Review: Chernobyl

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Promotional image courtesy of HBO.

Lately, I’ve found myself very attracted to stories about massive mobilization to prevent some existential threat (mostly sci-fi stories about sci-fi threats.) Organizations, especially governments, doing what needs to be done, surviving by the skin of their teeth, saving the world from crisis through collective, concerted action. (Gee I fucking wonder why that would be so appealing to me anyway its hot out here.) So yeah, I liked Chernobyl a lot.

Chernobyl is an HBO miniseries created by Craig Mazin and starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emma Watson, about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the effort to contain the catastrophe. So it’s not really a story about stopping a catastrophe, but rather stopping a catastrophe from becoming a thousand times worse. Before watching this show, I had no idea how bad the Chernobyl incident was, much less how bad it threatened to become, but holy shit. Essentially, the show has built-in escalating stakes. First they have to just stop the fire, but once they’ve done that they’ve got to keep the meltdown from setting off a thermonuclear explosion, then they’ve got to keep it from reaching the groundwater that millions of Ukrainians drink from—there’s always another crisis around the corner, each problem causes its own problems, and so does each solution. An unending parade of “no, and” and “yes, but.”Read More »

New Publication: Suggest the Empire

Awhile ago I wrote a post about learning from Shakespeare’s histories. The reason I read those plays was to prepare for writing Suggest the Empire, a full-length play which is now available on Smashwords and Amazon! And you can read the sort-of-self-contained first act for free! (See below.) Here’s the synopsis:

SuggesttheEmpire-c-2To Prince Oht, heir apparent of the Olisan Empire, all the trappings of nationhood seem as skeletal and artificial as the trappings of theatre. War chants to suggest fraternity, court language to suggest royalty, flags to suggest ownership—all are equal to flimsy poles to suggest spears, colored cloth to suggest flags, three men to suggest an army. All his cynicism is of little consequence while his father, the charismatic Alita Tolkash, still rules as emperor, but the time will come when Oht has to step up. And when Tolkash is injured in battle, and begins to have his own doubts about what the empire truly is, it looks like that time of responsibility is drawing sooner and sooner.

Suggest the Empire follows in the Shakespearean tradition of history plays, though it tells a completely invented history in a completely invented world. Relying entirely on representational sets and costuming, the play portrays a centuries-old empire caught at a momentous crossroads, with conflict brewing in all quarters.

Run time is 160-180 minutes. Cast is 26 (no gender restrictions), with potential for double casting.

If you read We’ll Tell Happy Stories, this play is set in the same world as that one. There’s hardly any crossover at all (completely different characters, different settings), but Suggest the Empire has the same kind of world-building and treatment of language as in We’ll Tell—so if you liked the one, you’ll probably like the other.

The publication also contains an afterword in which I discuss the origins of the idea, my imperialist writing policy, and my method for writing court Olisan.

If you want to get a sample of the play, you can read the first act, which is sorta self-contained, for free in the following formats:

PDFEpub — Mobi

New Publication: He Molested Kids

cover-3I’ve just published He Molested Kids, a short play available on Smashwords and Amazon.

In this fifteen-minute play, four college students meet to plan a party, and end up sidetracked by an argument about the savior of the world. Just a few months after he defeated the Himalayan, allegations of sexual abuse have emerged around Dawa the Savior. This issue turns from small talk among a group of friends to an explosive argument with deep implications.

The publication includes an afterword in which I discuss the origins of the idea, and how my intro to political analysis class factored into it’s outlining.

Other announcement: I’m on Twitter now, @FrancisRBass.

New Publication: Monastery

School’smonastery-c-hvd-2 back in, so what better time to read a play about the future of higher education and students arguing with each other?

You can buy Monastery on Smashwords or on Amazon. Here’s the synopsis:

A couple decades in the future higher education has evolved, and Academic Campuses (sometimes referred to as “monasteries”) offer an affordable, though longer and more intensive, alternative to universities. In this hour-long play, the student editors of the Marietta Academic Campus’s literary journal, The Mac, meet just before the start of summer to finish up the latest issue, and to celebrate their success. As the play continues, a hypothetical conversation about graduating early and starting up a magazine outside the monastery turns into a spirited argument.

As usual the publication includes an afterword. In this one I describe my own arguments with myself about college, and my outlining process for the play.

New Publication: We’ll Tell Happy Stories

We’ll Tell Happy Stories is now availableCover-2 on Smashwords and Amazon!

The 70-minute play is about Boa and Ardom, two refugees posing as ambassadors. With the help of a local captain, they and their daughter have survived for years pretending that their home country, Choroa, is still perfectly stable. When a royal edict orders that all Choroans must leave the country or face enslavement, Boa and Ardom must reveal harsh truths and spin fanciful stories in order to convince their hosts that they should be allowed to stay.

The publication also includes an afterword describing how the classes I was taking at the time affected this play, the origins of some of the names, and other trivia you may find interesting.

You can read the first half of the play for free below.Read More »

New Publication: Beach Realty of Sandcastle Isle

Beach Realty of Sandcastle Isle is now available for purchasecover-5 on Amazon!

UPDATE: Also on Smashwords!

The fifteen-minute play follows two characters—Raymond Mare and Sandra Holt—as they vie for control of Sandcastle Isle. Ray is the CEO and inheritor of Mare Realty, an old, moneyed company which has a near total monopoly on the Floridian beach island. Sandra Holt works for the newer, less successful Beach Realty of Sandcastle Isle. Sandra, pretending she’s only a tourist, befriends and manipulates Ray, and the power dynamic between the two companies begins to shift. With each passing scene, the stage is constricted as the water rises, and the beach steadily erodes.

If you read my post “That’d Make a Great Play,” this is the play I was talking about. I was driven to right it because I found the spectacle of staging an eroding beach so interesting (it was also an assignment for my playwriting class, but whatever—I would’ve written it anyway.)

Included also in this publication is an afterword describing how I came upon this idea, why I went the path that I did with it, and why the name is so damn long.

What better summer reading than a play about Florida sinking?