REVIEW OF “TIANANMEN REQUIEM” by Carol W. Berman, M.D.
How shocked we all were when we heard about students and other people being killed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Seeing the play, “Tiananmen Requiem” reminded me of those feelings. The playwright presents two stories at once, a modern one of a Chinese man, Wang Yang (played by Charles Pang) and his daughter, Alyssa (played by Karina Wen), and the same man (Wang) when he was young and with his lover, Shuyin (played by Michael Benzinger) an artist. Of course, their gay love was forbidden under the Chinese regime. Shuyin is an easy-going man, believing that things will work out, while Wang is an uptight soldier. The artist (Shuyin) goes to Tiananmen Square with his friends to protest the government with a hunger strike. (Spoiler Alert: Wang gives Shuyin a gun for protection but the consequences are fatal when this weapon is discovered on him. Wang cannot bring himself to fire on the students and is disgraced because of this.)
All these years, Alyssa had believed that her father (Wang) escaped China for better financial circumstances, but she learns that he was dishonored because he didn’t shoot the students. Not able to tolerate his ostracism, he fled China. I found the play enjoyable and realistic, but friends accompanying me said they could not believe the gay relationships or the characters themselves. It is an important time in Chinese history that should be explored further.
Erin Shea Brady’s clever comedy exploring the life of a queer, polyamorous writer in Chicago peppered with a whiff of Nora Ephron will premiere as part of the Fresh Fruit “Return to Live Theatre” Festival.
“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” by Erin Shea Brady
Produced by Juliet Roll in association with the Fresh Fruit Festival. Covid Compliance overseen by Leah Ableson
Friday 5/6 at 6:30 pm Sunday 5/8 at 5:30 pm Monday 5/9 at 8:15 pm
Annie Best is a writer living in Chicago. She is queer, polyamorous, recently estranged from her family and at a creative standstill. When one of Annie’s partners convinces her to dive into the world of Nora Ephron’s great romantic comedies, Annie begins to see her life through the Ephron lens. Annie imagines scenes and conversations, paying homage to When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie & Julia, among others, as she sits with the beauty and discomfort of the life she has chosen. Along the way, as seasons pass, romantic relationships develop and change with faith and family coming into question. At the end of the play, Annie reconnects with her father, finally finding the courage to stand on her own.
Erin Shea Brady is a writer, director and social worker living in Chicago, IL. As a playwright, Erin has developed two plays (Revival and Chaos Theory, or something about butterflies) with the Jackalope Playwrights Lab. Directing credits include: Grace, or the Art of Climbing and Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.); Cabaret; Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Assistant Directing and Dramaturgy credits include productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, has participated in the internship program at Steppenwolf and was part of Goodman’s “Criticism in a Changing America” bootcamp. Erin has been a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and The Wampus Cat Collective, is a contributing writer and critic at Newcity Stage, and is a practicing therapist with a Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. They are currently pursuing a Masters in Extension Studies with an emphasis on Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University.
Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà is HIGH PLAYER now as she was recently contracted to write the script for the season finale of GODLIKE GAMING a TV sitcom that’s garnering great praise. Moreover, she’s set for the foreseeable future with the news that she will be scripting their entire second season.
ArtsWrites caught up with Anna to learn more about her talent and her.
“I pause … and listen … before I write. Getting to the root of why a certain story needs to be told and why I should be the one to do so, makes my unique perspective come through,” says Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà. By the way, she listened before she replied.
She continued by sharing that a “good script” is not just exciting but must possess universal and identifiable – and relatable – themes: “As a writer, I strive to create well-rounded characters, showing how flawed and beautiful humans can be,” she concluded. It is Anna’s vast attention to detail in creating – not a script – but a world and then inviting the audience to that world. An old acting exercise demands the performer to ask, why today, and – as a writer – Anna seems to follow that principle as well. “Nothing happens just because,” she chimed, “everything has a cause and effect that makes life’s obstacles interesting.” Anna asks the audience to do what she has already done … listen to what’s in front of them.
ArtsWrites spoke further with this dynamic scribe about her life AND style:
What’s your creative process?
When I’m writing one of my own projects, I ask myself the question “what do I want to see?”. Finding what I think has been missing in the audiovisual world helps me find a passion for the project and how I’m going to express it to others. I usually skip that question if I’m writing for someone else’s project or working on their development. Then, I go straight to the second question which is “how do I want to see it?” Knowing where the characters begin and what ending I want them to have given a direction to the story. Getting to know the characters well, how they would react in certain situations, even what kind of music they’d listen to if need be, fills up the rest of the story. I like to think of my creative process as a puzzle where I only have the outline, and the middle I draw as I go within the limits.
You have humble beginnings: Jr. Agent, Script Supervisor, etc… How did you rise to scriptwriter?
Screenwriting has always been my end-goal, but to have people read your script, first you need to make them listen. And that’s what all the jobs in my career have helped me do. As a Jr. Agent, I’ve learned how the industry works in the United States and how to sell my clients’ projects, something I can take for my own. As a Script Supervisor and Developer, I’ve seen other people’s mistakes and achievements, reading hundreds of scripts from different genres. As a Production Assistant, I’ve worked with others who think differently from me, but we’ve found creative common ground. Meeting people, keeping educating myself, and putting my work out there have made screenwriting possible.
Your genres are vast … a romantic film, a horror film, and a wacky TV show… What was it like to work on such diverse projects?
A project should be compelling regardless of the genre, the length of the piece, or who’s involved in it. Having to adapt to various genres keeps me on my toes and challenges me to make the best out of any story. Research is a big part of being versatile in screenwriting. Knowing why the story I’m telling has a specific genre attached to it gives me the structure and guidelines I need to follow. Immersing myself with references allows me to understand how I should communicate a story within the genre.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on various projects that are in the development phase. I’m the writer for the season one finale of Godlike Gaming, with talks of season 2 already happening. I have multiple shoots in the next few months of shorts I’ve helped write, and I’m also going to be a script supervisor in them. My work as a Jr. Agent and Head of Development at the Jackson Agency will have me creating and shopping projects in the months to come as well.
Look for part II of our series on screenwriter, Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà, in InDfilm
Norma Mortimer brings us family drama – more like the drama from family! RUN THE COURSE & DADDY’S GIRLS, running at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W 54th St, in NYC, March 2 – 13 (Wednesday thru Saturday @ 8pm; Sunday @ 3pm. Call for tickets: (212) 581-3044)
RUN THE COURSE: A suicide meant to tear a family apart only brings them closer only to discover it might not be a suicide at all and DADDY’S GIRLS: A widowed father is at the center of a family controversy involving social status. Can love really conquer all?
Every army – and theatre – has the world-weary soldier. The American Theatre of Actors is no acception. Ken Coughlin, the resident technical director and acclaimed character actor, is as omnipresent in that establishment as much as James Jennings – the founder.
As the doors of the ATA re-open, it is Ken who unlocks them. He appears in these one-acts.
What obstacles do you encounter in creating your role(s)? I have created well over 200 roles as an actor, each has its own issues. There is no one way to overcome each obstacle outside of putting in the time to apply your own understanding of that character, to make the character real for the audience.
Do you think this should be a Broadway play or an off-Broadway play? Why? I’m not qualified to make that decision. I don’t consider myself a good judge of what pleases the masses. I think this is an interesting story, with twists and turns that hold my interest.
You’re working in a landmark theatre with one of its premier directors, creating roles in new plays… How does it feel? I have been a fixture at the American Theatre of Actors since 1994. James Jennings has done a great job of adhering to the goals he set forth when creating this space. Giving a space for actors to practice their craft, without the financial burdens of trying to put on a production. It is always an honor to be involved with the American Theatre of Actors.
What’s next? I’m already working on several new projects, as a video editor, sound designer, and many other jobs associated with theater.
Review by Carol W. Berman of “A Place For Us” written and directed by Anthony M. Laura
The play opens with an ordinary enough scene of a mother, Judith (played by Donna White), chatting while folding laundry and a daughter, Hannah (played by Madison Murrah), disengaged from the conversation. The two quarrel about some trivia. In a short time, the mother presents a bloody towel to the daughter and asks her what caused this. The daughter replies that she had a bloody nose, but somehow we doubt it. A stranger, Natalie (played by Raina Silver), enters and proclaims the house hers. She questions why Judith and Hannah are even there. The mother threatens to call the police, but the father, Vincent (played by Emerson Buchholz), appears instead. The daughter Hannah is happy to see him. Vincent tells Natalie to leave but she again insists that it’s her house. The family has dinner together with Natalie, who baked a cake. I suppose the implication is that they will all live there together, happily or not.
If someone came into my house and said it was hers, I would engage in a much bigger battle with the person than this family did. As a consequence, I spent a long time thinking about who or what the stranger Natalie might be. Is she a ghost? (She says she’s a hundred years old, but appears only about 20.) Is she the daughter’s imaginary friend solidified into flesh? (Natalie kisses Hannah, even though Hannah makes it clear she’s not gay.
And they go off into the bedroom after that.) Then to add more mystery to the situation Natalie reveals she’s pregnant so the family doesn’t have the heart to kick her out. (I also imagined she was a homeless pregnant woman who devised a brilliant scheme to get domiciled.) To give them credit, the actors do their best to make sense of the script.
The mystery is never solved.
CAROL W. BERMAN, M.D. is a playwright who when she is not writing is listening to patients. Carol’s first play, UNDER THE DRAGON, was produced by The Workshop at The Neighborhood Playhouse in 2002. Her second play, SUNSHINE SALLY, was produced in 2007. Her third play, PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT, and fourth play, BROWNSTONE BREAKDOWN, were produced by Egoactus Company in New York City. IN THE KINGDOM OF SAM played at the Manhattan Repertory Theater and PARKING LOT 63 had a run at the Hudson Guild Theater. LIGHT MY FIRE was presented as a staged reading at the Dixon Place Theater. In May 2019, under the auspices of the American Psychiatric Association, her play UNDER THE DRAGON was featured as a media session at the APA’s annual conference in San Francisco. Many of her ten-minute plays were in festivals in New York City and London. Carolwberman.com
One of the best Zoom reading I’ve seen during this unique time was Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors presented by the Blind Cupid Shakespeare Company.
The performances are praise-worthy but it’s the production scheme that sets this production apart.
The Comedy of Errors, an early play of the Bard, is one of his most farcical and apropos for this company’s English Music Hall-style comedy motif. The pun-soaked script and use of mistaken identity – what became a staple of sitcom plots. It concerns two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, and Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. Needless to say, this incredible premise makes slapstick fights, sex-capades, insanity, and even demonic possession seem totally possible – and ample double-takes.
Beginning “on Zoom” to discuss the pandemic’s cancellation of their show, the company – appearing as themselves – discussing with disdain not performing and the lack of funds needed to do it live under other circumstances. This in-and-of itself was brilliant. An intimate editorial of the pandemic’s attack on the arts coupled with an extraordinarily veiled but effective fundraising pitch welcomes us into the production’s over-the-top storyline and allows us to accept the situation as opposed to another level of disbelief. Then an intentionally bumpy entrance at the beginning regarding subtitles wrapped the entire opening in a nice Monty Python-like bow.
We are then treated to a bilingual production that entertains and educates. Much of the well-trained and quite talented ensemble bounced back and forth between English and Italian creating the play’s necessary bi-coastal dynamic. Ample subtitles allowed the flow to not cease regardless of what tongue was uttering Shakespeare’s words, so one may focus on the artists’ interpretation with little impedance. This was a blessing on two levels: it was thrilling to watch an actor pour their souls out in humor or drama in Italian and watch perfect reactions from their English speaking co-stars – and visa versa. Secondly, it allowed some really fine performances to be totally enjoyed with little distraction. Notable were a stunning Stefano Guerriero, whose expressive countenance and powerful voice made full use of his setting. Gianluigi Calvani and Joe Staton who donated genuine comic timing and exuberance; Gilda Mercado, an actress obviously adept in film and stage work and possessing a true flair for Shakespeare; moved to-and-fro, leaning into the camera, maneuvered her very expressive face to ingeniously create joyous stage pictures and bright deliveries; Muge Karagulle – whose expressive face, and Frances Knight – whose vocal manipulations – was worth the addition.
But the star-turn was Alice Lussiana Parente who played BOTH Dromios and in BOTH languages. Zoom made it easy for the one actress to have some uproarious scenes with herself and even to be in group sections as both characters. Surely, in the 21st Century when CGI is de rigueur, this editing trick is accomplishable but the magic of seeing this tour-de-force performance lost no luster.
Director JT Stocks and the Blind Cupid Company figured it out. They took the medium of virtual and made it truly their own. Ironic, we credit Shakespeare with [re]creating the English language, thus we must credit Blind Cupid with [re]creating virtual theater.
Speak Up Talk Radio announced the winners of 2021’s third quarter FIREBIRD BOOK AWARDS contest. One of the winning entries was from California, author S.A. Bradley, whose book titled “Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy” won in the Speak Up Talk Radio category.
Authors and publishers from around the world submitted their work to the Firebird Book Awards. Two judges from a select panel of 17 judges read each book in its entirety and independently scored each entry. All judges committed to a set of standardized criteria that evaluates the quality of the writing as well as production aspects. Only entries with the highest of scores were awarded the coveted Firebird.
Patricia J. Rullo, founder of the Firebird Book Awards, says, “ we received nearly double the amount of entries this quarter and we recruited more qualified judges from the publishing and writing world. Our judging panel includes a diverse group who represent a cross section of ages, cultural heritage, race, religion, gender, and experience. At Speak Up Talk Radio, our mission is to offer authors a welcome place to promote themselves and their books via book awards, radio interviews, audiobook production, voiceover marketing tools, and podcasting services. We love to support those who dare to share their innermost thoughts with the world. Just one sentence in one book can very well make a difference in a reader’s life. I can’t think of anything better than that.” Pat adds, “We’ve included a charitable component to our awards by making all entry fees tax-deductible to the author. In return, we personally make and send handmade fun and colorful pillowcases to women and children in homeless shelters via Enchanted Makeovers, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. All entry fees fund this project. In this way, authors get notoriety for their work while helping to transform homeless shelters into bright and happy homes. It is a rewarding venture for everyone.”
The Firebird Book Awards run quarterly contests so authors can receive recognition on a timely basis. Authors from all genres, mainstream, independent, and self-published are welcome. For additional winning authors, titles, and entry information: https://www.speakuptalkradio.com
An all Asian cast brings to life a deeply moving tale of a young gay couple trying to survive the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The Players Theatre and spit&vigor is presenting TIANANMEN REQUIEM, running March 10 – 27, at The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal St, NYC, co-produced by spit&vigor is already the subject of controversy. An all Asian cast brings to life a deeply moving tale of a young gay couple trying to survive the Tiananmen Square crackdown and how their daughter – more than a decade later – is attempting to uncover one of her parents’ secret ties to the Chinese military during the massacre. This tragic love story set against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square Massacre displays the brutality of this terrible moment in history.
“I hope to show how gay rights — and all human rights — are so important and so limited in China, especially at this pivotal time,” says the author of the play.
NOTE: The playwright’s family left China because of religious repression. The playwright himself could not leave the country as a child because of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Is this your first play?
It is my first play to be staged, and it was written bilingually.
Can you share with us what happened in your life to make you want to write this play?
My family left China because of religious repression. My parents and my grandparents are Christians, and both of my grandfathers went to prison because of their religion. My parents left China on student visas to Germany, and in the summer of 1989, when I was a little child, my paternal grandfather planned to get me out of China so I could be reunited with my parents. But in the early summer of 1989, the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred, preventing us from leaving the country. My uncle who was a student at the time was actually in Tiananmen three days after the massacre and witnessed the aftermath. So this event has been part of our family’s consciousness.
Your play involves a gay couple. Do you think that punctuates the overall message more?
A Chinese dissident who lived through Tiananmen and is the play’s historical consultant told me that a gay relationship would have been absolutely taboo at the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. You see, not only is the story about a gay couple, it’s a story about a gay soldier and gay student couple. I hope to make a statement and shine a light on gay rights in China.
Is your family supportive of it.. even in secret?
They are very. My uncle was the first reader of the bilingual version of the play. The play is dedicated to him.
What have you learned about yourself in writing this play?
That it takes courage to make art, especially writing a play that would be absolutely forbidden in China, and that can cause tremendous damage to my family.
Did the creation of a dredge up strong memories.. good, bad, etc? What does the future hold for you?
My most vivid memory of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown is the propaganda image of a school girl feeding wontons to a soldier armed to the teeth, standing in Tiananmen. This image makes me wake up at night. I reused it in a modified form in one of the scenes.
Read more about this play and the author in Art Indepeendent
Playful Substance, one of NY’s premiere indie arts organizations known for fostering emerging writers, went “retro” and presented a telethon fundraising event of three programs. Writer-at-large, JEN BUSH, covered the event. This is Part VI
Review by Jen Bush-12/7/21
Artists have a voice, a vision and a story to tell through mediums such as art, music and theater. What they need is an opportunity. Playful substance provides those crucial opportunities as well as support to artists. This is what Playful Substance is all about in their own words:
Playful Substance is a New York based theater company dedicated to fostering new works through our Writers Groups, developmental workshops, community events and fully staged productions. We believe that lifelong artist development, work-life balance, and the vitality of an inclusive creative space are integral to the artist’s practice. “Playful Substance” is the mission; substantive work approached with joy, cooperation, sensitivity, and humor.
Their Pithy Party is an annual event putting Playful Substance’s writer’s groups in the spotlight with staged readings featuring excerpts of works in progress directed and read by company members and friends. This year’s event was roughly four hours long and showcased 10 writers, 10 directors and 30 cast members. The live performances were spread out over 3 seatings. The online performance featured bonus content such as artist interviews and a more in-depth look at Playful Substance.
A Special Episode
By Nick Steckman
Directed by Kaili Y. Turner
Cast: Matt C. Cass, Cristina Garcia Leon, Bree O’Connor, Rocco Spoon and Lauren Lindsey White
Why does a high-priced psychiatrist living in a N.Y.C brownstone with his family want to move to Portland to open a pottery store? It’s because he’s got a dark secret and his family is about to blow up his spot! Dr. Reynolds has been wildly inappropriate with several of his patients and his teenage daughter’s friend. Upon his return home, his family attempts to let him know that the cat is out of the bag. It’s difficult to get his attention but they finally confront him. At first he tries to deny it and then he acts like it’s no big deal. The result is a family blowout where loyalties are misplaced and the teenage daughter is the only one with any sense.
The dynamics of this family are at the paramount of dysfunction. Dr. Reynolds is a textbook narcissist. His overlooked and ill-treated wife is in blatant denial. His son tries to defend him. His daughter, who is the only levelheaded one is repulsed by him and seeks a logical navigation of this disgraceful situation.
This production has themes of familial dysfunction, denial, narcissism and addresses the contemporary hot button issue of sexual inappropriateness. It is tough subject matter to be intertwined with comedy, yet they pull it off. Keeping in mind that these are excerpts of works in progress, there was a bit of a hiccup with the use of audience participation cue cards. I think a pure light comedy would be better served with audience cue cards. This production might make you feel uncomfortable with relief from humorous moments sprinkled about. The emotional entertainment value derives from the jolting feeling of the incredulous nature of the characters and the narrative.
Pithy Party has shown that Bree O’Connor can take on a multitude of acting roles and accents with keen expertise. Rocco Spoon slathered on the sleeze with his egotistical portrayal of Dr. Reynolds. Lauren Lindsey did a great job of portraying the logical outraged and daughter. Matt C. Cass gave an emotionally charged performance as the loyal son. A Special Episode serves up sensitive subject matter in a contemporarily compelling manner.
By Donald Wollner
Directed by Amanda Faye Lacson
Cast: Cristina Garcia Leon and Lee Wilkof
We have all been panic stricken upon the knowledge that a computer document we have been working long and hard at has been erased. This is the kickoff event in Aaron Sorkin. The wife of a middle-aged couple has a meltdown complete with choice expletives when a letter she has been working on is accidentally deleted. Her cool as a cucumber husband is unaffected but supportive. He barely glances up from the paper he is reading while attempting to diffuse the situation with humor. A discussion about the banality of life in a pandemic shifts the wife’s emotions to sadness as she pines away for the past. She longs for the days when her husband used to hang out with Aaron Sorkin because that made him edgy.
This was one of the shortest yet funniest plays of the Pithy Party. The pairing of Ms. Leon and Mr. Wilkof was ideal. Her brilliant anxiety driven performance coupled with his deadpan rapid-fire delivery of hilarious one-liners was pure magic. This play was completely relatable touching on common and contemporary subjects. Kudos to Mr. Wollner whose finished product is sure to be funny and fabulous.
The Miss Piggy Social Club
By Stephanie Scott
Directed by Courtney Wetzel
Cast: Bree O’Connor and Cristina Garcia Leon
The year is 2016 and the election is in full force. This was one of the most politically divisive elections in history. It decimated the relationships of friends, families, and colleagues. Can a 20 year friendship rise above opposing political beliefs? That is just what The Miss Piggy Social Club seeks to discover.
Adela and Margaret have been friends for 20 years after meeting at a spa. They come from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Certainly not a deal breaker or a barrier to friendship. A polite and respectful conversation about the candidates quickly spirals out of control into ugliness. Their tongues become weapons of scathing words veering into regretful places.
This powerful production packed a wallop of drama. Similar conversations akin to the dialogue of these characters have likely taken place all across America in 2016. This play authentically demonstrated the sad commentary on fractured relationships due to political division.
Having been in multiple productions in Pithy Party, Ms. Leon and Ms. O’Connor have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can act and they can act well. They delivered the talents of the wordsmith with thoughtful conviction. You won’t want to join Miss Piggy’s Social Club, but you’ll want to see it.
By Laura Sisskin
Directed by Raphael Peraia
Cast: Helene Galek, Raphael Perahia, Yessenis Rivas, Marlon Quijije, Lee Wilkof and Donald Wollner
Holiday gatherings among family can bring about the most joyous times or the most contentious. In this comedy, a family and a neighbor have gathered together to celebrate the Jewish new year called Rosh Hoshana. Alan invites his estranged brother Ralph to the celebration. Ralph is orthodox which is a stricter form of Judaism and Alan is more secular. They were estranged due to these opposing views. We witness an undercurrent of tension and resentment between the two brothers as Ralph makes several passive aggressive comments about Alan’s level of observance throughout the play.
As the scene progresses, various family members carry out traditions related to the holiday. Alan’s wife and daughter read an initial prayer. Ralph is adamant about strict adherence to the traditions. He insists that everyone wash their hands as part of the holiday ritual. Ralph is concerned with God’s opinion about blowing out candles while Alan is more concerned about his house burning down if they’re not blown out. The very upbeat and complimentary neighbor, who is a former priest is just happy to be among the guests.
Oy vey, what a play! The central themes of this production are family, sibling rivalry and Judaism. There is a great deal of humor to be found in this nicely written and well directed play. For a work in progress, it was well developed. The subject matter was highly relatable. Most families have that one meshuga member who ruffles the feathers of the others. The actors suited their parts well. The incomparable and thoroughly professional Mr. Wilkof was delightful as Alan. What a mench! Mr. Wollner didn’t futz around with his wonderful portrayal of Ralph, a brother dedicated to his faith. Mr. Quijije relieved much of the familial tensions with his zealously positive portrayal of the neighbor. The entire cast was wonderful. I say mazel tov to this fine production. Shlep on over to see it when it’s complete.
(Dear reader, I couldn’t resist looking up some Yiddish terms and throwing them into the review. Their meanings are below.)
Oy Vey-akin to oh no!
Mazel Tov-good luck
Mr. and Mrs. Garbo
By Raphael Perahia
Cast: Yessenia Rivas and Raphael Perahia
If you like your martinis shaken not stirred, you might like Mr. and Mrs. Garbo. It has espionage, marital conflict and even attempted murder.
Mr. Garbo is a Spanish double agent on a super-secret mission in London. His wife accompanied him to London. She is miserable and wants to return home. She is determined to attend an anniversary party being given that evening. Dignitaries and embassy officials will be present at this affair. The problem is Mrs. Garbo’s attendance at the party poses a threat to the mission and to the couple’s very existence. An intense argument ensues. Mr. Garbo becomes controlling and vindictive. Mrs. Garbo unflinchingly stands her ground. It’s the spy who loves me not.
This well penned play is captivating not only for its subject matter but because it is based on the true story of Spanish double agent Juan Pujol Garcia. The actors’ authentic interpretation of the script expertly portrayed the tension and drama of the narrative. Ms. Rivas gave a compelling performance of a woman on the edge willing to go to disturbing lengths to get her way. Mr. Perahia was the delightful surprise of the evening. It was a cunning move to put this play at the end of the run. Mr. Perahia served as co-host for this marathon of one-acts in three parts. Both hosts were sweet, adorable, charming, insanely likeable, and funny. By the end of Pithy Party, you felt bonded with them. Out of nowhere, Mr. Perahia’s acting chops materialized in full force. It was a real Jekyll and Hyde maneuver. There was no hint of the mild-mannered co-host. There was an evil undercurrent in his portrayal that put a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. Job well done all around! I spy a hit show in the making.
His fantastical writings are seen on all shores and even a few planets. His short stories have recent seen the light of day (pardon the pun) in periodicals like Schlock!, House of Stitched, and Doctor Who.
He also has partners with notable genre professionals like Claudia Christian (Babylon 5); Dacre Stoker (yes, THAT Stoker) to form THE STOKERVERSE – a multimedia haven for all things Bram Stoker; and Legacy Comix for a new Dracula comic to be featured at Phoenix FearCon’s film festivals.
It’s about time we get to know McAuley from the [darker] inside:
Tell us about yourself
I am an Irish born writer who now lives in Canada with a wife and a cat. I specialize in the fields of Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Cyberpunk. I’ve written for comic books, helped craft characters for Marvel, currently have three novels an audio drama and a host of short stories published. I also mentor authors in the Horror Writers Association and have worked with Disney’s Terri Hard Jackson.
As a writer, what are some of your influences and inspirations?
I find all aspects of popular culture a source of inspiration. Visuals from films and video games can elucidate a ‘feeling’ which can be explored and crafted into a story. Giger’s work has influenced a lot of the design choices for my interpretation of Dracula’s castle for instance. When I was crafting the script for The Virgin’s Embrace graphic novel, I listened to hours of voice performances of ‘The Squaw’, the Bram Stoker tale that the script was based on. This helped me examine aspects of the story which emphasis was placed on. Authors that influenced me and gave me the inspiration to become a writer have been John Peel (whom I have since been lucky to work with on Doctor Who and Dracula’s Bedlam), Paul Kane, Clive Barker, Elizabeth Massey, Dan O’Bannon, J. Michael Straczynski and David Howe.
My aspirations are fairly simple. I want to continue to be published and hope that my characters and narratives find their way into different media. I’m lucky to have my universes represented in game format which opened my eyes to a new way to experience the stories I write. Gamers can truly interact with the characters; they can shape the stories due to their actions. I hope to get a chance to bring greater depth with television and film productions in the next few years.
What draws you to the fantastical?
Its an exciting place to live. I can’t write about the mundane. We live that every day. I want to transport readers to terrifying locations or exciting situations. The cipher of the fantastical can help break down cultural and social boundaries. It can make us confront personal fears and through heroic characters teach us how to overcome that. The fantastical can help us imagine and create. I don’t think I could write about people going to work or shopping. That’s very grey to me. I want to paint words in colour.
You are exuberant in your own promotion. What is your philosophy on work and visibility?
For any creative in business its important to have their work seen and talked about. You have to do that by putting it on display. Talking about a finished product and the events leading up to its publication is important. It keeps it (and you) in the public eye.
As I have multiple writing partners and business associates, I also use social media to help promote them. A simple ‘thank you’ to the web designer who has put days in constructing your site or to talk about how a fellow writer has enhanced your story idea. That’s important as well.
Dark Universes is a community, it can only exist if its being talked about and new ideas are embraced. I’m very proud of it and those I work with so I will always be comfortable about placing it in the public eye.
Your work spans all genres. Do you have a favourite?
I don’t think in terms of favourites or preferences. If a story will fit that genre, then I will use it. Genre to me is a tool, its also an opportunity to examine the rules of an establish trope and bend them slightly. You can be imaginative as a genre writer, in fact it’s a prerequisite as so many authors find a home there. I’m extremely excited by our upcoming CyberVerse range at the moment as it can effectively blend horror and science fiction into a truly vicious environment.
How do you approach a novel as opposed to a script?
I am a ‘plotter’ by nature. I will plot out the synopsis and each chapter. With Novels that’s the core of the process for me. Novels enable the writer to transport the reader into the environment and into the mindscape of the characters through extensive prose. Comic book scripts however must allow for a synthesis between the artists creative choices and the author’s voice. A comic book’s visuals are the vehicle for reader empathy – this can be a lot more challenging at times to craft than a straight prose story. Writing a comic book script is more about conveying the sense of atmosphere and design to the artist than being a readable piece of text.
Audio drama is about the emphasis to be placed on the actor’s voice or the sound effects. I have a process where I get to know the actor as the script is being written. I help craft the character with the actor and involve them in the process. I did this specifically with Simon Templeman and Dracula.
Writing Game narratives are challenging due to the space and scope needed to allow the players to make choices. They are essentially non-linear narratives and I’m grateful to our game design team to help guide me through that process.
How did you come to meet Dacre Stoker?
The formation of what we now call the StokerVerse is interesting. It stemmed from a short comic book I was writing. It was set in the future where Dracula had been captured by a Weyland-Yutani style company. He escapes and creates merry hell by ripping faces off and painting the pristine ship red with blood.
I sent the script to the Bram Stoker Estate – I was very mindful of Bram and his place in Irish literary society. I wouldn’t have used the Dracula moniker if it had offended or been out of place.
Dacre contacted me with a view to writing a graphic novel. An update of Bram Stoker’s – ‘The Squaw’. I penned the script and Dacre advised and proof read. It was the first of the StokerVerse products and hit a target market.
Dacre is very easy to work with, the important thing is that we are having fun while crafting the universe together.
Tell us about your work with the StokerVerse?
The StokerVerse came about when I was spitballing ideas with a friend of mine. I had come up with a concept which would craft a unified narrative and span over several timeframes and genres. Essentially, I could be seen as the ‘showrunner’ of the StokerVerse, crafting canonical stories and guiding other authors who want to work in the universe. My writing spans across novels, comic books, audios and games. I very grateful for that phone conversation with Ian Elliot as it certainly brought some fruit.
I presented this idea to Dacre as a framework for our products. He agreed that it was a good idea and then I went to work, crafting timelines, origin stories and alternative histories.