January 1, 2017
On the Road Again

We’ve probably used that header in our newsletters a half dozen times over the course of 42 years, since it’s so often applicable. So here we go again. This Friday, early morning, we head for Los Angeles, staying with friends and narrating a bit of a puppet film he’s shooting. Then on Saturday, to San Diego to prepare for our first King Lear since the Northwest tour in November, now a return engagement with San Diego Puppet Theatre, where we appeared in their festival last year.

A few days’ layover, giving us time for a visit to friends in Tucson we haven’t seen for ages, and then to Phoenix for Lear at Great Southwest Puppet Theatre. Again, some visits to old friends, and showings in Albuquerque and Taos. And then home.
Lear gets laid off a while, then returns with a bang. It’s only had a couple of showings in our immediate home, but we’re making up for that. From June 15th thru July 2nd, we’ll be performing at Main Stage West in Sebastopol. We’re truly thrilled to be there again. It’s the stage where we presented The Tempest and Drake’s Drum as well as short runs of Dream House, Survival Tips, and Hot Fudge, and it’s the ideal space for King Lear.

Local patrons may also remember Elizabeth for her role as Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, though as Lear’s Fool, with a red nose, a bald wig, and a ratty attitude, she may appear somewhat different.

Last November—

Our trip to the Pacific Northwest was special. A performance in Portland, jointly sponsored by Tears of Joy and Hand2Mouth theatres, in a space directly under a freeway, which actually gave us some lovely accompaniments to the storm scene. Then a packed house with the Portland State University Theatre Dept. in Monmouth, along with a workshop next day, and a chance to see a friend’s powerful staging of Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal.

Then to Vashon Island, in Puget Sound, and several days’ layover in the studios of Umo and on the sweet funky island itself, and a goodly showing before heading home and into the swamp of … well, the election. Best

Best that can be said of that (solely my personal opinion, no offense intended) is that after playing King Lear about 60 times, you get kinda used to the notion of disastrous misrule—no big surprise.

New Workings Afoot…

Two weeks ago, we started work on a new piece, working title Survival. It’s a solo clown piece for Elizabeth, a kind of follow-up to her Dream House, but the clown is an amalgam of that Bozo, Lear’s Fool, and whatever unexpected personae emerge from rehearsals and whatever existential absurdities present themselves in the next six months.

The genesis of Survival, I guess, was in our sense of the pervasiveness of what I might term “Armageddon Consciousness” in our lives, not only on the news—cutting-edge ways to achieve the death of the Planet—but in sci-fi and superhero entertainments, local bulletin boards, casual conversations, you name it. There seems to be a new toxicity-of-the-week, and obviously the mood of our little deep-blue community hasn’t been lifted by recent events. Question is, how to respond?

For myself, I have a renewed appreciation for Aristophanes, the 4th Century BCE master of comedy, who wrote during the darkest days of the Peloponesian War, the beginning of the death throes of Athenian empire. He’s best known for his Lysistrata, where the women on opposite sides of the war join on a sex strike against the men, resulting in peace. Fantasy, of course. In all his plays, the satire is vicious (Socrates doesn’t fare well in The Clouds), and the endings, well, wishful thinking at best. But right now, I feel, maybe we need wishful thinking. Or maybe we need to call it something else: hope.

In our novel Realists, an impossible happy ending is engineered by the Universe’s vilest alien species. I don’t see this in any way as a betrayal of reality: some of our other work could surely win the prize for “Most Depressing.” But the same guy who wrote King Lear—a play of hideous reality—also wrote The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale—the ultimate works of renewal, hope, resurrection … and wishful thinking. We would aspire to that.

We have no set date for Survival—maybe some workshop showings in late spring, maybe summer. But I think it shows promise. We’ll be crafting it as a house-concert show, like our Gifts, workable for theatres but suited to living rooms with ten to thirty folks and wine & snacks afterwards. I’m a sucker for a glass of good wine.

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November 1, 2016
King Lear for President

That is, if you’re one of our more wild-haired friends who hope we elect the worst possible President and thereby send the US to hell in a handbasket as a means of bringing on the Revolution. We personally have our doubts about that as a viable route to Utopia. We’d rather just give the poor bastard his 100 minutes in the spotlight and then pack him up with his puppets and carry on.

To the Northwest—

This month, we head northward, with a performance of Lear in Portland OR, hosted jointly by Tears of Joy Theatre and Hand2Mouth, and then to Western Oregon University, returning home Nov. 20th.

January will see us in the Southwest, with shows in Phoenix, Albuquerque and Taos, and hopefully also in San Diego. We hope to come East in late spring or summer, plans still pending.

Our European Jaunt—

In September, as announced, we took a vacation to Europe, via Iceland, to visit our daughter and other friends. Bits & pieces posted on our DamnedFool blog and on Facebook, so no extended coverage here. Suffice it to say that it had its joyous moments and its severe trials. Elizabeth’s prior hip surgery got overstressed and painful, forcing partial cancellation of plans, but we managed to score a wheelchair in Paris and tool around madly.

She’s now back on a good trajectory, continuing therapy for balance but off the cane and trotting freely in the street—to quote an old Ferlinghetti poem, one of my favorites.

New Work—

Starting to happen, though we’ve vowed not to begin a lick of work till we get back from the November tour.

It’s likely we’ll revive Gifts, our house-concert show (which we’ve never actually retired, though focused mainly on Lear) for another round of California showings, and then beyond.

And we’re in discussion for a new solo show for Elizabeth. One possibility is a radical restaging of Dream House as a house-concert piece. Probably we’d have to forego the nudity, lest we freak out anyone’s household pets, but it’d be a joy to bring back what was one of our most deeply moving shows. Other possibility is something entitled Scars & Stripes. We have the title and the scars, but not much else at the moment.

And work goes forward on our novel and a couple of short stories, forever and ever.

Damned Fool—

Last week we published our 147th weekly blog: Elizabeth’s blurb, my blurb, the Fool’s blurb. Very hard to believe we’ve actually done this faithfully for nearly three years, given how much difficulty I have in shaving regularly. If you haven’t sampled it, give it a try: www.DamnedFool.com.

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September 4, 2016
Flying Off

Happenings—

Two months of static obsession, the major new production being a double hip replacement for Elizabeth—the hips six weeks apart, or, that is, well—

Not so much new as an adaptation based on the previous versions. The surgeon & artistic director was Dr. Michael Bollinger, and a jolly time was had by all—well, except for the fact that it hurts.

Elizabeth was up walking the afternoon after the 7 a.m. operations, and home the next day. Now, three weeks after the second surgery, she’s still on mild pain-killer and uncomfortable with edema in the lower limb, but more mobile as she was in the days before the knife, and much looking forward to a more limber future.

For myself: I attended a three-day men’s retreat in the Mendocino redwoods, a very welcome time of meditation, writing, fellowship and food, and then the Santa Barbara Writers Conference—one of the few conferences, ever, where I felt I came out with greater skills than going in. One of our short stories, “Sleeves to Turkey,” was cited as Best of Festival in the fiction category. It’s had only ten or so rejections so far, so hope springs eternal.

Meantime, we’ve just finished what we hope is the final draft of our novel Akedah: the Binding and jumped backward into a total rewrite of our second novel Galahad’s Fool. The one advantage of getting lots and lots of rejections is that it gives you time for your talents to mature or at least for your eyes to get sharper—which amount to the same thing.

Journeys—

And we’re preparing for a trip with no redeeming social purpose other than the challenge of travel. We leave Sept. 6th, returning Oct. 4th.

First, a week in Iceland in a camper van circling the country on the Ring Road. Then visiting a friend briefly in Amsterdam and on to Tuscany for a week with daughter Johanna and her mate Francesco.

Then we split: Elizabeth to Zurich and Brittany, myself to Paris—doing what I can, by my presence, to discourage international terrorist conspiracies. Then we reconnect, and back to Iceland, mostly exploring Reykjavik, and then home and back, reluctantly, to news of the election.

In November we head northward, with a performance of Lear at Western Oregon University and in Portland, with a likely jaunt to the Seattle area. January will see us in the Southwest: shows in Phoenix, Santa Fe and Taos. We hope to come East in late spring or summer, plans still pending.

Very soon after our October return, we’ll announce our DVD of King Lear. The editing is finished; we have only to package it and get a blurb up on the website. It’s a good video version, though it’s a bit like seeing the trapeze act on TV rather than in the sweat of the arena—lacks that sense of “What are they doing!!???” But it’s definitely worth seeing.

More anon.

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June 2, 2016
June Intensity

Upcoming—

Yes, more King Lear. On June 14-18, we’re back in San Francisco for three performances as part of the Fury Factory, a two-week festival of ensemble theatre, hosted by the FoolsFURY theatre in three venues of the Artaud arts complex.

It features ensembles from CA, OR, WA, MN, and RI, plus workshops and work-in-progress showings. Tickets and more info are available on the FoolsFURY website.

Journeys—

A varied summer awaits us. I’ve just returned from attending the Redwood Men’s Conference, a weekend among the stunning Mendocino redwoods—singing, storytelling, sharing lives, good food & warm fellowship. And, in a couple of days, off to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for five days, where it appears that much of it is actually about writing, not just career promotion—hopefully.

A few days home, and we take off for the Fury Factory shows, and at the end of June up to Laytonville for the Kate Wolf Festival, a sumptuous music feast where the sun is very hot but the vibe is very sweet.

Next day home, and Elizabeth takes her turn in the hospital for the first of two hip replacement surgeries. The past few months have seen sudden and serious deterioration in her movement—fortunately, for Lear, her Fool has only to stand up and sit down. With the chronic pain, she has good days and bad days. Fortunately, our surgeon comes highly recommended, and as we’ve had a number of friends who’ve undergone the procedure, the prognosis is very positive. Second surgery will be six weeks later, after a trip to L.A. for a showing for high school students at the CA State Summer School for the Arts.

Nothing at all in August except Elizabeth healing and our picking & canning apples & plums. In September, off to Europe to visit our daughter & other friends, plus me to Paris, EF to Britanny, and stopovers in Iceland. And then back to work.

Publications—

Our short story “The Yowling Cat Story” has just been published in BlazeVOX, an online literary journal. it’s freely readable online.

Other stories published to date include “Myra’s Channel” in Crack the Spine, “The Blue Lotus” in Printers Row Journal, “Help” in The Storyteller, and a chapter of our first novel Realists in Exterminating Angel. None of these are available online, but we would be very pleased to email you a PDF of any of them if you’d drop us a note at eye@independenteye.org.

We’re now in the final stages of editing our fifth novel Akedah: the Binding. Three others Galahad’s Fool, Hammers, and Long Shadow making the rounds, homeless to date but knocking on doors with hope in their hearts. Our first, Realists, is self-published and available via our website.

And Now Booking—

Current plans are for a Pacific Northwest tour (WA, OR) starting early November; a Southwest tour (NM/AZ/SoCA) in January/February and another trip to the Midwest and East Coast in April/May of 2017.

If you’re part of a theatre, arts center, or college, or even have a large living room and a bunch of friends, talk to us about bringing Lear or Gifts or a reading of Co-Creation or Rash Acts. For some hosts, we ask fees, for others a split of the gate. We’re not averse to money, but what keeps us alive is to have our work seen.

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April 4, 2016
More LEAR

Upcoming—

A healthy scatter of King Lear showings coming up

This weekend, we’re heading north, with two performances at the Dell’Arte Company’s home theatre in Blue Lake, CA. Blue Lake is one of our favorite cities, pop. 1200, with one bar, one coffee shop, one church, and one theatre, which happens to be the home of a renowned school of physical theatre.

We’ve known the Dell’Arte folks for many years—all part of that crazy ensemble surge that began in the 70s and never stopped. We’ve performed there a number of times and are greatly looking forward to playing an exhausting 100 minutes of Shakespeare and then across the street to the Logger Bar.

And coming back, we do a single performance in Caspar, a small coastal town between Ft. Bragg and Mendocino. It’s cosponsored by public radio KZYX, which carried our series. Our fan club isn’t huge, but they’re incredibly supportive.

And looking ahead to our San Francisco return: three shows in June as part of the two-week FuryFactory Festival.

And Now Booking—

Current plans are for a Pacific Northwest tour (WA, OR)starting early November; a Southwest tour (NM/AZ/SoCA) in January/February and another trip to the Midwest and East Coast in April/May of 2017.

If you’re part of a theatre, arts center, or college, or even have a large living room and a bunch of friends, talk to us about bringing Lear or Gifts or a reading of Co-Creation or Rash Acts. For some hosts, we ask fees, for others a split of the gate. We’re not averse to money, but what keeps us alive is to have our work seen.

Realists—

Our first novel Realists is now between covers.

In the near future, insane politicos reign and dreams are taboo. A motley band of innocents, targeted as terrorists, plunge to certain death, but by a stroke of lunatic physics plop onto Smoky’s ramshackle westbound tour bus, pursued by an empire gone loco.

Amid ghost buffalo and disappearing cities, improbable lovers split and rejoin, children find magic, and a ragtag bunch of loners and seekers bond into a tribe of survivors, weaving a new reality with magic as the warp, love as the woof.

If you find your guts in a knot with the current electoral campaign, this might be the book for you. It’s not without a grim relevance, but it’s funny and it has an utterly improbable happy ending—but all endings are improbable. Call it dystopian optimism.

Available through our website.

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February 1, 2016
Back in the Saddle Again. . .

Upcoming—

For local friends: Saturday, Feb. 13, is our single public performance of King Lear on our home turf. Lear plays at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, 7:30 pm. If you’re hereabouts, tickets are only $15 ($20 at the door if there’s room). Seating very limited, so make your reservations right away.

    Lear will continue in touring rep, with showings at Dell’Arte International (Blue Lake, CA) on April 8-9 and at the FuryFactory Festival, San Francisco, in June. Current plans are for a Pacific Northwest tour starting early November; a Southwest tour in January, and another trip to the Midwest and East Coast in the spring of 2016.

We’ll also be offering house-concert reading/performances from our new edition of Rash Acts, a medley of 35 sketches from our ensemble repertoires over the past 46 years. We’d also like to offer our house-concert piece Gifts, but only if we can find an appropriate overhead rack for the Prius — Lear packs it to the brim.

Rumi—

On Feb. 6th, we’re two of a dozen or so friends participating in Rumi’s Caravan. It’s a presentation of inspiring poetry and music that’s a long Sonoma County tradition. There’s an afternoon and an evening showing — we’re in the evening — as a benefit for the Center for Climate Protection.

It’s inspired by the ecstatic Sufi poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, though it spreads out pretty wide. Our pieces include Whitman, Billy Collins, Edgar Lee Masters, and Denise Levertov. All stem from the richness, intensity and mystery of life, and we’re enormously honored to be invited as part of this event.

Our Books—

Our new edition of Rash Acts had a sumptuous launch at Occidental Center for the Arts on Jan. 15th. We read some pieces, performed others off-book, and revisited some pieces we’ve had in our touring repertory for twenty to forty years — stuff we could do in our sleep and yet manages to be fresh each time we do it. From our two decades’ experience with the first edition, we know it’ll have a slow, steady sale with theatre people; the trick will be to convince general readers that they can enjoy reading a short dramatic sketch as much as a short story. Give it a try.

And our first novel Realists is now between covers. It’s a huge challenge to market self-published novels unless it fits a popular genre, and we’ve made a career of avoiding pigeonholes. It’s futuristic, it’s satirical, it’s political, it’s dystopian optimism, and it’s about real and quirky characters dealing with the very familiar speed-bumps of life — maybe somewhat akin to Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, or Russel Hoban in charting its own weird course. We hope to find some bizarre way to get it out there — perhaps strapped onto the backs of stray cats — but in the meantime it’s available, along with Rash Acts and other stuff, through our website.

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December 10, 2015
Looking Forward. . .

Toward a New Year—

Perhaps for the first time since high school (about a hundred years ago), we don’t have a new stage production planned. We’re booking King Lear, continuing to work on it, and starting to edit a version for DVD. We’re still performing Gifts here and there. We’re commencing a reading/performance tour for our new edition of Rash Acts. But we don’t have a new idea that wants to be staged.

At times something’s fallen out of the sky: an offer to direct, a notion floated from a theatre interested in a collaboration, a story that just reaches up out of the ground and grabs you by the ankle. Those unplanned excursions have been blessed ones, and I’m halfway hoping that may happen.

Meantime, our energies have been consumed with writing fiction. We’ve just published our third short story, The Blue Lotus,” in Printers Ink Journal, the first one we’re actually being paid for — about enough to pay for five weeks of coffee. And our first novel, Realists, is now in print.

Realists started in the theatre. In 2001 we were invited to do a residency at Juniata College in PA, and in six weeks wrote and staged the play, starting from a scenario with extensive student improvisation. It’s still one of our favorites, but with a cast of 15 and an on-stage bus, it had little future on other stages.

In 2005 we rewrote it as a novel, but it wasn’t until a few years ago, when we really started to get serious about writing fiction and about actually learning the craft, that we approached it again. Through six drafts you begin to begin.

For me, the greatest challenge in moving from one story-telling medium to another is the “rhythm” of perception. An audience for sketch comedy has very different antennae than an audience for full-length realism, and a reader still another. Writing styles in prose have a wide range of densities, but all tend to be new languages to a playwright. Particular differences — the need for description, shifting points of view, inner thoughts, etc. — have their own challenge, but overall they’re an invitation to a deeper exploration of the story, an opulence of choices. Now on the fourth draft of our fifth novel, we’re just starting to see the potential.

One thing is shared by the playwright and the novelist: the certain knowledge that he/she is doing something immensely worthy and transcendentally foolish.

More Travel—

Two weeks after returning from our East Coast tour of Lear, I took off on a solo journey, researching our current novel Akedah: the Binding, which involves the characters on a car trip from Chico, CA, to Shiprock, NM. I drove the path of the characters, a trip of great utility and excruciatingly bleak motels — but that’s what the characters do. Fortuitous moments: I’d planned to drive through Yosemite but found that all the passes were closed due to snow, so the characters had to make a long horseshoe loop to the north — a great improvement for Chapter 8.

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November 5, 2015
Home Again. . .

Touching Base—

Very brief newsletter this month, having just returned from our six-week tour of King Lear: Denver CO, Norfolk VA, Towson MD, Philadelphia PA, Brooklyn NY, Bethlehem PA, Lancaster PA, Bloomsburg PA, Portsmouth NH, Milwaukee WI, and West Liberty IA — twenty shows, all well attended, all with fulsome response. The show has grown enormously, in part simply from security in doing it, in part from experimenting with some half-baked sequences. We made good money and many new friends.

Oddest sensation: performing in the Studio Theatre of University of Wisconson/Milwaukee where, exactly 46 years ago to the week, we premiered X Communication, the first show of our first ensemble Theatre X, which opened the door out of academia and into the rest of our life. Both shows form bookends to the staggering amount of work in between, and responses for both were memorable.

DamnedFool—

Amazing that while our writing mostly went into suspended animation on the tour, we actually managed to keep up with our blog DamnedFool.com, now in its 96th consecutive week. Check it out. Read my segment, read Elizabeth’s, read the Fool’s, or read all three.

Up Next—

—Booking a Lear tour to the Pacific Northwest, another to the Midwest.

—Trying to find an affordable circumstance for performances on our home turf.

—Preparing a reading/performance of our new edition of Rash Acts for house concerts and small venues.

—Continuing work on our new novel Akedah: the Binding and starting to promote our first.

—Editing a King Lear video for DVD.

—Getting back to the gym, the garden, the ocean, and friendships.

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September 2, 2015
Coming East. . .

With Lear—

Three weeks till we launch our Eastern tour of King Lear, moving now into solidifying the changes we’ve made since the last showings in San Diego and Occidental and getting the car and the ice chest ready for the cross-country hike.

The whole monstrous affair fits into the back of our Prius, and on the nights we’re not crashing with friends along the way we pull into a friendly truckstop, move everything into the front seats (and in this case some aluminum poles under the car), and curl up in the back. Not the roomiest sleeping quarters but immensely preferable to blowing bucks on motels. Elizabeth prepares frozen dinners enough to get us cross-country, heats them over a campstove, and we dine splendidly.

We start with two shows at Germinal Stage in Denver, a company like us in its 40-somethingth season. From there to The Venue in Norfolk VA, a sweet little arts center where we’ve played several times. Then up to Baltimore — Towson, actually — for a show and a workshop at Towson University and reconnecting with many old friends.

A few days free, and then returning for our first run in a Philadelphia theatre since we left in 1999, at Studio X (with fulsome gratitude to our friends at New Paradise Laboratories for helping arrange this gig). And up to Brooklyn for two shows at Irondale Center, a bustling enterprise near BAM — again with gratitude to old friends from the ensemble-theatre scene.

And down to familiar stomping grounds: four shows at Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem PA; a performance and workshop at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster; and a show in Bloomsburg at a small vital arts center Box of Light while seeing old colleagues from the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. A day to catch our breath, then up to Portsmouth NH for three shows at Pontine Theatre, where we’ve had rich & fulsome outings.

Heading west then to Milwaukee for a show and workshop at UW/Milwaukee, the site of our founding of Theatre X, our departure from academia, and the locale of people who are still among our dearest friends. And finally to the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, West Liberty IA, and heading home.

The schedule is attached, and if you’re in the vicinity we look forward to seeing you. If you live along the i-70 or I-80 corridors and have a floor or spare room for an overnight, we’d be pleased to unsqueeze from the Prius to stretch out full-length on our bedding.

DamnedFool—

For the past 20 months we’ve published a weekly blog, 86 posts to date. It has a tiny readership: nothing in the way of movie reviews, weight-loss tips, relationship advice or political insight, though the Fool does have a unique way of looking at things.

But we’re addicted to plunging into it each Sunday night and discovering what’s in there to write about, even when Elizabeth’s in Italy or CB’s at Pigeon Point or the Fool is sitting stupefied in the corner of the coffee shop.

If you haven’t seen it: each post includes pieces from Elizabeth, from Conrad, and from the Fool — the last a composite of Pogo, Mehitabel’s Archy, and Lear’s Fool trying to make sense of the world. In the most recent, he addresses the question, “Do we create our own Reality?” — though if we do, he offers no hints on how to stop doing it.

So we invite you to visit DamnedFool.com, and if you enjoy it, subscribe. Costs less than the NY Times —it’s free, in fact, though we can’t afford to pay you to read it.

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July 5, 2015
Flat on Back. . .

Excuses, Excuses . .

Over the years, one develops a vast catalog of excuses for lateness, starting with homework and term papers, evolving to self-imposed deadlines that no one really cares about except yourself — which makes it hard to come up with one you accept. In this case, it’s the lateness of the newsletter, and the excuse is pneumonia.

My newest production: I sit and try to read. I cough a lot. I move from sofa to bed. I do it some more.  Call it Minimalist Theatre.

Thankfully, after a two-week run, it’s nearly done. I’m back to the gym, back to yardwork, back to booking our East Coast tour, back to writing, and back to work on a King Lear video. And finally catching up the newsletter.

East Coast Lear. . .

Our schedule is filling, as you can see. Four theatres, three colleges, two arts centers. Still several others in process.

If you’re connected with a theatre, art gallery or arts center, college, or any organization that would like a very intense 100 minutes of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, let us know. Cost is very flexible, depending on setting.

And for House Concerts. . .

On the East Coast, we have an open span from Oct. 7 to 14. Some of this may fill with Lear, but we’re also offering a house-concert reading of Rash Acts, our anthology of short comedy and madness. As with our memoir Co-Creation, it’s purely on an audience donation basis. If you can gather 12-15 or more friends, offer refreshments and seats for a 55-minute performance, and overnight lodging for us, we’re yours.

And in the Bay Area, any time after Nov. 10th.

If you missed last month’s notice, we’ve published a new expanded edition of our dramatic sketches: Rash Acts: Thirty-five Snapshots for the Stage — unique comedies, nightmares, and quirky portraits drawn from 45 years of touring. They offer the pleasure of short stories stripped down to the core of the human interplay they reflect — cast them with the faces of your favorite friends, enemies, and exasperating relatives.

It’s 265 pp., paperbound, $16.95 plus shipping.  Order through our website.

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