Happy Birthday Bobby Frost and that Williams Boy…

Robert Frost by Yousuf Karsh

I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.     (from  “A Considerable Speck” by Robert Frost)

Tennessee Williams

“— What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? — I wish I knew

…Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can …

[More croquet sounds]

Later tonight I’m going to tell you I love you an’ maybe by that time you’ll be drunk enough to believe me. Yes, they’re playing croquet …

Big Daddy is dying of cancer …

What were you thinking of when I caught you looking at me like that? Were you thinking of Skipper?

[Brick crosses to the bar, takes a quick drink, and rubs his head with a towel]

Laws of silence don’t work …When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don’t work, it’s like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. But not facing a fire doesn’t put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant ….

Get dressed, Brick.”   ―        (from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams)

image of Robert Frost by Yousuf Karsh from Moi in People who have inspired me/Would love to meet or wished to have met

image of Tennessee Williams from Barbara Worn in People I admire and some I don’t but they take a good picture

What’s Your Point of View?: Perspective in “The Poetics of Aristotle – III”

In the first two sections of The Poetics of Aristotle  (which I reflect on here and here), the medium and the objects of the play are addressed.  In section III,  Aristotle considers another aspect of drama —

Oedipus at Colonus by Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust 1788 French Oil by mharrsch

       There is still a third difference—the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration—in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged—or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us.    

      These, then, as we said at the beginning, are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation,—the medium, the objects, and the manner. So that from one point of view, Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer—for both imitate higher types of character; from another point of view, of the same kind as Aristophanes—for both imitate persons acting and doing.

Playwrights choose the genre (medium) in which they tell the story, the characters (objects) who make up the story,  as well as the narrative perspective (manner) from which the story is told.  Homer, for instance, wrote his classic The Odyssey from the perspective of the hero – Odysseus.  Similarly, Sophocles writes Oedipus the King from the perspective of Oedipus.  Aristophanes, on the other hand, tells the classic sex comedy Lysistrata not only from the main character’s perspective, but through the dialogue among the characters and the songs of the choruses.

I’m not certain what Aristotle means by “higher types” of character.  Perhaps he is referring to the heroic qualities of both Odysseus and Oedipus and their special relationship with the gods.  What I take from this, is that, in good drama both heroic and common characters are shown to act and do things that make sense and that contribute to the plot of the story.

Thus far, I’ve chosen to tell the story “Liberty” from a third-person point of view.  Interestingly, however, all the scenes center on the main character of David.  Nothing takes place that David doesn’t witness, yet he is not the one telling the story.  The only hints we get about what is going on in David’s head is from what he says, from a few of his gestures, and from some carefully selected “soundtrack” music.

Aristotle concludes this section identifying some of the debated geographic and etymological origins of Comedy and Tragedy which I didn’t think would be fruitful here.  One comment he includes is –

… some say, the name of ‘drama’ is given to such poems, as representing action.

Again, action is central in the creation of drama.  When I was chatting with my former theater professor ab0ut the subject of extensive dialogue in drama, I brought up the example of the movie, “My Dinner with Andre” (a film depicting a conversation between two intellectuals that enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim in the 1980s.)  Essentially, his response was the exception only serves to prove the rule.

I am certainly being mindful of including action in the story “Liberty” as it develops.  While it is true that it is still mostly dialogue (as is “The Pursuit of Happiness”), the dialogue drives, describes, and in some cases dictates the action.  I don’t believe a play has to have sword fights or sex scenes to be good, but neither can you simply record a Twitter conversation about a recent bowel movement and call it good theatre (although I imagine if it hasn’t been done, it will be soon).

(image above “Oedipus at Colonus by  Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust”  from mharrsch, some rights reserved)

Completing “The Pursuit of Happiness”

elderly man

On January 9, 2013, responding to a writing prompt from Today’s Author, I composed a piece of microfiction about a modern-day Puritan, Steven Johnson,  who was not happy with his life, but who had settled with what God gave and took away.  His wife, Rachel, had grown tired of trying to make him happy and announced at the breakfast table that she was leaving him for lottery winner Saul Linford.  Steven responds by doing the dishes and playing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at top volume as Rachel packs.

In the scenes that follow, we meet –

Monica: Stephen’s daughter who wants him to stay with her for awhile.  At first, he protests.

“I really don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Dad!  You’ve been together for over 40 years.  Do you even know where the can opener is?”

He thought about it for a moment.  “I imagine it’s in one of the drawers.  Isn’t it?”

We also meet –

Philip: Monica’s home schooled teenage son.  His Grandpa introduces him to classic country gospel music.  Philip introduces him to “Casting Crowns.”

Robert:  Monica’s positive-thinking husband who sincerely believes faith is a means to a greater end.

Together, the family attends the newly renamed church “Happiness Haven”, with a big statue of a smiling Jesus welcoming worshippers with open arms.

Steven gets hired as a Walmart greeter (or “Happiness Engineeer”) where he has a run-in with a runny-nosed 9-year old who demands a whole roll of stickers.

Steven’s estranged gay son (whom he hasn’t talked to in over 20 years) calls and invites him to come over for a visit.

Monica takes Steven and Philip to an art museum to research some religious works.  While browsing through the gallery, Steven is struck silent staring at a bronze statue of a cowering nude woman.  He collapses to the floor.

Steven wakes up in the hospital emergency room.  They run tests and find no medical reason for his black-out.  Most of his memory has returned, but he does not remember Rachel leaving him…

I’ll leave off the description there, saving a few plot twists and touching scenes for when the book, play and/or movie comes out.

Yes, this morning (January 26, 2013), I have a completed working draft I now plan market this as a short story, a stage script, and a screenplay.

Toward that end, I have made a few contacts –

I e-mailed my former theater professor – Doc Evans – who once told me to write him a play.  Doc is now retired and living in New York City, but he still has a lot of connections in the secular stage and screen world.

I sent a query to a local (Indianapolis) man working in the film industry.

I sent a query to the arts ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian (PCA) in New York City asking for their guidance.

I e-mailed the local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) to ask for recommended Christian publishers.

This may sound arrogant, but I fully believe God has given me a story that communicates the Good News in ways believers and non-believers would respond to.  I want to be the best steward of this story I can be.  I’m not looking to make a fortune, but I want to reach the most people I can.

If anyone reading this has helpful advice for the “next steps” I need to consider, please contact me in the comments of this post or by e-mail – johnprine1982@gmail.com

(image “Elderly Man” from xavi talleda, some rights reserved)

Interview with Author and Playwright Rob Diaz II

rob diaz

I first encountered Rob Diaz when he commented on one of my posts.  I’ve since come to know him as one of the masterminds or partners-in-crime (actually, contribuing editors) of the community blog Today’s Authors that has publically opened the day of this writing.  I did an e-mail interview with Rob which resulted in the following –

What is one piece of writing (book, story, play, essay) that has changed your life?

     The phrase “changed your life” makes this question pretty difficult for me to answer.  My initial gut instinct was to say that the book that changed my life was actually a math book given to me by my fourth grade math teacher when I was bored with the regular curriculum and wanted more challenging work (math was and continues to be a passion of mine).

But math books tend to be boring prose, so what my real answer to this question will be is:  Foundation by Isaac Asimov.  I read this book for the first time when I was in fifth grade, about ten years old.  It is the first book in my memory which made me want to read another book.  And then another (and not just the books in the Foundation series, either!). It was also one of the first books I ever wanted to read a second or third time (I’ve probably read it a dozen times now).

The book focuses on the math involved with Psychohistory and its predictions of the downfall and rise of the Galactic Empire.  As I said, math was a passion of mine from an early age and to see it have such a prevalent role in a masterful book such as Foundation, it changed my outlook on reading and, in turn, on writing.  I would certainly be a different person today if I had not become as much of a lover of words as I am a lover of numbers.

How is seeing your plays produced different (and/or similar) to producing other forms of writing?

     Scripts have a special place in my heart and in my writing.  It’s not that I prefer them over other forms of writing, it’s just that at the time I wrote my first script (when I was a freshman in high school), I had been on the verge of giving up on writing at all.  A teacher of mine encouraged me to participate in a Playwrights Workshop that was being held in my school and despite my hesitations I did so.  And I loved it.  The positive feedback and interactions with the other writers and the instructor were so amazing that it rekindled my passion for writing in many ways.

The first script I wrote was horrifically bad (though it was incredibly funny at the time).  The second one I wrote, Bad Impressions, was produced on stage at my high school when I was 16 in a series of one acts (mine and four or five professional scripts were done).  It was incredible and nerve-wracking.  I’ve had two more scripts produced since then and the feeling has been the same: super levels of excitement to see the words and stories transposed onto the stage coupled with lots and lots of anxiety about the audience reaction.

I think the difference for me is simply that when I have a story published in a book, the audience is disparate.  Readers can be anywhere and everywhere and for the most part they are not in one place, reacting at the same time.  A script that is being staged, however, has an audience of many, sitting and experiencing the story together for the first time and at the same time.  For me, I find myself worrying when something I found funny in the script doesn’t get the volume of laughter I expect or something I found dramatic doesn’t get the collective intake of breath that I expected.  Does the audience not like it? Do they not get it?  Do they regret their investment of time and money to see it?

Similarly, I feel energized when they do laugh or catch their breath or applaud.  Honestly, I have all the same fears and excitement with other forms of writing. I suspect the reason it feels different with plays is just the fact that there are so many more people reacting at the same time and in the same place.  The reaction is more real and more direct, if that makes any sense.

“Today’s Author” is now officially launched.  What are your biggest hopes and greatest fears for this blog?

      My hope for Today’s Author is probably much like the hope of everyone else involved with it: that it can be a safe place for writers and readers to interact, that it can be a source of inspiration and entertainment and that it can be a place to share our collective knowledge and experiences with the written word.  Honestly, if we can inspire even just one person to take a chance with words – to tell their story and let the world see it – then I’d think Today’s Author is a success.  I think the openness of the editors and contributors on the site to share their successes, their failures, their hopes and their fears will lend itself to encouraging our readers and participants to do the same.

On the flip side, I think “fear” may be too strong a term for my feelings but I do worry. I worry about making sure that we at Today’s Author are providing content and prompts that are relevant to our readers and useful enough to keep readers coming back.  Readers and participants of the site should drive the direction the site takes as time goes on, so I worry about making sure we read and understand the feedback we get to make sure we react and anticipate the needs of the community we are building.  Ultimately, if we don’t build an engaged and vibrant community, we won’t have the success I hope to have with Today’s Author.

Thanks, Rob, for devoting some of your New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to conduct this interview.  Look for more of Rob and read a generous sampling of his work at his blog Thirteenth Dimension.

(picture of Rob from Today’s Authors, used by permission)