Sam Shepard on Play Writing VI

January 5, 2015

Adapted from: The Pathfinder

By John Lahr, The New Yorker, February 8, 2010

Shepard-6The male influences around me (growing up) were primarily alcoholics and extremely violent. I listened like an animal. My listening was afraid.

I  just dropped out of nowhere. It was absolute luck that I happened to be there (NYC, 1963) when the whole Off-Off Broadway movement was starting. I think they hired everybody. It was wide open. You were like a kid in a fun park—trying to be an actor, writer, musician, whatever happened . . . . For me, there was nothing fun about the sixties. Terrible suffering . . . . Things coming apart at the seams.

I had a sense that a voice existed that needed expression, that there was a voice that wasn’t being voiced. There were so many voices that I didn’t know where to start. I felt kind of like a weird stenographer . . . . There were definitely things there, and I was just putting them down. I was fascinated by how they structured themselves.

When you write a play, you work out like a musician on a piece of music. You find all the rhythms and the melody and the harmonies and take them as they come  . . . . Break it all down in pairs. Make the pairs work together, with each other. Then make ’em work against each other, independent.

I preferred a character that was constantly unidentifiable . . . instead of embodying a “whole character,” the actor should consider his performance “a fractured whole with bits and pieces of character flying off the central theme,” . . . . to make a kind of music or painting in space without having to feel the need to completely answer intellectually for the character’s behavior.

Character is something that can’t be helped. It’s like destiny . . . . It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s like the structure of our bones, and the blood that runs through our veins.

(I was) dead set against revisions because I couldn’t stand rewriting . . . . (The plays) were chants, they were incantations, they were spells. You get on them and you go. Plays have to go beyond just working out problems. (They have to move) from colloquial territory to poetic country.

I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing, and endings are a disaster.


Mystery Lady

November 23, 2014
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This photograph enchants me, and I know practically nothing about it. To begin with, who is the young lady? Back in the mid-1970’s, a friend gave me the picture because her mother was about to throw it out. At first it was the Art Deco frame that drew me. My friend told me that her mother “hated” the frame, and that the woman in the picture was her (the mother’s) great-aunt, and that she was a professional “acrobatic dancer.” That was it, that’s all my friend got from her mother. Now I was really hooked. The fact that there was a mystery attached to such a beautiful frame and such an interesting-looking—lovely-in-her-own-way—costumed woman, only made the package that much more intriguing.

 So I did a bit of research. I checked out Google Images under “acrobatic dancer” for the 1920’s and 30’s, and came up with some notes that I may develop later for an essay. For instance, the images I found ranged from vaudeville and circus acts to strippers to deformed people who toured theatrically at the time and were exploited as “freaks.”  Show biz people of every stripe, in other words, many of whom were social outcasts then. Which of course could also explain my friend’s mothers’ dismissive attitude.

 But I don’t care. I think this athletic-appearing young lady’s story deserves more development. If you have clues to her identity, her career, or just helpful research ideas, please get in touch . . .

Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore.

									

Halloween 2014 III

November 9, 2014

Hip Shots

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Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore

Halloween 2014 II

November 7, 2014

Costumes

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Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore

Halloween 2014

November 5, 2014

Dancers 

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Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore

The Music Scene

October 2, 2014

Screaming Females performing at the Bowery BallroomMarissa Paternoster, prone, prodigiously shooting shards of skronk out to the audience (Baltimore City Paper 10/1/14)

I sent this note to the Music Editor at City Paper: “In the photo Ms. Paternoster is ‘supine’ (on her back). If she were ‘prone,’ as the caption has it, she’d be playing her guitar face-down on the floor. Difficult, to say the least . . .”

The only reason I know this is that many, many years’ ago, during army basic training, I qualified on the M-1 rifle range from the “prone” (belly down) position. But I’m ‘way out of touch in this modern music world. Can someone please tell me what the word “skronk” means?

Today’s Portfolio

November 9, 2013

Halloween Hip Shots 2013

By Jim Sizemore

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The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method the more frames exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting—a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

Hip Shots

January 18, 2013

Casablanca

By Fred Maddox

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images-2The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below. This feature will appear most Fridays.

Copyright © 2013 Fred Maddox.

One-Minute Memoir

September 28, 2012

 My Piano Lesson

By Jo-Ann Pilardi

On the Monday after a Saturday dance at my small, all girls’ high school, Pittsburgh circa 1959, Sister Mary Magnus, our principal, called a full school assembly in the gym.  A non-Friday assembly meant something serious was up.  Exchanging fearful looks, we girls proceeded to the gym.  Upon taking a seat in one of the cramped rows of metal folding chairs, I straightened the Student Council badge on my shiny navy blue gabardine uniform.

Sister Magnus was a woman of significant bulk and height, and one who never retreated, flinched, or allowed excuses.  That day, she began the assembly by reporting that “vandalism” had taken place during the Saturday dance.  Someone had carved a girl’s name into the top of the dusty old upright piano in the gym.  Through clenched teeth, she commanded that we tell all, and she threatened that the assembly wouldn’t end until there was a full accounting by the guilty party.

Moving menacingly up and down the rows of girls, Sister Magnus reported that a single clue had been left behind by the culprit:  “It’s the name ‘Jo-Ann’—that’s J-O-Hyphen-Capital-A-N-N,” she said.  Others in our school of 300 had the same phonetic name, i.e., there were a few “Joannes,” at least one “Jo Ann,” and a couple of “Joanns” and “Joannas.”  But there was only one hyphen afoot—me:  “Jo-Ann.”  I knew my spelling was unique.  Magnus knew it too—and so did the other nuns and all my classmates.

Magnus stopped to stare at me, silently inviting—virtually forcing—me to confess.  Student Councilor Me.  President of the National Honor Society Me.  Member of the Latin, History, and French Honor Societies.  Winner of the city’s “Seven Wonders of Pittsburgh” essay contest.  All those Me’s.  Was I also Guilty Me?  And would I be a Confessing Me?

Of course I knew who the “vandal” was.  He was a friend of mine—Ronnie R., cousin of my best friend, and a chronic tease.  Ronnie attended the nearby boys’ Catholic high school, so if I informed on him, within minutes the word would reach the Christian Brothers who ran the school, and Ronnie would be yanked out of class and . . . who knows what?  The thought of being an informant disgusted me.  On top of that, I couldn’t make a public Confession to the assembly just because it was my name engraved on the piano and I knew the vandal. Confessing meant accepting one’s guilt, and I was guilty of nothing.  Besides, Sister Magnus would never believe that I wasn’t a party to the act.  Remaining silent to save Ronnie was also a way to save myself.

The tense interrogation continued as Magnus repeated the histrionics, threats, and calls for a Confession. But I continued to stonewall her.  I already knew that the spoken word can intimidate, but now I understood the power of silence.  So I faced down my Inquisitor—Jo-Ann of Arc Me against the judges of the court.  Not guilty of the sin of vandalism, I wouldn’t confess.  Guilty of the non-sin of knowing the vandal, I wouldn’t confess.  Surprised by my own willful silence, I learned something about my own values.  Maybe Sister Magnus learned a little something too.

Copyright © 2012 Jo-Ann Pilardi.

Jo-Ann Pilardi is retired from Towson University where she taught Philosophy and Women’s Studies for 38 years.  A working class Italian from Pittsburgh, she moved to Baltimore in 1969 and was active in women’s movement groups through the 1970s. Currently, she teaches for TU’s Osher Institute, reads and writes, gardens, travels, and studies jazz piano. In the schoolyard photo above, Jo-Ann is in the center, and her friend Noriene is on the right.  (Click images for larger views.)  She thanks Jim Sizemore for help in shortening and editing this original essay for Doodlemeister.

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces up to 500 words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for the lighthearted tone. If need be, we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us at jimscartoons@aol.com 

Today’s Gag

August 13, 2012
Copyright © 2012 Jim Sizemore.

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