Bonus thankfulness this week: I have the contract in hand for a new Uncial Press e-fiction release set for this coming March. This is a short work entirely unconnected to my other Uncial Press titles:
Spirit of All the Russias
"This is not the Russia I remember."
When Baba Yaga steps out of her ancient chicken-legged hut into a blasted, dead landscape nearly devoid of life, she is confronted with a mystery and a dilemma. Her powers are stronger than they've ever been, but can she find a way to wield them that will restore her homeland rather than destroying it utterly?
Further details will be forthcoming; in the meantime, readers are welcome to check out my existing Uncial Press titles at any of the major e-fiction vendors. That said, I should note that Untreed Reads will be featuring 50% discounts on all Uncial Press titles -- mine included -- for Cyber Monday (midnight to midnight Pacific time), with a variety of timed bonus promotions throughout the day. That includes a wide range of mystery, romance, paranormal fiction, and other genre fare from a good many talented folks, so don't hesitate to check out the sale.
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/38738.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:skipping around the room
- Current Mood: excited
- Soundtrack:"The Greatest Adventure" (The Hobbit - Rankin-Bass version))
It is, of course, the last possible moment -- but I will in fact be at OryCon this very weekend here in Portland, and my panel schedule is as follows. (Yes, on both days I have back-to-back panels, and yes, in both cases they're scheduled in rooms at opposite ends of the hotel. Fortunately, in both cases I am also the moderator of the first panel in the set, so I can invoke the Dark Powers Of Moderation to wrap things up in a timely fashion. In at least one case, this may involve the use of stopwatch alarms....)
Synopses, Summaries, Book Descriptions and Other Horrors
Madison • 3:00pm-4:00pm
Few things exasperate writers more than condensing their masterworks into a single page synopsis--or worse, a 150 word book description! What to include, what to exclude, and strategies to keep it fresh and reveal your voice without sounding unprofessional.
(*)John C. Bunnell, Mary Rosenblum/Mary Freeman, Sheila Finch, Linn Prentiss
Books to movies, to comics, to movies, to books
Hawthorne • 4:00pm-5:00pm
Modes of presentation and limitations therein.
(*)Rob Wynne, John C. Bunnell, Claude Lalumiére, Viktor Maddok
Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature turned into good movies
Hawthorne • 10:00am-11:00am
F/SF turned into movies. What has worked and what should have been left on the bookshelf? What would translate really well into a blockbuster hit and why?
(*)John C. Bunnell, Steven Hoffart, Vincent P. Vaughn, Sandra Jean King, Jean Lamb
Will Pad Devices replace Desktops and Laptops?
Alaska • 11:00am-12:00pm
Not a religious debate.
(*)Mark Niemann-Ross, Jean Lamb, John C. Bunnell, L. Pierce Ludke, Ben Yalow
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/38623.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:just outside the closet where the suitcase is
- Current Mood: busy
- Soundtrack:"Wynken, Blynken & Nod" (Irish Rovers' version)
Well, semi-insta. I was in a major mall yesterday, abruptly encountered a Major Line (very neatly organized, mind you, but a Major Line), and was trying to figure out what was going on when I realized that I was passing the Apple Store.
The filk trigger, however, didn't hit till this morning, when I caught a snippet of a morning talk show in which the co-hosts were discussing this very issue...and proudly showing off their new toys, one in each color. The first verse was automatic; the second took just a few minutes to settle.
So, without further ado:
Silver or Gold
words: ©2013 John C. Bunnell
music: "Silver & Gold", Johnny Marks, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Silver or gold, silver or gold,
Ev'ryone wishes for silver or gold;
Don't you deny that it's true,
You with your iPhones so shiny and new...
Silver or gold, silver or gold,
Doesn't much matter to me;
When the time comes for my upgrade,
I'll take the one that's free!
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/38250.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:inside, out of the damp
- Soundtrack:"Silver & Gold" (instrumental)
This past evening’s performance of My Fair Lady also got a standing ovation – which was, for once, entirely and unequivocally deserved. The production and the performance really were and are that exceptional, and Amanda Dehnert (credited as both stage and music director) deserves full marks for conceiving and assembling a truly memorable experience.
What’s perhaps most striking about this staging is its intimacy. The set is, essentially, a theatrical rehearsal hall, its rear occupied with a few rows of metal bleachers with a pair of grand pianos set in front of them, and the ensemble is, in effect, portraying a cast of actors engaged in a run-through of the show they’ve been hired to perform. This does not preclude occasionally elaborate costuming and choreography, but it constrains it to an intriguing and surprisingly effective degree. Two violinists, both also part of the acting ensemble (and one a high-school-aged student performer, every bit as polished as anyone in the company), are the only complement to the pianists, but this cast doesn’t need more complex orchestration to drive the familiar score and songs.
The two leads – Jonathan Haugen as Professor Higgins and Rachael Warren as Eliza – are both outstanding on all points; in particular, if the only Higgins you’ve seen is Rex Harrison, having a skilled vocalist in the role is a revelation. Understudy Dee Maaske was wonderfully warm as Prof. Higgins’ mother, and Ken Robinson as Freddy rightfully steals every scene he’s in. But this production belongs as much to its ensemble as it does to its leads, and there is no moment when it’s less than captivating, from the pre-opening minutes wherein members of the ensemble are going through physical warm-ups on the set to the final moment between Higgins and Eliza, hauntingly staged halfway up the stairs alongside the audience.
I’ve been attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for almost four decades now, which is long enough both to get used to OSF’s high standards for both creative and technical craft and to get a little jaded about that standard. But I can honestly say that My Fair Lady is among the very best and most memorable shows I’ve seen in that long series of summer tours. This one’s not just worth the price of the theater ticket, it justifies the travel expense, the hotel room, and the best dinner you can find in town.
- Posting from:over the moon
- Current Mood: jubilant
- Soundtrack:"Wouldn't It Be Loverly"
While the production nominally retains the play’s Italian setting, the specific rendering gives us a mid-20th century carnival boardwalk, complete with neon, primary-colored signs (“Welcome to Padua”), and a fast-food counter complete with roll-down steel curtain. There’s also an onstage rock band cranking up musical energy, and the performances are similarly tuned – Kate (Nell Geisslinger) is the brunette Bad Girl, while Bianca (Royer Bockus) is the squeaky-voiced blonde. Ted Deasy’s Petruchio mixes more than a bit of Happy Days’ Fonzie with a touch of Elvis and a dash of Evil Knievel, aptly conveying the character’s self-assurance.
The show’s one direct nod to modern cultural sensibilities is the casting of African-American actors Wayne T. Carr and Tyrone Wilson as Lucentio and his father Vincentio, the former Bianca’s love interest; the players take just enough note of this to add texture to the play’s own comic potential without relying on undue stereotype. There are a handful of other period-related anomalies, one involving Kentucky Fried Chicken and another involving a wickedly funny dueling-video moment between rival suitors Hortensio and Gremio (I’m fairly sure “Let’s zoom in just a skosh, shall we?” isn’t in the original Shakespeare), but for the most part the atmosphere is solidly grounded.
And it’s really a combination of that atmosphere and an emphasis on plot that drives this production, rather than character chemistry. It isn’t that Deasy and Geisslinger lack chemistry; it’s simply that here, it’s the serial courtship of Kate and Bianca that gets the greatest focus, so that the show is more of an ensemble piece than one often finds in productions of Shrew. You’ll find more thoughtful stagings than this one, but few with greater overall energy or brisker pacing. I don't know if this is a genuinely stellar production, but it's certainly a solid and watchable one.
- Posting from:fourth floor front
- Current Mood:indecisive
- Soundtrack:the overture to the overture
The Festival’s promotion makes clear one point that the title does not: properly, this is really more Marion’s show than it is Robin’s. In this light, David Farr’s script – billed as a US premiere – is an entirely apt fit for Ashland’s Elizabethan stage. Our heroine, faced with an unwanted marriage orchestrated by her guardian, flees to Sherwood Forest and adopts boy’s disguise, first in hopes of joining Robin Hood’s band and then – when Robin proves less heroic than anticipated – in the service of a career as his more charity-minded rival. Kate Hurster is entirely winning as both Marion and “Martin”, but John Tufts misses his mark slightly as Robin. Tufts’ over-gruff accent gives the characterization a shade too much seriousness, which cuts into the comedic chemistry between Robin and Marion.
Also problematic is the villainous Prince John, played with oily enthusiasm by Michael Elich. The performance itself is ably executed, but Elich is hampered by a script that sometimes calls for melodramatic mustache-twirling (as in John’s early courtship of Marion), sometimes for genteel theatrical evil (“why yes, I am staging a revolt against my older brother”), and sometimes for outright sociopathic nastiness (a threat to hang two hundred innocent children). John’s motivation’s and true character are never made clear, nor does the script quite make up its mind whether he’s a proper evil genius or merely – as his final scene suggests – a mere Malvolio with delusions of competence.
Fortunately for viewers, and despite a minor excess of subplots, the production mostly emphasizes both physical and verbal comedy over the darker elements. In particular, Tanya Thai McBride gives a wonderfully animated physical and vocal performance as a dog named Plug, who steals most of the scenes in which she appears. The staging can’t entirely get around the script problems, which make the show just creepy enough that I’d hesitate to recommend it for kids under eleven or twelve. But warts and all, it’s still a lively and often very funny evening, even if it’s nowhere near being a definitive treatment of the Robin Hood legend.
- Posting from:merrie olde ashlande
- Current Mood: thoughtful
- Soundtrack:a rousing round of hey nonny nonny
From a literary standpoint, Cymbeline is a tricky and difficult play – it’s perhaps the least known of the late cluster of Shakespeare’s romances, and the plot is unusually convoluted. There’s a political thread (Britain is resisting a Roman demand for tribute), a family-betrayal thread (the princess’s wicked stepmother is trying to have both the princess and her would-be love interest murdered, and a sizeable number of other royal relatives have gone missing under assorted peculiar circumstances), and a more or less romantic thread (the princess escapes, disguises herself as a boy, and has a series of adventures before being reunited with her true love). And there is a good deal of side action bridging and framing the three major plots.
The present production more or less turns this into a briskly paced action yarn with liberal dashes of black comedy and soap-operatic melodrama. In a year where the Festival is also producing King Lear, this is arguably a good idea; there’s a lot of room to go very dark with Cymbeline, given what the script does to Imogen (the above-mentioned princess), but here we get something that owes more to Grimm and early Buffy the Vampire Slayer than it does to the television version of Game of Thrones. And I’m not making these references idly; the production introduces light but overt supernatural elements into the staging, and the set design combines with some very impressive lighting wizardry to give the production a decidedly mythic flavor.
The performances are uniformly good if rarely spectacular; my favorites in this show are Al Espinosa as Cloten, who plays his villain with cheerful vigor, Dawn Lyen-Gardner as Imogen, who wins points for not overplaying her heroine, and Jack Willis as Roman general Caius Lucius, who takes Imogen under his wing (while she’s disguised as the boy Fidele). Festival veteran Howie Seago gets the title role of Cymbeline, and the production does the Festival’s usual thoughtful and skillfully executed job of weaving Seago’s deafness into the fabric of the play.
All in all, this is a very good production if not a deep one…but again, in a year where it’s in rotation with an intensely staged King Lear (which we’ll be seeing next), the choice to play Cymbeline for melodrama is a reasonable one. And as one of Shakespeare’s more rarely staged plays, it’s a show I can recommend catching if you visit Ashland this summer.
- Posting from:next door to the theater
- Current Mood: awake
- Soundtrack:random stars twinkling
I’ve seen a good many Lears in the years we’ve been visiting Ashland – medieval and modern, spare and opulent, willful and wan. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so accessible a King Lear as this year’s production.
Not coincidentally, this version is being staged in the Festival’s newest space – it’s finally been named the Thomas Theater, after several seasons of being called simply the “New Theater”. It’s a small, highly reconfigurable black box – in this case, arranged in the round with just a few furnishings and props. But I’m not using “accessible” in its purely physical sense here, even though that’s part of the show’s success. Nor am I thinking only of one of the Fool’s first scenes, in which a couple of audience members were briefly drawn into the stage business, though that’s part of it too.
Rather, this is perhaps the first iteration of Lear I’ve seen that seems to me to break unreservedly out of its Shakespearean shell and really connect with its audience on a personal level, irrespective of whether one is a theater buff, a Shakespeare scholar, or a literature geek. The language is just as it’s always been, so it will satisfy loyalists, but the production as a whole assimilates the language and delivers a show that speaks more viscerally and directly than mere words can convey.
Two performances in particular drive the intimacy: Michael Winters (one of two actors alternating as Lear) is utterly compelling; he balances Shakespeare’s dialogue beautifully with a characterization of Lear that is at once vivid, powerful, and familiar – rarely will you see a Lear described as “charming”, but there are moments here where the word fits, and others where Winters’ delivery is as easy and conversational as you might hear around a card table at your neighborhood senior center. And young Daisuke Tsuji is a bright, personable, and perceptive Fool, with all the energy of a street comic and the careful precision of a master sensei. These two stand out among a uniformly excellent cast, and the staging is brisk and energetic, with performers ranging among the audience and into the rafters as the show progresses. And for all its accessibility, the production doesn’t lose touch with the classic elements that make Lear one of Shakespeare’s most powerful tragedies.
Some of my drama-buff tourmates may disagree (we’ll find out later tonight), but I call this one of the best Lears I’ve seen, period, and not to be missed if the opportunity is available.
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/37350.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:thinking about bedtime
- Current Mood: pleased
- Soundtrack:incipient snoring
The domain has been registered for something over a year now, but I have finally gotten the furniture sufficiently arranged to declare it Open For Business.
My old SFF Net Web page has not yet gone anywhere, and will likely hang on for a little while yet (I need to transplant more of the filk lyrics before I turn out the lights), but I have now set up housekeeping as (at?) The Lone Penman, with a new WordPress-driven site. My last couple of LJ/DW posts are mirrored over there, and -- more importantly -- I've made a tiny beginning at the long-term project of archiving my entire book review file onto the Web.
Again, this does NOT mean that this/these journals are going away; the great majority of my new posts will likely go up in all three places. But there will likely be odds and ends that show up here and not there, or there and not here, and I will very probably keep better track of the ongoing review and lyric archiving at Lone Penman than I will on DW/LJ.
In any case, everyone's invited to wander Over There, gawk at the shiny parts, kick the tires, and point out the inevitable bugs. There may even be a virtual housewarming if I can find the SFX generator (or the pocket dimension it was left in three or four cyberspaces back....)
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/36777.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:here, there, and everywhere
- Current Mood: optimistic
- Soundtrack:"Tigger's Song"
As at least some of my readership is aware, I have been a theater junkie -- if a somewhat undernourished one -- ever since junior high school (which is to say, for a scarily long time now). I have, of course, also been an avid reader of fantasy for even longer than that. And it's been my experience that there just isn't much modern genre fiction that makes effective use of theatrical settings. There are a very few exceptions, and mystery has done somewhat better than fantasy in this regard, but even good theatrical mysteries are a trifle thin on the ground.
You may therefore imagine my cautiously optimistic delight some weeks back, when I ran across a new(ish) book at my local library promising just this: a fantasy yarn set against the backdrop of a small musical theatre company in rural Vermont. The ingredients seemed perfect -- but would they be well blended and skillfully served up?
( They would indeedCollapse )
Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/36482.html); feel free to comment here or there.
- Posting from:third row center
- Current Mood: pleased
- Soundtrack:"There's No Business Like Show Business"