Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Show Me.

My buddy, Brad Blaisdell, came over for a chat yesterday. Brad is an actor that's been around forever. Lots of film, including a big role in the movie, The Negotiator. Many others. Did a ton of Broadway stuff. Came to LA in the seventies, had a recurring role on Three's Company, for god's sake. Helluva actor. He just finished a really top-flight piece of work in the play PROOF at NoHo Arts.

He came over to hang and have a little Missouri Sweet Tea, shoot the shit, kick the bobo, chat about the future of EAST/WEST and the screenplay to Praying Small. Brad has been in the LA trenches. SAG Board member, friend of celebrities, clear thinker, and, like me, a bit of an outsider when it comes to LA. He does not suffer fools gladly, that's fairly clear.

So we're sitting out in my office-to-be and he's offering advice on a few things. Readily accepted, I might add.

Brad has a gentle confidence about himself that I like enormously. He has reached the age where he obviously doesn't really give a shit what people think of his work. As well he shouldn't because it's great stuff. He pops back and forth between film and television jobs and work in the theatre that interests him. In short, he has had the career I'd like to have. He's not a star, but he's had starring roles. He's not a name, but name's know him. He's an actor.

For whatever reason, he's taken an interest in my work, my writing. That's what we talked about mostly. What to do with it. He's convinced it is great stuff and wants to see it go further. I appreciated that.

I have a new play called Heavyweights of the Twentieth Century that I have been working on for about a year now. There's a massive role in it for Brad. He doesn't know it yet, but he'll play it someday.

Heavyweights is my homage to Kushner's Angels in American. It's a "big" play, three acts, three hours long. It's about war and AIDS and alcoholism and rape and dying and...heavyweight boxing throughout the nineteen hundreds. Yep. That's what I said. It's a corker.

But the other thing we discussed was possibly bringing him on board to direct the next incarnation of EAST/WEST. I thought of that a lot last night, and I think that would be ideal. He has the chops for it (EAST/WEST, for those who saw it, is no lightweight's a fairly multi-leveled piece - needs a firm and confident hand). As to whether he'll do it, well, we'll see about that.

And we discussed my work on Praying Small and the screenplay potential there. The play is written in such a way that it is not terribly difficult to adapt. I'm finding that out as I work on it. I'm approaching it much like I have approached my work as a playwright in the past. That is to say, fuck what everyone says, do it my way. This has not served me so well in life, but it's certainly been a boon to my work as a writer and actor. I think I'll stick with it.

So, today, back to the boards. Visualizing Praying Small. Seeing the life in it. Tolerating the words in order to make a picture. Changing four words to one. Years ago I read something Alfred Hitchcock said about making movies. He said his ideal screenplay would have no dialogue whatsoever. NOT a silent film, mind you, just a screenplay so tight and clear that dialogue was not necessary. He could tell the whole thing with pictures. I'm keeping that particular piece of advice in my head today as I continue to trudge through it.

I remember reading a book called Tricks in My Pocket some years back. It's a day by day, minute by minute account of Paul Newman directing Joanne Woodward and John Malkovich in The Glass Menagerie. A great deal of it is simply transcribed conversations between them as they rehearse the play. At one point, Malkovich is trying to discuss, in great detail, a scene he is about to play. On the page it is a long, long paragraph of Malkovich talking and then Newman saying over and over, "Show me." More Malkovich talking, then again Newman, "Show me." And on and on. I liked that very much.

That's exactly how I'm approaching Praying Small as a screenplay. I'm showing.

See you tomorrow.