A Book Of Its Time: “We Don’t Need Roads”

Way long ago, back in my Tulane days, one of my favorite things to do on a weekend was to go to McAlister Auditorium and see whatever movie was playing that night. It didn’t matter if the film was 2001 or Brazil or Flash Gordon or Highlander II, everybody went to see it.

I still remember the experience of seeing Back to the Future there. It was and is one of my favorite movies, and I will always maintain that Christopher Lloyd’s Emmett Brown is one of the great screen performances. I knew the original film so well that I was lip-syncing it during the screening at McAlister. But somewhere along the way, I forgot what I was doing and just got caught up in its magic all over again.

Fans of Marty and Doc know that feeling well. And they know that the story behind the film, and the franchise to follow, is a compelling tale in its own right. Now the tale has finally been set down in print, in an excellent new book.
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What It Means To Live In Your Own Head: Thoughts on John Scalzi’s Lock In

One of John Scalzi‘s great strengths as a writer, one I wish I could better understand and emulate, is that he almost never tells the same kind of story twice. Even in the same series. Even in the same novel – The Human Division moved so deftly between space opera and political thriller and media satire and slapstick comedy and family drama that the journey was just dazzling to behold.

So, it’s no surprise that his latest novel is almost entirely unlike anything he’s written before.

But there are still plenty of surprises to be found in Lock In. And again, it’s a wonder to see them unfold.

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More Reasons Why You Should Be Reading The Human Division

I don’t typically recommend judging a series by its pilot episode.  It’s made when the writers and producers are still trying to figure out what the show’s going to be, where it’s going to go.  So, much of what we may come to love about the series, should it get that far, is yet unformed in that first episode.

But the first episode in John Scalzi‘s serial The Human Division was so good that I felt pretty confident in recommending it.  “The B-Team” was a fantastic opening, and promised another classic from the creator of Old Man’s War and Redshirts.

And it’s only gotten better…

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The E-Book As Appointment TV: John Scalzi’s The Human Division

One of the highlights of my year in geek culture was finally discovering John Scalzi.  Of course, it was through his brilliant novel Redshirts, which is about precisely what you’d think, until it inverts and subverts itself in ways I can’t begin to reveal here.  Just trust me on this, if you’re a sci-fi geek and you haven’t read it yet, you really should.

And if (like me), the experience of Redshirts inspires you to try more of his work, you should check out his newest project.  It might be the best midseason replacement you’re not watching.

Granted, that’s only because it’s not actually on TV.  But still.
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Two Blondes Walk Into A Theater…

When we were working with The Renaissance Guild on Rumors, there was some discussion on whether to keep its late-80s setting or to update it to the present day.  The decision was ultimately made to make it contemporary to our audience, which meant adapting some lines and references to make sense to a 2010 playgoer.

For one example: In Neil Simon’s original script, there’s a reference to the 1986 film Platoon.  Someone (and it might actually have been me) suggested changing the title to The Hurt Locker, and we went with it.  I thought it worked pretty well; like the movie, the play’s all about characters trying to defuse a bad situation before it blows up in their faces (though I’ll admit there’s a little less… drama attached to our play).  But if I have to be honest about the reasoning behind my suggestion, I really just wanted to hear Danielle King say “The Hurt Locker“.

I bring this up to illustrate that the production of a play is not always a process of exact translation or transcription.  Sometimes we have to make some changes to get the story and characters from page to stage.  Which of course brings us back to the San Antonio Stage Script Study Group. Continue reading

[Re-]Turning The Page…

As I’ve said before, the San Antonio Stage Script Study Group was “one of my favorite Stone Oak Youth Theatre activities”.  And in the time we met there, it had developed the kind of following you’d call Small But Devoted.  So when the group was put on hold following the end of Nikki‘s tenure at SOYT, it was inevitable that we’d find a new place, a new time, and meet again.

That brief hiatus ended with 2011, as we met again in January to chart a new course for a new year.  And in that discussion, we agreed that the time had come for one of the group’s earliest and most promising ideas. Continue reading

How Shakespeare Created Mystery Science Theater 3000, And Other Dramatic Musings

Yesterday’s Express-News had a very nice write-up from Deborah Martin about one of my favorite Stone Oak Youth Theatre activities: the San Antonio Stage Script Study Group.  She did a great job covering the origins of the group, so I encourage everyone to visit the link to learn more about what it is and how it came to be.

To sum up: the group’s a book club, with an exclusive focus on plays.  Each month, we meet to discuss, analyze, and share our experiences of a play, and at the end of the meeting, one of us gets to choose the next month’s play.  On the last Wednesday in June – having already read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Uncle Vanya – it was my turn to lead the way. Continue reading