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