Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Mysterious Reviews

OK.  I admit it.  I googled Steph's and my name to see what would turn up.  But look what I found!  Another independent review.  I have to idea who this is and can't seem to find a name...

To respond briefly:  The comedy in my first play An Uncivil Union is simply the age-old miscommunication between the sexes.  There was nothing funny about what was really going on in the mountains during the Civil War.  It was dire.  People were starving.  I tried to portray that honestly, while still creating plenty of laughs about how men and women have always struggled with gender-expectations and how those play into relationships.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shout Out: Mystery Man John L.

So, neither Steph nor I know who this John L. guy is, but if you missed his comment, I thought I'd re-post it here.  Our first "review" if you will.

Saw the play Saturday night and really enjoyed it. My family came up to the Parkway for the weekend to celebrate of my wife's birthday. We started with a glorious hike up Honeycutt Mountain, had a delicious dinner at the Knife & Fork (Spruce Pine), and were thoroughly pleased with the writing, acting, and production of _Between the Tackles_. If you have a chance, go see this original play. I hope the play will be performed beyond the Parkway Playhouse but don't wait. Go see it.

I'm also a huge fan of Knife and Fork and if you haven't eaten there you totally should.  Here's their link:

Thursday is the Talk-Back

Thank you to the fantastic cast, director and crew for a super opening weekend.  Thank you also to the super audiences.  (I know what you're thinking..."We came.  We saw.  We kicked..."  heh heh heh  Ghostbusters.)  I'm looking forward to the next two weekends and the ensuing laughter.  Thanks also to Worth for sending me this photo he took.

FYI - This Thursday's show will be the "Talk Back" which means that Steph and I will grace the stage with our awkwardness after the show is over to do a little Q&A and attempt to explain why we wrote such a play and how we collaborated on the script.  See you there!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shout Out: Opening Weekend

It's in the books, sports fans. There will never be another World Premiere opening weekend of this play ever, in the history of the world. With a mixture of bliss, exhaustion, and relief, we bid that a fond adieu.
In my humble, yet completely biased, opinion, it went great. On Saturday night, we had a fantastic, fancy-pants pre-party/tailgate at Ms. Susan Martin's lovely home. It sincerely was one of the best gatherings I've been to and all our best peeps were in attendance. (Minus Ol' Scotty P. who, in the bitterest of ironies, was at an honest to goodness ball game in West Virginia. Life imitating art or something.) There were so many moments to savor that it might take me a while to sort it out in my head. But, suffice it to say that we all had a great time and will always remember it forever.

And the show - what can I say? In a completely biased opinion, it was really, really good. And people laughed. And not just the people who wrote the play. Other people. That was a nice touch. Although there were nerves beforehand - mostly on my part - things came off without any major problems. And so, all props to the cast and crew (again) for their awesomeness. Really.

After it was all said and done, Franco and I enjoyed some quiet time snuggled in bed watching college football highlights and eating hot pockets. That was also a nice touch.

On Sunday afternoon, Ol' Scotty P. accompanied me for his own premiere of the show and he quite liked it himself. And it was terrific to get to see it with him, since his real-life meat conversations and bromances were quite inspirational to the onstage action. After all this time kept in suspense, he gave us serious props and a ringing endorsement. Also a nice touch.

Yes, memory-making stuff indeed. I don't think Britt or I ever will forget the magic of that weekend. And the best part? There are two more weekends to get a chance to experience it! So, choose your choice - "Between the Tackles" at The Parkway Playhouse!
Loved these two guys pretending to scalp tickets outside the show on Saturday night!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shout Out: Cast and Crew 2.0

To echo Britt, I also must give thanks a million times over to the cast and crew who have brought this production to life. It is amazing to watch the transformation from page to stage. I can't wait to see the finished product - tonight!!

Now...go read Britt's great post and look at her great photos and call that tailgating for tonight's OPENING NIGHT show! We will see you all there!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shout Out: Cast & Crew

I simply do not understand how they do it.  Memorize those lines, add in body language, facial expression, inflection, gesture... all to make the characters on stage "live." Having never been on stage myself, I can't begin to comprehend.  Hats off to the actors who have lent their amazing talent to this work.  These are all busy folks, many with other full-time jobs, spouses, kids/infants, prior commitments, rapidly approaching weddings...  I don't care to think about the sacrifices they have made for the sake of this play and I thank them heartily for it.  Director Michael Lilly has also gone above and beyond for this one.  And he was the right man for the job;  it's clear he knows football fandom and got the tone right.
Anna Franklin, Andrew Gall, Jeff Messer & Paul Trani on stage.
Director Michael Lilly in the ball cap.
More than once this week I have found myself remembering the movie Shakespeare in Love where people would ask Jeffry Rush's character how something was going to be possible and he would reply, "I don't know.  It's a mystery."  Indeed.  The process is mystifying to me.

Thank you too, to the other folks behind the scenes.  Ami Pisano (who has worked on sound, scheduling and countless other details that have fallen through the cracks until they landed on her lap) needs her own standing ovation.  I can't help but to rock out to the sound during rehearsals and I think y'all will too!  At times, you honestly feel like you're in a stadium and not a theatre.  And of course there's Bruce.  No Parkway Playhouse production is complete without a little Bruce-set-magic.
Ami and Haven working the many light and sound cues.
I don't have a good picture of the final member of the cast,  Doug Shaw, who anchors the whole play. (hahaha)  But I'll let his appearance be a surprise for you.

Thank you all.  Many times over.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shout Out: Ol' Scotty P.

Okay, so ol' Scotty P. is admittedly not much of a reader. So, he hasn't actually read the play about which my life is rapidly revolving. He says he wants to be surprised when he finally sees it live. We'll go with that.

But, he is a dedicated football partner. It would have, of course, been a deal breaker to have married someone whose football loyalties lie contrary to my own. Luckily, we are both WVU grads several times over. (And over. And over.) Throughout much of our married life, we have both been enrolled in some sort of degree program at WVU.  After all that and a move to North Carolina, we have season football tickets, so the university is still milking us for money. (Clever...very clever.) But we cheerfully traipse to Morgantown for home games because we love the tailgating and festivities and camaraderie. Or we are crazy. Take your pick.
Here's the happy family ready for Franco's first experience at Mountaineer Field! Contrary to popular belief, they do not take your first born to settle your massive student loan debt. Go figure.

Of course, we all cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers, too. We have seen many games together, reveling in loads of fun and fandom. Here is one happy memory from Heinz Field on a day when old Fav-ray hit the turf at least "favre" times:

It's understandable that we make family plans which revolve around ball games. It was a no-brainer that the new baby would have a sports-themed bedroom, regardless of whether he was a he or a she. Common sense at times is the first casualty of this type of fanaticism, but we all know Scotty P. is much more grounded than I am and can keep it in better perspective. (Most of the time.)

We can count all the happy memories and sad times as shared journeys in our marriage, and it does make it that much richer. It is fun to share all this with someone, and we look forward to happier memories made with Franco at sporting events in the future. From the 'Eers to the Steelers and even onto the ice to cheer the Pittsburgh Penguins, we are united in one common goal: Fun. And championships. (So that's kind of two goals, but they should go together. Every year.) Happy family time indeed!

**And as a caveat, I thought I would share the following image for your delight. Scotty P. carving a large piece of meat in the parking lot of Mountaineer Field. Because...yeah. We weren't kidding about the obsession with meat.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shout Out: XGCFFL

XGCFFL = ex-Goshen College Fantasy Football League

19 years ago, my husband (though we were only dating then) and many of the guys on his dorm floor started a fantasy football league which continues to this day, though the members are spread from Oregon to North Carolina.  It began with them all drafting in a cramped dorm room.  These days, several centrally located owners gather in the War Room where they use projectors, multiple computers, google spread sheets and set up both on-line chats and skype to connect with owners elsewhere in the country.  How else to ridicule  each other effectively in real time when so far apart?

Were I to repeat the choice bits of banter from the draft or the flurry of emails that criss-cross the country each week, I would surely have this site shut down and blocked from a good many browsers.  Just their team names would be enough.  (And now they get to name each other's teams! Which has made things wonderfully worse.  This may be my one true contribution to the league.  None of them seem too keen on my typical role:  rearing my feminist head and correcting others' grammar/spelling.)

The XGCFFL owners were the ones who provided me with favorite movie quotes for the play and I've even borrowed heavily from some of their stories... i.e.  one of them actually picked up a girl with Elliot's pick-up line.  And guys, I even worked in "Don't worry about it" but in a totally different context.  In fact, this league's chronic story telling (a thorn in many of their wives' sides) is far more extreme than the characters on stage.  Don't get any of them started.
For your remembering enjoyment.  The Morning After: Yes, that is the hash brown casserole box in the foreground of this photo.
There are even several accountants in the league, who, at any given moment will call up the historic stats, apply some new algorithm and spit out statistical analysis.  This year we learned how many champions came from which position in the draft order.  Other seasons have provided us with graphs of the Luck-O-Meter which determined each teams average against their opponents average to find out if your total win-loss record over the course of the season meant you were lucky or unlucky in your match-ups...  Impressive use of one's education, right?

So, thanks to my old classmates, the XGCFFL, for leaving me on the group list to get all of your mindless, perverse banter for the last 16 years.*  You've taught me a lot about football and how men can be friends for a lifetime.

* Because there are statistical nitpickers in the group, I have to add the caveat that while the league has been together 19 years I wouldn't have been included in the emails until I officially married into the group 16 years ago.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shout Out: The Parkway Playhouse

Ahhh, the grand old Parkway Playhouse. It's a fine place full of fabulous history, memories, and (maybe) the ghosts of actors past.

(These actors are all alive and well! That's me, in my turn as Mrs. Mayor in "Seussical" and Mary Katherine Smith-Gall as Gertrude. And look! There's Britt Kaufmann in a rare turn onstage as opposed to behind the scenes...even if it was just to take this photo.)

The Parkway Playhouse has been a staple in my life since moving to North Carolina. I am incredibly fortunate to have become a part of it, in many ways. As an organization, the Parkway Playhouse has a commitment to fostering new works and debuting world premieres.  There have been many writers lucky enough to see their works performed for the first time on this stage, something quite rare and extraordinary.  And because of this noble goal, Britt was asked to write a play for this season, which is both daunting and thrilling. As a result, "Between the Tackles" is going to see the light of day in all of seven days. (SEVEN DAYS? Gulp.)

Of course, the Parkway Playhouse is just the historic, enchanting building where the magic happens. There are plenty of fine folks who tirelessly put hours of time into making sure the lights go up on each production. And there will be shout-outs to some of those folks individually.

So, to the Board of Directors, the volunteers, the many fine local businesses and individuals who donate each year, the patrons, the actors, and all those who have come into the darkness to emerge richer in spirit two hours later, we salute you. Without each of these, there would only be a building and a stage...which is pretty lonely all by itself.

Now, for the fun stuff. You know how all great DVD/Blu-Ray releases have "Easter Eggs" hidden in the special features or within the film itself? Little tidbits or inside jokes to reward the most ardent fans?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, "Between the Tackles" does as well. There are small, minute references to some of last season's works, including:
 "The Miracle Worker"
 "An Uncivil Union: The Battle of Burnsville"
 "Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood" and

You just have to be paying attention to find them!

It all adds up to another way for us, Britt and Steph, to say "thanks" to The Parkway Playhouse for this personal opportunity. And for the many riches it brings this community and all those visitors through its doors each year.

Shout Out: My Dad

When I write my first science-fiction novel, that will be dedicated to my dad.  If he taught me the true love of and devotion to anything it was sci-fi.  Nonetheless, he was the one who taught me football too.

We watched most Sunday afternoons together.  As we lived relatively close to Chicago, that was the team we followed, but we were by no means fans of the caliber of the Starks.  I suppose I should confess that the primary purpose of having the games on Sunday afternoon was to create white-noise by which to snooze.  Sunday afternoons were for NFL naps.

Once we turned the TV on its side so that we could watch the game more easily from a prone position.  Did you know if you do that to one of the old three-dimensional TVs that the color runs to the corners?  Really.  It does.  We got scared that we'd ruined it and Mom was going to be mad... but it was ok (eventually) once we righted it.

Props to Dad for teaching me the game.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Shout Out: Mum and Dad

My first in the series of "shout-outs" is to my mum and dad, Anna Mae and Jim Stark. They taught me from the ripe old age of birth the importance of being blindly loyal to your sports' teams and all the good that can come of it. (The ying to that yang is, of course, the heartache and bitter disappointment, which they taught me, by example, to handle...kind of poorly. See "Cutting Off the Steps" below.)

My dad has had a Steelers season ticket for over 40 years. (He has often remarked that his tombstone will read: Here lies Jim Stark. Worked 30+ years. Had a Steelers ticket.) He sat through endless games at Three Rivers Stadium when the Steelers were the laughingstock of the NFL. I remember an early lesson about the draft and the dismal state of affairs resulting in "Bonus Pick Gary Glick." When I was born in 1974, my mom urged my dad that he had better go watch the Steelers play in their first Super Bowl because "they may never be back." No matter that I was a few months old - off he went to New Orleans to watch the first victory of what he could probably never guess would be four Lombardis won in six years.

As a small child, I remember Steelers polkas sung along with the radio, Franco's Italian Army, a small picture I cut from an old media guide of toothless Jack Lambert taped on my closet door, black and gold ribbons in my hair, and lots of screaming about "Defense." It was, after all, the 1970's, and the Steelers were a dynasty in the making. When we went to parties with my parents' friends, they would prop me up to recite the "Front 4" of the Steel Curtain (i.e.  Mean Joe, LC, Fats, and Mad Dog) to a captive audience, which I happily did because I had been taught well. While the specifics of the game itself were mysterious to my child brain, I never wavered in my pride in being a Steeler fan from Western PA.

As the 1970's wound into the 1980's, the mood soured somewhat. Instead of fun songs, I remember my party trick was to sourly spit out "Steelers Stink" whenever prompted. Because they did. My dad and I went to a game together once when Bubby Brister started at quarterback, and the fans chanted "Bradshaw" and threw beer. I thought that was hysterical. My dad was totally disgusted. I recall my dad yelling "dummkopf!" at the television a lot on Sunday afternoons. Still, we hung in there, 'cause that's what you do.

When the Steelers would lose a bad game, a big game, a game they should have won, my dad would head to the cellar with a hand saw to cut off a step in a ritual known as "Cutting Off the Steps." I didn't really understand things like "coping skills" as a kid, but I did understand this form of dealing with disappointment. Lots of times, people would approach us in public and say "Did your dad cut off a step Sunday night?" Today, one lonely overhang remains. I don't know when it will be removed.

As I grew up and my sister was born and I learned more about the game, it became clear to me that football is life...and life is football. At least in our house. Happy Christmases hung in the balance of whether the Steelers would make the playoffs or not. When games are won, there is much rejoicing. When games are lost, there is depression, silence, and overindulgence.

The space between victories in Super Bowl XIV and Super Bowl XL took me from kindergarten to my 3rd year as a practicing attorney. That Super Bowl XL victory is probably the second greatest moment in my whole life up to that point, after my wedding day. It felt like vindication, justice, relief, and pure joy all wrapped in a bear hug of happiness. But it sure was a long time to wait! Luckily I had my family for support.

So, thanks Mum and Dad, for teaching me what's what in this world. And for all those jerseys, trinkets, and trips to live games that fostered my fandom. And for being great parents all around, especially when it comes to the black and gold.
We now can pass all this hoopla on to the next generation, to the aptly named Franco. He has no idea what he is in for! But he sure does look happy about it all!

Community Close-Up on WKYK

Here's our radio interview:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shout Out: My Husband

You've all seen it:  the cameraman on the sideline gets in close beside the players during the game.  The sound may not even be on, but you know he's saying.  "Hi, Mom!"  Players always give a shout out to their moms.  So, these series of "Shout Outs" are to the people who helped us and inspired us in the writing of this script.

First up is my husband.  Yes, I sat right beside him on the couch last season with a yellow legal pad furiously scribbling down the random things he yelled at the screen, the announcers, the coaches, the players, the commercials... well, maybe he didn't yell at the commercials.  (And this was during games I was allowed to sit next to him... Often, last season, the Steelers played better when Chad and I watched in different rooms, so I was kicked out on more than one occasion.)  Even more than providing actual lines in the play (which he has not read, for the record, since he wants to be surprised -- or so he tells me) his long-lasting friendships with other sports-watching guys were great fodder.  Write what you know, people say.  And what he's shown me is how the love of the team, the game, and friends is an important part of a good many men's happiness.  In fact, it was his fanaticism about the Steelers that brought Steph and I together.  (I'll let her tell you in her own words.)

Quick Story:  A few years ago he and I were fortunate enough to attend the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh.  High up in our nose-bleed seats, the snow whirling around us, cold air battling against the toe and hand warmers we'd stuffed under thick layers, I attended my first game in Heinz Stadium.  At one point, when my husband made a quick departure to use the facilities, the young twenty-something guy sitting next to me leaned in and asked, "So, when you married him, did you know he was a face-painter?"
No.  I did not.  But I love it about him.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Steph, Franco and I got to go into WKYK this morning to record a Community Spotlight bit.  (Not Franco Harris.  The other Franco.  The eight-month-old.  The cute one to whom I am Auntie Britt.)

I caught Steph leaning over to explain what was happening to her son, as all good parents do.  "It's like Mike and Mike in the Morning,"  she whispered in his ear, knowing full well that since this is a habitual part of their day, he would understand immediately.

Give it a listen tomorrow at 6:45 am.  Or noon or 5 pm.   1470 am or 940 am.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Set Design

Anyone have beaded curtains we (Bruce) could borrow for a month or so?

Leave me info in the comments...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Revisions Approved

OK.  Got the newly revised 12 pages to the director... and he liked the changes.  Whew!

By the way, the page count is now up around 125.  Without a doubt the longest thing I've ever written.

And check out the new animated GIF to the right.  Made that today to fulfill some of my RAP Grant requirements -- and I'll be running it on the Mountain X website soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Asheville FM - Internet Radio

Between 5 - 6 today I will get a chance to talk about the upcoming Carolina Mountains Literary Festival  on Wordplay Radio  (along with Lucy Doll).  Host Jeff Davis also encouraged me to bring some of my own poems to read on air.  But I haven't been writing many poems lately, so he said to go ahead and bring a few pages of the script of Between the Tackles to read.  He was game to help out.

So, we'll give it a try on radio and see how it goes.  Hope you can tune in.

UPDATE:  You can listen HERE any time you like.  Although we spent entirely too much time talking about my chickens instead of talking about the fabulous authors who will be at the literary festival.