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Plot Study #5 A Political Comic Book

Plot Study #5 A Political Comic Book

We continue our study of theatrical forms about our present political culture in the form of a Marvel comic book with nine picture frames.

1) The opening frame contains the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln saying: “You can fool…” and  Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich, and a cast of grinning Fox News panelists universally agree: “The hell you can’t. Cut taxes for the rich, take away their healthcare, promise them lost jobs, and give every idiot a gun… Its the new GOP” (Grotesquely Opportunistic Policymakers).

2) Next: There are two little men in loincloths with little hands. In the bubble above the North Korean’s head: “I will launch heat-seeking suppositories is how I will trump you, Trump!” Behind him are millions of people cheering, in unison, in one bubble over their heads, their approval. The bubble above the orange comb-over: “I’m clenched and ready. It will unify my base.“Behind him stand millions of people (no immigrants) each holding millions of guns all aimed at liberals who point at them as they warn: “Fear the suppositories from all sides” and then do nothing which causes the millions holding guns predictably to unify the Comb-over’s base.

3) The next is a tweet which says: “Second amendment – No hunting license required – shoot people for free! “And “First Amendment is about disrespecting soldiers it’s not about Freedom of political speech.”

4) Next the Bolshevik United Republican Party (BURP) screams: “ You are Americans. You have ‘freedom of choice,“ and Lincoln on his knees says: “No, that’s Burger King.”

5) Next the Korean leader leads his millions in a chant: “We win War! We Win War!!”… death to Americans by suppository special sauce on your toasted bum.

6) Next BURP puts up banners which say: “Keep Liberals angry with ‘false news ‘and you stand for ‘freedom of choice!’ We understand for nothing! To gather we fall.” The Liberals continue to be astounded and do nothing.

7) The Fox commentators stand and slap high-fives and misquote Lincoln: ”Divide and conquer the House and Senate!“ The Comb-over tweets: ”Always been colorblind. The flag is not red, white and blue it is white — salute and retweet?

8) Next is of a hurricane building in the shape of a mushroom cloud as the Self-Anointed Televangelists About Nothing (SATAN) and BURP point at it and drop to their knees and confirm: “There you see the Bible told us so: There is no climate change change.”

9) Is blank in case there is an encore.

 

This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Click here to read the previous one.

Plot Study #4 – America’s Pastime

Plot Study #4 – America’s Pastime

Act One
A young student of American history goes to a job interview. The employer who interviews him tells him: “Your job, like this country, requires that you tell the truth because all of us are relying on each other. You can debate the facts but you cannot make up false facts” and then she asks him one question: “What is the difference between a football player who fakes an injury to stop the clock and a baseball catcher who moves his mitt to try to convince the umpire the pitch was a strike?” The young student knows the answer instantly: “The football player is breaking the rules by creating ‘false facts’ with his false injury, but the baseball player is not changing the fact of the pitch because the umpire can see it from beginning to the end. The baseball player is only an advocate but not dealing in false facts.”

Act Two
Convinced that he has a clear understanding of “America’s pastime” and that he will get the job, he goes to a baseball game that afternoon and sits in the bleachers with the fans of both teams. Surrounded by his fellow Americans he happily joins in and argues each ball and strike and catch and call made by the umpires at the game. He sees the same game as the fans of the different teams but all afternoon they enjoy the discussion and their debate and he concludes not only the baseball game but also the debate and discussion are “the American past time.”

Act Three
On his way home he turns on the radio and he hears the home team’s broadcast and then switches to the radio station for the visiting team’s broadcast and he hears an entirely different story. He notices it is not at all what he saw at the game because both radio stations are making up a story of the game for the fans that are listening to them. As he switches back and forth between the stations he realizes that the broadcasts are coming up with an entirely different score and in the wrap-up of the game entirely different league standings.

He is angry when he gets home but he finds both of his parents weeping. He tells them about the conflict between the broadcasts and he asks them: “What are they doing to America’s pastime ?”

Both parents look at him and ask him: “What are they doing to America?”

 

This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.

Plot Study #3

Plot Study #3

In my previous posts, I published Plot Studies #1 as a comedy, and #2 as a musical, both based on our current politics. Is plot study number #3 a tragedy or a puppet show? You decide.

The time and place: Let’s see if our current political environment could be written as a Shakespeare tragedy, say like Julius Caesar (performed somewhere other than in Central Park)? Let’s say that the government of Rome has evolved from a republic to a democracy and on to an oligarchy and that Caesar’s friends and family are running the empire.

The Cast of Characters: A group of historians and law professors and their students and lots of well-meaning myopic liberals who want the republic back (The rule of law) but are too disorganized and apolitical to be effective in advocating for their position. Just for fun let’s call them the Democratic Party.

A Group of all the richest Romans, led by Julius Caesar, who is one of them, but is controlled by this group who want to always increase their power and pay less, or perhaps next to no taxes but receive all the benefits of being Romans (The oligarchy). Just for fun let’s call them Republicans.

And a huge mob, the “peanut crunching crowd,” that thinks with its stomach and votes in the bathroom (The democracy). They are fed by Caesar and his friends a form of pablum which includes facts, false facts, and huge amounts of fantasy, all mixed together and called “news.” They are, of course, constitutionally well armed so that they can kill us and each other. Just for fun let’s call them the advocates and lovers of our present democracy. (Isn’t this great, we start with a cast of millions.)

The plot: As the play starts, Caesar is being investigated by a special prosecutor which he can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of, so Caesar has decided to protect his control by creating constant conflict among the citizens of Rome to avoid unification against him and perhaps total power for him in the future in the event that the special prosecutor recommends his impeachment. (This is exciting – I’m already feeling tragic.)

The way to do this is to pit the well-meaning myopic liberals against the peanut crunching crowd on the issue of race and immigration and to build a wall all around the empire to keep immigrants out to make sure the myopic liberals keep his base polarized and well armed for him. (It’s getting great – it’s all starting to go to hell!) The well intended myopic liberals are so blind and morally correct that they can’t realize that they are playing perfectly into Caesar’s hands. (Yes! Yes! There is a lump in my throat and I’m starting to well up with tears.)

Caesar is building up his army by feeding his followers the pablum as fast as he can so that they will be as angry as possible and loaded down with weapons if the special prosecutor recommends impeachment. (Wow, this is so good! It feels authentic – it’s almost like real life! But how is it going to end? How is it going to end?)

So back to the question: Is this a tragedy or a puppet show? I think that is determined by how it ends. If Caesar prevails with his plans, he can cut Obamacare and reduce taxes because it can be produced with only two characters. Caesar with his right hand on the constitution and his left hand making a single string puppet (which is holding the eye glasses of the liberals as it trails peanut shells) dance! But if we follow the Shakespearean example of Julius Cesar, it is a tragedy of greater proportion because in the second half of the play the Roman empire is divided among the lesser oligarchs. Let’s call it forever polarized by ignorance.

Maybe if Cesar doesn’t divide us and we took action together, all of us, we could write a happier play and call it maybe: “All’s Well that Ends Well.” It’s not too late.

 

This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.

Plot Studies #2 – The Musical

Let’s see what would happen if “we the people” (the audience), wrote our own musical and cast the playwright & librettist as the Congress and the President, and cast their investors as the titans of Wall Street? (Wow– could this be a “revolutionary” musical?)

The Time & Place: How about our politically gridlocked America? (It is starting to sound like a revolutionary musical!)

The Cast of Characters: Since we are writing it let’s make us, the audience, the heroes, and the playwright, librettist and investors our official villains since they are all dedicated to entertaining the audience by feeding us what they want to hear in order to be able to secure their jobs and protect the wealthy from taxes — employing a smokescreen of misinformation and false news in order to entertain their audience by keeping them angry. (They probably won’t be singing Hamilton hip-hop but let’s see what they come up with “for a song and dance.”)

The Plot: The playwright and librettist entertain us by creating manipulated conflict between the bottom 99% of the audience. The poor versus the poor (which pretends it’s the middle class) so no one will see the puppeteer, the super wealthy? ( I feel a song coming on): Let’s have Wall Street Open the show by singing: “Market Share.” A big bang up number! The first lines could be:

“The bigger the market, the bigger our share /
The more we steal, the less they care! /
Let’s fleece my sister, let’s fleece my brother /
As long as they’re angry at each other. /
Isn’t it sweet, isn’t it funny /
How they love us when we take all their money?”

Hey, it’s “the song and dance”! Let’s call it “The Political shuffle.” (Oh man, the songs are coming fast and furious):

Congress can swing the next song:

“Make Yourself the Perfect Job” (about how gerrymandering can get our elected representatives lifetime employment with the best benefits and retirement their audience can afford, and then the entire audience can rise in opposition and sing:

“The No Wealth No Healthcare Blues” (which can be sung by ZIP Code first by anybody who lives around an emergency room, including patients, doctors, healthcare professionals, and then by everybody in the surrounding ZIP Codes spreading out across the country who is paying (unless you own your own hospital).

Now  let’s give the politicians some hand clapping songs:

“I hate ‘tax and spend’ /
Unless I’m where all the taxes end.”

And then a solo for a tone deaf President:

“Free the rich, enslave the poor /
The land of opportunity is no more.”

And then some hand clapping songs for us:

“The false news, no news… /
The Propaganda blues.”

(We could even have the Supreme Court do hip-hop, but they would have to have a rhyme scheme of ABBA because they are too polarized to agree to rhyme together) but maybe they harmonize with the song “Ventriloquism”:

“Yo- Citizens United, long may it last! /
‘Free-speech’ is that what you call it? /
You vote now with what’s inside your wallet /
And we speaketh from where once we passed gas?”

(But wait – just occurred to me – how can we pay for this?) Well if we are the audience, we already have!

So what should we call our new musical?

“Just Keep Us Fighting Among Ourselves?” – No.

“You Think We Are Too Stupid for Democracy?” – No.

“What Happened to My Country? – No.

How about, “Let’s NOT Follow the Money”? – No.

We could close with a kick line and just drop the curtain or …Maybe we could all stand up and remember that we are all Americans who can sing together?

 

This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.

The News v. The Arts

The News v. The Arts

The news often tells us who we are, but the arts tell us who we want to be.

This year my play “Onaje” received staged readings in San Francisco and New York. It is about the head-on collision of two conflicting ideas that happened exactly 50 years ago on June 15, 1967. The relevance of this collision was confirmed by the events in Charlottesville last week. This morning the Baltimore newspapers reported that four Confederate monuments were taken down in the middle of the night last night.

One of the monuments that was taken down was of Roger Brooke Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which was instrumental in bringing about the Civil War. The Dred Scott decision held that African-Americans had no rights under the Constitution because they were not recognized as having any rights when it was drafted. Many of the drafters of the Constitution, such as Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. In fact, Jefferson produced children from his slave Sally Hennings. He chose not to recognize their children and never freed her, even after his death.

From our founding, we have been a racist nation. Because this remains unresolved, it boils within our national consciousness and erupts repeatedly and endlessly in the news. But I don’t think that’s who we want to be. The Arts, the books and movies which have been embraced by our general culture from “To Kill a Mockingbird” to “Hamilton,” are far more enlightened and humane. We don’t define ourselves as a nation with blockbuster movies with heroes that are white supremacists or Nazis.

My play is about the civil rights riots in Cambridge Maryland in 1967. It searches for the humanity in all of us as we live in these volatile times, whether they be last week or 50 years ago or from our start.

The Arts offer guidance and hope that the news and perhaps even our history never can.

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Invitation Only Reading in New York Big Success!

Invitation Only Reading in New York Big Success!

For Artistic Directors and Producers ,we held an invitation only reading of “Onaje,” produced by Blue Panther Productions directed by Eric Reid of San Francisco.Full house .The actors were fabulous and the response and the request for scrips exceeded all of our expectations. For more information please email Laura Lundy.

Sunday July 30 2017 at 3 P.M.
At DeSotelle Studio
300 W43rd St,
New York. NY.

THE PLAY
Reno, 1980. A black hitchhiker is hit by a white cowboy and waitress speeding down the freeway on a get-away. The collision becomes much more dangerous when the unlikely trio realizes that two of them are inextricably linked together through the long-buried secrets of their past. In a shocking conclusion, they are forced to return to everything they escaped and stand up against their deepest fears in a vicious stand-off. “Onaje” is set in two worlds, Maryland 1980, and the civil rights riots in the Eastern shore in 1967.

The Genius of Actors

The Genius of Actors

I write plays but I can’t act. My acting career ended shortly after an all-boys fourth grade Christmas pageant. I was a shepherd. I had one line that I had to speak to introduce Mary onto the stage. The music teacher had placed a wig on the class bully and handed him a plastic Jesus in swaddling clothes. In real life, the class bully had biceps in fourth grade and Elvis hair. I misspoke my one line. I said, “Come mither hairy!” I returned from recess bloody and a playwright.

Last weekend at an invitation-only reading for artistic directors and producers, my play “Onaje” was read at 300 West 43rd street in New York City. It was read by actors who make a living being actors. I was stunned by the uniqueness of their genius.

I am a recovering lawyer. While I practiced law, I had nine plays produced in little theaters in Baltimore. Although I was proud of them, I made no effort to have them performed professionally. When my play was given a staged reading in New York for the first time I worked with professional actors and was blown away.

The performance was scheduled for Sunday at 3 o’clock in a 30-seat performance space. The actors were sent the script about a week before the Saturday morning rehearsal in an apartment in New York. The rehearsal was, in essence, a read-through where Eric Reid, an accomplished actor and director from San Francisco, gave directorial instructions and the actors discussed their characters. The actors were all obviously capable but I was not ready for what I would see the following day.

There was another read-through which was to a large extent the blocking of the reading. All the actors sat in chairs in the black box theater against the wall until they were on stage, which meant they stood and went to the music stands in front of them and delivered their lines. There was a one hour break between that rehearsal and the performance. At the blocking rehearsal, the actors were still playing with their characters well I had a terrible thought that they had not had time to become fully familiar with the script and their characters.

I went off to a late lunch with Eric and returned to see the actors in their own village doing breathing exercises, sitting quietly or doing yoga. I had no understanding of how good they would be on stage.

The small theater filled the actors took their places and the reading began. I saw a transformation that changed my understanding of the art of theater. Somehow, they knew the people they will play in an intimate and unique way. Somehow, they knew each other and the interaction created a greater whole. The play was very well received and the script has been requested after I have had a chance to do some work on the text.

Afterward, the lights went on and the actors were people again and they merged with the audience. I stood in the back of the theater immersed in surprised by the evolution of the process and the sheer genius of those actors. Actors are unique beasts.

A central aspect of my play concerns the capacity of people to empathize with strangers. I realized as I stood there I had witnessed it by the transformation of actors so easily turning the written word into human beings.

Invitation Only Reading in New York

Invitation Only Reading in New York

For Artistic Directors and Producers ,we are holding an invitation only reading of “Onaje,” produced by Blue Panther Productions.For information and invitations please email Laura Lundy.

Sunday July 30 2017 at 3 P.M.
At DeSotelle Studio
300 W43rd St,
New York. NY.

THE PLAY
Reno, 1980. A black hitchhiker is hit by a white cowboy and waitress speeding down the freeway on a get-away. The collision becomes much more dangerous when the unlikely trio realizes that two of them are inextricably linked together through the long-buried secrets of their past. In a shocking conclusion, they are forced to return to everything they escaped and stand up against their deepest fears in a vicious stand-off. “Onaje” is set in two worlds, Maryland 1980, and the civil rights riots in the Eastern shore in 1967.

Plot Studies: Let’s see if we can create a comedy based on a conspiracy theory.

Let’s set the stage in a political world locked in gridlock. (OK – this is a good start.) Let’s make the conspirators: “The Evil institutions of our government “and let’s make the rest of us the “Innocent victims”. (OK -good guys and bad guys.)

The Plot: OK what if the Politicians are conspiring to stay in office with the use of gerrymandering and they really don’t care about us as innocent victims. What if each state legislature, when it carved out the districts for its political party thinks only about keeping those in office, permanently in office. (This is great I’m laughing already.) What if that makes the state legislators the creators of jobs which have the best healthcare and retirement packages in the country and are set up, because of the gerrymandering, so that their bosses can’t fire them. (This is hilarious.) Even better they “own ” their bosses by keeping their bosses angry with the gridlock so their bosses won’t fire them. (I’m loving this.) No Wait – what if their bosses are actually not the voters? The voters are only paying the government with their taxes and the government is paying the politician’s salaries but the government isn’t keeping them in office. (OMG). It is the campaign contributors, the wealthy and the special interests and the PAC’s that pay for their campaigns and the campaigns keep them in office. (It’s OK because every comedy has to have surprising twists and turns).

And when we are laughing so hard that there seems to be no way to catch our breath…in rides the national media on a White Horse to save the day. (But that’s not funny and it is sort of a buzz kill –it kills the humor) So let’s just say that the national media would be funny if it was lazy, never researched anything and got advertising by reporting on the hysteria created by the polarization. (OK it’s getting funny again) In fact all they have to do is scream at each other to keep everybody entertained! (I just found myself slapping my knee). But wait – any given station could just run reruns of ” All in the Family” or old “professional wrestling tapes “to have people screaming at each other. (That might be confusing because it might seem like the news is only entertainment -that could be a real problem!) So it won’t work if all the stations are doing the same thing. (Oh No I just become horrified and stopped laughing. What if all the national media were caught presenting only boring entertainment?) No! No, the answer is the national media has to POLARIZE to keep their ratings up and maintain the rolling laughter!

Why am I not laughing? This is getting a little scary! Maybe it’s a tragedy.

 

This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Click here for  the next one

(Costume + Set) – Plot = ?

Image may contain: 1 person, sittingThe “Costume” in my case was white tie and tails with a perfect black top hat”. The “Set” in my case was the Harvard graduation of last week. The “Plot”: Because of the custom of complete secrecy I had been told only a few days before that I had been selected to escort James Earl Jones for the afternoon proceedings and to an honorees lunch at Widener Library after the morning ceremonies where he, along with several others, would be given an honorary degree.

Only last month I had seen his performance ,as the poet, in Tennessee William’s Night of the Iguana at the American Repertory Theater and had read about his career which started with his first appearance on Broadway in 1957 and spans 60 years on stage and screen.

After the honorary degree had been bestowed on him in the morning and those proceedings had ended , Mr. Jones would descend the stage which is at the foot of Memorial Church, and march with his fellow honorees below the colorful flags of the graduate schools and the undergraduate houses, between the assembled throng of the thousands of applauding viewers to ascend the steps of Widener library and be directed to the periodical room where I would meet him, take his ceremonial cap and gown, unburden him of his framed honorary degree, provide him with the refreshment of his choice and facilitate conversation among the other honorees before we took the elevator up to the lunch and thereafter back to the stage for the afternoon speech by Mark Zuckerberg and the closing proceedings.

I arrived early to Widener and made certain I knew exactly what my duties were and traced my steps from the periodicals room where I would meet Mr. Jones, through the elevator exit and entrance to the luncheon and ultimately the path we would take to get back to the stage and become seated for the afternoon proceedings.

But this was a very special moment for me so I decided that I could entertain Mr. Jones by offering him a slight diversion from our proscribed path, to see the Gutenberg Bible in a private room which contains a portrait of Harrie Widener, for whom the library was named after he died on the Titanic a century ago. I confirmed that I could get into the room and because I was early I asked a solo passerby to randomly photograph me since the proceedings had not started and we were still allowed photographs before the event began. It would be my stage where I could watch James Earl Jones react to the surroundings I have offered him.

But my play went off script and the plot collapsed and in fact disappeared. The weather had been awful all morning with a steady drizzle and unexpected gusts of wind that sent the water across the crowds and the stage. Those being honored on the stage, although they were protected by a grand tent still suffering the blasts of wind and rain and the general chill of the morning.

As the proceedings broke up and the ceremonial March to the steps of Widener began I assumed my position outside of the periodicals room to meet James Earl Jones, but as the others entered through the grand doors and were steered to their escorts there was no sign of James Earl Jones. After all the other honorees had entered and had turned over their robes and diplomas to their escorts, I went to one of the police officers guarding the ceremonies and started a flurry of walkie-talkie conversations in search of Mr. James Earl Jones. People reporting back to me, as the others took the elevator up to lunch, told me that Mr. Jones had been worn out by the weather and the cold during the morning proceedings and had asked to go directly from the stage to his hotel room.

I never met him and I have only that photograph of the Gutenberg Bible in the foreground and the portrait of Harrie Widener in the background with a slightly rotund overdressed older man between them and the realization that dreams can be memorialized in still photographs but plot cannot be deprived of action.