father. “What about me?” say the successful moments, raising their hands to get a bit of attention. But when they get called on and try to speak, the failures rudely talk over them. Loud and relentless.

Mags on the BCR

Mags

I’m sure I’m not the only father who, every day, tries to come to terms with the life he’s led and the lives he had a part in launching.  And every year, here comes Father’s Day–a day devoted to those of us who stumble, walk into walls, and accept an honor we often feel we don’t deserve. We lose sleep, find truth, dance,  cry, and see the universe swirling in the hair at the top of tiny heads. Father’s Day underlines, boldfaces, and italicizes our feelings about what we’ve done, what we haven’t done, and what we could have done a helluva lot better.

Having a father around to say “you’re doing okay” would have been nice. If you’ve got a kid who is also a parent, consider doing that some point soon if you haven’t recently.

greek trio

Katie and Em with son-in-law Benj

The greatest honor of my life has been being called Dad. And the greatest challenge has been trying to deserve it.

Peace.

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Update as we near June 2015

Quick update:

http://www.IBJ.com/arts still going strong. Weekly A&E and dining review columns. Blogs as often as possible. A ticket giveaway just about every week. Arts reporting in the rest of the paper and online. Writing some of the profile sections (including 40 Under 40). Working with top-notch journalists dedicated to what they do. An honor to work with them.

–“Going…Going…Gone: The Live Auction Comedy.” Come see the always-new show the first Sunday of every month at Theatre on the Square in Indianapolis. Want us to do the show with your theater or to benefit your organization? Drop me a note. Have props, will travel. We’ll also be doing special midnight shows during the Indy Fringe festival.

–Plays. Hope to have news to announce by the end of June about upcoming production(s). At work on one now that’s been hovering for a while. Feel free to shoot me a note if interested in ready any of them. Agent search is a summer project.

–Indy Actors Playground. Still hosting play readings on the third Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books.

–Freelance. Upcoming piece in The Sondheim Review.

–TV. Hope to have some news next week.

–Books. “The Sugar Bush Chronicles” will be out in October. You’ve been warned.

–Appearances. Thrilled to serve as toastmaster for InConjunction over the 4th of July weekend.

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Thoughts on long-gestation writing projects

My current machine, the Toshiba Pieceocrap, may be in its final months. It is the third laptop on which I’ve worked on this play. Maybe the fourth.

I try not to hold development time against the projects I’m working on. Some hatch fairly quickly. Some take much longer. Some don’t even figure out what they want to be (a play? a novel?) for much of their gestation periods.

I try not to cling too tightly to dialogue and monologues from earlier drafts and not to try too hard to force them into fitting with the latest iteration. If memory serves, giant ramps were built in order to create the pyramids. Those ramps are long gone (My “ramps” are preserved in earlier draft folders, just in case.)

I try not to be embarrassed by how early, early readings of my stuff sound. It’s important to gather actors for such readings who you have great trust in (Yet I still hope Karen Irwin, Bill Simmons, and Ben Tebbe have completely forgotten the early, early draft of this one, read in Ben’s house, what? six years ago maybe?)

I try not to remember so that every time I pick up my play-in-progress, I am an audience member. What questions am I asking? Who do I care about? What do I want to know? What elements don’t seem to matter?

I try not to think about the cumulative hours of work required to make a play seem casual and easy. The goal is to make it seem alive in the moment, not to reveal the writer at work.

I try to remember that the long period of development allows me to treat the characters less as the accumulation of ideas from my head and more as active, living people whose agendas do not have to match mine.

I try to remember that the longer I live with these characters, the more I come to like them and the more I want to fairly tell their story.

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Workshop teaching, upcoming “Going…Going…Gone” events, games, and more

March 21: I’ll be teaching a Midwest Writers Workshop course in Muncie, IN. More info and sign up details here: http://www.midwestwriters.org/2015/03/the-non-fiction-writers-tool-kit-march-21-2015/

April 12: Karen Irwin and friends team up for the April installment of “Going…Going…Gone” at Theatre on the Square. Note that we are bumping the show a week due to the Easter holiday. http://tots.org/going-going-gone/

April 17-18: I’ll be playing games–and leading some–at Who’s Yer Con, the wonderful free game convention in Indianapolis. Details here. http://whosyergamers.org/wyc.php

April 24: Remember that snowstorm in early March? Well, because of it, we moved the March “Going…Going…Gone” to a Friday in April due to the crazy schedule of the participants. This will be a double feature with two shows offered by Clair Wilcher, Bill Simmons, and Jolene Moffatt. Tickets here: https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&w=bbffc290179c587106c0e528c41ff271

April 25: I’ll be co-hosting Rescue Party, a benefit gala for Indiana Landmarks, with the always-fun John Thomas (my partner in Two First Names Productions). http://www.indianalandmarks.org/tours/calendar/Pages/SearchResults.aspx?EventID=705

May 3: It’s time for our annual adults-only “Going…Going…Gone” collaboration with Angel Burlesque.

See you at something, I hope.

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Live from New Jersey…a double feature

This is happening.

On March 7th I will be orchestrating a one-night-only “Going…Going…Gone” for the benefit of the Gateway Playhouse in Somers Point, NJ. Then, on March 8th, I’ll be staging a reading of my play “Lightning and Jellyfish,” also with proceeds going to the Playhouse.

Some context:

During my high school years, the Gateway Playhouse used to be a place I’d drive off to to catch a movie I’d have no chance of seeing in other theaters. I distinctly remember going to see “Ticket to Heaven” there (I have no idea why I couldn’t find a date to go with me to see a drama about cult deprogramming). I also saw the Jimmy Cliff reggae classic “The Harder They Come.”

I didn’t know it as a place for live performances but over the past few years was thrilled to learn that some of my high school friends were involved in efforts to restore the building and bring live theater back to this South Jersey landmark.

Through the magic of Facebook, one of these friends, Karen Buckingham, and I started talking. She was as intrigued by some of my theater projects as I was impressed by the good work she was doing on behalf of the Playhouse. And, well, we started scheming.

Now that scheme is becoming a reality. I’ll be there heading to New Jersey for about a week, rehearsing and workshopping with actors, visiting local schools to talk theater and journalism, and, finally, putting two shows in front of the public–including lots of Wildwood friends.

The first, “Going…Going…Gone” is a long-form improv piece in which the audience participates in a one-of-a-kind live auction, actually bidding on and keeping objects using play money. It’s a show in its third year here in Indianapolis and I’m very excited about bringing it into a new environment. If you want to know more about the show itself, check out http://www.liveauctioncomedy.com

The second event is a script-in-hand reading of my play “Lightning and Jellyfish,” which recently had a run at Theatre on the Square in Indianapolis. It’s a homecoming for the play, since it’s set just a few miles away from the Gateway Playhouse in Wildwood, NJ. (albeit 30 years ago). Playing to such a hometown crowd is going to be fascinating. I suspect the audience won’t just recognize the characters but will recognize the characters in themselves. I expect a lively discussion afterwards.

I cannot express how thankful I am to Karen and company for making this all possible. And I’m looking forward to the day when I can bring shows inside the actual Gateway Playhouse. If you are in the neighborhood, I hope you can stop by and help make that day come sooner.

Here’s info on both events, which will be held at the Avalon Golf Club (the theater, alas, isn’t ready yet, hence the need for benefit events such as this):

https://www.facebook.com/events/590934154370795/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

https://www.facebook.com/events/1533443040259063/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming