Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Students helm Centennial State Lester

While many schools still haven't brought back their theater program, Fort Morgan High School in Fort Morgan, Colorado is not only doing shows, they're letting their students direct them.

Nothing helps you learn a subject as much as teaching it, and nothing helps you become a better actor, set designer, stagehand, as directing. But it can be a challenge, as reported in today's Fort Morgan Times--and not just for technical reasons.

"You can be your actors' friends outside of rehearsal," says director Rayne Weiler, "but during rehearsal you have to learn how to be in charge."

The students will be performing my one-act western Long Tall Lester with two other Pioneer Drama plays, After Hours and In Memoriam, tomorrow night. They originally planned on doing only two shows, but they had so much interest from aspiring directors that they decided to add a third show.

Smart kids.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A look ahead to 2022

I can't lie. I'm excited for the New Year. Despite the various crises threatening to destroy our way of life, and there are a lot of them--climate change, increasing political extremism, and the neverending pandemic--there are a lot of good things too.

I truly believe most people are good at heart. Technological advancements are allowing us to make progress on many of the health and environmental problems we face. And then there's puppies. You've got to love puppies.

On a more personal front, 2022 offers a fresh opportunity for me to pursue my newly rekindled passion for playwriting. For this reason, I've focused almost entirely on playwriting goals this year--with one personal goal thrown in for good measure.

New directions

1) Complete three new full-length plays

My last two full-length plays took me three months each to write. And I've got a good start on my next play. If I can maintain this level of productivity--and there's no guarantee that I can--I should be able to finish four plays in 2022. But I'll keep my goal to a more manageable three.

2) Publish four full-length plays

This would represent a new record for me. My previous record was publishing three plays in one year, which I achieved in both 2015 and 2017.

But I've got a head start here too, since Heuer Publishing has already accepted The Last Radio Show of publication. And I've got two more plays completed: The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct, which I submitted to Pioneer Drama Service in December, and It's a Madhouse!, my commissioned play which I plan to submit to Pioneer after it premieres at Belmont Day School in March. There's no guarantee that those will get published, but if they do, I would only have to publish one play that I have yet to complete.

3) Lead a workshop at the Arizona Thespian Conference

I loved teaching at the Colorado Thespian Conference when I lived in that state. The interaction with students was so much fun and their enthusiasm for all things theatrical was infectious. I've been aware that AZ has its own version of the conference, but I only recently learned how to apply to be a workshop presenter. You can bet I'll be submitting my application in time for this year's conference in November.

4) See more plays

This shouldn't be hard to achieve. I haven't seen any plays since the beginning of the pandemic. But things are starting to open up again (or they were before omicron reared its ugly, spike-covered head, and I figure it's time to start venturing forth. Toward this end, I recently volunteered to be a judge for the ariZoni Awards, the AZ version of the Henry Awards which I judged for when I lived in Colorado. I haven't gotten my assignments yet--that won't happen until the new season is planned out in June--but I look forward to returning to the theater this fall. 

5) Be more present

I'm actually pretty happy with my personal life these days. My health is excellent. I work out on an elliptical for a half hour every day, which has enabled me to shed 25 pounds from my peak weight. And my daily meditation practice, which I started in October 2020, has really helped me deal with the stress of my day job.

Sidebar: Need a good meditation app? I really like Insight Timer. It features a ton of internationally recognized meditation experts, its massive database of meditations is highly searchable, and it costs nothing to join.

But I need to start applying some of the lessons I've learned from meditating to the times when I'm not meditating. And the most important of these is being present. Whether it's eating, going for walks, or talking on the phone, I tend to rush through things, focusing on getting to the next item on my to-do list rather than on the here and now.

This goal differs from my goals in the past because it's not measurable. There's no target value--no Being Present Factor--that'll allow me to determine whether I achieved this goal or not. But that doesn't mean it's not important. In fact, for this very reason it may be more important, even critical to my mental health and my enjoyment of life.

Therefore, I'm going to make focusing on the present my personal goal for the year. And next New Year's Eve, when I look back to see how well I met my goals for the year, I'll have to keep this one subjective.

Or am I focusing too much on the future again? 😉