Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Carol

Christmas Carol opens Friday. Yesterday we finally tried running the show in Virginia Samford Theatre, and it went much more smoothly than I ever would have expected. On the other hand, I'm dropping so many balls; I know all the things I have to do, but knowing things in theory and doing them in practice are two different things. It's a presence of mind issue. I usually have this problem because all the tasks I have to perform are very simple, and as William H. Macy said, acting is so simple that it's difficult.
I don't have time to delve deep, but over Thanksgiving I read the Polaris rulebook. The scenario is so comically reactionary that you'd have to crossbreed Justice Robert Bork with a cave cricket to find anyone to take it seriously, but the formal aspects of the game design are intriguing and clever. I was hoping for something like Peter Greenaway, but it's more like Jean Rollin. I like Rollin too. I'll be buying more indy RPGs, including ones by Ben Lehman. I've been harsh on his work, but Gygax and Arneson, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, commited a truckload of embarrasing mistakes too. Pioneers aren't expected to dot every I; they're expected to blaze new trails. Indy RPGs are doing that, and I'll take them with all their flaws.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Speaking of Fantasy

It seems to me that there are two kinds of genre fantasy writers. The first kind creates an idiosyncratic reworking of mythic and legendary stories. The second kind reworks Tolkien. It's noteworthy that Tolkien's work falls squarely into the former category.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am sick so I'll be staying home this Thanksgiving, but I still plan to eat well. But instead of spending time with beloved family members, I'll be staying in bed. At least I'll have time to catch up on my reading. I'm sniffing at Polaris, another one of those indy RPGS. This one is apparently at the vanguard of the indy games thing. Before you get to the game part you've got to get through the extensive backstory, though. It's slow going. Imagine Dan Clowes mocking an E. R. Eddison wannabe and you'll have the right idea. A sample from memory: "These few examples will have to suffice you." If that "you," which is representative of the grammatical carelessness plaguing game designer Ben Lehman's attempted elevated prose, didn't make you wince or cackle then you may enjoy his turgid high fantasy prose more than I do, but it's more inflated than elevated. I suspect that Lehman's real artistry as a game designer will do much to compensate; I certainly hope so! There's a creative artist in there somewhere, although centering a high fantasy adventure around the notion that the Sun is BAD is pretty counterintuitive to me. It's like saying apples or hugs are bad.

(and yes, my own prose is riddled with faults, but I'm not attempting anything more complex than a blog. Pulling off what John Gardner called "The High Style" takes a degree of linguistic virtuosity that neither Lehman nor I possess. But hey, God bless him for trying, and I really do want to be able to report back with a positive take on his game as a game.)

Christmas Carol is taking shape, but it's slow going; wrassling such a huge production into a stageworthy show is no mean feat, and we are all having trouble remembering how all our bits and pieces fit together. Offstage, I know all my lines, lyrics, notes and choreography. Onstage everything falls apart. The gap between knowing stuff in one's head and actually being able to do the stuff is something I rediscover with every show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SOB!

On both of the musicals I've done, I teared up on the final show. It didn't mess up my performances, but I sobbed myself sick backstage. Christmas Carol has a Road-To-Damascus style redemption story, and those always make me tear up too. So for this show I fully expect to transform from a human being into a big tear duct, like a mopey Emerson. I don't cry often, but durned if a musical closing doesn't discombobulate me. I'm already thinking about strategies to make sure I don't wreck the performance with onstage bawling.

Just found out my car has a coolant leak. Oh good. The repairs would cost more than the trade value of the car, so it's time to get some fresh wheels. My preferred solution to this problem is to live in a world where cars are unneeded. Some communities have substantial public transportation, but Birmingham will never be one of those; tightwad crybaby taxpayers + a local government that will spend any and all revenues on cocaine and hookers= I need a car.

Birmingham radio personality Dollar Bill is our Scrooge, and it's a delight to watch him work. It's an even bigger delight to hang out with him; he's one of the most effortlessly funny people I've ever met. He's a natural storyteller, and even though a disproportionate number of the anecdotes I've heard from him involved throwing things out of helicopters, I'm always willing to hear more. I wish he'd cut an album.

In this show I have a cute, smart, funny teenage wife. She's a joy to work with, but this is as close as I'll ever come to having a cute, smart, funny (nevermind teenage) wife. Which fact just makes me want to sob all the more.

I've been rereading Naked Lunch, and the group known as Liquifactionists, the people who want to blend all of humanity into one big amoebic mass, reminded me of the ending of The End of Evangelion, in which humanity does indeed meld together (in an apocalyptic semi-religious event) but the hero's rejection of this nirvanic loss of identity causes the whole thing to fall apart. Speaking for myself, I'd love to be able to merge with my fellow creatures into one divinely interconnected assortment of enlightened beings, but I'd want to be selective. I'd want to pick and choose the folks I merged with. A Liquifactionist snob, I guess. Although it's not as if I'd be checking anyone's teeth or pedigree; it would be purely on an I-like-you basis.

Do I sound okay? I feel okay.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Primetime Adventures

There are plenty of topics I could address in this, my first post in a while, but I'd rather talk about a game I've bought, Primetime Adventures. It's one of these here indy role-playing games, with a TV show premise. It's an awful lot like an improv format, so its appeal to an occasional improvist is obvious, but it turns out there's no one I can actually play this game with. Most role-playing games are about pretending to be, say, Agents Mulder and Scully. This game is more about playing Chris Carter. You don't play the game by using your character as an alter ego, but as a storytelling subject, the same way a TV show writer/producer would. Well, most of my friends can be roughly divided into 2 groups: the ones who'd rather play Mulder and Scully, or the one's who'd rather actually BE Chris Carter (or at least actually produce a play or film that others can watch).