Maya makes Rhode Island Film Fest semifinals

My screenplay, SEEING MAYA, was selected a Rhode Island International Film Festival semi-finalist. It’s a love story between a younger man and older woman set in Tel Aviv during and after the first Gulf War, and is also a kind of love letter to that city, where my life changed for the better, back in the early 90’s, a much more optimistic time. Somehow love stories have a special power to reveal cities and Tel Aviv is a fascinating place deserving of such revelation. There’s a powerhouse role for a 50 + actress, which is rarity in the business.

I was recently disappointed by a contest, so when I received the email from RIIFF I almost didn’t read it. It was very nice to see us on the short list!

Is there art without death?

Is there art without death? Joshua Oppenheimer and I have been discussing this with artists, as part of an idea for a film.

Joshua:

Artists want to feel art is eternal. A way of achieving a symbolic immortality deprived to the flesh. But what if the flesh is eternal, and art if transient, of its moment? Many artists I know feel the opposite way: I was just debating this with a painter and a composer. They both feel there is no art without death. I cannot accept this.

Berkley Brown:

 You can pick any year, any performance and any movie and I almost guarantee you that the Oscar winning performance of the actor was due to their ability to prove to the audience, critics, etc, that their suffering was real. The revenant is the most recent example of this. Heightened human suffering can be found in film, music, literature and in all mediums were as a human being is sharing an emotion with another. Our common emotion shared as human beings has been suffering.
We’ve joked you and I, about my love of action cinema and I fully admit to it. The films I absolutely love from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s are so full of human carnage and torture that it actually is comical to enjoy these films. I mean, I can just throw on the movie “Heat” and I’ll love it every time. This is a movie about criminals, heists and for the most part, everybody dying. How can I possibly justify that movie to my radical life extension values? I really can’t, it just is.

I’m a huge blues fan and that genre essentially gave birth to my musicianship. Hearing those African American artists and feeling the realness of their pain / soul was a revelation for me. It took a hold of me and didn’t let go. I couldn’t put my guitar down or stop my singing exercises until I knew I was feeling that soul or suffering too. But here’s what is real, I’ll never know that amount of suffering. I’ll never truly feel it like that. I’ve never been shot at or lynched. I’ve never been physically abused or mistreated. I’ve shot quite a few guns and rifles but I could never shoot someone. I would actually never want to experience that kind of suffering at all.

So in conclusion, I’ve been an artist locked in the fantasy of suffering. I’m an artist who doesn’t need to feel the suffering to experience the beauty. I feel, for myself, a maturity is needed in art that has never been before. An art free from the shackles of never ending pain. An art of feeling the pain but seeing what’s after. 

 

 

 

Endless Drive Through performed at RAAD Fest

It was a thrill to have my short play , Endless Drive Through, performed in front of an audience of over 900 at RAAD Fest, in San Diego in August. In introducing the play, I asked the audience how many of them had tried to talk to someone about radical life extension who just didn’t get. I think just about every hand went up, so this was an experience they could all relate to.

In rehearsal, I reminded my stellar cast of Berkley Brown, Yaiza Brown and Brittany Bejarano that we would be getting people to laugh at an experience, that at one level or another, has probably been traumatic for them, and made them feel intimidated and wrong. So that was our mission, and when I heard the laughs coming, I knew we were accomplishing it.

 

 

RAADFEST 2016

Cultural revolution against aging and death

 

Having great conversations with friend, filmmaker and artistic fellow traveler Joshua Oppenheimer about the need for a post-mortality aesthetic expression.

Joshua:

As we have discussed, death is embedded in how we tell stories. Can you imagine Jesus, Romeo and Juliet, or Oedipus without death? Once our culture starts telling stories that are not haunted by death and dying, physical immortality and radical life extension will start to seem second nature. In this sense, we need a cultural revolution against ageing and death. Helping to kickstart this revolution is the most important ambition for any film project about physical immortality. And I think the way to do this is to create a profound artistic experience that moves as many people as possible.

Me:

I consider it my mission in life to be a part of altering these archetypes — which inform experience, and are also informed by experience. Somewhere we have to crash that circle.

Death and limitation work hand in hand in our stories. Consider the limiting archetypes of Paradise Lost, Icarus flying to close to the sun, and Jesus on the Cross for that matter.

You become aware — you lose.

You fly too high — you lose.

You care too much — you lose.

We’ve got a huge narrative to turn around.

Body Archaeology to appear in Louisville Review

Dear Joe Bardin:

Congratulations! Your work has been selected for publication in The Louisville Review. Please email a short biographical paragraph to louisvillereview@spalding.edu as soon as possible. You will receive an email from us with further details once we are in pre-production of the issue. We look forward to seeing your work in our pages!

Sincerely,

The Editors of The Louisville Review

2016-06-21 11:07:04 (GMT -4:00)

Foreign ingredient clarifies the writing recipe

Had a great meeting with film director Dani Menkin last week. Dani is based in Los Angeles but born and raised in Israel so he has a great perspective on Tel Aviv in the early ’90’s, the setting for my love story screenplay Seeing Maya. We’d spoken before, but this was the first time we met in person, and the conversation really flowed. I had to run him to the airport or we could have easily kept going.

I find when I’m writing there is this wonderful point where something seemingly foreign enters the recipe, whether originating from myself or someone else, that causes me to step back, gain some distance, and bang, the clarity comes.

I commented to Dani that my protagonist, Danny, like most Americans I know who moved to Israel, were escaping something here, as well as being drawn to something there. In other words, the personal is at least as important as the ideological. Usually more so.

Dani accepted this and innocently suggested that Danny should have a very literal reason for escaping the US to Israel, which led to some really funny brainstorming on the spot, which led to an overall reconsideration of humor for Seeing Maya. There were already funny moments, but more humor helps take it further away from the predictable “heavy” of the setting.

It was a great turn in the road, and I am looking forward to implementing into the  screenplay.

We also talked about some of the mechanics of moving this project forward, and I like the path that I see emerging.

 

A necessary adventure, in search of artistic acknowledgement

I had a great conversation with playwright Germaine Shames (http://sitekreator.com/germainewrites/main_page.html). It was a pleasure chatting with Germaine about my work and what she is doing, and she was  very generous sharing tactics on getting plays produced. It wasn’t a matter of her revealing a silver bullet approach, as much as reaffirming the sense that getting work out is as much an adventure as writing it, and that this adventure has to be embraced. She shared with me a great David Bowie clip where he talks about making art to please oneself first, which really hit the spot.

I think I’m actually in a kind of advantageous moment where there is really nothing pulling me in a particular direction, so I’m forced to do that thing that Bowie is talking about. Obviously, I’m working on creating demand for me, but the bright side of it is that it’s a wide open situation, mine to define. I think I wish it were otherwise, but in fact need to be here. There’s plenty to bitch about in terms of the challenges of getting one’s art acknowledged, but at the same time, this more or less forces me to keep going in my exploration and creation. Which is a necessary adventure.

Faith is a kind of future seeing*

Faith for me is a physical experiencing, a kind of future seeing that is inseparable from creation, because we’re doing/making something that hasn’t happened yet, but it is in us to do this. So to the degree that literature is an act and experience of creation, it is inseparable from some form of faith. Whether you are producing literature or consuming it, you are in the presence of faith.

This faith is not a hope, or some stubborn, unfounded belief, or an egotistical insistence that my way is the right way, or that all my images will play out as I’d like them to; they will not. This faith is an access point to what we already are but haven’t manifested. Though there may be no proof, there is never the less substance and alignment, feeling and purpose. And then the creation comes.

My growing sense is that no one fulfills any significant intention of creation without large doses of faith. Though writers are champion doubters, capable of spinning intricate fantasies of disbelief, there is that core that knows and always knew. In this sense, faith is what we can’t escape of ourselves, no matter how much we equivocate. Though there may be no tangible proof for it, it is that essential element of identity without which you are not you anyway, so why not just accept it?

Though doubt might seem eminently more reasonable, provable and replicable, it is actually an absurd indulgence when it drives you to embrace and enforce your own oblivion. I don’t believe there is some external force that insists on my annihilation, but if there was, I certainly won’t be a party to it in my own intellect. If this sort of doubt registers as a passive naturalistic kind of death urge, then faith is an equally innate but less unexercised movement towards life and light.

 

*Rock & Sling, the literary journal that recently published my personal history essay, Black Sheep, asked contributors to share our view on the connection between literature and faith. They included this in lieu of the standard bio.

A night of true stories — fundraiser for San Marcos Elementary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Karen Burns 480-332-7914

EMAIL Karen@burnsitup.com

July 24, 2015

 

ImprovMANIA and Burns it Up present a “Back to School Night” storytelling event at ImprovMANIA in Historic Downtown Chandler on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 cash at the door with proceeds benefitting San Marcos Elementary, a Title 1 school in Chandler, AZ.

 

EAST VALLEY –

Burns-It-Up, a non-profit organization based in Chandler, Arizona, and ImprovMANIA, a Chandler based improv comedy club, presents a night of true stories about lessons learned in and out of school along with live music by Duane Mathes on August 23, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. The night will include stories written and performed by Chandler residents Karen Burns, Keith Burns, Monica Avila and Andrea Parker along with Joe Bardin, Debra Rich and Brad Bond from the greater Phoenix area.

Tickets are $10 cash at the door. All proceeds benefit San Marcos Elementary, a title 1 school. Title 1 is the federal government’s commitment to closing the achievement gap between low-income and moderate-to-high income students. Chandler Unified School District’s goal is to assist disadvantaged and underserved students to meet the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.

ImprovMANIA is located at 250 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, AZ 85225

Burns-it-Up isa positive, creative, non-profit organization offering classes for children and adults in Chandler, Arizona.Pursuing excellence in theatre and individuals since 2005.

 

ImprovMANIA offers two improv comedy shows every Friday and Saturday night at their Downtown Chandler location as well as improv classes for children and adults.

 

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For more information regarding this event or classes:

Karen Burns, 480.332.7914, karen@burnsitup.com

For more information in improvMANIA

Dave Specht, 480.699-4598, info@improvMANIA.net

For more information on Burns It Up:

http://www.burnsitup.com

For more information on Chandler Unified School District Title 1 Schools:

http://www.cusd80.com

Reading at Improvmania in Chandler, August 23rd

I’ve been invited to read at Improvmania in Chandler, August 23rd. It’s a back to school fundraiser for kids in need, so I picked a piece about career growth, which is code for the struggle between earning and living and being an artist. It was published a while back in Toad Suck Review, but I’ve never read it publicly.

Despite the name, Improvmania, I will not be improvising, other than the possibly charming off the cuff banter before I begin reading word for word. This will be my first reading since Lit Lounge last year at the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art. I was nervous then, and when it was my turn, the mic was set too low for me by about three inches, and instead of adjusting it, or asking someone to help me adjust it, I read my entire piece in an ever so slight stoop. While this might have been sort of beneficial for my core musculature, it was not the best way to deliver a light hearted  accounted of my adventures as a self-conscious male model. Actually, that’s often how I felt modeling, slightly off kilter, never quite comfortable, too uncertain to ask questions.

So I’m looking forward to reading into a properly adjusted microphone and having a good time with everyone who turns out. Debra has promised more information soon, and I will post as soon as available.