“Howl, howl, howl, howl!”

9 May 2010: Big Prawns, Dead Prawns

Back in 1999, when one of my plays was in competition at the Edward Albee Theatre Conference at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska, site of the disastrous Exxon oil spill, there were lots of cocktail parties given by the oil companies for people attending the conference.  Albee himself told us to be sure not to miss the one being hosted by British Petroleum.  “You know what BP stands for, don’t you?” the playwright asked mischievously. “BIG PRAWNS!  Lots of BIG PRAWNS!”

Well, given the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks this time to British Petroleum, I’m afraid we’ll now get DEAD PRAWNS!  Lots of DEAD PRAWNS!  To say nothing of dead fish, dead birds, dead turtles, dead dolphins, dead whales.   Maybe also DEAD PEOPLE!  Lots of DEAD PEOPLE!

My play which was in competition at Prince William Sound back in 1999 was called “Report to the River.”  It won the top prize at the conference.  It was about a river, but it wasn’t about the Exxon oil spill. Maybe it’s time to write another one, and this time not just about a river.

7 May 2010: Mating with Neanderthals

Today’s big headline news is that human beings mated with Neanderthals over 80,000 years ago.  I don’t know why scientists are just discovering this now.  Tennessee Williams explored such a relationship between Blanche and Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, his 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.  And, of course, we also see such relationships being acted out today with alarming regularity in and out of the classroom, perhaps even in and out of our own bedrooms.

5 May 2010: Ted Nugent on Sarah Palin

Writing on Sarah Palin in Time magazine’s double-issue on The 100 Most Influential People In The World, conservative gun-toting sexagenarian rock guitarist Ted Nugent asserts that “the independent patriotic spirit, attitude and soul of our forefathers are alive and well in Sarah.  In the way she lives, what she says and how she dedicates herself to make America better in these interesting times, she represents the good, while exposing the bad and ugly.”  I think it’s time to get rid of all my old Ted Nugent records, except that I’ve never bought or owned any.

29 April 2010: All Men Are Dogs!

How-to guru Karen Salmansohn has sold over a million books, among them How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Successful Dog Trainers.  She might have gotten the idea from Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, wherein the haughty heroine treats one suitor like a dog by making him jump over her riding stick, and another suitor to grovel on all fours while kissing her foot.  Alas, poor Miss Julie is seduced and abandoned at the end of Strindberg’s play, and she commits suicide.  So, does life imitate art? Well, not exactly.  According to The Kansas City Star, it now turns out that Karen Salmansohn has filed a lawsuit against a former boyfriend whom she claims “had strung her along for months with promises of marriage and a baby, but abruptly cut off support when she became pregnant.”  She thinks that’ll fix him.  Fix him just like the randy dog that he is, so the only tail he’ll chase from now on will be his own.  In 2010, Miss Julie does not slit her throat.  She castrates through litigation.

28 April 2010: What Do Kansans Look Like?

Guess who helped to write the controversial law which allows cops in Arizona to arrest anyone whom they suspect to be illegal aliens on the basis of how they look and sound?  Like it or not, it’s Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who is now running for secretary of state in Kansas.  According to a news report in the Lawrence Journal-World, Kobach said “if elected secretary of state, he would help draw up a similar bill in Kansas only if asked by a state legislator and if he had some spare time.”  Okay, so what do Kansans look like?  Be afraid, everyone.  Be very afraid.

25 April 2010: Fashion’s New “Wetback Look”

Now that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed Immigration Bill SB1070 into law, which allows cops in Arizona to arrest anyone who looks suspiciously illegal, it’s time for the fashion industry to come to the rescue. According to California Congressman Brian Bilbray, cops “will look at the kind of dress you wear.  There is a different type of attire—right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes.”  What we need, therefore, is for haute couture to introduce a new line of Illegal Chic, the Wetback Look, so we can all be improperly attired as we head for Arizona, get ourselves arrested, and then “tea party” in jail with all our brown brethren, courtesy of Arizona taxpayers.

New Playwriting Award for Asian-Americans!

Gregg Henry, Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, sent out this press release earlier this week.

The Paul Stephen Lim Asian-American Playwriting Award

Supported by the University of Kansas Endowment Association, this award is given to the outstanding full-length or one-act play on any subject written by an Asian-American student, in honor of Paul Stephen Lim’s outstanding career as teacher, playwright and passionate advocate for new voices in the American Theatre.

Born of Chinese parents in the Philippines, Paul Stephen Lim was already a successful advertising copywriter and newspaper journalist when he emigrated to the United States at the age of 24 to further his education and to pursue a career in writing.  Conpersonas, his first play, won the KCACTF National Student Playwriting Award in 1976, initiating a life-long relationship with KCACTF. Lim started teaching playwriting at the University of Kansas in 1989.  He founded English Alternative Theatre (http://www.eat.ku.edu) the same year to nurture and produce the plays of his students. He was awarded the Kennedy Center medallion in 1996 for his work with student playwrights, was the Region 5 National Playwriting Program Chair 2000-2003, and served on the National Selection Team in 2004.  To date, 30 plays by his students at the University of Kansas have been seen at various regional and national festivals of KCACTF.   http://paulstephenlim.com.

The inaugural recipient of the Paul Stephen Lim Asian American Playwriting Award is Edgar Mendoza, Carnegie Mellon University, for his play BLUE NOTE RUN. It includes a cash award of $2,500, membership in the Dramatists Guild of America, and a professional development residency to be determined in consultation with Mr. Mendoza. 

Gregg Henry very kindly flew me into Washington D.C. to attend Festival 42 of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and to present the award personally to Edgar Mendoza.  Here’s the short speech I gave from the stage of the Family Theatre at the Kennedy Center on the evening of Saturday 17 April 2010.

“Back in 1976, when I won the KCACTF National Student Playwriting Award, my agent said that if I wanted to work as a playwright, I would need to move to New York.  I chose to remain instead at the University of Kansas as a teacher, reconnecting with KCACTF in meaningful and fulfilling ways through my playwriting students and the Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards, which give voice yearly to young American playwrights of all colors and stripes.

“I am truly honored that my name is now being added to the list of KCACTF playwriting awards.  The recipients of this new Asian-American playwriting award are free to chronicle our Asian-American lives yesterday as workers in the fields of Hawaii, the canneries in Alaska, the bad Chinese restaurants which sprang up everywhere the Chinese helped to build America’s railroads…or maybe our Asian-American lives today as doctors and nurses, mathematicians and computer geeks…or not.  For we are all Americans first and foremost, and then the hyphenated Americans which make us all unique.

“May our awardee tonight be the first of many in the years to come.”

13 April 2010: Al Gore and Poetic Justice

Of the names being floated as nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice John Paul Stevens when he retires, the one I like best is Al Gore.  He won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, but was denied his rightful place in the White House when the controversy over the Florida election recount was “settled” by the U.S. Supreme Court on a 5-4 margin in favor of George W. Bush, the only time in history the Court determined the outcome of a presidential election, and look what happened.  Al Gore is now my man for the Supreme Court.  It’s Poetic Justice.

4 April 2010: Lesbian Albatrosses!

The cover story of The New York Times Magazine today is about Lindsay C. Young, a biologist who has been studying a colony of albatrosses in Hawaii.  Young’s research reveals that, not only do albatrosses mate for life, but many of the “couples” she has been studying are, in fact, Sapphic females.  Which leads me to suspect that the ancient mariner in Coleridge’s epic poem might have shot the albatross because she rejected his overtures for intimacy during the long voyage on that ship without women, perhaps preferring to flock together with a female companion of her own feather.  It was a hate crime, pure and simple.  The creepy old guy was homophobic.