1:19 pm - Sat 12/6/03
Sat 12/06/03 (10:19 a.m.)
Two things I forgot to put in recent entries...
Regarding ER, something I forgot to mention is how much I hated the way they killed "Romano". I know he was "the bad guy" of the piece, but I still think the character–and the actor, for that matter–deserved better than a slapstick comedy sendoff (Suddenly the character became "Wile E. Coyote"; all we would have needed to complete the effect was for "Romano" to get out a little parasol a second before the helicopter fell on him).
And writing about my favorite commercials, I forgot the AT&T one, where the guy is having a miserable day on the road, and feels better when he calls his little girl at home (And I think it's a really effective visual that we see her as if she's sitting right next to him). I have a sentimental streak a mile wide, so the "emotional appeal" really works for me; the old phone commercials that emphasized "connection" were so much more effective than all the "We have the cheapest plan!"/ "No, we have the cheapest plan!" back-and-forth we get now (To my way of thinking, if you want to find out the facts about a service or product, you shouldn't be depending on commercials anyway).
(I also like a new commercial that's out, for Fruit of the Loom, that has the "Fruit Guys" at a fashion show, trying to deal graciously with the fact that they've been pushed aside. I particularly like when one of them says "There's no ‘I' in ‘fruit'".)
Just finished watching the dvd Jane sent me of the Riverwalk Theatre's production of Dracula (This is the first time I'd seen a dvd of a community theatre show, and I have to admit, I was really jealous–I wish I had dvds of the shows I've done. But anyway...)
It took me days to slog through it. I just found it painfully boring. I couldn't get myself to watch more than a few moments at a time without shutting it off, so I could do something more entertaining...like lie in bed and stare at my ceiling.
You always lose something with a recording of a live community theatre performance. It's never the same as "being there", so you have to allow for it having probably been more enjoyable to watch live than the way you're seeing it. But still, it's hard for me to imagine sitting in the audience for that show and not thinking "Oh God, will it never end?".
I think part of the problem is inherent in the story. You have two victims ("Lucy" and "Mina") and two wimps ("Seward" and "Harker"), and they just don't make for very compelling drama. It's a major challenge, dramatically, not to have things be just one long stage wait for "Dracula" to make his appearance. And this production, in my opinion, failed miserably to meet that challenge.
But I did like Tim Lewis as "Renfied", though I initially thought he was going to be a disaster. He opens the show, and I thought that opening monologue was terrible, but I liked him in the scenes in the asylum; he was definitely game for playing the insanity, and provided what very little humor (And genuine creepiness) the show had.
I also liked Brad Rutledge as "Van Helsing", though he's so damned big he looked like he could have taken "Dracula" over his knee and snapped him like a twig, which throws things out-of-whack (I think you've got a big problem if your "hero" looks more physically imposing than your "monster").
And there you are, with only a few moments of entertainment amidst the tedium, waiting for the appearance of The Big Man himself...and he turns out to be a huge dud.
I don't remember the guy's name–Brian somebody?–but he didn't have the voice, the bearing, or the anything else for "Dracula" (And why didn't they cover up his bald spot, for God sakes? "Dracula" does not suffer from male pattern baldness!). He wasn't regal, he wasn't menacing, he wasn't sexy, and he certainly wasn't a match for Rutledge's "Van Helsing".
And I bet you think you know where I'm going with this–"If I had been "Dracula", the show would have been much better..."–but you would be wrong...sort of.
I would have needed to lose weight to be "Dracula"–I don't associate "The Count" with "middle-aged spread"--and I've got more of a "baldness issue" than their guy they had, so you would had needed to work that out as well. Basically, I may not look as much like "Dracula" as their guy (Though the fu-manchu "stash" and sideburns were distracting), but in terms of the voice, the bearing, the air of authority and menace and what-have-you, I would have mopped the floor with him.
But I don't think I would have made enough of a difference to have made this production worth seeing. It was dull, and looked cheap, and the action was ridiculously staged. I think Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee would have been swimming upstream to make this production work.
I think one reason I was as disappointed as I was with the production–Beyond the fact that, for some twenty years in Lansing, I always wanted to play "Dracula"–was that they were hyping it as being more "bloody" and "adult" than typical community-theatre fare, and it was pretty definitively not (Far from being sexy, Amy H.–"Lucy"–looked like a man in drag in the early scenes). And I should have known better–Ken Beachler (the director) is way too "tasteful" to mount a production of Dracula that would have lived up to the "bloody"/ "sexy" hype.
I have almost a phobia about reading other people's writing. When someone I know wants me to read their poem, their story, their play, whatever it is, I always feel a sense of dread; basically, I'm afraid it's going to suck, and I'll be left trying to find the nugget of gold in the pile of crap (I really don't like to lie, but by the same token, I don't like to hurt people's feelings).
So when I recently had occasion to read both Kevin's expanded version of his play Trunk, and John C's short story ("Burning Bridges", or "Crossing Bridges", or something to that effect), I felt some trepidation.
With Kevin, I had already read the one-act version of Trunk and enjoyed it, so my only concern was that he had somehow "gone too far", taking a good idea and beating it to death. I didn't want to have to tell him "I really think you should have kept it as a one act", because I know nobody really wants to hear that about something they just sweated over for God knows how long.
Fortunately, I didn't have to; I thought the expanded Trunk was a lot of fun (I won't bore you by reciting the plot; basically, it's a series of mini one-acts centered around the title item of furniture) It was fun enough that I said, in all honesty, that I wish I were there so I could be in it (And as much as I like Kevin, I wouldn't blow smoke up his ass about something like that).
I've read other things of Kevin's–poems, recently a short story–and from what I've read, I think playwriting is his forte. I think he writes dialogue particularly well, and feel like maybe he's found his "strong suit" here.
With John C., I hadn't read anything he'd written before, so I was doubly concerned (I wonder why I feel such pressure in this circumstance...?). And it didn't help that when I glanced over the first couple pages--while still at work--I found the writing really clunky.
I took it home over my weekend, but didn't get around to reading it until it was almost time to go back to work yesterday.
And while I still found his writing style very stilted and wordy, I was impressed when the story took some "left turns" that left me not knowing what was going to happen next (And I appreciate that, because I feel like the more I've read and seen in my life, the harder it becomes to pull anything over on me. But I may be giving myself more credit than I deserve in that department).
When I read other people's writing, I almost always feel like the biggest "issue" is not so much the plot or characters, but the writing itself.
Here's where I think people go wrong:
1. I know I do it in here, and after over 20 years of keeping a journal, so I think it's a natural tendency–Using too many words.
I just finished an essay by Mark Twain called "Cooper's Prose Style", which is a very astute (And scathing) commentary on James Fennimore Cooper and Last Of The Mohicans.
You should read it if you ever get a chance, but what Twain basically says is "If you have something simple to say, say it simply". Not every sentence is of equal importance.
Sounds sort of common-sensical, doesn't it? But apparently, it's really not.
2. Being too enamored of description. Maybe this is just my personal taste, or maybe it's a sign of the times we live in, but when someone goes on for ten pages about what the heroine's bedroom looks like, I get bored and antsy. I want you to tell me what I need to know about the room, let me fill in the rest, and then move on with the story.
3. Having a tin ear for how people talk.
And there's a particular thing that always jumps out at me–Writers who have modern-day characters speaking "The King's English" as if they wouldn't know the meaning of the word "contraction".
Well, the time's gotten away from me...I may take this up again at some point, or I may not, but Jimmy needs a little sack-time before work.
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