Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DREAM LOGIC

Stage trees vs. the real thing
Stark, but fun Dream launches new SCS space

It's fitting that Santa Cruz Shakespeare chooses A Midsummer Night's Dream as the inaugural production for its spanking new venue at DeLaveaga Park. That they even got the stage erected in time for opening day is no less a feat of magic than anything devised by Puck and his fleet of fairies.

The set and costumes may be minimalist, but a wonderful cast performing Shakespeare's beloved comedy, and a sense of adventure on both sides of the stage, keep patrons engaged.

First the facts: the Festival Glen at UCSC is no more, at least as a performance space for this company. Ousted by the university (which retained the original name, Shakespeare Santa Cruz), the company has risen phoenix-like, rebranded itself as Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and found a new home in DeLaveaga Park.

City Council approval to build the new space was granted in February of this year, meaning SCS has had a scant five months to complete construction.

Addison + Ellis: love potion goes awry
The stage nestles in a grove of pine and eucalyptus, with an open space for picnicking in front of tiered rows of permanent benches and chairs. Sightlines are good, and the box office, restrooms, and parking lot are all immediately adjacent to the performance space (so you no longer need hiking boots and GPS to navigate to the stage area). Named in honor of the company's intrepid co-founder, and tireless supporter, the space is called Audrey Stanley Grove.

Director Terri McMahon's production begins with youthful fairies in baby blue dragging pillows onstage and falling asleep, as the four plots kick in. An extravagant wedding ceremony is about to be held for Duke Theseus of Athens (Cody Nickell) and the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Mia Ellis).

But first, a noblewoman complains to the Duke that her daughter, Hermia (Katherine Ko — appropriately little and fierce, also funny), refuses to marry the suitor her mom has picked out for her, Demetrius (Brian Smolin, so hilarious in last season's The Liar), Demetrius was formerly engaged to Helena (Mary Cavett), who still pines for him.

But Hermia loves Lysander (Kyle Hester), so that night, they run away—followed by Demetrius, who is followed by Helena. All are soon lost in the forest, where Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies, (also played by the commanding Nickell, and the warm, regal Ellis) are having a tiff.

Meanwhile, some tradesmen of the town, are rehearsing a play to perform for the Duke's nuptials. Most enthusiastic of her crew is Nick Bottom, all too eager to take on every part in their show, played with endearing comic bombast by Bernard K. Addison. When a fairy love potion goes awry, the fairy queen falls in love with Bottom, who has acquired the head (and other characteristics) of an ass.

All's well that ends well: lovers correctly matched at last
Christina Dinkel's costumes are simple and effective. (It's funny that she dresses Obron's fairy sidekick Puck (Larry Paulsen) like Smee in Peter Pan, with piratical striped stockings and headscarf.)

Collette Pollard's smart, stark forest set features towers of metal bars, through which we see the actual trees beyond, while the random chairs they sprout are used as fairy perches, or piled up to make thrones.

It may not be as ornate as some versions of Dream, but the  cleverness of this minimalist production makes us eager to see what SCS does next. (Read more)

Friday, July 15, 2016

BLOODY BOOK


What a great way to start off a foggy Friday!

Found this today on my Alias Hook page, over at the Republic of Goodreads. James Hook's voyage of conquest continues!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

MORE BEASTLY NEWS

It's Happy Dance time!

Yesterday, I received the email that every author longs to hear from her editor:

"Lisa!!! I think this is perfection! Truly! I have no further tweaks to suggest."

This came after one week (not counting the 3-day holiday) of wrangling between Editor Kaylan, from Candlewick, and moi over the Author's Note, to go in the back of the Beast book. 

We went five rounds in four days, cutting, pasting, snipping, and shaping. But it's good that we're both so detail-oriented, because the result is — well, perfection!

So, yay! We're done!

The final ms has been copyedited, accepted, and approved. The Author's Note and jacket copy are finalized, and the cover design is almost done. Oh, and we now have a new title:

How I spent my July 4 weekend.
Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge

This title, and the scrupulously-edited Author's Note, are meant to signify to readers that my book is NOT the Disney version of the tale — no more than Alias Hook was the Disney version of Peter Pan.

But you all knew that, right?

(Speaking of which, the live-action adaptation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is coming to a movie theatre near you in March, 2017, right around the time my Beast is hitting the bookshelves. Looks like it's going to be a Beastly spring!)

Anyway, my rough Beast's hour has come round at last, as he slouches now toward Candlewick to be born!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

TRAVELING MUSIC

Beguiling doc 'Music of Strangers' celebrates diversity, humanity

Some people talk about building a wall. (Okay, one fool in particular.) The perfect antidote to that mentality is The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

This beguiling and bittersweet documentary chronicles the efforts of the renowned cellist to found a performing group of international musicians from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, whose entire existence is dedicated to both cultural diversity, and common humanity.

Filmmaker Morgan Neville won an Oscar for the fabulous 20 Feet From Stardom, giving backup singers — the unsung heroines of rock 'n' roll — their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

He knows a great music doc needs to feature not only wonderful music, but dynamic personalities to perform it, and The Music of Strangers is incredibly rich in both.

Kayhan Kalhor, Yo-Yo Ma: soulful

In 2000, Yo-Yo Ma got the idea to search the world for masters of traditional instruments for a workshop and performance he wanted to stage at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts.

Born in Paris of Chinese parents, and raised in the US, Yo-Yo embodies the spirit of internationalism.

His idea was to follow the ancient "Silk Road" trade route, from Venice to China, scouring the world for master musicians.

Cristina Pato: rock star

And what an ensemble he came up with: Kinan Azmeh, is a clarinetist from Damascus.

Wu Man survived Mao's Cultural Revolution in China by her skill on the lute-like pipa.

Iranian Kayhan Kalhor is soulful master of another stringed instrument, the Kurdish kamancheh.

Spaniard Cristina Pato plays Galician bagpipes like a born rock star.

The musicians (and the other dozen or so Ensemble members) are fascinating in the ways their various instruments, and their playing, as well as their diverse personalities, mesh.

And the music is often thrilling.
(Read more in this week's Good Times)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

EDITOR REX

Fabled editor vs. star author in fascinating Genius

Maybe it's because my high school mounted a stage production of Look Homeward Angel when I was a senior, and I had a big crush on the guy who played the lead. But I've always had a soft spot for Thomas Wolfe's coming-of-age novel, and the mystique of its author.

Both figure prominently in Michael Grandage's literary biopic Genius, which delves into the relationship between Wolfe and his editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, the legendary Maxwell Perkins.

By the time he met Wolfe, Perkins was already famed as the editor who shepherded both and Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald to publication in the 1920s.

Based on a biography of Perkins, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by A. Scott Berg, the movie depicts Wolfe as a larger-than-life persona, eager to swallow life whole, and blast it out again in torrents of gorgeous prose.

Firth as Max: choosing words with care
Of course, I'll concede it's a view of the author that perhaps you can only appreciate if you fell in love with Wolfe's great, sprawling verbiage at age seventeen.

Jude Law is way over the top in the role, with his frenzied eyes and Southern-fried drawl, but his performance conveys the essence of a man utterly, passionately besotted by words.

In contrast, the movie gives us stoic, thoughtful, dependable Colin Firth as editor Perkins.

When the movie begins, in 1929, Perkins is a happily married father of five daughters, who takes the commuter train into New York City, usually with a manuscript he's reading in hand.

The real Max Perkins at work.
 Having wrangled with the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, he chooses his words with great care, for maximum impact. Firth plays Max as a man so button-down, he never takes off his fedora, even listening to the radio at night by his own fireside.

Genius is a lit geek's delight, and its backstage look at the business of publishing, as Max and Tom tussle over every line and page, is as fascinating as it is mind-boggling.

Granted, Wolfe was an extreme case; in the movie, he delivers the manuscript for his second novel, Of Time And the River, in multiple crates, totaling five-thousand hand-written pages. (And he keeps adding more.)
The real Tom Wolfe: crates of verbiage.

It takes a fleet of Scribner's typists months to pound it into typed pages before the editing can even begin.

The movie is as in love with words and their power as Tom is. The filmmakers acknowledge Max's point, that a book's primary function is to tell a story, and if excessive verbiage — no matter how gloriously written — gets in the way, out it goes.

But it also sympathizes with Tom's lust for words for their own sake. When Max explains to Tom why one achingly beautiful passage has to go, first he gets to read it out loud, so we can all enjoy it.

Some may argue that editing books isn't a spectator sport, and watching the process is not exactly thrilling (unless you're Tom, fighting for every word, or Max, desperate to streamline the work into something publishable, yet still true to the author's vision).

Okay, I get that. But as a writer who has agonized over ever cut phrase in my own novels, and an editor who has done plenty of cutting on other writers' work, I feel the pain of both of them!
(Read more)

Firth and Law: editing as a spectator sport.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

PAGE to STAGE

James Hook and crew are one step closer to their stage debut!

This poster was released today for the Santa Cruz Parks & Rec Teen Theatre production of Alias Hook! Pretty cool, huh?

(I especially love the little hook, tossed rakishly over the "K!")

The crew has signed on, the parts have been cast, and rehearsals commence next week!

For those of you who came in late, the intrepid Sara Jo Czarnecki and Darwin Garrett, chief instigators at SCP&R Teen Theatre, read my book last year, and adapted the story as an original play for this summer's production.

James Hook, Stella Parrish, various pirates, fairies, and Lost Boys — and, of course, Pan — will be live onstage at Louden Nelson Centre, for three performances only, Friday, August 19, at 7 pm, and Saturday, August 20, at 2 pm and 7 pm. Tickets are $5 at the door.

No doubt the scurvy dogs at SCP&R Teen Theatre will be running up occasional signal flags as the process continues, so check out their Facebook page for updates!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

BETTER CALL SOL

Sol in his chariot; ancient Roman floor tile
Don't look now, but one of the most important events of the seasonal year is almost upon us: the Summer Solstice.

It's the pinnacle of the solar year, when the Greek god, Helios (and his Roman counterpart, Sol, as in "Solstice"), drives his chariot of the Sun higher in the sky than it will be again all year.

The date varies according to year and time zone, and while the Solstice often falls on June 21, this year, the sun reaches its high point at 3:34 pm, Santa Cruz time, Monday, June 20. It's the longest day of the year, followed by the shortest night.

Unless you're a vampire, that's  reason enough to celebrate, right there. And celebrate they did, once upon a time, when daily life revolved around the cycles of the seasons. But these days, if it doesn't involve BBQ, gifts, and a three-day weekend, it doesn't really count as a holiday.

But in the old pre-Christian pagan calendar, the seasons were more closely aligned with the cycles of Nature, and the transitions between them were a big deal. Spring began February 1, with the first thaws. Merry May 1 was the beginning of summer. Fall began on August 1 with the harvest season.  November 1 marked the start of winter.

On the quarter days between seasons, when the borders between our knowable world and the Otherworld were thought to be most fluid, fairies, witches, spirits of the dead, and other assorted mischief-makers were thought to slip through the cracks and run amok in the mortal world.

Pagan cultures celebrated the Feast of All Souls/Day of the Dead at the beginning of November, and it didn't take long for the Christian Church to muscle in on the festivities with All Saints (or All Hallows) Day, November 1. Which is how this particularly eerie quarter day became Hallow's Eve, better known as  Halloween. Its counterpart among pagan folk was the equally uncanny and raucous May Eve.

But the two biggest festivals in the pagan year fell between the quarter days. The Feast of Midwinter broke up the long, cold  slog between November and February with feasting and merriment, coinciding (more or less) with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year (and the longest night). Since all cultures were already celebrating this festival of light in the middle of darkness, the Church rebranded it as Christmas (the Feast of Christ).

Medieval Midsummer
The other uber-festival was the Summer Solstice, when the sun is up higher, and for longer, than at any other time. Our modern calendars call this the beginning of summer, but according to the pagan calendar — splitting the difference as it does between May and August — it was called Midsummer.

The Church tried to repurpose Midsummer, as well; they moved it away from the Solstice to June 24, the designated feast day for St. John the Baptist. June 23 became John's Eve, or Midsummer's Eve, another otherworldly time dominated by witchery and the fair folk.

But Midsummer had already been a major event in the folklore calendar for centuries, connected to the Solstice. The Druidic tribes of Britain built the massive, megalithic sundial that is Stonehenge to mark the annual rising of the Midsummer sun.

And Will Shakespeare had plenty to say on the subject in A Midsummer Night's Dream, where a lovers' spat between the King and Queen of the fairies sparks a ripple effect of romantic complications among various mortals in the moonlit forest.

Sadly, Midsummer isn't such a big deal these days. (Except in northern climes like Scandinavia, where they celebrate 20+ hours of sunlight with a vengeance, as an antidote to the 20+ hours of darkness they endure during the winter.)

It's a marvelous night for a moondance...
But you can still party like a pagan. Light a candle in solidarity with the sun, or a bonfire at the beach. Build a Midsummer "maypole," like they do in Sweden, festooned with all the greenery and blooms abundant right now.

Do whatever you can to make it last, because it's all downhill from here. As soon as the sun reaches this highest point in the year, the days inevitably start getting shorter.

But here's another thing: this year, we also get a Midsummer full moon smack on the same day as the Summer Solstice. Overnight on Sunday-Monday, some 11 hours before the Sun does his thing, the moon will reach her maximum fullness for the month.

What does that mean to us neo-pagans? Well, the last time King Sol and Queen Luna danced their Midsummer tango was in 1967 (aka: the Summer of Love). So be prepared for anything!

Friday, June 10, 2016

GOOD FORM

Hey, there, art fans! There's still one week left to see a great show at the Pajaro Valley Arts gallery (recently rebranded from the former PVAC) in Watsonville.

Titled Sculpture IS, the show is devoted to — you guessed it — sculptural work, in all its many fabulous forms. It was curated by the mighty Susana Arias, who makes skillful use of every nook and cranny of the charming gallery space, a converted Victorian just off the main drag on Sudden Street.

Over 30 artists are featured in the show, working in a variety of materials, from clay, stone, wire, wood, and metal, to paper, fabric and assemblage.

I was especially taken by this Aborigine-inspired ceramic grouping, The Dreamtime, by Carla Powell. I love the stacked shapes, the earthy color palette, and the coordinating, but not identical patterns. Even the shadows thrown on the wall behind it are cool!

Not exactly figurative, nor functional, but I found it completely hypnotic.

I was also drawn to John Babcock's paper tapestry, Tyger Tyger. I love that the first two lines of William Blake's lovely poem are cut into the paper vertically, left and right, and how "the forest of the night" is represented by tree-like silhouettes posed against a flame-colored interior, "burning bright."

What else is new at PVA? The gallery has recently joined the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM), a confederation of over 800 museums, galleries, historical sites, and cultural exhibits, nationwide.

What this means for you, dear art lover, is that if you become a member of PVA, you gain access to any and all of the other NARM venues for FREE! This is a big deal, since participating NARM venues include the Asian Art Museum, the De Young, the Legion of Honor, and the Walt Disney Family Museum — and that's just in the Bay Area!

This actually works, as Art Boy and I found out on a recent visit to the Legion of Honor, to feast our eyes on Rapahael's "Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn." Admission to the venue and the entire permanent collection was absolutely free! Had we wanted to see the traveling Pierre Bonnard exhibit, we were told, there would have been a nominal charge ($10, I think it was), but the Raphael was part of the package. Such a deal!

The Sculpture IS show is up in the gallery until June 19. Meanwhile, a sister show, Sculpture IS In the Garden, has just gone up at Sierra Azul Nursery, one of the coolest sculpture venues in the county. Visit the PVA website to find out what's going on at the little gallery that could.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

WRITE ON

The intrepid Captain James Hook continues to win readers, out on the cyber seas!

Last month, I was contacted by the lovely Clare Moore of the online mag, Ampersand Literary.

 She had just read Alias Hook, and invited me to do a Q&A for her site, which publishes fiction, poetry, photography, and artwork, along with occasional interviews with the purveyors thereof.

I was thrilled to do it, and the post is up online as of today!

Clare generously invited me to blather on at great length about Alias Hook and my upcoming Beast novel. But she also quizzed me about the writing process itself, my completely chaotic publishing history, and any tips I might have for emerging writers.

It was a fun interview to do. And while you're there, surf around this diverse, eclectic site devoted to the creative process!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

BEASTLY NEWS

Very excited today to sign a contract with Audible for the audiobook rights to my next novel, Beast: A Love Story!

No idea who the narrator will be, yet — I don't think we're that far along in the process. (Hey, they just signed me, and I wrote it!)

Ralph Lister did a wonderful job reading the audiobook for Alias Hook (13 Hours! 11 CDs! Unabridged!). But, sadly, Beast requires a female narrator.

In other Beastly news, last week, the art department over at Candlewick sent me a very rough mock-up of the cover design for Beast in print. I like it a lot, but it's way too early to share it, yet.

For one thing, I'm told the title might change, which is sure to impact the cover design, somehow . . .

In the meantime, feast your eyes on this 1905 Beauty and the Beast illustration by Paul Woodroffe, one of many vintage B&B images collected on my Pinterest page.

All of which means that Beast is one more paw-print (make that hoof-print) closer to publication!