“Mine”: A Chicago Fringe Fest Travelogue

MINE / Chicago Fringe Festival 2016

MINE / Chicago Fringe Festival 2016

That creative rascal Joss Whedon has opined that he is frequently asked, “Why do you write strong women characters?” to which he replies, “Because you keep asking that question.” It’s a good retort, but I think he misses the mark just a little bit. Having written a few strong women throughout the years – my “Venus Envy”, “Killing Angela”, “The Observatory” and “The Tearful Assassin” are all led by mighty women characters – I’ve been asked variations on that question. Why do I keep writing strong women characters? My answer: what other kind are there?

I confess it was not my intention to be a “woman writer”; rather, when I’ve sat down at my clunky old PC, miraculously still running Windows XP, I’ve only gone where my imagination wanted me to go. However, in retrospect, it seems in my blood to rely on the intelligent complexities of female characters instead of men. Why? I find male characters are easily shunt into being a protagonist or antagonist, whereas I find women to be infinitely more complex than that and thus more reflective of the real world. My life is full of people who are part hero, part villain, part saint, part sinner. So it makes a logical sense that those are the people who I digest in my brain and let spill onto the printed page.

“Mine” is a play I started working on a couple of years ago, as an exercise for a possible short film to accompany a 48 hour guerilla film competition. In the film, a woman was hounded by the memory of a vicious attack, played in the film by a shadowy male character, but the memory did it’s most damage when it interacted with other memories and skewed his (their) host. As a film, I couldn’t quite explore this theme fully within the 8-10 minute range I was writing for, so another idea took its place and “Mine” went back to the shelf.

As I came off the production of  2015’s”Bully“, which inspired a great range of reviews from “love it” to “hate it” but which definitely increased the diversity of the Chicago Fringe Festival by having a dual cast (one white, one African American), the idea of “Mine” came back up due to an unlikely source: Hillary Clinton. I wanted to explore the “even memories have secrets” theme along with the systemic sexism that seemed to be lobbed at Ms. Clinton from every angle. Example: even some of my most learned friends gobbled up the Kool Aid and dubbed her a “bitch” or “cunt.” Ridiculous. Thus, I went to work on “Mine” and developed the most complex, thick, horrifying and compassionate piece I’ve written in my life.

Casting was remarkably easy. I needed an actor to portray the lead character, Amber, who not only I could trust personally but also could develop the character in full, revealing disparate but essential traits under the microscope and in panorama.  The choice was easy: Kimmy Higginbotham, with whom I’ve worked on two plays, a commercial and a short film. For her shadow memory, I knew SHE needed someone she could trust, thus I wound up casting myself. The two of us have a natural rapport onstage, and despite how horrifying the text gets, and it gets plenty horrifying, we can work together and exit every performance unscathed personally.

As I’ve mentioned to friends and family, this piece is very personal to me. I think it is a solid piece of theater, and an opening to have some difficult conversations about things women are routinely shamed about (not only the assault implied in the production, but society’s own denigrations of women in general). For perhaps the first time, I’m not at all concerned about press or reviews or adulation. I just want to communicate.

# # #

Show details:

Location: CCJP Meeting Hall, 5320 W Giddings St, Chicago, IL 60630-3604

Friday, 9/2/2016 @ 7pm
Saturday, 9/3/2016 @ 230pm
Sunday, 9/4/2016 @ 830pm
Monday, 9/5/2016 @ 10pm
Friday, 9/9/2016 @ 7pm
Saturday, 9/10/2016 @ 530pm
Sunday, 9/11/2016 @ 400pm

TICKETS: https://dime.io/events/mine/
WEB PAGE: http://vincenttruman.net/mine/mine101.htm


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“The Bowl” (March 2016)

Joe Janes in "The Bowl."

Joe Janes in “The Bowl.”

The official submission to Prop Thtr’s 48 Hour Film Competition based on Craigslist Missed Connections. With Joe Janes, Annie Griggs, Vince LaFonti, Kat O’Connor, Sarah Bunger and Vincent Truman. Camera/sound by Alexander Giersch. Music by the False Positives. Written/directed by Vincent Truman.

The Missed Connection was received at 9:30pm on Friday, March 18.  The script was written between 9:30pm and 11pm, then emailed out to the talent.  The cast and crew gathered at my house at 8am on Saturday, March 19, did a quick readthrough, set up some lights and burned through the filming in slightly less than two hours.


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“Bully”: The Promo Videos

BULLY's Jeremy Sonkin

BULLY’s Jeremy Sonkin

This post contains the three promotional videos shot for BULLY, slated to have its world premiere(s) at the CHICAGO FRINGE FESTIVAL 2015. We shot these three to not only feature both full casts, but to give a little hint of the different performance styles each bring to the stage.

PROMO 1 features Donaldson, Katherine Bellantone and Jake Baker.  Their performances will be: FRI 9/4 7pm // THR 9/10 7pm // SAT 9/12 830pm // SUN 9/13 230pm.

PROMO 2 and 3 feature Jeremy Sonkin, Kimberly Banks and Stan King.  Their performances will be: SAT 9/5 4pm // SUN 9/6 530pm // MON 9/7 10pm.

All performances will be at the CCJP Meeting Hall, 5320 W Giddings Street, Chciago IL 60630, steps away from the Jefferson Park Blue Line and Metra stops.

TIX: http://chicagofringe.org/shows/bully/
WEB: http://www.vincenttruman.net/bully/bully1.htm


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Music Video: “Girl Shake That Laffy Taffy Time”

The Vincent Truman Trio

The Vincent Truman Trio

Full disclosure: I did not know there was actually a song called “Girl Shake That Laffy Taffy”, and now that I’ve heard it, I’m still not sure it’s a song.

This song is a three-hour song; that is, I elicit random phrases, lines, words and thoughts from my friends on Facebook and use those words to be the muse in putting together a song in, you guessed it, three hours.  Going for a rockabilly vibe, I play two acoustics, one electric guitar, a Hofner bass and synth drums played without a click track.

Some of these three-hour songs get nary a listen; some, like this one, chalked up nearly 200 in a week (small potatoes, but pretty nice, considering it’s a three-hour goddamn song).  My friend Andrea particularly liked it, so I dusted off the green screen and created this 1950s-style video.


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“Bully”, or How To Write A Play You Don’t Want To Write

Vincent Truman

Vincent Truman

“Bully” was the next play I had to write. The problem is I didn’t want to write the damn thing.

Life is a series of thousands of experiences; none are disconnected from each other. I’d go so far as to suggest that, if you put them in a single chart, most life events in a single person’s existence would resemble far more a web than a flowchart. Repercussions from one event invariably show up in seemingly independent actions years removed from said event. I think, if you were to ask, any successful playwright would admit to a thread being present, or felt, from one work to another. Certainly one can draw a line fromAlan AykbournAlan Aykbourn’s 1959 play “Love After All” with his magnificent, trilogy “The Norman Conquests” in 1973, as one could certainly draw subtle parallels from that work to 1979’s “Sisterly Feelings.” Similarly, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Play About the Baby” reveal common fires in Edward Albee’s work, despite over thirty years separating them.

Following on from my plays “Venus Envy”, “Killing Angela” and “Featherstone”, all of which dealt with hidden or manufactured agendas, “Bully” was fully ready to be written, even if its author was reluctant.

“Bully” recounts a man named Alex, who, after thirty years of living in shame and fear, decides to confront the bully of his youth, in the form of a freelance electrician, husband and father of one named Darrell. Despite having no contact in those intervening decades, Darrell’s bullying tactics served to nurture a life in Alex of just not wanting to be picked on or harassed; the result being that nobody notices Alex at all anymore and his ability to withstand this predicament has led him to Darrell’s garage on a crisp Saturday morning. Alex goes there to confront Darrell and extract an apology, but he is well-armed with tools to use in the event an apology isn’t coming. And it isn’t coming.

I’ve got a bully of my own in my past, who, by no coincidence whatsoever, is named Darrell. I occasionally spy his Facebook page and am excited by, and terrified by, confronting him. But after all these years, what could he say to me in real life? From his pictures, he’s still the slit-eyed, tough-looking fellow he was thirty – nearly forty – years ago. And unlike my counterpart of those many years ago, I see a woefully unhappy man, trapped within the posturing of a high school dropout. Certainly any confrontation I would have with him would only serve to retrigger that power he thought he felt over me those many years ago. So, while I still maintain traits that make me uneasy – I’m uncomfortable in crowds, I tend to avoid confrontation, I constantly think of myself as not “manly” enough to stand up for myself, to say nothing of my tendency to pick friends, and a spouse, who exploited those weaknesses, either to re-enact past battles or to punish myself – I have convinced myself that such a meeting would be pointless and that I shouldn’t overestimate a schoolyard bully’s power over me as I drift into middle age.

But, aha. I have also been Darrell. There was a time, in my drinking 20s and careless 30s, that I would use just about anyone who got me what I wanted, and I would wreck those who stood in my way. I proudly waved the banner of “I Don’t Give A Fuck”, which was easily, and occasionally accurately, called out as grave insecurity. I slept with married women – kept my own personal log of exactly how many that was separate from my usual conquests – and was basically no good. That particular thread was given new life recently, as a very good friend of mine is basically doing the same thing. And I find I not only have no time for it, but I am like a ex-smoker who is very quick to judge anyone who might light up in reaction to stress or addiction.

To write “Bully” has forced me to inhabit several of my lives, and it’s been absolutely horrifying and panic-inducing. A workshop was planned for the beginning of April; in terror, and when things weren’t falling perfectly into place, I canceled it with a couple of days’ notice. The rewrites, which followed the actual workshop in late April, have depressed and panicked me, alternately. Yet I do know this: “Bully” is the most intimate, personal and risky of any work I’ve done. That alone has meant that it had to be written.

“Bully” has been selected to be featured in the maximum amount of performances (seven) in the 2015 Chicago Fringe Festival.

To be continued.

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Music Video: “Vas Sueve” by Zem Complex, Euro Crooner

Zem Complex, 1996

Zem Complex, 1996

“Vas Sueve”, which translates loosely as “Very Sueve”, was a 1996 #1 smash in Moldova for Zem Complex, Euro Crooner and part-time proctologist.  With its monotonous, I mean, insistent bass guitar and pedantic, I mean, pulsing synthesizers, “Vas Sueve” captured the feeling in Eastern Europe, just like the Rutles’ “A Hard Day’s Rut” captured the zeitgeist of Minshull Street in Manchester, UK circa 1964.  Compared favorably to other hits such as “The Macarena” and “Call Me Maybe”, “Vas Sueve” is a tribute to songs you may never want to hear again.

Not much is known about Zem Complex outside of his massive hit, which actually has nothing to do with this song but rather refers to an unfortunate fender bender outside of Blechinstrad, Moldova’s most ill town.  This video pulls in various footage from the wacky virtual reality game called Second Life and was compiled by his widow, Industrial.  Says Industrial, “The song is about nothing, really, so it seemed fitting to couple it with a game about fuck-all as well.”

Zem was once interviewed by Rolling Stone, but the interview was removed because it turned out the reporters called the wrong place.




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Three Hour Song: “Boats and Hos”

Vincent Truman, Boats and Hos

Vincent Truman, Boats and Hos

Upon occasion, I create what I call a Three Hour Song.  How it works: I invite my friends on Facebook to comment with words, phrases, keys, tempos, anything (I rarely try and implement a theme) and from that I write, record, mix and upload a song from scratch in, you guessed it, three hours. None of these exercises come with any warning; generally, it’s when I have nothing to do in an evening – of have things to do I’d rather avoid – and I have a decent stock of alcohol at hand.

In June 2014 came “Boats and Hos.”  With the exception of  another experimental song called “Alan Rickman”, “Boats and Hos” has received the most consistent plays over time, amounting to an impressive – or paltry, depending on your perspective – 250 plays.  For whatever reason, my friends kept on suggesting nautical-sounding phrases, including, of course, the title.  While I kept my screen on the comments, I played piano until a suitable sounding melody emerged.  A few strings, bass, percussion, drums and harmony vocals later, a song appeared.

I should admit that I am never, ever in a good mood when I do these songs.  I am directionless (or rudderless, if you will) or cannot cultivate any imagination or inspiration. Bypassing my intellect altogether, these songs come from a wholly other place.  It is not muse-driven.  It just needs to be done, which, for some reason, works quite well.


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