The other day I received an inquiry from a chap in Jamaica (gotta love that world wide ‘net) regarding my play “The Break: Ten the Hard Way”.
It’s a a drama composed of ten monologues, employing a wide range of perspectives, radically different characters reacting to the impending end of a relationship.
“The Break”, like so many of my projects, started out as a writing exercise. I wrote one monologue and another character, another scenario, immediately presented itself. I didn’t know what to do with “The Break” once I’d finished it…and then, by chance, I caught an interview with two young Saskatoon actors, recent graduates of the University of Saskatchewan drama program. I noted their names and contacted them. Sent them the script and some time later “The Break” made its debut at the Refinery Theatre in Saskatoon, Josh Beaudry handling a very grueling acting assignment brilliantly.
I always thought this one would make the perfect “Fringe” show so, Josh, if you’re ever interested, lemme know.
CBC Radio producer Kelley Jo Burke also excerpted some of the monologues on her “Sound XChange” program.
I was delighted by the reactions this piece elicited and I’m pleased to be able to present it to you, for free reading and downloading.
I’m certain some of these voices, at least, will sound very, very familiar to you…
Go to the “Rarities” page (above) for your free copy
or click here for the free PDF of The Break
As promised, I’m posting the longer version on my radio play “The First Room”. The version that aired nationally on CBC Radio’s OutFront program was drastically reduced and while it still packed a wallop (largely thanks to Kelley Jo Burke’s peerless production), the piece was originally intended to be thirty minutes long.
Here it is, The First Room, full-length and in all its glory. I’ll leave it up to you, dear Readers, to decide which of the two (long or short) you prefer.
Recently, a collective cringe went through the Canadian arts community when the braintrust at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) announced a major shortfall in their budget.
Now, we can debate how a publicly financed, (supposedly) world class organization can end up $171 million lighter in the pocket than expected another day…what I want to talk about this time around is the importance of the CBC to individual artists in this country.
I have my complaints with the Mother Corp. and I often take exception to their namby-panby, politically correct stance, their absolute abhorrence of the notion of offering offense to the smallest segment of the general public (and slanting their supposedly objective point of view accordingly). But for many of us working in the performing and literary arts in Canada, the CBC is, quite honestly, the only game in town.
My very first sale was to CBC Radio here in Saskatchewan. This was back in 1985, youngsters, when Wayne Schmalz was the arts and culture czar down in Regina. I’m teasing: Wayne is actually one of the nicest and most unassuming guys you’ll ever meet. He was also a superb producer with eclectic tastes and an infallible ear. He aired selected material on “Gallery”, which, at the time, was a literary arts program, and took a number of my early stories, raising my profile and putting some much needed cash into the pocket of a young scribbler.
After Wayne left, Dave Redel took over the big chair and did well enough to earn himself a promotion to the regional office in Edmonton.
And then along came Kelley Jo Burke. Kelley Jo loves the arts and is a huge booster of the cultural scene here in Saskatchewan. She knows everybody and is respected throughout the province, not just for producing fine radio shows, but also for her own highly accomplished literary and dramatic efforts. Along with her colleagues Shauna Powers and Bonnie Austring-Winter, Kelley Jo helped transform the weekly CBC Saskatchewan arts spot into SoundXChange, a celebration of all aspects of the performing arts here in “living sky country”.
But the looming cuts do not bode well for local shows like “SoundXChange”. Despite its much-touted mandate to represent all regions of Canada, CBC will be closing bureaus and cutting staff in some of the far-flung places that help provide Canada with its true, diverse identity. This will mean that more programming will originate in “central Canada” (God, I hate that term) and the perspective at the Ceeb will be come even more Toronto-centric than it already is.
Over the past week, I’ve heard rumbles within the tightknit arts community here in Saskatchewan, whispers that “SoundXChange” will be drastically scaled back, if not scrapped completely. What does that mean for folks like Kelley Jo and others down there in Regina, who have worked so hard to give new and established artists a valuable venue for their work, one that won’t ever be replaced? Shows like “SoundXChange” and “OutFront” (another favorite that was dropped) give voice to people in remote places (geographically, politically, emotionally), living in unique and fascinating circumstances. Without those voices being heard, we become a poorer, less representative society; homogenous and one-dimensional.
During tough economic times, there is a temptation to view the arts as “fat” and trim, shave, hack it away. Never mind all the studies that reveal what an economic stimulus a healthy arts industry represents and the amount of spin-off dollars it creates. Nah, just cut the arts and be content with the thin, tepid gruel that’s left over: talk radio, commercial jingles and vacuous pop.
It is my hope, my expectation, that organizations, guilds and entities that support the arts and artists in this country will speak out collectively and demand that public broadcasting in this country be funded at least at a level that’s comparable to similar counterparts around the developed world.
An enhanced, secure source of funding would ensure the continuing existence of programming that shows the true face(s) of Canada; we are a complex, multi-faceted society, well-schooled and highly literate.
Why in God’s name should we settle for anything less?
Postscript: My colleague Dale Estey contacted me through my Redroom page and sent along this link to a petition protesting the cutbacks at CBC.
Drop by and add your name to the honour roll. Let’s see if we can turn the tide. And while you’re at it, check out the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting site. They’ve been advocating and lobbying on behalf of homegrown, made-in-Canada programming for many a moon…
A quick mench that CBC Radio producer Kelley Jo Burke just dropped me a line, letting me know that my short story “Matriarchy” will be airing on her Saturday afternoon SoundXChange program (February 28th, 5:00 p.m. on Radio One in Saskatchewan).
Along with my little tale will be an offering from someone named Sandra Birdsell. Yes, I thought you’d heard of her and I’m sure you’ll find “Stones” very much to your liking.
Check out the program, click on some of the links because you’ll be able to tune in to all kinds of music and performances. Eclectic as all heck, those folks.
And for those of you who’d like to have a glance at the text version of “Matriarchy”, I’m only happy to oblige…
Okay, Kelley Jo Burke, producer of my adapted radio play “The First Room”, just e-mailed me with the date and time it will air on CBC Radio’s OutFront program.
OutFront is a nationally broadcast program so this is a real coup for me. What makes it triply pleasing is that Kelley Jo has done a brilliant job with the piece, blending and cross-cutting the voices, creating a powerful and intense listening experience. I listened to the final mix she sent me about ten days ago and was absolutely gobsmacked.
I don’t write memoir, detest it as a vehicle for whinging, suck-ass apologists who’ve fucked up their lives and expect our sympathy for their travails. Or else they lie and embroider to lure in more suckers.
“The First Room” is not factually true but it is emotionally accurate and that’s an important distinction.
I hope you’ll get a chance to tune in–either listening to your radio at the appointed hour or streaming it from CBC. As well, Sirius Satellite (137) will be broadcasting “The First Room” throughout North America. I believe there’s also a podcast.
“The First Room” airs from coast to coast to coast Friday, February 6th at 8:43 p.m. For further information, here’s a link to the “OutFront” page.
If you do manage to catch it, drop me a line afterward with your thoughts.
I’d appreciate hearing from you.
No argument. The hours I was putting in, working for weeks on end without a break, shut away in my office, tapping and scribbling like a maniac, was incredibly stupid and detrimental to my health. I was definitely feeling the strain by the time I wrapped up rewrites on Of the Night. Lots of shoulder and back pain but also a sense of being artistically and spiritually drained. The tank right on “E”.
The only problem is, what does an anal retentive obsessive compulsive workaholic do when he has time off?
Answer: he doesn’t take time off.
Oh, I know it’s ridiculous, completely irresponsible but I can’t stop myself. I promised Sherron, swore high and low that I would start thinking of my health first. I’m forty-five years old in October and my family has a long history of heart disease. Not a lot of 90-year olds on either side, if ya know what I mean. It’s time to start devoting more thought to maintaining a healthier lifestyle, a better mindset.
Stress is a killer and I’ve got it bad. Always trying so fucking hard to meet the high standards and expectations I place on myself, pushing myself to get better, improve as a craftsman and artist. I don’t want to write like everybody else, I want my own, unique take on reality, unfiltered and with the bark on. No compromises, no pandering…no exceptions.
My promise to Sherron was honestly made but I think it will be hard to observe “in the breech”, as it were. Habit draws me to my office first thing every morning. It’s directly across from our bedroom and as soon as I’m awake and mobile, I wander in, check out the state of my desk, shuffle papers about…or just stand in the middle of the room, revving up for the day.
I’ve tried to take it easy but over the last couple of weeks I’ve reorganized my office, caught up on paperwork, starting planning my next major project and spent long hours on-line, promoting this blog and flogging my novels So Dark the Night and Of the Night to whoever might be interested. I’ve sent notices to horror sites, science fiction sites, occult sites, paranormal romance sites—if I’ve missed anybody, I dunno who it might be.
And I’ve also somehow managed to find the time to write a twenty minute radio play, “The First Room”. Very intense and personal. Kelley Jo Burke, producer at CBC Radio, dubbed it “Portrait of the Artist as an Abused Young Man” and I think she’s bang on.
What’s wrong with me, why can’t I take a week, a solid week and do nothing more than lounge about in my bathrobe, watching old Bunuel movies and reading fat science fiction tomes?
Well…like Graham Green I am afflicted by boredom. Bedevilled is more like it. He claimed it sometimes reduced him to suicidal thoughts and I can empathize. My brain can’t stand being idle. Even when I’m watching movies I keep a notepad close at hand so I can scribble down good lines or salient plot points, often writing up a short review of the film later on. Why? To what purpose? Because I must analyze, dissect, critically assess. Same with books. I’m on my third book journal, hundreds of reviews no one will ever read. I take great pains with my critiques, have developed a strict rating system…again, why?
Because unlike Sherlock Holmes I don’t have a 7% solution of cocaine to ease me through fallow periods. There’s only my work. It is my purpose, the reason I was put here on earth; it is an essential, irreducible part of my identity:
“Most of us develop and mature primarily through interaction with others. Our passage through life is defined by our roles relative to others; as child, adolescent, spouse, parent and grandparent. The artist or philosopher is able to mature primarily on his own. His passage through life is defined by the changing nature and increasing maturity of his work, rather than by his relations with others.”
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Thanks to one and all for reading and/or downloading my novels over the past few months. I’m encouraged by the number of people popping in, a steady growth in visits as word spreads throughout cyberspace.
This blog has been a godsend to yers truly and has finally granted me the direct connection to readers I’ve been seeking for ages. Back in 1990 I self-published my first book, Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination. It was the product of desperation, a Hail Mary pass that somehow resulted in a game-winning score. The print run sold out in less than five months and the book went on to garner good reviews and excellent word of mouth. Readers loved it and cling tenaciously to their copies—just try to find one available for sale anywhere. It is well-nigh impossible to lay your hands on a copy (believe me, I’ve looked on behalf of friends and a treasured relative who lost hers in a house fire).
The success of Sex convinced my that my future lay outside of corporate publishing and marketing and nothing I’ve experienced in the nearly two decades that have elapsed since has convinced me otherwise. Thanks to the internet, I now have the ability to get my work out there and anyone, regardless of their physical location, has access to it. I’ve got readers in the Philipines, India, Vietnam, Australia…
That still takes my breath away.
The indie musicians showed me the way. I watched people like Ani Defranco seize control of their careers and message and I was inspired…if somewhat slow off the take. Writers, as a rule, are a lot more conservative and stodgy than their colleagues in other disciplines. I don’t know how many aspiring scribblers have responded to postings I’ve made on LibraryThing forums and elsewhere, pooh-poohing the notion of publishing their work on-line because they need the reassurance of an actual physical book, it gives them some kind of affirmation or some fucking thing. This past week we were in Saskatoon shopping for back-to-school stuff and we stopped by a gaming place my kids like to frequent. Its shelves are overflowing with Forgotten Realms books and all kinds of novelizations based on Dungeons and Dragons and what have you. The most dreadful, awful, amateurish tripe you can imagine.
Those are real books: does the fact that they exist as “dead tree editions” give those writers, as execrable as they are, more credibility than me? Are hacks like Margaret Weis, T.H. Lain and D.J. Heinrich superior to me because TSR et all churn out their shite by the truckload to gamers with the reading skills and mental age of an elementary school child?
I dunno, what do you think…
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* We’re still working on the podcast of excerpts from So Dark the Night. Figuring out the technology has been a real learning experience for Sherron. I won’t go near the stuff, I’d fly into a rage and boot the computer desk across the room. We’ve tried loading it on iTunes a couple of times but apparently we need an RSS feed and…aaaaaugghh!
* This summer I have gone to a spa and endured a massage at the hands of someone other than my wife. I know. I’m having a hard time believing it myself. What next? Crystals? Scientology? Membership in Opus Dei?
* No news re: the movie version of my novel “Kept”. I’ve heard rumbles of a summer/fall, 2009 release but that’s only speculation. Stay tuned.
* Lots of good music playing lately…until the much-beloved Yamaha stereo in my office conked out. I’ve been bopping through the latter part of summer with Bob Mould’s “Body of Song” album, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Baby 81”, Interpol’s “Antics”, Elbow’s “Leaders of the Free World”…as well as Trent Reznor’s double ambient album and a wonderful instrumental disk titled “The Last Drive-In” by Jo Gabriel. Fantastic to write to—thanks for sending it, Jo, and get well soon!
“Matriarchy” (matriarchy.pdf) was a pleasant surprise…and a revelation. It was originally written as sort of an exercise, three or four pages of text which I then filed away. But I never quite put it out of my mind, there was something that stayed with me, the voice of the main character, the notion of these vile, old women controlling and manipulating and intimidating him.
Last summer (2007) I was, as they say, between projects and chafing at the inactivity. I recalled “Matriarchy” and thought I’d dig it out and have another crack at it. The tale came together remarkably quickly, at least for a plodder like me. I read it aloud to my wife and sons and their reaction was gratifying–I knew I had something. God bless Kelley Jo Burke, producer of the CBC Radio arts program “Sound XChange”, for thinking enough of the tale to pick it up. It was broadcast the end of October–on my birthday, as a matter of fact.
Here it is, a heart-breaker…and a gem. Enjoy!