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#3 NEWSLETTER - "When in Rome..."
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WRITING WITH YOUR LEFT HAND
Happy New Year to all! I’m so pleased our numbers are growing. Feedback is welcome so please continue being in touch and check out past newsletters on the website. This month we’re looking to pastures abroad - the marvelous country which is Italy. Having traveled the breadth of the country and spent four summers with a theatre company there, I admit there isn’t an inhospitable spot or a bad meal to be had. And it’s brimming with art and inspiration!
Here’s a story - one of my inspirations for becoming a playwright. I was staying in the gorgeous VILLA SERBELLONI in Bellagio, and every afternoon I’d see this elegant man dressed in a white suit and hat, writing on the veranda for hours. It piqued my interest very much so finally, after the third day, I approached him. It turned out this was none other than the playwright, Christopher Hampton, the writer of the delicious LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES (John Malkovich’s classic film DANGEROUS LIAISONS) working on the translation of Jasmina Reza’s fabulous play “ART,” which I subsequently saw and enjoyed thoroughly on Broadway. Christopher explained to me the importance of translation and how essentially, the translator was rewriting the story in a new language. And to do that, it was necessary not only to have a good command of the language, but to be familiar with the entire culture, so that not only words but concepts and ideas are translated correctly. And, it really helps if the translator himself is a good writer. A tall order, indeed!
If in Venice, don’t miss a visit to the historic CAFFE FLORIAN in Piazza San Marco. Here’s a little history of the 300-year-old hot spot: it was a hangout for luminaries such as Claude Monet (who charmed the pigeons into standing on his head there) to Charles Dickens, Andy Warhol, Proust, Lord Byron, Goethe, Nietzsche, Casanova and Charlie Chaplin. Opened in San Marco Square in 1720 by entrepreneur Floriano Francesconi, it’s been a hot spot for tourists, locals and A-listers and Hollywood films for hundreds of years. Did you know that In 1895, the idea of the Venice Biennale was born here to pay homage to King Umberto and Queen Margherita?
PODCAST OF THE ABSURD
OUR FIRST PODCAST! It was a delight to have playwright Charles Gershman with us on our first podcast. Tune in to hear us sing here and talk about things as they relate to theatre and the life of an artist today. Next up, is a playwright who’s working on a very interesting book project. Stay tuned…
I have so enjoyed LA MAMA INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS RESIDENCE in Umbria. Each year, artists from around the world gather here to learn different approaches to making theatre. Working on a stage on a hill overlooking the olive groves feels like heaven on earth! I recommend this retreat for anyone who wants a working vacation with excellent teaching artists and delicious organic food plus day trips to wonderful towns like Assisi and Perugia. This year's programs:
24th Annual La MaMa Umbria International Symposium for Directors -
July 12 - August 9 (2 two-week sessions)
For more info. about all programs:
Contact David Diamond directly at email@example.com for more info.
The word monologue is made up of the Greek roots for alone and speak and is the counterpart of the word dialogue, which comes from the Greek for conversation. It’s an uninterrupted first-person speech where a character elaborates on his thoughts to an audience or another character to get a story across, making revelations, and have epiphanies. It establishes the “voice” of the speaker quickly and as a first-person narration can be short or long. These days, besides on the stage, you can find them in film/TV scripts, in poetry and in novels, in fact, entire novels have been written as monologues. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, however controversial, is one such example. One of the most powerful tools you can develop! Click here for the exercise.
I tried this exercise with my students at the La Mama, Umbria, residency. I sent them to the local flea market to buy an object under a dollar and write a monologue from this object’s point of view. Charles Gershman came back with a small wooden owl on a keyring! (Click to hear Charles’ THE UMBRIAN OWL monologue). Happy monologuing!
“But all this world is like a tale we hear - Men’s evil and their glory, disappear.”
- Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
It was amazing to see THE SHAHNAMEH up close when I visited the island of San Lazzaro run by Armenian monks. The collection also housed many Armenian illuminated manuscripts in their library. The Shahnameh (Book of Kings) the long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE which tells the mythical and historical stories of the kings of Persia from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. The poem is considered one of the most important works of Persian literature and a national epic of Iran. The stories are mainly about kings, heroes and legendary creatures, their battles, loves and friendships, their virtues and flaws and interactions with gods and goddesses. If you get a chance, take a boat trip to San Lazarro next time you’re in Venice and experience the peacefulness Lord Byron did during his extended stay there.
This month’s selection from my IRAN MEMOIRS will be a short piece about ice cream. Here’s an excerpt. Click on the title to read the whole piece
I come from a land where there was a thing called a Shah. That’s king in English. And he was almighty and powerful and very rich. And he was out of touch with the poor. Then I came to a land without a Shah, but I found I was mistaken. Shah-en-Shah. King of all Kings. A leader who thinks he can dominate all leaders from all countries. So I think to myself, how far has my journey over oceans and seas taken me? Who knows, maybe the rulers in this country, the country that boasts of democracy, are Shah’s at heart too. Here I find autocracy or plutocracy or hypocrisy or something of the sort. I’m not good with politics, I just know what I feel, and things don’t feel right.
I open the freezer. Rocky Road…Strawberry Surprise…Cookies and Cream. Caramel Mint Swirl…New York Super Fudge Chunk. As the ice cream melts in my mouth, it takes me back to many such occasions where ice cream melted in my mouth in a similar way. Its frozen texture takes me to a Friday night…
ITALIAN FOR TRAVELERS is like a puzzle with elements of Greek tragedy and even a language-learning CD! A journalist used in an assassination plot of a dissident suffers from a stressed induced disorder- echolalia, in which she hears/repeats words from a language learning CD she studied in the past. It is a winner of numerous major awards at international film festivals and is currently available on Amazon Prime & TubiTV (70 min English/Italian Suspense US 2022)
You can now read the BUNNYMAN BOOK as I’ve removed the paywall for the first few chapters of this illustrated novel. This is a personal story so it’s usually a bit more protected. I ask you don’t share it. Meet the “The Patient Patient”. Follow the adventures bunnyman as he galavants through time, breaking all preconceptions. An explorer examining the relationship between dis-ease in the mind, our character is passionate about his beliefs, so much so, that he tests things out on himself. As a result, he’s grown rabbit ears! You could call it a fairy tale crashing into reality. Did you know the pharmaceutical industry has a worse record of law-breaking than any other industry!?! So, you can imagine, a treasure trove of abominable material is available for writers.
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Bianca Bagatourian is an award-winning playwright whose play, THE TIME OF OUR LIES co-produced with Viggo Mortensen was nominated for The Amnesty International Human Rights Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. THE TIME OF OUR LIES premiered at The Park Theatre, London, 2019. It told the life story of radical historian, Howard Zinn, through words, movement and music.
What’s Your Story?
Everyone has a story to tell. What’s your story? The story you would like to tell? Though everyone has different writing styles and writing processes, you cannot create in a vacuum! If you’d like to discuss your play or play idea, get in touch. Whether you’re on page one or on the third draft, I look forward to helping you crack your script. After reading your piece, we’ll schedule a two-hour discussion to go over notes. Contact me at: BIANCABAGATOURIAN@SUBSTACK.COM. I will also recommend books on playwriting, playwriting classes and workshops online. Here’s what award-winning poet Aaron Poochigian had to say:
“By identifying the unfulfilled potentialities of my script, Bianca turned my pipe dream into a real, performable play. In retrospect, her suggestions were what should have been obvious to me all along. Without her advice, I might have spent years stumbling around, discovering what my play wanted to be." - Aaron Poochigian