Playwriting workshop exercise

I participated in a playwriting workshop lead by Gil Garratt on Sunday morning. It’s the first “workshop” event I’ve been to where the participants have actually had to work—hard! But it was worth it just for the creativity exercises, feedback and discussion; there’s good reason Garratt was chosen as the PlayWrights Cabaret’s dramaturg.

The workshop lasted for three hours, and fully half of that was straight-up pen-to-paper writing, based on phrases, drawings and photos. I wrote several fairly abstract pieces—series of related thoughts, really, more than “plays”—but here’s what I came up with when Gil asked us to create dialogue for the characters in photographs he handed out. Every few minutes as we were writing he’d drop off hand-written index cards with phrases like “a poem” or “a lie”, and mock-Tarot cards with sayings like “There are no misteaks”; you’ll see their traces below.

Photo: A nearly-naked woman sitting/leaning on a well-dressed man’s lap, legs crossed, her back to the camera. His arms are awkwardly around her, trying not to touch her, fingers clenched.

  1. Patrick Those are great shoes. I can never understand how women walk in them without pitching forward all the time.
  2. June Well, I guess I put the lie to that, didn’t I?
  3. Patrick I suppose. But you were graceful until then. An icon.
  4. June An icon? Standing still, representing something but not actually being it?
  5. Patrick No, no… you’re quite beautiful. An image of perfection.
  6. June Until I fell over my own two feet. Umm… maybe I should get up now? The rest of the group need me for the finale, and I think people are starting to stare.
  7. Patrick What if I said no?
  8. June Would you?
  9. Patrick Maybe.
  10. June What if you said yes?
  11. Patrick I… don’t know.
  12. (together) What do you want (Patrick: me) to say?
  13. Patrick Meet me after the show?
  14. June I can’t. My fiancé…
  15. Patrick Just for a drink?
  16. June You don’t even know me.
  17. Patrick We’ve been sitting like this for five minutes now. That has to count for something!
  18. June I really need to get up. My leg’s starting to cramp.
  19. Patrick Meet me.
  20. June …One drink?
  21. Patrick One drink.
  22. June One drink.
  23. Patrick Until then, then. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost…”
  24. June Wait a minute. “Loved”?
  25. Patrick It’s… an expression.
  26. June You don’t know me. How can you love me?
  27. Patrick It’s an expression.
  28. June Yeah, an expression of love!
  29. Patrick You’re the one who threw herself at me.
  30. June That was an accident. A mistake.
  31. Patrick There are no mistakes.
  32. June Well, this was one. Let me go.
  33. Patrick You’re not happy.
  34. June That’s right. Let go of me.
  35. Patrick Not not happy here. You’re not happy out there.
  36. June You don’t know me.
  37. Patrick Tell me you’re happy. Honestly.
  38. June
  39. Biff enters. [New photo: a smiling yet tough-looking one-eyed man]
  40. Biff Hands off, buddy.
  41. Patrick We’re having a conversation.
  42. Biff Hands off my girl, pal.
  43. June You have to let me go. He’ll hurt you.
  44. Biff You bet I will.
  45. June I have to do the finale.
  46. Patrick Look, sir… oh, I do apologize, I didn’t mean to call attention to your eye… I mean…
  47. Biff Get your paws off my dame!
  48. Patrick As soon as she answers my question.
  49. Biff Buddy, I’m going to give you three seconds… two… one…
  50. June No!
  51. Patrick No?
  52. June No.
  53. Patrick Sir, my thanks and regards. Madam, it has been a pleasure.
  54. Biff Get off him, doll.
  55. June No.
  56. (Patrick and Biff together) No?
  57. June No. I’m not going anywhere.
  58. Biff Get. Up.
  59. Patrick I think you should…
  60. June No.
  61. Biff Get up. Now-ooowwwwww!
  62. June Back off, or the next one won’t be to your foot.

It’s rough, but not terrible for an hour’s work, right? I’m pleased with it mainly because it’s a conversation that’s full of subtext, something that I’ve never felt I had an ear for. (And maybe I don’t, but it’s a start.) It’s also the first thing I’ve written completely without self-editing in a long time: the few scratched-out words on my page are just where I got ahead of myself and started writing the wrong part of the sentence. So, all in all, I think it’s a pretty successful exercise that I’m eager to repeat.


Come on Jian! Come on Jian! Poor Jianny G Sounds sad upon the radio ‘Cause he isn’t in Londontario Let your Frü flag fly Come along, who’d blame ya? Q‘s own, homegrown Now I must say more than ever (come on Jian!) A-E-O-L-I-A-N oh yeah This is it, just what you’re after Come on Jian, oh I swear when you’re on It’s a moment unlike anything With you at that mic, oh my thoughts, if you like Verge on dirty, ah come on Jian Come on Jian! Some people out there Think we’re boring, staid and unengaged So resigned to what our fate is But not us (no never), no not us (no never) We are far too young and clever Remember A-E-O-L-I-A-N oh yeah We’ll sing this song forever Come on Jian, oh you know something’s wrong Hit the road, man, we’ll do anything Don’t be depressed, oh Jian tell us yes Ah come on now, ah come on Jian, please Come on Jian, RedCat will shoot Come on Jian, coffee to boot Windermere’s beds, rtraction’s webs Oh, Jian Music and art, come play a part A forest of trees, and no BBT Now I must say more than ever Bring Q for a change I said A-E-O-L-I-A-N oh yeah Come on Jian, turn the radio on In our city, it means everything It’s our full court press, oh Jian tell us yes Oh come on Q, and come on Jian Come on Jian, oh I swear something’s wrong If your program isn’t visiting This song’s not the best, but we hope you’re impressed Forest City, now come on Jian Please
To the tune of Come On Eileen. (But you knew that already.) With deep, sincere apologies to Dexys Midnight Runners, especially Kevin Rowland, “Big” Jim Paterson, and Billy Adams.

25 Random Things About Me

In response to Pete’s list

  1. I don’t blog as much as I used to. I’d like to say that’s because I have two other writing projects on the go—which I do—but they’re seeing about the same amount of output.
  2. I’m a mild-mannered computer geek by day, and a mild-mannered arts geek by night.
  3. I share a birthday with Al Yankovic, which pleases me greatly.
  4. Despite many years at university and in the software industry I’m not a coffee drinker. Can’t stand the stuff.
  5. I type two spaces after a period. It’s the right thing to do.
  6. I have an odd habit of mentally “typing” words and phrases, counting the number of letters, and subdividing them into groups.
  7. I love to drive.
  8. I was a competitive trivia game player in high school (and even late elementary school). The year our team won the provincial finals there weren’t nationals to go to.
  9. I learned to ride a bicycle on one of Ontario’s 400-series highways. Seriously. (Proof.)
  10. My favourite author? Harlan Ellison, hands down. Favourite (well-known) playwright? Daniel MacIvor.
  11. I played piano for about twelve years and trumpet for a similar period, but it’s been at least that long again since I’ve made a serious attempt to play either instrument.
  12. Black licorice. Not red. Yucch the red.
  13. I don’t own, and have never owned, a cell phone. This is as much due to the usurious telecom charges in Canada as my own natural tendencies.
  14. I can spot even the most innocuous typo at a glance from ten paces.
  15. I’m working on a secret project that incorporates at least four other items on this list. (Mu-ha-ha-ha-haaa….)
  16. I have a Rubik’s Snake wrapped around the left front speaker of my stereo to prevent it from crackling; it’s been there for more than fifteen years.
  17. I have a Mac… which I almost exclusively use through VNC from my GNOME/Fedora desktop.
  18. I once broke a finger when I punched a clown at an amusement park in Prince Edward Island.
  19. I still think analog watches are a pretty neat idea.
  20. I’m told that when I saw Star Wars for the first time, I was creeped out by Threepio and Artoo but not Darth Vader.
  21. I’ve only been on the campus of my alma mater once since I graduated.
  22. I own two inverted world maps.
  23. I find it much easier to promote others than myself.
  24. I’m fascinated by process, often more than by the result.
  25. A large majority of the people who inspire me are women, and I’m fortunate to count many of them as friends.

And a bonus 26th random thing: it’s taken me two full weeks to finish this list.

Twitter packet loss

Massive packet loss between Bell and Twitter has been happening consistently for over a week now, between about 8pm and 1am Eastern. Current stats from mtr:

                                       Packets               Pings
 Host                                Loss%   Snt   Last   Avg  Best  Wrst StDev
 8.                     0.0%   136   85.5 110.0  73.3 204.3  30.9
 9.                    91.0%   135  537.7 440.4  83.8 2041. 540.1

/cc @twitter @status

Still having exactly the same issue at exactly the same times. has nothing. It’s either Qwest (the 63.x hop) or Twitter itself (the 199.x hop).