Wednesday, May 6, 2020

“A Tree Grows in Longmont”

For those of you who I didn’t reach with my massive invitation to watch the live premiere of “A Tree Grows in Longmont” last Sunday (we had tech trouble that delayed the opening), here it is as produced by Silver Tongued Stages, directed by Ricky J. Martinez with Tanner Prace Collier and Kent Chambers-Wilson.  The running time is 62 minutes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dramatic News

Even with the virus, the show must go on.

My play, “A Tree Grows in Longmont,” will be presented on Sunday, May 3, at 3:00 pm ET by Silver Tongued Stages via YouTube.  There’s more information at this link.

I hope you can make it.  Seriously, what else have you got to do?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Happy Friday

“Happy Friday” is a wish, not a declaration.  In the midst of this crisis, we are all looking for something, large or small, to keep our spirits and hopes up.

How about some good news, at least for me?  My play, “A Life Enriching Community,” has been picked up for publication by ArtAge Publications of Portland, Oregon, and will be available soon for reading and performance from their catalogue.  It was originally written in 2014 and first presented in December 2014 at the Miami 1-Acts Festival, then in readings at the William Inge Festival New Play Lab in 2016 and at the Midwest Dramatists Conference in 2019.  It was slated to be read at the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference in June, but it’s been postponed until 2021.

I’m entering my third week of self-imposed isolation.  I have, however awkwardly, figured out how to work from home; I’ve had a couple of Zoom meetings, and next week I’ll be guest-lecturing a theatre class via the internet.  I’m working on new plays, maintaining contact at a distance with friends, and making new ones through this dance of electrons and pixels.  My housemate is conducting his broadcasting arts classes to his middle-schoolers via Zoom and Team, keeping his office hours from the dining room table, doing his martial arts exercises on the patio, developing film in the bathroom, and painting in watercolors, all under the watchful eye of Sombra, whose feelings are kept to herself, as is the practice of all cats.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Super Tuesday

It’s Super Tuesday in more ways than one.  If you’re in one of the states or territories that has a primary today, get out there and vote.  Chances are your candidate or one of your alternates dropped out of the race since last week — Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar — and announced that they’re endorsing Joe Biden.  You have to wonder what’s going to happen to the rest of the field; who they’re going to coalesce around now that the Democratic primary is basically down to Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who ended his presidential bid in November, joined Biden on stage at the end of the Dallas rally — and concluded a speech by inviting him for dinner at a nearby Whataburger.

Biden seemed taken aback by the swift change in fortunes. He told Buttigieg that he reminded him of his late son, Beau, the highest compliment he can offer. He told the crowd Klobuchar has a long political future ahead, and he told O’Rourke, whose candidacy was marked by liberal positions on gun control, “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort.”

It was the second straight day that moderates, previously paralyzed over whom to rally behind, rushed to join Biden’s campaign. Harry M. Reid, a former Senate majority leader from Nevada, endorsed Biden along with other Democrats including Susan E. Rice, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama; political activist and actress Alyssa Milano; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.); and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

In other news:

  • The coronavirus COVID19 is spreading and showing up here in the U.S., including Florida.  One of the schools where I work part-time is implementing common-sense precautions such as encouraging hand-washing, avoiding unnecessary contact, and handing out hand sanitizer bottles.  Hand-shaking has been replaced by polite bowing and the “Namaste” hands-together greeting (which is less awkward than touching elbows), and learning just how long it takes for a vaccine to go from Eureka to injection.
  • Chris Matthews abruptly “retired” from MSNBC.
  • And to top off a busy day, I got invited back to the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska in June.  Yes, I’m going.

Go vote if you can.  The world is counting on you.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

Your Vote Counts

Passing this on from a friend:

“Can’t Live Without You,” written by Philip Middleton Williams and which was produced earlier this year by The Playgroup LLC at the Willow Theatre, has been nominated for Best Play, Best Director: Jerry Jensen, Best actor: Robert Ayala, and Best Ensemble: AJ Ruiz, Robert Ayala, Carla Zackson Heller, Leslie Zivin Kandel and Anthony Wolff for the Broadway World 2019 Regional Awards. Please show your support and vote now!

Anyone can vote from anywhere. However, follow the instructions carefully; you can only vote once, and you must confirm your vote when the e-mail from Broadway World arrives, so check your spam filter just in case.

Thanks.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

So Far So Great

This is an amazing place to have a theatre conference, and no, we don’t spend all the time in a room watching plays and eating.

Actually a lot of us spend time walking around the town.  Everything is within walking distance, including restaurants and other venues, and the local people have been very welcoming.  Valdez is a summer tourist mecca for trips into the Alaska interior and fishing, and even if the temperatures aren’t subtropical, it’s a nice break from the humidity that awaits my return next week.

As for wildlife, I was told to be on the lookout for moose.  So far all I’ve seen are some of the local indigenous population of rabbits.

And, yes, I have wasted no time doing some shameless self-promotion. If I don’t do it, no one else will.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Monday, April 1, 2019

Applause Line

Thank you to the wonderful cast — Robert Ayala, Leslie Kandel, Anthony Wolff, Carla Zackson Heller, and AJ Ruiz — and director Jerry Jensen for bringing “Can’t Live Without You” to life this past weekend. It is everything and way beyond what I hoped for.

L-R: Carla Zackson Heller, Leslie Kandel, Anthony Wolff, Robert Ayala, AJ Ruiz

The show has three more performances: Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Reading

Mayor Pete Week — Eric Lach at The New Yorker on the current boomlet for Pete Buttigieg.

It’s already boomlet season in the 2020 Democratic Presidential race. “The Mayor Pete boomlet is real,” the CNN analyst and polling maven Harry Enten tweeted, on Thursday, referring to Pete Buttigieg, the young, can’t-we-all-be-reasonable mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Enten pegged this boomlet in part to a new Quinnipiac poll of the 2020 Democratic field, which showed Buttigieg jumping all the way up to four-per-cent support, good for a fifth-place tie with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Boomletissimo?

It’s true that Buttigieg, who technically is still in the “exploratory” stage of his campaign, has recently been everywhere, which in American Presidential politics is defined as television and the early-voting states. After an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last month, Buttigieg was praised for his poise. During an interview on the New York City morning radio show “The Breakfast Club,” the host Charlamagne Tha God declared, in amazement, “This guy seems like he’s telling the truth!” “The Daily Show” did a segment on how to properly pronounce his many-lettered last name. (“Buddha-jedge.” Say it fast.) The Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda followed the candidate’s husband on Twitter.

Part of Buttigieg’s appeal is that he offers a kind of political refuge: he’s a candidate that lets you forget about the baggage and conflicts of the race’s front-runners, if only for a little while. He sounds comfortable discussing complex issues, smiles warmly, and has no visible political enemies. Putting himself forward as an alternative choice has been part of Buttigieg’s brand for as long as he’s been on the national political stage. Two years ago, during his unsuccessful effort to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, he held himself out less as the millennial candidate—a mantle he’s fully embraced more recently—than as the compromise candidate. He was the third man in a contest that featured a lefty, Keith Ellison, and an establishment figure, Tom Perez, who both seemed like avatars of the Party factions that had done battle during the 2016 primaries. “I don’t know why we’d want to live through it a second time,” Buttigieg said at the time. Put that on a bumper sticker.

As a Presidential candidate, Buttigieg isn’t triangulating so explicitly—it would be tough to do that in field this crowded—but he’s still working to synthesize the disparate forces animating the Democratic Party and its voters in this moment. “Sometimes pragmatism points you in a comparatively radical direction,” he told my colleague Benjamin Wallace-Wells, earlier this year. For someone getting so much credit as an intellectual—news stories about him mention the fact that he’s a Rhodes Scholar just about as often as they mention that he would be the country’s first openly gay President—Buttigieg’s policy ideas are more gestural than prescriptive. He’s for eliminating the Electoral College and packing the Supreme Court, and he speaks often about how, as the millennial in the race (he’s thirty-seven), he has the right perspective to tackle issues such as climate change, health care, and the legacy of the country’s recent wars. He has a name for the approach this perspective leads him to: intergenerational justice.

In lieu of an armful of specific policy and legislative proposals, like Elizabeth Warren has, or a signature idea, like Cory Booker and his “baby bonds,” Buttigieg touts his time as a governing executive in South Bend. Like Ronald Reagan, who while running for reëlection, at age seventy-three, famously promised not to hold his Democratic opponent Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience” against him, Buttigieg takes questions about his age and reframes them as ones of record. “I think local leaders, where the rubber meets the road, where you’re dealing with everything, from filling potholes to economic development to public safety—that’s the kind of background that I think would serve us best at a time when Washington can’t get anything done for them,” he said on “The Breakfast Club.” It’s at least an argument—one that Buttigieg likes to back up by reminding people that South Bend is a diverse city and that unemployment has fallen under his watch.

Buttigieg is going bigger in one notable way. Like most of the rest of the 2020 field, Buttigieg resists being simply an anti–Donald Trump figure. But lately, it seems like he might be O.K. with becoming an anti–Mike Pence. “He’s been consistently horrible, and holds beliefs that are sincerely awful when it comes to L.G.B.T. equality and a lot of other issues,” Buttigieg said of Pence this week, on the Buzzfeed morning show “AM to DM.” “I’m sure he does not consider himself to be a racist. But I think the moment you come on board with a project like the Trump campaign or the Trump-Pence Administration you are at best complicit in the process that has given cover for a flourishing and resurgence of white nationalism.” This wasn’t how Buttigieg always talked about Pence. In “Shortest Way Home,” a book he published just a few weeks ago, Buttigieg wrote of getting to know Pence, despite his views on L.G.B.T. rights, as personally “gracious and decent.” Here might be evidence of the political newcomer’s evolution: he appears to have picked an enemy. What might next week hold for Mayor Pete?

From Writer’s Block To Stage — J.W. Arnold in South Florida Gay News on a certain playwright’s journey.

Anthony Wolff and Robert Ayala star in the South Florida premiere of Philip Middleton Williams’ “Can’t Live Without You” in Boca Raton.

Miami writer and playwright Philip Middleton Williams is still trying to finish his novel, “Bobby Cramer.” It’s been more than two decades.

“Sometimes an old dream, like an old friend, can show up when you need it the most,” Williams explained.

That’s exactly what happened with “Bobby Cramer.” In 2001, while visiting the Florida keys with his parents over Christmas vacation, the title character of the novel inspired a new play.

“As I was driving, it occurred to me, what would happen if Bobby Cramer walked into the room?” he recalled.

By the time, Williams and his parents reached their motel room, he had sketched out the first scene in his head and by the end of the vacation, he would have the story finished. Now, that play is getting a new production by the Playgroup at the Willow Theatre at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton.

The play centers around Donny Hollenbeck (Anthony Wolff), who thinks he has created the perfect life for himself. He has a lucrative career writing romance novels (under a female nom de plume), a nice girlfriend (Leslie Zivin Kandel), a go-getter realtor with ambitions beyond the next closing, and a beautiful home in Florida. But, when Bobby Cramer (Robert Ayala), a character from a novel he abandoned years ago, pays Donny a visit, he starts to realize his dreams took a wrong turn somewhere.

“The story is really about Donny’s struggle with his alter ego. His girlfriend wants him to settle down and start a family and his agent wants him to keep cranking out books,” said Williams, whose last play, “All Together Now,” was produced last season by the Playgroup. “I do that a lot—borrow characters from my other projects.”

While Donny is probably not gay, there are some twists.

“He’s attracted to this good-looking guy, Bobby, the yin to his yang. Bobby could be gay, but he’s questioning. Donny had experiences and it’s certainly a convenience to have a girlfriend,” said.

After pausing, the writer continued, “I’m still writing the novel. I may never finish it and it may certainly never be published, but that doesn’t matter, the novel is my Bobby Cramer. I may be writing a play or other stories, but I’m always coming back to that novel.”

Even though Williams created his characters before the more recent era of pansexuality or omnisexuality, the play also seems to predict many of the attitudes that are predominant with young people today.

“In many ways, it’s tough for people to admit they’re gay or straight and this fluidity that people are experiencing is because they’re being labeled, wrapped up in a package,” he said. “We have gay and straight actors and they all bring a sensibility to the study. I have not been to any rehearsals and I stay away because the playwright just sitting there gets in the way. I let (director) Jerry Jensen do his magic. My part is done and now it’s Jerry’s turn.”

Doonesbury — Dating himself.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Open For Business

In anticipation of my retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools in August and knowing I can’t just sit at home and yell at the TV (that job’s taken), I’ve formed an LLC to offer my services as a consultant on grant writing, grant financial management, and mentoring.

I don’t have a fancy logo or corporate slogan, but nonetheless, Philip Middleton Williams, LLC is open for business.

Meanwhile, tickets are still on sale for “Can’t Live Without You,” opening tomorrow and running through April 7.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Family Ties

As any good scene designer will tell you, it’s the details that make the difference. Set designer Teresa Biber LoMonte has added touches to the set for “Can’t Live Without You” that, to me, give it a polish and sense of the story that take the scenery beyond just a place for actors to perform in.

One is especially meaningful, at least to me. In the play we learn that Donny has a twin brother named Danny. Look at the photo over the printer and the pink flamingo. That’s my father and his twin brother.

The final dress rehearsal with an invited audience is tomorrow night; opening at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 30.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

First Tech

Last night the cast and crew went through the first technical (light and sound cues, costumes) rehearsal of “Can’t Live Without You.”  It was their second night on the set designed by Teresa Biber LoMonte.

As the playwright, I make it a rule not to attend rehearsal because the play is in the hands of the director and the actors; my work, for the most part, is done. So last night was the first time I saw the play since we had our read-through in January.

I also know that the role of the playwright is to not make comments to the actors; any notes are given to the director. But when the lights came up at the end, I had a hard time talking to Jerry, the director, because I was sobbing with joy and wonder at the work he and the cast had created. About all I could muster was “Thank you.”

The show opens Saturday afternoon.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Random Youtubery

More shameless self-promotion: An interview with director Jerry Jensen, playwright Philip Middleton Williams, and producer Teresa Biber LoMonte about “Can’t Live Without You,” produced by The Playgroup, LLC at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, from March 30 to April 7, 2019. Video by Carter Bogush.

Thursday, March 21, 2019