Sunday, December 23, 2012

Little Red is Completed!

Hey gang!

Just a quick post announcing that after a year of starts and stops, writes and rewrites, and major life-changes, Little Red is finally complete! (There! See? I finished the first challenge after all! Better late than never!)

I have to say, it was a good exercise in researching before writing, but a beast in terms of finding the time to write and revise it. I'm actually glad to be done with it and move onto happier stories.

WARNING: THIS IS A DARK PLAY. It depicts a dark time in the late Victorian slums of England. It's set about a year before the infamous Jack the Ripper slayings on which much of the story drew its designs from. The fairy tale is obviously "Little Red Riding Hood" blended in with Jack the Ripper's London. The Wolf is a serial killer who slays prostitutes in the late Victorian period London.

The original draft done back in February - aside from having a few unfinished scenes - suffered from being exclusively inspired by the Ripper legacy. I went back and researched the fairy tale to try and represent it more faithfully and translate that into the world of the play. Some basic things were there, such as the Wolf being the killer, Little Red earning her name for wearing a red cloak when she hit the streets, and her having to go see Grandmother. However, I hadn't figured out a way to realistically represent the famous "Grandmother! What big eyes you have!" until I realized that the characters needed to write the story, not me. I just needed to type out what I saw them doing.

The end result is bleak, full of language and dialogue not suitable for anyone under thirteen (nay, let's make it sixteen. If PG-16 were a rating, I'd give it that). However, even in the midst of such ugly violence and overbearing hopelessness, there is always a hope, however faint, that things will get better.

Can't wait to share with you all,

P.O. Steven

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Update in Time for Thanksgiving

Hey gang,

Work has been slow as all of us play orphans have had been busy. I wanted to give a much-needed update on the status of our blog and endeavors. We have not forgotten you!

Marcus has been teaching high school while Anna and I have tied the knot. I've also been teaching in the meantime.

Work on Little Red was intended to be complete by the end of last Summer, but once I got the job, it had to once again be put on hold. Now that the holidays are upon us, I fully expect the script will be ready soon (as in, before the year is out).

I also would like to announce that in keeping with the second challenge, which is to finish a play you've started, I am also writing a play about theatre people. It's a comedy about the actors and crew who forget to enjoy their work and turn the theatre into a hostile battleground of drama, spotlights, and neverending random dance numbers. In short, it will be a stark contrast to the melancholy and dark tone of "Little Red."

That's all for the update now, but just know we have not abandoned you, faithful bloggers! Big things are coming.

- P.O. Steven

PS: There are literally three scenes left in "Little Red" that need revising. I was unable to finish in time last summer, but one thing that I've been preparing for and has helped me thus far with the revision has been to model those scenes in the 2nd act more closely to the original fairy tale. Get ready for one dark read.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Designing The Villain Part 5: The Chaotic Villain

Hello again gang!

I've missed you all so much and hope you have been enjoying the series I've been writing. I've gotten some good feedback from a few of our twitter followers and have engaged in many great discussions about the villains! It makes me sad that this is my last one, but alas, it must be what it is. You'll notice that I have changed the name of this particular Villain type because I feel it suits the villain much better. So, after much waiting and much thought, I present you with my final analysis of Designing Villains. Ladies and Gents... I give you: The Chaotic Villain.

The Joker is the truest sense of the "Chaotic Villain"

After the smash hit "The Dark Knight" released, I'm sure everyone can see why this type of villain is probably the greatest of all time. He/She is great simply because there is no rhyme or reason to anything they do. Sure, they have a goal for the moment, but what makes this villain so terrifying is the fact that their intention can change at a moments notice. Incredibly unpredictable, but there is no doubt that they are evil to the core. On one hand, as an author they are quite easy to create, but one must have some idea of how they came to be the way they are. Even The Joker has a backstory even though he comments that it may or may not be true. The Chaotic Villain has no moral code or overall goal that they want. In fact, the Chaotic Villain may be happy with just causing mayhem and seeing the end result. When writing the Chaotic Villain, it is important to think about how he is viewed by other villains. Within the D.C. Universe, the Joker is the most feared villain of all time. One villain in particular made mention that "When villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories." 

"Some men aren't looking for anything logical like money. They can't be bullied, bought or negotiated with. Some men, just want to watch the world burn."- Alfred Pennyworth

What is more frightening than a villain who is feared by other villains? That means that their methods are so out of line, that even the villains we have discussed would say it is a tad over the line. However, this villain does not care. It is important to note that this villain is very much an unstoppable force. Passive attempts at subduing this villain may ultimately result in someone being harmed which creates a very good moral dilemma for your Protagonist. So, how do you stop pure evil? The answer? You don't.
With great Good comes great Evil. The opposite also applies.

Evil can't be truly destroyed any more than you can completely destroy good. Think about this: your antagonist,  regardless of if they survive to the end of the play or story you are writing has changed the lives of the people around him. Perhaps someone will want to destroy the world just as much or perhaps he has inspired a small group to do the same. It sounds bleak, but we must remember that opposite also applies. Evil can never truly consume the world either no matter what someone does. Your protagonist has also inspired great good among his or her peers. Your hero does not have to live at the end of your play to have their overall mission be successful. If even one person learns from his or her attempt at creating peace in the world, the world becomes that much more of a better place. And though good and evil cannot be fully destroyed, they can keep the other at bay for a while. One day, however, that essence, good or evil, will rise again and do battle to see who shall reign supreme. 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. My heart goes out to all those effected by great evil and I want to remind you that when all seems dark, never forget that there is an even greater light in the world.

"The night is darkest just before the dawn.... 
but I promise you...the dawn is coming."- Harvey Dent

-P.O. Marc Laroy

A Busy, Busy Summer!

Hello Play Orphan Fans!

Hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as we are! A lot has been going on as the Play Orphans have all been involved in several theatrical endeavors which range from plays being produced, acting, and teaching! We've been very fortunate to find good work doing what we love to do best! We hope you all have enjoyed a few of the events we've publicized with "The Curse of the Ivory Rose: A Twitter Radio Drama" and the Teenie Tiny Play Festival. If you missed them, don't worry! Our plays are still free to read and we will work to collect a complete transcript of Curse of the Ivory Rose for you to peruse at your leisure.

At the start of the summer, P.O. Levi Shrader went to NYC to see an Off Broadway production of his show! We are proud of Levi and wish him continued New York success in the coming months as he continues to write and prepare for Grad school. More news to come!

P.O. Steven Bailey's play "You've Been Cast!", a short five minute play, is getting rehearsed and will be produced at The Riverside Dinner Theatre in Fredericksburg, Virginia next Friday as a part of their summer camp! P.O. Marcus Salley will be directing the piece with his Acting II (Ages 13-18) students. The girls are very excited to work on the piece and are sure to really bring Steven's vision to life! To read the play, please contact us at theplayorphanage@gmail.com and we will be sure to send you a copy. Also, if you're in the area, please contact us and we will provide you with information to see that play as well as other presentations for the Riverside Theatre Camp.

P.O. Marcus Salley has recently completed his play, "Cracked" which is Part 1 of 3 Part trilogy he is writing chronicling the dark history of his family and their fight for redemption. To read this play, please contact us and we will be sure to send you a copy to peruse and critique. Every little bit helps so do not hesitate! Who knows? You may discover the next play for your season.

How have you been enjoying your summer theatrically? Written a great play or saw some new works that the Play Orphans could learn from? Let us know in the comments section below as we would love to hear from you as well.

That's all for now, folks! For those who are wondering, the conclusion of "Designing the Villain" will be posted tonight!

TTFN!

-P.O. Marc Laroy

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Curse of the Ivory Rose



Two Play Orphans, Marcus and Anna, are currently involved in this - The Curse of the Ivory Rose. This play will be live tweeted. Watch for it 2:00 PM Eastern Time, 1:00 PM Central. http://www.facebook.com/TheCurseOfTheIvoryRose #curseoftheivoryrose

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Second Challenge: Complete An Unfinished Work

Hello, faithful readers!

Play Orphan Steven here with the next challenge. For the "Complete An Unfinished Work" challenge, the goal is simple: take a play you've already started working on but left unfinished, and finish it!

This will be a great way to get the creative gears turning, the procrastination disease to fade, and start getting our plays out there. I'm open for suggestions on a deadline date.

Sincerely,
Play Orphan Steven

Update on "Little Red"

Hey gang,

Play Orphan Steven here with an update on "Little Red." Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the deadline was months ago, and you haven't heard anything about this play since, but let me tell you why. Due to personal schedule conflicts, writing came to a halt, and I've been unable to revise the play . . . until now. I have finished revamping the first Act, and am now working on Act 2. It shouldn't take much longer now.

Thanks again to those of you who gave us feedback on our plays during the Teenie-Tiny Play Festival! For those of you who missed the announcement, Marcus's play "The Spinning Wheel" will be performed in Virginia!

Stay tuned for more updates, including the next challenge . . .

Sincerely,

Play Orphan Steven

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Teenie-Tiny Thank You!

Well, the Teenie-Tiny Play Festival is over - at least, for the most part. Many thanks to all who participated! If you still are interested in reading any of the plays, just shoot us an email at theplayorphanage@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Teenie-Tiny Play Festival


Hello, faithful readers! Anna, Marcus, Levi and I would like to welcome you to our first Teenie-Tiny Play Festival! During this festival, we will be posting some of our one-act plays for your reading pleasure and consideration. We need your help! We want your advice and feedback!

Starting tomorrow (Friday, June 22, 2012) through next week (the 29th), our plays will be available to read via links ON OUR FACEBOOK GROUPBLOG, and FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE. We will provide a survey for all of the plays so that you can give us your feedback and opinions on them.

We are excited for this event to be taking place, and cannot thank you enough for deciding to participate.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Designing the Villain Part 4: The Tragic Villain

Back again gang!


Just finished reading and editing the Grimm Challenge play of P.O. Anna and I have to say that when she is ready to release it, you all will not be disappointed! Nor will you be disappointed with P.O. Steven's play. It seems like a year since the Grimm Challenge plays were finished for final drafts. In due to time, the Play Orphans will decide who won the challenge and then we'll have news about a new challenge. But shhh...later! Later!


For now, we are reaching the conclusion of our investigation into the mind of villains in plays. One of the last two villains we will look at is what I like to call: The Tragic Villain.


Patrick Stewart as Macbeth

When we think of villains, we think that their lack of humanity is what makes them tragic, but I respectfully disagree! I believe that a villain who is truly tragic is defined by certain characteristics. Let us take a gander at Macbeth. This character and I shared a brief encounter in my final days at Anderson University. I learned a lot about what makes a tragic villain when I was met with the challenge set by my director to do one thing in particular: make us feel sorry for this seemingly mass murderer. On the surface, yes, there is nothing redeemable about Macbeth. He is overly ambitious, narcissistic, follower of the occult, and a terrible warlord. However, when one simply reads the text you know this is completely false. At least at first.

Macbeth begins his story by being a great ally to the king. In fact, Macbeth comes across as being intent with being a lord and serving his king. It isn't until he encounters the witches that we are introduced to the small dark side that has always laid dormant within him. I have no doubt that Macbeth had the ability to become evil at any moment, but we as humans always strive to be good. We turn to evil because a lot of times, being evil is just easier. Macbeth could easily admit what he did to everyone and end the suffering for all involved (including himself). But the witches inform him that it is his right to become king simply because they have foreseen it. That is where the tragedy comes in. Macbeth's madness comes from his desire to do good, but feeling as if he is trapped on a course that he cannot escape. He mentions at one point "I am in bloodStepped in so far that, should I wade no more,. Returning were as tedious as go o'er." He informs the audience that he cannot turn back because he has gone too far, but we know that is not the truth. No one is beyond redemption, especially the Tragic Villain, though he/she may think so. 

So what are some key characteristics of making this antagonist? The Tragic Villain was a hero at one point or at least a good person. But they can't just be Joe Schmo across the street. The Tragic Villain has to be someone of mild repute or importance. The protagonist and the rest of the cast should be confused and almost hesitant to stop this person because they may have had a pleasant encounter with him/her. The Tragic Villain must, as I stated earlier, feel as if they have no way out of their life of sin. It is almost as if evil has enslaved them and try is they might, they must give into their evil and baser desires no matter what. One key point to remember about the Tragic Villain is that they ultimately are destroyed (most of the time by death) after finally realizing that their fate did not have to come to this, but now it is too late. The protagonist has their number and is calling them out. Tragic Villains are typically as important as the protagonist and, in the case of Macbeth or even Joe Keller from All My Sons, they are the center or crucial part of the story.

Personally, I think it is very cool for both an actor to portray their villain as being a tragic one and for a playwright to write a tragic villain. They are so much more interesting to watch on stage and can really make an audience think and question what they define as truly evil. I may be a little bias, but the Tragic Villain is truly one of my personal favorites. However, and this is probably my all time favorite villain, there is one who not only the greatest villain of all... but the scariest.




"Some men...just want to watch the world burn."

Please join us soon and spread the word as we investigate what I call: The Dark Villain.


P.O. Marc

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Designing the Villain Part 3: The Righteous Villain


Hello again Gang!

After a bit of time in Milwaukee this past weekend (which was fun, thanks for asking!) I am ready to continue this exploration of darkness by talking about a villain we all are intrigued to study. Also, to those of you who have been showing your support via twitter and facebook, thanks so much! We really appreciate it!



Now I begin.

We know that villains can be lost in sorrow or engulfed in revenge, but what about the villains that are encouraged by a strong sense of justice? Villains are easy to hate, but not when you understand that their intentions are noble... at least in their minds. Villains who think they are doing right also believe that they must achieve justice by any means necessary. Unlike vigilantes or anti heroes, the righteous villain has no real moral code. There are exceptions to this. Sometimes the righteous villain has a close friend, lover or confidant that they will refuse to indoctrinate in their world view. In fact, it is because of their love for this person that allows them to convince themselves that they actually agree with them even if, technically, they can be their greatest adversary.

Typically, The Righteous Villain archetype is a King who has just recently obtained power. Usually, by force.

One important thing to note is that the audience does not necessarily have to agree that what the villain is attempting to change about the world is right. In fact, the story can be a lot more interesting when the audience is unsure of whether or not they support the villain's ideas. The villains ideas must have glimmers of truth, because not only must the audience be conflicted, but it must be a bit painful for the protagonist to stop them.


Enter Magneto.

The epitome of what a Righteous Villain is.

When looking at the character Magneto's history of violence, one can clearly see that he is not a terribly evil. He is simply the product of an evil and hateful world. Because that is the only thing he knows, it is only natural that his mind would be twisted into believing that this is how the world is run. Now, he seeks only to make sure that his race is the dominant one so that there will be no discrimination, but perfection and peace. How is this done? Terrorist attacks. Plots to wipe out humanity as a whole. All this is done in the name of justice. A skewed version of it. Who is to say that certain evil should not be eradicated. How do you do that, however? The righteous villain believes that he/she knows. Defeat evil by playing evil's game and defeating it one on one. There are those who would agree, but when we view the protagonist, we see that the villain is wrong and that while life is not fair, that does not give evil liberty to do what what it will. That is typically the conclusion that the protagonist will reach in the end and if the protagonist and antagonist were friends, this means the end of everything between them. Unless of course, the antagonist and protagonist respect each other and mean so much to each other that they can never agree with the others ideas, but can respect them. They both know that there could be a day that they may have to destroy the other to achieve what they want, but until that day they are content with being rivals. For a writer, this can create an interesting story line between your protagonist and antagonist.

Professor X and Magneto view their struggle like a game of chess. If one could defeat the other then perhaps they can convince that their way of thinking is stronger. Neither, however, denies that things need to change.

Yes, the Righteous Villain is a fascinating creature because he/she makes us question our own morals when we must decide what is right and what is wrong. For a moment we even given in to their way of thinking and think for ourselves "What IF evil could be controlled..." By then end of the story, if the author or playwright is good enough, our ideas are not so limited to one train of thought. Perhaps you understand why the antagonist must be defeated, but his ideas have changed you into thinking that perhaps he could right.

The Righteous Villain who sinks too far into their darkness can end up alone and hated by all.

Thus ends our look at the Righteous Villain. Please comment to show us your support and if you REALLY like it, retweet or share it with a buddy! Thanks so much gang! Part 4 will feature a villain that you might not think about too often, but know all too well: The Tragic Villain.

Some villains were never given no other choice than to become evil...

Cheers!

-P.O. Marc

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Designing the Villain Part 2: The Sorrowful Villain

Welcome back to the Nightmare!

Hello gang!
I'm so excited that so many people are taking to this series of blog post! For those who are just joining us, I have decided to blog about my exploration and conclusions about Villains since I take pride in the fact that I am usually cast as villains. Mind you, there are several types of villains in the world and I wish to blog about the ones that I have either played or recognized on stage or on film. I've taken my time to plan out part 2 for you guys by going into what I like to call: the Sorrowful Villain.


Now, I imagine that you are wondering exactly how dangerous can this villain be? Or maybe you believe there is no way this villain could ever exist? I respectfully disagree. I believe the Sorrowful Villain is one that is alive and well and can even be a formidable foe to any protagonist. One thing to note about the Sorrowful Villain is that he or she does not follow an ideology and is not out for revenge like The Vengeful Villain. The Sorrowful Villain is consumed by the sadness that they were subjected to in the past. Unlike The Vengeful Villain, the Sorrowful Villain's pain stems from only one traumatic event as opposed to a lifetime of hate that has built up.


Two-Face turns to evil after the death of his fiancee and no longer sees an issue with killing. He shows signs of being both the Vengeful Villain AND the Sorrowful Villain.

He or she was probably a good person at one point, but perhaps the death of someone close to them or even the destruction of something in their life has made it so that they can no longer see the good in the world. They are so blinded by their sadness that it makes them do evil things. It is important to note that since this villain is not inherently evil, they probably recognize what they are doing as wrong and that just torpedoes them to do even more evil. It is hard for this villain to stop since their acts are usually so heinous that they cannot be forgiven by society. I would like to take an opportunity to give you an example of someone who exhibits the Sorrowful Villain:
For those of you who don't recognize him without his trademark helmet, I reintroduce you to another one of the greatest villains ever written: Anakin Skywalker or, rather, Darth Vader. By the end of episode 3 we see that Anakin is driven from the Light Side after he is not only seduced by power, but, more importantly, that he is so consumed by the thought that he is too weak to save anyone he loves. Now, there are other factors that attribute his turn to the Dark Side such as a strong misguided sense of justice, arrogance and pressure from outside forces. However, it is clear that the underlying cause for him to turn over to the Dark Side was that he is consumed by the sadness of losing those he loves dearly. When he is encased in the black suit that we all know and love, it is symbolic of Anakin's sadness that is now consumed by evil. He embraces it like a cloak and will follow it blindly with hopes that it will bring him happiness one day. However, with every life he takes and every crime he commits, a piece of him is torn away from his bones until even that little bit of his humanity is at its smallest.

But Anakin is not without hope and neither is any Sorrowful Villain. It is until three movies later that we see that someone so lost in sorrow can be brought back by pure goodness. Sure, arguably, Luke now has a firm understanding of what both the light and dark side are, but he is still pure enough to show Darth Vader that he does not need to continue on this path. To lay down his arms and repent, he may be able salvage his soul even if he would never be accepted by society. This is an important plot twist at the end of the Sorrowful Villain's journey that should be considered when writing. Unlike most, the Sorrowful Villain is not without redemption as far as his or her's soul is concerned. They may still be able to show people that in the end, they are just as tortured as others.

As always, these are my opinions. Others may disagree or even have different opinions on the matter. I believe what I want people to take from these posts is not that there is one way to create a villain, but that villains are not simple and can add an extra layer of spice to your writing!

In Part 3, I believe it is time to look at one of the villains I personally enjoy playing: The Righteous Villain.
Is it really Evil when the Villain truly believes that what he does is Justice?

-P.O. Marc

Monday, March 12, 2012

Designing the Villain Part 1: The Vengeful Villain


Hello Gang!

P.O. Marc Laroy here and read to deliver a new blog post! *Cues canned Laughter* Thank you! Thank you! On behalf of the Play Orphans I must apologize for our absence. We have been hard at work on a variety of things. Some of us just started teaching, others have been steadily looking for work, and everyone is busy editing each other's work! We ask your pardon and vow to always have at least one blog post a week!


Now that we have established that, let's get cracking on a topic I have thought long and hard about. As an actor, I understand the concept of types and know that typically I am cast as the villain. Which is fine, because I love playing villains. I feel there is great challenge when you have to play someone completely opposite of yourself and make it believable. That is the big reason I enjoy playing villains. But these monsters that haunt our imagination are not so easy to create. We run the risk of making them generic and boring and possibly cartoonish (unless cartoonish is what you are going for). Over the next couple of blog posts from me, I want to investigate a number villains that are featured in plays and literature and look at what makes them so fascinating and fun to watch. I don't claim to be an expert in creating villains or in playing villains, but I know what I like and I know what works for me.


So let's get to it.


Do you ever wonder what makes these guys so popular?


The first type of villain we should look at is the vengeful villain. This villain was possibly a good person at one point or at least good enough to be a decent member of society. However, a death in the family or a spurned love has twisted this persons ideas on life. Now, they seek to bring everyone to their level of hate in order to make themselves feel better. I believe that typically we see this with a variety of villains. In my opinion, this is the stock villain. This is the villain that writers put into their work when the hero needs a bit of outside to match up with the larger internal struggle that their going through. A lot of times, this villain is probably going to come from a similar background as the hero and will show the reader or audience member, just how easy it would be to fall into darkness. However, that's not to say that this a boring character or that it can't be complex. As an avid fan of Harry Potter, I would like to point out that Lord Voldemort falls under this category.


Yes, the Dark Lord himself. I will not give you a full account of Lord Voldemort's (Or rather, Tom Riddle's) life, but those who read it know that he started in a similar situation as Harry's. His mother and father gone from his life, unwanted and unloved by many. There is a distinct flaw in his character, which separates him from Harry: he is a fearful, narcissistic psychopath. Adding those three qualities is what takes a villain from being just a stock villain to being arguably one of the greatest villains in literature. It is important to note that these qualities are not restricted to the realm of the Vengeful Villan. These are traits that can be used to supplement all villains and make them more interesting to those who see them.


A writer must think about these things as he is writing his villains especially in a play. Often, we do not get 7 books worth of back story that help us understand a villain. In plays, we are given 2 hours and even then we must hear more about the story and, of course, about the protagonist. But as an actor who loves to give into the darkness on stage, I for one really appreciate when the playwright makes a villain I can really sink my teeth into. Though this is not my favorite type of villain, I cannot deny the appeal of it. These villains definitely have a bit of human
ity in them and it is clear that under the right circumstances they could redeem themselves by the end of the play if they choose. It is my challenge to other playwrights to think about ways they could make their own vengeful villain an interesting part of their story.

That ends my thoughts on The Vengeful Villain. None of what I said is set in stone, but it is the conclusion that I have come to about villains myself. Part 2 coming shortly with the Sorrowful Villain!

A villain run by sadness is a dangerous adversary indeed...

-P.O. Marc

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What's Up at the Play Orphanage

Hello,

Just a note to let you know what's up at the Play Orphanage. The first round of the Grimm Challenge is closed. We turned in the rough drafts of our fair-tale inspired plays on February 18th, and now we are critiquing them for each other for the second round of the challenge.

For our amusement in the meantime, I drew us as the characters from our chosen fairy tales.



Until later,
P. O. Anna

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Days More. The Hopeful Egalitarian Writes.

Hello, Play Orphan Anna here!

Two days! Two days of writing left before we turn in the drafts of our Grimm Challenge Plays. I'm down to the wire, racing against the clock with my back against to ropes. My second act is in shambles and all I can think of are over-used idioms!

Having finished the rough draft of Act I of my adventure/sci-fi play based on Sleeping Beauty, I'm plowing through the second-half of Act II, which has posed more of a challenge in terms of research and plot. Although there's a lot of fiction in this adventure/sci-fi play, a lot of research has to be done in order to make the world of the play consistent and believable. To give you a frame of reference - I'm sort of a research nut. I spent over a year and a half researching and revising my 45-minute monodrama Courage in the Upside-down World. Granted, that play was supposed to be biographical. But still...

In general, I have a hard time putting away the books and closing my web browser and getting down to writing. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Perhaps. And now I'm doing that idiom-thing again.

Because of my research, many things have changed in the story. I envisioned a good part of my second act taking place on the pack ice in the Arctic Ocean. After reading more about how polar drift works, and realize my gross ignorance on the subject, I decided the story would only work on terra firma, or more specifically: pre-Soviet Franz Josef Land.

Another hurdle has been my own personal challenge to make the play - the story of an expedition that takes place in the Jazz Age - inclusive. The number of male and female characters are equal, plus there are about ten, smaller characters who can be cast as women or men, depending on the needs of the production.

My central character is a women. The leader of the expedition she is part of is a woman. Did I mention the story takes place in 1925? There is a certain amount of alternate history involved, of course, but even in fantastical stories people seem to have a hard time accepting women in adventure - especially if they are not romantically connected to the other characters. Several years ago I was watching National Treasure or something similar with my housemates. We were juniors and seniors in college and we enjoyed taking a break from our work to enjoy a movie together. This time though, I found myself a little bored with the film and I wondered aloud why there seemed to be such a shortage of women action heroes. (As a child, I had always sought out books where this was explicitly not the case). On the screen, the hero swung across a ravine or something similar on a rope. The helpless female love-interest was busy being helpless.

"They're not strong enough," one of my (female) housemates promptly replied.

"What?" I said.

"Women are not strong enough to be action heroes."

The other housemates agreed, further implying that they would not care to see a woman action hero - that the idea was silly. "But-but it's not silly," I said. "One man isn't strong enough to do all the things the guy in this movie is doing." Besides, I thought. It's not about muscular strength. If it was, then why did I recently spend nine and a half hours of my life watching tiny hobbits trying to take a ring to Mordor? No, I decided. There are many types of strength needed for an adventure story. There is muscular strength, but also endurance, strength of mind and most importantly, strength of character. No, this problem had deeper roots and it had something to do with the way men and women were seen in fiction.


Of course, in this project, the last thing I want to do is write one of those self-aware, condescending heroines that have appeared regularly in Hollywood movies in the past decade. You probably know her. The pretty princess who sort of needs to be rescued, but then holds her own by kick-boxing her way out of a gang of thugs. Her eyes twinkle and you can practically hear her saying: "Tee-hee! Girl power!" She is almost never injured or killed.

I find this sort of pseudo-empowerment highly disturbing.


Well, here's what I think works, and here's what I am attempting to do in my play: develop the characters. All the characters, male and female need back story and real character traits. They should not be merely plot devices, tokens or eye candy. This is not easy. I've found hypocrisies and false presuppositions in my own thinking that I have had to address. It has not been easy, but so far it has been extremely gratifying. I hope most of all it will help people see women in adventure stories as real characters - real heroes. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this topic, please comment. I would love to hear your ideas. But for now, I must get back to this writing challenge. Good luck to my fellow challengers, and I will leave you will one last idiom: time is fleeting!

-P. O. Anna

P.S. My play is inspired by Sleeping Beauty. I've swapped the genders of the princess and the prince, but I'm hoping the play will leave people wondering: who rescued who?

P.P.S. More of my illustrations can be found at www.acupofteaandadventure.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Revolution of Theatre Starts Here!

As the clock counts down to the submission of our rough drafts, the Play Orphans have been slowly gaining popularity! Twitter followers, facebook followers and of course those who just stumble upon our blog are making this a very enjoyable experience and for that we say thank you! We hope that as we continue to build, you will find our plays as enjoyable as we have enjoyed writing them.

With the deadline approaching and the play orphans are collectively finishing their work, I wanted to explore the topic of race within plays. Why this sudden thought? As we have explored many blogs (Like that of Carlos Manuel at his blog and met many people through Twitter (Most notably @MissDonni and her group Multus Productions, LLC), we of the Play Orphanage realize that we have certain duty to those who wish to produce and perform our plays and make them accessible to everyone and not just to one particular group regardless of Race, Religion, Gender, and type. I am not naiive in understanding that sometimes plays are defined by those certain criteria. When I read a play by August Wilson, I know that he made those plays to be performed by blacks. Is that a bad thing? Many will argue that it is the same type of discrimination that we want to strive against. However, his plays are about the black experience during a particular time period. Sure, you could cast a white actor and I am positive they would do an equally amazing job, but that would also be doing the play and the playwright a disservice. There are some plays that just can't be color blind casted, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I feel that when it is possible you should cast your play with the mindset that despite our ethnic backgrounds we all share similar experiences.

But, that is just my thoughts when it comes to casting plays. What about writing plays? So often, we write plays that we feel that audiences will want to see. When this happens, we believe that audiences will only want to see certain plays and proceed to write plays that do not feature a character of color or a religion other than Christianity. We as playwrights have a certain level of responsibility to reflect the changes our society makes. Today we have a President who is both black and white. When will we see more plays about this type of American? How about Latino's? Homosexuals? Muslims? When will see plays that feature these traits within our characters? The play's themselves do not have to be solely about what they are, but when will the time come when we can say that this character is _______ and he or she is going through something that you and I go through on a daily basis. The time, fellow artists, is today! We as playwrights can create work right now that is accessible to a multitude of people and do our job as artists and story tellers to tell stories that reflect our current society.

I will admit that some stories can only be told from a particular groups perspective. But there are some issues in our world today that we all go through and our work as playwrights should reflect that. I once taught a sociology class where I told people that if society collectively acknowledged a TV as a Lamp, Television sets could be called lamps! Now, that is a very far fetched example, yes, but you get my point. If we as playwrights collectively say, this is the work we will be creating and it will be successful, we can change the theatre world! I challenge any playwrights to look at their future writing and try creating a piece of work that knows no color, religion, sexuality or gender. Let us collectively show the world that our art tells the story of our time period and it will not be dictated by what is considered "pretty" and "acceptable."

Please patron the following sites to help assist in this change of thought and also hear more discussion:
This is P.O. Marc Laroy signing off! Spread the word, the revolution of the stage starts right now!

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meetup in Memphis

We meet once more, this time in Memphis for UPTAs. Not a whole lot of Play Orphanage business going on here, just a lot of auditioning and networking. We did, however, enjoy one evening of discussion over some delightful barbecue, and had a great conversation about how we plan to make our plays as accessible as possible. I'll let Steven and Marcus speak for thier own works, but I told them of my attempt to make the number of male and female characters in my play equal, as well as including a large number of gender-neutral characters to accommodate a potential producing theatre's needs. It's also very important to me to assign none of the characters a race, and as few as possible an age in order to encourage diverse casting. But I think this topic will be the subject of a future post.


Despite our busy visit to Memphis, we are all conscious of the February 18th deadline for our Grimm Challenge looming ahead. (I feel "looming" is an especially pertinent word since these Grimm fairy tales contain so much weaving mythology).

The Play Orphans in Memphis, TN.
Anyway, all the best to my friends who auditioned in Memphis this past weekend, and as always, happy writing to my fellow Play Orphans!

- P.O. Anna

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meetup in North Carolina

Hello, Play Orphan Anna here. The three participants in the Grimm Challenge had the exciting opportunity to meet in Western North Carolina this past weekend. We had time for a quick photo shoot and a Saturday lunch. The props we are holding in our photo shoot represent something from our plays-in-progress, and many were borrowed from my one-woman show Courage in the Upside-Down World. Nothing like a little recycling!


Perhaps you can tell we had a lot of fun with this photo shoot. With all our traveling and work, I was very excited that we could make this weekend happen.

In the upcoming week, though, it's back to the writing, writing, writing. There will be a bit of an interruption for UPTA in Memphis, where we will be briefly united one more time before the deadline of our challenge on February 18.

Busy times ahead, folks! I couldn't be happier.

- P.O. Anna

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Usage of music in "The Spinning Wheel"

Hello, there! I suppose now that "The Spinning Wheel" is complete, I can begin talking about my writing process and add a little more life to our blog! Let me begin saying that this challenge was not an easy task. You'd be amazed how hard it is to write something good while constantly wondering, "Will my audience like this as much as I have enjoyed writing it?" I trust you will, and I trust that all of our postings have made you excited to read our plays! As Play Orphans Anna and Steven complete there plays to meet the First Draft Deadline, I have decided to write a simple blog about one of the many tools I used to help me write: MUSIC!

Now, you're probably asking, "Play Orphan Marc, what kind of music did you use to inspire a strange adaptation about Rumpelstiltskin?" Well readers, I'm glad you asked! Allow me to introduce the playlist that makes up (in my mind) the soundtrack of "The Spinning Wheel":

Track 1: Sweet Dreams (Are made of this) by Emily Browning from the
Sucker Punch Soundtrack


That's right folks! Track number one is a little song from Sucker Punch that opens up an "Alice in Wonderland"-esque movie! The dark tones of this song really helped put me in the Alice's studio and made me see not just on a stage, but also an actually set. While the play does not require there to be much detail with the set, it would be hard for any scene designer to hear this music and not want to add as much detail. The opening dark tones have a very tribal feel to me that sets the stage for this epic battle of wits. To me, this song is the theme of the struggle between Alice and Gregory as the song talks about a struggle between what certain people want, but, more importantly, how they wish to attain it. Alice seeks love, but wants to earn it honorably in the end (even though she does wish to use Gregory's paintings for her own
selfish gain initially). Gregory on the other hand, seeks love as well, but wishes to f
orce a woman to submit to his whims through pure strength of intelligence.

Track 2: Swan Lake Op. 20, Act 1 No. 1 Scene 1by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky

Another strange choice, I know! But appropriate given the synopsis of this point in the ballet. I will admit that I have not seen Swan Lake, but was turned towards after watching Black Swan. Before you judge me, I will say that what truly captures my attention in Black Swan is th
e usage of the actual music from Swan Lake. In Black Swan, Natalie Portman's character states that the opening sequence is a prologue on what happens to Odette as she is turned into a swan by the evil magician. How could you not use this epic melodramatic music to inspire you into the creation of a story in which a vile villain ensnares the "soul" of beautiful young woman wh
o's only wish is to live in peace with her husband and beloved son. But, this music only lasts for so long before a beautiful cacophony of sound is heard (which, in Swan Lake, is the Prince's 21st birthday music. Man...wish my 21st birthday had such good music!). I even used this lighter music to help inspire the lighter moments of the play. Remember, though Gregory is evil, he still loves Alice and needs to win her over to him and show that he is the better man. And besides, who wants to see a villain who is solely evil? A dangerous villain can be both....


Track 3: The Ballad of Mona Lisa by Panic! At the Disco
Now, with a play about a man who uses art to ensnare a woman into falling in love with him, how could I not use this song! If I had to rename this song, I'd have to call this Gregory's Theme Song. This song just has this creepy feel of a man who recognizes the power of this woman and knows her inside and out. Gregory knows Alice all to well. He does not see her as a threat and that is why for most of the play he is very calm, cool and collected. He knows Alice cannot beat him, and that is what makes it interesting. How does Alice deal with a foe who is constantly five steps ahead of her?

Track 4: Just a Kiss by Lady Antebellum

I believe this song goes well with the overall theme of the play. If there had to be a second theme song, I would want it to be this. Or, at the very least, this must be Alice's theme song. This song is all about longing for someone, but not wanting ruin it. I imagine this song probably played at Alice and her husband's wedding. It talks about the purity of their love and how Alice recognizes it as being very fragile and could shatter at any moment. It is interesting to see how much Alice is willing to sacrifice in order to protect those she loves. It is a great contrasts to how Gregory views love and creates great tension in a play that has one scene and only two characters.

Thus completes my soundtrack for "The Spinning Wheel." Sure, it's only four songs long, but in a play such as this, you do not need too much musical inspiration. I find that using songs helps me think of interesting details and insight into the characters I'm creating. One is powered solely by greed while another is powered by her need to achieve the love she feels she deserves. I highly recommend listening to any of these songs and even buying the songs on iTunes. The artists are very good in my opinion and deserve your support. I would also recommend listening to music the next time you're writing. You'll be surprised at how much it helps you focus your ideas. Of course, I have known this not to work, but try it! New blog post coming soon! Take it easy gang!

May Flights of Angels Sing Thee To Thy Rest,

P.O. Marc

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rumpelstiltskin... In Love?



Hey there Gang!
Play Orphan Marc here! Bringing you yet another update about "The Spinning Wheel", my play inspired by Rumpelstiltskin. I'm proud to say that the creepiness of the play has not gone away, but as I write I'm beginning to see that this play has created a dominate seed question:

What is Love and how much is it worth?

I'm shocked because this is NOT what I expected to write about when I chose Rumpelstiltskin as my adaptation. In fact, this was simply supposed to be a play about good and evil. While that still is the theme (I don't think it would be a good adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin if it wasn't), it is only a small part that makes up the seed.

The two characters, Alice and Gregory, have very differing opinions of what love is and how it is obtained. On one hand, love is seen as something to be cherished forever and that com
es spontaneously when two people care about each other a lot. However, the other sees love as something cold and calculated; a game, if I may. Specifically as a game of chess.

You play the game until one day... you win! The prize? Devotion, respect and (in the mind of our antagonist) obedience.

I don't want to get into it too much detail (Seeing as how that debate is a big part of the play), but it is my hope that audiences will see this and see the logic in that line of thinking. In a way, the character is right that love can be a type of game that can either be malicious or, more often than not, sincere. The play shows you both sides of the argument and in the end I believe the audience will agree with how love is defined (at least, for the most part. Don't worry, it's not TOO cynical).

It should also be noted that "The Spinning Wheel" also deals with placing value on one's love.

Can love truly be bought?


As stated before, the two characters have very different opinions on love. The other big question is, of course, how much is love worth? One character feels that love can be invested in and that at any time, someone may collect as if it were a savings bond. If a man wine's and dine's a woman in the hopes that he gets closer to the type of relationship he wants, he will one day hope that it pays off. A horrible thought, yes (not to mention quite pig headed) but that is what makes the antagonist so interesting. What horrible experiences in his life have given him this train of thought? If this is how he feels the world works, what could happen if he doesn't get his way?

Gregory is certainly quite intelligent, much like his counterpart, Rumpelstiltskin. In a future blog, I would love to do an analysis on this character. As I always say, there is nothing worse than a villain who has more brains than brawn. Until that day,

May Flights of Angels Sing thee to they rest!

Marc Laroy


Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing Roll

Hello, play orphan Anna here. I must apologize in advance for the brevity of this post. You see, I am on a writing roll.

No, not this kind of roll:

 A writing roll.

I'm a slow writer, but I've kept at it and in the past few day, have written about 40-50 percent of the rough draft of act one of my Sleeping Beauty-inspired play. In addition to what I have previously written in a namby-pamby fashion, I have about 35 to 40 percent to go, perhaps a bit more. I am determined to stay up tonight until the rough draft of act one is finished. I have nothing else to do today, and my fresh doughnut and hot blueberry coffee are by my side -

Wait, I've already eaten my doughnut - when did that happen?

It will be a challenge, and I will be multitasking - researching by watching documentaries while I write. But I can think of nothing better to do with my day. I haven't been treating this challenge as seriously as I would like. As one of my characters says to the heroine of my play when she explains that hardships have prevented her from writing:

"NICHOLAS: I find that hard to believe. I think you’re lazy."

Anyway, I wish writing rolls and good luck to my fellow play orphans.
                   
                                                                                                 - P. O. Anna

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Little Red


Hello! I thought I'd take the time to talk about my entry in the Grimm Challenge a bit more. I am retelling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. This version, however, is set in the slums of Victorian England.

I've done loads of research on both Victorian England and the Little Red story. The thing that struck me the most about Victorian England was how alike it really was to today's climate. Many Englishmen were furious that Jewish immigrants fleeing from Tsarist Russia were coming in and stealing their jobs for less pay. This - among other sociopolitical factors - led to intense racism. Sound familiar?

The Whitechapel slum was a tough place to live. Many women turned to prostitution out of necessity to survive. A poor place, Socialist protesters frequently gave the police trouble. It was the perfect climate for Jack the Ripper to cause fear and mayhem.

Another interesting thing I found about Little Red was that the original story didn't have a happy ending. The wolf ate her, and the story ended with the moral that little girls shouldn't trust strangers. By extension, this has been interpreted to be a warning about the ravenous sexual nature of men. Only later, when the Grimm Brothers revised their own version, did they add the familiar ending with the huntsman saving the day. No wonder it seemed strange he could just cut open the wolf and salvage Little Red and Grandma - like a Hollywood reshoot, the ending was tacked on!

Without giving away too much of the plot or story, I would like to comment on one of the main themes it'll run with: the theme of Fear. The age-old advice of "stay away from strangers" certainly has merit, but we all know that life is a big risk in which we must always encounter strangers: We speak to the stranger running the box office, we talk to the stranger who is a police officer, we talk to the stranger at the checkout lane. What happens if we let our fear of the unknown get the better of us? What happens when we can trust no one around? What happens nobody can trust one another?

The Fear spreads.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sleeping Beauty...set in the North Pole?

Happy New Year from Playwright Orphan Anna! A lot has happened over the holidays; we have a new member, Playwright Orphan Levi, and we have extended our Grimm Challenge deadline to the 18th of February. It's high time I shared a bit about my play.

The Norge, which carried the party that crossed the Arctic Ocean in 1926.

Ever since I learned about it, I've been fascinated by the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean. Explorer-celebrity of that time, Roald Amundsen, teamed up with Umberto Nobile, expert builder of airships and they headed an international expedition to cross the Polar Sea. Although my play is not based on this event, it is very much inspired by it, and other arctic expeditions.

A depiction of the doomed Franklin Expedition.
The HMS Terror, stuck in the ice.

It's no wonder I want to make Sleeping Beauty an adventure. From a very early age I was raised on it. I put my mother, father and grandfather through hours and hours of reading Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children  and The Happy Hollisters. As I grew older, I was drawn to books like Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Homes. In fact, a book of some selected Sherlock Homes stories is the second book I remember reading on my own.

My play is based on Sleeping Beauty, but since it's an adventure,
don't expect anything like this image.


Of course, depicting adventure on the stage - writing action drama - presents some problems that I think will be the hardest part of this challenge, but I am eager and excited to tackle them.

The airship Norge in Svalbard, Norway, before the crossing.

I don't want to reveal much more of my project just now, so I'll say good luck to the other three Playwright Orphans and leave you with the promise that my play will have mystery and scrambled eggs.

                                                                                                           - P. O. Anna