We Are Most Amused

Once upon a while back, I told you about how my fellow Bristol Ren Faire Town Crier alumnus set me up with my first-ever author event with her writing group. Among many other worthy highlights, I made mention of the fact that I’d been privileged to read an early copy of a script my host was working on – a little something inspired by my very own “INSPIRED”.

Fast forward to the present, where the show has moved from page to stage. “aMUSEd”, written and directed by Megan Ann Jacobs, is aliiiiiiiive! And you’d better believe I was there on opening night!

aMUSEd, cover photo

Me and my Daddy, awaiting curtain-up!
Me and my Daddy, awaiting curtain-up!

aMUSEd, centerfold

Presented by the Milwaukee Entertainment Group, “aMUSEDd” was staged at a lovely old-homey bed and breakfast, the Brumder Mansion. The mansion’s owners, Tom and Julie Carr, are not only the providers of the show’s venue, but its producers. Like my own family’s residence, the Brumder has been around since the Victorian era. Unlike our home, it has a gorgeous little threatre in its basement.

aMUSEd, Brumder Mansion

Interior shots of but one of the Brumder’s fancy rooms. (Hi, Dad! Hi, piano I refrained from playing!)
Interior shots of but one of the Brumder’s fancy rooms. (Hi, Dad! Hi, piano I refrained from playing!)
aMUSEd, stage
The stage in all its pre-showtime glory.

The seed of a single inciting incident has bloomed and branched into two magnificent tales. In the first, the untimely end of the author of Lucianíel, muse and light elemental, became Luc and Annabelle’s story, as novelized by yours truly. In the second, the death of Anita (Lori Morse) sends Sebastian, Muse of Comedy (Josh Scheibe) into a slump of poltergeist-esque depression as he does all in his power to keep any new tenants from taking over his late instrument’s apartment. Too bad for Sebastian, Nikki (Madeline Bunke) doesn’t plan on going anywhere – not least because, following a tragic loss of her own, Nikki’s had as tough a time as Sebastian moving forward.

Good thing they’ve got each other! And when I say “good thing”, I mean “hilarious thing”.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

But it wasn’t all laughs. Both I and the light elemental looking out from my head had our hearts battered by Sebastian and Anita’s relationship. The deep connection between Muse and vessel of inspiration is a precious thing, and Scheibe and Morse played it for every bit of pathos it was worth. To watch their characters’ time together come to an end was a bittersweet thing indeed.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

aMUSEd pre-production, N and TThen out steps Bunke as Nikki, giving Scheibe a run for his money in the category of “most comedic facial expressions ever”. Gotta love when silent gags and dialogue work hand in hand.

Also making his presence known in a big way was Nate Press as Tyler, the overloud, oversharing, and basically over-the-top landlord trying to juggle a reputedly haunted unit and his own relationship issues. Although I’d never want such a someone all up in my personal space in real life, it was a wicked delight to watch everyone else onstage have to deal with his escalation factor.

Rounding out the cast were Olivia Gonzales as Kasey, the NYPD officer who gets called into this apartment’s shenanigans one time too many (no-nonsense cop, meet ALL the nonsense!), and Phil Stepanksi as Ryan, Nikki’s long-suffering fiancé who’s got longer suffering ahead of him before this Muse-bestirred mess resolves. Word to the wise: Don’t let an immortal touch your cell phone. Or your frying pan.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

All told, this was a fun production, one that both my novel’s protagonists and I deem an excellent portrayal of the magic of stories and the souls that give them life.

Hats off to Megan Ann Jacobs and everyone involved! The show runs at the Brumder through October 17th, so if Milwaukee’s not beyond your reach, I urge you to get out there and be very much “aMUSEd”!

Alone in a New York apartment, the god of comedy is melancholy, and he wants everyone to know it.

Though bound to find a new person to inspire and complete an unfinished story, Sebastian, the last remaining Greek Muse, mourns the passing of his latest instrument and friend, amusing himself by successfully spooking, pranking, and sabotaging every opportunity for a potential replacement.

Until Nikki.

Driven by her own personal demons, Nikki stubbornly battles with Sebastian for mastery of the apartment. Though fully engulfed in their feud, things get all the more complicated when the two are plagued by an over-involved landlord, a well-intentioned fiancé, and a dramatic Sebastian-orchestrated duel between the two that results in good old-fashioned police intervention. “aMUSEd” captures and explores our tendency to honor the dead by refusing to live, and leads us, through the ancient art of comedy, to live with the past and move forward.

Megan’s bio (as lifted from the “aMUSEd” playbill): Megan studied English and theatre at Wisconsin Lutheran College. There she played Becky in Becky’s New Car, Lady Macbeth (act 2) and ensemble in, In Spite of Thunder, and Sarah in New York, to name a few. Since then she has worked for Theatre Unchained, Memories Dinner Theatre, and she is thrilled to add the Brumder to the list. aMUSEd marks the beginning of both Megan’s career as a playwright and director. She is beyond grateful for the faith, trust, and support the Milwaukee Entertainment Group has given her. Megan is very proud to announce that after making its world premier on this stage, aMUSEd will be produced at two other Theatre Companies this year: The Bay Players & Memories Dinner Theatre. Megan would like to tank this dedicated cast and crew for all of their hard work and talent. Without them these words would never have left the page.

My little Luc in a lightbulb approves.
My little Luc in a lightbulb approves. ^_^

Diary of an Author in Demand

Believe it or not (go ahead and believe it), I seem to be slowly creeping my way up in the world.

Megan Ann Jacobs: Club leader, Shipley booker, and INSPIRED hyper, student, actor, and playwright…egads, what /doesn’t/ she do?!
Megan Ann Jacobs: Club leader, Shipley booker, and INSPIRED hyper, student, actor, and playwright…egads, what /doesn’t/ she do?!

The “firsts” are rolling in! First self-pubbed novella (yay!), first indie press-pubbed anthology inclusion (oh, wow!), first novel (double wow!), first in-home interview with a pair of schoolgirls (awww!)… and now I can say I’ve had (and made good on) my first invitation* to leave the house and talk to a room of people** about writing!

* Bless you for demanding me, Megan Jacobs!

** The Creative Writing Club of Wisconsin Lutheran College, no less! Bless them, as well!

Also believe it or not, I didn’t actually take the time throughout the day to chronicle the hour-by-hour happenings in a notebook, like one might think a writer would naturally do. So the following journal entries are totally forged after the fact – though I’d like to think I managed to hold onto a ring of authenticity, even so.

* * *

Monday, Apr. 28, 2014, 10-ish a.m.

Camped out on the front steps so I can keep an eye on the street. I haven’t seen Megan since we were Town Criers together at the Bristol Renaissance Faire last summer, and I’ve never seen her car, but once I spot the former, I’ll assume that the latter she drove up in is hers. Or that she’s a car thief. That could prove interesting.

Whoop, I think that’s her! Farewell, Mother! Later, comforts of home! For today, I throw comfort to the wind and talk to strangers!

* * *

After the drive (and little thanks to the GPS that tried to lose us inside a forest preserve, of all things)

Chillin’ at WLC, home of the CWC with which I’ll Q&A. (Acronyms… acronyms everywhere…) While Megan’s taking care of last-minute business for the meeting – ordering refreshments, messaging club members to remind them where we will and will not meet – I’ve been tearing through this script she wrote. “aMUSEd”, it’s called, and just guess what inspired it? INSPIRED, that’s what! Or its cover, anyway! She took one look at the portrayal of Luc and Annabelle, and a little lightbulb full of ideas winked on over her own head.

She only finished the script the night before, so I was the first to read the whole thing! Such privilege!
She only finished the script the night before, so I was the first to read the whole thing! Such privilege!

The best part of all? This play rocks! It had me whimpering in sympathy on, like, page 2, and laughing for pretty much the rest of it. I love emotion couched in comedy. Boy, I hope Megan brings “aMUSEd” to the stage, sometime in the not-too-faraway future. I want in it! Or at least in the audience of it. I’ll take either one.

Aaand now we’re going back into the rain to grab some beverages from the grocery story. Back in a bit, hypothetical diary.

* * *

Later in the Afternoon

Just finished sitting in on Megan’s theatre class. Now we’re in the meeting room with a few earlycomers (sure, we’ll say that’s a word), and I’ll do a more participatory sort of sit-in with them doing their club thing, with my official Q&A portion of our assembly to follow after that. I’ve got no idea how any of this will go down, yet, so I’ll just dive face-first into social interaction and hope it comes off as more endearing than obnoxious. (I can never tell.)

* * *

Looks like we’re all mad here. Cue my Cheshire Cat grin.
Looks like we’re all mad here. Cue my Cheshire Cat grin.

Halfway Through the Meeting

Oh my word, these people are hilarious! They were supposed to all read some prompt-based writing exercise they were assigned, but nobody actually brought in the assignment (ah, college… it’s all coming back to me, now), so President Megan* decided to wing it.

* Nobody’s called her President Megan, but she’s running this show, so whatever, she’s totally President Megan.

She divided the room of sixteen into teams of four, each team writing four stories on the fly, one sentence at a time. I mean, obviously every story is written one sentence at a time, but in this case, Teammate A only gets to put down one sentence before passing the story on to Teammate B, who does the same before giving it to Teammate C, and on it goes to D and back around to A – blather, wince, and repeat, all the while doing the same for the stories begun by Teammates B, C, and D.

If that explanation didn’t make sense, consider it a metaphor for most of the stories we read once we’d finished the game. President Megan was kept busy at the white board, stating on record that much of the stories’ subject matter was in no way a reflection of the values of the Creative Writing Club or its affiliates.

The first disclaimer.
The first disclaimer.
…But far from the last.
…But far from the last.

* * *

Stories Read and Pizza Consumed…

…Up I went to the front of the room to act all professionally authorial and stuff.

After giving the crowd my backstory, I fielded questions about my creative/publishing process, how self-pub works vs. working with a small press, how to sniff out writing opportunities… all that jazz.

The many faces of Danielle E. Shipley attempting to verbally communicate.
The many faces of Danielle E. Shipley attempting to verbally communicate.
The one face of Danielle E. Shipley reading her bio aloud, providing an example of how to speak about oneself in the third person.
The one face of Danielle E. Shipley reading her bio aloud, providing an example of how to speak about oneself in the third person.

Not gonna lie, though: My favorite part had to be toward the end when one of the club members, not nicknamed The Voice for nothing, came up to read the back cover blurb of INSPIRED in the most epic announcer way possible. I mean, having the deeply gratifying pleasure of selling and autographing a few copies of the novel to the room before Megan drove me home was super great, too. But an epic announcer voice reading your words like they’re gonna be a movie next summer* is its own level of cool.

*It is not, to my knowledge, actually going to be a movie next summer. There’s still that script for a play inspired by it, though! Like I said: Creeping my way up in the world. (:

* * *

And that, readers o’ mine, is how it all went down. Totally fills you with a desire to book me for a talk and/or signing and/or live reading, doesn’t it? ;D Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me.

(More photos of the event available in the “Q&A with the CWC” album on my Facebook author page, for those who wish to see!)