I am a disgruntled former playwright who has — thanks to a combination of bad experiences, current dramatic trends which favor dumb musicals of hit movies over all other forms of dramatic expression, and audiences who (influenced by television talent contests and spoiled by the electronic toys they have seemingly had surgically attached to the ends of their fingers) no longer know how to behave in a theater and cannot delineate a masterwork from a steaming pile of offal — given up on theatre, the once abiding passion of my life. And if you think I resent it, you would not be wrong.
After being bitten by that ubiquitous pest The Theatre Bug at 12 I was often an actor (I made my debut as Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1973 and one of my last performances was as Toby in Sweeney Todd in 1981) until writing claimed more of my time, attention and affection. I started writing one-acts as a junior high school student: French Pastry (1976), The Butler Did It (1977, produced in 1979 and 1980), Past Caring (one staged reading and two productions, 1985-1987), Unreliable Witness (staged reading at Hampshire College, 1989; full production, Raleigh Ensemble Players, 1991) and The License Number (staged reading, 2003).
My full-length plays included Living Room (Hampshire College, 1990), The Dogs of Foo (winner of the 1994 – 1995 Playwright Award and premiered at NC State University, 1995), A Liberal Education (2000, Thompson Studio Theatre) and an adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel The Magnificent Ambersons (unproduced). I also wrote the books for the musical revues I Love a Piano (Irving Berlin, 1998) and Serenading the Moon (Johnny Mercer, 1999), both of which were performed at Thompson Theatre.
Fortunately, I have other skills as a writer, and interests to sustain me besides theatre. Around the same time I started writing plays I also began writing movie and theatre (and, later, book) reviews. I was a contributor to The Front Page, a biweekly gay newspaper, from 1981 – 1983; freelance theatre critic for the Raleigh Spectator from 1981 to 1986; movie critic for the Raleigh, NC News & Observer from 1986 – 1991 and a contributing book critic for the N&O from 1987 – 1988; the Arts and Entertainment editor for the Hampshire College Permanent Press from 1988 – 1990; freelance movie and theatre critic for the Durham, NC Independent Weekly from 1992 – 1993; the primary CD/media critic for the quarterly Sondheim Review from its Fall 1994 issue through Winter 2005; the Dance, Comedy and Theatre Editor for Triangle.CitySearch.com from 1998 – 2000; and a theatre and music critic for Classical Voice North Carolina from 2002 – 2012. I was also a founding member of the North Carolina Playwrights Association in 2004.
Although movies have alienated me as much as theatre and I now seldom see a new one, there are more than enough “old” movies to engage me. And after all, as with any book you haven’t read, any movie you haven’t seen is new to you.