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Listen to Paul’s interview.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.  And then the whining school-boy… the lover,  sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 

— Shakespeare


Although I’m calling this website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think. — Paul

What’s in a Name?

I was born on 5 January 1944. My father was being hunted by Japanese soldiers, and he was hiding in the hills outside Manila. My mother spoke no English or Tagalog, only Chinese, and at the hospital she did not know what name to give me when they said I had to have a name. According to my mother, it was a certain Dr. Darby, the American obstetrician who had delivered me, who suggested that I be called Paul, the name of her fiance, who had recently been tortured and killed by the Japanese.

One of my teachers at the Ateneo de Manila told me that the name Paul means “small” or “little.”  As for my family name Lim, from Chinese calligraphy I learned that it is made up of two identical parts. Each one of the parts is the word for “wood” or “tree.”  Put them side by side, two trees together, and you get Lim, the Chinese word for “forest.”  And so my name, Paul Lim, means “a small forest.”

All through my childhood, my schoolmates never called me by my given name Paul, or by my surname Lim, but always by the two names joined together. To my ears it sounded as if they were taunting me, calling me Pauline, someone less than masculine. I hated it.  And then, when I was in high school at La Salle, after my baptism into the Catholic faith, the Christian Brothers suggested that I was ready for Confirmation. They said I should pick a Confirmation name.  After some thought, I decided on the name Stephen, the first martyr.  According to the New Testament, when Saint Paul was a young man and was still known as Saul of Tarsus, he held the cloaks of the Roman soldiers as they stoned St. Stephen to death. I thought it would be appropriate to bring Paul and Stephen together, again.  What it did, too, interestingly enough, was to forever split Paul from Lim.  Finally, I was no longer Pauline, but just plain Paul.  I don’t know why, but no one ever calls me Stephen.  In my mind, Paul continues to witness the martyrdom of Stephen, even in a small Chinese forest in the plains of Kansas.

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Summer of 1969

In the summer of 1969, I was taking two classes at the University of Kansas, and living “the high life” on the 8th floor of Oliver Hall.  My close buddies at the dorm were Judy, a cheerful lass with frizzy black hair from Scotland; Mike, a lanky Vietnam veteran who collected comic books; and Ted, a rich kid from North Carolina who kept mostly to himself. He rarely invited anyone into his room, perhaps because he  was obsessive about keeping his living quarters clean.  Ted would mop the floor of his room at least three times a day, and we just accepted it, mainly because he was the only one among us who had a car.

Ted drove a fancy red  Camaro Z-28 which was the envy of everyone on campus. One day he asked me if I would ride with him to Topeka.  On the way there, he told me he was an out-patient at Menninger Clinic, and that “Dr. Bob” wanted to meet me.  I don’t remember much about “Dr. Bob” except his saying that, in all the years he has been treating Ted, Ted has never mentioned having any close friends.  “Dr. Bob” said I should consider myself really special.  He took us on a tour of the grounds, pointing out a small cabin which he said had been occupied by Judy Garland when she was at the clinic.  He said the toothbrush which Judy used is still in the cabin.  I asked him what sort of success they had with their “patients,” and he confided that psychoanalysis was a long process, that they rarely think of anyone ever really getting “cured.”  I wanted to ask him what was wrong with my friend Ted, but something about his manner prevented me from asking.  Back in Lawrence, Ted continued to mop his room three times a day, and we never talked about the trip to Topeka.

About a week or so before summer classes ended, Oliver Hall invited everyone from the dorm to an evening bash being held at some farmhouse outside Lawrence.  Since Ted was the only one in our group who had a car, he generously volunteered to take us there even though he himself had not intended to go.  As it turned out, the party wasn’t much fun.  It had started to rain, and Ted was drinking gloomily in a corner all by himself.  After about an hour or so, he rounded us up, saying he was bored and that he wanted to return to the dorm.  So we squeezed back into his Camaro Z-28, and Ted sped back to Oliver Hall in the heavy downpour.  I remember Mike laughing hysterically, and Judy screaming, when the car hydroplaned, skidded off the road, and landed upside down in a muddy ditch. I remember Ted climbing out the window, disappearing into the Kansas night, leaving us to fend for ourselves.  And then the police came, with flashing red lights and ambulances. I remember salvaging the “Z-28” sign from the wrecked car as we finally left the scene of the accident.

Ted reappeared at the dorm the next day, looking as though nothing had happened.  I have no idea what he told the police, how he got out of “fleeing the scene of the accident,” to say nothing of “driving while under the influence.”  Ted pulled me into his room, shut the door, and called his father on the telephone.  He had a telephone extension, and he wanted me to listen in on the conversation.  To the best of my recollection, here’s how the conversation went.  “Dad?” “Yes, son.” “About that Z-28 which you gave me…” “Yes, son.” “I wrecked it.”  (Long silence.) “Was anyone in the car with you?” “Yes, three others.” “Are any of them hurt?” “I don’t think so.”  “I’ll fly my own personal physician out there tomorrow to examine them.  Be sure to have them sign the release forms.” “Yes, Dad.” (Another long silence.) “So how are you going to get around without a car?”  “I don’t know.” “I’ll send you the Harley-Davidson.”  “Thanks, Dad.” And that was the end of the conversation.  The physician arrived the next day, we signed the release forms, and the Harley-Davidson arrived another couple of days later.

I don’t know how it happened, but Ted had tickets for Woodstock.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him. He said Joan Baez was going to be at the festival.  He knew I was crazy about Joan Baez. He asked me to hop on his Harley-Davidson. We would visit his folks first in North Carolina, and then head for Woodstock. Just like that. I was tempted by the EASY RIDER aspect of it all, but I had already promised my brother Vic that I would visit him and his family in South Amboy, NJ, in August, as soon as classes were over.  I had already bought my Continental Trailways bus ticket. I asked Ted if he could come for me in New Jersey after he saw his folks in North Carolina, and then we would zoom off to Woodstock in his Harley.  I gave him my brother’s address and phone number.

I waited for Ted in South Amboy, but he never showed up, never even called.  And now, forty years later, as I’m watching WOODSTOCK on DVD, listening to Richie Havens singing about “Freedom,” and Joan Baez dreaming that she “saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you or me,” and Joe Cocker going through life “with a little help from my friends,” I hit the pause button and peer at the faces of all those young people, all 450,000 of them, wondering how many of them were damaged innocents, wondering if Ted ever made it there, wondering whether I might have disappointed and failed him, somehow, as a friend, all those years ago, when he invited me to hop on and join him on the open road.  “Dr. Bob” has Judy’s toothbrush. Me, I have the “Z-28” from Ted’s Camaro.  Whenever I look at it, I smile, and then I am sad.

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Points of Departure: A One-Act Play

Requirements:  2F, 2M.  All four characters are Filipinos and should be played by Filipinos and/or actors who can “pass” for Filipinos.

Setting:  The living room of a small apartment, somewhere in the suburbs of Manila.  Late afternoon, the present.

Theme:  The role which art plays in a society interested for the most part only in commerce.  Also, more obliquely, the symbiotic relationship which exists between the colonizers and the colonized (the termite analogy).

Notes:  Back in the mid-1960s in Manila, I was friendly with Jolico Cuadra and his wife Joan, the biracial daughter of Victorio Edades, an artist who had studied painting in the United States in the 1920s, who had married an American woman while he was abroad, and who had returned to the islands to become “The Father of Modern Art in the Philippines.”  I wrote a cover story about Edades for The Chronicle Magazine (see illustrations above) which delighted the elderly painter.  He took me into his studio and told me that I could have my pick of any one of his recent large paintings on lawanit (a local plywood). I was astonished by his generosity, but quickly selected a painting called “The Oyster Gatherer,” which showed a young native man in the moonlight, submerged up to his chest in dark waters and surrounded by bamboo poles.  Edades said it was a good choice, that it was in fact his own favorite among the lot, and so I became the proud owner of an Edades painting.

At that time, I lived with my parents in Manila, in the two-story house which my father had built at 731 Pina Avenue.  I had the entire upper floor of the house to myself, two spacious bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom.  I propped up the painting against the wall of one of the rooms, intending to get it framed later, and then I left for an extended boat trip to the southern island of Mindanao with Jolico and Joan.  Upon my return to Manila, I found the Edades painting missing.  According to my mother, shortly after I had left for my summer vacation, she discovered that the plywood which Edades had used for his painting was infested with termites. She said she had told my two younger brothers to get rid of the painting before the termites infested the rest of the house.  In their ingenuity, my two younger brothers “treated” the plywood to rid it of termites, and then they cut up the painting, using the wood to build a new roof for the doghouse.

My mother never understood my anger and horror over this incident.  She sat stone-faced through a production of the play in Los Angeles in the late 70s, and smiled benignly at the opening night cast party for the show, not knowing that I had told the cast and crew the truth about the events of the play. It was not until years later, after Edades had been named a “National Artist” by Imelda Marcos, and I told my mother what the painting might be worth now, had it not been destroyed, that she finally seemed to regret the fate of “The Oyster Gatherer.”  When Edades called and tried to borrow the painting for a retrospective of his work at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I could not tell him what happened.  I was afraid it would break his heart, and so I lied and said that the painting was not immediately accessible because it was “in our summer home up North, in Baguio.”  We’ve never had a summer home in Baguio.  Shortly after that, when Edades died, I brought up the subject of the painting yet again with my mother, telling her that it’s now probably doubled, tripled, quadrupled in value.  Art is of no consequence to her, but Money she understands.

History:  The play was produced by East West Players in Los Angeles, on a double-bill with a one-act play by another Asian-American playwright, Oct. 1977-March 1978.  Mako directed, and Alberto Isaac played the lead.  It was a good production.  I flew out for the last week of rehearsals, and attended the opening night festivities with my mother and my sister Debbie, who happened by some strange coincidence to be in Los Angeles at the time.  The play was subsequently produced by the Asian American Theatre Workshop in San Francisco, Mar. 16-Apr. 29, 1979.  That one was directed by Rodney Kageyama.  I frequently tell my playwriting students that I never thought it would be possible for a director and the actors in a play to consistently misread every single line in the play, until I attended the opening night performance of POINTS OF DEPARTURE in San Francisco.  The experience was excruciating.  I wasn’t terribly surprised when one of the reviewers said that the play was so bad, he wouldn’t even tell his readers who wrote it, and then proceeded gleefully to rip to pieces both the play and the production.

Availability:  Excerpts of the play were published in Bridge: An Asian American Perspective (New York:  Summer issue, 1977).  If anyone is interested, I will be happy to provide photocopies of the play in its entirety.

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Hatchet Club: A One-Act Play

Requirements:  2F, 4M

Setting:  The living room of a small apartment in a university town, somewhere in the Midwest.  An evening in early April, the present.

Plot:  Faculty members in the Department of Religious Studies at a midwestern university take turns hosting meetings in their homes.  These meetings are both social and academic in nature.  After food and drink, they proceed to critique each other’s research. Hosting the event the evening the play takes place is Christina Jaher, a 33-year-old Assistant Professor who is nervous about the meeting because she has never hosted one, and also because she is the only woman in the department.  Helping her with arrangements before the men arrive is Joanna, the daughter of a neighbor, a 15-year-old girl who looks up to Christina.  Sadly, nothing goes right at the meeting, and the men tear into Christina’s research mercilessly.  Are they sexist?  Would they have behaved the same way had the colleague been a man instead of a woman?  Hard to say. Later that night, Joanna reappears with disappointments of her own, and the two women share a quiet moment of healing together.

Theme:  Wherein lies the roots of sexism against women?  Does it go all the way back to Genesis in the Old Testament?

Notes:  There was a real Hatchet Club at the University of Kansas, but it was in the History Department, not the Department of Religious Studies.  By some strange coincidence, I was actually present at one of their evening meetings, in which the men ripped into the research of one of their female colleagues.  I was horrified by the viciousness of their attack, and had no choice but to write this play.

History:  The play was produced by the Lawrence Community Theatre, with two other one-acts by Lawrence playwrights, Nov. 17-20, 1983. I directed the play, and two of the four men in cast (John “Jay” Alexander and Ambrose “Amby” Saricks) were actually faculty members at that time in the History Department at the University of Kansas.  But I am quite sure that they were not among the men who originally inspired the writing of the play.

Availability: The text of the play was included in Vol. 1 No. 1 of Plays, edited by Cj Stevens (Baton Rouge: Oracle Press, 1985). It’s long out of print.  Write me if you’re interested, and I can send you a photocopy of the play.

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Zooks! An Olympian Musical

Requirements:  ?F, ?M

Setting:  Various locations on Mount Olympus, and occasionally in the world inhabited by mortals.

Plot:  We are privy to the caprices and the excesses of the gods (in all possible sexual combinations) on Mount Olympus of yore.  And then, in the wink of an eye, it’s the 18th Century, the Age of Enlightenment.  The very existence of the gods are in jeopardy because, thanks to Men of Science, Humankind no longer believes in in such “religious nonsense.”

Theme:  Is it better to have a world ruled by gods, however unruly these gods might be, or is it better to have a world with no gods whatsoever?

Notes:  Although I’ve always enjoyed musicals, I’m not sure what actually moved me to attempt to write the book and lyrics for one in the Spring of 1979.  All I remember is that I had an idea for this one, and a young student composer in the School of Music at the University of Kansas had been highly recommended.  His name was Steve Rice, and together we wrote 13 or 14 songs for the show.  He told me that he liked the music of Stephen Sondheim.  I did, too.  So I set out to write lyrics which I thought Sondheim might write, and Steve Rice set them to music he thought Sondheim might compose.  In what might be pure naivete and/or hubris, we thought we could convince the Theatre Department and the School of Music jointly to produce our musical.  With the help of Maribeth Crawford (nee Kirchoff), a faculty member who taught Voice in the School of Music at that time, we gathered a group of very fine singers, went into a recording studio, and recorded all the songs in the show.  Then we arranged for a special presentation of the material to members of the faculty who were in charge of selecting the upcoming season.  My recollection is that the folks in the School of Music were fairly enthusiastic, but that the people in the Theatre Department were non-commital.  Weeks went by and I never heard from them.  When the upcoming season was finally announced, ZOOKS! was not among the shows listed, and that was the end of that.  Steve Rice graduated shortly after that.  I heard that he got married and moved to New York City.  I’ve lost all contact with him.

ZOOKS!, the title of the show, is my own shortened version of GADZOOKS, an archaic oath or interjection which, in turn, stood for GOD’S HOOKS, said to be a  reference to the nails of the Crucifixion.  The exclamation point is, of course, de rigeur for musicals.

History:  Oddly enough, although ZOOKS! was not among the shows listed for the upcoming season, the Theatre Department announced that it was producing an original script by the wife of one of their own faculty members, a woman whom I’ve known for many years and whom I’ve always liked, but whose interest in playwriting came as a total surprise to me.  What she wrote was a harmless children’s play about the gods frolicking on Mount Olympus.  The only one who felt harmed was me.

Availability:  I still have copies of audio tapes of the studio recording of the songs in ZOOKS!, so the lyrics for all the songs can be reconstructed.  However, I cannot seem to find a copy of the script and/or book.  I’m certain I still have one somewhere among the boxes or in the bookshelves in my house, and I will update this entry as soon as I find one.

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Lee and the Boys in the Backroom: A Play Based on the Novel QUEER and the unpublished correspondence of WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

Requirements:  38 parts played by 8 M and 1F (Voice Only).  Additionally, Lee’s wife Jane and Allerton’s girlfriend Mary will be represented on stage not by live actors but by life-sized ragdolls.

Setting:  A bar, a bed-sitting room, a movie-house, and various streets in Mexico City, 1949-1952.

Plot:  Lee and his wife Jane are American expatriates living on the fringe in Mexico City.  Although Lee seems to have some affection for Jane, he is also unabashedly homosexual. He meets and falls desperately in love with Allerton, a young American who claims to be straight and who has a girlfriend named Mary.  Lee wines and dines Allerton, and ultimately seduces him with outlandishly comic and absurdist stories which we see dramatized; and also with the promise of hallucigenic drugs and mushrooms.  Because Jane and Mary are represented on stage by life-sized ragdolls with large eyes and pursed lips, they are aware at all times of what’s going on with these men in their lives, but they also remain essentially voice-less.  When the sexual liaison doesn’t work and Allerton finally leaves, Lee is devastated.  He sinks deep into an alcoholic abyss, and would not have recovered had there not been other friends around him who cared about his well-being.

Theme:  This is a play about sexual passion and yearning; about what we do to our loved ones while we  are pursuing other love interests, especially if the new objects of our affection are illusive and ultimately unattainable.

Notes:  Because of my friendship with William S. Burroughs and James Grauerholz (see my NAKED LUNCH entries in the LIMERANCES section of this website), it was only a matter of time before someone would suggest that I adapt something by Burroughs for the stage.  I forget now who made the initial suggestion.  It might have been James Grauerholz himself, or it might have been Mary Doveton, the artistic director of the Lawrence Community Theatre, where my plays CHAMBERS and FLESH, FLASH AND FRANK HARRIS had originally premiered. I was intrigued by the suggestion, and immediately read all the published works of Burroughs.  The dramatist in me responded best to the novel QUEER because it was the most linear of Burroughs’ books, and also because it was a tragic love story on many levels.

When James and William both agreed to let me adapt QUEER for the stage, they also gave me permission to look through and use carte blanche any of the unpublished correspondence during the time period of the novel (1949-1952) between William and his friends back in the United States, among them Allen Ginsberg.  How can playwright resist this offer?  And so I looked through the letters in the filing cabinets in Burroughs’ house in Lawrence, and the structure of the play began to emerge and evolve.

I showed big chunks of the play to William and James as I finished writing them, and they both seemed very pleased.  After they read the first draft, the only suggestion I got by way of feedback from James was that I should cut some of the puns I had introduced into the text.  James told me that, although William was a wordsmith and loved wordplay, he was not really a punster.  And so I combed through the script and cut out most of the puns, this being perhaps the only time I’ll ever confess to being caught with my puns down.

Back in 1987, I wasn’t sure if calling the play QUEER, like the novel, would be a good move, even in a liberal town like Lawrence, KS.  However, back then in America, within the homosexual community, even with thousands of people dying of A.I.D.S., it was well known that many gay men continued to have unprotected sex in gay bathhouses and also in the dark backrooms of gay bars and xxx-rated movie houses.  I tried to draw a parallel between Lee’s promiscuity in Mexico forty years earlier, with what was going on within the gay community in America in the late-1980s.  And, of course, there was that lusty song, “The Boys in the Backroom,” which the gay icon Marlene Dietrich had sung in the movie DESTRY RIDES AGAIN.  I thought the song was rousing and carousing, maybe even arousing in a different context, and that’s why I decided to call the play LEE AND THE BOYS IN THE BACKROOM.  In retrospect, maybe I should have had the guts to just call it QUEER, after the novel from which it had been adapted.

History:  My friend Paul Hough was not available to direct this play. I did not think there was anyone else around who had the right “sensibility” for the material, so I decided to direct it myself for the Lawrence Community Theatre, May 8-12, 1987.  Because William S. Burroughs is who he is, and also because James Grauerholz is a superb publicist, the production attracted a great deal of attention.  I remember there being a great deal of talk about another production, Off or Off-Off Broadway in New York, but this never actually materialized.  James informed me later that I had never actually entered into a legal arrangement with William to adapt the novel and/or the letters, that there was no contract, that I had no right to pursue other productions of the play.  Besides, he said, there were other people, more “important” people, who were also interested in adapting the novel QUEER, not for the stage, but for the movies. Among the names he mentioned was David Bowie.  But, to make matters worse, James dropped some hints that both he and William never really liked my play.  Because of this, James and I stopped talking to each other for a long time. But we eventually made up before William died.  We’ve never talked about the play again, and there has never been another production of LEE AND THE BOYS IN THE BACKROOM. Nor has David Bowie (or anyone else) ever adapted QUEER for the movies.  But this may still be forthcoming.

Availability:  From the author, for reading purposes only.

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Report to the River: A One-Act Play

Requirements:  2M

Setting:  Nick’s dormroom, a small carpetted central area containing a bed, a table and chair.  Surrounding the dormroom is Jake’s campsite near the turnpike by the Kaw River in Lawrence, Kansas.  Morning, Bastille Day (July 14), mid-1990s.

Plot:  Nick, a student attending summer classes at the University of Kansas,  introduces us to the facts and mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a nine-year-old boy along the Kaw River in his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas nearly ten years ago. Nick’s mother was a teacher in an elementary school briefly attended by the boy and, through his mother, Nick learns about how the boy had been befriended by 27-year-old transient from Texas, and how the two used to go fishing together along the river in the depressed and dilapidated low-income section of the city.  After the boy’s dismembered boy is found along the banks of the river, the transient is charged with murder.

But all the evidence is purely circumstantial, and things are further complicated by the fact that the transient himsel has the mental age of a nine-year-old child.  During the trial, the transient changes his story and, Rashomon-like, presents four different versions of how the boy died.  Nick is absolutely obsesssed with this case and, in his mind’s eye, he becomes the boy in the flashback sequences showing us the relationship between the boy and the transient. By the time the play ends, we learn that it’s possible Nick might not have been a reliable narrator for the events which we have just witnessed.

Theme:  How well do we know the underbelly of the towns and cities that we live in, the bridges which daily transport us but which really do not connect the comfortable middle-class with the less-fortunate and the homeless among us?

Notes:  Like Nick in the play, I was fascinated by the newspaper accounts of the death of a nine-year-old boy in Lawrence; and how John William, a 27-year-old transient from Texas who had been living underneath the turnpike bridge, was apprehended and charged with the child’s murder.  What first caught my attention was the report that the homeless man himself had the I.Q. of a nine-year-old child, and that he had built a raft which he meant to float down the river all the way to St. Louis, taking his own Huck Finn along for the journey.

Later, when I learned that this particular homeless person had been befriended by the boy’s family, but that the boy’s mother eventually threw the man out of their house for some unknown reason, days before the family’s Fourth of July cookout, and that the boy’s murder happened shortly afterwards, I was hooked.  There was no turning back.  I had to write the play.

I attended all the court hearings, bought over $2000 worth of court transcripts, and had over 16 hours of taped interviews with John William at the Douglas County Jail. I even had a lawyer draw up a contract between myself and John William, giving me universal rights to his story.  Sherry Pigg, a reporter for The Topeka State-Capitol Journal, wrote a front-page story about this legal transaction, and it caused a furor not just in Topeka and Lawrence, but also in Kansas City.  Under the Bundy Law, legal proceedings were brought against me, but I was eventually cleared of all charges.  However, under the Victim’s Reparation Act, John William had to turn over to the Settlemyer family what little remaining cash I had given him for the rights to his story.

And then, in another article about the play I intended to write based on the case, Sherry Pigg accused me of exploiting and “profitting” by a child’s murder. I began to get anonymous death threats in the mail and on the telephone.  The Lawrence police gave me tips on how to protect myself–e.g., walk my dog at different times of the day; take different routes when driving to work; park in different places in town and on campus; and, most frightening of all, not to sit in front of open windows and doorways inside my own house, especially at night, because anyone could walk into my backyard and take a shot at me.  As a result of all this, I put my voluminous research away and did not write the play until the spring of 1997.

History:  My original intention was to write a full-length courtroom drama based on the case, using a dozen actors, including someone who can play the nine-year-old victim.  When I finished the first draft of the play, I sent it to my good friend Paul Hough in Kansas City.  He had directed many of my earlier plays, and I wanted him to direct this one as well.  Paul called me within days, said he had read it, said he had loved it, but that there was no way he could or would direct it.  He told me no parent would ever allow their child to be in such a play, that the rehearsal process would be much too damaging to a child’s mental well-being, and that he could not in good conscience ever subject a child-actor to such a dangerous theatrical process.  This shook me to the core and, in the summer of 1997, I quickly rewrote the play.

And that’s how Report to the River got turned into a one-act play with just two characters. It was produced by English Alternative Theatre at the Lawrence Arts Center, Oct. 9-12, 1997; and, yes, Paul Hough directed it with great passion and ingenuity.  It was designed by Phill Schroeder, who also played the part of the transient.  Michael Senften played the part of the college student who is obsessed with the case.  The play was performed again on January 22, 1998 at the Region V festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival held at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS.    In June 1999, the play was given a staged reading (again with Schroeder and Senften as the two leads) and it won the top prize in playwriting at the Edward Albee Theatre Conference at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska. It had another staged reading at the ATHE pre-conference program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, New York City, July 29-Aug. 1, 2000.

Availability:  From One Act Play Depot, and also from the author.

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Some Arrivals, But Mostly Departures: Short Stories

Note:  This is a collection of eight of my short stories, with an introduction by F. Sionil Jose.  It was published in Manila by New Day Publishers in 1982. Except for “Dots and Dashes,” all the stories appeared elsewhere originally, in such journals and magazines as Solidarity, Bridge: An Asian American Perspective, Amerasia Journal, FOCUS, GINOO, and The Philippine Times. “Flight has also been included in Intsik: An Anthology of Chinese Filipino Writing, edited by Caroline S. Hau (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2000).

I wrote many of these stories in a fiction-writing class taught by Ed Wolfe in the English Department at the University of Kansas. Four of the stories have won various literary awards–“The Third and Final Dream of Samuel Toepffer” (Second Prize, Kansas University, Spring 1974), “Flight” (First Prize, Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Fall 1976), “Rainbow” (Honorable Mention, Focus magazine, Spring 1976), “Victor and Other Issues” (Third Prize, Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Fall 1977).  I might also mention that portions of “Flight” and “Dots and Dashes” later found their way into my play Mother Tongue.

Availability:  Some Arrivals, But Mostly Departures is now out-of-print, but copies occasionally show up on and even on ebay.  While I myself don’t have extra copies to sell to others, I will be happy to make photocopies for anyone who is really interested.

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Figures in Clay: A Threnody in Six Scenes and a Coda

Requirements:  3M

Setting:  Three chairs in Dr. Beatrice’s office.  She is a marriage counselor, and the three men talk to her in different combinations–sometimes individually, sometimes in alternating groups of two, sometimes all three together–but Dr. Beatrice herself is never seen or heard.  Early August, late 1980s.

Plot:  Three men, twenty years apart in age, with the youngest at age 24 and the oldest at age 64, are in a problematic relationship, not least of which is that they are living in the age of A.I.D.S., and at least one of them has been sexually promiscuous.

Theme:  The role that mentorship plays in relationships where a partner is considerably more senior and/or junior in age.

Notes:  The lives and continuing relationships of three characters from Mother Tongue are explored further in this play.  Although the text reads like a radio play, on stage the three characters shift seats between scenes, as though they are playing musical chairs.  Another image I was working with is that of characters going round and round, as though on a carousel in a carnival; or like the clay figures in a shooting gallery, again in a carnival.

History:  The play was given a staged reading at a special panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention on December 28, 1990 in Chicago.  It was directed by Paul Hough, to whom I dedicate the play because he “believes in the art and nurtures the spirit.”  The three men were played by Alberto Isaac, Peter (Miner) Matthey and Joe McCauley.

Short scene from the play:  In this scene, all three men are in the office of Dr. Beatrice at the same time. They have been talking about their early sexual experiences and also their respective sexual fantasies.

ERIC: David takes great pleasure in telling the most extraordinary stories about his past.

CLARK: Only problem is, his mind embroiders.  It is also quite capable of complete fabrications.  Maybe that’s why he’s a writer.

ERIC: One afternoon, when we were driving across the Pasig River in Manila, he said the bridge we were on can only be experienced at four o’clock in the morning.

DAVID: Shortly after high school, I discovered a bridge in Manila which had a life of its own, but only in the pulsating hours before sunrise.  At one end of the bridge was a park beyond which were all my old haunts:  the bars and discos, the jazz clubs….At the other end was a large market where all the farmers and fishermen from outlying areas would bring in their goods before daybreak.  To get from the bridge to the market, there was a steep stairwell, stone steps.  At four o’clock one morning, after I had been drinking all night with Freddie, I found myself standing unsteadily at the top of that stairwell.  I had unzipped and was about to relieve myself into the darkness when, suddenly, I heard a voice whispering softly in Tagalog.  “Over here,” he said.  “We are over here.”  I stumbled over to the voice, and that was the beginning of an incredible journey.  Perched like birds of prey on each one of the stone steps was a shadowy figure, a hungry presence.  There were other, not-unwilling victims because, ahead of me, I saw them descending, receding, disappearing into blackness…and every so often one of the birds of prey would shriek with triumph:  “This one is finished!  I brought this one to completion!

ERIC:  Tennessee Williams would have loved that story.

DAVID:  Alex Haley and the whole oral tradition notwithstanding, I find it queer how so many of my fantasies are oral in nature.  Maybe I should be in oralysis, not analysis.

Availability: From Aran Press, and also from the author.

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