In the previous week’s issue, yours truly composed an essay on the so-called handicap that writers tend to have at times. It’s a handicap called “writer’s block”, where the writer has no idea on what to write, leaving the page blank or unfinished, depending on the seriousness of the writer’s block in question.
Taking that notion to cue, now this issue will focus upon the factor on an idea the writer may have, but just doesn’t know how to go about on how to place that same idea or ideas into any tangible format–let alone how to form that idea into words!
To give a rather simple yet somewhat feeble example to this notion, yours truly, better known as “me”, wanted to become a writer. Not anything in the nature of writing boring newspaper articles, but writing short stories. (Writing that “Great American Novel” would have become overwhelming, so hacking away on a 900+ page manuscript would indeed be out of the question!) Although short stories then as well as now, became out of vogue, I still wanted to create a tale that can be summed up in just a few dozen or so pages. However, what to write about would become that factor to complete.
Perhaps the best way to create a tale well calculated to keep one in amusement was to think of a title. This title would either sum up to what the story was all about, or to set the mood to the nature of the tale. If I wanted to write a horror story, the best choice was to create a title that would spell out “fear”, “doom”, “thrills”, and even going through the notion of classic “blood” and even “murder”! A great title for such a story would be “The Thing That Lurks in the Night”, or “The Secret Cellar”. If I had to gumption to write a romance story, one would have to place a load of passion, lust, and even some eroticism that wouldn’t necessarily be porn per se, but it would come pretty close. “The Lust in the Wind”, “The Wind in the Lust”, etc. You get the idea!
However, I thought that the best kind of title one could use would be one that not only doesn’t give the reader an idea to what the story was all about, but a label that could be for any genre, while being a story whose theme has little to nothing to what this mini epic would speak for. Even still, there would be a title that mixed genres up, while the story itself would not use the subject the title suggests. In other words, a title that is unique, different, and wouldn’t be confused with any other kind of story, tale, or written piece that’s out there! Is this making any sense?
So with these factors to deal with, yours truly was ready to sit in front of my trusty Smith-Corona electric typewriter with the detachable ribbon cartridges, insert some clean white sheet of 8”x11” paper, and start hacking away on the keyboard to create that masterpiece of the written word that’s been floating around inside my little head of mine. This would be the story that would make my name known in the literary would, while people would know my name and being thanks to my writings. I could even become a celebrity of sorts where although my name is known, my face would not! Sure, stars of television and the movies are known thanks to face, voice, and personality. Writers would become known as well, yet nobody would have any idea to what they look or sound like! If Tom Clancy was walking down the street, of if Steven Kind was shopping at the local supermarket, would anyone recognize them? A few may, but a majority of the public would not! It would be a deal of having one’s cake and eating it too! Even though that old saying never really made any sense to me (the “cake” thing), that would be the outcome! However, before I would ever get to that state, I had to start hacking away on that story that was going to bring to be new(er) heights!
With that episode to think about, I thought of a great title to call my story that would not be affixed to one kind of subject matter. It could become a serious story, or it could be a comical anecdote. Whatever the case, I was all set to go!
I typed in the title of my story as something I thought of while doing something else. A few weeks before, I was watching an old 1940’s movie whose real title was long forgotten. One character spoke this line. Again, I don’t recall the name of this flick, but that sole line spoken by a character actor rang out to me. That single line has to be my title, so I used it!
On the top of the page, I typed in that title that would become my story story. it was “Cheap Rotten Mallet”.
For the next few hours, I hunted and pecked my way on that ol’ Smith-Corona, creating that story that had to be told! On those first few hours, I typed a number of pages that told this story for the word. Granted, I did have to change the cartridges from using ink ribbons to correction ribbons (something that really came in handy for me anyway), to cover up the many typos I placed on those pages! In spite of the fact that my typing stills were not the greatest, I was still determined to complete my mission!
To make a very long story shorter (another story to itself), I completed my story. Granted again, it did take a couple of days or even weeks to complete, but I did it nevertheless! Of course, it had to be proofread and checked for errors, but that would come later. What I did have was the general structure of the story and what is was all about. Once that proofreading and error correction would be tracked, I was ready to do something with my story, such as to sell it to a literary magazine, or to take it to an agent, or to do something with it!
So what did I do with “Cheap Rotten Mallet”? Absolutely nothing!
After I completed the first draft, I took the manuscript and placed the pages inside a folder. That folder was placed inside a file cabinet so I could keep tract of the manuscript once I was ready to get back to tweaking the story on a future date.
Sadly, I never completed that story. I became side tracked into getting into other notions I had to deal with at the time. And those other factors took bigger priority, enough to make me forget that I started to write the thing in the first place.
Today, I can’t even state where that manuscript is. Since that time, I had relocated to other places, moving hundreds of miles in the process. Those other files in that file cabinet, now long forgotten, were moved around. Some were kept, while others were disposed of. I don’t believe I tossed out the file that contained “Cheap Rotten Mallet”, or at least not on purpose. However, I haven’t seen the manuscript since I completed it way back when!
So the name of my mini epic is well remembered, but the story itself isn’t! Perhaps one day, I’ll find the manuscript that I typed all those years ago, and complete that story. Until then, I’ll just chalk it up as yet another attempt to do something that others tried with their own personal success! I could state that this little act was part of that “bucket list” that people tend to keep, but I never had any idea that writing a short story was something I wanted to do before I croaked. Besides, the term “bucket list” wasn’t part of the domestic lexicon of slang at the time. (That term became common in the early 2000’s!)
One thing for sure; At least I was able to use the name of my now forgotten story story as the name of this article. At least an odd title as that one got the reader’s attention for this article–or maybe not!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
The Actors Co-op continues its run of Tennessee Williams’ SUMMER AND SMOKE, a melodrama that calls upon a maturing and rather soft spoken unmarried woman and the freewheeling young man she pines for, in spite of their vast lifestyle differences each one holds.
Taking place in a small town in Mississippi in the era of the early 20th Century, Alma Winemiller (Tara Battani), the sole daughter of the Reverend Winemiller (Jeffrey Markle), has lived her life clinging to a secret crush on longtime neighbor John Buchanan, Jr. (Gregory James) who is following the professional footsteps of his father, Dr. John Buchanan, Sr. (Townsend Coleman). Alma is a rather quiet person that keeps an unbalanced personality. She is also an “old maid”-an aging unmarried woman. Her mother (Deborah Marlowe) has a case of developing dementia, a nonconformity that only adds pressure upon Alma’s life. John Jr. on the other hand, takes advantage of adventurous living, spending his free time at a local casino gambling, drinking, and catering himself to other women. Even though they lead totally different paths, Alma and John Jr. maintain a near relationship to one another, as these two encounter a deep endeavor to acknowledge their own human passions into the context of rigid social intentions.
This play written by one of America’s greater playwrights, takes in account of the themes and characters portrayed in this piece based upon his own personal life. (Williams’ own mother was a preacher’s daughter in Mississippi, and his father, a traveling salesman, was considered to be a “bad boy” living his hours swilling, playing games of chance, and womanizing!) In this production as presented by Actors Co-op, these elements as Williams originally suggested shine throughout. The two leads, Tara Battani as the soft spoken Alma, and Gregory James as the aloof John Jr. stand out with their depictions of their two opposites consisting of a tarnish southern belle and a southern gentleman who isn’t necessarily the gentle man. This pair perform upon excellence likewise with their supporting players that add to the relish and fascination this stage work showcases.
In addition to its robust cast of performers that also include Feranda Rohd, Melody Hollis, Keri Tombazian, Markus Jorgensen, Ann Marie Wilding, and Marco Antonio Garcia, there are the scenic aspects to this presentation. Rich Rose’s set design consists of three semi virtual sets consisting of Dr. Buchanan’s offices on stage left, Reverend Winemiller’s home on stage right, and the open air space in the center where a large stature of an oversized hooded angel stands rear stage upon a small pillar platform with “eternity” stamped upon its front. Vicki Conrad provides the period costuming, and Cooper Babbels creates an original music score that gives its setting a melodramatic aura composed in a contemporary style.
Directed by Thom Babbels, SUMMER AND SMOKE is a play that focuses itself on the two elements noted in its title: The summer of the character’s beings, and the smoke they pass upon that serves as a sprit. It’s also a tale of a “good” that meets with an “evil”: two feelings that are as dissimilar as they are harmonious.
SUMMER AND SMOKE, presented by Actors Co-op, and performs at the 99 seat David Schall Theatre, located on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 North Gower Street (South of Franklin Avenue and the 101 freeway), Hollywood, until April 17th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 PM. Special Saturday matinee takes place on April 16th at 2:30 PM. No performances on March 25th-27th (Easter weekend).
For more information and for tickets, call (323) 462-8460, or via online at http://www.ActorsCo-op.org
Performing at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood is the world premier of SPIES ARE FOREVER, a musical spoof of a counter spy who upon his failure in completing a secret mission, has the opportunity to redeem himself by taking another project by foiling an evil group on taking over the world.
Curt Mega plays secret agent Curt Mega, working on behalf of the American Secret Service. While on assignment on a dangerous mission during the height of the cold war, his partner, a British secret agent, is accidentally killed through an error on Curt’s behalf. This error nearly cost Curt his job, leading this one time super spy into a personal downfall. A few years pass. After spending his time drinking in dive joins found in the back alleys of red nations, he’s called back on duty to thwart a group of Nazis on a diabolical scheme. (Never mind the fact that they lost the previous world war!) Curt joins forces with Tatiana Slozhno (Mary Kate Wiles), a Russian spy that knows the ins and outs to this ominous group’s counter intelligence. As playing the femme fatale, she holds her own plot as well for her nation as the USSR is considered as the enemy. It’s up to Curt to save the world from evil, as well as saving himself from Tatiana’s strategies-both on world and personal settings! It’s just another day in the life of a super secret agent type!
This production is yet another take off of the “art” of spies and related espionage. Unlike those spoofs and satires, this production is presented as a musical–and a very witty one at that! The spot holds plenty of comical episodes, and the song score is fresh, piercing, and downright funny! In fact, what really shines through this stage work in the score–although the plotting holds just as many laughs as one can shake a Walther PPKS at! The entire production was created by the comedy team The Tin Can Brothers, consisting of Corey Lubowich, Joey Richter, and Brian Rosenthal. This trio takes upon nearly every form of spy related cliché ever created and blends these elements into a spy thriller that is packed with action and chortles to boot! The musical score was also created by a team calling themselves TalkFine, consisting of Clark Baxstresser and Pierce Siebers. The musical score isn’t the kind one could relate as part of a spy thriller, but since this is satire at work, that really doesn’t make that much of a difference! It’s overall a refreshing nod to those secret agent features that’s been around since the 1960’s when such elements were at their peak and perhaps at their best!
And with such musical spy themed stage shows, there are others that make it all happen. Along with Curt Mega playing Curt Mega and Mary Kate Wiles portraying the Russian counterpart, the cast consists of Jory Richter, Al Fallick, Joseph Walker, Lauren Lopez, Tessa Netting, and Brian Rosenthal playing multiple roles. Corey Lubowich directs this cast that knows their spy stuff, still singing and dancing their way though their hush-hush counter intelligence!
Along with a great musical score comes the orchestra to perform those tuneful “hits”, with Clark Baxtresser and keyboards, Pierce Siebers on synthesizer, Will Wu on guitar, and Ben Masters on percussion under the musical direction of Baxtresser and Siebers.
Besides the performing and music, there is the scenic staging that is part of this spy thriller. Emmy Weldon creates the set design that appears to be a tattered industrial backdrop (more “spy worthy” that way), with Allison Dillard’s costuming, and Lauren Lopez’s choreography all adding to the fun of being an undercover man!
The spy business had changed quite a bit since the fall of the USSR and its cold war counterparts as it was once known. In this world of post modern terrorism where one doesn’t have to find enemy agents in third world nations as these folks seeking world dominance could live down the street from you, it’s nice to remember when being red (not blue) wasn’t good but evil, and the credence of taking over the world was nearly believable–or at least to those that wanted to take over the world! That is why no matter who wants to dominate for evil purposes, spires are indeed forever! The sell line for this production states it’s hard to be hot s#it in a cold war. The s#it may not have hit the fan, but this musical hits the spot with more “hot damn”! They don’t make secret agent spies as they used to, and they don’t make stage musical as funny as this!
SPIES ARE FOREVER, presented by The Tin Can Brothers, and performs at The NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until April 3rd. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, with matinees both Saturday and Sundays at 3:00 PM. For tickets and for further information, call (800) 838-3006, or via online at http://SpiesAreForever.diamonds
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