Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From Jacksonville's greatest (relatively) unknown (relatively) playwright

I forewarn you that I was invited to add to this blog, so if you don't like my writing, don't blame me.

I was invited to write here after I sent a cynical-bordering-on-cancerous E-mail to JaxCAL.org's blogmaster bemoaning the fact that, even though I do not create tangibly "physical" art, I think of myself as just as financially- and PR-deprived as any other artist in Jacksonville.

I have been, in various capacities, a local movie critic and playwright for the past 20 years. My movie reviews, at least, found a home -- at Jacksonville Beach's twice-weekly newspaper, The Beaches Leader, for whom I've critiqued for the past ten years. (Upfront disclosure: My wife is the newspaper's editor.)

By contrast, my long-awaited semi-fame for playwriting did not begin until the summer of 2005. At that time, I happened to watch a DVD of the venerably bad sci-fi cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space. When I found myself shouting corny responses to the TV screen as if I was at a Rocky Horror screening, I figured I'd better make something out of it. So I found a copy of the movie's script on-line, printed it out, and went to town satirizing it.

I hated to keep to myself something into which I'd poured so much effort, so I sent my "revised" version -- titled "Plan Nine from Outer Space: The Rip-Off" -- to every theater in town. The Jacksonville-theater circuit will tell you they are starved for low-budget, high-quality entertainment that they can produce without legal hassles. Don't you believe it. The only theater in town that showed any interest was Boomtown, run by the locally infamous Stephen Dare, who basically handed the theater over to me so that I could write, direct, and co-star in my first-ever stage venture. It was a moderate hit, and I and anyone in the cast could tell you how much fun we had.

Stephen called on me a year later to help resuscitate his Thursday-night program "Pulp Fiction Theatre," an excellent concept that was then being run into the ground by its wet-behind-the-ears cast. Stephen and I assembled a new cast from Plan Nine players and some other actors Stephen had worked with. Again, we had a blast. I wrote, co-acted, and co-directed three one-act playlets every Thursday night from January through April of this year. I quit only because I had a day job that didn't bode well for my Thursday-night late-night venture.

Boomtown has now moved to Hendricks Avenue and is in the process of trying to get its theater venue to co-exist with its newly-formed bistro. If the merger works, I will have a new play to launch at Boomtown in October. Stephen asked for an old-style-radio play, so I've written The Fairly Big Broadcast of 1937, a take-off on Orson Welles' famed War of the Worlds broadcast of Halloween 1938.

Why do I mention all of this? Because despite the fact that I am at least a semi-known quantity in Jacksonville theatre now, I can't get backing to save my life. My "advertising" consists of any free notice I can get in local entertainment publications (Folio Weekly, etc.) and any leaflets I make up and distribute and/or post around town.

I will never understand why it has to be like this. I do not beg well, which is why I don't try to obtain local grants or financed ads that they wouldn't let me have anyway. I used to review local theater for Folio, so I know how in-bred the local theater process is anyway. (You'll notice that Folio doesn't even do theater reviews anymore.)

I hope someone out there will notice this and take note of my admitted horn-blowing. I have tons of material that I wrote for "Pulp Fiction Theater" and never got a chance to even try out. I am more than willing to write new stuff, given the right incentive. Or would local theatre rather spend hundreds for the rights to "brand name" writers such as Neil Simon, or spend nothing for the rights to decades-old public-domain stuff that nobody wants to see anyway?

(While I'm at it, how is it that certain business won't even let me post leaflets for my Boomtown plays because I charge admission, while local theaters that also charge admission are allowed to post lavish posters that cost more than I have for even a single play's production budget??)

There, I've gotten all of that off my chest. If you want to check out my past and present work, here are some URLs of my stuff:


If you want to tell me what a blowhard I am, E-mail me at:


Thanks for letting me sound off!


Byron said...

awesome. glad you posted. really. don't you feel better now?

it's just not healthy keeping that all in.

this is a decent place to start open communication and I'm extremely happy with the response everyone has given this little blogger site.

please post the info for the Boomtown events when you have the dates and times and such worked out.



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