Tag Archives: Playwrighting

The Aristeia of Clarence Clemons @ 3:12 a.m., and a New Puzzle!


Good Morning:

Did you know that Clarence Clemons’ legendary saxophone solo during “Jungleland” on the Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75 album runs exactly two minutes, twenty-three seconds?

In simple English, I have taken part in another 24-hour “play in a day” festival and at 3:12 a.m., determining the exact length of The Solo was the most important thing I could do. The Playwrights Center of San Francisco runs two of these events each as fundraisers, and they conduct business by picking slips of paper from a hat. I was selected as a writer by a software version of the same, assigned my director by drawing his name from a hat, assigned the cast size by drawing a number from a hat (3), and assigned the specific actors by the same process.

Finally, the theme. “The Devil Made Me Do It.”

Assignment was the same as ever: write an entire play in 9 hours for a production the following night.

Usually, writing a short play under these circumstances proves surprisingly easy, but for some reason, the theme made this the most difficult 24-hour project I’ve undertaken in 15 years, since the night our theme was a Rene Magritte painting. Oddly, the final script is only 8 pages long, but the theme still made the project tough. However, I can proudly proclaim that I wrote the line “Niccolo Machiavelli. Dear Nicky–always in a class by himself,” and it actually makes sense in the context of the play.

In slightly over 14 hours, “The Latest Small Triumph of Levia Stand” receives its world premiere. I have never worked with the director or any of the actors before, but feel cautiously optimistic that they can wring something decent from what I dump upon their poor heads. If the show turns out well, I will publish the script here. If not, I shall do the right thing and spare you the agony.

Meanwhile, if you like anagrams, I have a fun new puzzle for you! “Levia Stand” is an anagram containing two names used for one of the great characters in all of literature, theater, and musical comedy. What are the two names?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Genuine Show! Rehearsal, 12 March 2015.


Good Evening:

Load-In Day. A phrase that frequently evokes terror in the theater world, Load-In Day refers to one of the physical events in theater, when the entire cast and crew combine to move all of their costumes, props, special equipment, cases of 8 oz. bottles of water, and other sundry heavy items into the theater they will call home during the show’s run. Fortunately, we have an excellent director in Wesley Cayabyab, whose organization worked so well we only needed an hour to get everything done.

So we had our first full run-through.

And all I can say is “Wow.”

The Cast of The Genuine Show! Listening to Instructions from Their Director

The Six Actors of The Genuine Show! Listening to Instructions from Their Director

“Wow” has become one of our inside jokes (from one of the plays, “Jack & John & Jackie & Joanie”), but here it means that I am ab-so-lute-ly THRILLED with the work the cast has done. They bring more than creativity to their acting; they always surprise me with interpretations that I would never imagine in a hundred years, yet whatever they do remains true to the script.

Incidentally, I took all of these shots with my iPhone 6 Plus, which has done surprisingly well in low-light conditions, requiring only a few adjustments in iPhoto.

Sarah Galarneau & Philip Goleman in "Yes Maybe No."

Sarah Galarneau & Philip Goleman in “Yes Maybe No.”

Playwrights become pretty darn useless at this point in the production; seriously, the best help we verbose critters can provide consists of silence. At the end of the run-through, I kept it simple: “I have just one word to add, no, two. Thank you.” OK, that’s eleven words, but still really, really reticent by playwright standards.

Rehearsing "Keeping You Man in Line on the 21-Hayes." Left to right: Sarah Leight, Jocelyn Truitt, Philip Goleman, Colin Hussey (standing), Sarah Galarneau, Richard Wenzel.

Rehearsing “Keeping You Man in Line on the 21-Hayes.” Left to right: Sarah Leight, Jocelyn Truitt, Philip Goleman, Colin Hussey (standing), Sarah Galarneau, Richard Wenzel.

Keeping You Man in Line of the 21-Hayes has two unique distinctions among the plays–the only one with no dialogue and the only one inspired by one of my own blog posts! Please see this post (one of my very earliest!) for the story.

Can’t wait for Opening Night on Thursday. No jitters, just good old-fashioned excitement. If you can’t wait, either, tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Genuine Show!, April 16 – 25, 2015.


Good Evening:

Well, this little project has taken a bit of my time lately: my first ever full-length show!

The Genuine Show! represents the debut of a new theater troupe called The Unknown Players, and they have honored me by producing an evening of seven short plays, including “The Duck” (see here and here), which earned raves last year at the Sheherezade festival.

The Genuine Show! will run for six shows over two weeks, Thursday through Saturday, April 16-18 and April 23-25, at the Studio at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy Street, in San Francisco. More details, including excerpts from the plays and photos of the cast in rehearsals, will follow. If you live in the Bay Area or plan to visit soon, please consider an evening at the theater. This represents a significant step forward and I want to share it with everyone.

Vonn Scott Bair

On the Threshold of Theater (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold)


Good Evening:

On occasion, one aspect of theater stands out from most other forms of the arts.

Sometimes, you can’t possibly know how the story will end.

The Set of The Two Chairs, 5 April 2014

The Set of The Two Chairs, 5 April 2014

You can skip ahead to the end of a short story, a poem, or a book. In big-budget movies, you already know what will happen even before you fork over your $10-12 (plus the price of popcorn). I haven’t seen the latest James Bond yet, heck, they might not have even filmed it yet, but I probably already know that the dude will still be alive at the end (and somehow, I don’t think that’s a spoiler alert). In low-budget movies, you can’t take for granted that you know how they will end, so they offer a similar experience to theater. Sometimes a good television show will throw a huge surprise at you, so that also counts as a similar experience.

But when you sit in your chair on the threshold of the world premiere of a play, you can’t possibly know how it will turn out before the end. As the above picture shows, you can’t even know what you might see on stage. A movie set in New York City? You probably won’t see the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s just not real. Theater hasn’t these constraints (unless the show wants them), and therefore has greater scope for invention, even though it operates under severe physical constraints. Theater is invention grounded by force in reality.

The above photograph of the set of The Two Chairs (world premiere this month at Bindlestiff by the Performers Under Stress) is a good example. As it happens, I had to opportunity to read the entire script before the show, and still had no idea what to expect. Sometimes happens with the classics, too: Yale Rep once staged a spectacular version of The Tempest featuring eight Ariels.

The Two Chairs is a two-hander (two actors total) about confession, power, domination and control. Both actors did very well on the night I saw the show, but Duane Lawrence has now amazed me in two consecutive plays; he can do astonishing things just by arching a single eyebrow. And that’s another advantage of the theater over other art forms; its sheer visceral nature. Those are real human beings on a stage and sometimes they are only a few feet away from you. Or even less; in one show, my character had a death scene that went slightly awry and my head ended up on an audience member’s foot. CGI just can’t me the same feeling; after a while, let’s face it, it’s just more computer stuff.

Theater: it’s just plain real.

Surprise yourself and check out a play and let it surprise you.

Full disclosure: I know the director and cast of The Two Chairs (the SF theater scene is both big and small; everyone knows everyone). Even so, I still feel good about recommending the show.

Vonn Scott Bair