Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thank You, Hans...

I owe a thank you to Hans Zimmer. If you don't think you know him, you probably do - his music has underscored many movies you've seen including his Oscar Winning score for The Lion King. I could list his many credits, but you can simply Google him if you care. I have to thank him, because it is one track from one CD from one film in particular that allowed me to finish the second draft of my latest play, The Bathing of Christopher End.

My use of his score for The Thin Red Line is not new. There are a few film scores that have played on an endless loop as I draft and re-draft. This is one of them, along with Philip Glass's score for The Hours and Elliot Goldenthal's music for Alien 3. Certain music unlocks my creative center and helps me stay "in the zone."

But it was a few days ago, while digging through the second half of my play, when my ears perked up and I actually listened to the music again. Track 3. Titled: "Journey to the Line". It's a little over nine minutes long. I sat back in my chair and took in this music as if I'd never heard it has two sections. The first is a repetitive building motif that eventually explodes with sorrow and passion as the french horns fully take over the melody and wail with unapologetic agony. The second part - a release of tension - goes to high strings and minimal orchestration to invoke a sensation of absolute surrender and "lift". It is almost a meditation on what has just transpired...a cool wind blowing over a sweaty brow.

This nine minutes of Hans Zimmer's genius made me highlight the final forty pages of my play and delete them. Zap. Gone. For I finally understood Christopher. And I actually wept a little. Not at the loss of forty pages - that's really not a big deal - I'm a writer, there's always more... It was about this understanding of a character I so wanted to know better...and now I felt I did. Prior to this musical intervention, I had seen Christopher as complex...layers upon layers of history and wounds...but really, he is quite simple. And in this simplicity, I found the end of my play.

Now, is it any good? Who the hell knows? I can say that I enjoyed being inside the world of this play more that I have anything since I wrote Rubber 'n' Glue in 2004. And I can say that it is very me....whatever that means!

When I wrote End of Play as this second draft was complete, I made myself a cocktail, walked over to my stereo, and turned up "Journey to the Line" at full blast - I floated inside the music as I sipped my Vodka concoction - and I thanked Hans Zimmer.

Weigh In #5



Weight Loss in Past Week:

Total Weight Loss:

Exercise Last Week:
5 gym visits
(1 on Thanksgiving Day!)
cardio and weight lifting
60 to 90 min per visit

Goal for next week:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weigh In #4



Weight Loss in Past Week:

Total Weight Loss:

Exercise Last Week:
5 gym visits
cardio and weight lifting
60 to 90 min per visit

Goal for next week:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nothing Real About It

I want the words "realistic" and "realism" to be eliminated from theatrical vocabulary!

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Adam Bock's The Receptionist at CoHo Productions. Expertly paced and staged by Rose Riordan - and executed with immense depth by the cast - this show will probably go down as my favorite of the year. What was shocking, however, was that afterward a colleague said to me, "It was so very realistic." WHAT?! There isn't one thing "realistic" about this show. There are naturalistic moments, yes. Real coffee brewing onstage - dialogue that seems almost improvised it's so mundane - an actor dripping saliva onto the carpet because she has actually stuffed her mouth full of salt water taffy to the point of an explosion - but the brilliance of Bock is that his plays beg for this approach and yet are often nestled inside a heap of outrageous scenarios - not realistic, but ARTISTIC.

As I often lecture to my students - the act of seeing theatre is a bit absurd, yes? We make this agreement when we buy our tickets to suspend our disbelief. We decide that we will play make believe with the actors. Even in what I call "boring living room plays" we must do this. A curtain goes up and on the stage is a perfect replica of a living room...this is absurd. And as perfect a replica as it may be - it is still a huge leap of imagination to play along. There is no realism - there is nothing realistic about any of it. And THAT is the magic of theatre. It begs us to use our imaginations and to go along for the ride. It begs us to buy into the outrageous - often to escape - or perhaps to experience catharsis through something entirely NOT real.

When my students say, "I liked that because it was so realistic, " I say, "Well, do you like Lord of the Rings?"

And they most often say, "I love it!"

"And do you find yourself buying these characters and their relationships?"

And they mostly say, "Yes. I cried."

And I say, "But that's fantasy."

And they pause. And then I say, "The word you're looking for is 'truthful' not 'realistic'."

Point I'm making is - anything can be credible in the theatre if the artists have transported the audience with integrity. Then there is that element of truth. My issue here stems from the fact that young people are getting more and more bound by this notion of "real" - they are less and less imaginative each year - and the word "realistic" comes up time and time again. They start seeking only the stories that can "actually happen". But that flies against what I feel theatre is supposed to do -which is to unchain our minds. There's nothing wrong with writing what we term a "realistic" play - but to believe that's the ultimate goal...or to congratulate a play based on that word - it rubs me wrong.

In the theatre, anything can happen. And it's truth we seek from art, not realism.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weigh In #3



Weight Loss in Past Week:

Total Weight Loss:

Exercise Last Week:
5 gym visits
cardio and weight lifting
60 to 90 min per visit

Goal for next week:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Chair!

Portland is often referred to as a City of Cafes. (Seattle had the title first, of course.) And I have certainly fallen in love with my cafe time. There is something really soothing about taking my work to a cafe, sitting over coffee or loose-leaf tea, and reading amidst the hum of espresso machines and intellectual conversations. I'm not a snob about corporate versus independent companies, though I admit, I will never think of going to Starbucks as soothing. Starbucks is for "on-the-go" caffeine grabbing. But I will often settle into Peet's or even Barnes and Noble - if for no other reason than they are close and consistent. I also love Fleur de Lis which is independent and beginning to thrive as a destination point for my lovely Hollywood neighborhood.

Anyway...soothing - but not lately. Why? Chairs.

Once again I find myself amazed at the self-involvement of people. Where many of the cafes I frequent used to be filled mostly with loners and couples - something has shifted, and the cafe is becoming quite the social gathering spot. Whole families are showing up to suck coffee and space. They arrive, look around, and this expression of utter shock spreads across their faces as they spy nothing but bistro tables flanked by two chairs. They have walked in with a spouse, three kids, and sometimes with another family as if they are all going to pose for a portrait entitled Americano Americana.

Now...once realizing the cafe was not designed like Applebee's, you'd think they might re-think the plan.

Two days ago I was at Peet's, waiting for a dramaturgy client. This is my favorite place to meet clients as it is so easy to get to, but as this location is very popular with the neighborhood locals, I do find myself anxious about finding a table. I got lucky on this day. In the corner, nestled away. Ahhhh.....soothing. I was fifteen minutes early for my meeting. As I'm finalizing my notes, this man walks up and tries to take the chair from the other side of my table. He doesn't even ask.

I stop him. "Oh, I'm sorry, but I'm waiting for someone. I have a meeting here in a few minutes."

He grumbles. "My kids need a place to sit."

I look over at his brood. Three kids, a wife, and another couple. Yes. Seven people. They have hijacked the table that is reserved for those with disabilities - as it's the only large table - and can accommodate a whopping three chairs. Not seven. They have managed to pull the table away from the window, blocking part of the pathway to the cash register. His wife and her friend are sitting one-ass-cheeked on the window sill. They have managed to squash four chairs around the table already. I notice that there are now two bistro tables completely naked - no chairs at all, because they have been amputated by this man.

I smile. "I'm sorry, but you can't take my chair. My client needs a place to sit."

He glares. "What? You don't have a real office?"

I smile again. "No I don't. And I guess you don't have any real manners."

He stomped off. I silently fumed at the stupidity of people. And yes, I got petty. I looked over at this ridiculous sight - drinking their coffee, feeling trendy, but irritable because they had no "real" table at which to sit. They had, as I already mentioned, pushed the table out into the pathway. I made a mental measurement. And I called over to the manager who was stocking some napkins.

"You know, those people have moved the table, and it looks like there's less than three feet now in the walkway. Isn't that a fire code violation? I know it seems silly, but I get really paranoid about these things. Call me neurotic!" I laughed. Fake but convincing.

She looked at the table. Sighed. Looked back at me. Rolled her eyes. "You're right, and that is ridiculous. What do we look like, Applebee's?" She made her way to the table and told them to move. I looked back down at my work. I heard loud grumbles and stomping. And then I looked back to see the table empty - back in its proper spot. And the manager and I shared a wink.

Leave my chair alone.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weigh In #2



Weight Loss in Past Week:

Total Weight Loss:

Exercise Last Week:
5 gym visits
cardio and weight lifting
1 hour per visit

Goal for next week:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Party Foul pt 2

Given there are two prominent news shows with gay anchors now - this California debacle is getting a bit more coverage. Both Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow have offered more focused information. I was unaware of some of the strategies for passing Proposition 8.

Many know that early on I had issues with Obama's followers. My issue was that Obama was perceived as a "non-politician" or a "new politician". His stance on gay rights revealed to me that he was no different - and in fact, he was quick to call upon his faith...much more than Hillary Clinton - though their positions are basically the same. Here is the quote from Obama in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune:

"I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

It is precisely this quote - and others like it - that were used in robo-calls and ads in California - specifically targeting African Americans. Reportedly, Obama was not happy that his words were being used to promote Proposition 8 - but the campaign couldn't possibly risk bringing gay marriage into the spotlight days before the election and so had to let it go.

Politically, I agree with this. But it makes me very sad - and it reveals that Obama, though an exciting new President, is still not going to venture onto that third rail. And perhaps I need to take him at his word. If his Christianity is so dear to him - then I must assume he really doesn't support gay marriage. We must not be truly equal. We must not be worthy of "something sanctified."

What do I think will help change the country? Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Party Foul

I had a very busy day.
...Private dramaturgy meeting.
...New teaching residency at the amazing FOCUS program at Alliance High School. ...Director/producer meeting with Blue Monkey Theater for my play, Ablaze.
...Pick Up rehearsal for the New Works Fest, Blitz.

So I was out and about. And I can't count the number of times I was greeted with "Happy Obama" day. My response? "I know, I'm so thankful. But for the gay community, it was a terrible day for human rights."

I said this to every single person who brought up the election. Now, make no mistake. I am relieved with the Obama win. I feel blessed to witness this moment in history. I wept like a baby the second CNN announced him the official President-Elect. But for gay people, it was a terrible day for human rights. And I, along with many queer people around the country, am feeling a little left out of the party. Florida and Arizona banned gay marriage. Arkansas made gay adoption illegal. And let's not forget the disaster that is California's Proposition 8. 18,000 gay and lesbian couples are already legally married in Cali. Their rights cannot be stripped. What an absurd situation. Those 36,000 people are legally married, but no other same sex couples can marry now. How does this work with rights? It's a cluster fuck.

How did this happen? Lots of money. And not on the side of progress. This bigotry was largely funded by the dangerous cult commonly known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yes, folks...the Mormons in Utah were really scared they might catch something...the gay disease was going to infect all the Californians then spread through Nevada and penetrate their magic underwear.

But there is another nasty statistic that has newscasters saying politically correct things like, "This is intriguing. No other group voted this way. How does one interpret this information?"
You see, African American voters in California voted 70% to ban gay marriage. No other ethnic group did so. All other groups split down the middle. African Americans carried the ban on gay marriage to victory.

Need I even articulate the irony?

Now, before anyone gets too uncomfortable - I do not vilify the African American community for this. But there is a big issue with gay rights within this community. Having dated more than one black man in my life, I can tell you - there may be nothing harder than being a black gay man. Documentaries have been devoted to it. Studies have been lectured. Suicide rates are much higher among black gay men. It is a really big problem. Why? Is it religion? There is a large evangelical tradition in black communities across this country. Does it have to do with ideas about masculinity? I know with the Hispanic community this is very true. My Hispanic partner and I talk about these issues quite often. It gets bizarre - in the Latino community you are only really considered gay if you are on the receptive end of sex. So long as you are merely receiving pleasure or "topping" - you are simply "getting off" and remain "manly." Or...does it come down to education? For over a hundred years, bigotry has prevented many African Americans from receiving equal education opportunities - so this perhaps leads to misunderstandings about homosexuality.

I don't know.

But I am left feeling less than 100% joyful today. I am thrilled to see President Obama lead this country. I am in awe, really. This may change the globe. But I must remain aware of the injustices that remain.

It was a very bad night for human rights. And we cannot forget that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weigh In #1

This is a blog about exposing myself - that was the original intent - a sort of stepping out from behind my many masks. I have decided to also use it as a way to be publicly accountable.

In the next day or two, I will post at length about this decision - what it means, history, etc. This is not some impulsive decision based on a "fat day". I have done a lot of contemplation on the subject for over a year. So more to come on that.

Today I will simply state the stats and the goal.

Matthew B. Zrebski
on 11/2/08
Height 5' 11 1/2"
Weight 252lb

on 11/2/09
Height 5' 11 1/2"
Weight 180lb

72lb in 52 weeks, roughly 1.5 lb per week

Each Sunday I will post the weigh-in results for that week. Don't worry - I don't intend to turn this blog into a Richard Simmons or Oprah Winfrey sob fest about fat. I will simply post the weigh in.

And...I'm off!