We are thrilled and honored that one of our plays has been chosen for the Stillwater Short Play Festival.
The play is a comedy written by myself and my writing partner, Karen Ball.
The festival will be held the weekend of May 4 and 5, 2019 at the Town and Gown Theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
When you choose to live this creative life (or rather – when it chooses you) inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes inspiration is something that starts as a little spark inside of you.
But sometimes, someone else’s creativity is a tremendous inspiration.
Our longtime family friend BK Dennis is a painter, and her work inspires me. That word doesn’t even encompass enough. Awes. Floors. Whammos! Some people are so very talented in their fields. When a person like that is kind enough to share his or her work and stories and inspirations, then that has the effect of elevating us all.
Sometimes as she paints, she shares a snapshot with me of her current project. Below is a snapshot (not a full professional photo as would be on her webpage) of a scene from the cattle drive movie that we recently produced.
For the last twenty years, I have been the proud owner of one of BK’s paintings. It hangs on my wall in the dining room, where I can see it every day.
In addition to being a talented painter, BK (and her husband and family) are longtime family friends of ours. We met when we lived in West Texas. BK and her husband have been as good of friends throughout my entire creative journey as one could ever hope to find. They celebrate my highs (and listen to me complain about the lows). Their support has been consistent and strong. It really makes a difference when you think “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to do this?” — no matter what the “this” might be.
Creativity begets creativity.
Thank you, BK, for sharing your work with the rest of us.
I got a call on Tuesday night. One of my plays was going to be performed as a staged reading on Saturday night.
I did some rearranging and on Saturday, I was prepared to go to the theatre.
So, I get in my little car and off I go to Oklahoma City. I have not been to this particular theatre before. There is an element of the unknown on these situations: you don’t know where you are going, or what you are getting into, or what the event will be, or who the people will be, or how the play will be performed.
As a playwright, I put words to paper. I create a story. I build the *start* of each character.
It takes a theatre troupe to make a play happen, and it takes real actors to bring the play to life.
On this night, October 13, 2018, I had the experience of seeing REAL actors, inhabit these characters that I had dreamed up, while they performed my play.
I must confess…I made a total fool of myself, gushing over these actors. I probably gushed at them three times each. It was over the top and it was too much. I am used to limiting my behavior when something is bad (not letting on that I am disappointed, etc, not showing criticism in how a play goes down)…but I need to practice some form of restraint when things are too good.
The event was at Carpenter Square Theatre.
There was a reception at 7:10. They had a large offering of international foods in the lobby. While there, they were having a silent auction. The lobby had a showing from a local artist. Already the evening is off to a good start.
The theatre had reserved table seating for the playwrights. This was something I had not seen before, but to have a seat reserved up front. Wow!
The theatre itself is small. The audience is close to the action. As a result, the audience response is immediate. It is right there. The actors have a feedback to play off of.
Five plays had been selected for this play festival. Out of 45 that were submitted, one of my plays was chosen?!? One of my plays that I have submitted EVERYWHERE and has been rejected EVERYWHERE? It has been rejected so much, that I was starting to get a complex. Maybe it wasn’t any good? Maybe I should shelve it. Maybe it didn’t “Translate”. Maybe it was too depressing.
But part of being an artist (part of being a writer) is to say: I have a voice. I have something to say. There is a story here. Let me tell it!
So, with trepidation…I had submitted this play to Carpenter Square Theatre.
Imagine my surprise when a play that has been rejected dozens of times….finally gets…Accepted? Gulp!
I had made arrangements to be free on Saturday. Saturday rolls around. I don’t want to get out of bed. My stomach is upset. I trundle out to my easy chair and put on a Netflix video so that I don’t have to think about the world.
In general, nerves are not a part of my creative experience. If I am performing, be it musically, singing, acting or emceeing, I don’t get nervous. Try as I might, I don’t understand stage fright. I wish could understand it (to help others who do suffer), but I don’t.
The only things that have made me nervous in show business (so far) are playing music at weddings (I freaking hate weddings!) and…being a playwright. That seems to be such an odd situation. Playwright, nerves? I mean…I am not producing. I am not acting in the play. When we had our play performed in May (which also had great acting – 2018 has been the year of good acting) I didn’t have the nerves. I figured….great! I have conquered that issue. Onto the next issue.
But, nope! All I wanted to do on Saturday was to go hide under the covers.
I didn’t want to gas up the car. Didn’t want to check the tires before the long drive. Didn’t feel like eating. But you need to eat, and then what is that going to do to your stomach? I had one last can of chicken noodle soup and I was panicked thinking I didn’t have any.
But you go. You put on your ritziest outfit and you get your cameras and you go. Because this is what you wanted to do. You wanted to be a playwright, so go be a damn playwright!
Once you are there, in the moment, you get your plate of food, and you sit at your lonely table, apart from the crowd – who all seem to know each other, and you kind of go….”I shouldn’t be here. I’m too small-time. Have I paid enough dues?”
Then people start coming over. This was one of the most welcoming theatre troupes I have experienced. The sense of community in the theatre warms my heart. Because the theatre is not about cliques and exclusion. The theatre is about inclusion.
And…to my extreme surprise…the people in this theatre embraced me. I have spent my whole life as an outsider (mostly by choice). When people include me as a part of them…and welcome me with open arms…THAT is something!
Actor Richard Ridley, Playwright Amanda Ball, Actor Al Bostick.
The play is entitled: The Girl on the Tractor.
My cell phone just rang.
It was a number I didn’t recognize. Since the majority of those are telemarketers, I didn’t pick up. Then the voice mail beeped.
One of my plays has been chosen to be performed this Saturday at Carpenter Square Theatre!
I gotta tell you – this does not get old!!!
Playwrighting is something that we came to late in our creative dreams. Growing up, I wanted to be a 1) country music singer, 2) mystery author 3) actor in major motion pictures 4) movie director….and then at some point after that…then came The Theatre!
I pursue each and every one of those goals (and a lot more besides). But as a writer…it is astounding to see your creation -which exists as words on a sheet of paper – come to life in front of you. It is a thrill to see an actor interpret your words. Yes…there are sometimes when you want a scene to play out a certain way. But…I enjoy the thrill of seeing someone find some interpretation in those words that I have not even considered.
Besides which – theatre people are cool! As a collective group: they share: they share their talent with the world. Being an actor means that something inside of you is bursting forth. That takes guts. Theatre people are courageous. Most of us avoid uncomfortable situations – but theatre people will play any situation or any character. Theatre people don’t mind the spotlight, in fact, they welcome it. Theatre people are about inclusion. They are all about embracing our differences and finding some way to be a bridge to human connection.
It is a huge honor to get to be a part of this community!
To the Carpenter Square Theatre troupe – thank you!
Do you read movie credits?
I have always read movie credits? I kinda baffles me when you are in the theater, and as soon as the credits start to roll, people stand up to leave.
Back in the olden days…when we had the gentle sloping movie theater floors….I’d have to stand up at that point, just to see the credits. Thank goodness for stadium seating – where I can now sit down to read the credits. But I got in the habit of staying thru till the bitter end…because they put the music credits at the end, and I’d want to see who sang what song.
Then, it became a measure of respect…it takes tons of people to make a movie. If something was on the screen for two seconds, well….that may have taken eight hours to film. People work hard to make movies, even if that amount of time is not proportionally represented on screen.
So, I read names…names that I have never heard before and will never hear again.
Then THIS happens:
A movie that I worked on years ago came on late night cable. I have not yet had the opportunity to see it.
I watched it to see if I got edited in. Boom! I did. Twice – not that you can tell it’s me.
Then you watch the credits. As an actor, I have made several movies for other people. I have yet to be included in the credits….
Until now! That’s me!
Seventh name down on the list.
When we were filming the cattle drive movie last September, Don pitched the idea that we should travel Highway 81 in Oklahoma, and film the historical Chisholm Trail sites.
It only took me a year to be able to execute that. We finalized the movie a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, the “historic sites” video isn’t in that.
But there are so many other video projects we want to do about the Chisholm Trail, and maybe a week ago, we started talking about this trip.
We set a day that worked for both of our schedules: Monday. Sounds great.
“What’s the plan?” Don texted me. I said, “Leave at 9.”
Our plan all along was to make it to Okarche, which happens to have the best fried chicken in Oklahoma, and have lunch. Sounds fun. Drive around some, film, laugh, enjoy the day, take photographs, have lunch.
At 9, Don and I climb in the car and head out. The first thing I wanted to find was when we were out on the trail, I remembered a little metal sign, hanging from a post. Well, we drove around and around and never did find it. Was it actually there? Or did I dream it?
That’s helpful. You know you are in the right location. There are several historical markers across the state. We plan to film a few of the historic sites, to use in a future video.
Now, keep in mind…our plan was to eat the best fried chicken in Oklahoma for lunch. So, I had a light breakfast, about 6am. I was hungry. After awhile, Don asks, “How far are we going to go?”
I said that I didn’t have a plan. I had planned to drive around and find some historical markers to film, and we’d eat lunch. But…if we got to such-and-such place, we could do this. If we got to such-and-such town, I wanted to visit a cemetery where I have family buried.
Don said, “Are we going to go all the way to the river?”
And we kinda looked at each other and said, “Why the hell not?”
And I am hungry and we are nowhere close to the best fried chicken in the state of Oklahoma. Don suggested we get a bite to eat on the way, and we’d have our chicken for supper on the way back up the trail.
And away we flew…down the trail, stopping to film things along the way, knowing there were some places we’d stop to film on the way back.
You know what? Oklahoma is a big state!
I started off driving. I had pulled a file off the internet, and when printed, it came to 9 pages. I got the highlighter and highlighted town names, (which were not in any kind of geographic order.) There was an atlas in the car.
I had figured we’d drive and we’d see those brown signs above, then we’d know where to stop.
Yeah, um, not so much. Don read the instructions, then translated them, and tried to figure out locations. At one point he was coordinating the printout, the map, a map we got from a museum, and his phone, trying to pinpoint the location of the Chisholm Trail. He took a lot of notes, about where we’d been, what we had filmed, and what was still to filmed.
As he said, this would have gone a lot better with better research and planning.
Planning? What planning? I had no idea we were going to go south of I-40! LOL
We found some amazing sites. History is mind-blowing!
A man named Bob Klemme engineered a project to place these markers across Oklahoma on the Chisholm Trail.
One of the most amazing sites was east of Addington.
This obelisk sits on a hill that served as a lookout on the Chisholm Trail.
If you make it that far, you gotta cross the Red River into Texas! I rolled down the window to breathe some Texas air, and we started back north. By this point, you gotta calculate the miles of where you are, where you need to go next, and how much daylight you have left.
Needless to say, we didn’t get to film everything. But it was fun.
As the sun set, the next worry becomes…what time does the fried chicken place close?
I called them. They close at 10.
At long last, after a FULL day, where we hadn’t planned enough, hadn’t researched enough, and didn’t know enough, we got to the restaurant that serves the best fried chicken in Oklahoma. Eischen’s Bar!
There are eight items on the menu. A whole fried chicken is at the top of the list.
The waiter asked what we wanted. I said chicken. Don said okra.
When the food came, we were happy, happy people! (We’d only been waiting All Day to get to some fried chicken!) (We’d only been crawling in and out of the car, in the near 100* heat and lugging cameras around All Day to film a project that we didn’t plan for nearly well enough.)
Don’s phone logged our locations and the trip.
On rest of the way home, driving in the darkness along the old Chisholm Trail, we put some western swing in the CD player, and sang along under the night sky.
Four hundred ninety-six miles.
And ONE WHOLE fried chicken later…we got back to the place where we started.
You’d think that would be enough! I mean, geez…come on! 496 miles. Only a glutton for punishment would do that, right?
So, what happens next?