Hello to all those other writers staring at their computer screens!
I'm a writer/ producer. I've worked in theatre, film, and TV, but I keep coming back to theatre. :)
I've developed five films ("Spanking the Monkey," "Flirting With Disaster," and "Manny & Lo" being three and six plays, both my own work and for others), and I love doing both. The boring details are on my website, http://www.asalark.com.
Apart from my own writings, I usually have one project going where I try to help other writers. For three years in LA, I developed and produced shows of the stranger and darker Grimm folk tales, and this let a lot of first time writers get their read, developed, produced, and get nominated for awards.
My current passion project working with other writers has been getting in touch with Iraqi writers and artists and getting their plays and stories about the war, hoping to get them put on here.
Anyway, I stumbled upon this board and was very impressed. Congrats to those here and running it for doing such terrific work for their fellow artists!
I'm sure it was part of that. David also did a short documentary on Iraq, too, though I haven't seen it. For me with the project, though, it's been my interest in getting first hand/ original accounts. I follow current events and I wanted to do something with Irag, and gathering first hand accounts from Iraq's themselves seemed to me to be a good way of doing it.
It also grew out of my work with the Grimm folk tale shows. I became fascinated with the original Grimm stories and the tales they cut out themselves because they were too dark or strange. Those were the fun ones to stage. It's still hard to believe some of those stories were published in a book of "Nursery and Household Tales." :)
I was at an FYE yesterday and picked up a copy of Spanking the Monkey and asked one of their employees... "were any monkeys hurt during the making of this film?" and she said, Oh, "I hope not." and then I laughed, a crazy little laugh.
Anyway, Welcome to the boards. You will find us very welcoming. Especially EDD and PADDY.
I'm Mozz, Montserrat --- but my friends call me mozz, mozzie.
Your work sounds great. I love the idea of DEAD LAWYERS, tell me, was it giving a full production by the Lark, or a reading.... Would love to read it anyway, it sounds like a Riot! so does the Perverse Tongues. Wow!!! nice work dewd.
In terms of the green room, sure, sounds great. Let me know more about it.
Mozz, re: my plays, thanks much for the kind words. In terms of reading Dead Lawyers, I always welcome people reading my work. :)
Feel free to contact me off list.
With regards to the Lark, the play was part of the Lark's Playwrights Week a few years ago. For all those who don't know the Lark, I would suggest getting to know them. They are a terrific group that lives to develop plays and work with writers. As part of their Playwrights Week, it had a well rehearsed, lightly staged reading. It's set in the Hamptons, so I've always wanted to get it up in NYC, but that reading in NYC is the closest it's come there. It had full productions at Sacred Fools in NY and at UCSD. It was also in development as a film at Warner till it imploded.
Yes, I agree, I have seen some things at the Lark, and some of them have truly impressed me and I so know that postcard, with the babies, cause I have it on my wall right now... I just liked the postcard, and my friend had a play in that evening...
And I love this submission spree help and peer pressure. :)
Though I have to say, I am a huge advocate of writers producing their own work and that of others. If a writer wants to do it, I think it's a great role to have and not as hard as some might think. I've had a fair amount of productions (every play of mine, though it hasn't been that many, has been produced), but I don't know if I would have had any if I didn't produce myself.
Ok, so I haven't officially introduced myself to this forum yet, but I just had to respond to your introduction because I am completely theatrically OBSESSED with the Brothers Grimm. I am a senior undergrad Theatre-Lit major at Reed College. Last year I wrote and directed a play based on a lot of the darker Grimm tales (it is called "The Golden Key" and of course includes "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering"...part II, hehe). This year I am doing a playwrighting thesis based on/inspired by the lives of the Brothers Grimm. As I was doing research about a week ago (or procrastinating from doing 'real' book research by doing 'internet' research, I think I may have stumbled upon your LA production website, and was overjoyed...I have actually considered emailing you guys to get more information about it. Anyways, I think I am too excitable, but I just wanted to say 'hi'...and if you have any info about your production that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear more :).
I love those old stories, too, Elana. I started with the Grimm plays theatrically because I think they're great stories, hadn't been seen in their true forms very often if at all, and could be marketed. I also wanted to help other writers, especially new writers, get their work up, so I had an open call for writers in LA and picked the best adaptations. We had a live band for the show, a great cast, and it went much better than I could have hoped.
We had a big cast, 18, but since we also had 10 stories by 9 writers, we had lots of roles. Each actor got to play 4-5 very different roles (we had a woman play a peasant, a queen, a magic horse, a scheming sister, and a tree), and writers could have a cast of 15 in their short plays, a rare happening.
I tended to go with the more unusual stories, and I didn't want people to clean them up or give them modern endings. The trick was keeping true to the old stories and still have them work for modern audiences.
The first show went so well critically (we were up for a bunch of awards and won two LA Weekly Awards), I had to do a second. And then that went well (great audiences and more award nominations), so I did a third. I got more into the more unsual, lesser known stories, like the ones the Grimms themselves cut out from their various editions, like both versions of "Slaugthering." Seeing an audience watch that was amazing. I also wrote up some background on the Grimms and dramatized it. I also wrote up "Death of the Little Hen," a personal favorite where 20 animals die in the course of a rescue that ultimately fails.
Oh, that's so awesome! I'm getting way too excited about this. I have a lot of random questions, just because I'm curious...because you had different playwrights working on different stories, did you find such a medley of styles to be problematic? Did you connect the stories, or just find them to be thematically unified enough as they were? Did your playwrights often modernize the stories, or even align themselves with a particular period? That's also great that you got to work with so many actors. I ended up only having a six person cast (small college-I had enough trouble getting all of 6 people to show up to rehearsals regularly, I can't even imagine how I would've managed 18!), but there would be definite advantages to having a large cast--particularly being able to explore the incredible musicality of the stories. They lend themselves so well to chanting and chorus-style work (as in, Greek chorus, not Broadway chorus...but that could be interesting, too). Sorry for bombarding you with questions!
Oh, but I have one more, haha...I vaguely recall reading on your website that you had one story that was about the Brothers Grimm themselves. I may be making this up, but if I'm not, would you mind telling me more about that? The play that I'm writing right now (tentatively titled "Godfather Death," go figure) is inspired by the lives of the Brothers Grimm (whatever that means), and it might help me to see/hear/read how other people handled doing that. My play is sort of muddled right now (I'm halfway through and I keep changing the story that I'm telling...I think it's just overwhelming how rife with possibility my topic is)...so I take inspiration where I can get it.
Wow, sorry for rambling so much. Be careful when you offer up information to a fairy-tale/theatre-obsessed college student, eh? Feel free to ignore some of my questions if it's too much like being placed in front of a firing squad...
One last thing (I promise), isn't the "Death of the Hen" wonderful?? I also had that one in my play...any story that ends "and then they were all dead" is fantastic in my book. I guess I'm a little morbid :). Another great one was "The Little Mouse and the Little Sausage"...so dreadful.
I love the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage. We did that one, too, and the bit where the Mouse dies is a favorite of mine. I guess I like a bit of a dark story, too. :)
And I think Godfather Death is one of the greatest stories ever told. That ending is incredible, and the set up is great, too where a man who has too many children asks God, the Devil, and Death himself to be his child's Godfather. Guess which one he picks? :)
We did that one as well. Amazing, powerful tale. Have you checked out Bearskin? That's another terrific story that works for a modern audience.
For our show, we had 10 plays ranging from a few minutes to 25, and their styles did vary widely. Each had a different writer and director. We had songs, dances, straight dramas, dark pieces, and funny comedies. That was one of my favorite parts about the show. It had something of everything, and that made the evening really varied for me and the audience. We could go from a very dark tale like Wilful Child (where God kills a child -- Grimm's story, not mine) to a strange, fun tale like the Turnip, where brothers duel over a very large turnip. We had one actress get raves over her playing a turnip, something I think that still amuses and embarrasses her. ;)
We did generally stick to period settings (I wanted to keep an authentic feel to the stories) and I have a no English accent rule. :)
People tend to go to English (and at times, not well) whenever doing period pieces, and I hate fake, bad accents. In any case, these were German people in these stories.
In terms of the Brothers Grimm stories, I always tried to put some stuff in about folk tales in general or the Grimms in particular. One years I wrote a short play telling the 2000 year history of Cinderella in five minutes. The third year I wrote a mother telling these strange stories to a little girl as a linking device.
In the second year, I wanted to use the Brothers themselves to bring up some of their work. Another writer wrote a terrific piece incorporating the Brothers into "Death's Messengers." They were meeting with the man who could not die in that tale to get his story. So I used the same actors he did playing Jacob and Wilhelm in other places, too. I took some of the material from their own dedication to the book. Did you check that out?
So how did your show go? And how's the writing going? I hope we're not boring folks with our trip down lore lane. And do you remember a story about a man who is on a boat journey with his bride who's came back from the dead? I think it's one of the stories the Brothers cut out the collection themselves. And now it's bugging me that I can't remember the name of the story. :)
my kids love the story about the wolf that ate the seven... kids. that's goat kids. and then when the wolf is sleeping, the mom cuts the stomach open, replaces rocks for the kids, and then the wolf falls down a well and drowns.
I did "The Willful Child" as well! Although in my version of the stories, it was called "The Stubborn Child." The "Lord" ended up being an ape in this one. I was actually very pleased with my production, it came out much better than I could have hoped. I ended up making a throughline in the stories by taking the character "Poor Boy" from "The Golden Key" (probably my all-time fave Bros Grimm tale...very short & sweet, but really captures the spirit of the Grimms, in my opinion) and having him discover a treasure chest & open it up...sort of Alice-in-Wonderland-ish, but more twisted. He was silent for most of the play (until the end), but interacted (or perhaps I should say "was interacted with" by the other characters) w/ the stories throughout. I made God into a character as well, and started out with light, silly, happily-ever-after stories, but had them devolve into twisted, nightmarish ones (culminating in "The Little Mouse and the Little Sausage," which was chanted violently in unison while it was acted out by the chorus, and "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering"). As the stories got darker, God became more of an agent in propelling the action, until she finally narrated "Children Played at Slaughtering" before becoming the queen in "The Robber and His Sons." It was all very creepy and came together really well, especially because the space we used (my school chapel) allowed for some really cool stuff--like having God enter through the double doors at the back wearing a large black robe and walk slowly down the center aisle to the stage, and having "The Life Span" narrated in the dark from various places in the room. Sorry for rambling, I'm just getting so nostalgic! I guess I sort of hijacked your intro thread, haha.
Oh yeah, Leon, "The Wolf and the Seven Kids" is a great story as well. And I'm not sure what the story is that you're (George) talking about, although it sort of reminds me of the story with Orpheus and Euridice from Ovid's "Metamorphoses". There's an amazing website-you should be able to find it if you google 'surlalune' or even "fairy tales"--that has a message board with TONS of helpful, knowledgeable people on it. I'm sure if you posted the description of the story, you'd get an answer within a few hours.
Leon, my favorite part of all this is that the stories are in a book subtitled "Nursery and Household Tales." But the Grimms knew what they were doing -- they wanted the raw tales of the people. Then they got so much grief about it that they cleaned up their own work and it became much more successful. Selling out, Bavarian style? :)
We actually played around with that rewriting in some staged tales. In the earliest verion of Grimms' Rapunzel, the witch finds out her daugther's been secretly using her hair to see a Prince because she gets pregnant. That later gets cleaned up to be the witch fnding out because Rapunzel blurts it out that the her mother is harder to haul up than her man. In early versions of her tale, Snow White is attacked by her natural mother. That's later softened to be her step-mother. Other hard stories, like Slaughtering, were just cut.
Elana, your play sounds really fun. Are you trying to get it up again? Actually, that could be a whole new thread -- sometimes, it's trickier getting the second show up than the first. :)
Boy, looks those Grimm guys had it almost as grim as a twenty-first century playwright. Everyone's an editor.
I wondered if you have uncovered any evidence of Native American influence on any of the tales. Long before and during colonization stories very similar to some of the Grimm animal tales were passed down by Indian story tellers. Some of the them were compiled and published in the eighteenth century. I have an eighteenth century book full of tales.
That was one of my favorite parts about folk tales -- how they travel. The first version I found of Cinderella was from Ancient Egypt, and that was just a record of an earlier story. I acually used that in creating a multi-cultural version of Cinderella as part of our second show.
Re: Native American tales, there were some really interesting ones I read. Burnt Face stands out. They tended to vary a fair amount from the European versions, but you could still see the tales. Like the Prince became an Invisible Warrior in one Cinderella story. I don't know enough about the stories to know, but I always wondered how the stories from the Americas, Asia, and Europe influenced each other or if they developed independentally. That's Joseph Campbell work for you. :)
By the way, scenedreamer is a very cool moniker. :)