“Mine”: Thousands of Words

Vincent Truman in "Mine"

Vincent Truman in “Mine”

These are a selection of production stills made by my good friend and brilliant photographer/cinematographer/mad genius, Richard Smith, during one of the early performances of “Mine” at the Chicago Fringe Festival 2016.

“Mine” tracks an assault survivor (Kimmy Higginbotham) as she attempts to get on with her life, all the while haunted and hunted by the memory of her assailant (Vincent Truman).

I love these photographs because a lot of them have little to love about them. As I glance through them, I keep thinking to myself, “this is not theater… this is life.”

Shows to go: Saturday, 9/10 at 5:30pm and 8:30pm, Sunday, 9/11 at 4:00pm.
Location: CCJP Meeting Hall, 5320 W Giddings, Chicago, IL 60630
Direct ticket link: https://dime.io/events/mine/
Web page: http://vincenttruman.net/mine/mine101.htm

"Mine": Silencing The Voice

“Mine”: Silencing The Voice

"Mine": Passing Thoughts

“Mine”: Passing Thoughts

"Mine": Pride Comes Before

“Mine”: Pride Comes Before

"Mine": Dark Heart

“Mine”: Dark Heart

"Mine": The War Within

“Mine”: The War Within

"Mine": Control Takes Time

“Mine”: Control Takes Time

"Mine": Even Memories Have Secrets

“Mine”: Even Memories Have Secrets

"Mine" Curtain Call

“Mine” Curtain Call

Posted in Life, Playwrighting, Theater | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What are red flags if not the waving symbol of humanity?

Vincent Truman, "Mine"

Vincent Truman, “Mine”

“Were there red flags on our third date?” asked Amber O’Donnell in the play “Mine”, recounting a romantic encounter gone bad. “Probably. But what are red flags if not the waving symbol of humanity?”

“Mine”, my 2016 play and selection of the Chicago Fringe Festival 2016, deals with the complex relationship between our own voices and the voices that we hold inside our hearts. Oftentimes, the preferred interior voices read like generic memes of encouragement, variations on the “hang in there, baby” kitten hanging from a tree branch. Those interior voices strike me as neither particularly helpful nor particularly believable.

The darker and more sinister voices of our hearts reveal much more about ourselves than the brighter, hey-guys-let’s-do-the-show-right-here proclamations of self-worth and value. Why? Because they are rooted in our yearning to find understanding, or at least the perception of understanding, in our daily victories and defeats. They are the voices of self-preservation and are often rooted in past traumas and rationalizations than they are in hope for a better day.

In “Mine“, the main character – Amber O’Donnell (Kimmy Higginbotham) – is haunted by the traumatic memory in her life, which incidentally I play. For the first few drafts, the memory character was written as a Snidely Whiplash villain. But then I remembered all the memory characters I have floating around in my head and heart – the ones who say I’m not good enough, not worth love, not worth excelling as either a writer or actor, or worse, such-and-such a person has no value to me – and it occurred to me: that voice is probably the most charming and loving of all of my interior voices.

It is the voice that, instead of discouraging from attaining my dreams, encourages me to not pursue them in the first place. Play Mario Kart, watch a movie, re-invent an avatar on Second Life, the voice says, those would all be fun. Fuck rejection, it says. Avoid rejection, it says. Stay safe, it says.

And then it hit me: red flags. What are red flags? Answer: warnings about possible futures based upon past failures. Imagine such a voice inhabiting an infant. She fails to walk at first, and such a voice would encourage her not to walk. Imagine such a voice inhabiting an ex-husband, and such a voice would encourage him not to marry again. Imagine such a voice inhabiting someone who was hurt by another person, and such a voice would encourage him or her not to risk hurt again. They can be debilitating, certainly, no matter the age or circumstance, if they are permitted greater value than they are worth.

It is that voice that I’ve brought to life in “Mine” – a voice I’ve never really heard on stage before, but one which we’ve all heard in our hearts.

Have I put red flags into “Mine”?  Yes. But what are red flags if not the waving symbol of humanity?

# # #

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


Posted in Life, Playwrighting, Theater, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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


Posted in Life, Playwrighting, Theater, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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.


Posted in Humor, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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


Posted in Playwrighting, Theater, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Music, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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.

Posted in Life, Playwrighting, Theater | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment