Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Not Your Mother, It's a Man, Baby!

I just wrapped up a draft of a television pilot script I’ve been developing (read: “in own mind”) for the last few months. Without giving too much away, it takes place in the mid-1970s and deals with professional sports. Great soil for a show: drugs, race, money… great drama. Only one problem: no women.

The way the story developed – and it developed as a strong, multi-character ensemble – I became keenly aware that one of the drawbacks of trying to be authentic in portraying a boy’s world in what was more of a boy’s era than today is the difficulty of finding a place for strong female characters, especially in a pilot where so much focus is just setting up the world – where so much could be developed down the line in that world.

Now, let’s be clear. I have no interest in creating a show driven entirely by male characters. But, in portraying a world that – at least at first gloss – is driven entirely by male characters, I still want the world I create to be authentic. There were plenty of female characters in the first draft of this pilot and I could see many of them developing into strong characters. The problem is that, in a pilot, the suggestion of development has to be there, sure, but there also has to be something already there (since a pilot is generally only ever going to be just a pilot, not a series).

Take Mad Men and its pilot. It also takes place in a different era, in a more male-centric arena, but it’s been able to introduce many fantastic, strong female roles. But what do we get in the pilot? We don’t get Betty yet. We don’t see Don’s home life until the very last scene. We get Joan and Peggy, so there is the hint that they will show us this world from a female perspective – from the savvy, sexy veteran of the gender game and the shy, homlier newbie. Structurally, these characters serve the pilot extremely well, but I’m putting a lot of weight back onto those characters, I think, because of how they end up developing and serving the show. I don’t know if there’s anything beyond a suggestion of that in the pilot and I might only be reading that suggestion in because I know how that it pans out. I think, if the pilot were a one-off, they could easily be seen in the “women in traditional roles” characters, secretaries in a male-driven world.


But here’s where Matthew Weiner made a very smart play. Along with the cigarette account storyline (men dealing with men), he introduces Rachel Menken, the daughter of a long-time department store owner, who wants Sterling-Cooper to modernize their image. She’s an immediate foil and love/sex interest for Don Draper and she seems perfectly authentic – progressive, but believable for 1960. She’s smart enough to not immediately succumb to Don Draper, which frustrates our protagonist, and becomes the resonant suggestion that this show will find room for strong female characters.

So, I looked back at my story. It works (I think). It works fine the way it is. But if I want to portray a world that’s representative of the depth of complexity that is the core of every person, then I’m going to have to tweak my representation of this world. The strongest choice that didn’t involve blowing up the script and redeveloping it with this in mind (which, most likely, would not lead to the greatest end product) was to change the owner of the sports team from a man to a woman. This forced a lot of things in a lot of scenes to change, but it also worked in the same way that Rachel Menken worked in the Mad Men pilot. Marge Schott bought a minority ownership stake in the Cincinnati Reds in 1981, not so far away from the mid-70s of this story. It would be a little progressive for this era, but not so much that it would create a big believability disconnect. In fact, it would likely produce more interesting relationships than keeping the owner a man.

Now, I’m not breaking any big news by announcing that there are places for strong female roles in traditionally male-centric worlds – and I’m not trying to. But sometimes the tension (or even the perceived tension) between authenticity and painting using the whole human pallet can be a challenge. This was just my way in on this one particular project. And there are plenty of other ways in.  There are just... ways in.

With a full human pallet, I will proceed to paint some happy little trees.

- Robert Attenweiler

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

That Weird Sense of Clarity

The great Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami never intended to be a writer. When he graduated from college, he took out a loan and started a jazz club. The club was a great success. He ran it for 10 years.
One night he was at a baseball game. An American player named Dave Hilton was up to bat. Hilton hit a ball deep into the outfield (it would end up being a double). As the ball sailed through the air, a thought, clear and unadorned, came into Murakami’s head – “I’m going to write a novel.”

He did, a novella called Hear the Wind Sing. It won a prestigious writer’s prize. His second novel was also a success, so he sold his jazz club in order to write full time. More than a dozen books later, with sales in the millions, translated into dozens of languages, Murakami is regularly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

A few weeks ago a somewhat lesser writer (me) was sitting at his writing desk in the basement. Sunlight was pouring in through the small window. My son was napping. I had two unclaimed hours ahead of me. It was time to start work on a new version of the play I’m writing for the Blue Coyote Commission Project.
Some ideas had been swimming around for a while, but thusfar I’d been unable to start the actual writing. That day appeared to be no different. I sat there, staring at the screen. I thought of a few things I could write, but nothing felt compelling.

I picked up my book and started to read. I always have a book with me when I write. Reading relaxes me, and lets me stay focused on words without having to focus the words I actually have to write. Barry Bonds said hitting is all about relaxed concentration, and that’s the place I try to find when writing.

As I was reading, I started to think about a story a friend had told me the day before. The subject of the story was so directly applicable to the subject of my Blue Coyote play that I knew I would use it in some way. What I didn’t know was how I would integrate it into the other things I wanted to write.Just to get myself going, I started to write a new scene, completely spontaneously, based loosely on that story.
That’s when it started. 

As soon as I began writing, these “characters” started talking to each other. I put “characters” in quotes because I had no idea who these people were. They didn’t have names. They did, however, have a relationship, though not one I had given any conscious thought to. The rhythms of their speech, their in-jokes and points of contention, came out effortlessly. It was like I was taking dictation.

Then something even more extraordinary happened. As I was taking down what these people said to each other, vistas rolled out in front of me. I could see it all with crystalline clarity. Everything I wanted to talk about in this play fit effortlessly into this scene I had begun to write. This wasn’t a scene in my new play. It was my new play.

To give some background - I have spent months trying to write this play. I wrote fifty pages that were read publically and was deeply disappointed by the result. I decided to quit the commission, slowly came back to the idea of writing a new play, procrastinated for more months, and then, all of a sudden, here it was. A two-person play, in real time, on a single late night in an apartment in Queens. 

I’ve never written a two person play. I’ve never written a play that takes place in real time (a full-length, anyway). It didn’t matter. This is the play that presented itself. This is the play I have to write.

I suppose that would be called a “Eureka!” moment, but I didn’t feel like shouting. It was much more mundane, though no less pleasurable for its simplicity. It was more like a, “Huh. Ok. I guess I’ll do that” moment. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was as clear as anything I’ve ever felt.

I can’t know for sure, but I suspect that’s what Murakami felt that day at the baseball stadium. Not a lightning bolt. No need to shout. Just clarity.

“Huh. Ok. I guess I’ll do that”.

Grace doesn’t always feel like we think it will.

- John Yearley

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Who Wrote This?

Every writer can tell a version of this story:

For one reason or another, you are called upon to look at some of your old work. As you go through it, a disquieting feeling arises. Lines are unfamiliar. You look at passages and can no longer remember writing them. The decisions that went into each and every word, decisions that lived in the forefront of your consciousness for months, or even years, are gone like vapor. There is a foreign quality to the whole project. You find yourself asking questions: What was the impetus for this scene? Where did these characters come from? In the end, it all crystalizes into a single, almost existential query:

Who wrote this?

You wrote it. You know that. And yet…it’s different now. The work exists apart from you. Maybe it would be more to the point to say that, now, it simply exists. It is no longer a-thing-becoming. It is a thing.

It is usually impossible to know when this transition happens for me, but not this time. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I know I finished a draft of my latest play, Another Girl, on August 2nd, 2011. On May 27th, 2012 I went back to look at a scene. Somewhere in those 290 days, Another Girl had gone from being “my play” to being “a play that I happen to have written.”

The transition, however organic, comes with difficulties. The reason I went back to look at my play had to do with a conversation my agent had with a theatre’s Artistic Director. This AD really liked Another Girl, but was taken aback by the language in a particular scene. I don’t usually concern myself too much with problems like that (my work isn’t for everyone, not every theatre is right for my work), but several people I respect had spoken very highly of this woman. She has programmed adventurous work in the past. It was also the third time I had heard a complaint about this scene. I started to wonder - maybe I had missed something. I don’t mind shocking people, but I don’t want shock to be an end in itself. At the very least, it seemed to be worth my while to take a look.

My first response was horror. Not at the scene, but at the unfamiliarity of the whole piece, described above. Once I became acclimated, I started to see the play with new eyes. This is both good and bad. It is good to have perspective, but you don’t want to do too much when you are cut off from the inspiration that drove you to write in the first place. The scene in question, though, was a short one. I found I didn’t need to fully re-immerse myself in the world of the play to look at it critically.

It looked different to me. Part of it was probably the criticism I had heard, but I didn’t feel defensive. I don’t have a  problem disregarding unhelpful notes, but I didn’t feel like disregarding this. I still liked the scene as it was, but also saw the criticism was not without merit. I saw that the criticism wasn’t caused by prudishness, or at least that wasn’t the only cause. Looked at in a different light, I saw that the pathos of the scene might be compromised by the extremity of some of the language.

So I wrote a different version. I was actually surprised by how little I had to change. The arc of the scene, the humor of it, was fundamentally the same. It might even be better now.

I’m not sure yet. I want to live with the change awhile before deciding if I want to keep it. But it has been an adventure. You never know what’s going to come up when you go back to look at old work.

- John Yearley

Friday, May 25, 2012


I don’t know if you do the Twitter. I assume you do – or some of you, at least – many of you. It can be fun. I can see what my favorite professional athletes say to people who aren’t me, most of whom I don’t know. Friends, probably. Business partners. Maybe. They say things like “@notgorevidal Totally… totally. See you around. #RockinDowntown” That’s some good stuff right there. And not just the part where we get to know that this guy – we’ll call him pro ball player @RealDarnellValentine (20 bucks to the first person who can tell me who the real Darnell Valentine is … which is to say who Darnell Valentine is) – believes something tweeted at him by his buddy @notgorevidal (who I’m pretty sure is, in fact, not Gore Vidal) in its totality and that they plan to see each other soon or, barring that, at least @RealDarnellValentine is the type of guy who is open to seeing this friend or acquaintance again, even if circumstances never allow that meeting to occur. @RealDarnellValentine believes in pleasantries, as many of us do. So, besides clearly laying our psychologies bare for the entire internet to see (as our tweets will get retweeted and retweeted, ad infinitum ... clearly), we are left with that spec of real invention when it comes to writing for the Twitter. It’s not the 140-character count. That tends to lead to awkward syntax and words spelled with numbers and not enough space to include all those ellipses … I love to … put into … my writing. No, the real chance for writing invention in this forum is that blurred-together phrase following what I always called the “number sign.” Ladies and Gentlemen, the hashtag. Recently, I took on a freelance job that required me writing quite a bit of copy that blah, blah, blah, blah … (fast forward) … and the company (which shall remain nameless) is obsessed with clever hashtags as part of this copy. My brain now annoyingly creates hashtags for things I see while I’m waiting for the subway, having a conversation or, recently (and most unfortunately), while sleeping. The idea of the hashtag is simple. When I tweet something about, say, a new restaurant I just ate at and I follow it with a hashtag, say, #NewRestaurantsNYC, and other people do the same thing, all the tweets and the people tweeting about those things can be found and connected and so forth (I never said I was good at explaining this stuff…). So, you have an AP (actual purpose) hashtag. Then you have FBIART (funny because it’s all run together) and I think a good FBIART is an honest-to-god literary accomplishment. They’re the epigrams of the modern world. They contextualize the tweet and rely on a flexibility and play with language to really stand out. It's the hashtag, not however many characters come before it, that can be something new, if only because of the bizarre rules that define it. Right now, two of the top trending hashtags on Twitter are #schoolmemories (snooooore … I’d have gone with #RememberMeAsIWas … ah, still not even that great) and #YouGettinPunchedIf which, while a little obvious, has its possibilities. Remember, most hashtags are as unexceptional as most things. But some, just like with some of most things, can be freakin’ exciting as hell. (clears throat) So … um … in conclusion… words can still be fun? Sure. I’ll take that as the lesson. FBIART. Excuse me...

- Robert Attenweiler

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On "Death of a Salesman"

I once heard a talk by the Artistic Director of one of the country’s largest and most respected children’s theatres. One of the great benefits of writing for kids, he said, was the response of the audience. “For children,” he said, “theatre is not an aesthetic experience. It’s just an experience.” 

Those words came to mind after I saw the Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman last month. However great most theatrical experiences are – thrilling or funny or heartbreaking – they usually are, for me, aesthetic experiences. I have an amazing time, leave the theatre elated, and relish it for days afterward. This production of Death of a Salesman, however, felt qualitatively different. It wasn’t like I’d seen something. It was like something had happened to me.

It’s a difficult phenomenon to explain. I think I have failed, for the most part, when describing it to my friends. I attempt to relay the depth of the experience through anecdote, mentioning the two times I had to make a conscious effort to pull myself together so as to not completely dissolve in tears. I don’t think what I say has much impact. Superlatives are thrown around so casually these days (“AMAZING!” “INCREDIBLE!  “BRILLIANT!” “GENIUS!” ) it is nearly impossible to cut through the fog when something truly singular comes along. 

The closest I can get, I suppose, is to simply relate what I felt like leaving the play. It was late on St. Patrick’s Day, my least favorite day of the year in New York City. As I walked from the theater to Penn Station with my wife and my mother, we dodged pools of vomit, loutish men screeching at cowering women, and every other variety of misery that alcohol can inflict on humanity. We barely said a word. There was a kind of shocked silence between us. It’s what happens when experience exceeds the ability to describe it.

The source of the production’s greatness is manifold, but I think top kudos go to Mike Nichols. Until I saw this, I had been of the thought that Nichols has been trading on past glory for years. While his accomplishments are unassailable (The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), the number of completely anonymous projects he has put his name on in the last 20 years (Closer, Wolf, Regarding Henry) is legion. 

Let me take this opportunity to remove my foot from my mouth and officially withdraw any statements I may have made questioning Mr. Nichols’ talent. I don’t pretend to know what he did to achieve what he achieved in this production of Salesman, but he somehow got the naked, bleeding, awful, compassionate heart of the play out on to that stage. It’s an astonishing piece of work. 

The actors are amazing as well. Linda Emond is, as always, extraordinary. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is truly magnificent in the iconic lead role. 

I make no bones about my partisanship for Hoffman. I have seen him onstage and onscreen, in large roles and small, in comedy and drama, for almost 20 years. He is the best I have ever seen. But my particular affection and admiration for him come not just from his virtuoso talent, or the marvelous way he has managed his career. There is something incredibly generous about Philip Seymour Hoffman as an actor. Some actors are amazing craftspeople, but they keep  you at a slight, almost unnoticeable remove. Hoffman is guileless. Seeing him play Willy is not watching a Great Actor play a Great Role. Instead, you watch a hapless, somewhat dim man make mistake after mistake and completely destroy his life. People offer him help but he cannot take it. In the end all he really wants is his son’s love. When Willy says, just before killing himself, “Biff likes me! Isn’t that a remarkable thing?” it is almost too much to bear.

I won’t go on at any greater length for fear of becoming one of those overpraisers I mentioned earlier. I will just say what should be the only line of any review of this show – GO SEE IT. You can’t know what you’re missing if you don’t.

- John Yearley

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good Advice From The Guy Who Just Dumped You

I wanted to drop in a block quote from my recent reading - Christian Parker's article, "The Art of the Breakup" at The article, it seems to me, is a call for clearer communication between playwrights and the literary managers at institutional theaters. I recommend a full read, but these lines caught my attention:
"I am so tired of having lunches, drinks, and meetings with playwrights who cannot decipher the messages they are getting from theaters, and show me copies of endlessly nit-picky and detailed letters offering critical dramaturgical feedback from people they don’t know, and who, in most cases presumably don’t like their work enough to advance it. Playwrights need to solicit and accept feedback only from those people that they respect, trust, and rely on.
I know I've been a party to similar exchanges from the literary manager's side, although that isn't my title. I will confess that there were times when I declined to work on a play because we didn't have the resources to produce it, and I will allow that there were other instances when a lack of resources was a convenient excuse for declining a play I didn't really believe in.  To console myself for causing a disappointment, I may have offered some suggestions.  The cloud of confusion that Parker describes is generally the result.

Parker wishes these professional disappointments could be like the best possible romantic disappointments: "Rejections," he writes, "as in 'real life,' should be gracious, clean, and quick. Of course, I don't remember any disappointments like that from my real life.  What a delightful idea, though!

Commission playwrights: do you have any stories to share about the mixed messages and unwanted advice you've received when shopping your plays?

- Kyle Ancowitz

Friday, April 20, 2012

Magic/Bird and the Myth of the "New Theater Audience"

I had the opportunity to see Magic/Bird on Broadway last week and I'm still shaking my head a little.

I'm not even shaking my head at the show so much - which I like just a tiny bit more than I thought I would or knew I should (though I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for much of what was enjoyable about the show, even as I recognize that "liking" something means very little to any project's artistic aspirations, had artistic aspirations rated highly enough to have even been given a schwag bag at this particular party).

I'm not against popular entertainments. I'm a sports fan, for god's sake. And I'm not entirely against empty popular entertainments. I'm a Cleveland sports fan, for god's sake. But there does seem to be some back-patting on the part of the show's producers about how they are attracting "non-traditional" fans to the theater.

Now, I will admit that the crowd at the show I saw was hands-down the most diverse crowd I've ever seen at a play. But, those people who will go see Magic/Bird will very likely not rush out to see Venus In Fur the following weekend because - you know, that theater thing's got something interesting going on.

These "new theater goers" then are little more than dollar signs invented by the producers. They have figured out a way to get people to the theater who wouldn't normally go - but they are not people who will likely go back - and the people who would normally go don't really see the point in this project so they won't go ... and it's a whole cycle that they hope can be sustained just long enough to justify itself.

So, bravo to the producers of Magic/Bird for figuring out a way to (possibly) make money. Good work. But let's call it that. Let's not call it theater.

Theater as we know, is about figuring out a way to (probably) lose money.

- Robert Attenweiler

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Draft 1 Done!

Ok, so after weeks of procrastinating… after a week of sleeping in four hour stretches, where I woke up at 4am with ideas of scenes, woke up two hours later realizing said ideas for scenes were garbage…writing and writing then cutting cutting cutting...

Last night I finally heard the first draft of my Blue Coyote commissioned play! Currently a full-length one act, still called HUNTERS AND THIEVES, the play was read by fellow writers at a weekly playwrights group I have been going to for well over a decade now (the Playwrights Unit at Ensemble Studio Theatre). We don’t use “real” actors, so the feel is very different than what it will be when BCTG finally has a reading of it, but incredibly useful. I both loved a lot of it… and heard and felt how much work there is ahead for this piece. It’s definitely a first draft. But I got totally jazzed hearing it. Good sign.

And thus today I sent Draft 1 to Gary, my liaison with the BCTG team. Nervous/excited to hear BCTG’s feedback and dig into a rewrite/reimagining.

In other news, last night I finally got a good night sleep.

- David Zelnik

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Riff on the Play I'm Writing

My Coyote Commission play is a spring play. I know it's a spring play because spring is here and I can't stop thinking about it. Spring is a minefield - the smell of mud, the feel of air chilled by the water and warmed by the sun, the giddiness of forsythias - everything pulls me down the rabbit hole.

My thoughts get jumbled and pile up. Things are difficult to sift through, they just accumulate in drifts. I don't want to let anything go and really all I want to do is to skip out before the bell rings, sneak to my car and drive off to the river with some bean burritos.

But this isn't high school, I don't have a car anymore and taco bell makes me sick.

My play is also a memory play. But I don't want anyone to know that. So don't tell anyone.

At the moment my play is a pile of fits and starts. It's laying there under the mulch - sprouting some early blooms, but those don't last long. I'm waiting for the annuals. Waiting for the leaves that can last a season, sniffing out the roots to ground it all.

Till then. I'm gathering all I can.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I’m back.

I’m back in rehearsal.

I’m never back in rehearsal.

I’m always just in rehearsal (except when I’m not) for the next project that I’m going to speed along to the stage – the producer-version of the father at a shotgun wedding – carefully keeping the script between my two barrels…

But, as of late last week, I’m back in rehearsal for my play “Our Greatest Year” (with S. Henkle) about one couple’s relationship and the 2007 Cleveland professional sports year.

I’m back because in late-March we’re taking the show, fittingly, to Cleveland for a limited run hosted by John Carroll University at the fantastic Dobama Theatre.

Woo-hoo, right? (not to be confused with Wahoo which is a troubling Cleveland thing in its own right…)

I wrote this play in 3 weeks. We rehearsed it for 2 and put it up for 4 performances last June.

Now, I’ve been living with it for nearly a year. We’ll have more rehearsal time than we did originally, as well as a comparable run.

We’re back.

My director, Anna Brenner, started the actors – and, consequently, me – by asking how their thoughts on the play, the characters, etc. had changed since our first foray.

As a writer – and I’ll just speak for myself – you always think you can tear down the whole script – or not.

So, I’m aware that the play’s got its flaws (…yeah, like if supreme awesomeness is a flaw…) but the nature of the play – it’s a blend of live stage action and projected motion comics – makes it a difficult revision (as the words can be changed and changed or not infinitely easier than the images).

With the writing, we can nip and tuck and tweak and recontextualize, but we pretty much need to go to war with the ammo we got. Returning to the show is, then, more complicated for me as the producer. In four weeks I’m taking two writers, two actors and a director to a city where I haven’t lived in fifteen years, know relatively few people and have (relatively) no clue who the theater-going community is or how to reach them (relatively).

So, I’m back in rehearsal thinking about audience. Not in the way that a writer thinks about an audience as the theoretical people who will be receiving this work, but the practical audience – the people who will be in the practical seats – my least favorite thing to think about when producing a show in NYC. I’m thinking about audience. Audience, audience, audience.

And it’s actually kinda fun…

In NY, I often have the feeling that I know every one of the 200-or-so people I have a fighting chance of getting to see my show. In fact, the fact that I know them is the primary reason I have a fighting chance to get them. That’s how independent stuff works here.

Cleveland – and this may be the single most shocking statement I will ever write – has certain advantages over NY. It has family, friends and family friends, many of whom have never had the chance to see the work we’ve been doing out here. There are the 200-or-so JCU students who will be encouraged/required to attend. But, beyond that, the audience question is wide-open.

There is no one yet who has refused to attend. There is no marketing strategy (yet) that has blown up in my face. There have yet to be modestly attended shows or lukewarm receptions (clearly the fault of them and not us) or thousands and thousands of dollars thrown with gusto from the nearest open window… Not. Just. Yet.

So, I’m back in rehearsal feeling, I guess, what one hopes one feels when one is back: I’m excited and hopeful … however suspiciously. I love the show and the cast and think we have a fighter’s chance of performing this for actual people. Hopefully many of them. Now, if only Bernie Kosar would return my emails requesting his attendance…

Hey – ho – way to go – Ohio.

You can learn more about this production at

- Robert Attenweiler

Monday, March 19, 2012


“Failure” is such a dirty word.

People in the arts talk a lot about bravery, about having the courage to follow your impulse no matter where it leads. What this means, in practical terms, is that you have to give yourself the right to fail. You have to accept failure, make friends with it.

Still, people don’t really talk much about failure. It’s considered rude, unsupportive.

I failed recently. I failed as a part of the project for which I am writing now. I failed in my first attempt at my Blue Coyote commission.

In December I brought 50 pages of a new play to be read for an invited group at the Dramatists Guild. We spent a very pleasant hour there hearing what I had written. There were good parts and bad, some laughs, some moving moments. When it was all over I heard many nice things, and soon after received many supportive emails and calls.

But it was a failure. Make no mistake about it. I failed.

No one said that to me, of course. I don’t think they were just being polite. I think they didn't say anything because the only person who could really know that I failed was me. Everyone who came to the reading saw the same mixed bag up there that I did, but only I knew the dispiriting truth – I had reached a dead end.

Others could easily have seen this likable mishmash as a promising start. I knew that it was over.

I kinda knew before the reading. I had been running out of gas for a while. I was hoping that something would happen in the reading to prove me wrong, or would appear that would show me the way I needed to go.

It didn’t.

is one to do in the face of failure? My first response was “Abandon ship!” I would call the Coyotes and tell them that I appreciated their support but my experiment was a failure and it was time to move on. I thought about that a lot in the first few weeks after the reading. The thought gave me great comfort.

I never did make that call, though. I wonder why. Was it stubbornness? Gratitude to the Coyotes? A sneaking suspicion that there actually was a play in all that mishegoss if I could just see my way clear to finding it?

Silently, without ever acknowledging it, I accepted that I would try again. Once decided, I had an impulse to jump right in. Pop open the hood and get to work. Fix everything! Save what I liked and toss the rest!

I didn’t do that. Some other impulse, a deeper impulse, told me that anything I tried to do right away would be Band Aids on a hemorrhage. So I suppressed that impulse. Instead I did…nothing.

Actually, that’s not true. I did do something. I thought. I daydreamed.

The first thing to appear was a monologue. Then a new opening scene. Then an idea for a closing scene. Then a new twist on one of the original characters that would make her much more interesting. And before I knew it, my brain was firing again.

Since then, the ideas have flowed freely. I have ideas for new scenes involving libertarians, ventriloquists, and sodomy (have I stumbled on a new title?). I don’t know if any of them will work, but we’re about to find out.

I cannot promise success. I haven’t the faintest idea if any of it will work. But what I have now is the one thing I absolutely cannot write without.

I’m a little excited.

- John Yearley

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Severe Clarity!

 “If criticism is meant to speak to the successful clarity of what was INTENDED, as Mr. Adamo suggests, what is the helpful way to speak of a work in process that is still brewing, still deciding what it is supposed to be?”  - Stephen Speights
The topic of constructive criticism is an excellent one.  I love Stephen’s post and the question he poses in it.  I’m also completely blown away by the phrase ‘severe clarity’ as a way to describe the aim of an artist.  I’ve never heard that before, but am now adding it to my bag of references as a reminder of what I’m after when things seem lost.

Readings are an invaluable part of the writing process for me, as they probably are for every playwright.  I had two in January for plays that are in two very different places.  One is finished and has had a production already, the other is the piece I’m working on for Blue Coyote, which is in the early, fifty-pages stage.  The two projects feed into each other plotwise, so it’s good fortune to have to work on them at the same time. 

The first play is in pretty good shape - it is a total and complete play.  A director and I are working on it together and the informal reading marked the real beginning of our collaborative process.  Going in, there was a section that didn’t feel quite right to me during the play’s production in 2011, and I knew I wanted to look at it during this reading.  The director had his questions too as this was the first time he was hearing it out loud.  We were lucky to have wonderful actors, some rehearsal and a great audience.  All in all, questions were answered and the director came away with some notes, four to be precise.  They took me forever to understand, but in the end were insightful and spot on.  I can… now hold on to your hats people… I can be very defensive when receiving notes.  It’s definitely much better than it was, but I tend to have a terrible “oh no” feeling right before, like perhaps it’s going to be a big battle or I’m really going to disagree or be upset.  I’ve had to learn how to really listen through my nerves and consistently seek to understand what’s being said to me.  In this particular case, I can see in hindsight (after reading Stephen’s post) that what the director was aiming for in his notes, and why I appreciated them so much, was to aid towards that ‘severe clarity’ of what’s intended.  His notes were constructive.

The second piece for the CCP is not a play yet.  The reading I had for it had no audience – just the actors and myself.  It was the first time it was going to be heard at all, which I find to be a very tender time.  At the earliest stages, such readings are for my ears only and not open to criticism.  It’s just a baby, after all.  Plus, my main question going in to these first-read-of-pages things is - does this suck or not?  Not suck to anyone else, but to me?  After getting over that hurdle, I can ask the great, smart actors who graciously read for me questions about this or that, if they got certain elements, do they want to know what happens, etc.  It offers me incredible clarity on what’s next, what works and doesn’t, a general sense of the gathering storm of a complete play. 

When I began writing the finished play mentioned earlier, I would attend a weekly actors group that invited writers to bring pages in they wanted heard.  I had done this for the first play I’d written and found it helpful, so it made sense to do the same with this one.  But the voice, the intention for that first play was very loud and strong right off the bat, so even though it was difficult to hear comments (I was just learning!), I could take them or leave them.  But the second play was different.  It didn’t start as sure as the first and it had an unconventional structure.  As a result, the un-moderated comments, hard to take to begin with, were not at all constructive.  They tended to be in the vein of what should be instead of what was, an ‘it’s not going to work if you do it this way’ type of thing.  And I remember reacting very, very badly.  Everyone involved meant well, but it became clear that if I was going to listen to my own voice in writing the play, there could be no outside voices for a time.  Not until it had a real shape, a real, solid intention.  So I stopped going to the class and asked actors to read for me when the need to hear it came.  And that play has ended up doing well for itself - I’m proud of it. 

So, if it’s still brewing, if I still don’t know quite what it is, there is no criticism that will be constructive.  It just ends up offending me, which is ridiculous.  Therefore I’ve found it best not to open up that part of the process.  There are a few trusted people who look at pages early on, but that’s it.  For me, criticism is only actually constructive once what is intended is firmly set.  Then it’s vital.

- Christine Whitley

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Beginnings are hard. Middles are hard. But endings are hard.

When something is good, a book, a play, anything, my usual thought, my subconscious drumbeat, is “please stay good, please stay good." There are just so many ways to start well, and – in my estimation – only one way good to finish: The ending should feel both unexpected and inevitable.

That is, I want to feel a gasp or surprise and pleasure...but when I look back over the play I should, for a moment, believe it couldn’t have ended any other way. It should fulfill some promise that has been made to me, but in a way I wouldn’t have thought of myself. All of which is to say, I don’t know how to end my play.

Cause again, they can feel like verdicts: so this is what actually happened. This is the author’s point of view on the characters, the ideas. If an ending is too pat, the play wafts away. But if it feels too opaque, it leaves me grumbly and cranky and unsatisfied.

There are some canonical plays that I would offer disappoint deeply at the end and everyone knows it (I’ll offer my nominations over drinks if you like). And there are plays that muddle along until the last 10 minutes, and only then become thrilling and thus become hits (again, ask me over booze).

But back to me and HUNTERS AND THIEVES. Like all plays in progress, I suppose I’ll just have to write and write and write different versions of the ending. Read one by reading the whole draft, then read the whole draft with a different version. Curl up in ball and throw all the pages out. Wait for a deadline and write another version. Do it badly. Rewrite. Hope that one day I have a shock of understanding and do it right.

- David Zellnik

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning to Fall in Love (with yourself) Again...

I'm in the process of preparing a four-year old script for publication.

The New York Theater Experience's IndieTheaterNow is publishing highlights of the FRIGID New York Festival's 5-year run to celebrate that anniversary and my 2007 play The Butterfield Tones is among those lights.

But how am I supposed to feel about this thing that I wrote five years ago and haven't touched since?

Should I find it precious? Antiquated? Dated? Beneath my current mastery of the dramatic arts? Should I be jealous of it? Should I hate it?

We've probably all felt some version of these things about old things that we've written and, probably, the conventional wisdom holds that I should feel something between the love and the hate ends of the spectrum. It's wrong to really like something that far behind me, isn't it?

But I really like this play.

It's not perfect, by any stretch. It's short. And it's, ultimately, an experiment. But it does some fun theatrical things that I haven't done since and reminds me of a time when, in many respects, I took myself less seriously. It's play is, perhaps, what I still like so much about it.

But what does this say about my going forward as a writer?

Well, the short answer is "everything is fine." It would really suck to look back on previous projects and think them amateurish and terrible, to not see what made me excited to be working on them when that's what I was working on.

And, I guess, that's the point. If I can still get the sniffles from the bug whose infestation led to Project X then I'm still in that same arena ... it's just now a more crowded arena filled now with more varied projects, more kinds of writing - but all things that are authentic to me.

Every word I put down is not precious - it is not gold (despite, very much, those exact claims in this blog) - but maintaining the general writing head-space from project-that-excites-me to project-that-excites-me is, I think, what, at the end of the day, will be the measure of that work to me.

Oh, and it's okay to like the work you've done, no matter how far removed. Go ahead and think that poem you wrote in the 4th grade contains some truly unique imagery. Secretly think that the short story you wrote in college has some of the better sentences written in the last-half of the 20th Century. Laugh at your own jokes.

Better that option than the other...

- Robert Attenweiler

Friday, February 10, 2012

Constructive Criticism

I was in the audience at two different work-in-progress presentations these past weeks. I’ll start with the second experience, as it helped me to pinpoint my feelings on the first.

THE ART OF THE ARIA was a master class led by the composer/librettist Mark Adamo. Working with a small group of hand-picked writers and musicians (friend and collaborator David Johnston among them), Mr. Adamo invited us to sit in as he, along with his students, critiqued the arias created for the class.

Mr. Adamo started with rules-of-the-road regarding their evaluating comments. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but what struck me most went something like this:

  1. Avoid using the phrase “I LIKED THIS”. Avoid “THAT DIDN’T WORK.” Something is SUCCESSFUL when something INTENDED OCCURS, and occurs with clarity. 
  2. In your critique, speak descriptively about what you SAW and HEARD, then let that lead to comments of what you experienced. Let your opinion about the work/scene/moment follow from how successfully the work expressed what was INTENDED. 
  3. The goal of the artist is SEVERE CLARITY. And the work should limit, rather than expand, the possibilities of its presentation. As the artist you guide us to what you want it to be.

These guidelines were revelatory to me, and made me wish I could have bent space and time to switch Mr. Adamo’s class with the invited staged reading I had attended a couple of weeks prior: John Yearley’s first fifty pages or so of CLEAR HISTORY, the script he is working on as part of the Coyote Commission Project.

John mentioned in introducing the event that what we were to hear/see was still unformed in its structure (there were a couple of scenes, in fact, that he simply had the actors read at the end, still not knowing where they should go, or if he’d even keep them), and indeterminate of tone (did he want this to be a romantic comedy, something more serious, or a combo of both? John didn’t yet know…). His introduction made clear that the script was not yet at a stage to be judged or critiqued.

Nonetheless, as one of the producers of the CCP, I took John up on his request for feedback, hoping that my impressions and comments would help him clarify where he wanted to go with CLEAR HISTORY. I saw it as my-end-of-the-deal to let him know what I thought.

So I wrote him an email, insisting that he discard, out-of-hand and immediately, any of my comments that seemed to miss the mark or that he disagreed with. Then I told him what I thought worked and what didn’t. I pointed to where the story surprised me, where I thought it would go, where I thought it SHOULD go.
He emailed a response the next day — prompt and appreciative — addressing my comments and offering his own about what the reading had revealed. He thanked me for my thoughts and assured me that they had helped to clarify for him several aspects of CLEAR HISTORY.

But…for all the warmth and respect of our exchange, it felt, in my gut, somehow inappropriate for me to have evaluated his still-forming work. It occurs to me that he may feel, and rightly so, the same way I feel when someone comments on my work when it is cooking — outwardly appreciative of someone’s well-intended comments, and inwardly peeved.

Of course I fail the artist when I reflect back to him or her information that is unhelpful—my personal taste. My job, instead, is to honestly reflect back to them whether or not what I have seen is what they want me to see—not to suggest a different direction in the plot, say, or a different setting, or different characteristics in the characters I’ve witnessed. In this, I now understand, I misapprehended my role in my notes to John.

If criticism is meant to speak to the successful clarity of what was INTENDED, as Mr. Adamo suggests, what is the helpful way to speak of a work in process that is still brewing, still deciding what it is supposed to be?

Given that public readings for works-in-progress seem destined to remain a part of the playwright’s process these days, I would love for the CCP participants, and any other playwrights out there, to comment on the lessons I took away from these two experiences as audience member / feedback giver. What kinds of observations are helpful to you, and what kinds of observations serve only to derail you and infuriate?

- Stephen Speights

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Soul Hungers for Beauty

I have a friend. It doesn’t matter what her name is. Let’s call her “Erma Duricko.”
Erma likes quotes. Lots and lots of quotes. She has quotes tagging the end of her emails. She posts them every day on Facebook. These quotes are usually of an inspirational nature. They are usually on the subject of how beauty and art and love conquer all.

I roll my eyes a lot around Erma. She encourages it. Truth be told, she loves it. We were at a conference together once when a student came up to tell me how Erma had encouraged her to look into her past lives to help her write her new play. I was about to explode in total exasperation when I looked up to see Erma hiding behind a potted plant, laughing her head off. She had set me up.

I was in a place. It doesn’t matter what place it was. Let’s call it “Montgomery, Alabama.”

I have it on good authority from a friend that there are lovely nooks and crannies to Montgomery. She spoke of eccentric farmer’s markets and creative yoga studios. I have no doubt that she told the truth. It was not, however, a truth that did much for a man charged with entertaining a 3 year old.

My experience of the town of Montgomery was different than my friend’s. I found the place to be horrendous, an endless flat expanse of concrete and chain stores and malls. Arid and soulless on a good day, it had been ravaged by the recession. Driving past the endless run of closed down strip malls, it was all I could do not to stick a gun in my mouth.

One night, with my son was asleep in the next room, I watched a movie. It was Steve McQueen’s Hunger, a 2008 film about the Irish hunger strikers. Netflix had sent it to me a while ago. I’d heard wonderful things about it, but the subject matter put me off. How many evenings do you do you say to yourself, “I’d like to watch someone starve themselves to death tonight”?

That night, I watched it. It was as bad as I feared. Worse. You see the deterioration of the body in horrifying detail: the festering sores, the incontinence, the mind slowly slipping off the rails. What happens to a body when it is denied food is that it essentially eats itself. It is an awful thing to witness.

The genius of Hunger, however, is that it is also beautiful. McQueen was a well-known visual artist before turning to film, and his mastery shows in every frame. However bleak the scene, he always frames and shoots it so that you can’t look away. Images from the film  a pair of bruised, bloody hands being washed in a basin, a shaken man smoking a cigarette alone in a snowstorm, the red sores of shoulder blades beginning to stick through skin in an otherwise pristine white room – are lodged in my mind. They may well be there for as long as I have a mind.

One image in particular stuck out. There is a visual theme in the film linking the first hunger striker, Bobby Sands, with some birds nestled in a tree. When Sands finally dies, the birds fly away all at once. They are black against a deep purple sky. They squawk and rustle and fly away into silence. The moment was so staggeringly beautiful I audibly gasped.

After I did, a thought appeared in my mind – “The soul hungers for beauty.” I say that because I think I gasped not just from the force of the image. I gasped because I was starving. After two weeks in Montgomery, I was desperate for beauty. I felt so grateful for it.

Now, I’m not the kind of person who says things like, “The soul hungers for beauty.” Reflecting on it now, it sounds stupid. A romantic, childlike fantasy. Christ, it sounds like something Erma would say.

But here’s the thing about me and Erma - we’re collaborators, and damn good ones. I’m a playwright. She’s a director. She’s as good as anyone I’ve ever worked with (and I’ve worked with some good ones).

Perhaps our sensibilities aren’t so different after all. Maybe we’re not as far apart as the roles we play to the world would indicate. Perhaps inside herself Erma’s rolls her eyes all the time. Maybe inside I long for love and beauty and hope. We are a fine yin-and-yang, as all collaborators should be.

So in her honor, with no eye roll, I say it:

The soul hungers for beauty.

- John Yearley

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


As I write this I am staring at a list that represents deadlines for five writing projects, six teaching projects, two reading projects, and the very forgettable exercise project that is not getting off the ground this month.

January is ending and very few of these projects have been completed. Instead they grow, evolve, multiply, go into another draft, ask for more, need more, want more, demand more.

Several years ago I decided I would approach my work in projects instead of jobs. So, in my teaching artist work I began to take on projects instead of classes and with writing I allowed each play to be its own project with its own workshop of sound, notebook, images and timeline.

I like this approach. I am more organized. My natural bent towards eclecticism and desire for letting things evolve organically is given the container of a project. I can schedule work so that even when there's not a lot of time for one thing, I can check in on it. Visit it.

I can imagine my desk is like my dad's workbench, tools and hardware at hand, shelves of power tools and raw materials. Imagine that hung up along the wall are images, in the little drawers lie characters dreaming away, in one area are a bunch of teaching ideas, and the power tools are actions, are big questions, are those books I carry with me through every move.


Now my workshop is looking like some shed from one of the families down the other street, where things accumulate but nothing is ever finished. It's looking like the yard with cars up on blocks and a fridge on the porch. A dog running back and forth till there's a patch of dirt that nothing will grow on ever again. There's half a pool dug, some kind of tree house that no kid would even want to play in and a flag pole leaning against the chimney. There are too many kittens and they are sleeping in a cracked aquarium.

So. It's time to clean up. Time to clear out. Time to call some things done and other things well - maybe the neighbors want them.

- Kristen Palmer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


First, let me make one thing clear. What I’m about to say in no way applies to me. Everything I’ve ever written (this post included) is gold. Pure gold. I’ve never wasted a single word and, because of that, am actually dictating this post to my assistant while lounging in my penthouse’s hot tub half-crocked on Veuve…

But (and this is for everyone else, mind you … not me), I’ve been wondering at what point writers know to let a project go. We all (…I mean, you all) have the drawer or the binder or … um, the seldom-emptied waste basket filled with the papers covered with the words we used to love, only no longer do. We all (…okay, only for the sake of ease here, when I say “we” from now on, it’ll seem like I mean “we,” but actually I mean “you” - “we” means “you,” go it?) have the play that we couldn’t figure out – the one that has had several readings, but just never made it over the hump and really grabbed the right people’s attention – the one that we’ve revised and re-written and reconceived and regurgitated but we never got it to “Wow.”

Wow,” of course, is what gets people who aren’t you behind a particular piece of writing. We all know “Wow.” It’s what we feel. It’s why we bother. But, for something to have a life beyond ourselves, someone else (usually several people and usually the right several people) need to get “Wow” too. And some of us grind and grind away on the same script (because it did take a good deal of time, thought and concern … and we’re not exactly dripping with leisure time, are we? Since [what we often view as] the bulk of the work is done … this draft is done … this second, third or seventeenth revision of this draft is done … we might as well stick with it, right?). And some of us drop it and immediately pick up Shiny New Idea and get to work on that.

But what is that thought when the switch flips from “project in-process” to “yeah, not gonna be working on that again”? Is it a realization of some fundamental flaw in the piece (i.e. is it a learning moment?)? Is it a feeling of resignation that the piece has made it’s rounds without anything significant happening to it (i.e. the recognition that people don’t want to keep seeing your same piece over and over again)? Is it boredom (i.e. “I can’t think about these characters anymore!”)?

Of course, it’s these things – and many other things. There is no good conqueror who doesn’t leave a trail of dead bodies in his/her wake (… okay, no good conqueror that I know of).

I guess, for me (which means “me”), I keep projects going so long as there is interest – or some spark that still keeps the process fresh and alive for me. I have no interest in riding the same script through the development process for years and years. There is a point (again, for me) where the script feels dead – where I’ve killed it with my work on it. And, maybe it will live again one fine day. But, for that time, the best thing to do is cut the cord.

- Robert Attenweiler

Friday, January 20, 2012

We Are All Udmurts!

Lately I’ve been trying to imagine the life of a woman I’ve made up, from a place didn’t make up (…though sounds like I did).

The woman’s name is Mrs Huff, and she rents a room out in Queens. She is old, frightened, but has powers her new lodger - whom she is immediately convinced is a thief - isn’t quick to realize...

The place she’s from is Udmurtia – a semi-autonomous ethnic republic on the edge of European Russia. The Udmurts are a Finno-Ugric people related to other small groups of Finno-Ugric people near them …and also to a some larger populations to the West - the Finns, of course, the Estonians, and also the Hungarians – who maybe 1100 years ago were the Udmurts’ next door neighbors, until they took their horses and rode west.
I first learned about Udmurtia in a funny, excellent travelogue by self described anti-tourist Daniel Kalder called “Lost Cosmonaut” and I was immediately hooked.

Who were these crazy people?? I don’t know why they fascinated me so much, or what exactly I’m chasing writing about one now.

…Perhaps it’s something about the comic melancholy of coming from a people who almost none of us in America have ever heard of, or hear from. A people Russia has done an excellent job of nearly (culturally) destroying. What it might feel like to come from such a proud culture that is not only disappearing…. but whose name itself sounds ludicrous to our ears? who speak a language no one could study in college even if they wanted to?

Maybe it’s the only recently discarded pagan heritage (their closely-related neighbors, the Mari El, never converted to Christianity, and so are considered Europe’s last fully pagan culture). Maybe it’s that Tchaikovsky is from Udmurtia (though ethnically Ukrainian) or that Kalashnikov – born in 1919! still alive! inventor of world most popular gun! – lives there now and there is a museum in the capital celebrating him.

Or maybe it’s: we who write in English have a notion that we have the potential to write for a huge audience, if we are lucky, millions. (100s of millions if we write a hit movie... or "The Phantom of the Opera".) We think “if my play is published, in a hundred years, in 500 years, people may still read it!”

What would it be to write a play in Udmurt? What courage. What humility. For what you write will most probably evaporate.

And yet we, the children of victorious linguistic groups, will evaporate too. Most all our work will fade away. 

And someday, maybe in 500 or 1000 years, even our language may change past recognition.

So perhaps: We are all Udmurts. Or will be.

- David Zellnik

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Boy Who Really, Really Liked His Horse

So…War Horse.

It’s a juggernaut. It won six Oliviers. It won five Tonys. It won Best Play on both sides of the pond. It has been made into a giganto new movie by Steven Spielberg that was nominated for two Golden Globes. It didn’t win any, but hey, you can’t have everything.


Those who have seen War Horse know the origin of that plaintive cry, which is tattooed on my brain for what I can only presume to be the rest of my life. It is the most oft-repeated line in War Horse, and more or less describes the entire action of the play.

In little more detail, the story is as follows:

Joey is a horse. He is thought to be wild, damaged, unfit for work or the company of humans. Albert is a boy. Albert tames Joey through boundless attention and selfless love. All seems happy and well until Albert’s drunken father loses Joey in a bet, and Joey gets sent off to help the troops in World War I. Albert enlists so he can go rescue his beloved horse on the Western front. I’ll let you guess whether or not he succeeds.

Here’s what War Horse is – visually dazzling, continually inventive, a magnificent succession of images.

Here’s what War Horse isn’t – a good play.

There’s no question that War Horse is extraordinary to look at. It is filled with the kind of moments that evoke a childlike sense of awe and wonder. But is there no one else who walked out after three endless hours of a boy wailing about his horse and thought the whole thing was kind of, maybe, just a little bit…stupid?

I will be accused of being callous, but as anyone who knows me will attest to, I’m a sap. I cry all the time, and it doesn’t have to be great art that calls forth those tears (cell phone commercials will often do it). And I was with War Horse for a while. The beauty of the images made me happy, almost tingly.

As the evening stretched on (and ON), however, my interest began to seriously flag.* I started to have questions of the mental well-being of our young Albert, whose single minded determination began to seem less like boundless, childlike love than an autistic fixation. More to the point, as an audience member I started to feel manipulated. Jerked around.

I turned on War Horse for good after a scene when Albert and his friend have been cut off from their unit. They are walking through that World War I patch of hell known as No Man’s Land when Albert’s friend basically gets his head blown off. Albert is discomfited by this for a moment, then brushes himself off and returns to looking for his horse.


I confess I have an issue with people placing what I consider an inappropriate amount of emotion onto animals, so perhaps I’m more sensitive to this than most. But wasn’t anyone else disquieted by the Albert’s casual shrugging off his friend’s violent death? Was there no one who thought that maybe the friend’s death would be an event of an equal (or even – GOD FORBID – greater) import than the fate of that horse?

This thought brought others in its wake. I started to wonder at the propriety of using the historical event of World War I to tell this story. The Great War, as it was called then, was one of the great cataclysms of world history. Millions upon millions of people died in a conflict whose origins were murky and results almost non-existent. It was epic slaughter for absolutely no reason. I find it a little off-putting that against the backdrop of this ocean of blood, where an entire generation of men died, the thing I’m supposed to be concerned about is the fate of a single horse. What’s next? A heartwarming tale of a girl’s love for her cat against the backdrop of the Holocaust?

I have no bone to pick with anyone who liked War Horse (a group that includes just about everyone I know). I get it. It’s beautiful. It’s an experience. But I cannot join the hosannas. For all its grandeur, for all its success, War Horse traffics in a kind of smug, ahistorical sentimentalism that makes me a little nauseous.

- John Yearley

*My wife says that everything she loves about me is encapsulated by the moment in Act III when I turned to her and muttered, “Boy, that kid REALLY likes that horse.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy New Year and Good News!

Hello Internet!

We hope you all had happy holidays -- however many you enjoyed -- and have already embarked on a Happy New Year!  (If you got left behind, we wish you the best of luck.)

We're all back to work on upcoming projects, but we wanted to take a minute to crow about the Dramatist's Guild grant we recently received in support of our "efforts to promote the work and wellbeing of writers for the theater."  Chief among those are our Coyote Commission Project and the upcoming production of David Johnston's Coney.  

We just got the news -- what a great way to start 2012!  That's all!  Now back to your regularly scheduled blog...

All the best,
Bob, Kyle, Gary, and Stephen