Welcome to Pogue's Pages!

I'm POGUE...known by many as Chuck Pogue, a few as Charles Pogue, and billed professionally as Charles Edward Pogue...just because it really looks BIG splashed across a theatre programme or a movie screen. From that last remark and the profile on the left, you can see I'm a theatre man...And the term "theatre" encompasses stage, film, TV. I've been shooting my mouth off on other people's blogs and message boards for forever. So having finally gotten the hang of it, I've decided to build my own soapbox from which I can pontificate, blather, and muse...mostly on theatre, film, writing, music, books...but ultimately anything that interests me, irritates me, or just catches my fancy. I invite you to join me. I'll try to be faithful and update regularly, so that when you visit there will always be something fresh percolating and maybe even provocative that we can discuss, dissect, or debate.

Charles Edward Pogue

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Those Who Deserve The Thanks (or The Mentors Who Took The Real Chance On You)


“Ninety percent of talent is knowing what to do with it.”
--Charles F. Dickens, UK Theatre Professor & My Mentor—

Remember when Tom Hanks thanked his drama teacher as he accepted his Oscar for PHILADELPHIA? It was a moment I enjoyed, because when I’ve delivered my fantasy Oscar/Tony/Emmy speech in my head (and let’s be honest, any of us in this business…and probably a great many who aren’t…have composed that imaginary speech at one time or another), I always thank the unsung heroes…the folks who gave me a push up the ladder when I was also unsung.

Despite the profusion of no doubt deserving family, actors, directors, producers, and agents one needs to dole out gratitude to, the people usually overlooked in this “I owe you so much” exercise are…well, you can’t really call them “the little people”, because they weren’t!

They were maybe the biggest people in your life…the ones who may not have exerted the greatest influence on you or had the most significant impact on your career, but were a part of …perhaps the inspiration for…those little defining moments when veils lifted for you, connective tissue was provided, or decisions were made that altered your mindset or offered opportunity. The stepping stones or rungs of the ladder that allowed you to ascend to another level, see a greater vision, breathe a rarer air.

Once you’ve reached a certain height, gained a certain reputation, built a credible resume, it’s not that great a risk for the other guy to throw his lot in with you. But what about those who saw you when you were invisible? Who took a chance on you when you no one else would…those mentors who took their time to encourage and nurture your desire and fledging talent when it was still unproven?

My imaginary award speech acknowledges my high school teachers, Sara Hamel and Norman Yonce, who helped broaden my creativity.
(Below: My first starring role...in fact, my first role of any kind. Henry Spoffard III, in a non-musical version of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, directed by Sara Hamel. The lovely young ladies, r to l: Anne Durham, Jane Johnson, Vicki Conners (seated w/book),Cindy Ney, Rebecca Goshorn).

Certainly, college theatre professors Charles Dickens, Mary Stephenson, Wally Briggs, and Ray Smith would be included. Julieanne and I were fortunate to pay back the great debt we both owed to Charles Dickens, by being able to dedicate the UK Theatre Movement Studio to him.

(below: Me, as Claudio; Julieanne, as Isabella in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, directed by Charles Dickens at UK's Guignol Theatre).

Professionally, directors like Charles David McCally, Richard Vath, and Paul Giovanni boldly took a chance on my acting talent and hired me. Charles and Richard repeatedly hired me and kept me gainfully employed.

(Below: Me with Marianne Hammock in COMEDY OF ERRORS, directed by Charles David McCally, at the Globe of the Great Southwest. Marianne was the Courtesan; I played the gyspyish master of ceremonies/leader of a Comedia Dell' arte Troupe presenting the play. Egged on by McCally, I wrote the part myself; how's that for sheer brass...competing with Shakespeare with the some of the silliest doggrel this side of the Southbank? SHAKESPEARE QUARTERLY referred to my role as: "The illusion was initiated by the introduction of an unctuous presenter who huckstered the audience in rhymed couplets.")

(Above: The Cast of MOVE OVER, MRS. MARKHAM, directed by Richard Vath for Country Dinner Playhouse in Dallas. That's me in the curly wig.)

Paul took me aside at a callback from an Ahmanson Theatre open call for a play he had written, THE CRUCIFER OF BLOOD. He told me, “Of the 300 people you see at an open call and of the eighty you call back, maybe only a couple a dozen have real talent. I want you to know, you’re one of those. But what even the talented people who come out here with their battered suitcases full of dreams don’t understand is: nobody cares. You have to make them care. I want you to know you made me care and I’m going to do all I can to get you in this show.” He got me into it. I and one another actor were told we were the first two ever hired from an open Equity call at the Ahmanson (Below: Me on the floor, between Charlton Heston & Jeremy Brett).

Jeremy Brett, who starred in the play with Charlton Heston, was another one who “cared”. One of the few true gentlemen I’ve met in the business. I remember once, at a cast party, he suddenly smiled and wagged a knowing his finger at me, “ You have this wonderful imagination that conjures knights and faery castles and dragons and marvelous dreams and you think no one sees it, but…they do!” That great kindness meant a lot to me and was never forgotten. It was just one of many encouraging generosities he showed me during the run of the show and after.

I would also mention Clive Trenchard and Janet Greek, through whose auspices, my writing was seen by my first agent, Melinda Jason, who also took a chance on me. And Melinda introduced me to Sy Weintraub. I couldn’t forget Sy.

I say Melinda introduced me to Sy. Actually, she sent me to meet him. For even though we had never met before, I had been introduced to him some time ago.

Sy, a producer, had just acquired the rights to Sherlock Holmes and was planning to do a series of two-hour films for network TV. I was excited. I had read the stories as a boy and had seen the Basil Rathbone films so many times that the phrase “Hello, what’s this?” was a permanent part of my repertoire.

Sy achieved huge success with Tarzan, doing films in the fifties and sixties and the television show with Ron Ely (Sy certainly knew which literary characters to exploit). This also worked in my favour; for when I had been devouring Doyle, I had also been plowing through Edgar Rice Burroughs. So I was intimately familiar with Sy’s cinematic efforts on the ape-man’s behalf…hence our earlier introduction, unbeknownst to him. But he was impressed by this and seemed eager to take a chance on me, an untried writer with no credits, only a couple of sample scripts and some plays (unproduced ones).

(Below: Me, with Gordon Scott, who was Sy's first cinematic Tarzan. I was signing PRINCESS OF MARS scripts and DRAGONHEART books for the Burroughs' Bibliophiles...of which I'm a proud member...at their annual Dum-Dum in LA.)

But the clincher was Timmy.

In one of Dr. Watson’s accounts of his friend Sherlock Holmes, the great detective exhorts the good doctor to remember “the curious incident of the dog.” It was my own curious incident with the dog that helped me out with Sy --Timmy.

Timmy had played the Bionic Dog in the TV series THE BIONIC WOMAN. A German Shepherd the size of a small Volkswagon, Timmy, now retired from acting, earned his Purina as Sy’s guard dog. And he knew his job. I mean, if left alone in the room with this critter, you made no sudden moves.

Sy considered Timmy an excellent judge of character and had been advised by the trainer never do business with anybody the dog didn’t cotton to. What can I tell ya? The big brute loved me. All over me…licking, nuzzling, sniffing my crotch. Couldn’t shake him: followed me everywhere. I’d definitely made an impression.

And my subsequent work fortunately did not sour the impression. Sy tried me out on a Frankenstein script he had going into production in a few weeks which needed a rewrite – a page-one rewrite. Ten days later, I gave him one. He and I spent another week on it, pumping more action into it without sacrificing what Sy called its “literary” tone.

Alas, the film ultimately fell through, but Sy was impressed enough with my writing that he brought me on to his proposed Sherlock Holmes series. Sy had been having trouble getting scripts that satisfied him, complaining that the American writers gave him recycled “Rockford Files” in gaslight and the British writers gave him “austere” MASTERPIECE THEATRE productions. Somehow, with my adaptation of Doyle’s THE SIGN OF FOUR, I managed to find the requisite blend of action and authentic Holmesian nuance.
(Above: Me, Dame Jean Conan Doyle...A.C. Doyle's last surviving daughter..., actress Cheri Lunghi, Sy Weintraub, and Dame Jean's husband...Sir Jeffrey Something or other on the set of SIGN OF FOUR. She was a very nice lady who quite liked my adaptations.)

If before I had been an aficionado of Holmes, I now became an expert. I re-read the entire canon (the annotated one) and when Sy called me from London to tell me the other script he had been counting on to start the series was dreadful and what could I do, I replied: “I can give you HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES in two weeks.” He had it in twelve days (Oh, I was energetic and hungry back then).
(Above: Ian Richardson as Holmes; Donald Churchill as Watson in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES)

Two months later, I was in London, the only city in the world I ever wanted to visit, abroad for the first time in my life, the only other American connected to the project besides Sy. He put me up in a flat from where I could watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, gave me a generous per diem, bought me breakfast (and introduced me to the Scotch Egg, the most delectable breakfast food item known to man) and lunch everyday at Shepperton Studios where for the next three months I watched some of England’s finest actors, led by Ian Richardson as Holmes, speak my lines.

Sy didn’t make me rich but he gave me something much more valuable to a writer. Respect and Power. On my first jet-lagged day at the studio, I was going into a meeting with the director of SIGN, who had a few “inspirations” about script changes. Sy told me right before the meeting: “These scripts are where you and I want them and I don’t want to change anything, unless you think it’s right, so listen to the director, but commit to nothing.” What a wonderful cachet to be given going into a creative meeting. The director didn’t get his changes.

On set, actors would come ask me if they could change a line. Sy let everyone on the production know I was the in-house expert on Holmes and any questions should be relayed to me. I was in on every creative meeting. I was in on casting. Sy insisted I grab a pad and pencil and get my butt to rushes every day and take notes. He wanted me in the editing-room. When I protested I knew nothing about editing, he said: “It’s common sense. You’ll learn.” Of the six editing suggestions I made, they used five. Sy expressed his philosophy about producing to me once: “I learn everything I can about every aspect of the business. Then when someone comes up to me and tells me they can’t do something, I say, ‘Oh, yes, you can and here’s how…’ even telling them what lens to use, if I have to.”

He was an old-fashioned producer who refused to abandon either his passion or his power to the encroaching fashion of “the auteur” or “the package”. He was always the boss. He knew the difference between collaboration and capitulation, and he knew, despite the hype of “director’s vision”, that the “vision” came from and belonged to the script and that everyone who signed onto the project was there to serve that vision.

Sy was grooming me to be his point-man in England and write every episode of the series, if I wanted. But there was no series. The Networks just couldn’t wrap sweeps week around deductive reasoning and deerstalker hats. So the films ran rampantly on cable, won some European festivals, were embraced by the disciples of Doyle, and gave me more satisfaction as a writer than I’ve ever had since in this business.

The result is I got two films that actually resemble what I wrote. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES has been called, “The best version of the Doyle classic to date…This deserved theatrical release but didn’t get it.” It remains my favourite of all my films. And it’s the only one that I still pull out from time-to-time and watch with unqualified joy, never having to flinch at mistakes and lament what might have been (Below: Ron Lacey as Inspector Lestrade in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES).

Sy used to joke that he’d made me famous and now he couldn’t afford me. But the truth is all he had to do was ask; I’d have found a way to make it work.

Whenever I drove by Sy’s house, I always slowed the car to admire the massive sculpture in his back yard. It was a larger-than-life knight on a massive charger fashioned from some sort of shiny silver metal. One day, I drove by and noticed the knight was gone. I called Sy to find out he had moved, the knight had been sold, and Sy was now exploring the world of internet entertainment. That was Sy…always moving forward, on to the next thing, always ahead of the game.

Then, six months after that phone call, I woke one morning to read his obituary in the paper. He had died of pancreatic cancer in April of 2000.

After that, driving by Sy’s old house, I missed seeing that towering knight shimmering in the sun. It always reminded me of Sy’s chivalrous mentoring when I was just an aspiring talent looking for a chance to prove myself.

Thanks, Sy, for giving me that chance. Thanks for giving me one of the happiest times of my life. Thanks for respecting my talent and the work and spoiling me for every other experience I’ve ever had in the business. Thanks for never lying to me and keeping every promise you ever made to me. When I get beaten down in the development process or a production is going awry or the writer is getting screwed yet again, I remember my time with you and all your kindnesses to me and how collaboration is supposed to work and the memory is sweet.

The ideal you showed me and the example you set gives me the strength to climb back in the trenches each time and fight for what should be rather than what is.

(below: Douglas Hickox, director of HOUND & Sy Weintraub)


Okay, you’re clutching your gold statuette, the band is cutting you off, what unsung mentor haven’t you thanked yet?



YOU NEVER CAN TELL. From the BBC Boxed George Bernard Shaw DVD Set. Shaw’s is a tremendously witty writer who makes me guffaw. The play is quite wonderful. With Robert Powell and Patrick Magee.

THE FURIES. With Babara Stanwyck and Walter Huston. The title, The Furies, is apt because this strange western is very Greek, also very noir.


THE HAPPY TIME. Original Cast recording of the Kander/Ebb show.

SPOTLIGHT ON…VIC DAMONE. Sinatra said Damone had “the best pipes in the business.” I’m inclined to agree. Very smooth…and great song selection.


A COLLECTION OF HOWARD BARKER PLAYS. Notably VICTORY, THE CASTLE, and SCENES FROM AN EXECUTION. The last I saw in a terrific production years ago at the Ahmanson in LA with the magnificent Frank Langella and Juliet Stevenson. Barker is a fascinating writer who apparently is much more celebrated elsewhere than in his own home country of Britain. My colleagues at AGL, Artistic Director Rick St. Peter, and Associate Director, Eric Seale, would love this guy…Eric for his anarchistic qualities, Rick for his Brechtian aspects and his language. It is the language certainly that attracts me, which is poetry even when he utilizes what some might consider crude and offensive language. I also love his attraction for what seem to me, “epic themes”. He has an interesting theory of Theatre of Castastrophe..it’s first principle being art is not digestible, “but an irritant in the consciousness, like a grain of sand in an oyster’s gut…” A theatre company was formed…The Wrestling School…primarily to perform his work.

WRITTEN BY MAGAZINE, the magazine of the Writers Guild, which has a terrific interview and article on the brilliant Larry Gelbart, who I’ve been fortunate to meet on several occasions, and other interesting articles about writers of my age and older and how we deal with the “second and third acts” of our lives and careers.

Any weekly media recommendations of your own to make?


Actors Guild of Lexington’s spring fund-raising event, Scene & Be Seen, takes place May 9th, at Spindletop Hall, in Lexington. This year’s theme, The Silver Masquerade, celebrates the theatre’s 25th season. For details: http://www.sceneandbeseen.org/ . Come! Have fun! Donate! Support Theatre! Support this theatre!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Wonder How these Things Begin...? (Or Pogue Diverges into a Political Diatribe)

Ever wonder how Nazi Germany happened? How the general, everyday populace, the regular folks, blindly allowed such Evil to insinuate itself until it took over the government?

Take a gander at the debate going on in America right now. People so partisan in their political outlook that they refuse to acknowledge that their leaders made mistakes…or worse, committed crimes. People out there, particularly leaders and pundits of the Republican persuasion, are actually trying to rationalize and justify torture. Torture! There is no question about it. Many of these methods have been outlawed for years! What’s more, every seasoned interrogator will tell you they’re ineffective for eliciting information.

Still nightly the Republican stooges creep out and parrot the same canards spewing from Dick Cheney…hardly a icon of veracity in the world. How much video tape do we have of this man caught in bald-faced lies? When do news organizations just ignore his cynical, self-serving bleatings?

My favourite bit of the torture defense is: “The proof that this works is because we haven’t been attacked again since 9/11.” Sorry, folks, you can’t prove a negative. And if we’re going down the speculative road, try this one: Maybe if Al Gore had been president, he and his staff might have actually read and paid attention to memos entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the US” and maybe there’d have been no 9/11 and we wouldn’t have been attacked at all.

But haven’t we crossed a line somewhere here? It was bad enough when we all sat idly back and let the Bush/Cheney thugs winnow away the constitution and eviscerate our civil liberties. I don’t recall much outrage from any pundit, either liberal or conservative,…let alone the public…pointing out the hypocrisy of saying we were democratizing the Middle East while at the same time we were trampling democracy here. I didn’t fear the terrorists! I feared our government! The terrorists didn’t have to destroy our way of life when our own leaders were doing precisely that-- by denying us our freedoms and almost gleefully moving us to a dictatorial demographic, where they did what they wanted whether it was legal or not.

Fortunately, our system of government appears to function and when it goes too far into one extreme, it does seem to correct itself…as the last election proved. So maybe we’re not teetering on the abyss of Nazism just yet.

In fact, the Democrats are probably pissing themselves with utter joy at the entrenched stupidity of the Republican Party…which just doesn’t seem to have a clue how to save itself. Trying to justify something as despicable as torture only further marginalizes them.

I suppose defending yet another Bush administration abuse plays to the dim-brained, gun-hugging, “my country, right or wrong, love it or leave it” pseudo-patriots incapable of pondering a complex thought and who march in mindless lock-step (or is it goose-step) to party doctrine without ever questioning it. But does it really play with anyone who has the rudimentary ability to think?

Remember when Nixon’s crimes came to light. I don’t think there were a lot of Republicans who were trying to justify those. Mr. Nixon resigned because everybody, both Dems and Republicans, was bi-partisanly aghast and ready to impeach him.

Yet during Bushie’s reign, things were done that were far, far worse and, despite the fact, that the incompetency of the last eight years helped banish the Republicans to the wilderness, the rank and file remain recalcitrantly loyal. Another reason they are clueless: party loyalty to people and behaviour that has dishonoured your party is not honourable; it only continues to tarnish your party and you! It’s like someone remaining loyal to a relation who is a mass murderer. Real party loyalty is being able to speak truth to the party, not just echo the party line against all logic, and to be able to honestly assess and address the party’s flaws and mistakes.

Granted, Americans have short memories, but the folk now saying torture is a good thing and trying to whitewash the arrogance, crimes, and vileness of the last eight years are the same yahoos who were screaming, “Rule of Law!” when trying to impeach Clinton over his sexual dalliances. Let’s juggle that on the scales for a minute. Which is worse? Lying about an illicit blow job or starting a false and costly war on a litany of lies, undermining the constitution, using outlawed torture methods, and a host of lesser crimes and misconduct? At least nobody died when Clinton lied. Where are those Republican cries for “Rule of Law” now?

But again all this just works to the advantage of the Democrats. The GOP ought to stand for Grumpy Old Poops…largely a lot grey, angry old men clinging not to the ideals of their own generation, but the generations before them…and not realizing that the world has passed them by and they have become irrelevant. A much younger, integrated electorate is moving in…one that doesn’t care about racial divisiveness, ole time bible-thumping religion, or whether gays marry or not. Nor are they stupid enough to believe you when you say black’s white, torture is okay, cut- and- dried laws can be twisted to meaninglessness by clever lawyers, and the constitution and civil liberties can be ignored when convenient.

I confess. I’ve voted Republican in the past…it’s been the looong past, because the Republican Party of today is not one I at all recognize. They used to be the party of less government. Today they want to be in your living-room, bedroom, your church (or your non-church, if you so chose), your library, your computer…even your mind, if they could figure out a way to do it. Frankly, I wish they’d find their way back to the mainstream, the moderate, and the reasonable. I’d like to have a legitimate choice in the voting booth again. But…

...I fear they are bound to blunder about the wilderness on a long arduous trek until they finally get it. As long as they continue to pander to the lowest common denominator of their party, inflame ignorance instead of embracing intelligence, kowtow to the hacks of Faux News, and quake in fear of offending a cretinish clown like Rush Limbaugh, they will keep on awanderin' and the Democrats will have a field day. As long as they remain a party of fatuous flaks and flunkeys who prize party loyalty over common sense and stump for heinous ideals like torture, they will shrivel their base until it includes only mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging slope-heads and extremists of all stripes who are not so much their base as their embarrassment.

Well, I warned you in my welcome above that I'd dwell on anything that interested me or irritated me. The above qualifies as "irritated". But end of rant. Back to my less feverish dog and pony in a few days.


P.S.- Happy Birthday, Wild Bill Shakespeare!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



"Whattya reading?"
"Shakespeare's Comedies."
"Why ain't ya laughing?"

--A fellow serviceman interrogating my mentor, UK Theatre Professor Charles F. Dickens, in their barracks one day on his reading matter.--


Of the 5-6,000 books in my house, roughly a third of them are devoted to drama. Naturally, much of my theatre reading is a necessity for my profession. But let me forgo any pretension; I simply find reading about theatre and theatre folk a pure pleasure.

Plays can have all the thrills, chills, and spills of a rip-snorting, page-turning novel and they’re mostly dialogue; no digesting huge paragraphs of descriptive prose, delineating the landscape of some pastoral environment or the murkier landscape of the protagonist’s mind. Plays tend to get right to the grapes. And bios, memoirs, rehearsal journals, and even more analytical tomes are often rife with juicy anecdotes, gossip, and just great raconteurism. We in the theatre love theatre yarns.

So what am I reading? Plays…all the time. Sometimes I knock off four-five in a row. Often I use them as palate-cleansers between weightier matter – thick novels or history. Sometimes it’s purely an immersion in research. As something of theatre archeologist, I’m fascinated by the old, the odd, the obscure, the rarely performed…wanting to ferret out why something once popular has now been forgotten or why something failed. Sometimes such discoveries are illuminating – unveiling something that deserves re-examination. Sometimes one just finds a challenge, something that makes one go: “I’d like to see if this could actually work on stage.”

Ever hear of Stephen Phillips? He was a verse dramatist who wrote plays about historical or mythic figures…NERO, HAROLD, ULYSSES, to name a few…I recently picked up something by Rostand, celebrated Cyrano author, called THE FAR PRINCESS. It’s no Cyrano, but it’s intriquing. The Tony-winning musical, SPRING AWAKENING was based on an early 20th-century German play, THE AWAKENING OF SPRING (or Fruhlingserwachen, if you’re a purist…umlaut over the “u”) by Frank Wedekind…I plucked a Wedekind collection off a dusty shelf in a used bookstore with the alluring title TRAGEDIES OF SEX, also containing EARTH SPIRIT, DAMNATION, and PANDORA’S BOX on which the great silent movie was based, directed by G.B. Pabst and starring Louise Brooks.

When actor Tony Haigh did AGL’s EXITS & ENTRANCES, he quoted from a once-venerable classic of the British stage, HASSAN, by James Elroy Flecker. What a curious piece! Doing a search on an as-yet-unread novel in my book collection I uncovered another piece by the author, Robert Raynolds: a verse drama called BOADICEA. I ordered it over the internet. Its arrival brought some other surprises…the book was autographed and given to a friend by the person to whom the book is dedicated. The dedicatee’s friend apparently knew the author as well; for she had scrawled on the end cover: “This book is written by a little boy I knew years ago in St. Louis.” I love little historical connections like these. Unlike the novel, I have read the play…interesting…

It’s always interesting to discover dramatic forays by novelists I collect. I own two plays by Rafael Sabatini, author of CAPTAIN BLOOD and SCARAMOUCHE. The published play, THE TYRANT, is a sympathetic portrayal of Cesare Borgia and I find possibly performable.

Another, SACRAMENT OF SHAME, is a Xerox of Sabatini’s typescript which wended its way to me from a University archive through a fellow collector (legitimately, I hasten to add). It needs work. Sabatini wrote other produced plays that I’d like to track down, two adaptations of novels…one, SCARAMOUCHE, was a popular vehicle for the English actor-manager John Martin-Harvey. I’ve a programme from this production in the 20’s, but have yet to track down the play.

(John Martin-Harvey Scaramouche programme)

The same is true for a production of BEAU GESTE from the twenties that starred no less than Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, and Madeleine Carroll. The play followed in the wake of the novel’s enormous success, but was a failure on stage. Olivier gave up the role of Stanhope in the stunning JOURNEY’S END to play the title role in this flop. Surveying the scene breakdown in the programme I have, I can get an inkling of why the play failed…one being they seemed to have tossed out the fascinating opening of the book and subsequent successful film versions…the discovery of a desert fortress manned by dead men and the other mysteries that follow hard on its heels. But I suspect this adventure yarn would be nearly impossible to stage effectively. I would love to find a copy of this play which I suspect only exists in manuscript form, if it still exists at all. (Olivier Beau Geste Programme)

Just recently a volume of plays, MAMEENA, by another novelist I collect, Rider Haggard, was published. Two plays are based on popular novels of his; the other an original. The extensive footnotes provided fascinating background and, in one case, production history. The original play TO HELL OR CONNAUGHT deals with Cromwell’s persecution of the Irish and was a piece that Haggard tried to interest Yeats to do at the Abbey Theatre. Suffice it to say, Mr. Yeats was wise to reject the piece and Mr. Haggard’s prodigious talents as a novelist are not reflected in this play.

Another curio is THE JEST by Sem Benelli -- a famous triumph for brothers Lionel and John Barrymore in the 20’s. I procured a Xerox from another Barrymore aficionado, a director pal, who got it from John Barrymore III who had produced a production of the play in LA a few years back. The hand-written cues and notes in the margins as well as the title page information indicates this might well be a Xerox of a production copy from the original Broadway mounting of the play.

Of course, not all my play-reading is restricted to the ancient and obscure. I’m currently making a concerted effort to get through any Stoppard I haven’t read or seen and the same for August Wilson. Other reading has lured me into the “Royal Court/Angry Young Man” period and so I’ve been devouring some John Whiting, John Osborne, John Arden, with Arnold Wesker waiting on the night-table. It’s nice to fill this gap in my education and discover some terrific plays.

Every time I return from London (see London Theatre Blogs below), my suitcase is crammed with recently produced plays there…many very good that never seem to make it to this side of the Pond. And I still take plenty of jaunts into the classics…Elizabethan, Jacobean, Restoration, Ibsen, Shaw, the Greeks. I recently read PERICLES for the first time. A curious play with an interlocutor linking the action and a passive hero, but still rife with enough fascinating moments that my curiosity is peaked to see how one might effectively mount this lesser Shakespearean play.

But let’s get to those juicy, gossipy books of great raconteurism. There’s none better than SIR JOHN GIELGUD: A LIFE IN LETTERS…a collection of Sir John’s epistles from the 1920’s to shortly before his death. Besides a wonderful record of the theatre scene, it is full of Gielgud’s insights into theatre, and his funny, perceptive, and often deliciously catty remarks about other theatre illuminati. Sir John has written several books. To mention a few: ACTING SHAKESPEARE, his experiences with his many productions, both as a director and actor; DISTINGUISHED COMPANY, his memories of several notable actors of the British Stage; and NOTES FROM THE GODS, mini-reviews he scribbled on his programmes from the various plays he saw early in the 20th century.

A more recent raconteur is Sir Peter Hall, the great British director who founded the RSC and ran the National Theatre. PETER HALL’S DIARIES recount when he was appointed successor to Laurence Olivier at the National and shepherded its move to the South Bank. His struggles with Olivier, the board, the directors, the actors, and the egos (his own included) are all diligently recorded.

In sharp counterpoint are THE DIARIES OF KENNETH TYNAN, the great theatre critic and Olivier’s literary manager at the National. Tynan and Hall were not chums and it’s intriguing to see the same incidents perceived entirely differently by two monumental figures involved in the National’s nurturing.

Both these gents, however opposite their views, provide more info than does Olivier in any of his memoirs, most notably his CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTOR. As an autobiographer, Olivier is often guarded and withholding…at least about himself (Jeremy Brett, early National member and Olivier pal, once told me he asked Olivier how the autobiography was coming. Olivier replied: “I just got to my first wank and I’m bored silly.”) To glean insight into the oft-enigmatic Olivier, rely on the half dozen bios about him than his own autobiographical efforts. Or better yet, read the thumbnail impressions by colleagues found in OLIVIER, edited by Logan Gourlay, or OLIVIER AT WORK, compiled by the Royal National Theatre.

Jeremy Brett & director Paul Giovanni/CRUCIFER OF BLOOD party

Richard Eyre, Hall’s successor at the National, also published his diaries, NATIONAL SERVICE, about his tenure there…another great read. The nice thing about diaries and letters is you can skip around. Seek out an actor or an incident in the index and leap to the appropriate page. They can also be read in small snatches -- perfect for waiting rooms, johns, and commercials on the television. I’ve been dipping into THE LETTERS OF NOEL COWARD and THE NOEL COWARD DIARIES as I soak in the tub.

I read actor bios the same way as I do letters or diaries…rarely chronologically. I started JOHN OSBORNE, THE MANY LIVES OF AN ANGRY YOUNG MAN, by John Heilpern, somewhere around the time Osborne’s play, LOOK BACK IN ANGER, premiered. Osborne’s life was so riveting…his genius and talent for self-destruction… that I went back to the beginning to learn how he developed into such a complex critter.

Another complex fellow was Richard Burton. Melvyn Bragg’s RICH, explores his extraordinary talent and intellect. I’ve always been obsessed by actors like Burton who had great gifts but never fully exploited their potential or, perhaps, more accurately never fulfilled the obligation of possessing such talent. Mercurial, flamboyant, restless giants like Burton, Kean, and Barrymore I find endlessly intriguing

The most famous Barrymore bio is Gene Fowler’s excellent GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCE. But JOHN BARRYMORE, SHAKESPEAREAN ACTOR by Michael Morrison dissects Barrymore’s forays into Shakespeare, notably his RICHARD III and his HAMLET when he was at the height of his power. Morrison delves into minute detail of the rehearsals and productions. To read GREAT TIMES, GOOD TIMES by James Kotsilibas-Davis is to discover that Maurice Barrymore…father of John, Ethel, and Lionel…may have been the true genius and tragic figure of the Barrymore clan.

While I hate most theatrical theory (Noel Coward: “I have been gallantly persevering with Stanislaviski’s LIFE IN ART and AN ACTOR PREPARES. Both intolerably turgid and dull and completely devoid of humour”), I love process books where the mounting of a play from planning through rehearsals and into production is examined and explored.
One of the most enjoyable of these is LETTERS TO AN ACTOR by William Redfield, who played Guildenstern in the famous Gielgud/Burton HAMLET. His insights, very definite opinions, and delicious anecdotes are constantly diverting.

The National Theatre has produced a fascinating series of rehearsal diaries of various productions, many of which I was fortunate to see…so reading about how they got to the end result is always illuminating, but even the examinations of those plays I didn’t see are valuable and entertaining. Some of these rehearsal journals include productions of HENRY IV (with Michael “The Great Gambon” Gambon as Falstaff); Simon Russell Beale’s HAMLET; HIS DARK MATERIALS, a production based on Philip Pullman’s famous children’s trilogy; and Peter Hall’s the BACCHAI.

In anticipation of going to a recent local production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, I re-read Tirzah Lowen’s excellent PETER HALL DIRECTS ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, a rehearsal diary about Hall’s praised 1987 National Theatre production that starred Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins. The observant journal gives us a great glimpse at how Hall guides Dench and Hopkins, two actors at the height of their powers, to their performances of these two middle-aged lovers in their last gasp of passion.

Hall and Trevor Nunn were both trained in a rigid discipline of verse-speaking by George Rylands who learned it from the famous Elizabethan specialist, William Poel. Hall is adamant that the key to great Shakespearean performances lies in understanding how to speak the verse. “Shakespeare tells the actor when to go fast and when to go slow; when to pause, when to come in on cue and when to accent a word,” Hall insists, “His text is full of such clues. He tells the actor when but never why or how. That is up to the actor.” Hall dutifully illuminates his thoughts and gives examples on verse-speaking in his book, SHAKESPEARE’S ADVICE TO THE PLAYERS, one of the most useful books I have when it comes to tackling Shakespeare.

And, speaking of the bard, I’d be remiss not to mention Bernard Grebanier’s THEN CAME EACH ACTOR, that discusses “Shakespearean Actors, Great and Otherwise” from Elizabethan times on. Grebanier can be very opinionated, and often-times even infuriating, about those actors he embraces and those he dismisses, but the book is rich in interesting history and great stories.

All the above-mentioned books and plays can probably be found on Amazon.com or the ABE (in my links to the left).

But enough of my picks. How about some of yours? What theatre books/plays do you find useful, fascinating, entertaining? Any that changed your life, any of my picks you disagree with? Give us your recommendations and tell us why!

In my London Theatre blogs (see March blogs), I mentioned how the book shops that once lined Charing Cross Road are being pushed out by high rents and bad franchise businesses. Now the other great book oasis in London, Cecil Court (see links at left), is being threatened by increased business rates. Read actor/writer Simon Callow's lament on the situation here: http://www.cecilcourt.co.uk/business_rates.php

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Few Of My Favourite Things (Or A Guide to Pogue's Pages' Links)

Words of Theatrical Wisdom

"Get yourself a light Cordelia."
-- Sir John Gielgud's advice to a fellow actor asking for tips on how to play LEAR. I've also heard the quote attributed to Sir Donald Wolfit.--


My morning ritual upon arising is to take Nigel the pup immediately out for his morning ablutions, read the morning paper (the Lexington Herald- Leader) while I eat breakfast, then grab a Diet Coke, retreat to the office and get online and survey my favourite sites. Many of these you see listed over on the left side of this blog.

(Nigel the pup)

Some I visit daily, some several times a day, others two or three times a week. I usually click on them alphabetically...starting with a daily glance at Actors Guild of Lexington's blog to see if any of the staff have posted anything or to read the occasional rehearsal blogs of actors in the latest show. Then it's onto Copious Notes, the daily Arts blog of the Herald-Leader's leading Arts columnist, Rich Copley.

Moving out of the local scene, I visit Haines His Way, my LA pal Bruce Kimmel's very witty, whimsically personal, entertaining blog and message board with a gang of gregarious regulars. Besides being the leading producer of theatre music on CD, Bruce is also an accomplished writer, director, actor, musician, and all-round raconteur. I miss the hilarious meals Bruce and I used to regularly have in the red leather booths at Musso and Frank or Birds (and their tower of onion rings) and this is a great way to keep in touch. Next on the list is Unca Harlan's Art Deco Dining Pavilion to see if Harlan Ellison has dived into the ongoing and oft-spirited debate and discussion on the message board of his site.

The local paper does not satisfy my news jones and, as I prefer my news with a liberal slant, I always check out The Huffington Post. The site also links to several other news sites and columnists, both liberal and conservative, which I often check out, so I usually get a good mix of opinion and perspective.

We Americans can be awfully ethnocentric, so to get an international point-of-view on what's happening in the world and how we are perceived, I go to British Media Online three or four times a week. This link will take me to most of the main London newspapers...The Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Standard, Mail, Independent, Express, and the BBC news sources. Truth be told, I spend most of my time in the Arts pages of these papers, catching up on the London Theatre scene. You'll notice the Guardian is individually linked, as I find their theatre coverage the most comprehensive. There always seems to be something new and different and updated on the site and they also have interesting theatre blogs.

I am unabashed British Theatre-o-phile...so I'm regularly checking the National Theatre and RSC theatre sites. The London Theatre Guide keeps me abreast of any new developments in The West End. Stagework is the most fascinating theatre site about the process of production. Great interviews and videos with artists from every theatre discipline about how the work is put together. You can watch scenes from major London productions rehearsed and then see the final, finished product. I can spend hours here.

Two American theatre sites I keep up with are the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and The Independent Shakespeare Company. I'm a fan of both companies and try to get up to see most of Cincy Shakes' shows. Here I've been able to finally see productions of rare Shakespeare plays like CYMBELINE and TIMON OF ATHENS. Unfortunately, the Independent Shakespeare Company is based in LA. But when we lived there, Julieanne and I looked forward to their productions, particularly their intimate summer Shakespeare in scenic Barnsdall Park. The company focuses on language and performance with minimal costumes and set dressing. Both of these companies maintain regular acting companies, so you get to see lovely ensemble work with actors who have consistently performed together.

In addition to a mess of theatre sites, I also have bookmarked a great many film related sites. I've linked a couple here. WORDPLAY is my favourite screenwriting site...where seasoned veterans, newbies, and wanna-bes all converge. The site is run my good colleagues, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, writers of the popular Zorro and Pirates of the Caribbean movies as well as SHREK. There are great articles and columns dispensing worthwile advice to anyone pursuing this precarious profession. But the best advice can be culled in the free-wheeling discussion forums where old pros tangle with young bloods and hungry aspirants. I don't visit the forums as much as I once did. At one point in my life, it was something of an addiction...where I spent far too much time. But you can still find my pontifications in the archives and several, you'll find in their "Hall of Fame Posts" Archive. My other movie link listed here is The Miklos Rozsa Society...devoted to simply the greatest film composer ever!

One of the wonders of the internet is that it has freed us from the tyranny of local radio's limited options...which have been reduced to mostly music I don't listen to or talk I don't want to listen to and far too many commercials I don't want to hear. On the internet, I can now find any kind of music I want from New York cabaret to Big Band. The latter I find on a public radio station out of Cincinnati, WMKV. I particularly like the website after 11 or 12 at night when it's just non-stop music featuring terrific thirties and forties bands and singers and the Great American Songbook.

To be able to get BBC Radio is a wonder. I've linked here BBC 4 because I love their comedy and quizzes (which are also comedies). Some of my favourites are: The News Quiz, The Now Show, Just A Minute, Sorry I Haven't A Clue, The Unbelievable Truth. The BBC4 link will take you to their other great stations too -- BBC 7 which features repeats of comedy shows, including classics like The Goon Show, even My Word & My Music; BBC3...arts and culture; and BBC London with entertaining dj's like Danny Baker. The BBC also has a feature called "Listen Again" which allows to you to listen to these shows at any time, accommodating your own individual schedule.

I probably have more book-related sites bookmarked than anything else. I've only listed two...one is my beloved Cecil Court in London where I've spent many happy an hour.

The other one listed here is the most useful one -- THE ABE, or the Advanced Book Exchange. I hesitated listing it. We book collectors are usually very protective of our sources...so consider yourself privileged that I share this with you. If you can't find a used book on the ABE, you probably can't find it. As well as using it to track down hard-to-find books, I also find it handy as a pricing guide.

So any favourite sites you care to recommend?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Odds & Ends (or a Pogue Palate Cleanser)


"If you can't write a play without being taught -- don't."


I was in a restaurant last night eating my solitary meal and realizing how loud and obtrusive the music was. One couldn't call it background music, because it was the type that prohibited conversation (had I a dinner companion) or any sort of contemplative serenity.
I realize that Muzak or what was commonly called "elevator music" was often the butt of a myriad of jokes about its innocuous blandness, but that was the point...it was supposed to be. Sadly, now that it has disappeared from the scene, I miss its soothing, non-instrusive, easily-ignorable, almost somnabulistic tones.

These days I walk into a store and the music is assaultive...usually geared to the younger crowd...lots of American Idol-style bad rock or country-western (or worse, Christian Rock -- just what I want...to be "saved" while I'm eating a hamburger or buying toilet paper)...played at ear-bleeding decibel levels that can't be tuned out and which makes neither shopping or eating a pleasure because all the while I engage in the activity, I must be inflicted with someone's crap taste in music at what they mistakenly deem a suitable volume.

And let us not forget the Madison Ave. Factor. Often interpersed between the music...particularly in your local Wal-Mart or grocery store...are cheery-voiced announcers pitching the latest product or sale item at you. I usually just want to run from the place, screaming. At least Muzak didn't have any commercials.
And it didn't overwhelm you. It was discreet. It didn't get in your way. It didn't force you to pay attention. It wasn't some pitchy wailer bludgeoning your ear-drums with a cacophony of electronic guitars and dubious notes and bludgeoning your intelligence by rhyming "I" with "eye". It's hard to figure out what you want for dinner trapped in a grocery aisle pulsating with both migraine-inducing noise and mind-numbing illiteracy.

Muzak was mostly inoffensive instrumental versions of standards songs from the Great American Songbook that occasionally made you unconsciously whistle or even hum. Okay, the arrangements were often a bit twee...and their sporadic interpretations of popular rock tunes were about as hip as your parents getting up and embarrassing you by doing the Twist or Mashed Potatoes (realizing, of course, for a sizable percentage of my readership, I represent that same decrepit generation as their parents.).
But Muzak was, in its boring fashion, rather calming and relaxing. The worst you could say about it was that it was insidiously insipid...as opposed to what we get today-- the obnoxiously insipid.

I suppose it is all a part of our ever-evolving culture where noise pollution has become de rigeur. Seems we can't be disconnected from anything that might distract us and, Heaven forbid, leave us alone with our own thoughts...we've got to have i-pods going, cell phones ringing, blackberries twittering. The loud, surly voices of Fox News or the excessive commentary of some sporting event blaring on the twenty televisions in the bar. We're determined not to miss a damned thing with all our electronic gadgetry; we just keep missing life going on all around us.
News flash to all those stores that cater to a younger crowd with their cranked-up music selections; it's the 35 and up crowd that still has the most disposable income to spend. More of it might get spent in your place if you reconsider the musical ambience you're creating...remembering its not about your taste -- or the taste of your eighteen year old clerk. Cole Porter as interpreted through the mellow strains of Montovani and his Orchestra or the Melachrino Strings doesn't sound so bad to these aged ears anymore.

My AGE OF KINGS Dvds mentioned in an earlier blog arrived last week and Julieanne and I are working our way through it an hour or so a night. We're through the first of five discs, halfway through Henry IV, part one. The transfer is quite good and clean, considering this is almost fifty years old. And the acting is remarkable, mostly with actors who never reached any prominence or name recognition on this side of the pond. Sean Connery, just two years away from Dr. No and his debut as James Bond, makes a terrific Hotspur and shows a smooth facility with Shakespeare.

I did cheat and take a sneak peek at Paul Daneman's Gloster/Richard III, Gloster's great speech in Henry VI, part III, "Ay, Edward will use women honourably/ Would he were wasted, marrow, bones, and all..." It may be a more defining speech for Richard than his "winter of discontent" soliloquy. I learned an abbreviated version of it off a John Barrymore recording years ago. "Can I do all this and cannot get a crown?/Tut, were it further off, I'lllllllll pluck it down" (That's for Kevin Lane Dearinger...who will get it).

(Paul Daneman as Richard III, Birmingham Rep)

(Barrymore as Richard III)

Daneman does the speech right nicely. Other than his radio performance of Richard, the only other thing I know Daneman from is the movie ZULU as the delirious Sergeant Maxfield in hospital who keeps tormenting the malingering scalawag Hook played by James Booth. Both nice performances in a movie full of nice performances (Michael Caine in his debut, the stalwart Stanley Baker, and the great Nigel Green as colour-sergeant Bourne).

Anyway, this is a bit of trip for me, as I really haven't explored these plays for many years. I'd forgotten what a maudlin, self-pitying windbag Richard II is (although a very poetic one)...no wonder they kill him. I'm particularly looking forward to the Henry VI, part I...as it is the probably the history play I know the least.


Brian Hampton's CHECKING IN, which had its World Premiere at our own Actors Guild of Lexington will play the Midtown International Theatre Festival in NYC this summer. Our fearless leader, Richard St. Peter, our Artistic Director, will direct the show and local actress, Allie Darden, has been invited to perform the role she played in the original production. This is yet another example and benefit of Rick's efforts to move this theatre to a fully professional dynamic and establish not only a regional, but national awareness of the theatre.

Here's a play that had its beginnings here as did my adaptation/translation of TARTUFFE which has since gone on to have another successful production in San Franscisco garnering good reviews and eliciting more interest at other theatres and with other directors. Our multi-media production of HAMLET was featured in AMERICAN THEATRE magazine and Rick recently re-staged the production (retaining his original Hamlet) in North Carolina at the Temple Theatre. (Below Adam Luckey as Hamlet, me as Claudius in the "now might I do it pat" scene from AGL's Multi-Media HAMLET.)

Rick was the right man for the job at this theatre. The Board at the time wisely chose to bring in someone from the outside with a different and necessary perspective. For though the local theatre community boasts many talented folk, most have their roots in community or educational theatre and none were qualified to spearhead the particular mission which became this theatre's mandate. It required someone who had experience, contacts, and an understanding of the professional regional theatre environment to move the theatre toward that dynamic and expand its profile beyond the local scene. Under Rick's leadership, the theatre has been able to begin to forge a strong network with other professional theatres and institutions across the country...and even abroad.

Sure, the theatre still struggles (what professional theatre doesn't?), we have had our share of mis-steps and growing pains and will probably have more. But the professionalism of the work has certainly increased, with quality performances that feature our best local actors sharing the stage with artists of regional and national rep and work that is getting recognized beyond local borders.

Now if we could just find those angels who would drop generous chunks of change on us.

Lots of interesting articles in this month's DRAMATIST MAGAZINE:

1)The second part of Edward Albee's round-table with several prominent New York critics, centering around the demise of newspapers and, with it, the demise of serious Arts journalism and how that can or will affect the support, promotion, and production of serious work in the theatre.

2)Another article about how Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman teach playwriting at Juilliard I found very helpful with my own approach to teaching dramatic writing. I've done a fair amount of short-term instructing and guest-lecturing. But I have always eschewed taking any kind of long-term gig, because I don't really consider myself a teacher nor do I have any sort of proscribed method of teaching or a syllabus or any of those academic underpinings. I sort of teach the same way I learned...via the-seat-of-the-pants school of theatre.
But the article actually confirmed a lot of my approach and my attitude toward how one needs to go about it. They also gave me some ideas to incorporate into what has become my ever-evolving method.

One of my favourite quotes: "Writers who are really gifted need to be careful who they listen to" and "So writers have to be careful about not trying to please, and not assuming that all comments are equally valuable."

I have long avoided Writers Groups as mostly a waste of time...particularly where a bunch of amateur, unproduced writers gather together to read and critique each other's work. Firstly, if you invite someone to be a critic, they will usually go straight for the negative...or, worse, tell you how much they like everything...or, even worse, ignore what you're trying to say and do with the piece and tell you how they would write it.
But mostly, why would I want a bunch of unproduced playwrights advising me how to write? What do they know about it? They're still on the outside looking in. I want advice and criticism from the people who've actually been in the trenches doing it day-t0-day...or from the people who have the power to produce it and make it a reality. I think far too much of that round-robin-I'll-critique-you-if-you-critique-me becomes masturbatory navel-gazing or rah-rah cheerleading to little or no productive purpose.

I think most successful writers are loners who go their own way. I've always found value in Paul Schrader's comment: "Why should we open the doors for young talent? Those who knock the doors down are much more interesting."

I think the most important part of being a writer, after having talent and having something to say (it's not enough to want to write, you have something worth saying), is being able to think critically...to be able to articulate your thoughts and to scrutinize, analyze, and assess your own work objectively and honestly.
This is one of the things I harp on in any class I teach...an artist must have the ability to judge his own work. If you don't, how will you be able to justify it and defend it against all those opinions that will want to take a piece of it? If you can't stand behind it or stand up for it with cohesive intelligent arguments, why are you doing it? It drives a lot of young writers crazy when I bark my mantra: "A professional knows when he's done good work." "But how do you know when you know?" always comes the lament. "When you're a professional, you'll know," I answer, increasing their frustration.

If you need grandma or one of your peers to pat you on the back to give you confidence, then you're probably not focused, determined, or dedicated enough. You have to be the one to know you're good and that your work is good, so that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up and keep coming at 'em.

3)Another article in The Dramatist talks about how the Copyright office has pretty much de-bunked and given the death knell to the nonsense of any such thing as director's copyright. They consistently refused Broadway's Urinetown director's attempts to copyright his direction.

Here's some of the directions he tried to copyright:

a)Using red scarves pulled from actors' pockets when they are shot to signify blood.

b)Using the chorus to march and fight in slow motion for comedic purpose.

c)Using blue fabric stretched across the stage to symbolize a river.

Rather vague, donncha think? And things like red scarves to represent blood and blue fabric to symbolize water seem rather familiar...I don't know how many times I've seen blue fabric to represent water or waves, we used it in a production of THE TEMPEST in Odessa , Texas, back in 1973.

But directors like this and their organization SSDC, that apparently has supported directors' attempts to copyright stuff, create a chilling effect on their own profession. One of the directors the Urinetown director was suing for copyright infringement was also an SSDC member; the theatre, involved in another suit, closed...it was not clear if it was because it had to defend itself against this spurious absurdity.

The result of validating this nonsense would be to inhibit other theatres from doing productions for fear of getting sued. It could also lead to playwrights directing their own plays to keep greedy directors with an absurd sense of auteurism from inhibiting said productions. This would hurt directors who would end up not getting jobs. And it could hurt plays...for all playwrights are not directors. And self-preservation is never the best artistic reason for directing one's own work.
The auteur theory in film is the greatest French farce since Feydeau. Let's not infect the theatre with its false premise.

This past week I and several other area playwrights had a meet and greet breakfast with Ralph Sevush, the Guild's Executive Director of Business Affairs, and Tari Stratton, Director of Education & Outreach, who were in Louisville for the Humana Festival. They had rsvps from nine playwrights, expected possibly twelve, and got five. I was the only one from outside Louisville. We five had a nice and informative time with them, but the small turnout nettled me. I don't understand why people don't take advantage of these opportunities...particularly those who always profess to have such a great love or aspiration toward the profession. As my old theatre mentor at UK, Charles Dickens (yes, his real name), used to say: "Ninety percent of talent is knowing what to do with it."

(Below: UK Theatre Professor, Charles Dickens...my mentor, Julieanne's mentor, and a whole lot of other people's mentor...during a notes session of PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD).


Harlan Ellison calls me up this afternoon to read me the opening paragraphs of a new story he's working on. First of all, no writer reads his work with more panache than Ellison does; secondly, I'm one of only four people who's heard it. How did I get so lucky? And the opening is a pip. If the rest of the story is as good (and I have no doubt it will be), it's going to be a doozy!


"He that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose."

--Anne Bronte--

And how was your week?

(I apologize for the odd spacing of paragraphs in this post. But I've been back a dozen times to correct and edit and save everything. And somehow none of it stays saved. It will take my corrections of typos and the like, but not the spacing. So excuse this Luddite's ignorance about what's going on. If anyone has a clue, please explain it to me. )