Monday, September 12, 2005

I've always been partial to the theat-ah

Well, it's official. I'm now a professional playwright for radio AND STAGE! That's "the theat-ah" for those of us "in the biz." I just won a cash prize and a 12" granite obelisk for Best Comedy in the first ever Frank Basile Emerging Playwright Awards at the Indiana Theatre Works conference (organized by the Indiana Theatre Association) this past weekend. Believe it or not, I actually wanted that award more than I wanted Best Overall Play and the $1000 award.

I was just overwhelmed by the entire weekend. I met some amazing actors and playwrights, including Rita Kahn, who has had plays produced all over the world (I mean, if you had to name one of the hugest playwrights from Indiana, she's IT!) As I talked with the six other playwrights, I kept thinking "What the hell am I doing here? These are all bigshot playwrights. I'm just some radio hack who had to ask his wife about how to write stage directions." I mean, everyone else there knew all about different plays and famous playwrights, and knew that it was spelled t-h-e-a-t-R-E. I thought Samuel Beckett was the guy in the coonskin cap who fought at the Alamo.

There were even actors there to workshop the play (that's when they do a few rehearsals and read/act directly from the scripts). The actors rehearsed all weekend with a director there to . . . well, direct, and I got to watch. My director, George Maslankowski, was amazing, and really pulled great performances from the actors. George and I clicked on everything (he even recognized its origins as a radio play, which is where it started), and we were both thinking the same thing on several different issues. And as I listened to "my" actors during rehearsal, I kept thinking to myself: "Jeez, this play is SO much better than the one I wrote."

I even acted in another play, an absurdist comedy called "The Ditch," by Michael Smith of Muncie. Michael's two characters, Jocko and Balthazar were well-known to several of the ITA members, as they have either starred in or directed some of Michael's short plays with J & B. Of course, after that experience, I remember why I became a writer and not an actor -- I suck as an actor. As everyone referred to Michael as the "anti-Beckett," and spoke about his work with some of the other lofty names in theat-ah. I thought for sure I was cooked, because Michael's 10 minute short was hilarous, despite my work in it.

So when they called my name for the Best Comedy Award, I could barely see to make my way down to the front from my seat, because my eyes were suddenly misty. The blood rushed to my head, and I kept thinking "wow, I really AM funny." I clutched the award in my hand and talked with people for 30 minutes afterward. It never got heavy, my arm never got tired, and I didn't set it down for anything.

So now I'm going to revise the play a bit and send it off to one of the theatre professors at my alma mater, Ball State University, to see if they would put it on as a student production. I mean, it's only fair, considering all 8 characters were inspired by faculty members there.

I'm still on a major high from the weekend, and I think I'm going to start writing more scripts now. My wife keeps bugging me to try television, which doesn't seem nearly as hard as it did a week ago. Maybe I will. Hey, now that I'm the funniest playwright in Indiana, I have a 1 in 50 shot at getting something on TV, right?

Monday, September 05, 2005

It's in my raccoon wounds!!!

As a humor writer, I'm constantly looking for new material for a column EVERYWHERE. Any funny situation, story, or even just a phrase becomes fair game. I once created an entire column based on two words I heard, and created a 30 minute radio play just so I could create a joke around the line "Dee Butler did it."

However, last week, I was hard pressed to come up with something in spite of having the grossest day of my 8 years of fatherhood. I was holding my 2-year-old son because he was whining that "I growed up in my tummy." I had no idea what he was talking about, so I held him and patted his back.

Big mistake.

This caused him to burp, and then half a second later, to throw up his entire dinner and the 8 ounces of juice he had just drunk 20 minutes earlier. This wasn't just a little spit up. This was a stomach's-entire-contents-hey-when-did-I-have-corn? blowout.

My first thought was the line from the Family Guy episode where the Griffin family enters the Witness Protection Program and goes south: "Oh God. It's everywhere. It's in my raccoon wounds!"

I spent 30 minutes cleaning up my son, me, the carpet, and the desk chair I had been sitting in. I was in the foulest, most grossed out mood I've been in for years. My son, on the other hand, says very happily, "Daddy, I all better now."

Good, son. It is, after all, all about you.

But I can't do a column about it. It would be too embarrassing for my son, and I try to keep some of the more personal aspects of my life out of my column.

So I blogged about it instead!

Luckily, I'm about 4 weeks ahead on my columns, so I'm not lacking for a topic. At least not yet. Maybe I'll feel differently about it when I'm stuck for a topic 2 hours before my deadline. . .