I spent a lot of time in nature today. I laid down on large rocks, I walked on trails in the woods, and I breathed deeply in the air of the day. Nature is close by our home and we spend a great deal of time there. Taking the beauty in through all of our senses is a deep, healing experience. And, it helps always to remind me of the freedom that I have to contemplate life and circumstances from a variety of perspectives.
I am grateful for knowing that I have a choice. Many persons, including many in my life, do not know or understand that they have a choice in their perspective on the world. Whether they see themselves as a victim, as flawed or defective, as better than or more evolved than others, as only being their life circumstances and nothing else, they cannot see beyond these…
Diva Theater Productions is pleased to present local playwright Jeff Boam’s Man on a Canvas at the Old Brick Theater in Scranton. It opens on Friday, November 10.
When talking with the cast, they unanimously agreed that Boam’s play is singular. Set in 1920’s New York at the Algonquin Hotel where members of the famous “Vicious Circle” met (think Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woollcott and the gang), the play moves forward to modern-day Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the story of boxing and boxers who won’t fight continues. Actor David Spitzer feels the actors’ portrayals of historic personages helps add to the uniqueness of the show. Actor Michael Madajeski jokes that all of the drinking the Algonquin Round Table members did makes the play, but his humor fits in, particularly since actor Dante Giammarco feels one of the best parts of the rehearsal process for the show has been getting the chance to watch Boam’s comedy develop in his fellow actors. He confesses it leads to some “delicious” moments on stage.
If that’s not incentive enough to go, maybe Boam’s boxing theme will pull you in. The production, which began as a screenplay that Boam admits he “forced anybody with a pair of eyes” to read, has his hard work and determination pay off in play form. Director Paige Balitski was happy to take on the show, which follows other productions of Boam’s at the Old Brick including Behind The Six and The Judas Sheep. But boxing is in Scranton’s blood. Boam even consulted with the city’s own “Irish” Gene Reed when writing to make the boxing aspects as believable as possible. Boam shares, as well, that the comedy would appeal to fans of plays like The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can’t Take It With You; it is in true Kaufman and Hart style.
So come for the history and boxing and stay for the good time. Man on a Canvasruns November 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m. and November 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. For ticket reservations, contact Diva Theater Productions at 570-209-7766
Sam Kuchwara is a gifted local artist in the NEPA area. He creates stunning mixed-media pieces using materials such as oils, wood, glass, and broken pieces of everyday objects. Sam’s paintings include local architecture and scenery.
As a teenage emo in desperate need of attention, I languished in despair over this one simple fact: handsome, vampire men weren’t real. Edward Cullen wasn’t going to stalk me to my room and then try not to kill me in my sleep, Bill Compton wasn’t going to orchestrate my almost probable murder just to get in my pants, and don’t even get me started on the pain I had over not personally knowing the vengeful Salvatore brothers.
Teenage Marnie (the hopeless, misguided romantic that she was) would only settle for a man with fangs and a (slight) moral compass. Suffice it say, I was single for most of my high school years. Now that I’m older and wiser (and incredibly cynical), I see it as a good thing that I never really pursued the guys who would remind me of a sparkly Robert Pattinson, or a sly, blue eyed Ian Somerhalder, because as I came to see during my college years, vampire boyfriends really suck (pun most certainly intended).
To begin with, vampires are predators. Of what you ask? Oh yeah, people. Their track record with humans is spotty at best, so to think that they could have a stable relationship with a human is laughable. To use a well-known example, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Saga fits all of the criteria of an emotional abuser. He talks down to his mortal squeeze, Bella Swan, on the daily by calling her “silly” multiple times, and claiming that it’s hard to take care of her because she’s clumsy and irresponsible. He also isolates her from her own family by lying to her father about where she is and how she’s doing, and by also refusing to let her see her guy friend/rebound/werewolf Jacob. He also threatened to kill himself if Bella ever died, and almost got away with it in the second book. Furthermore, he controlled her life by planning her days, events he forced her to go to, and even planned when she was going to become a vampire like him (which he was adamantly against no matter how much pain and anxiety it caused Bella to stay human). Oh yeah, also before they got together, he would watch her sleep (without her knowledge), follow her everywhere (also without her knowledge), and try not to kill her (he completely admitted to that, but she still wanted the sparkly D afterwards).
It does make a sick kind of sense though. vampires, based on their mythology, aren’t really supposed to be built for long lasting relationships, well with humans at least. They are known, at least in the last 100 or so years, as seductive creatures only because they need to find an easy way to get prey. They were basically used as a warning to not give into your base instincts, and in the case of Dracula, to beware of the outsider trying to steal your girl.
But to the teenage mind, that doesn’t translate. Yeah, vampires are monsters, but they’re also mysterious, brooding, gentlemen from a different, more chivalrous (more restrictive for women) time. Edward was just being “overprotective,” and he just cares so much about Bella that he has to make sure she’s okay 24/7, and would willingly kill himself if she died—that’s not creepy, it’s romantic! I’m not making a generalization here: my friends and I would constantly talk about how romantic we thought Edward Cullen was on the daily, and on the many message boards (sigh, yes message boards) that I perused, most other fans were writing about the same thing. Edward was a little overbearing, and a little too old-fashioned, but he was romantic, dammit!
I would say that Stephanie Meyer was a genius for understanding that vampires make the worst boyfriends, but this also isn’t true. Instead of showing his abusive signs as red flags that Bella Swan should have definitely seen, Meyer literally has the two get married, have a vampire/human baby that mortal Bella carries to term even though it basically kills her, and then sticks her with Edward for the rest of her life as a vampire with a pretty lame superpower.
And this story, flawed as it most definitely is, spurred on a Young Adult (YA) fiction vampire romance genre that was already gaining traction with other series that were just starting, but gave it the international push that it needed. For the last ten years, the genre has exploded the market to the point that most horror publishers now have a “no vampire” rule for what an author can submit.
Before Twilight became a worldwide phenomenon, the YA and adult vampire genre as a whole did a little more than have a vampire and human fall in love. Not to say that there weren’t many vampire/human romance novels; Anne Rice’s series of novels featuring the mysterious and psycho Lestat, later played by 90s heartthrob Tom Cruise, propelled vampires from pretty scary and seductive to just mostly seductive. But where Twilight cemented vampires in the “boyfriend material” section, its predecessors were all about showing you how being a vampire, or trying to date a vampire, was not a good idea at all.
A book (and author) that is greatly underrated in the genre is Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. Published about ten years before Twilight in 1995, the story is about a teenage girl named Kerry who lives with her brother and dad after her mother abandons them. She is the main caretaker of her brother, so when he loses a stuffed koala bear named Footy at the laundromat, the teenaged heroine doesn’t think twice about going to said laundromat to find it. Instead of just finding the bear though, she finds a freaking vampire/vigilante slayer showdown, which propels her into a really weird night (the vigilante vampire slayers think Kerry is a vampire too, so they kidnap her brother and father, as one does). And of course, this story also includes a really rude (but of course hot) vampire named Ethan.
Spoiler alert: the reason this is one of my favorite vampire novels is at the end, with the vigilantes taken care of and her family safe, Kerry has a steamy make-out sesh with Ethan, but instead of staying with him for the rest of her mortal (and maybe immortal) life, she grabs Footy and goes the hell home.
When I first read Companions of the Night, I was livid! I was so obsessed with vampire romance that any other option just seemed wrong. But I get it now, and would have probably done the same as Kerry. She saw that her life with Ethan wouldn’t be the way she would want it to be. Yes, there would be passion, and adventure, and possible immortality, but Kerry had plans for her future. Kerry had a freaking test to study for! She had no time to be undead when there was so much living she wanted to do, and honestly, while being a vampire sounds awesome and everything, it’s not the “best” long term plan for your life. The author gets that, and instead of perpetuating an emotionally abusive relationship wrapped up in a “no sex before marriage” morally correct message, Velde shows what all of us should do if a vampire promises forever. Run. Fast!
I haven’t read YA vampire fiction in a long time, but I do see vampire lore shifting once again. The Vampire Diaries show just ended, the Twilight Saga is buried, and the undead lover is no longer a viable relationship goal. Just by peeking at a list of upcoming YA novels for 2018, the vampire romance genre is starting to become a thing of the past, but now vampires (as shown in popular adult book series like the Strain and The Passage) are starting to get their bite back. Instead of being fully in the seductive field, those lines are getting blurry again, and these monsters finally have the room to be gross and terrifying, and definitely not something you want to have kids with. Finally, all is right in the world of vampires.
If you still have a little blood lust left in you, please join me for the next (and final) installment of this series, where I’ll explain why vampire girls are the true queens of this mythological creature. Until then, have a safe Halloween and if you meet a tall, dark, and handsome vampire, don’t ask for his number unless the fangs are detachable.
Dan Pape is a mysterious fellow. When we first met at the NEPA Creative Writers Group, I’ll be honest—I was intimidated. His writing was visceral and powerful in a way I could only dream of mine being. I know I need to share his works with you.
A fan of Ghostbusters, beer, and hanging out with friends, Dan has countless facets to him. Getting a start in middle school as a writer, he’s dabbled with many genres: lyrics, novels, short stories, and poems (his main squeeze for now). Having recently entered the blogosphere, too, it’s certain his time to shine past the bounds of this region is nigh.
Dan’s enigmatic appeal is not only in his writing but in talking with him. One thing that is not obscured is his emotion captured in his works through his words. His allusions run from classical to modern, and even if you’re not sure of their references, you still feel what he wants to get across. And he challenges you to want to find out more.
Dan started writing recently on The Game Chateau’s blog, Rolling the Dice. A different approach to blogging, the site takes topics that all contributors for that quarter write to. Dan’s contribution, “Rapture,” is bittersweet and magnificent. His first piece of magical realism ready for the masses (in the vein of some of his favorite writers including Marquez and Borges) pulls the reader into the narrator’s raw, heart-rending world. The seeming brief romance of two young women ended abruptly from intolerance punches deep—and leaves you willingly wounded. He talks about this piece humbly, as he does about most of his writing, saying that he was concerned about taking a chance on writing from a woman’s perspective, and from another sexual identity’s perspective as well, but that in the end he wanted to do the characters justice. He went on to add that he hoped his piece would, “[help] to put [a sensitive topic] out there by a voice you don’t expect it from,” and that hopefully his sincere treatment of the trauma involved in the story would help others see people who are “different” as not so different from the rest of us.
Dan doesn’t mind a bit of pain himself it would seem though. I had heard through mutual friends about his monstrous Master’s thesis pursuit of James Joyce. Having tried to read several of the author’s works (Finnegan’s Wake? Come on. That’s just jibberish…), I felt compelled to find out why Dan had chosen such a great, and complex author for his topic.
“I thought if I could pick it apart, maybe I can learn something about the craft [of writing]” he confesses. And what a pursuit it sounded like he was on. It involved a whole section of the library and special access to Joyce’s notes on his masterpiece Ulysses. Dan insists that the novel is “the most human thing I’ve ever read” and he appreciates its commentary on loss and the randomness of its topics just adds to its beauty.
The Joyce influence is clear in Pape’s works, whether it’s a story or his poetry. We discussed poetry as a genre while we were talking, too, and Dan had some spot-on insights. He feels it’s time for poetry to make a comeback—that it is a way for writers to attack all of the “poisonous stuff out there” though he admits that online rights are sketchy and unclear as to who owns what, and that that can be a downfall of fighting the powers that be with the written word. Still, he knows that if poetry can be taught well to younger generations—and not as some unreachable and opaque genre that no one can penetrate—that poems can push our culture forward and out of its seeming recent complacency.
“Anyone can try poetry and with practice [they] can get pretty good at it,” he goes on to say, and his hope is mine: that the intimacy and directness of poetry can get people to take notice.
Some Sage Advice
Not only poetry is accessible to all the would-be writers out there. Dan says writers should find a group to share their work with, and give feedback on others’ works in return. And then, he put it even more simply—in a list!
Read great writers.
Join groups to hone your craft.
Meet other writers.
Just get out there and do what you have to do, in other words. And like Dan Pape says, “You’ll find something about it that’s lifelong. Don’t be afraid.”
And for the record, he wore the black cap long before Jim Halpert from The Office did.