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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019

First Read-Through

On Tuesday night the cast of ‘Can’t Live Without You’ met for the first time to get to know each other, their characters, and read the script out loud so that the director and I could see how it all comes together.  (Spoiler alert: really well.)  So here we are:

The cast for Can’t Live Without You – A Play by Philip Middleton Williams: left to right, AJ Ruiz, Carla Zackson Heller, some dude, Robert Ayala, Anthony Wolff, and Leslie Zivin Kandel, all under the stellar direction of Jerry Jensen.

I’ve set up a Facebook page — click the link above — and read all about it as we go from page to stage.  You’ll find bios of the cast and other tidbits.  If you want to buy tickets, go here.

And while we’re at it, here’s the poster for the show.

On with the show.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Fifteen Years

Today marks fifteen years since November 8, 2003, when I sat down to set up this blog on Blogger and wrote the first post of Bark Bark Woof Woof.  Back then I was living in a little apartment in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, I was a little over a year into my job with the public schools, and I was in my early fifties, single, and had visions of becoming part of the burgeoning blogosphere and a famous writer.  We were a year away from the 2004 election and outraged at the excesses of the Bush administration and vowing to take our country back from the warmongering and arrogant GOP.  I drove a Mustang convertible and had a Pontiac station wagon in the parking lot awaiting restoration, knowing it would be another ten years before it would be considered old enough to enter in antique car shows.

Well, fifteen years later, I’ve moved twice, changed servers twice, updated the blog from Blogger to WordPress with the invaluable guidance and expertise of my brother, and, according to the stats counter, written over 28,000 posts.  With a few exceptions due to weather and internet access, I’ve written every post and written something (or at least put up something) every day, be it a simple observation — How about those Tigers? — or a long essay on something that strikes me as important and worth sharing, be it marriage equality or nostalgia about leaving my old home town.  Much water has gone under the bridge, but some things have not changed: I still work for the public schools, I still have a Mustang convertible (though not the same one), and I still have the Pontiac, now restored and going to car shows.  And I’m still finding things to wax long or short about, and I’m still getting up at 3 a.m. to look at the world and try to find some way to make sense of it all.

This is the place where I say thank you to you, the reader, for coming here whenever you do and seeing what I’ve put up, and for those of you who comment, a sincere thanks for your support, your guidance, your corrections, and your indulgence.  I’ve gotten to know many of you in real life and I truly appreciate your friendship and support.

By the way, when I started this blog I made a somewhat diligent effort to keep my real name off the pages because I was pretty sure that writing an opinion blog while working for the public schools could cause issues.  Well, I’m less than a year away from retirement, I’ve rarely if ever written about anything to do with my work (and when I have it’s been supportive), and it doesn’t take a crack team of cyberanalysts to figure out who I am.  So I’ll tell you: my real name is Philip Middleton Williams, and if you want to know about my playwriting, you can look me up on the New Play Exchange.  I will still blog under the name Mustang Bobby and credit my alter-ego Bobby Cramer with all the work because he’s still a large part of my creative writing.  He will get his turn on stage next March when “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton.

Anyway, fifteen years down and many more to come.  What’s next?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Dramatic News

The Playgroup LLC and the Willow Theatre of Boca Raton present:

Donny Hollenbeck thinks he has created the perfect life for himself. He has a lucrative writing career, a nice girlfriend, and a great-looking home in Florida. But when Bobby Cramer, a character from a novel he abandoned years ago, pays him a visit, he starts to realize the place where his dreams took a wrong turn.

Opening Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 7, 2019.  Subscription sales start today; individual tickets go on sale on September 1.  For more information, click here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Home And Garden

My play “All Together Now” opens tomorrow night at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, produced by The Playgroup and directed by Joyce Sweeney.

Here’s a look at the set, designed by Nick LoMonte.  As several of the characters note, “Wow, this is a nice place.”

Photo by David Ehrlich.

It’s what I imagined the home of Paul Henderson and Adam Connolly would look like when I wrote the play.  And that’s the best thing I can hope for.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

“Can’t Live Without You” Memories

Ten years ago tonight, “Can’t Live Without You” opened at Manhattan Rep. It was my first — but hopefully not my last — play produced in New York. I made the trip from Miami to see it, and along with my parents who flew in from Toledo and my brother and sister-in-law who came up from Baltimore, and my nephew who came in from the upper East Side, we sat in the tiny (40 seat) theatre above a Duane Reade and watched as Donny, Bobby, Anna, Barbara, and Nick dealt with the changes that come with facing real life even if it’s prompted by a fictional character.

Ten years later “Can’t Live Without You” shoulders on; it placed in The Playgroup’s 2017 playwriting contest, and hope springs eternal for a production in South Florida where the play takes place. As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Thank you, Rachel Charlop-Powers, Tom Pilutik, Gary Lee Mahmoud, Will Poston, Mary Fassino, Adam Natale, and Ken Wolf for making this playwright’s dream come true.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017